April 15, 2019
It is our last day in Nepal, hard to believe it went so fast, and we had so many experiences.
Today, Sagar and Zyanu picked us up just before 9 for our day. As usual, Sagar was prepared with the weather, the sunrise and sunset information and the plan for the day. He is so very organized – a really wonderful man and guide. He has enriched our visit for sure.
Our first visit today was to the Pashupatinath Temple. Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is one of the four most important religious sites in Asia for devotees of Shiva and it is the most important in Nepal. It is the largest temple complex in Nepal and it stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River which is considered holy by Hindus. Monday is the day that is dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva and so there were lines of people to get into the temple for worship. They believe that if you worship on the deity’s special day, all your dreams will be fulfilled. As in most Hindu temples, only Hindus are allowed in, but the outsides of the temples are so interesting in and of themselves.
You must be born into Hinduism, there are no actual converts although some may choose to practice the religion.
This Temple and the entire grounds is a World Heritage site. It is the site of cremation for Hindus. We witnessed the entire process of cremation from across the river. In Nepal you are allowed to take photos and videotape the cremation so we did both. To the Hindus, death is an important part of the journey of life so they do not object to people viewing the cremation. You are not allowed to film in India and also no women can attend in India at the Ganges river site, but they can attend in Nepal.
There are three places that people are cremated here. On the 24th of January 2016, Pashupati Area Development Trust inaugurated the first functioning modern electric crematorium in Nepal at the traditional cremation site near the Pashupatinath temple. It is cheaper and less time consuming. There is a non Hindu site and then the Hindu site which you can only access through the temple itself.
Sagar explained the process to us. Cremation is done 24 hours after the death. The body is wrapped and brought by bamboo stretcher to the site. Most Hindu people choose to die at home. If the person dies in the hospital, a metal stretcher is used, and if they die outside of the jurisdiction a casket is used but the body is removed from the casket at the site.
The oldest son is the one that lights the flame, after the feet are washed and a ritual water or milk is put on the lips. This represents the last act. If there are no sons, a worker at the site performs this ritual. Women are not allowed to light the funeral pyre.
After the cremation, the ashes are put into the river. Some Hindus put some ashes in a small urn and do a separate ceremony one year after death.
Here are some photos of this unique experience.
Many families then meet with Brahmins and prepare offerings, Men shave their heads. Here are some of those families.
The temple grounds have monkeys who are always looking for food.
There are men dressed as Brahmin priests and we gave them a donation for these pictures.
The lines to get into the temple were very long.
Sagar told us that if a woman has her sari over her head, she is from India. They don’t do that in Nepal. After any rituals, people apply red powder in the forehead as symbol of good luck and mark of celebration. As guests are regarded god in Nepal, visitors are often welcomed in the house putting red dot in the forehead. Married women have the powder extending up into the hair and widows use yellow powder.
Here are some other pictures from the temple area.
These colors are used for the forehead during festivals.
Any time you see a statue of a bull, it is a Shiva temple.
Sagar told us that Hindus and Buddhists think of life as a piano – the white keys represent what is good in life and the black ones represent our mistakes or what is not so good, and that life is a balance of both. An interesting way to look at things.
We went on to the Boudhanath Stupa, where we were last night for dinner. This time Sagar led us through the complex and then we had some free time in the area that surrounds the Stupa – a mixture of cafes, shops and restaurants.
Last night’s dinner place. And these are our food preference instructions with a thank you that Sagar gave us to take to the restaurant. Most people speak English, but just in case! Yes, he is that detailed.
The Stupa is the largest in the world and one of the most flourishing centers of Tibetan Buddhism in the world. There is nothing inside the Stupa itself, it is solid.
After this visit, we said goodbye to Sagar. Zyanu will pick us up for transport to the airport tomorrow morning for our trip to Bhutan.
Sagar drew a detailed map for us of the Thamel area. He thought we would enjoy going there for shopping, visiting the Dreams Garden and perhaps dinner. He also reminded us that the scarf we were given on our arrival to Nepal was to wish us good travel, good luck and good health. We thanked him so much for all he did for us. We will never forget him or our wonderful trip in Nepal.
After a short rest, we took a taxi to Thamel and yes, the taxi driver was continuously dodging potholes and other traffic.
Here are some pictures of the beautiful Dreams Garden.
We really enjoyed walking around this area. There were all kinds of shops including those for people who will be doing a lot of trekking or mountain climbing.
Lots of beads everywhere. These rough type ones are the Hindu beads.
The smooth ones are used by Buddhists.
Every time we left the hotel, I meant to get a picture of this – the OTHER KFC. Kathmandu Food Café!
On to Bhutan tomorrow! More adventures await.