Showing posts with label Kathmandu. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kathmandu. Show all posts

Apr 23, 2018

April 25th, 2015 - The Earthquake in Nepal

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

On Saturday morning, April 25th, 2015 at 11:56AM an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.8Mw or 8.1Ms hit the tiny Himalayan nation of Nepal. Its epicenter was east of Gorkha District at Barpak and occurred at a depth of approximately 8.2 km (5.1 miles). It was the worst natural disaster to strike Nepal since the 1934 Nepal–Bihar earthquake. Hundreds of thousands of people were made homeless with entire villages flattened. Centuries-old buildings were destroyed at UNESCO World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley. In total, nearly 9,000 people were killed and nearly 22,000 injured as a result of this horrific natural disaster.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
We are in Pokhara to the northwest of Kathmandu, most of the force of the quakes went eastward from the epicenter in Gorkha towards Kathmandu and  Mt Everest.

What started off as a beautiful sunny day soon ended in disaster. I was just finishing cooking lunch that morning when I heard what I thought was a large truck driving by. Then the house began shaking and I knew it was an earthquake. Being a native Californian I am quite used to earthquakes so I wasn't particularly panicked. In fact, I was living in San Francisco during the M6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake. Earthquakes are not uncommon in the Himalayas and this wasn't the first one I'd felt since moving here. But the shaking continued and grew more intense. I braced myself in the doorway between the kitchen and the pantry as we were taught to do as schoolchildren in California. The shaking continued and grew stronger. At that point, I grabbed a cat in each hand and ran out the door into the middle of an empty field. I recall watching the power lines and the concrete poles carrying them swaying. I saw the neighbors running out of their houses too. After what seemed an interminable length of time the shaking finally stopped.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

If you've ever experienced an earthquake the oddest thing is the silence afterward (unless things are still falling down I suppose). No birds chirped, no dogs barked, no vehicles honked for about five minutes after the earthquake finally stopped. Just eerie and complete silence. Gingerly I walked around our house checking for damage before entering. The house's foundation was seemingly undamaged. I called my husband. THE PHONE WORKS! My husband said there was no damage where he was at either. WHEW. Ten minutes later the phone stopped working but I was able to go online. There was no local news coverage of the earthquake. I watched the nightmarish damage in Kathmandu on CNN Asia two hours later. Kathmandu reportedly shifted 3m (10 ft) to the south in a matter of just 30 seconds. Continued aftershocks occurred throughout Nepal at the intervals of 15–20 minutes.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

We took a drive around our town and surprisingly there was little damage. The wall of one house fell causing an elderly woman to suffer a heart attack and a freestanding garden wall toppled. No sirens, no billowing smoke, no piles of rubble as there had been after the Loma Prieta earthquake when I was living in San Francisco. Within four hours of the devastating earthquake, the Indian Air Force swung into action and routed one C-130J aircraft, two C-17, one IL-76, 295 NDRF personnel, 46.5 tonnes of relief materials, and five sniffer dogs to Nepal. Just before sunset planes from the Indian Army began arriving at our local airport to survey the damage near the epicenter up at Gorkha.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

Because the aftershocks were still coming so strongly and frequently most Nepalis stayed outside. Tables, chairs, umbrellas, cots, and even tents were set up outside nearly everyone's house. Streets and yards were filled with people too afraid to go back into their homes. I wished I'd taken more photos of this. (I did not have a smartphone then.) Invalids who hadn't seen the light of day in years were brought out of homes and set on charpoys and makeshift beds along the street. People were chatting amiably and taking meals in fields and curbside. I met neighbors I didn't even know I had! People remained outside their homes like this for months, even if their homes were undamaged out of fear or yet another huge quake.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The day after the earthquake my husband gathered donations from local Indian businessmen to send two large trucks full of supplies and a small team of doctors to the quake epicenter in Gorkha district.  Gorkha is quite steep and the roads are rudimentary at best. He came back covered head to toe in mud and said he was surprised that in spite of the damage he saw very few injuries.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The second day after the earthquake more Indian Army helicopters and planes arrived at our local airport. In total the Indian Air Force and Army flew 2,223 sorties, shifted 11,200 people to safer places, and transported about 1,700 tonnes of relief materials. Eight medium lift helicopters ( Russian made Mi-17 V5's and Mi-17's ) from the Indian Army carried out relief and rescue operations from our little airport. The Indian relief and rescue mission was deemed "Operation Maitri " and continued until June 4th, 2015.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
One of the MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft taking off from the airport in Kathmandu.

