Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Swayambhunath Stupa & Durbar Square

I woke today and found this in my bed. What it is I don't know but I was more entertained than freaked out. Could have been worse, I know but mebbe Yak & Yeti need to do a better job in changing sheets:

By the way, please no-one steal my fingerprints & identity now.

Had some time today and decided to hit a few of the more famous city sights with the window of opportunity presenting itself. Here's hoping that we do in-fact fly on the 29th, and that I'm not going back to these stupas and monuments over.. and over.. and over.. just to go do something- anything while waiting for our trip to kick off.

First stop was Swayambhunath Stupa- downtown Kathmandu, located on a hill/ ridgeline overlooking the city far below. According to the origins of Buddha, Nepal was essentially Ground Zero for his travels and teachings. According to legend, Buddha did/ said something enlightening at that very spot or a significant event relating to the Buddhist faith occurred. A stupa was then erected in memory of this event, and Swayambhunath Stupa is no different, one of the most holy and ancient of sites in all of Nepal. Wikipedia does a pretty good job in summarizing Swayambhunath but in a nutshell this stupa looks down over the Kathmandu Valley and is linked to the creation of the valley from a primordial lake and lotus.

Moving on from there, I hit Durbar Square, an area loaded with Hindu temples that date back to the 1400s. This area maintains a flurry of activity and you have to look both ways when walking through the square or you'll get creamed by the cars, motorcycles and bicycles that come flying through the square with reckless abandon.

One temple known as Maju Dega was built in the late 17th Century and is known for its central location and size that dominates the local skyline. You can ascend ~30 stone steps to arrive on a porch of sorts up top. From there, you have a commanding view of the entire Square and find that you don't really get pestered all that much, either. Except by this cool boy trying to sell cotton candy.

On one end of the square is Kumair-ghar- a 3-story building lavishly ordained with fine wood carvings and famous for the housing of the Kumari- or living goddess that was built in 1757. The 4-1-1 on the Kumari is that every few years a girl is chosen to be the human incarnation of the goddess Taleju. Every few years, the Kumari is replaced with another girl- mainly when she grows too old (as in, hits puberty). Former Kumari go on to lead normal lives, get married, finish school, etc. But for those several years when she is a living goddess, things are pretty good for her. Guardian priestesses, building all to yourself, adoring fans, tourists with cameras acting like Paparazzi.. I'm sure the list goes on and on from there.

Today all these sites are lovingly maintained by local Nepalis and even more lovingly maintained by tourist dollars that are broken down into fees based on your home nation being either a member of SAARC (South Asian something something- a.k.a. are you Indian, Sri Lankan, or Nepali?) or from another land? Since I blend in so well here too, my attempts to make them believe that I'm a SAARC'er are brushed off with laughs and a bill 3x higher. Same thing happens to me at movie theaters back home too when I tell 'em I need the Senior Citizen Discount. Hmm.

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