Monday, November 2, 2009

Walkabout Kathmandu city

Start from the Ganesh Temple close to Kasthamandap temple, turn left and walked down the lane which was initially called Pig Alley by the hippies as butchers and swineherds used to live on this street; later the same lane was renamed Pie Alley for the bakeries and sweet shops that sprang up with the rise of tourists. Locally, it's Maru Hiti (hiti Newari for spout). The best feature of this place is its sunken water spout (better known as dhungedhara in Nepali). Said to be the invention of either Licchhavi or the Kirat dynasty, the dhungedhara holds great cultural significance as it lies at the centre of Indra Jatra celebrations every autumn. It is said that after the locals caught god Indra, who was in his human avatar, plucking the Paarijat flower, they pilloried him to Maru Hiti and tied him to a pole on the ground. When the residents later discovered that he was a divine being, they pledged an annual week-long festival of Indra Jatra to placate his wrath.

After about 50 paces towards the main street of Pyaphal, turn left and kept going on to the long brick building to the right. This building is the Kot where Jung Bahadur Rana on Sept. 14, 1846 killed some 200 people in a coup and took charge of the country. The Kot is currently a military base. I continued straight ahead and took the first lane to the right whereby I came upon a green and white patched building. A little further was a big green steel gate.

Silent courtyard
Continue towards Yatkha Bahal which lies on the left. You can see the white stupa in a big courtyard from the street itself. Of the four shrines, the main one is behind the stupa. Accompanying the shrines are female Gods with beautiful toran. Yatkha Bahal had few visitors, just some children hopping around.

Come back to the street to discover a small red building opposite the entrance of Yatkha Bahal. Dyo Chhen (God's house in Newari, but better known as Chamunda's House), is restricted for even for the priests and members of guthi who look after Kankeshwori Temple that lies southwest. The house is cordoned off with Iron Gate. It is held that the gate will open only after a human sacrifice is performed on the spot.
Beyond the layers
Walking straight for about 30 paces just across another temple dedicated to Lord Shiva on the right. It isn't anything you haven't seen elsewhere, but still worth a visit. Just beside the temple is a tall rough stone in an iron enclosure. The lingam is the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva.
By the lingam is a tall modern brick house which has Desemaru Jhya (which can be translated as a window, which is to be found nowhere and unique). It is an amazing piece of woodwork. However, this wonderful window, like other cultural sites in the area, is ill-preserved. Keep an eye out on the east side of the street for the Desha Maru Jhyal - literally, the "Country Nowhere Window" - a window grille of staggering complexity which, even in a country abounding in outstanding woodwork, is considered unique. Carved from a single block of wood, it obviously predates the house in which it's now set.

Narsimha temple is built the same way as bahals or courtyard. On that day, it was again full of people. I got out on the main street. Nardevi Temple, built on three-storied pagoda style, was jam-packed too. Nardevi is said to be one of the eight powerful mother goddesses and considered a big feaster on humans. She is said to have limited her consumption only after king Gunakamadeva requested her to settle at her present location.
Itum Bahal - Beautiful Tara
Emerging from Narsimha Temple which faces the dabali I took the straight road which in less than 10 minutes took me to courtyard where temples and stupas have been home to countless gods and goddesses. Itum Bahal is the name of the largest and the oldest Buddhist courtyard in Kathmandu. The oldest building in the courtyard dates back to 14th century and the bahal is even older. Imagine the time it was built! Even the thought made me want to learn more about its history, often laced with myths as fascinating as the diverse culture all around. There are more than three small courtyards inside Itum Bahal. The first courtyard has the temple of Saraswati. The middle one is the most prolific of the three. Better known as Tara Nani, inside it are three beautiful Taras sitting in a row, their faces painted yellow, white and green respectively. The Green Tara is said to be Princess Bhrikuti who married a seventh century Tibetan king Shrong Tsen Gampo. The third courtyard in Itum Bahal, Mul bihar, is the main monastery built in AD 1381 . It's a beautiful site and not so crowded as well. A temple on the right serves as a school.

Akash Bhairab, Indra chowk,
Akash Bhairab Temple, or Bhairab of the Sky Temple. From the balcony four metal lions rear out over the street. The temple's entrance is at the right-hand side of the building, guarded by two more metal lions, but non-Hindus cannot enter.The silver image inside is visible through the open windows from out in the street, and during important festivals, particularly Indra Jatra (September), the image is displayed in the square. A large lingam (phallic symbol) is also erected in the centre of the square at that time.

Jana Bahal – White Machendranath (The White Lord of Jambudvipa): Jana Bahal: this image of Avalokitesvara arose from Buddhafields blessed with the power of speech. It is also referred to as white Machindharanat. The Itum Bahal Talking Tara: She is located in Itum Bahal. She is said to have flown there from Tibet and is called the Talking Tara.

