OF MY PERSONAL 29TH VISIT TO NEPAL and FOR THENEPAL’S RALLY
GROUP FROM ARGENTINA (May 15 to 25, 2000).
By Connie Scheller
Connie Scheller Expeditions, Mexico,
(Specially invited guest and lecturer for
Rally Nepal 2000
NEPAL, THE TIME MACHINE.
Kathmandu, Nepal, Tuesday, May 16,
Last Friday, I arrived into Kathmandu. Rabindra Rayamajhi from
Inspiration Tours & Travels and Inspiration Treks & Expedition was
at Tribhuvan International Airport with his staff to greet me. I was
invited by his Company as a guest speaker for the 4x4 Trek Rally to start
with the arrival of the Argentinean group on Monday May 15th. I
got accommodated at a room with the awesome view of a huge and manipulated
garden, at the Shangri-La Hotel. I was met by Mr. Deepak Upraity and
greeted in many opportunities by a beautiful lady, Ms. Jujuna Rayamajhi,
Senior Executive - Sales & Marketing of the hotel. I have had a very
pleasant stay here.
last days since I arrived on May 12th have been marvelous for me. That same day of
my arrival, Rabindra brought me for luncheon at Simply Shutters, a bistort
with modern French and continental cuisine at Baber Mahal Revisited. Lunch
was highly appreciated as it was in a clean, warm and good looking clear
setting that evoked me the sophisticated kitchen of Europe. The inside
area of the bistort is decorated with the works of some of Nepal’s
finest painters. We were personally attended by Mr. Kunal Lama, Partner
and Manager, and we felt flattered by his attentions. Once there, you are
invited to return and will be offered to dine outside on the
terracotta-tiled terrace, lightened with oil lamps. Any event there, at
night, must be a romantic one!. I will not miss it in my next visit to
Nepal. Baber Mahal premises have been neatly repaired and so, are kept.
Later, after lunch, we visited Mr. Gautam S.J.B. Rana at same premises,
whom I met by the first time and who let me know he was part of the
Kathmandu Valley Preservation Trust. Actually, Mr. Rana is the Programme
Director/Nepal and also belongs to its International Board of Directors.
The Trustee is dedicated to safeguard the extraordinary and threatened
architectural heritage of Nepal. With seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in
a tiny area, the Kathmandu Valley boasts a concentration of monuments and
townscapes of an importance almost unmatched in the world. His office is
decorated with fine taste and the small bronze figures he keeps there are
extraordinary. Mr. Rana is a very pleasant and relaxed man and he also
owns a restaurant and a theater inside Baber Mahal. He showed us such
properties. The visit of such place was a new experience for me.
Once I wrote that Nepal is the real Time Machine and now I really had
the opportunity to reaffirm what I wrote.
Lucky me!. For three full days I got assigned Professor Krishna Prasad
Dhakal by Inspiration Tour & Travels and Inspiration Treks &
Expedition, as my guide and lecturer for all my private sightseeing.
On immediate Saturday, (May 13th) we started with full day
visits to Chobhar, a picturesque tiny village that tops a hill,
overlooking the Bagmati River. Many times I have been in Kathmandu and in
its Valley but just with the thought I had to climb there by long steps
the steep hill, had put me off. This time, I had made up my mind to make
it and so I finally did it. Walking up the steps was hard and I forced
Professor Dhakal and Rabindra Rayamajhi to make “stations” with the
excuse of taking photographs and so not to make my weakness (unfitness) so
obvious. Once up there, the sight of its --for me already familiar--
Adinath Lokeshavare Temple of the 15th Century with the pots
and pans left for centuries as offerings by the newly wed, and its little
colorful medieval town was more than rewarding. The pictures I got on the
steps, of the Temple, on its Cho Bahal or Kaccha’pala Giri Mahavihara
Shrine and at and while the visit to its old town, put me in the best of
mood. Good, good pictures I got. People was so nice and most of them would
accept to pose for my camera.
Then, we stepped down to proceed, driving to the south west of
Kathmandu, to Kirtipur, a small and ancient hilltop town well worth a
visit for its authentic and unspoilt athmosphere, buildings, shrines and
temples. It is situated on a ridge and with a population of only 35,000.