The U.S. Marine Corps arrived in Nepal on May 5th. As part of Operation Sahayogi Haat, the U.S. military contributed three Marine Corps UH-1Y Huey helicopters, four Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, four Air Force C-17 Globemaster III, four Air Force C-130 Hercules, and four Marine Corps KC-130J Hercules aircraft to the relief effort. On 12 May 2015, U.S. Marine Corps Bell UH-1Y Venom, BuNo 168792, 'SE-08', of Camp Pendleton-based HMLA-469 was declared missing in the Charikot region while conducting humanitarian relief operations in the wake of the 7.8M earthquake. The Nepalese Army discovered the crashed aircraft on 15 May 2015. All 13 occupants were found deceased. A news release from III Marine Expeditionary Force stated that the chosen route, which may have been made because one or more of the injured were in need of urgent treatment, took the UH-1Y Huey helicopter for a brief period over unfamiliar terrain in unstable weather. The unfamiliar terrain they were flying over in Charikot was a near vertical gorge covered with thick rainforest. Unstable is an understatement when describing Nepal's sudden, violent, and capricious storms.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Rescue crews with sniffer dogs searching the rubble after the avalanche at Langtang.

The high altitude valley of Langtang was buried in an avalanche estimated to have been 2-3kms wide. Contact with some of the remote areas of Nepal is often tenuous even under the best of circumstances. It was weeks before we learned that the entire village of Langtang and many smaller settlements on its outskirts were buried during the earthquake. The area suffered an estimated 310 deaths, including 176 Langtang residents, 80 foreigners, and 10 army personnel. More than 100 bodies were never recovered.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
The wrong side of an avalanche on Mt Everest.

The earthquake triggered several large avalanches on and around Mount Everest. Between 700 and 1,000 people were on or near the mountain when the earthquake struck. At least twenty-two people were killed, surpassing an avalanche that occurred the previous year as the deadliest disaster on the mountain.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
A modern home collapsed in Kathmandu. I spoke to a Japanese engineering team surveying the earthquake damage who told me that most of the houses that collapsed like this were built on sandy soil.

In Kathmandu, most modern buildings remained standing after the quake. Several centuries-old temples and towers were destroyed though. The nine-story Dharahara Tower, a Kathmandu landmark built by Nepal's royal rulers as a watchtower in the 1800's and a UNESCO-recognised historical monument was reduced to rubble. One hundred and eighty bodies were pulled from the rubble of Dharahara Tower.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Dharahara or Bhimsen Tower prior to the earthquakes of 2015.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
Dharahara or Bhimsen Tower after the earthquakes of 2015.

The ancient city of Bhaktapur on the outskirts of Kathmandu was particularly hard hit. Around 90% of buildings in Bhaktapur were structurally compromised if not reduced to rubble. You can see what Bhaktapur looked like before the earthquakes in scenes from the 1993 film Little Buddha. Most of its beautifully preserved yet fragile brickwork temples, palace courtyards, and temples were destroyed.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

The continuous aftershocks made rescue and relief work difficult if not impossible. Then on May 12th, 2015 a second major earthquake occurred with a magnitude of 7.3. This earthquake occurred along the same fault as the original magnitude 7.8 earthquake of April 25th but further to the east. It is considered to be an aftershock of the April 25th quake. Minutes later, another 6.3 magnitude earthquake hit Nepal with its epicenter in Ramechhap, east of Kathmandu.

