Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Faces from Swayambhu

Everyone knows I get boring and "spiritual" on holidays. Well, this new year is no exception.
Let's start 2009 off right. It is, after all, the last of the Aughts and oughta be done right.

Swayambhu, the famous "Buddha Eyes" temple (one of many, but probably the most famous one) is under restoration. I thought that was fitting for the New Year, even if it is the English new year. A few questions revealed that a local Nepali monastery (and some foreign well-wishers), not the government, was sponsoring the restoration.

Here are some photos and details from our recent trip to Swayambhunath temple (the sistren and I, that is).

The blue Buddha is Akshobya, the "unshakeable" Buddha, to whom we will pray when the next earthquake rocks the Valley (just kidding. Well, not really kidding).

The elaborate carved archway at the top of the page shows Akshobya in the "bhumisparsa" (touching the earth) mudra with right hand, Dhyanam (meditation) with left hand.
This figure is holding his hands in the Dharmacakra mudra - the 'teaching' mudra aka "turning the wheel of dharma." This mudra is usually associated with Vairochana Buddha.

I am getting to be such a Buddha geek, I can instantly identify these Mudras (hand gestures). I know, you are yawning already.....!

The figure above is holding left hand in Nilotpala (holding lotus stem) and right hand in what would normally be called Gyana mudra (wisdom). But in the right hand he's holding some kind of...flower bud?? Maybe the other half of the lotus.

Here the left hand again is in Nilotpala, and the right is holding a Double Dorje with a hand gesture I haven't yet learned the name of. In Bharatanatyam it would be called Mukula, but I haven't seen this one in Charya.


Art and about
I was lucky enough to visit with a well-known painter of Hindu and Buddhist Tantric art, and didn't even write about it. Yet.

Samundra Man Singh Shrestha is so cool, he is friends with Robert Beer.

No, cooler than that - Robert Beer actually buys his (Samundra's) paintings. His most recent exhibit was at the Sacred Art & Sacred Space Auction in San Francisco.

He's also a good friend of my Charya dance teacher, which is why we went to hang out at Samundra's house in Lazimpat.

There are still plenty of painters in the Newar Poubha tradition, as well as in the Tibetan Thangka tradition. These traditons, like most classical schools, leave little or no room for innovation. Samundra has the technical ability to produce such works, but uses that background to render his own interpretations, particularly of Nepali Hindu gods and goddesses (Bhairab, Kaumari, and so on).

Samundra puts a lot of Rasa or Bhava (feeling or expression) into what could otherwise be static images with parameters set down by the Shastras (scriptures dictating artistic guidelines).

Anyway, I was too much of a bonehead to remember my camera that afternoon, so here is a wee example of his work. On the website you can see more.

Let's get it over with

Let's face it, the only good thing that happened in '08 was Obama, so let's just get this over with.

Oh, and I got to see my sisters for the first time in six years. Okay, we're done.

Monday, December 29, 2008

To the book depository!

Christmas raid on UNESCO
Jawalakhel, Patan, Nepal

FINALLY. Third time was the charm as Raju and I once again descended upon the UNESCO Kathmandu office, demanding the free publications and books that were so rightfully ours as authentic bearers and students of a dying cultural tradition (in our case, masked and other ritual dances of the Kathmandu Valley).

UNESCO is supposed to distribute their various publications (most of which are about development and architectual restoration) to the general public. As students of religious classical dance, we were more interested in the sector called "Intangible Heritage." This proved to be intangible indeed. Three separate visits all the way out to the Jawalakhel office had found the lights on, but nobody home. Last Sunday (Sunday is a working day in Nepal), we were told they would definitely be in on Dec. 24, Christmas Eve.

Arriving at 2pm Christmas Eve, we were told that in fact, the staff got that day off as well as Christmas Day and the following Friday. The real reason for democracy and secularism: More holidays!