This very ancient township, is also a natural fortess that counts with a
proud and courageous history. Its Chilamchu stupa and the temple of Bagh
Bhairav are major sites here. Kirtipur ofertes quaint streets lined with
houses built with lot of art in red apparent brick and bas-relief wooden
windows and walls and temple squares. Their people are known for their
skill precisely in building construction and weaving.
After, we drove to the southern edge of the Valley, to reach the
Dakshinkali Temple, in an odd location, in a cleft between two hills and
in the confluence of two rivers. This temple is dedicated to Kali,
Shiva’s consort and Goddess venerated with passion in this site. It was
just passed the mid-day when we arrived into this pilgrimage and holy
place both for Hindus and Buddhists and just after the day’s time for
sacrifices of fowls was over. The site was piping blood everywhere and the
pilgrims were still making offerings and greeting Goddess Kali with their
two hands placed together with the position and gesture of “Namaste”
and vowing in front of Her and in where the blood of the scarified animals
was running as the water in a creek. When I saw all that red, I took a big
breath to get into comfortables and continued shooting my camera, my
companion for many years of the most wonderful trips of my life, an old
non-automatic professional Nikon, a treasure of camera --my record in
shooting photos was in 1994 in Nepal, 325 pictures in one day: Kathmandu
City, a market place near its Durbar and Kirtipur--. Bells were tolling
constantly with pristine sound at Dakshinkali’s main altar and oil lamps
were burning in front row of aligned mystic bronze lions and against a
semi-dark sky as a strong storm had just finished; Sadhus and religious
teachers were consulted and were very busy too.
One Sadhu, dressed all in a pale orange robe showed me a big photo of
himself with the Kings of Nepal, His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bikram Sha
Dev and Her Majesty Queen Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah, in Their
two-days-ago-recent visit to such pilgrimage site. I also took him a
picture and he was showing very proud.
We left bloody Dakshinkali and in our route to the restaurant where we
had a typical Nepali lunch, we stopped and visited several shrines. Rain
regained strength so we were forced to leave not after we had entered in a
chanting hall of a Buddhist Monastery where all the monks were
monotonously praying accompanied by trumpets blowed with its peculiar
sounds and cymbals and Tibetan drums.
It had been an extraordinary and different day.
Sunday May 14th and Monday May 15th we walked
these two days from 9am to 6pm with one hour stop for luncheon.
Sunday was dedicated in full to Bhaktapur, one of the most beautiful
cities in the world, known as the “City of the Devotees’’. As you
walk in, you cannot but overcome by a feeling of inner harmony. Such is
the art and architecture and its special layout. Its famous 15th
Century Palace has 55 windows and you can see it to the left as you enter
through the City Gate. It inspires admiration. The National Art Gallery is
also housed inside. The Golden Gatewhich
is the palace entrance, is a master piece in repousse art. At the opening
space in front of this palace, called Durbar Square, is a medley of
interesting temples of various designs.
East of Durbar Square and walking through a narrow brick-paved lane,
lies the Taumadhi Square with its towering five-roofed Nyatapol Temple
presiding it. This beautiful monument gracefully soars into the sky atop a
five-story plint. The stairway leding up to the temple is flanked by huge
stone figures of deities and mythical beasts, being each 10 times more
powerful as the one immediately below.
Here at the Taumadhi Squares lies a Café occupying an small and
ancient ex-shrine’s three-story building. It is Government’s property
administrated and managed by Mr. Shyam S. Dhaubhadel since its
inauguration. We met Mr. Dhaubadel at the Café for a cup of the who told
us he is also the founder of the Siddhi Memorial Hospital for Women and
Children with 20 beds only. The Institution strives to provide sustainable
health care to under priviledged woman and children in Bhaktapur District.
Its mission includes providing services to out-patient and in-patient
services to marginalized population in the City of Bhaktapur; ambulances
and emergency health services; community outreach, immunization, pre-natal
care, family planning and hygiene education in underdeveloped areas as
well as training of health care workers. The hospital is supported by
donations that can be sent contacting them first through its e-mail
addresses email@example.com;firstname.lastname@example.org or through their Website: http://www.panasia.org.sg/nepalnet/hnet/siddhi_hosp/home.html.
Bolachen area is at two-minute walk from Durbar square or one-minute
from Taumadhi Square. The site is touristicaly known as The Potters’
Square because of the many potters seen here moulding wet clay into
different kinds of earthenware, usually in black color. There is at the
place a display of fresh pottery left out to dry in the small open square.
