Burning Bodies and Bad Roads (Again)

After a nice day of rest, we were back at it again yesterday.  We hired the hotel driver to take us sightseeing around Kathmandu which ended up being a seven hour journey.  Again, in a car.  Actually, it was worse this time because it wasn’t a Land Cruiser, but a Kia Rio (small car).  The sights were great, but as we have mentioned numerous times, the roads leave quite a bit to be desired.  Check out the photos section under Kathmandu to get a taste of the traffic.

Here’s a quick rundown of what we saw:

  • Changu Narayan – a seriously old Hindu Temple
  • Bhaktapur – a beautiful old city with quite a history
  • Pasupati – A Hindu shrine on the banks of a holy river where they cremate the dead and put the ashes in the river
  • Boudhanath – One of the largest Buddhist Stupas in the world and one of the holiest Buddhist sites

Of all the places we visited, Boudhanath was the most dramatic looking, but Pasupati was by far the most interesting.  We had no guide (at any of these sites) and no true understanding of how the process worked, although now we do (text pulled from the web):

During the cremation process, the eldest son shaves his head and wears a white cloth. The body is wrapped in yellow cloth and lowered to the river to be anointed with water. Then the body is walked 3 times around the pyre and then laid on it. The pyre is lit by the head and the body covered with wood and straw. You can’t actually see the body being burnt (nor would you want to ). Eventually the ashes are swept into the river. Poor people and small boys scour the river for belongings such as gold fillings etc.

Its is a moving process to watch, mainly because western society tries to deny the existence of death, whereas in the Hindu culture it is a fact of life. It was quite upsetting to hear people grieving but it did seem a very dignified way to send off a relative.

It was fascinating to watch and clearly the first time I had ever witnessed this.  The grounds were also very interesting and beautiful.

Eventually we returned to the hotel exhausted again.  We took the easy route on dinner again (Italian) but at least we had a very local lunch (I had water buffalo momos (dumplings) at a cafe in Bhaktapur).  Before heading back we walked the streets of Kathmandu’s touristy area again, listening to the various cover bands playing everything from Bon Jovi to Kings of Leon.

Today has been another fairly restful day, and it is our last full day in Nepal before heading to India tomorrow.  After breakfast I took a long nap and then we walked to the Garden of Dreams and the former royal palace (now a museum).  The palace was very interesting, especially seeing the spots where in 2001 the crown price shot and killed the King and Queen (and others).  No photos were allowed (very strict) but there are plenty on the web.

We plan to visit the monkey temple later this evening before dinner and then off to bed before our 6:30 am car to the airport.  Yikes.   

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