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,

These aftershocks caused mass panic as many people were still reeling from the devastation of the April 25th earthquake. At least 153 people were killed and more than 3,200 people were injured by these huge aftershocks. I ran screaming from the house with a cat under each arm and Ms. Dawg in tow myself!

earthquake, nepal, 2015, pokhara, kathmandu, April 25, disaster,
For months after the earthquakes, we would see huge clouds of dust from ongoing avalanches off in the distance. The dust you see to the left of the photo and near the center is from avalanche dust. Some of these dust clouds were so huge they turned the sky a deep khaki tan for days.

And so, 2015 was quite the year. We were unbelievably fortunate that our little town was spared. TV crews and rescue teams from around the world continued to flood into Nepal. To add to the already monumental problems there was an unofficial border blockade between India and Nepal in September 2015 that caused a shortage of fuel, medicines, and seeds. Prices skyrocketed due to this ongoing political crisis. Amazingly, most of Kathmandu was rebuilt by 2016. Nepalis are quite accustomed to natural disasters and seem to take it all in stride. Unfortunately, many of the damaged and destroyed ancient temples and historic sites haven't been rebuilt yet. There's a bit of a disagreement as to how to rebuild them. Should the ancient sites be restored exactly as they were or rebuilt using modern earthquake-resistant materials and techniques?



Candle-light vigil in 2017 for the victims of the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal
Nepal is sure to suffer more earthquakes in the future, just when is the only question. This Wednesday will mark the third anniversary of this natural disaster that killed thousands and injured many more in the Himalayan nation. Amazingly,  tourist bookings are higher now than in 2014 before the earthquake!

Bibi ;)

Feb 5, 2018

Kathmandu: Asan Tol

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

This week I'm going to take you on a visit to the most famous bazaar of old Kathmandu: Asan Tol. Six streets converge on this ancient square resulting in perpetual bustle from dusk till dawn. Vendors sell exotic wares while artisans toil in hidden workshops alongside sacred temples. Cat Stevens allegedly wrote his hippie-era song Kathmandu in one of the many teahouses of this historical district. Asan Tol straddles one of the two legendary India-Tibet trade routes that pass diagonally through Kathmandu. Because of this history, Asan has been one of the city's main marketplaces since ancient times.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Apart from being a busy marketplace, there are many temples and shrines located in Asan Tol's many squares and courtyards. Above is pictured the temple of Asan Tol's patron deity, Annapurna Ajima. She is the goddess of abundant grain. If the sun is right, the temple can appear to be made from solid gold. The three pagoda roofs and finial gilded. A richly fashioned doorway beckons while decorative birds, metal frills, and divine faces adorn the ribbed roofs. Instead of an idol in the goddess' image, inside there is a silver purnakalash filled with grain and entwined by a silver serpent. Temple records from 1839AD and show that the building required renovation by the end of the nineteenth century. In the black and white photo at the top of this post, you'll see the Annapurna temple covered in a net of puffed rice for the Taya Ma festival which takes place once every 60 years. You’ll often see devotees of the goddess seeking divine favor by walking around the shrine, touching a coin to their heads, throwing it into the temple and then ringing the bell above them.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Asan Tol is still the place where folks from all over the Kathmandu valley and beyond will come to buy or sell their crops and wares. Above you see bags of green jimbu, brown timur, and chunks of pink and purple Himalayan salt for sale. You'll also see many varieties of locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables here.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Unique and handcrafted kitchenware is one of my favorite things to shop for in Asan. This handmade pot is specially made to fry the ring-shaped Nepali sweet bread called sel roti. You can often find second-hand pots and utensils with gorgeous timeworn patinas very cheaply here also.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

This vendor is selling things you would need for a puja or prayer ceremony. Peacock feather fans, incense, yak tail fly swishers, candles, nuts, and sweetmeats. Those yak tails look so soft and fluffy, don't they? Don't be fooled! Yak hair is like metal wires. I tried to knit with yak yarn once and it was like knitting steel wool- actually left me with bleeding fingers!

