May 29, 2017

Places to visit in Kathmandu

There are actually three Durbar Squares in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Durbar means “palace.”  The most famous is Basantapur Durbar Square which is considered the traditional heart of the old town and is famed for its traditional architecture. The Basantapur Durbar Square was in front of Nepal’s 19th century royal residence. It was hard hit in the 2015 earthquake when more
than half of the temples were destroyed. Some buildings were badly damaged but are still standing and in the process of being repaired.  Regardless the square is still fascinating with people making offerings to Kal Bhairav. The image is frightful. Kal Bhairav, an incarnation of Lord Shiva, and worshipped by Hindus and Jaines but also by the Nepalese who want to better manage their time instead of wasting time on frivolous pursuits.
 John and I have much to learn about the religions and practices in Asia. Men were selling oil lights as offerings. There’s a huge wooden wagon that is used in special religious processions that the children enjoy clambering over; and Hindu monks wanting monetary offerings. (Buddhist monks never ask for money.) The square has many pigeons with ladies feeding them.  It is said that just before the earthquake the pigeons took flight. I have heard that animals often sense impending natural phenomena. There is still evidence of earthquake damage here and there.  Our hotel, the Shanker, had damage to the lobby and is in the process of repairing it. 

John and I visited Narayanhity Palace which is actually a newly built palace-like museum built on the site of the last royal palace. Taking pictures is not allowed. There is an impressive throne room and other royal articles.  Outside the main building, in the gardens which were once part of the previous palace, there are signs indicating
where each member of the royal family was executed. In 2001 Prince Dipendra went on a rampage, most likely drug and alcohol induced, and murdered nine members of the royal family including his parents before shooting himself.  He was upset over his parent’s refusal to allow his marriage to a commoner. In essence it was the beginning of the end of the monarchy which came about in 2007and in 2008 Nepal became a republic.

We also visited Swayambhu, better known as Monkey Temple, a religious complex at the top of a hill and one of the most sacred Buddhist pilgrimage sites.  There are free-roaming “holy” monkeys. Why are they considered holy? I love the legends/stories that explain such things. It seems that when Manjushri, the bodhisattva (a person who is saint-like) of wisdom and learning, was creating the hill and temple he was supposed to keep his hair short but it grew long and with head lice. It is said that the head lice turned into the monkeys. 

Not too far from our hotel was an oasis of peace and tranquility
“The Garden of Dreams.” The Garden was a neo-classical historical garden created in the 1920s and considered one of the most sophisticated private gardens at that time with fountains, flowers, and pavilions each dedicated to one of the six seasons of Nepal. Today only half of it remains but it is still beautiful as it was restored with the cooperation of the Austrian government making it a beautiful place to relax for tourist and locals alike.