Alright, our time of slacking has come to an end as we continued being the good tourists we are. Jiajia is still recovering but the main motivation is we booked our trek to the Annupurna Circuit. Annapura is another 8000m tall mountain, but it is nearly impossible to climb with a fatality rate of over 40%…. we’re trekking around the mountain ranges, and this trek is rated as one of the best all around treks for its vast scenery!
Hankering for some Chinese food, we went back to the same place for lunch before heading to Pashupatinath, one of the most sacred Hindi temples in the Kathmandu Valley. No foreigners were allowed in the temple, but the surrounding areas were just as interesting. Situated on the sacred river of Bagmati, the temple is a shrine to Shiva where a sacred lingam resides in the temple. Walking into the temple, an overwhelming smoke smothers the area (more on this later). Photogenic sadhus sit around, welcoming anyone to come for a picture, but for a small donation of course. Sadhus sit there from morning til dark, contemplating the deep spirituality of the world and legally smoking pot to help them relief pain and to aid in meditation. No comment…..
Since the main temple was banned for us foreigners, we can only stroll around the riverside and take in the interesting history, lingam temples and architecture that lays here, in addition to the dead bodies.
Wait what? Yes, dead bodies. As this temple is extremely sacred, built along an extremely sacred river, people of the surrounding regions cremate their dead family members. Commoners, priests, and even Kings and Prime Ministers are all cremated by the river side and the burnt ashes are washed into the sacred river, and will bring a better next life for those that passed away…. A strange part though, is that there is a a next to the temple, where if people are not expected to live for much longer, they will elect to wait inside the hospice to die as it is said to bring a better next life if they do so….
And for the afternoon, we sat there witnessing the whole process from start to finish, contemplating the mortality and witnessing the impact that death has on everyone else…. The process first starts by a relative registering at the temple, with different burials costing different prices all posted on a menu-like billboard. When the time comes, bodies were taken out on a stretcher and placed perpendicular to the Basmati river with their feet soaking into the waters of the sacred river. Last farewells and ritual sprinklings were done before the body was taken for cremation, specified at 4hrs timing. Before with the caste system, different peoples were cremated at different platforms, but that no longer applies except if you’re a priest or of high social order. Lastly the body is taken to the cremation platform, and once everything’s burnt, down goes the ashes and back into the Basmati.
Unlike the sky-burials of Tibet, the family members are here to witness the whole process. There’s great sorrow and grief when losing a loved one… but what’s strange about this is everything else that’s happening in the river. Above the steps, people are flying kites. Across from the dead bodies, rows of tourists (like us) sit and watch. The strangest part though, is the people that are diving in and out of the water, digging up the shallow riverbed in hopes to find items worth any money like gold fillings or ceremonial coins. So the family members were totally okay with a 10 year old kid digging around the river 3ft away from their dead relative’s corpse!!?!?! Okay… no comment.
What an interesting place indeed.
PS – We totally saw this guy @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sadhu