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

As you walk the lanes around Asan Tol you will see tiny, narrow passageways branching off like this. Let's see where this one goes. Don't be shy! They're used to tourists wandering about and gawking in Nepal. I've never had anyone ask me to leave or be offended by my meanderings in Nepal.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Et Voila! This is one of the seven Buddhist courtyards of Asan Tol. This particular one is called Haku Baha or Harshabaha. A baha is a is a type of courtyard found amongst Newar communities in Nepal. A baha is generally constructed by a family and their descendants reside in it for generations. Hence, it is not just a unit of residence but also a unit of kinship. As you enter the baha you see a bronze stupa with a different portrayal of Buddha facing four directions. Look at that amazing hand-carved window above! As you can tell by all the motorcycles parked in this beautiful ancient courtyard people really do live here. You didn't used to see so many motorcycles in Nepal until 5-7 years ago. Indian motorcycle manufacturers began offering easy, low interest financing to Nepali buyers about 7 years ago so now the roads are clogged with the darned things.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Looking in back of the bronze stupa we see this rather unusual white stupa. I've never seen much written about it but it has always intrigued me as it looks to be carved out of a solid piece of white stone. The stone has a glow to it like marble but isn't streaked like marble. These are the only two religious structiures in this little courtyard. Haka means twice or double in Nepali but I'm not sure if that's what this courtyard's name means.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Continuing back down the main lane you can peer into the ancient workshops of all sorts of artisans. On each street or tole, specific crafts and business are carried out. These gentlemen are goldsmiths of the Shakya clan which claim direct descent from Buddha himself. Let's go see what other hidden courtyards we can find, eh?


Oh my! Venturing down another narrow pathway we come to the Kathesimbu Stupa. This is one of the most popular Tibetan pilgrimage sites in the old tow. Bult in around 1650AD this a miniature copy of the much larger Swayambhunath complex. With all the sand and construction workers about it looks as if there is some earthquake repair work going on.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,  
Taa Daa! Isn't this amazing? You don't have to pay to see this ancient square, you aren't bothered by touts, this is just someone's neighborhood. All sorts of smaller temples are around the courtyard also. Just as at the Swayambhunath complex, there is a two-story pagoda devoted to Hariti, the goddess of smallpox, in the northwestern corner of the square.

A close up of the prayer wheels that go around the stupa. The prayer wheels are brass cylinders inscribed with or containing written prayers. A revolution of a prayer wheel symbolizes the repetition of a prayer. According to the lineage texts on prayer wheels, each turn of a prayer wheel accumulates wisdom and merit (good karma) and purifies negativities (bad karma). Always use your right hand only to spin the prayer wheels and only turn in a clockwise direction.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

Some school children playing badminton alongside the Kathesimbu Stupa. That red brick building at the back of this photo is the elementary school at which they are pupils. Wish we had a stupa like that in our neighborhood.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

In the northeast corner of the courtyard is the Drubgon Jangchup Choeling Monastery. Tours of this Tibetan Buddhist monastery are available for a fee. All this is just a couple of minutes’ walk south of Thamel and Durbar square. 

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

A close up of one of the brass lions guarding a temple in the courtyard. Such incredibly detailed metalwork is typical of Newari craftsmen. You don't see as many brass and bronze lions guarding shrines and temples anymore- hope those aren't being stolen also.  

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

These are all private homes along the courtyard perimeter. It appears they suffered some earthquake damage and are being buttressed by strategically placed poles. If you look closely at the white building near the top you can see a huge German shepherd dog perilously leaning out the window. He was barking furiously at the pigeons in the square.  Glad that's not my neighbor.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

This building on the square looks to have been so severely damaged by the earthquake it had to be demolished completely and rebuilt. The Nepali government has been trying to encourage residents to choose construction that at least appears to be traditionally Newari in style. Various stipends and grants are available to those whose plans feature the exposed red brick and hand carved wooden ornamentation of old. Behind the traditional facade the buildings can be completely modern with proper earthquake resistant structure. Above you see the detailed brick work and carved window sills being applied to one such modern reconstruction. I think it looks great! I just hope the bricks don't pop off the facade in the next (inevitable) earthquake like I've seen in California.

