This morning i went for coffee and a lassi and then haggled my way into a taxi to Pashupatinath, an important Hindu temple and surrounding area on the banks of the Bagmati River. The temple itself though was not the draw. What makes the site so interesting is that on the banks of the river dead bodies are ritually cremated and then their ashes scattered in the river.
The site itself is interesting to explore, as the river banks are dotted with temples and shrines, with sadhus (elaborated decorated Hindu holy men) lounging about, Hare Krishnas speaking with spiritual gurus, and monkeys scampering. And then there are visitors, like me.
I felt like kind of a dick when i entered through a side entrance and found myself shoulder to shoulder with grieving families right at the side of the pyres. I watched as two bodies were carried out, covered in golden cloth and marigolds and laid on the pyres and as they were then covered with straw and set alight. I didn't stay too long in the particular spot and i felt so conspicuous - plus, i wanted to take photos but would dare doing so in the thick of things, so i moved up above the activities and then stood on a bridge over the river.
You can see in the picture above the blackened feet and head sticking out. It didn't smell bad but was so smokey that it was difficult to breathe in some places.
I saw it all a bit out of sequence, but before the bodies are laid on the pyres, they are carried to another part of the river and their feet are dipped in the water, to make sure they are really dead, i was told.
The reason they do all of this and ultimately scatter the ashes in the river is so that the deceased can reach nirvana. A sort of short cut to eternal peace. It was all fascinating.
Surrounding the site is some earthquake damage and stalls selling religious items, cows wandering about, and numerous palm readers. Oh and there are ice cream vendors, because who doesn't like a bit of a treat with their ritual cremation?
Leaving Pashupatinath i went to Bodhnath, which is the largest stupa in Asia and is a centre of Tibetan Buddhism, sadly the spire on top of the dome was damaged in the earthquake and had to be taken down. Reconstruction in underway. While this did diminish the beauty of the monument, the area was still a delight with Buddhist temples and monasteries and inviting shops selling handicrafts, incense, and tea. Incense burns everywhere as do tiny butter lamps.
I had lunch at a vegetarian restaurant that provides free meals to monks (lentils, vegetables, rice, and yogurt).
At this point, i got sick again. I felt exhausted and achy and run down, so i took a taxi back to Thamel and spent the rest of the day laying about. I have more than enough time in Kathmandu to see all i want to see, so i can afford some much needed resting.