Ok. This is ‘Not Safe For Work’ as they say.
Right on Tridevi Marg in Thamel, in the backpacker epicenter of Kathmandu, there is a slightly beat up, slightly run down temple. I must have walked by this temple dozens of times without giving it a second look—and why would you when there are the spectacular complexes in Durbar Square or Patan to look at. Actually, I had never seen anyone paying any attention to the place. While wandering around looking for an ATM I happened to look up.
Some are pretty run of the mill:
But others are a bit more creative:
…or perhaps we should say athletic:
There are also a few for those who prefer solitude:
I end with my personal favorite. Is that corn?
Wandering through the narrow streets of Kathmandu, I am constantly struck by the wooden doors and windows. Most of these pictures were taken on a series of walks between Thamel and Durbar Square. Hopefully many more will follow.
Some wooden balconies:
You never know who might be looking out. Siva and Parvati in Durbar Square:
Here is a fantastic carving above a monastery in Kathmandu’s Durbar Square. In the middle is the Buddha riding a snake while Indra holds a parasol:
This is quite a popular scene in Nepali Buddhist art, (you can see another version below the Golden Window in Patan) one which shows the gods as subservient to the Buddha after his enlightenment.
Thanks to GB for showing me!
Kathmandu is covered in trees bearing beautiful lavender flowers. I asked some people what they are called, and learned that the name is the shirish flower.
I recalled a verse from Kalidāsa’s Kumārasaṃbhavam when Pārvatī’s mother, Menā, comes down to convince her daughter to give up practicing austerities, and come home. Why should Pārvatī chase after Śiva when there are so many eligible bachelor gods hanging around in her hometown? The verse culminates by comparing Pārvatī’s body to the delicate śirīśa flower. Now I have a mental image for this beautiful verse.
At home too there are much-sought after gods
Ah my child, such penance is alien
To your body.
A śirīśa flower cannot sustain
The delicate alighting of a bee
Let alone that of a bird!
manīṣitāḥ santi gṛhe ’pi devatās
tapaḥ kva vatse kva ca tāvakaṃ vapuḥ |
padaṃ saheta bhramarasya pelavaṃ
śirīśapuṣpaṃ na punaḥ patatriṇaḥ || 5.4 ||
As people who read this know, I love stairs on the way up to things. I’ve been in Kathmandu for four days now, and have already made two trips to the top of Svayambhunath.
Here is the beginning of the stairs to the top:
A view towards the top:
The top never fails to impress:
Another monkey and maṇibhadra:
Thamel is the main tourist quarter of Kathmandu. Lots of stores selling Gurkha knives, Tibetan Thangkas, knit hats, Thai fisherman’s pants, climbing gear, and all combinations of hippy/trekking chic. As much as I love Kukris, my personal favorite store is Vajra Books:
The selection of books about Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan Buddhism is mindbogglingly good, overseen by the knowledgeable Bidur Dangol. I’ve already spent hours there, making book wish lists. My suitcase is going to be much heavier on the way back!
Oh, and they recently added a lot more space on the second floor. You’ll probably find me here if you happen to be in Nepal!
I haven’t had reliable internet lately, so I thought I’d just post two pictures of rainy Kathmandu.
Here are some trees and the top of Svayambhunath
Here is a view of Kathmandu from the top of Svayambhunath with the rain sweeping through the valley: