The Temples – Kathmandu, Nepal 2019

Swayambhunath Stupa

Located high atop a hill overlooking the vast expanse of Kathmandu, is Swayambhunath. Although I visited this place years ago, Swayambhunath Stupa, aka The Monkey Temple, is so visually engaging that it warranted another visit. I’m not sure if it’s just that tourism here is up (although it’s technically off-season) or if it’s because I visited on a Saturday when perhaps the locals come for their worship, but the place was so incredibly busy that it was a different experience altogether.

Fire – the tool of transformation.

Normally, I find over-crowded places to be an annoyance, but there is something incredibly engaging in the sheer volume of faith that people bring with them to these holy sites, that my fascination leaves no room for irritation.

There are so many structures built around the main stupa… mini alters, small temples housing sacred statues, bigger temples with chanting monks, layers and layers of variation… that to outline them all would be impossible. And besides, for me, the pleasure lies in simply observing all the accouterments of worship, which I find so aesthetically pleasing.

The masses surrounding Swayambhunath
Prayer wheels surrounding the temple.
A rare break in the flow of people, highlighting the sanctity of cleanliness.

I realized later, that for a so-called “monkey temple” I took very few photos of the monkeys themselves… most likely because I have now been to countless “monkey temples” in various places around the world, so the novelty has worn a bit thin. Still, one can’t escape the allure of adorable that is a teeny, tiny baby monkey and it’s mother.

Cute never gets old.
Small stupas near the entrance – the main monkey hang out.
Kathmandu from above.

Patan Durbar Square

Patan is the old city within the city of Kathmandu, and “durbar” means royal – so this is the ancient royal square consisting of the palace and the temples, which date back to about the 4th Century.

I like this image because of the contrast between old and ‘new’. Like many of the structures in the area, Durbar sustained substantial damages in the 2015 earthquake, and several of the temple structures are still being rebuilt, which you can see to the left. Interestingly, the Hindu temple to the right sustained absolutely no damage. That is because it was carved from a single ‘stone’ that was part of the landscape and situated in the middle of the square. The temple took about 30 years to complete, but will clearly be here for centuries to come.
The pigeons of Durbar Square. Pigeons are, of course, not unique to this city, but here, it is considered good karma to feed any animal, pigeons included, particularly in a temple area… which is why all the temples in Nepal and India are always overrun with them.
The ever present Ganesha – seen consistently in both Hindu and Buddhist temples alike.
Referred to as the ‘happy snake’ this guy is situated as protection around the holy bathing area.
A final look at the single-stone, carved Hindu temple. Glorious work of art.

Boudhanath Stupa

Dating back to the 5th Century, Boudhanath Stupa is not unlike Swayambunath – similar in its shape and regarded as one of the most important Buddhist temples in the region. And while Swayambunath is stunning for it’s hilltop locale, Boudhanath is smack dab in the middle of the city, and yet the immensity of it’s circular shape and the circumference, which is lined with shops and cafes somehow gives is a very regal yet urban feel, which is a direct contrast to the green hillside setting of Swayambunath.

The Eyes of Nepal.
Monks doing whatever they do when not doing their monk duties… but never straying far from the holy site.
Prayer wheels come in ALL sizes. This is obviously one of the largest ones and it is in perpetual motion.
Somewhere in there is Ganesha. As I mentioned, both the Hindu’s and Buddhist worship this deity, so I found it interesting that in the middle of this holy Buddhist temple, the Hindu’s made a point to come in and offer devotion to Ganesha, even though there are countless Hindu temples in the area.
Peace, little guy.

Pashupatinath Temple

Sadly, I have nothing to show. Pashupatinath is one of the most sacred Hindu temples in the entire world, and I was very much looking forward to visiting, however, in contrast to what I read online, we were told that non-Indians were no longer allowed to visit. Totally discriminatory, yes, since I’m willing to bet that I have a stronger spiritual practice than at least a handful of Indians who visit this place every day, alas, it wasn’t meant to be.


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