Day 2 of my Nepal (Kathmandu Valley) Trip :
Kathmandu Valley is one of the densest places as far as UNESCO World Heritage sites are concerned. The maximum World Heritage sites that I have covered in one day before was 2. (Buddhist Monuments at Sanchi (including India’s largest stupa) and Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka – paintings from different periods (Upper Paleolithic, Mesolithic,Chalcolithic, Early Historic and Medieval). They are in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh)
This time I could manage 4 !
I started off early from my hostel and thought of walking the whole way of around 4 km to the Swayambhunath or the Monkey Temple as it is popularly known owing to the proliferation of the holy monkeys staying there. I decided to fuel me up with a tasty sandwich of canned tuna in a nearby Sandwich joint. After a while of walking I thought it’s better to hire a cycle rickshaw which would take me not exactly close to the temple but drop me to a nearby place as I could then climb a hillock and then take a short cut. The nickname of the temple is evident from the sight of those simians on the road to the temple. Just before climbing another final round of steps to the temple, I ordered a cup of coffee from a shop nearby. Just as I was having my coffee, a simian brat suddenly came in a flash , snatched a pack of potato chips from the stand in the shop and ran off! When I asked the shop owner if he could not stop those monkeys from causing some loss to him, he told that it’s just a part of sacrifice to the holy monkeys!
As you climb up the stairs and reach the top of the hill, what strikes you immediately are the large pair of eyes on each of the four sides of the main stupa which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Also, above each pair of eyes is another eye, the Third Eye. According to Buddhist religion, :when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which act as messages to heavenly beings”. You can have a nice view of Kathmandu city from the top of this hill and get engrossed in Tibetan Buddhism chants emanating from music players of the many souvenir shops decked in that area – Oṃ maṇi padme hūṃ
(Mani means “jewel” or “bead” and Padma means “the lotus flower”, the Buddhist sacred flower.). After checking out the nearby temples, it was time to do the customary clockwise circumambulation of the white stupa- it gives you a feel-good spiritual touch in your soul!
For my next stop, I hired a taxi to Boudhanath Stupa .It is supposedly Asia’s largest stupa and also the largest single chhorten in the world (A chhorten is a religious monument that houses sacred Buddhist items). Since the Dalai Lama fled from Tibet, Boudha has also been a focal point for many Tibetans in exile. The Giant Stupa is surrounded by monasteries and commercial establishments. You can try to circle around the stupa twice- once from the outside of the main building compound and another from the Boudha stupa complex. The massive white structure evokes a feeling of purity emanating out of it.
Next stop : the most sacred Hindu pilgrimage site of Nepal – Pashupatinath : a mini Varanasi.
It is located on the banks of the river Bagmati and hence the site of cremation of deceased Hindu people. This place is a mélange of Hindu prayer chants, wails of relatives of the deceased people, burnt smell of corpse and smoke emanating from the burning dead bodies , semi-naked sadhus and the inherent sense of deep philosophical thoughts of “Life after Death”.Practicing Hindus and Buddhists of Indian and Tibetan descendent are only allowed into temple courtyard in practice – however like I have done in many temples, I just try to go inside a temple complex because owing to my Indian heritage, very few security personnel would have room for suspicion that I am a non-Hindu. So, I could enter without any hiccups.
Anyway, foreigners and non-Hindus/Buddhists are allowed outside the main temple and also they could view the cremations taking place by the river.
It was almost late afternoon and I had to hurry before the closing time of the fourth and last UNESCO World Heritage site for that day – Kathmandu (Basantapur) Durbar Square.
Kathmandu Durbar Square is from where Nepal’s kings ruled for centuries.One of the oldest buildings in the Valley was the Kasthamandap – a three-storied temple . It was one of the largest and most noted pagodas of Nepal. The etymology of the name Kathmandu is repotedly derived from this pagoda. Jayaprakash Malla, the last Malla king to rule Kathmandu, built a temple for Kumari which was named Kumari Bahal .The Kumari is a girl who is revered as the living goddess (“She is selected from a particular caste of Newari gold- and silver-smiths. Customarily, she is somewhere between four years old and puberty and must meet 32 strict physical requirements ranging from the colour of her eyes to the sound of her voice”- well that’s what Lonely Planet says!). After spending some hours admiring the wonderful temples and buildings based on Newar architecture, it was time to walk back to Thamel.
Had dinner with a couple of traveller friends at the famous Rum Doodle restaurant in Thamel. It has an interesting history !
Lonely Planet describes this as : “Named after the world’s highest mountain, the 40,000½ft Mt Rum Doodle (according to WE Bowman, author of The Ascent of Rum Doodle, a spoof of serious mountaineering books), the original Rum Doodle was a favourite meeting place for mountaineering expeditions – Edmund Hillary, Reinhold Messner, Ang Rita Sherpa and Rob Hall left their mark on the walls. The new location doesn’t have the history but it’s a pleasant place with a fine terrace and sunny rooftop, and trekking groups can add their own yeti footprint trek report to the dozens plastered on the walls. ”
So there is a proliferation of posters resembling big feet : imitations of the mysterious Yeti’s feet!
1 day- 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites – A day well spent!
1. Breakfast of Tuna sandwich : 70 INR
2. Cycle Rickshaw halfway from Thamel to near Swayambhunath (Monkey Temple) : 65 INR
3. Coffee in a shop near Monkey Temple : 40 INR
4. Tea : 20 INR
5. Taxi from Monkey Temple to Boudhanath Stupa : 250 INR
6. Taxi from Pashupatinath Temple to Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur) : 330 INR
7. Tickets for Kathmandu Durbar Square : 160 INR
8. Dinner at Rum Doodle restaurant : 500 INR (http://www.therumdoodle.com/ )
9. According to Buddhist religion, you should always do a clockwise circumambulation of a stupa. It is generally considered an offence to do the other way round.
10. Many of these buildings suffered damage during the 25 April 2015 Nepal earthquake.