At long last the day dawned when they were both open and in the office, though on this day, too, the librarian and periodicals person was not in. Evidently taking five days' leave for "Christmas" (Christians still constitute less than 10% of the country, but all offices that are even vaguely government-related get to close) wasn't enough; she had 3 more days coming to her.

After much smooth talking by my friend we scored these glossy bound publications:

Masked Dances of Nepal Mandal: (a bit troubling as only 26 of its 163 pages are translated into English, meaning there's a whole lot left untranslated - but I will take what I can get; English information about the dances is scarce)

Tiji Festival of Lo Manthang (more of a photographic booklet than book, but a good basic rundown of a Tibetan Buddhist cham dance ritual)

Intangible Cultural Heritage of Nepal: Future Directions (evidently the idea of supporting Intangible-Cultural heritage, that is rituals, dances, folk music and festivals, is less established than that of preserving material culture and they are still struggling for full financial support)

--and best of all, a 7-volume set called Cultural Portraits Handbook. This includes slim volumes dedicated to Swayambhunath, Bauddhanath, Patan, Bhaktapur, Hanuman Dhoka, Changu Narayan and Pashupati.

Score! We left quite chuffed with our "Christmas" packages full of books about ritual dances of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Weekend update

Whassup wid da whack stomach-ache, whassup? Everything I eat hits my stomach (not intestines) like a rock. A whole beautiful winter's day with blue sky, wasted lying on my side. Whack.

(This post was brought to you by the Revival of Tired Urbanisms Campaign. And whassup wid da orange letters? Whack.)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

In the dark

Dark ages
Chakupat, Patan, Nepal

Yikes. Power cuts just INCREASED AGAIN to almost 16 hours a day. The New Nepal is looking more and more like the Old Nepal - as in, 50 years ago, before electricity arrived.

Ason Tole
, the ancient crossroads of the Tibetan-Indian trade route, did look very magical with absolutely no electric lighting to compete with the glowing oil lamps of the temples. If it weren't for getting mowed down by motorbikes, I could almost imagine I was in the middle ages.

This afternoon, after my Charya nrtya class with Raju, we took the Patan Dhoka bus down to Chakupat to visit the
Nagarjun Institute in Patan. I got a copy of the only English translation (sort of - a summary really) of the Swayambhu Purana.

Here in Nepal there is a tradition that even before the historical Buddha, Gautama Buddha who lived approximately 2500 years ago, there were other, Adi-Buddhas (ancient, primordial buddhas). This Purana ("purana" means "old story") relates the Buddhist history of Nepal in this manner.

I personally think that since Buddhism had to co-exist with the Hindu kingdoms at that time they were amping up the ancient-ness - you know how in Hinduism everything has to be sooooooooooooooooo ancient.
Min Bahadur Sakya, one of the foremost Newar Buddhist scholars, was quite forthcoming about the adaptive aspect of the stories. Special thanks to him and his son Milan Sakya for sitting in the dark, illumined only by a dim battery-powered lamp, for about an hour discussing this subject with me.

Anyway, my net time is running out today, more later.

Friday, December 26, 2008

A fireside chant

An exotic Christmas on the cheap
Thamel, Kathmandu

There is a roaring fire here in the lobby, and a roaring plasma-screen TV showing BBC to give electro warmth. But why, or more importantly HOW, the hell is it raining in late December (ie, today) in the Kathmandu Valley? This region famously has no precipitation from, say, early October to late March at the very least, maybe even later.


We (friends and I) managed to make yesterday fun, despite the glaring lack of immediate family. Rene, Amy and I went out carousing for inexpensive presents. Whoever is running Thamel these days (I think it's a war between the gangs and the Bahun-Chhetri dominated Thamel Tourism Development Corporation) decided to do what they should do every day of the year - block off Thamel to large vehicle traffic. Read: we could walk the streets and window shop without fear of being mowed down by a speeding taxi or SUV, careening down narrow ancient streets that were made for pedestrians, bullock carts and bicycles.

