Thursday, November 09, 2006

Blue skies, burnt out

Substandard subtitle
Kathmandu, Nepal

I'm officially burned out. Between the requisite appearances and celebrations of the holiday season, lots of late nights in crowded temple squares trying to photograph masked gods, lots of pilgrimages to holy sites of all stripes, and all the immigration rigamarole (which finally resolved - guess I need to do a thanksgiving puja now) I just do not feel creative. Actually I have been creating and documenting things all along, and now, just have no energy to upload and share them!

So here are just a few photos. About 10 days ago, I took a walk with my friend Jessamine down to Pashupati Temple.

This Brahmin pujari (ritual priest) in the photo is preparing offerings of rice balls, bananas, incense and so on for a memorial ceremony or shraddhanjali.

Pashupati temple is one of the most sacred in Hinduism, the most sacred in Nepal and seat of the national patron deity Pashupatinath (lord of the beasts, a manifestation of Shiva). This temple is the most prominent place to be cremated (here on the Bagmati River) or to hold the required memorial pujas for loved ones and family members.There is a special place just up the river bank for cremation of nobility. At the time of the 2001 Royal Massacre, there were so many royal bodies that special ghats (body platforms) had to be built just to accomodate all the cremations.

These are traditionally-dressed Nepali ladies (probably from the Gurung or Tamang ethnic group) worshipping the lingam, or sacred symbolic phallus, of Kirateshwor Mahadev, a manifestation of Shiva. The Kirateshwor temple is at the top of a flight of stone steps near Pashupati temple, but unlike Pashupati is open to foreigners and non-Hindus. The copper vessel hanging over the lingam is filled with holy water and "bathes" it continually.

This lingam-stone appears to be naturally formed, but someone has carved an OM symbol on it.

What looks like little stone bunnies next to the lingam are Nandis. They represent Lord Shiva's animal vehicle of choice, or vahana. Murugan rides on a peacock, Durga on a lion, Saraswati on a swan, and for some reason, Shiva chose a bullock. I guess he wasn't in a hurry.

The people in the next photo are Newaris, worshipping on Kartik Purnima - the special full moon that just passed on Sunday - at the Chobar Temple just outside Kathmandu. Like an amazing number of Nepali temples, Chobar has both Hindu and Buddhist deities. The Newaris have a special festival just for this full moon (actually they have a special festival for everything). It represents a unique opportunity for the women of the community.

If there are Newari couples who have separated or had disagreements over the past year, the women can come and offer five days' puja service at the temple. That means, they have to fast, ritually bathe every morning in the river, and not let anyone touch them, as they perform the pujas for the god. This year, there were about 41 women doing this sort of service at the Chobar temple.

At the end of the five days, the woman's husband can either come to "claim" her again, or leave her there. If he does not come, the woman is free to remarry with another person. Since divorce is rare and highly frowned upon in this society I wondered if there was any stigma on these women. My Newari companion told me that lots of them do remarry, also rare in this part of Asia. I wonder how many women secretly or not-so-secretly hope that the husband will not come for them!

Before I go completely supernova, I think I might head for Pokhara, the lazy hangout spot, for a few days. We have a new peace agreement - the Maoists get a "piece" of everything! And you thought The King (Mr Ten Percent) was bad. Maoists are still effectively running 80 percent of the country and hitting up local people for donations and accomodation. But there haven't been many strikes lately. In fact I had gotten so used to using "strike" as an excuse for being late, now I am disappointed at having to arrive in a timely fashion.

Here is a peaceful, contemplative image of a giant Buddha statue, from the entrance to Swayambunath Stupa. Funny how getting these peaceful, spiritual images is so much work, I just feel dirty and tired and gritty and exhausted by the time I get home. Someone needs to make a t-shirt: "Spirituality Is Not Pretty."


Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Uncle Weasel in the USA writes:

Howdy, Siren!

Sorry to hear you are short on psychological time to post
photos. That got me to wondering about personal stuff that
ordinarily would not pry into, as it is intimate enough
that it's
impolite in most cases. But there you are in the cradle of
Yoga and
Buddhism -- do you ever avail yourself of opportunities
to develop personal serenity? Or are such opportunities too
outside the imaginings of people like me, who have never
set foot in
southern Asia? Or something else?

Or do you indeed avail yourself of those treasures of
method and
discipline, and that is what keeps you functioning as well
as you do?

Perhaps you have already answered such questions in
postings I've not
seen (my memory leaves much to be desired, as well), in
which case I
doubly apologize for my questions intruding in such
personal and
private space.

Anyway, if wishes from afar can add to a sense of calm and
here they are. It's good to hear from you even if you think
creativity is low.

---Uncle Weasel

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

Dear Uncle Weasel:
I do a hybrid form of tong-len and Ma-Om meditation (from my guru, Mata Amritanandamayi). It just came to me one day lying in bed, procrastinating getting up. That's about it for organized practices at the moment...I could definitely use 10 days or more of Vipassana and some regular yoga!

Bernie Quigley said...

“All worn out . . .” – perhaps you are felling that the world Crisis is over – it is ; that is, the malevolent leadership has capitulated. Everyone feels the change. Two women who I speak to about their dreams and are clairvoyant dreamers begin now to resolve – come “back to earth.” Myself, I’ve abandoned my political journalism this week to return to my sheep. Time maybe to “change course.” What you do is fantastic and it should be of great use as a voice to your generation. It is perhaps a “bodhisattva” moment when the enlightened one leaves the mountain and returns to the flatland to tell us what she has learned there.

tiregroove said...

Hey Caroline! Nothing so worldly for me; I'm just here procrastinating and being a lazy bum, and saying hi from Queens! I don't think I could ever travel to anyplace foreign since I'm such an awkward introvert and a picky eater, but thanks to you, I can live vicariously through your amazing blog and photos. I miss you, if you ever get back here, it'd be so good to see you one day.

Raj Shrestha said...

Oh Siren Then you are here at nepal
I am so much influenced by your writing and photos.Iam also a student of journalism and wanna to meet u here at kathmandu .If possible then please manage.
Raj Shrestha
hope to get ur mail soon

Anil P said...

There is a strange peace to be had in doing rituals, isn't it, as if the knowledge that one is perpetuating an age old custom somehow connects us to it.

Mohsenمحسنخاتمی said...

dear one
wonder where you are NOW.... wish you could take a real vacation in Meher Baba's ACTIVE PRESENCE, here, in Meherabad, MH..... Will not regret it....
Wish you the BEST...Jan.31st is Baba's Samadhi Celeberation and this place is full of joy, music and dance, with people you will love to meet....
Heart about it!
yours in Him