The next morning, we hit a couple of Buddhist temples and a shopping district before catching the evening flight out. First stop, Boudhanath Stupa, the largest in Nepal and an important center of Tibetan Buddhism after the Tibetan Uprising in 1959. During that year, Tibetans revolted against the Chinese Communist regime for which some fled Llhasa and sought refuge in Nepal while the Dalai Lama had escaped to Dharamsala and has been in exile ever since.
We arrived just in time to see pilgrims prostrating themselves and circumambulating the stupa while spinning prayer wheels as they passed, which is equivalent to saying a prayer. Prayer wheels have inscriptions of mantras in Sanskrist, the most common recited, OM MANI PADME HUNG, a mantra of loving kindness and compassion. Yup, I googled it. The whole experience was fascinating. I could go on describing the beauty of the stupa’s structure or the wisdom eyes of the Buddha that’s so omnipresent, but I’d rather move on to real time experience and the most interesting ritual we stumbled upon at Monkey Temple.
Up on a hill was another Buddhist pilgrimage site, Swayambhunath, also known as Monkey temple. We climbed up the stairs and checked out the entire complex filled with shrines and temples complementing the striking stupa with great views of Kathmandhu valley. We shoo’ed away monkeys that lingered around, and took note that both Hindus and Buddhists equally worshiped the site.
The air reeked of cow dung so naturally our curious selves followed its direction to an open air temple. Our eyes popped open in shock! A devoted Hindu or Buddhist (I can’t remember) was in a once in a lifetime quest of purifying her soul and sins by smearing cow dung all over her body. She laid flat and still underneath while burning candles brightened up the ambiance.
Next time you fall in a pile of cow dung and cry like a baby, remember it ain’t that bad. Cow dung is used as medicine to cure cancer, scrubs away dead skin, heals wounds, improves blood circulation, and has a million and one wonderful properties. Holy Cow!
Finally, we hit the second most important destination in Nepal after Mount Everest, Thamel, for some last minute shopping and hippie watching. The highlands of Thamel are largely frequented by soul searchers and people seeking an answer who eventually stay back and lose track of time. And themselves.