BRAVO, TTDC or whoever did this. For once, people could shop and enjoy the cornucopia of Exotic Cool Affordable Stuff that Thamel offers, from handmade yak milk soaps to calendars of Tibetan Thangka paintings, to 100% hemp woven house-slippers to pashmina (or sometimes "pashmina") shawls. I actually noticed shoppes that I have been walking past for years and just never could stand still long enough to see.

The aura in the streets was one of festivity and genuine friendliness. We were approached by one family with a small daughter who wanted to take "our daughter's picture with different-looking people," so we obliged by holding little Anya as the parents took snaps.

I also noticed none of the major street "hawkers" (Tiger Balm madam??) seemed to be out, though my friends and I did get approached to buy "hasheeeeeeesh" a few times. During the day there were processions by the local Newar youth in traditional costume, playing Dhimay Bhaje, with the Gandarbhas playing sarangi. I found it cute that the locals found a way to participate in Christmas and make the "foreigner" neighborhood festive, without ever being tacky, overtly commercial or in-your-face.

Multiculturalism appeared to be good for business. Several restaurants offered special Christmas dinners, usually including turkey and pumpkin pie. I had the Northfield's pumpkin pie which was more like punkin' puddin' with crust around it, but then, I never had a pumpkin pie I could really complain about. And even random Nepali families who had nothing to gain monetarily seemed to enjoy wishing us "Happy Christmas." Or, as the hand-painted sign at Tom & Jerry's said, "Happy Christmas Merry."

I was also glad the Hindu fundamentalists weren't all up in the air (as they may have been in parts of India) about observation of Christmas. Obviously, all the salaried office workers were happy to get yet more days off. And like Dasain, Christmas has become a pan-cultural holiday that one can observe as religiously or un-religiously as one likes. I didn't see any non-pagan Christmas decor - it was all trees, Santas, presents and stars.

Down by Narsingh Chowk there was a techno-street party complete with female Nepali DJ on the stage and boomin' music. Fortunately it didn't seem to get too least while we were there. Thamel is sufficiently chock-full of places selling alcohol that there's no need to sell beer on the street, for crying out loud.

My contribution to the Nepal economy, in the form of presents for friends, included: one handmade stuffed animal made of woollen felt for my 3 year old friend; two Thangka calendars; one copy of the Tenzin Palmo bio Cave in the Snow; one bar of handmade Rose soap; one packet of locally made incense; and a box of Indian sweets (doda barfi, chocolate barfi and moong dal barfi) to share with all and sundry. The most expensive present in the lot cost 500NRs (about $6.00).

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Solstice season thoughts

Buddha in Glory
Center of all centers, core of cores,
that closes tightly in and sweetens,--

this entire world out to all the stars
is your fruit-flesh: we greet you.

Look, you feel how nothing any longer clings to you;
your husk is in infinity,

and there the strong juice stands and crowds.

And from outside a radiance assists it,
for high above,
your suns in full splendor
have wheeled blazingly around.
Yet already there's begun inside you

what lasts beyond the suns.

--Ranier Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow
from New Poems
Thanks to Rob Brezsny for featuring the Rilke poem this week.

Time shift

Let's do the time warp again

Last week, my Charya Nritya (Chacha Pyakhan if you speak Newari) teacher, Raju Sakya, and I were pushing our way through the sidewalk near Sundhara.

Pushing, not because Nepal is soooo heavily populated or because people are so rude (neither is the case) but because 2/3 of the walk space is taken up by sidewalk vendors. One of the first things the new Home Minister announced was a crackdown on "footpath" vendors. I guess what we're tripping over now are the vendors who can pay the new, requisite bribes.

Anyway, as we were negotiating our way toward the Ratna Park Tempo-Micro (mini-bus and share taxi) stand, we passed a lone Buddhist chaitya (aka stupa, chorten - Buddhist monument) in the middle of the sidewalk chaos.

