Nepal has always been a dream destination for me. It's incredible how time flies... More than fourty years ago I tried my hand at mountaineering in the Canadian Rockies and in Mexico and loved it so I bought books about the Everest, about that very beautiful pyramid Makalu east of Everest and about the Anapurna first climbed by Maurice Herzog at the cost of his fingers and toes. Years later, when I was very busy and hard working in the '60s, 70s and 80s, I would sometimes dream of dropping everything to visit that ultimate hippie wonderland, Kathmandu... So, now that I don't climb anymore and that the hippie adventure is no longer tempting, I finally get to visit Nepal... What a life!
|Lonely Planet CIA|
The Capital Guest House was my base of operations in the region, a room with bath cost only 4 US$ and the food was very good. This is where I met Khogen Pun who showed me around Pokhara when I came back from Tibet.
For years I had been thinking of Nepal for its mountains and of Kathmandu for its marijuana saturated cafes, I was quite unprepared to discover a very religious community worshipping both Tantric Buddhist deities and a variety of Hindu gods in an incredible number of temples of all sizes, each more beautiful than the other.
This colourful sadhu made a gesture of peace or of blessing to me as he sat in the doorway of the small white temple, you can see in the previous photo, in front of the large 17th century Maju Deval temple to the Hindu god Shiva in Kathmandu's Durbar Square (Palace Square).
There are no hippies left in their past haunts on Freak Street now that their culture has dissapeared from the face of the earth (except in the museum like village of Nimbin in Australia). How disapointing, it didn't even smell of pot!
The Kotilingeshwar 16th century temple in the foreground and the Mahavishnu temple next to it, respectively honour Shiva and Vishnu, both Hindu deities.
This fatherly sadhu giving me a friendly wave was begging next to the Indrapur temple that is so ancient nobody knows to what god it is dedicated (could be Shiva for the lingam inside or Vishnu for the Garuda image on the south side or Indra for its name).
You would probably quit looking if I post too many temple pictures so here is a street scene for a change. This was taken looking north on Kel Tole, a busy place with a variety of small shops selling everything from large copper pots (on the left), to clothes and incence.
Small Shiva temple built by king Pratap Malla in 1667 in the center of Rani Pokhari (Queen's Pond) to console her over the loss of their son trampled by an elephant.
And here is the Kathesimbhu Buddhist Stupa, Nepal style with eyes looking towards the four cardinal points and surrounded by several shrines and statues honouring minor deities. This ensemble is a reduced scale copy of the great Swayambhunath complex outside of the city.
Patan and Bhaktapur are neighbour cities to Kathmandu, Patan immediately to the south and Bhaktapur a little further to the east. The three cities took turns at serving as capital for the various kings of the Malla dynasty from the 14th to the 18th centuries. On the left in Durbar Square, a three storied temple dedicated to Hari Shankar (Hindu half Vishnu, half Shiva deity) stands directly in front of the larger Taleju temple which is part of the Royal Palace The octagonal stone structure on the right is the Chyasim Deval temple built to honour Krishna in the 18th century.
The Indian influence apparent in the Chyasim Deval temple in the previous photo is evident here in the style of the Krishna Mandir temple. These indian type temples contrast sharply with the multi-tiered wooden structures of the traditional Nepalese temples and also with the simple Stupa structures which are common to all Buddhist lands..
The indian influence is again evident in this street corner shrine which was not even indicated on my guide maps. An incalculable number of small shrines of various styles spread all over bear witness to the omnipresence of some deity or other in the lives of the Nepalese.
Worthy of note in Bhaktapur's Durbar Square is the contrast between the Indian style of the Shiva temple in the foreground and the Nepalese style of the Krishna temple in the background, both built in the 17th century.
Here again cohabit the Indian styled stone Vasala Durga temple with the Nepalese wooden Chyasilin Mandapa temple (actually, the latter is largely steel for it was completely rebuilt after being destroyed by an earthquake in 1934).
Deeply religious (or superstitious?) women throng this sidewalk shrine to present offerings of rice, flower petals andred or yellow pigments to the elephant headed Ganesh, god of prosperity. As in India, Ganesh shrines seem to attract women more than men, would men be less concerned with prosperity?
The Fasidega Shiva temple is one of the very few in this valley that conforms to neither the Indian shikhara style, the traditional Nepalese style or the Buddhist Stupa style.
This temple, built in the 15th century is dedicated to one of Vishnu's many incarnations, Dattatraya who is said to have been a cousin of the Buddha and Shiva's teacher as well. Time frame notwithstanding, this temple is very popular with Vishnaivites, Shaivites and Buddhists.
After a week of visiting temples in the Kathmandu valley and of trying to fit the various deities in their respective niches of the Nepalese pantheon, I felt prepared to visit Tibet and booked a one week tour to Lhasa by bus.
Leaving Kathmandu by bus gave me a chance to see the countryside. Half of the Nepalese live in the broad valleys between the Mahabarat range to the south and the high Himalaya to the north. The fertile land, terraced up to 2000 meters, produces rice in summer and wheat in winter. Corn, millet, barley, buckwheat and mustard are also grown. In the smaller protected Himalaya valleys, terraces reach up to 2700 meters and potatoes (first cultivated in the high Andes), are sometimes grown as high as 4000 meters.
After flying back from Lhasa I took a bus to Pokhara by Phewa Tal (lake Phewa).
Shade is at premium for the sun is cruelly strong at this altitude. These shady platforms are found all over Nepal, each village has several for they play the role of social pole of the neighbourhood..
My friend Koghen Pun with his devout father sporting religious marks on his forehead and his English speaking businessman uncle in the white suit.