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 ~ Kathmandu Nepal  exploring the ancient beliefs of Hinduism and Buddhism ~     

 Hindu Girl Kathmandu

 

"I think I'm going to Kathmandu!"

     I had Alexa playing that song over and over driving my husband crazy while my dog and I danced around for weeks after I booked our adventure to Nepal.
We had decided to visit India and it seemed like a natural add on, what an amazing adventure it was!
     
     I have always been fascinated with the religions of the world and Kathmandu is a pilgrimage site for both Buddhists and Hindus.
In fact, they have a interesting "melding" of the faiths that crosses over that is unique to the area.

     Flying in from Kolkata was quite exciting we could see the Himalayan range from the plane, but I didn't spy Everest, it was still quite dramatic.
The airport in Kathmandu is quite chaotic with many people getting visas upon arrival.
I had read up on this in advance and completed all the paperwork online, had ours all set we just needed to go to the desk to pay for them.

     Security was very tight and a bit disorganized.
We ended up leaving some shirts that my husband bought at the airport in India at the x-ray machine, fortunately they were not expensive.
After meeting up with our guide we headed to the hotel.

     We were staying at Dwarika's hotel which is a heritage property with 80 unique rooms.
The architecture and detailing are stunning, the grounds are very soothing and Zen like certainly a great place to go and relax and rejuvenate.
The location is great for exploring!

     On our first day we visited Hanuman Dhoka which is considered a living museum. 
The square is named after the Hindu God Lord Hanuman who is the Monkey God, there is an ancient statue of him near the entrance.
There is the Royal Palace with beautiful carvings and a bathtub with gold fixtures in a courtyard.
A large temple stood outside with many smaller alters where people were lighting candles any worshipping.

     Many of the buildings were damaged in the earthquake one that was left untouched was the Temple of Kumari.
The building is said to be constructed out of one living tree.
The Kumari is something that is a bit disturbing to Westerners.
She is believed to be the living incarnation of the Goddess, she moves into the Temple between the age of 3 and 6 and stays until she reaches puberty.
Her feet must never touch the floor and she may not speak with outsiders.

     Worshipers come and hope to get an audience with her, if she looks at you then blessings are granted.
We went into the courtyard and waited, she sometimes appears twice a day, sometimes now.
Her handlers came to the window and spoke to our guide and after about 20 mins a young girl in an elaborate costume with heavy make-up came to the window.
She stood there expressionless for maybe a minute and left.

     It is strictly forbidden to photograph the Kumari, I would never attempt to sneak a picture.
For the believers that would be like spitting on them.
It was certainly a unique experience and the picture is in my mind forever.

     Shortly after seeing the Kumari Devi I stumbled across another custom involving young ladies that was incredibly unique.
I witnessed the reception for a ceremony called Bahra Tayegu.
Young girls and their mother's all beautifully dressed in wedding attire with glittering gold jewelry.
In this area Buddhist and Hindu girls are wed three times, twice to Gods and the third time to a human.
The first wedding the girls are married symbolically to a Lord Vishnu in a ceremony called Bel Bibaha.
That wedding takes place when the girl is either 5 or 7 and Vishnu is symbolized by a bell fruit.
The point of this union is to ensure that the child will not be barren when she matures.

     The second wedding is called Bahra Tayegu which is the reception that I happened upon.
In this ceremony the girl will be between 9-13 years old, it must be done before their first menstruation.
For 11 days the girl is kept in a dark room, she is not allowed to see any males during that time.
On the 12th day she takes a bath before sunrise and then is brought outside dressed in a beautiful red sari and veiled.
A priest marries she and the sun and when the veil is lifted the light is brilliant after so many days of darkness. She knows that the sun Gold is pleased with her.
A big party ensues just as if there has been an actual wedding.
Because the girl has now been married to the Gods, if her mortal husband were to die, she will never be shunned as a widow.

     The next day we travelled to Bouddahanath, one of the largest stupas in the world and a focal point of Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal.
It was really something walking up to this huge stupa!
The town was built up around the temple, it was the center and focal point and everything else encircled it.
Climbing up on the stupa I found many shrines and areas for people to sit and reflect.
There were lovely views as well.

     We visited an artist studio where Thangka paintings were being made.
This is a distinct form of tapestry painting that is extremely detailed.
Gold leafing is used to highlight the various mandalas, Goddesses, Bodhisattvas, and Buddha images.
The colors are very brilliant, I fell in love with one and purchased it for our home.
We always try to bring back at least one piece of unique art from each trip, not only to recall where we have been but to support the locals.

     I had seen an Anthony Bourdain episode that showed some Sadhu's in Varanasi India.
When I was in India I didn't have the chance to encounter any so I was thrilled when I saw two in Nepal.
One was just resting on a bench and I did not bother him.
The other was walking with his staff of Shiva, I approached him and asked if I could take his photo.
I offered a donation as I know that they do not have any income.

     He had the kindest smile and raised his hand as if to bless me.
Sadhu's are people that give up everything in pursuit of holiness.
Before making the transformation, all their possessions are given away, they cut all ties with their family and even their name is changed by the guru.
Many people revere the Sadhus with great respect and feel that just being in their presence will improve their own karma.

I wish I had more than three nights in Nepal, I am going to certainly return adding in Bhutan and Tibet next time.
 

Kathmandu Nepal - Video

 

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Ann Castagna Morin

Southampton, MA
Luxury River Cruise & European travel specialist

I have had a sense of wanderlust since I was a child, always yearning to go off and explore the world.

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