In Kathamdu, it's hard to walk without tripping over such works of religious art - they are literally everywhere. But there was something distinctive about this chaitya.

The lines were more fluid, more flowery...I did not get a snap of it. But Raju, who is getting a Master's degree in Nepali art from Tribhuvan University, said "This is a Licchavi period chaitya."

The Licchavi period. Wow. That means it's at minimum 1,400 years old.

"Yes," said Raju, "from 6th or 7th century."

For just a second all the horns, shouting, spitting and pushing stopped. The Licchavi dynasty came from what's now Bihar state in India (I think; don't beat me up if I am wrong). Though they were Hindu, there was still plenty of Buddhist art flourishing during their reign.

This piece of ancient artwork is enclosed by just a cast iron railing; otherwise it's in the open air. It appears undamaged and has probably not changed for the 1500 or so years of its life.

Just the kind of stuff you can see any old day walking down the sidewalk in Kathmandu - if you can make enough space on the sidewalk. We pushed, darted, and maneuvered our way over to the micro-bus and headed for Patan (former Buddhist kingdom, now home to INGOs and expats).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Days of our lives

Calling all culture geeks and India-heads! The new Hindu Festival Calendar 2009 is out, courtesy Hinduism. It's more oriented toward India than Nepal, but is pretty inclusive. Of course there are always myriad celebrations and regional variations that don't make it to the general calendars. But, if you are planning to be in Tiruvannamalai for Shivratri (for example), this is a big help.

There's also an explanation of the calendar and its relation to the English (Gregorian) one.

Here is the January listing.
Of special importance to Nepal visitors will be the Dasain schedule. It's well known how difficult it is to get anything done at this time.

These observances get earlier and earlier every year. I read a few months ago about how the Jyotishis (Joshis in Nepal) are discussing how to adjust the calendar. At the rate the lunar calendar is progressing, or I suppose regressing, pretty soon the harvest-themed festivals such as Dasain will be in August. That just won't do.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Do you hear what I hear?

In the stars

I've been trying to pick up bits about Vedic Astrology (better known as Jyotish) for the past several years. Evidently the most significant thing is one's Nakshatra, or lunar "mansion." Since there are 27 - odd days to a lunar cycle there are 27 Nakshatras. (I think.)

My Nakshatra is Shravana (in Sanskrit, Tiruvonam in Malayalam). Shravana means "Listening" or Hearing.

For those who know me, it really is frighteningly accurate, though I'm not so sure about the stable-minded part. Here's one summary:

Those born in the Shravana star are experts in music, dance and drama, truthful and stable minded; they enjoy hearing scriptures.

Another site reads:
This constellation signifies eternal quest of knowledge. The Shravana people are restless. They constantly involve themselves in conversations, or listening sessions to collect information. A person born under this sign is either an ardent student, or a well-versed teacher. They can be excellent counselors, owing to their art of listening and giving advise based on their vast knowledge.

See, it's official. I'm really supposed to be doing this stuff.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Fly like an eagle

In the hall of the mountain king

I took the famous Mountain Flight - the flight that goes parallel to the Himalayan giants, and makes a turn at
Ama Dablam just before Everest, then doubles back the same way. But I don't remember a lot of it. Bad timing meant I was trapped till about 1.30 am at an event that shall remain nameless here. Then I had to get up at 4.30 am to be at the airport at 5.30 for a 6.00 am flight that didn't leave till

I suppose I shouldn't fly past Gauri Shankar, Lhotse, Cho Oyu, Shishapangma, and the other granite titans is no small thing. I just wish I had been awake.

There are now at least four airlines offering the same route for the Mountain Flight, all with names from mythology and legend - such as Yeti Air, Buddha Air, Agni Air and Sita Air. I was on Yeti Air.

