Kathmandu, Patan, Bhaktapur
19.10.2018 - 23.10.2018
Kathmandu Valley is a place praised by many. Some love it for its temples, spiritual atmosphere and calm, others enjoy hiking, historical buildings sightseeing or shops. People from all around the world arrive to Kathmandu to enjoy healing powers of spa treatments, yoga and meditation. In total, we spent 11 days in Kathmandu and still we would be delighted to be back one day to this unique place. Apart from backpacker Disneyland of Thamel district, Kathmandu hosts plethorea of sights to see.
First we visited Swayambhunath Temple, also known as Monkey Temple. A mix between Buddhist and Hindu Temple on the hill overlooking Kathmandu Valley surprised us with its solemn and peaceful atmosphere. Despite political unrest, religion is never a subject of conflict in Nepal. Hindu and Buddhist coexist peacefully in the same territory for multiple hundreds of years. In the temple itself, one needs to be careful with monkeys which are ready to snap your water bottle or camera in an instant.
Another interesting place was Boudhanath Stupa, called Boudha by locals. This white enormous stupa is a place of pilgrimages and worship for Tibetan Buddhists. It is also a center of refugees from Tibet and monks. The sound of mantras and Buddhist incantations permeates the air. Believers circumnavigate Boudha clockwise, making a wish every time they turn the praying wheel. It is a place where everybody could achieve englightment thanks to bestowed merits and blessing, the poor and rich, the religious and non-religious, devoted or not.
In the evening, we visited the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple, a very important place for all Hindu living in Kathmandu. Its located at the banks of Bagmati River and dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath, the national deity of Nepal. The temple was extremely interesting and moving as it is a place where Hindu cremate their relatives and throw their ashes into the Bagmati River. In terms of significance, this temple is compared to Varanasi in India and is its local representation. Witnessing several funerals provides meaningful insight into the circle of life and death. After the body is wrapped in shroud, relatives pay the last goodbye and the ritual starts. The body is set on fire, with wood or straw intensifying the burn. Once only ashes are left, a temple boy swipes all ashes into the river.
We have also seen an interesting custom of floating small candles on lotus leaves down the river, which we assume was a way to remember about deceased relatives. One boy picked up this “boat” and started playing with it on the river bank.
Kathmandu Valley is full of ancient cities, towns, hills, villages and settlements. Out of many, we have decided to visit two: Patan and Bhaktapur. Patan is a sister city of Kathmandu, much less destroyed in the 2015 earthquake. We visited the beautiful Patan Durbar Square and also watched the photo exhibition dedicated to women who fought for democracy in Nepal.
Out of the three cities, Bhaktapur has the most preserved old town. Its center street and lanes are out of limits for motorized traffic and almost untouched by the 2015 earthquake. Bhaktapur’s most famous sights include the Golden Gate of the former palace, with fabulous wood carvings at the archway, and Nyataponla Temple. Its five-storied building is dedicated to the Hindu Goddess of female force and creativity – Siddhi Laxmi. Apart from beautiful historical buildings, strolling around Bhaktapur gave us insight into the daily life of its inhabitants. We have seen many women threshing rice and other grains after recent harvest.
Overall, we were very pleased with our stay in the Kathmandu Valley. Mild temperatures, wonderful variety of food and leisure activities made for a good relaxation after the two hikes we completed earlier.