Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nepal

I surprise myself each time I come up with some dramatic changes in the last minute. Whats with me is that I can take ages to decide on something very frivolous but would not take more than a blip to decide on major stuffs. This audacity is a typical Leo behavior. I did not want the passport expiry thing to play a spoilsport.

So it was Nepal. I had always wanted to visit Nepal - Pokhara and Lumbini and a secret wish to do a base camp trek. But this was off season; yet we just went ahead. The flight from Bangalore to Kathmandu was long and tiring. Bangalore-Chennai-Delhi-Kathmandu. Missed flight to Kathmandu from Delhi as the flight from Chennai landed late due to delay in landing clearance. Lost 4 hours; yet its still fine isnt it?

6 days was enough for just Kathmandu and Pokhara and a teeny bit of Gorkha.

Kathmandu is crowded and polluted. People I came across felt sorry about the current economic situation in Nepal. Civil wars, monarchy(remember that infamous shooting incident) and such had created havoc to the economy. Aggravating it are the trade unions who force companies to shut production. Surya Nepal - a unit of ITC shut shop on 16th Aug; 3000+ employees would lose jobs. Why? 3 months of production halt due to workers calling off work as they were not happy with salary(even though the company was paying better compared to others).

There are no proper roads, no public transport,  vehicles are expensive - 200% tax. A Nano costs 9 lakhs NPR; thats 5.6 lakhs INR! So one can imagine the vehicles state - old; rickety; ones that would be off roads in India. The currencies are torn, soiled. These simple things can tell a lot about a country's economy. You actually start feeling good about India - how it was and how far we have come. Yet; does not mean its enough done; we are capable of much more.

Anyway, the real shock occurred much earlier. What we heard at Delhi airport; they dont accept 500 and 1000 INR in Nepal. Now; I was laden with only them. For whatever reason best known, the guy at the Forex did not exchange our INR to $. He said; if you are going to Kathmandu; its not required. So we landed there only to find the notice everywhere in airport about non-acceptance of these currency notes. Things were starting to look bleak when the forex guy at the Tribhuvan airport was talking in puzzles. He said "you will get a solution. Go out of the airport". Now this was all shady. We decided we will use our debit/credit cards. But once we walked out of the airport; we understood what he was trying to convey. INR is trade-able in Nepal but not 500s and 1000s. Yet, everyone accepts it except for government agencies. (Oops this is a secret - an open secret) Why they dont accept is obvious. Black money from India crosses border and taxes evaded; thus the government does not accept 500s and 1000s. But its an open secret that people still continue doing so.

One can see a lot of temples. People are very religious. Shaivism is followed diligently. Temples are built in Pagoda style. Hinduism and Buddhism is mixed. A Buddhist temple is similar to Hindu temple. One can differentiate by the presence/absence of Thunderbolt- vajra or dorje and Prayer wheel in the temples. Nepal's indigenous people Newars practice Newar variant of Buddhism - Vajrayana; the third variant after Hinayana and Mahayana. Buddhist groups are influenced by Hinduism and vice versa. No one leaves home without applying the vermilion and rice grains paste on their forehead.

Thats a lot of information :-) Here are some pictures.

The first thing you will notice are the intricate and elaborate decorations on windows. This seems to be a typical Newari architecture.  Here is one such window at the hotel we stayed.


It was Raksha bandhan day. Brahmin/Priests are seen everywhere on streets. People offer them fruits, flowers and money to them while they tie sacred thread around the wrists and apply tilak. We got them as well :-D


This is a common sight in front of everyone's house/shop on that day


Another window!


The restaurant - the setting was awesome.


Traditional oil lamps hanging by - cant help noticing the intricate wood works.


Streets are narrow; lined with shops.


Rudraksha - cheap and easily available. Every street side flower shop sells them.


View of Pashupathinath temple. No photography allowed inside. The temple observes strict no entry wearing leather; very orthodox; only Hindus allowed. It is regarded as the most sacred temples of Lord Shiva. Its a UNESCO world heritage site. The temple is a 2 storied pagoda and was built in 17th century after the old one was eaten away by termites.


Entrance to the temple. One interesting fact is that the priests here are from South India. Thats how it has bee since the era of Mallas.


Behind the temple flows River Bhagmati. It serves as cremation ground. One can see lot of temples lined; where aarthi is performed every evening


Platforms to cremate. Its said that Lord Pashupathi needs the smoke without break. The burning bodies generate the smoke. The air has a pleasant odor. Its said that if there are no bodies to be cremated; they would fake a death and burn some wood to provide the smoke to the Lord but such a situation has not occurred yet; which means there is constant supply of bodies to be cremated. One can realize what life is. Generally tourists are not shown this spot unless insisted.


Preparing for cremation. We could see few sick/old people brought in to spend their last days here.


A delicately carved door. The buildings are all left without plastering exposing red bricks which looks aesthetic.


Boudhanath stupa - this ancient stupa is one of the largest in the world and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.


Buddha on all 4 sides is a common sight in the Stupas visited. 


A monastery in the vicinity of the Stupa. 


A huge bell - so huge that it can dwarf an average man.


Prayer wheels around the Stupa


A huge prayer wheel inside the monastery. 


Buddha 


Many shops set up by Tibetan refugees around the Stupa selling trinkets, souvenirs and clothes.


23 comments:

  1. One thing I didn't know about nepal was that they used Devnagari lipi too..but after reading this post, I realized I didn't know many more things about Nepal! Amusing place..will visit it for sure..amazing pictures as always. the windows remind me of our temples. such kind of carving and designs we usually get to see in our ancient structures :)

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  2. Loved the description and the photographs. The intricate designs on wood and window are amazing.