Every passenger gets a (brief) turn in the cockpit looking over the pilot's shoulder, and mine came fairly early in the flight - which meant that I got the contrast of the cloud ocean below with the ice castles looming ahead. Not a bad thing to see first thing in the morning. Mountain Flight Pilot would be a pretty cool occupation.

Some suggestions for the Mountain Flight: -They advertise that everyone gets a window seat - true enough. But all window seats are NOT created equal. Since it's a 15-seater plane, several seats are located directly over the propeller or wing. I got a propeller seat. It did give good scale to my photos.

-As it turned out, it would have been cool to sit way in the back. Reason: Everyone gets a turn in the cockpit as I mentioned, but the penultimate one is the best. That is, as you get close to Everest, there are just a few minutes in which Everest is straight ahead before they make the double-back U turn. THAT is the best time to be in the cockpit. I saw it over someone's shoulder.

-The Mountain Flight is now $120 (just 2 years ago, it was only $75). If you are fortunate enough to be flying to Lukla or another location in Everest Region, you will see quite a few of the same mountains. In that case, the Mountain Flight might be not quite redundant, but less necessary. However, if you have a very limited time in Nepal, or if you are not well enough to physically get closer to the big mountains, it's a must-do.
-If you're going alone, force another hapless passenger to snap your photo getting on-off the plane or posing with it (as above). Whenever I get off an STOL plane onto a runway, I feel like a character in a 1940s black and white drama. Or maybe Clutch Cargo.

-Oh yeah, and it most definitely does NOT fly right by Everest as depicted in the (heavily Photoshopped) advertisements! (One friend was disappointed to find it didn't do donut-rings round Everest.)

-And go to bed early! Especially at the current prices, you don't want to be half asleep (as I was).

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Dance Archaeology

More ancient obscure art forms pursued

Finally, after very patient and gentle persistence from the tireless Raju Sakya, I have resumed my Saturday morning lessons in the Newar Buddhist Charya Nritya. (I would say Nritya Dance, but that's redundant. Nritya means "dance.")

I've mentioned it a few times before, and like a lot of my external life so far it's been stop and start. But all those years of Bharatanatyam has given me a solid foundation for Charya - it's amazing how much of the classical dance stuff remains hard-wired after years of slackerdom.

Raju is a senior student of Prajwalratna Bajracharya, who now lives in Portland, Oregon USA and runs Nepal Dance Mandala. To my knowledge, he's the only Nepali teaching Charya abroad. There are a handful of non-Nepalis that teach Charya in their own countries, like
Lianne Takeuchi Hunt, Helen Appell, and Shahrazad.

Not that Charya is by any means a simple dance, but compared to the aerobic demands of Bharatanatyam, so far it's lower-impact. It's certainly more lasya (graceful and lyrical) than tandava (percussive and forceful).

With its Tribhangi (three-bends) posture, Charya most closely resembles Odissi dance, which, if I had had my druthers, is probably what I would have learned long ago. But Odissi teachers are hard to find in the American heartland, outside of perhaps California.

Space: the final frontier
I had planned on having dance class on one of the rooftop terraces of my guest house, since the weather is delightful during the days now. But Raju arrived in my small room and declared the space sufficient for dance. Westerners are quite spoiled in terms of studio space, not to mention facilities like wooden floors, wall mirrors and sound systems. Asian dancers usually manage to learn without any of these. At one point we were meant to make a complete oval around and come back to "first position;" we just kind of had to imagine it (dancing into the wall). And there is not room for us to dance simultaneously.

There are a number of suitable spaces (like yoga studios) in town, but they naturally all want a fee to rent for an hour or so - which doubles my class fee. Probably it's best to go ahead and rent a flat with an extra room, install a wall mirror and get on with it.

Now, to hunt for a flat (Nepali for "apartment"). Flat-hunting is always a drag, but winter should be a good time to look. With the increased load-shedding (power cuts), though, I don't want to be too far out of "town" or in too deserted an area. There's just too much darkness (in several ways) these days.
If you are within shouting distance, I am ideally looking for Lazimpat, Chhetrapati, Paknajol or Sorhakutte areas. Or something like that. I see no reason to pay more than 10,000 NRS at the most.

