Pashupatinath temple is Hinduism’s holiest place in Nepal and yet another Kathmandu World Heritage site. The new prime minister of India recently visited and pledged 40 million Rs for restoration and maintenance. It’s oldest structures date to the 6th Century, the temple itself was built in the 15th century, while its newest parts date to the 17th Century.
Non-hindus are not allowed into the temple itself and there are portions of the complex into which only strict vegetarian hindu priests are permitted.
Human sacrifice was once one of the rituals performed here. But now, only animals are sacrificed. Some lucky ones are chosen to be spared.
The bull is the central feature of the temple courtyard. The doors of the temple are silver and the crown of the roof is said to be 24 carat gold.
The complex straddles the river, which is also a cremation site. Pyres are prepared by attendants who monitor the burning and dispose of the remains into the river, where the remains are sifted for remnants of jewelry by scavengers. There were at least 4 fires burning while I was there. An average day is 40 cremations. I asked about restrictions on taking photos, but there do not seem to be any. I noticed nail polish.
Families who are able to pay the 20,000Rs for the burning as well as those who are not able to pay anything are restricted to a downstream area of the river. Families who are able to pay 30,000Rs have the cremation performed at an upstream location, where bodies are honored with more elaborate preparation. Family members are permitted to put water from the river into the eyes and mouth of the deceased.
Nepal underwent a national trauma in 2001 when the crown prince Dipendra massacred his entire family and then shot himself. King Birendra and his immediate family were cremated here. This, of course, was a significant event in the history of the monarchy and probably hastened its eventual abolition. But the average Nepali is having none of the official story. They ask how is it possible that the prince used a rifle to kill his parents and siblings and then somehow shot himself in the back? Oh. The king’s brother ascended to the throne immediately. Move along. Nothing to see here.
I noticed that I did not see any female members of the families attending the cremation. I was told that if the deceased died at home, then the females say their farewells there and do not attend the cremation. If the deceased died in a hospital, they attend the cremation only for the purpose of seeing the face of the deceased briefly and then they depart. Just a week or so ago, one of Nepal’s most revered politicians died. The newspaper picture of the cremation ceremony was entirely of men.
This string of Shiva-linga shrines is dedicated to the eleven wives of Shiva.
There is a government supported home for the elderly in the complex, housing about 200. There is also a hospice for the dying, who may remain there from a few hours to a few days.
This topic has become the most unpleasant aspect of my stay here. There are two dogs living at my residence. The indoor dog is a very sweet cocker. It goes outdoors during the day when people go out, but not at other times. The other dog is a huge shepherd mix that is either kept in a gated area beyond the side garden or in a cage next to the house during the day. I do not know this dog. We are not friends. He is let out of the cage at night to roam the property and be a menacing presence to anyone who would even think about entering the property.
Using dogs for security is part and parcel of the hyper-vigilance that seems to exist among the well-to-do. Otherwise, there are many dogs to be seen everywhere one goes. They occupy public areas, roam free, sleep in the street, are untended and are generally passive. I have never seen anyone feeding a dog, being affectionate to a dog, training a dog or interacting in any way. I don’t know if they are owned, cared for or left completely to fend for themselves. I have seen sick dogs, mangy dogs, old dogs, pregnant dogs and hungry dogs. I have never seen a puppy.
The outside dog here may bark loudly and aggressively and strangely, in a plaintive manner at any time of day when noticing noise, movement in the yard or seeing someone who could potentially let him out. Like when I go to my bike to leave. There does not seem to be any effort to keep him quiet. Is no one else disturbed by the noise?
Barking in the middle of the night has become a scourge. One yelping mutt far off in the night will set off others-until the others get tired of it and go silent. But that one mutt goes on and on. It’s a form of OCD that, to me, bespeaks mistreatment. But as I’ve said, I’ve seen no evidence of any positive treatment of animals here.
And the cats. Where are the cats? I’ve yet to see a single cat in Kathmandu.
In a particular area of Thamel southward toward the historic Basantapur/Durbar Square, I took an extended stroll a week or so ago, following a city guide I had downloaded. I didn’t pay close attention to all the details in the guide. I noticed two things: first, that in contrast to a place like Chiang Mai, where every turn seems to reveal ingenuity of a contemporary commercial, design or artistic nature, here every turn may reveal further evidence of a very deep historic nature. And second, for all the turmoil, seemingly loose grip on order or efficiency or from time to time even basic functionality, somehow this place works. There is no end to the tourist oriented commerce in this neighborhood, and it’s difficult to imagine how these establishments have survived as many years as some of them have. But even beyond Thamel, somehow Kathmandu functions. Not optimally, perhaps. But basically.