Ancient religions rise out of the thin air of Kathmandu

30 May

Ask a Nepali whether he/she is Hindu or Buddhist, and the answer you are likely to get is simply “yes”.

In this ancient city these two ancient religions blend in a way that shapes art, culture and community.  The long term coexistence of these belief systems seems to breed a general tolerance and openness to religious views in Nepal.

In one day I had the opportunity to visit significant monuments to both Hindu and Buddhism.  Their intermingling is clear as you see minor statues to Hindu gods at the Buddhist stupa and Biddhist prayer flags decorating the Hindu temple grounds.

First Swayambhunath Stupa

The name of this Buddhist temple site means “self-emerged”, drawing from a legend that the stupa emerged spontaneously when a king planted a lotus seed in a lake that used to occupy the Katmandu Valley.

The stupa sits atop the hill looking over the Kathmandu Valley.

Looking up 365 steps steps to the stupa.

The stupa rises above the valley with prayer flags blowing in the wind.

A pilgrim lights candles to pray at one of the temples at the foot of the stupa.

An then Pashupatinath

This site is one of Hindu’s most important temples dedicated to the god Shiva – one of the most supreme Hindu deities.  The main temple (open only to Hindus) contains a giant buffalo idol that is meant to be Shiva’s vehicle.  Around the grounds there are many smaller temples, prayer sites and cremation platforms.

Hawkers line the walk to the temple selling flowers, tika powder, and other offerings to the gods.

The primary temple to Shiva (seen from across the river since my non-Hindu self is not fit for entry to this holy place).

Small shrines line the Bagmati river across from the primary temple.

The shrines align creating an ever-lasting window.

Animal idols line up at a smaller temple in the complex.

Shamen perform rituals.

Funeral pyres burn on the banks of the Bagmati.

Sweeping up the offerings on the steps to the river.

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