Kilagal, A short walk east of Nardevi, Kilagal Tol is marked by a widening in the road with a handsome central chaitya and a bas relief of Bhairab. A small passage nearby leads to the large flagstoned piazza of Itum Bahal , a remarkable sanctuary from the noise of the modern city. Though many of the buildings surrounding the square have been modernized, the neighbourhood still has a villagey atmosphere, especially at harvest time when grain is spread out to dry. At the southern end of the square, a doorway surmounted by a weathered but still splendid torana leads to the fourteenth-century Kichandra Bahal.

Bhedasingh, the next junction east of Kilagal, is the domain of fruit, vegetable and spice sellers, and a few potters who sell their wares from the steps of a squat Mahadev temple erected in memory of King Tribhuwan. The name Bhedasingh, which means "Sheep Horn", is a legacy of the days when livestock was traded here. From Bedasingh you can return to Durbar Square either via Indrachowk or by backtracking to Nardevi and heading south from there. The latter route soon re-enters atmospheric eighteenth-century neighbourhoods, with several large bahal dating back as far as the fourteenth century tucked away down dark alleys
Thamel Street
This is a popular tourist destination in Kathmandu, Nepal. Thamel has been the centre of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over two decades, growing up between two of the original hotels, the Kathmandu Guesthouse and Hotel Utse. Even though Thamel has been referred to as the "ghetto" by some, most low-budget travelers consider it a tourist haven.
Ason Bazaar, Durbar Square, Samakushi and Swayambhunath are a mere 10 to 30 minutes walk from Thamel. Thamel has a vibrant ethnic culture practised by its core population of the Newar people. Thamel also acts as the pre-base camp for mountaineers. It boasts a wide range of mountaineering gear shops, foreign money exchange booths, pubs, clubs and nightlife along with the innumerous travel lodges and guest houses. Gang crimes and teenage violence-crazed incidents take place quite often in some regions of greater Thamel. All in all, Thamel is home to a wide range of audience of the Nepalese population for entertainment and employment purposes.

Indra Jatra
This festival falls on the fourteenth day of the bright moon fortnight of Bhadra (sept): but it starts on the twelfth day of the bright fortnight: then all together it lasts for eight day. The main day of the festival is believed to be the fourteenth day of the fortnight.

On the twelfth day of the Bhadra bright fortnight a thirty-two feet’s long pole is erected at the Hanumandhoka palace in Basantapur. This pole has been brought always traditionally from the forest of Bhaktapur. After adjusting the long pole Lord Indra’s idol is worshipped. The lord’s idol keeps tying round by the threads. There’s an interesting anecdote regarding to this Tying Indra:

Once Lord Indra’s mother was on her religious worshipping program and she was in need of flower called parijat. His mother then sent him to search the flower; then lord Indra went to search of that flower; and finally he saw that flower there in the garden of Hanumandhoka. He then thought of stealing the flower; and went to steal the flower. Suddenly a soothsayer Baidhya saw him and captivated him there and he was released only after eight day when his mother came there to request the soothsayer. So this festival lasts for eight days. The lord’s idol is kept at certain Guthiyar’s house and it’s brought only once in a year when the festival starts.
The fair starts only when lord Indra is worshipped there highly in a traditional manner. Many people crowd there to look the starting day of the festival. Since that day the Hanumandhoka palace looks very unusual; until the ending of the fete different kinds of mask dances from different parts of the valley are demonstrated.

On the fourteenth day of the bright fornight of the festival which is called the main day of the festival; Kumari the Living Goddess’s chariot is rounded around the main through fares of the city. Also two bachelor small boys from shakya Newari cast are kept each on the separate chariot as a fenture of God Bhairab and Ganesh; then they are also rounded along with the kumari’s chariot. The chariot procession starts only when President of Nepal worships there by offering some monetary donation (Dakchhina) and takes the Prasad (oblation) from there .The chariots are rounded altogether two days and ends on the second day.

Many kinds of traditional mask dances are shown along with the kumari Jatra Viz. Halchowk’s Aakahs Bhirab dance; Bhaktapur’s Mahakali dances; Kilagal’s Pulukishi dances are the famous ones. The Royal Sword (Khadga) also is shown along with the jatra and the army Band also parades together along with the chariot; the typical Nepali traditional band “The panchai Baja” also walks in the chariot voyage playing the music. The main through fares of the voyage are Lagantole, Bhimsenthan, Marutole, chikamangol, Jaishideval, Jyabahal, Bramantole, Kilagal, Bhotahiti, Asan, Indrachowk and etc palaces.

On the second day night, the Dangi procession is carried out which is believed to be the mother of lord Indra. Along with the Dangi the devotees scatter Sadbij (miscellanous items of a few cereals) in the name of their deceased souls; this is also called to go to see the dead soul’s path traveling towards the heaven.

On the eight day, the last day of the fete the three chariot compulsorily should travel via kilagal because a long time back when there were many kings in the valley; a king’s queen wished to see the Nanichaya’s Jatra means the kumari’s fair; so it’s believed that since that time, the voyage uses to travel via there compulsorily because the queen used to stay in kilagal. On this day too His Majesty the king comes to take the Tika from these living deities in Hanumandhoka.

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