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Running away from Home

Mahashivarattri part I

NEPAL | Friday, 12 February 2010 | Views [297]

On our previous trip around Kathmandu Kathryn was content to be led around by a self-appointed tour guide while I gnashed my teeth over being duped. Today I was content to hire a tour guide to see Durbar Square while she rejected the idea completely. I knew that if we hired a tour guide right up front, then the others would leave us alone and not follow us around the square with their sales pitches. As soon as we paid to get into the square, a tour guide was upon us, but he looked kind of shady with his raggedy jacket and five o’clock shadow. His swarthy appearance combined with his I’m-doing-you-a-favor attitude left us completely cold. We entered the square armed with a map and a good dose of indignation. Immediately we were set upon by beggars and hawkers who would not take no for an answer. I tried moving out of the swarm towards the northern part of the square and the others followed. To make things worse, the swarthy tour guide followed us and told us that we were approaching the square incorrectly. I was just trying to escape the horde. What were they doing here today anyway? The weather was horrible. If I hadn’t had plans for the rest of the weekend, I would have turned around and left. The skies were overcast and the temperature was in the forties. The insufficient sunlight made the temples in the square look two-dimensional in my photos. As it turns out today is Mahashivarattri. This is a festival to honor Shiva and Nepalis were at the square today to pay respects at his temple. If only I had known.

The descriptions of the temples on the map were enough to satisfy our modest appetites for information. The swarthy tour guide did not relent, but I had to admit, I got a kick out of watching Kathryn get rude with him as a last resort. At one point we ducked into the Kumari-ghar which is the home of the ‘Kumari’ or living goddess who is considered to be the living carnation of the goddess Taleju. We were content to stand in the small courtyard and photograph the doorways of the 250-year-old building, but when we tried to make an exit, we were blocked by a large Chinese tour group who apparently had the connections to get a glimpse of the Kumari. A Japanese tour joined us in the crowded courtyard and we all put our cameras away as photographing the Kumari was strictly forbidden. After what seemed an eternity, a small girl in full showgirl make-up came to the balcony and looked down on her admirers. We all held our breath for the moments she spent at the balcony, and then she slipped back into the shadows. I left the Kumari ghar with the combined feeling of self-satisfaction and pity. The pity was for this little girl of about four or five who was not allowed to leave her gilded cage. The self-satisfaction was for me because I had been able to see her, without the aid of a tour guide.

I took a look at the description for the Jagannath Temple. Apparently this temple that dates back to 1563 has erotic carvings on the roof struts. I thought that was worth doubling back for. The other two indulged my perverse curiosity as I headed back to examine the roof struts. They were naughty indeed. One fellow noticed my interest and he offered postcards that had similar erotic imagery. I waved him off with a chuckle saying that my intrigue only went so far.

This was just the morning activities……



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