Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bakhtapur: “It’s All An Illusion” UPDATED! W/ Photos

By Kathleen

Darbur Square
Having been laid up for a week being sick in Kathmandu we have now arrived, mostly recovered to Bakhtapur. Located only an hour from Kathamndu the two cites could not be more different. While Kathmandu is noisy, crowed by tourists and polluted beyond belief Baktapur is a calm breath of.. well not really fresh…. air.

Once an independent city-state Bakhtapur now is a sleepy city which fills with day-trippers by 10am and is deserted by 9pm. For those wise enough to spend the night and a couple of days the city is like a marvelous treasure chest or a time capsule back into the 15th century.

The narrow streets are lined with slanted wooden homes and temple squares pop out from behind ramshackle buildings. It is a photographers dream and as soon as I can get my technology to co-operate I’ll post some pictures.

One of the “sites” if you will is Hannuman Ghat, which the Nepali equivalent of the Ganges. In short it is where all good Hindus are supposed to come to be cremated after death, their ashes scattered in the waters of the three scared rivers which merge at the spot.

Darbur Square during the rain
Curious and lured by the promise of the largest lingum in Nepal we headed down to the river. Hanuman Ghat stood quite, no funeral pyres burned in the afternoon light and the only people around were women winnowing grain and old men smoking on the cool slanted rocks of the temple.

We wandered down to the rivers, past tens of little Shiva lingams (the big one wasn’t so impressive after all) and past a faceless, almost formless statue that stared without eyes and had a gaping black hole for a mouth.

The space was silent accept for the whispers of chatter from the old men and the constant chiming of a bell, distantly marking a ritual. Down by the water we stopped to take in the space. Here is one of the most scared places in all of Nepal and yet…rubbish, trash, plastic bottles and filth filled the water and lay like a blanket on the banks. The water was a filthy grayish green and stank of pollution, not of death.

I ruminated on the disconnect; How was it possible to find a natural spot scared and then trash it? Why didn’t anybody clean it up? If something is sacred, you would think that you would want it to be clean… right?

As I’m speaking these words a sari clad woman walked past us and down to the river to make her ablutions. In her hand was a black plastic bag filled with trash. She, without a second thought or pause, hocked it into the middle of the river, and in the same motion bent down to scoop some of the water up to her forehead as a blessing. Then she straighten up and walked away.

Our jaws dropping we watch the weak and dirty current push the plastic bag, still floating with its trash, downstream. Like an artery pumping putrid blood, carrying more plaque to a heart. I was stunned, Fiz and I had no words to express our dismay.
Especially having just come from Panya, where every bit of trash and waste was accounted for we just started and shook our heads, cognitive dissonance stealing our words.

As we turned to walk back to the road, past the eyeless statue and the lingams and the flowers and leftover prayers we saw the old men, who had bummed cigarettes from us, smoking next to a dead goat. It’s wet body covered in flies, clearly it had drown in the water.

Yet strangely this place was serene, in the way that cemeteries are. It brought to mind that same thought that I had in Cambodia… everything is scared, everything is profane it’s all a matter of prospective an din this land of tantric practice maybe something can be said for that, it’s all an illusion anyways right?

But I’ll continue to not throw my trash on my food/water/sacred places all the same.

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