asan, ason, Kathmandu, Nepal, tol, tole,

A mushroom-seller that followed me around for about twenty minutes around the bazaar. I'm not sure what his fascination with me was. I certainly didn't have much use for mushrooms while staying in a hotel room in Kathmandu. Note the planks butressing the ancient building behind him. Yet more earthquake damage awaiting repairs. What a wild conglomeration of goods for sale too- everything from coathangers to coconuts! Anyway, this was just a sample of what you can see and buy in Asan Tol. For those in search of authentic Nepali spices, fruit, vegetables, dry goods, metalware, fabrics, teas, or household goods, there is no better place to visit. Ancient shrines and temples are just part of the neighborhood in this typically Newari neighborhood. Hope you enjoyed my little tour of old Kathmandu!

That's it for this week! I know I promised a recipe but we've got houseguests which doesn't leave much time for food photography. (Sorry!) next week I'm planning a post for Chinese New year!
Calmly currying on, 
Bibi


Jan 15, 2018

Kathmandu: The Thamel

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Today I'm going to take you on a little tour of Kathmandu's famed tourist district: the Thamel. Pronounced "taah-mill" (rhymes with sawmill) the Thamel is a backpacker's ghetto, medieval time capsule, environmental disaster, ancient holy site, den of vice, and tourist trap all rolled into one. This amazing amalgam of sophistication and chaos is where most visitors to Nepal's capital begin their journey.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here we are in the midst of the Thamel's labyrinth of tiny roads, dank alleyways, and mysterious hidden courtyards. Here you'll find bars, budget hotels, luxury hotels, hostels, cafes, bars, massage parlors, souvenir shops, book shops, restaurants, trekking guides, beggars, travel agents, head shops, fake trekking gear, hashish hawkers, sweatshops, holy shrines, money changers, Buddhist monasteries, ancient artisans, sleazy nightclubs, garish kitsch, priceless antiquities, splendid temples, and a working-class neighborhood. The Thamel has been the center of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting in the hippie days when Westerners first came to Nepal seeking to "Turn on, tune in, drop out." Although the Thamel is often disdainfully referred to as a ghetto,  it is still the budget and pleasure tourists' preferred destination. From the sacred to the profane- the Thamel's got you covered!

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Above you see the traffic and mayhem typical in the Thamel during the peak tourist season. In October 2017 all motor vehicles were supposedly banned in the Thamel. Tourists, vendors, guides, travel writers, and Bibi have suggested banning vehicles from the Thamel for the last 10 years to make it more appealing to tourists. Obviously that ban didn't even last 6 months. I could barely walk this brisk January day in the Thamel without being bumped or pushed to the wall by taxis, motorcycles, and other pedestrians. Such is the lack of law enforcement in Nepal. (Actually in all of South Asia for that matter.) When I first came here about 15 years ago only bicycle rickshaws, holy cows, packs of stray dogs, and gangs of glue-huffing street children roamed the Thamel. Now there isn't even room for that!


This is an example of one of the crappy souvenir shops you'll find in the Thamel. Probably about half of these items are made in China. The incense sticks most likely come from India. The nylon Nepali flags and puppets look to be the only things made in Nepal at this establishment.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Outdoor temporary showroomss of wall hangings, brass statues, and colorful masks made for tourists are also a common sight in the Thamel. Buddha, Ganesh, sadhus, and the demonic-looking bhairabs seem to be the most popular masks. I rather like the lion at the bottom right and the grinning Tibetan-style skull at the bottom left. These masks are made of hand carved wood or a resin made from fish bones. Do not be surprised if on closer inspection you find the marking "Made in China" on many of the masks for sale in the Thamel.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

