Sunday, March 22, 2009

Dry, dark and dirty

Round midnight
Kathmandu

In a country now famous for having no electricity, how is it that "a short circuit" around midnight caused a serious fire at the Sri Bagalamukhi temple in Patan Sunday night (March 16), destroying much of the carved-wooden pagoda style temple?

""The temple uses too many lights, which can sometime lead to short-circuits,"" an officer at Nepal Electricity Authority's Pulchowk office said."

Minor detail: There's no f**king electricity.

Bagalamukhi, one of the 10 Tantric Wisdom goddesses, is depicted as standing atop a demon, beating him down while snatching his tongue out of his mouth to silence him.

This image is sometimes interpreted as an exhibition of stambhana, the power to stun or paralyze one’s enemy into silence. This is one of the boons for which Bagalamukhi’s devotees worship her.

(her mantra translates as):
...Oh Goddess, paralyze the speech and feet of all evil people. Pull their tongue, destroy their intellect.

Perhaps, the Devi's own comment on suppression of the free press here in Nepal.

Shortly thereafter, the unbearable six-month dry spell finally broke, first with a smattering of rain on Wednesday night. The next day brought nothing but tantalizing rumbles of thunder and dry cracks of lightning. Thursday night, the electricity (which had gone off at 12 midnight) suddenly came BACK on at 12 again, only for a moment...then switched back off.

It wasn't till Friday afternoon we found out that Father John K. Locke, Jesuit scholar and father of Newar Buddhist studies, had died at precisely that time; midnight on Thursday night.

On Friday night I got another unpleasant surprise, in the form of my first Nepali groping. This one was a drive-by - two young men on a motorbike decided to take advantage of their speed and anonymity by grabbing my right breast as they sped past. Such incidents are well known and much-discussed among Indian travellers. Nepal, land of the Buddha and Tantra, is becoming another place where women have to go into Purdah - even in the middle of the tourist zone.

We still hadn't gotten a proper rain till Saturday afternoon, when it finally soaked the thirsty ground thoroughly.

The traditional rain god of the Valley is Rato Matchhendranath ("red lord of the fishes"); his worship is mandatory to bring the much-needed rains. Now that Nepal is "secular," I guess we have to worship Rato Prachandranath. He's the new Red God. Rather than being pulled round in a chariot, he's driven round in a limousine.


Related reading: Chinnamasta: The Aweful (sic) Buddhist and Hindu Tantric Goddess. (book reviews): An article from: The Journal of the American Oriental Society

6 comments:

Jennifer said...

I have to ask, what is wrong with these men who grab at women. And for those who think it is just foreigners, think again! It happens to the local girls just as much or more often. They talk about moral police shutting down Valentine's day and other such things, why can't moral police go after these boys and men? Who is teaching them firstly to behave this way, and what morals is telling them that this is ok? How do these men and boys treat their sisters and mothers, grandmothers and other women in their family or friends circle? Moral police- get these men they are BAD. Women should not need to wear Purdah because of this, men need to get a life and respect everyone, including themselves, and stop this violent and offensive behavior.

I. S. said...

You have deftly captured a zeitgeist: Nepal is changing, but rarely for the better. I sense (and share) your frustration that it doesn't have to be this way.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

@Jennifer: Indeed!
@IS: yep...are you coming to visit this year? the place is more like the Bardo every day.
Thanks to both for your support. :-)

SnareFizz said...

Dear SirenSongs,

I was taking a look at some of the older messages from my lovely friend Stirling (wildsparrow.dreaming on blogspot), and for the very first time ever , my eyes alighted on the link to her blogspot diary at the bottom of her mails.

From her page to yours was a mouse-blink away, so to speak! :) I'm so glad I found your page. I've read some of yo0ur writings here, and being an Indian, I felt so very ashamed and so sorry for your experience with male lustfulness on Kathmandu.

Your diaries are wonderful - I get a feel for you as a very soulful woman, alive and vibrant, and immensely talented!

Your Radio-Sutra is a delight all by itself - I've gotta love anyone who has the Stones, Aerosmith, James Bown, Patti Smith and Led Zeppelin on their PlayList! Can you tell I'm a rock and roll fan?!!! Classic rocker here!

Loved your site in all its myriad hues....

Thanks to you ... and to my dear friend Stirling for always plucking out the lovliest rainbows from the ariwaves! :)

(((((((((((SirenSongs)))))))))))

SnareFizz said...

Ohh yes, just in case you wanted to know who this long--winded wayfarer on your pages is, you could check me out at :

www.magicmuse.gather.com

I know all my friends at that beautiful, deep, utterly wonderful site would love to have you writing and posting there!

Thank you so much, once again, for putting up this cornucopia of information!

(((((((SirenSongs)))))))))

John said...

BTW, the "Radio Sutra" spills over the blog's text on 1200x1024 monitor resolution (Firefox 3 on Linux).