From our first night on the roof top garden of the Varya hotel, the mighty stupa of Swayambhunath, watching over the valley with its all seeing eyes, had been a constant presence in my nightly personal Medicine rituals. Anothe Spirit of the land, of place, but also a personified Spirit of the people, of the creative chaos that is Kathmandu.
So naturally I was very exited, when Bhola announced, that today we were going up the steep hill to visit this important UNESCO World heritage site, also less formally known as “the Monkey Temple”
It was a short walk through the poverty stricken neighbourhood of the Varya to the Temple hill.
There we were greeted by all kinds of vendors. Some with touristy souvenirs, others with – yes, food for the Monkeys already present and grabbing Bananas out of the backpacks of un-prepared tourists. There were Sadus, colourfully adorned with safron and orange robes, painted with sacred colours, offering us all a tika(red dot on the fore head – for a price, getting quite angry, ifff someone took a picture – without paying them for that…. There also were all kinds of stalls offering all kinds of items, that the spiritually inclined visitor or pilgrim would need as offerings to the Hindu Deities and also for the Buddhist temples on the site. This is definitely a place, where all religions meet and mix, melt into each other and offer change and growth to everyone….
The eastern stairway up to the main site and past all the reliefs with scenes from the life of Buddha as well as the majestic pairs of Garudas, Elephants, Lions, Horses and Peacocks, all sacred vehicles of the Hindu Gods.
I was overwhelmed by the sights and sounds coming from all the different temples but also by the throngs of worshipers, some deeply in prayer as they bring and prepare their offerings…. but contrasted by thongs of tourists snapping pictures every which way….
There is a lot to see and absorb:
The burning oil lamps and incense fires, Flower offerings in front of the temple of Hariti, the Goddess that prevents smallpocks, and aids fertility, the Green Tara, the White Tara…. In aw we stood in front of the giant brass dorje – or varya = thunderbolt sculpture, the symbol of enlightenment, that destroys ignorance and incidentally symbolizes male Energy. Not far of is its counterpart, a large ceremonial bell, representing the female Energy.
Tourists are allowed to take of their shoes and step into the entrance foyer of the Drongak Choelling gompa (Buddhist school) and even take a picture. I would have loved, to just kneel down there and immerse myself into the chanting – and the hypnotic sound of the drum.
We circumambulated the stupa turning the prayer wheels. I thanked all the Spirits of Place to allow me to be here and see all this magnificent syncretizism, to feel the energy and to feel welcome.
We also walked through the Buddhist temple that holds the huge statue of the historical Buddha.
Outside however several helpers were busy cleaning his large priceless pieces of silver regalia.. The sacred and the mundane side by side. 🙂
Bhola also explained the symbols of the 4 directions to us and sadly, then it was already time to leave.
It is all a bit overwhelming –
Peter and me alone – we would have spend the day here….
We would have taken time to talk to the Monkeys…..