The elephant-headed Lord Ganesh of the Hindu Mitology is the patron of
potters, thus the Jeth Ganesh Temple in the square.
Another interesting sites to be seen in Bhaktapur are Dattatreya Square
and the Siddha Pukhu or Ta-Pukhu.
Dattatreya Squate takes its name from the Dattatreya Temple dedicated
to a three-headed deity, a combination of the Hindu Pantheon as they are
Brahma, Bishnu and Shiva. Set in a maze of streets lined with richly
ornamented houses, the square is famed for its many ornate Hindu
monasteries known as Math. The
National Woodworking Museum is also housed here as well as the Brass and
Bronze Museum which is just across the street.
Siddha Pukhu is a pond dating back to the Lichhavi period and perhaps
it is better known as Ta-Pukhu, meaning ‘big pond’. It provides a
serene athmosphere with its sashaying fish and the stone images of
different Hindu and Buddhist gods.
Monday May 15th was dedicated to the visit of the City of
Patan, a virtual museum to Newari artistry, funded in the 3rd
Century and known as the “City of Beauty”. As Bhakthapur, they have
been named Monuments of World Heritage. Patan, as its name proper it, is
another beauty. Its Durbar Square, as its counterpart in Kathandu, is an
enchanting melage of palace buildings, artistic courtyards, and graceful
pagoda temples. Listed as Heritage Site, the former royal palace complex
is the center of Patan’s religious and social life, and houses a museum
containing an array of bronze statues and religious objects. One
remarkable monument here is a 17thCentury
temple dedicated to the Hindu god Krishna, built entirely of stone. The
entrance ticket entitles to visit different courtyards inside Patan
Durbar, and Oku Bahal courtyard, Mahabouddha temple, Kumbeshwar temple and
Achheswar Mashavihar courtyard.
Mahaboudhha is a Buddhist monument and an excellent example of
terracotta art form which points to the skill of Patan’s ancient
craftsmen with a variety of building styles. The 14th Century
monument’s obelisk-like design, is also unusual in a city of pagoda
Oku Bahal is situted a few steps past Mahabouddha and is one of the
best known Buddhist places of worship in Patan. Its stone-paved courtyard
lis enclosed by a two-story building with filded roofs. The wood-carvings
on the roof struts are especially attractive. The place is full with
sacred images and other small shrines.
The Kumbheswar temple, situated in the northern part of Patan, is
dedicated to Lord Shiva. It was founded in 1392 and is the oldest existing
temple in the city. It is also one of the only three temples in the Valley
with five roofs. The two ponds here (Konti) are believed to be connected
by a subterranean channel to the holy Gosaikund lake, at several day’s
walk north of Kathmandu.
Other interesting sites in Patan are the Buddhist Monastery Iba Bahi
and Kwa Bahal or Golden Temple.
Iba Bahi is about two-minute walk south of Durbar Square. It is one of
the oldest Buddhist monasteries in the Kathmandu Valley and reflects the
sophisticated architecture of the Malla period. There is a shrine
dedicated to Shakyamuni Buddha, right across the entrance.
The Golden Temple is another Buddhist monastery couryard dating to the
12th Century. It is a five-minute walk west and then north from
the northern end of Durbar Square. The monastery building is embellished
with exceptional fine wood carvings and repousse work. Artistic images are
scatered around the country yard, and devotees can be seen offering
worship at its many shrines.
At Patan, we had a good lunch at the Patan Museum Café. Mr. Birendra
Shrestha, Guest Relations of the Museum Café, got, in the way we express
in Mexico, a 100 point calification: he showed us most of the Royal Palace
complex so we were able to look closely and specially, the magnificent
carved stonework of the royal bathing palace located in a courtyard as
well as other interior patio of the palace with no less magnificent stone
carvings of deities in another sacred small outstanding pool guarded by a
venerated and red-paste faced Hanuman.
Once, after presenting to my public several theories of how to travel
in time, I then wrote: “That is
why I am obstinate in trying to give to the one who is reading me, an
exact idea about the magnitude of a trip to Nepal, that fascinating region
of the world. So it is my intention that you understand that to travel up
to Nepal is the authentic return to the past. It is a regression without
being boarded in a special space ship-craft, or in a time machine with the
intention to be squeezed within the cosmic strings faster than the
velocity of light or to be eaten by one black [worm] hole; without being
ironed by the rollers of a fax machine, now in construction, for humans.
