Monday, 21 September 2015

Kathmandu days and feeling appreciative of life...!

Today Sudan came over and we went on a walk through Thamel, to his tour agencies office, White Yak Trails (you can find them on Facebook). The office is still only a room with some chairs and a computer as they only just recently set up but Sudan hopes to make it into a chillout area with music, hammocks etc. Its just on the outskirts of Thamel.

Here we discussed my plans and he planned my time in Nepal as I was booking a 3 day 2 night trip to Chitwan, bus tickets to Chitwan-Pokhara-Kathmandu, the Everest viewing flight, paragliding in Pokhara and a trip up to Nawargot to view the full sweep of the Himalayas at sunrise/sunset. So even though I'm not really trekking I wanted to use his agency for great prices on these things as I know I can trust him and he will beat or match the prices of other agencies around Thamel.

So it was agreed I was leaving for Chitwan in the morning, he was going to spend this afternoon booking everything for me.

So we set off for another smaller day around Kathmandu, visiting the nearby Kathmandu Durbar Square and later this evening we would head to Pashupatinath Temple which is on the Bagmati river where they perform Hindu funerals/Cremations.

Kathmandu Durbar Square was again heavily affected by the earthquake. So much of their history and world heritage sites were destroyed along with the loss of lives and its super sad to see. Sudan was telling me outside the ruins of one temple at how when the earthquake struck a blood bank donation was happening outside of it and so many people lost their lives when it came down. And that those who managed to escape, went down a nearby path for safety, without realising the danger of that temple and a nearby house collapsing onto them. Apparently this is where Sudan helped out where he could, pulling out bodies trapped under the rubble. It was quite hard-hitting and grounding to think what these people went through and they are all just getting on with their lives. There is no counselling, no bereivement periods, no anxiety or depression. They simply help each other through and whatever tragedy they live through, they come out smiling. Where would you see that in our society?! We get depressed and seek counselling and medication whenever we can. These culturws/people are so much stronger than us in every way imaginable. Physically, emotionally, mentally. They dont go around signing off work or saying they can't do things because they are depressed and need medication to get throigh the day or anxious about being around crowds and need counselling or whatever excuses we try to give these days. They LIVE, they get on with it, they pull through and they are the REAL survivors and heros of this world. They deal with grief in their own way but they still carry on because if they don't they simply don't survive, with no work there is no money, no food, no family. The children pull out of school to help their parents and their parents work all hours of the day to afford school books and food for their families. Its such a wonderful community spirit and I wish people could see this and act like this in their everyday lives back homw, because I truely think every one of hs would live better lives and feel so much more thankful for what a priviledge those lives really are and to go out there and own it!

So after Durbar Square we also visited the house of the Kumari Devi or Living Goddess. Kumari literally means 'virgin' and is the tradition of worshiping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu religious traditions. The best known is the Royal Kumari of Kathmandu, and she lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city. The selection process for her is especially rigorous. You can read more about the Kumari Devi here, and I can assure you its a very interesting read, especially about the selection process!

We then wandered into a backstreet and Sudan introduced me to an amazing Samosa shop and sweet shop next door selling Laddu which are ball‑shaped sweets popular in Nepal and India. Laddus are made of flour, minced dough and sugar with other ingredients that vary by recipe. And trust me they are delicious balls of sugar!

Sudan then went back to his office to book all my tickets and I went back to the hostel to pack my bag and prepare all the things for New Zealand I would leave here in Kathmandu so I dont have to carry a heavy bag around with me. I chilled, did some hand laundry and skyped Pierrick and then at 5.30pm Sudan was back with my bus ticket and hotel for Chitwan. It simply looked AMAZING!

A 5* resort with pool, buffet food breakfast lunch and dinner, with all tours all included in the was luxury and I couldn't wait. I didn't evem care if I didn't see a tiger, it was worth it for the hotel alone i reckoned!

So we headed out on the bike again to Pashupatinath Temple. We arrived just in time for a ceremony to start and so we seated in front of the crowd side, which is actually the side they bring out the bodies :-/ But it was a good ceremony. It is conducted on the Bagmati River which runs into the river Ganges and is thus considered Holy. A traditional Hindu Cremation features a ceremony which basically celebrates the joy of life and the life of the person being cremated, rather than focusing on the sadness. Even though the family members are bereaved and also distraught they still participate in this ceremony and outsiders are also welcomed to come and worship. There are several cremation places, one for rich families with prestige and several others for the ‘normal’ people. The cremation places for the ‘normal’ people are located on the other side of the bridge, out of sight from the places that are used by the rich. After and during the ceremony the body is bathed/washed with the water from the river and placed on a pyre. After the last visit to the temple, the close relatives undress the body discreetly.

Afterwards, the cloths are thrown in the holy Bagmati River and the body is winded in white fabrics. Only the head stays visible. Members of the family say their prayers by the man and then if it is a man, his eldest son is the one who morns and starts the fire. If it is a woman, it is the eldest daughter. The close relatives (only men) pick up the body from the stretcher and carry it three times around the pile of wood of the cremation place (in clockwise direction). After they put the deceased on the pile of wood, the oldest son walks three times around the body with a lighted piece of wood. Afterwards he kindles the pile of wood near to the mouth of the dead body. This place is important because the Hindus believe that the spirit of the deceased leaves the body via the mouth. They also leave three things with the body, some water, some rice, and some money, as they believe these are the three riches in life to allow you to exist and will carry it into your next life with you.

When the cremation is over, the relatives descend to the river. The oldest son takes off his cloths and throws them into the river. Afterwards he clothes himself completely in white as a sign that he is starting his mourning period, which will last for a year. He will wear white clothes for a whole year.

It is a moving ceremony and I felt a little like an intruder but at the same time I wanted to know more and get a closer look as its such a weird concept for me. But I rather liked it, a celebration of life rather than mourning as such.

We then went up to see Boudhanath lit up at night (another temple, one of the largest stupas in the world), and then went for dinner back in Kathmandu before heading to bed. I finished packing and tried to get enough sleep as I had to be up for my 7am bus to Chitwan in the morning!

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