Friday, August 1, 2008

Thurdsday evening a week ago Sudip walked with me out to Pashiputinath, one of the holiest Hindu shrines in Nepal, and then on to Boudhanath, the holiest of Buddhist places in the valley. Pashiputinath is built along the Bagmati River and is the site of many of the valley's cremations. On that evening we witnessed six cremations from our bench on the opposite riverbank. The funeral pyres are separated into upper and lower caste sections. On that day, the upper caste cremations were attended by a number of mourners taking shelter, underneath their umbrellas, from the afternoon monsoon. The lower caste funeral pyres went largely unattended. I hope that is not the case everyday. We did cross the bridge and walked closer to the ceremonies but, out of respect for the dead, I refrained from taking more photos.

Like Swayambunath, the temples at Pushipatinath are also inhabited by a cadre of monkeys. Here is a shot of a mother monkey making sure I did not get too close to her baby...Great snarl, huh?
Being someone who "gets" Buddhism much more than I "get" Hinduism, I was much more at home once we arrived at Boudhanath. We joined the crowd circambulating the very large stupa, spinning the prayer wheels as we went. We then went up to a rooftop cafe where the sight of the stupa at dusk, the sounds of the circling footsteps and the beating gong, and the aroma of the incense was intoxicating. Peaceful, peaceful.The next morning, I again joined those rounding the stupa - always clockwise and an uneven number of times - and conversed with a number of people there. I also visited a Thangka painting school and learned more about this ancient art. I got to see the students at work, honing their craft.

As I awaited Sudip's return I sat on a bench and noticed an elderly woman in her '80s who was taking a break from her circambulations. She had gotten hot and I had the wonderful opportunity of sharing with and then giving my umbrella to her. What a great day for me. Boudhanath is a very special place forever in my memory bank.


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