Because, just with the simple act to reach Nepal, you will be obtaining a
complimentary “natural” regression in “time”. It is to walk
freely, fascinatingly in the “time”; within the “time”. No space
garments are needed; nor an oxygen mask either. You do not have to be
connected to a spaceship.”...
And I continue.... “For those
who have traveled a lot, poorness, houses in state of falling apart,
streets with trash, strong smells and sacrosanct cows walking around
freely and within other gracious domestic animals, could surprise them
but, to the less experimented ones, it is for sure that such descriptions
will not be easily assimilated if they are not correctly, properly
“But for those ones like I, with
a deep thirst for adventure, the so called travelers of the world, those
with inquisitive mind, will feel plenty compensated. They will find there,
(“guaranteed”), a lot with which they will not only be satisfied but
even impressed and impacted in a positive manner, and for ever: still present vestiges of
millenary civilizations as they keep its original architecture and
involve, in its daily contemporary social life, its most ancestral
religions and traditions.”
“In Nepal, you will find, as easy
as I am now writing to you, Cardinal Stupas from 1st Century
–or like a Palace of the year 620 AD or even buildings and monuments
from the 11th, 12th, or 16th and 17th
“Around you, people is still
dressed with clothing that seem to belong to such ages... and you will see
with your own eyes, they are practicing rituals –of for us past
religions- with sacrifices, as it was done 2000 or more years ago. But the
incongruent is that the car your chauffeur is driving for such visit is a
modern one, the road is paved and your guide speaks English or Spanish or
other language... and, about yourself, well, you remain a citizen of the
year 2000 AD.”
“Youwillalsomeetpeoplefullofwarmthandfriendship,whoalwaysseem to be interested to comply the most
demanding visitor. Most of the street vendors are beautiful children, who
master several languages. They are the kings of the Sales in the world
and, once they point you out as a prospect of client, you better be
prepared because either you buy or... you die”.
At night, that same night, you can
sleep in a luxurious room in a modern hotel or palace, full of comforts
and excellent food, continental cuisine, in the now 21st
Century, even with bed covers and pillows filled with goose feathers and
with air conditioning”...
Later, I close with this:
“Nepal is a country to be lived in own flesh as such action implies all
the richness and the reachness of an emotional experience. Yes, it is like
that. Those ones willing to know this such odd and singular world must
experiment this, an also singular experience but... it must be done now!.
Because if you wait for tomorrow, most probably you will find that the
standards of the western materialistic system that have already started to
undermine their old style of authenticity, will succeed”.
“Then, it will be too late. All
these marvelous and fascinating ambiances, still existing here, all this
candid splendor, will irremediably be getting lost”.
“Come with me!. Nepal is the good
equation. It is the magic formula that will make possible that an atom of
wise light will illuminate that very hard shell that protects the core of
our cosmic ignorance”.
“Come with me!. Travel today to
the past and reach up there, up to Nepal, in where the human adventure,
And so, I wrote right; I wrote
wise; I wrote true. Two days strolling through two of the most beautiful
ancient cities in the world, Bhaktapur and Patan, reaching to its most
secretandsacredplaces,minglingwithitsbeautifulpeople, listening to the sounded laughs of its children and looking through its beautiful eyes, was to
reach another world, someplace in the cosmic space. Some indiscriptible
site nowhere else in our World you will find.
I was right. To fully understand NEPAL you have to be truly guided; you
have to be correctly introduced to such a singular country as Nepal is,
and here I had Professor Dhakal as my guide, my lecturer, my teacher. He
is an erudite. His serene personality exude knowledgement and just with
the act of walking one side of him, while on sightseeing and breathe at
his side, you can “catch” part of his widely read in art and history
-so well up in him. I like Professor Dhakal very much. I want him as my
Teacher for now and for ever...
For so many
occasions I had been at Nepal but this time, finally, I could dedicate the
necessary space to complete such outstanding visits discovering and
rediscovering unusual sights, architectures, arts, colors, textures and
people. A truly, fantastic feast to the eyes and to the spirit.