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  3. super post n pics yar...enjoyed reading:)

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  4. Very detailed. It is interesting to read about INR 500$ and 1000$. It is silly.

    Pictures are great and descriptive. I like the monochrome picture too :)))

    I know Nepal a lot now !!

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    Replies
    1. now Indian rupees notes of 500 and 100 denominations are allowed.

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  5. At last the cat is out. I kept wondering why you were silent about the trip. Was curious too about the destination.

    Pity that the NET is bad now and some pic have not opened.

    Guess the wrong time of the year to be there.

    Another neighbor fallen on bad times. Does not bode well for India. Happy neighbor will make a lot of difference.

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  6. I can never imagine Nepal as a different country.For me, its still in India :o

    Very informative and amazing pics. The view of the temple is amazing.

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  7. Nepal...always felt like one of us.

    I had few acquaintanceship named Nepal as they were native.


    Your narrative is bliss as always!

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  8. Lovely post . Pictures are so beautiful.I must admit that i am surprised to learn the present sorry state of Nepal.We made a trip to Nepal in the month of May 2001 ,just few weeks before the royal massacre .We visited Kathmandu and Pokhra .It was a prosperous Nepal then.The country used to be flooded with tourists .Such a fun and memorable trip that was .The high point (literally) of the trip was Mankamna Temple.
    Loved revisiting Nepal through your eyes .

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  9. Thanks,first of all Insi.

    I was virtually eating the words there since I didn't visit the place yet.Felt no wonder reading the financial dilemma state go through.It has to be as we all read.But feel really sorry for the lives.

    The wood work and architecture is definitely marvellous,something which makes the place special.

    The sacred river behind Pasupathi temple and the cremation 'story' carried me away with similar scenes and beliefs of U.P. After all,we share an almost similar past no ?

    Thanks for the clicks as well..
    Good Day !

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  10. That was a superb informative post about Nepal.. I would love to visit sometime. Pictures explain a lot about the place.

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  11. Neha,

    Yeah, there are lot more things one might not know until we visit. We seem to think its as same as India but its not :)

    you should visit if possible. Yes, most of the carvings we find in our country would be on stone, but these ones are all wood.

    Chitra,

    Thanks chitra.

    Ramesh,

    Thanks

    A,

    Yeah, it seems silly for us, but thats the way they can curb unaccounted INRs going across the border

    Thanks a lot. Glad you liked the pics. I have just started about Nepal :-P

    Anil,

    No, I was not silent. Just could not find time to blog.

    Yes, its the wrong time to go if you are headed towards the mountains. there were disappointments as well. More about in the coming posts.

    Yes, happy neighbor makes a lot of difference

    Ramya,

    Hmm the Nepali government may not like that :)

    Thanks; the temples are worth visiting.

    Makk,

    Yup! thank you.

    kavita,

    Thanks so much, glad you liked the pics. Oh yeah lot seems to have changed since you visited I guess. Tourists do visit Nepal; but otherwise things seem haywire. Oh yeah! out of everything we saw and did, Manakamana sure receives a thumbs up; esp the cable car ride :-)

    Melange,

    Thank you. Glad you liked them. Yes the architecture is different. I saw pagodas for the first time. The delicate carvings are amazing. Yup! the cremation thing made me realize truth of life.

    Thanks.

    Ashiwni,

    Thank you. You should visit if possible.

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  12. I loved the post and the clicks as well :-)

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  13. That was a visual treat and also very informative.

    When I plan my trip to Nepal, I now know what all places to visit.

    This whole myth/fact about Lord Pashupati seeking smoke all the time is a little weird though.

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  14. wow ! It remains exactly the same. Didnt you encounter any bandh ?

    And btw, have you checked out http://www.nepalbandh.com/ which gives you accurate information and a schedule of bandhs !

    that aside, its such a pristine place that its so inviting with such warm people and wonderful surroundings...

    Well written ! Reached out to my memories.

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  15. Thanks for the superb pics bindu and great descriptions. I was feeling bad that I did not get to go to Kathmandu, and I feel I have visited the place through your pictures and words.

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  16. There was a time when Nepal was a beautiful place.People are very cordial.We spent three days there and Pashupatinath and Casino both were an experience.
    I must say,you look like a good tourist and fond of travel.

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  17. Meety,

    Thanks a lot

    The Girl with broken heels,

    Oops! I dread broken heels you know :)

    Thanks a lot, glad you liked them and welcome to B Log :)

    I see you dont have a blog of your own

    The smoke story is weird. But Pashupathinath is one of the holiest hindu temples and Baghmati is sacred. So people creamte the dead for moksha/mukti...

    Balan,

    Oh! Dont expect a lot as you know the weather was dull :)

    Kavi,

    Haha I never knew they had scheduled calendar for bandh!! Oh my God!
    Luckily no bandhs but there were holidays due to which we couldnt visit museums.

    Yup! warm people; beautiful countryside as well.

    :-)

    Gautam,

    Thanks Gautam. Glad you liked them. You will like Kathmandu's cultural and heritage sites. But yeah the crowd and the pollution is bad.

    Chowla sir,

    People are warm and nice. Yeah you got it right sir. I like to travel :)

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  18. they don't except 500 & 1000!! now thats news to me ... and of course open secrets are everywhere :P
    very informative post :)

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  19. Rajlakshmi,

    Yeah! If you visit remember to carry truck loads of 10s and 20s with you :D

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