Baby steps
Every dance has its "first position;" in Charya, that is Suchi-Tribhangi. It looks like so many of the ancient Indian statues, with a graceful goddess poking one hip out.

The basic foot movements are Alida (to the right), Pratyalida (back to the left), Suchi (right foot back) and Vajrasuchi (left foot back), which together make a semi-circular closed step sequence called Mandala. The mudras (hand gestures) are similar to the south Indian ones, but much gentler. Raju is always telling me to relax my fingers (which took so long to get ramrod-straight!) and DROP my elbows (unhearin Bharatanatyam, 90 degree elbows is a cardinal rule!).

The first "item" I am learning, other than the Refuge Prayer (a sort of opening Mangalam), is "Sodasa Lasya" or Sixteen Graces. It's an opening item invoking the sixteen forms of offering, here personified as goddesses. For instance, flowers, incense, and song, rather than just be offered as such, are depicted as the Diamond Flower Devi, the Diamond Incense Devi and the Diamond Song Devi (Vajra Puspe Devi, Vajra Dhupe Devi, Vajra Gite Devi).

Why "Diamond" (Vajra or in Nepali pronunciation, Bajra)? In Vajrayana Buddhism diamond has a significance beyond being an expensive stone, or a girl's best friend. I'm still learning but I would imagine it involves being immutable, enduring, indestructible and pure - like the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism.

Sorry I have no recent photos of Charya, let me poke around and find some.....! above is one I have lifted from Prajwal Sir's website.

Art of darkness

A load off

It's really, really, really dark here a whole lot of the time. Not too cold, mind you...but dark.

"Load-shedding," the south Asian euphemism for scheduled power cuts, has taken hold now for more than 49 hours per week. A few months ago I heard it would be up to 65 hours a week before the winter's end.

I went to the Nepal Electric Authority website to try to download the "new schedule," which seems to change daily. At least, I thought, I can schedule stuff (showers, battery charging, computer work) around the blackouts.

Not only is the schedule posted on their English language website all in Nepali script, it's too small even for someone who can read Nepali (ie, me) to decipher. The rest of the web site (all in English) is devoted to explaining the plan for ending the load-shedding problem "within the next four years."

It's one thing to have scheduled power cuts. But they are not even following the schedule. For instance, today's posted cuts were from 11.30am-1.30 pm and then again in evening. At 2pm, the power was still on, only to cut off at 3pm instead.

Various people try to excuse or defend load-shedding in various ways:

--We depend on hydroelectricity and the rivers are frozen
(This was true in Ladakh, north India in the wintertime, too. But they made a schedule and stuck to it. Midnight to 6pm, every day. From 6pm, when it got really dark, we had power till midnight.)

When the rivers weren't frozen, back in September, it was

--The broken dam in Butwal (south Nepal/Bihar region) means there is less ability to produce power

But, before the dam disaster which displaced tens of thousands of people, other excuses were:

--One of the hydroelectric projects went down and it will take three years (THREE) to fix


--We have greater hydroelectric potential, with all our rivers, than any country in the world; however we haven't been able to finish the incomplete dam projects. The money disappeared somewhere

or even,
--we actually DO produce lots of power...but we need cash so we sell the resultant power to India.

Probably elements of all the above are true. The only excuse I do not accept, at all, is:

--This is a developing country.

It WAS a developing country. No longer. In the past three years, things have gone backward. It's more like a de-volving country.

Of course, for me and many city-dwellers, the inconvenience extends only so far as inability to charge my cell phone, or take a hot shower, use a credit card, or get a cafe latte. What about those trying to run factories, restaurants and offices? Zero productivity.

I really feel for those trying to sew garments or manufacture toothpaste. The tailors with their foot-pedalled machines and the chai-wallahs with propane stoves are really better off.