If you're looking for a souvenir that's uniquely Nepali I'd recommend a paubha. A paubha is a traditional religious painting made by local Newar artists. Paubhas depict deities, mandalas, or monuments and are used as a sort of portable shrine for meditation or for display during festivals. The Tibetan equivalent of a paubha is called a thangka. (You will hear the terms paubha and thangka used interchangeably here though.) Most paubhas portray Buddhist subjects, but a few have Hindu themes. In the above photo are two of my favorite themes: Green Tara on the left and White Tara on the right. Legend has it that both White Tara and Green Tara are born from the tears of Buddha. Green Tara offers succor and protection from all the unfortunate circumstances and myriad dangers one encounters through the cycles of rebirth called samsara. White Tara brings protection, assistance, and comfort to those tossed about in the oceans of suffering of the karmic cycles of samsara. Green Tara is holding a half-open lotus representing the night. White Tara holds a lotus in full bloom symbolizing the day. Green Tara embodies virtuous thoughts and activities while White Tara expresses calmness, serenity, and grace. Together, the Green and White Taras symbolize the limitless compassion of forces who labor day and night to relieve suffering. (We sell these in our shops and that's my best sales spiel.)

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Kamal Tuladhar
Here are some antique paubhas on display during the alms-giving Buddhist festival of Panjaran. In recent times traditional exhibitions such as this have become few due to fear of art thieves. The Newar artists who traditionally paint paubhas are of the Chitrakar caste. Their skills are famed throughout Asia. The paintings are done according to age-old rules, strict regulations, and specific dimensions handed down traditionally and artists cannot exercise their creativity. The paints are made from minerals and plants. The eyes of the deity are only painted when the rest of the painting has been completed, this is called "mikhā chāyekegu" (opening the eyes). Paubhas are still being painted today and I believe there are three schools of paubha painting in Kathmandu now. Paubhas are variously priced- you can buy a small poor quality one for about $10USD. You can buy a large, best quality paubha for about $1,000USD. Prices vary by artist, pigments, intricacy, subject, and size. They also can be easily rolled up to fit in a suitcase. I have never seen a real antique paubha for sale but hear they go for many thousands of dollars. Be aware that modern paubhas are often artificially "antiqued" by being hung in smoke rooms and rubbed with shoe polish.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
Eventually in your meanderings of the Thamel you'll come to the old Kathmandu Durbar Square. A "durbar" is a royal palace. Before unification Nepal consisted of several tiny kingdoms which all had durbar squares filled with temples, idols, shrines, open courtyards, and water fountains. In the Kathmandu valley there were three kingdoms, each with their own durbar square. This is the most famous one called Kathmandu Durbar Square. The other two durbar squares are in Bhaktapur and the Patan. (You may have seen glimpses of the Bhaktapur Durbar Square in the 1993 movie Little Buddha.) All three durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Here I am being surveilled by the female guard on duty at the Hanuman Dhoka Durbar Square Conservation Programme kiosk. ("Hanuman" is a deity and "dhoka" means gate.)The guard quickly runs over to me and asks me to pay a 1,000NPR entrance fee. That's about $10USD. She did not stop nor ask any of the other fifty or so other people entering the square to pay any fees. I'm about a foot taller than the other people and fair skinned therefore I am singled out. Ten dollars is pretty steep considering my taxi fare from the hotel to the Thamel was only $3USD. As you can see from the sign persons from SAARC nations only have to pay 150NPR or about $1.50USD. This is the typical gouging of Westerners at government owned historical sites you'll see throughout Nepal and India. I ask her if I get a guide or pamphlet included with that exorbitant entrance fee, she looks at me bemused. Truth be told, there isn't even a public toilet in the complex (as evidenced by the stench). I was curious to see what damage had been done to the complex in the 2015 earthquakes and how the repairs were coming along- but I really don't feel like paying $10USD to walk through a construction site so I left.


Here's a peep over entrance gate at the post-earthquake repair work going on in the square from my distant vantage point. I'm certainly glad I didn't pay $10USD to view scaffolding, walk through sand piles, and risk a brick falling on my head. One of the reasons the reconstruction has been delayed is due to a bit of an argument. The question Nepalis had to ask themselves was whether the damaged buildings should be rebuilt exactly as they were or should they be rebuilt using modern materials and methods so they won't fall down in the next inevitable earthquake? It seems to being an ongoing debate and only resolved on a case by case basis. The delay in renovation has led to some interesting new archaeological surveys being completed. It seems some structures are much older than previously thought. I haven't seen any studies published yet confirming this. Supposedly National Geographic was part of these new excavations. A lot of mysteries abound in Nepal's historic sites. In 2013 a vast treasure trove was uncovered in Kathmandu Durbar Square containing bricks of silver, ancient idols, and jewelry.  I've never heard a peep about it ever again. If you'd like to read more about the continued mess and ongoing neglect of this historic royal square there's a great article here.


