Bhaktapur – Nagarkot
On our very first morning in Nepal, we woke up hours before the sun, to witness this mighty star smooching over the Himalayan Snow Mountains from Nagarkot. Our friendly cab driver drove us safely to Bhaktapur Nagarkot, nearly 35 kilo meters away from Kathmandu city.
We climbed up to a scaffolding platform which gives the best viewpoint, and celebrated the auspicious sun-show. We were awestruck by its breath-taking panoramic view. We had to shoot out our eagles’ eyes to differentiate mountains from the fluffy white clouds resting on their snowy peaks.
After few hours of sun-sky-snow-mountain gazing, though longing to enjoy that breathtaking view a little while more would never be satisfied, we enjoyed a typical Nepalese breakfast, and set off to our next location, Durbar Square, Bhaktapur.
Bhaktapur – Durbar Square
Durbar Square(King’s Court) in Bhaktapur, as the name suggests, is the royal palace of the old Bhaktapur Kingdom, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, still preserving the glory of its ancient culture.
We wandered eagerly, admiring many centuries old exquisite stone-art, metal-art, wood carvings, and terracotta-art of each architectural masterpiece. Renovations are ongoing after the damage caused by the earthquake in 2015, nonetheless, its majestic heritage shines brightly. There are many important monuments to sight-see, other than the main Durbar Square. 55 Windows Palace, Golden Gate, Big Bell, Dattatreya Square, Pottery Square, and five-level Nyatapola Temple are few of them.
We were fascinated by street shops crammed with beautiful souvenirs and artifacts, and did not forget to bring home some Nepalese mementos for our loved ones here in Sri Lanka.
Kathmandu – Durbar Square
On the same day, we took an evening stroll from our boarding place at Thamel to Kathmandu Durbar Square exploring the Nepali life across the streets.
Being another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kathmandu Durbar square is home to many Buddhist & Hindu temples & shrines with a history dating back to many centuries. Until early 20th century this was the King’s residence, where their coronations were celebrated festively. Since whole premises was swarming with both natives & tourists much the same, we were watchful to stick together and not to get lost along the way.
This magnificent complex include Kotilingeshwara Mahadev, Mahendreswara Temple, Taleju Temple, Mahadev Temple, Shiva Parvati Temple, Maru Ganesh, Bhagwati Temple, Saraswati Temple, Krishna Temple, Bhairav and many more. Among these religious monuments, Jagannath Temple stand out because of its erotic carvings of humans & animals on its roof beams. It is treated as a relic & looked upon with respect. So, onlookers could freely avert their eyes or admire this 15th century art!
We also got a glimpse of the ‘Living Goddess’; a young girl regarded & worshiped as the incarnation of Goddess Taleju in the temple called Kumari Bahal.
We were privileged to witness and to get a brief about ‘Tibetan Mandala art’, which are mesmerizing yet immensely complex symbolic structures, drawn in multiple layers full of deep meaning to decipher.
As the dusk settled in, we stopped for evening snack & tea at a nearby food hut. By that time, we were already head over heels in love with Nepalese food & beverages. After filling our tummies & hearts, we packed ourselves into cabs from Kathmandu Durbar Square and headed to Boudhanath Temple.
Kathmandu – Boudhanath Temple
Boudhanath Temple is also one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites, and it is one of the major pilgrimage sites for Buddhists from all around the world. The 36-meter high stupa is the largest of its kind in Kathmandu. The stupa tower is painted with pairs of eyes on each cardinal direction, representing the all-knowing nature of Gautama Buddha.
We paced devotedly around the stupa like we usually do at Sri Lankan Buddhists temples. Spinning the Prayer wheels with engraved mantras (‘Gathas’) placed in every nick & corner of the stupa became a mind enlightening activity. There were small palm-size wheels to a humongous room-size prayer wheel. According to Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, spinning such a wheel resonates those inscribed prayers, and has the same meritorious purifying effect as reciting.
The colourful rectangular Tibetan prayer flags, hanging high from stupa to outwards, were fluttering in the temple sky. Blue, green, red, white, & yellow symbolic colours of the flags represent the five elements sky, water, fire, air, and earth respectively, while the prayers written in these flags favour compassion, peace, strength, and wisdom. It is believed that the wind carries blessings & good fortune from these Buddhists prayers to all sentient beings.
Living in the moment, engulfed in the vivid atmosphere of Boudhanath Temple & worshiping to our hearts’ content, it felt as if our Sri Lankan Buddhists heartstrings stretching and amalgamating into Nepalese Buddhist culture.
Culture is people, architecture, food & traditions. Simply, it is everything man-made in the surrounding & its way of life. Nepalese culture felt very home-like to the islanders from Sri Lanka, and yet so unique in its own way.
Nepal, owning eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest the highest point on earth, & the birthplace of the world’s greatest philosopher Gautama Buddha, has a humble & a rich culture. Its diverse and peaceful culture itself is the proof of a strong religious & ethnic harmony shared among the citizens of Nepal.
Words fail to express the gratitude we want to gift for this beautiful country & for its beautiful people for their sincere generosity & hospitality.
Mitratā kō lāgī dhan’yavāda! (‘Thank you for the Friendship!)
Rtr. Prabodha Chamarie