Tuesday, December 23, 2008

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).

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