I'll bet this guy didn't pay an entrance fee! This is one of the sadhus or holy men you'll find charging for photos in the historic square. Typically these sadhus will approach tourists and daub a tilakh on their foreheads and then ask for money. Or they'll pose for a photo then demand cash. I've seen him here for the last ten years or so, he's one of the nicer regulars and not as pushy as some of the other touts can be.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

An old shrine with a peepal/bodhi/sacred fig tree growing through it sits right outside the durbar square boundaries.  I've never seen much written about it but I find it fascinating. Let's venture down the street to Indra Chowk and see what else is still standing.

This is the temple of Aakash Bhairav whom is also deemed the god of the sky. The temple is associated by legend with the first king of Nepal in 1500 BC  but was actually built by King Pratap Malla in the 17th century AD. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles whiz by within inches of this ancient temple spewing acidic exhaust and shaking the ground with their vibrations. This is one of my favorite temples because of the four metal beasts dynamically leaping off the front balcony. It's rectangular design with the open second story window and balcony is quite unique. The brass beasts are about six foot high and eight foot long and are often described as lions. However, if you look closely the two beasts on the right have beaks and helical horns while only the two on the left have snub noses like a lion would. Aakash Bhairav is said to be the deity responsible for the safety, strength, and protection of the nation and people of Nepal. Yes, as you can see the bottom floor of the sacred temple houses vendors selling cheap souvenirs, ice cream, and chips. The head or mask of Aakash Bhairav is located behind the large open window on the second floor. The temple’s proper entrance is on the right-hand side of the building and is guarded by two more brass lions. Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the temple.

Rabs003
If you are able to enter the Aakash Bhairav temple this is the amazing silver image you would see. The deity is depicted with fierce grin, a crown of human skulls, and and coiled serpents. The image sits atop a silver throne carried by lions. Idols of Ganesh and Kumari Devi are placed on either sides of the throne as auspicious signs. Images of Aakash Bhairav are also seen painted on Nepal Airline's planes. Aakash Bhairav is the deity to which the officials of Nepal's state-run airline sacrificed two goats in appeasement following technical problems with one of its Boeing 757 planes in 2007. 

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Strolling right along here's an ancient statue of Garuda forever gazing faithfully into Krishna Mandir. This carved stone statue is said to be one of the oldest in Kathmandu and dates to the 6th or 7th century. It simply amazes me that such a treasure should be left outside, unguarded, in a pile of rubble. I fear that someday it will disappear and become a wealthy person's garden ornament or doorstop. Welcome to the age of Kali where avarice and degeneracy reign supreme, eh?


Speaking of Kali, here she is! This is one of the temples of Nara Devi or Mahakali in Kathmandu. Whenever you see a temple built in a triple pagoda style you can be almost certain it is dedicated to a goddess. A beautiful example of the traditional architecture of the Newari artisans of the 15th century.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Two huge and vividly painted lions ferociously guard the entrance to the temple. If you look closely you can see the lions are male and female and anatomically correct in portrayal. Most temples in Nepal have a male and female lion guarding the entrance- although I have seen dogs and monkeys on occasion too. Looking closely you can see there is a gentleman dressed in brown below the bells at the temple door. These temples are all still in use as places of worship.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

