Goddesses and Cremations

Wow what a day! I am still so excited from everything I saw today. Anchie came to get me at 9:30 and off we walked to the old part of Kathmandu. We saw a famous temple - the Annapurna which is the goddess of grain....being from Saskatchewan I thought that was kind of cool. Of course that is the name of my hotel and the very famous mountain range here. Traffic was absolutely chaotic there as well but Anchie yanked me out of the way. She told me to just stand still and vehicles will go around you. These were narrow streets - well lanes really - but didn't stop motorbikes and vehicles careening down full tilt.

Then we got to Durbar Square...wow wow wow. I can't even remember all the names of the temples but I do have my guide book so will update this when I get home. Fabulous!! I had my picture taken with a Sadhu - cost me 100 rupees (about 1.25) but was well worth it. This was a bit quieter at least and was able to get so many wonderful photographs....took photos of some school girls (about 12 years old max) who posed for me and then one wanted her picture taken with me and gave her friend her cell phone to take a picture! They are everywhere!!! And I got to see a living goddess. (as in the world's only) No photos allowed but she came to the window of her temple. A young girl is chosen who must have 32 conditions - 16 physical and 16 mental. She must belong to the caste of Buddha (she must be Buddhist but is a Hindu goddess...go figure..) and is about 3 years old. She is a goddess until she has her first period then goes back to her family and normal life...crazy or what. She only leaves her compound 13 times a year and is carried either on someone's shoulder or in a chariot - her feet do not touch the earth. That is the only time photographs can be taken. At one time they were never allowed to marry but that has now been changed - I can't even imagine what life must be like for her. She is five years old now. She was heavily made up with of course the kohl on the eyes which prevents evil spirits. Even if I think it's a load of old bollocks how many people can say they've seen a living goddess?

Our next stop was the Temple of Pashupatinath which is the holiest hindu shrine in Nepal. It is the equivalent of Varanassi in India but much less touristy. Like Varanassi people come here to die and/or have their bodies cremated and their ashes put in the river. We saw the end of one cremation and the beginning of another. It was not gruesome at all and I had tears in my eyes when I watched the family say goodbye to their loved one and the oldest son light the funeral pyre. We in the west are so squeamish when it comes to death but it is just a part of life. I asked Anchie if people minded us taking photos and looking (from across the Bagmati River...if you can call it a river...way worse than the Ganges and that's saying something) and she said no. They are too involved in their own ritual and grief. It seems such a personal thing but she has experience with it and says you are not aware of people watching. And people were respectful. The Bagmati is said to flow into the Ganges which of course is India's holy river.

Then we went on to Bodnarth which has Nepal's largest stupa (Buddhist shrine). It was absolutely amazing - white with eyes painted on (which represents Buddha keeping an eye on everyone's actions good and bad..) and huge. We walked around it in a clockwise direction and spun the prayer wheels. It is in Little Tibet as that is where the refugees from Tibet live.

Anchie and I then went for lunch and I had pokharas and she had Nepalese noodles -we shared our food. We had it on a roof top restaurant overlooking the stupa. Afterwards she took me to a shop where I got myself a beautiful wall hanging for my hallway.

And then we came back to the hotel through the crazy traffic. I will be going out with her again tomorrow to Swayambunath but called the "Monkey temple" because of all the...you guess it...monkeys. Time for the cheap drugs tomorrow as there are 106 steps!!! Then to Patan to see their Durbar Square which is even better than the one here apparently. Can't even imagine. Blew through 200 photos today.

After the tour and lunch we are off to Nagarkot - we are picking a fellow up at the airport and carrying on. There are still 14 people signed up for the tour so who knows whether they will get over here or not but the tour is still on.

I am booked to fly to see Mt Everest on January 1st....so fingers crossed...what an awesome way of starting 2011!!!

I will be off line for a while I suspect - we are going to a quiet lodge on a hill for the next couple of nights so am just going to enjoy and not worry about internet access. I probably won't post until Pokhara which is in a week I think.

So Merry Christmas to everyone who is reading this!!