Most nights I read myself to sleep with a flashlight. What about the schoolkids struggling to do homework in the early dark (around 4.30 pm here now)?

Sales of diesel and kerosene fuel should be booming; let's just pray that the Terai (Nepal's flat, dusty corridor to the Indian "mainland") stays open, since that's where all the fuels are imported from. The largest places (star hotels, for example, or major supermarkets) have diesel generated backup.

Crime has gone up in the city, as not only is there an earlier dusk these days, but the streets are completely dark a great deal of the night. Sometimes it seems the power is off more than it's actually on. People, especially women, are forced home earlier.

Of all the things Nepalis have rioted and shut down the city or valley over - raised transport fares, petrol prices, unsolved murders and unavailable school textbooks -why doesn't anyone get up in arms about this?

It would almost be better to be up in a remote village where no one relies on electricity, and everyone goes to bed at 8pm anyway.

Glow-in-the-dark clothing
Flashlight with extra extra batteries
Candles and matches or lighter
Solar-powered charger
Battery-powered everything
One of those deep-sea fish that have lamps growing out of their foreheads

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Amaravati's Most Wanted

The new Flickr stats device shows that my all-time Most Viewed photo was not my portrait of the Dalai Lama of which I'm so proud, nor even the portrait of my Tamil Muslim friend Mumtaz in the slums of Chennai (though she has quite a following).

It's not even the news photo I snapped of a Tibetan monk being attacked in Kathmandu, which made MSNBC.

It's this photo of a young Telugu lady in Amaravati, Andhra Pradesh, sporting the traditional south Indian half-sari. So far, she's gotten 7,871 individual views (not including my own). I think the half-sari is also called "skirt and thavani" (thavani being the top part).

In these days of internet porn, there is something very comforting about this. As the jewelry salesman said in
Breakfast at Tiffany's, "Do they still put the ring in the box of Crackerjacks? It gives one a feeling of...solidarity."

My friends Vijay and Teja still live in Amaravati, the town where the 2006 Kalachakra was performed by the Dalai Lama. Maybe they know the name of this young lady.

The occasion for her special dress was Pongal, the south Indian holiday that falls in mid-January. (It just happened to fall that year during the Kalachakra.) Otherwise, it's increasingly rare to see this elegant dress for young "unmarried" ladies.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Sister act

Three for the Road
Delhi, Agra, Kathmandu, Patan, Lukla & Namche

It's been nearly 2 weeks, and I am still getting over my sisters' (one older, one younger) 17-day visit. Not that they are at all difficult, and they are both experienced travelers, but it was such a whirlwind tour that we were all breathless by its end (and not from altitude).

We had only 15 days (excluding the travel days) but managed to get in, in two different countries: no less than seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites including Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Qutb Minar, Humayan's Tomb, Swayambhunath, Patan Durbar Square, and Sagarmatha National Park; a ride on the Indian sleeper train; visits to some home-cookin' restaurants in Delhi and Patan; rides on public buses, cycle rickshaws and auto rickshaws; seeing an elephant walking down Aurobindo Marg; watching a Hindu-Buddhist puja at Swayambhu; shopping for pashminas; seeing the Himalayan snowcapped mountains from a plane no less than three times; a trek to Namche Bazaar Solu Khumbu Region, a five-hour wait at the Lukla airport, and getting stuck in an authentic Kathmandu traffic jam near Ason Tole.

Somewhere in there we got to visit a bit - but not nearly enough.

Here are just a few photos.
with Newar women for Kartik Ekadashi puja at Swayambhunath temple, Nov.2
The 15-seater Sita Air flight to Lukla from KTM was only delayed by one hour, which compared to the return, seemed like nothing.

On the street in Agra.

With our most excellent host and Delhi guide, Tak Noguchi, at Qutb Minar complex.

Sleeper train to Agra!