A close up of the bronze lintel over the doorway where the gentleman in brown was standing in the previous photo. There's the goddess at the bottom center atop her throne of human skulls. We know she is the Mahakali because she is shown with ten arms rather than four. She is shown with a pantheon of Hindu deities in this beautiful bronze work. The detail is just amazing.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Here's a closer look at the center doorway right below the bronze lintel. In spite of her seemingly terrible form, Mahakali is often considered the kindest and most loving of all the Hindu goddesses. She is also regarded by her devotees as the mother of the universe. Yet because of her terrible form, she is also often seen as a great protector. Devotees often commission these metal sculptures and donate them to the temple seeking divine favor. The two smaller icons with the wire grate over them amidst the writing are most likely donations made of solid gold.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Looking into the temple door this is what you will see. The arm and red sweater to the left belong to the priest of the temple, I asked him if I could take a photo and he said yes but I could not come inside- only Hindus are allowed inside. I'm not sure when the horrid modern electric lights and tacky wall clock were installed in the temple. I don't recall them being there the last time I visited the temple 10 years ago. The image of the goddess Mahakali is in the center of the white carved triptych with the goddesses Saraswati and Lakshmi on either side. The white carved Tridevi (triple goddess) triptych is why this shrine is sometimes called the temple of the Seto Kali (White Kali). The bronze arching plaque over the triptych features a Ganesh which is obscured by marigold garlands. Candles are lit in veneration. You can have a puja (prayer ritual) done for a fee (online purchase is available). The heads of animal sacrifices are brought in as offerings especially during the Dashain festival. I  wonder who decided to put those very sanitary looking white ceramic tiles along the back wall?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Continuing on next door to the temple here's a good example of traditional Newari wood carving. I'm wondering if this is some sort of place of learning or the priests' door to the temple. The wood used in these lintels, doorways, and window screens is called saal and is a particularly fine-grained native hardwood that is excellent for carving. The reason the metal grate is there over the arched carving over the door is to prevent theft. Thieves actually come in the night and saw off these beautiful ancient carved pieces to sell.

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!

Yet another beautiful old temple on a busy crossroads here in the Thamel. This 18th century building is unusual not only because it is entirely made of black stone- it's built like a typical Krishna temple yet it's dedicated to Shiva. The temple's gracious lines are quite the contrast with the ugly modern box tenement in back of it. It seems to being doing double duty in these modern times as a display for a shawl vendor's wares. At least there's a "no parking" sign in front of it! 

This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
This 18th century temple is unusual not just because of it's black stone but because the temple is designed similarly to a Krishna temple but is in fact dedicated to Shiva.

Read more at: https://www.thelongestwayhome.com/travel-guides/nepal/kathmandu/kathmandu-city-heritage-walks.html
Copyright © www.thelongestwayhome.com

Instead of copying please consider buying one of my travel guides to Nepal. They are great value. Have much more content. Are easy to read and most importantly they help support my website and the original content that I write. Thank you!
life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,


Lastly, here's a sad little lion whom once guarded the entrance to an ancient city square. He's now reduced to neglect and ruin in a parking lot. His mate is to the right and looked equally miserable amongst the rubbish, orange peels, and ubiquitous dust. I guess I find it so sad because I come from a land where something even a hundred years old is a marvel. Here antiquities both spiritual and mundane are treated as ordinary and or ignored. Someone proudly carved this lion, painted him gloriously, and carefully placed him atop his egg and dart trimmed brick plinth long ago. Why are we not proud of him now?

life, love, nepal, kathmandu, temples, durbar, aakash, bhairav, mahakali, kali, thamel, square, shrine, souveinrs, paubha, thangka,

Meanwhile, in a modern shopping complex in Kathmandu- I guess this is what we'll be seeing more of here in Nepal. All hail the giant happy Chinese panda of consumerism! Chinese merchants were coming in by the droves and flooding markets with cheap goods before the 2015 earthquakes. Then they left after the disaster and Nepal was flooded with NGO's from all over the world. Now the NGO's are leaving and the Chinese are returning. The recent elections that put the Communist party back into power seems to be encouraging this influx. If development is what Nepalis want the Chinese are the ones most able and willing to do it.

That's all for today! Next time I'll show you some of the hidden gems in the private courtyards of the Thamel.
Calmly currying on,
Bibi
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Printfriendly