Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Kathmandu. Budhanikantha Temple.

The statue of Lord Vishnu in the pool at Budhanikantha Temple.

Original Post Date: July 6, 2017.

From Swayambhunath, Sonam drove us to the home of his employer - Arun Ji.  It was rush hour traffic and the already congested roads of Kathmandu are even more congested.  It was another short drive that would take at least 45 minutes!



Someone once asked me to describe Kathmandu and I was brutally honest replying that the new city is one big shamble.  It's not a pretty place.  It's like Old Delhi but on a much larger scale.  In the same breath, I told them I had a soft spot for this place - especially the historic landmarks. Even though so much of the old cities lay in rubble as a result of the earthquake and I still love them and will want to come back one day.

Today, rain had fallen in parts of the city making the place look even more dreary and depressing.  The good thing about the rain was that it did keep the dust down.  I've been traveling without a mask so between India and Nepal, I am sure my lungs are filled with dirt!




Sonam turned off the main road onto a quieter side street.  A short drive up a hill and then he turned yet again to face a closed gate.  When he drove through the gate, we entered to a lovely compound.  There were two houses and a lot of parked cars!  We had arrived!


Behind the gate was a whole other world.  It's obvious that a wealthy family lives here.  The house and grounds are immaculate!  It was relatively peaceful and quiet here - the tall walls that surround the property not only keep out people but also dull the street noise.  It's a little bit of Nepal paradise here.

Arun Ji's son came out to greet us.  Through some internet searching and Facebook sleuthing, we figured out his name is Adärsh which is how he introduced himself but he did it so quickly, neither Chantale nor I grasped it the first time around.  Now, we had it in writing and it was easier to remember.

Adärsh introduced us to his mother who looks very elegant, befitting of the mansion she calls home.  It's a small mansion by US standards but most certainly opulent by Nepalese standards.  We learned more about Arun Ji and his family at dinner but given that this blog is open to the public, I shall not reveal any details about their lives to ensure their privacy.  So, what was discussed within the walls of the house shall remain within the walls of the house. 



But before we sat down for dinner, Adärsh wanted to take us some place special - a place that few if any tourists go to.  I had no idea what we were in for but along with his mother, we all got back into the car and headed out the gate.

It was a short drive to Budhanilkantha Temple, a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Vishnu.  This is definitely a neighborhood temple, small and only a few local people around.



The temple is home to a very unusual statue of Vishnu that appears to be floating in a small pool on the temple's grounds.


Protected from the elements by a low hanging canopy, the statue is a black stone structure carved from a single block of black basalt. The statue stands 5 meters tall (16.4 feet) and is positioned in the middle of a recessed pool of water, which is 13 meters (42.65 feet) long. It depicts the deity reclining on the coils of the cosmic serpent Shesha.  An orange colored cloth was draped over the body.  There was fencing all around the pool making it very difficult to take a good photo of the statue.  I have to admit, I have never seen anything like this in my life.  Definitely, very unusual and very memorable.


According to one story, a farmer and his wife once struck a figure while plowing the field, which caused it to start soaking blood into the ground. This turned out to be the figure of lost deity of Budhanilkantha, which was recovered and placed in its present position.

Another legend states that the statue was sculpted and brought to its current location in Kathmandu during the reign of the seventh-century monarch Vishnu Gupta, who controlled the Kathmandu Valley under the Lichchhavi king Bhimarjuna Dev.

It was suggested for many years that the statue floats in the pool. Indeed, limited access to scientific rigor in 1957 failed to confirm or refute the claim but a small chip of the statue did confirm it to be silica based stone but with remarkably low density similar to lava rock.  So, you either believe it floats or you don't.  I think it floats.


Adärsh and his mom posing for a photo for me.  Girls his age would say he's cute and to me, she's beautiful.

As we strolled around the pool, checking out the statue, the sound of young boys chanting filled the air.  We followed our ears to a tent where it appeared young students were doing their daily prayers.  I didn't see an adult anywhere in the vicinity of the boys so I'm guessing this is an activity that they undertake all on their own without following the teachings of an adult.  It was only boys in the tent, no girls.



Aside from the amazing statue and the boys, there wasn't anything else to see or do here so we left and headed back to their home.




Before we entered the house, both Chantale and I washed off our shoes which were a dirty, dusty mess and left them outside to dry.  Inside the home, we sat and chatted and got served several dishes of what I thought was the dinner.  Turned out to be the *snacks* aka appetizers!   There were so many delicious things to eat and I ate so much that by the time the *real* meal was served (at around 9:30p), I was already stuffed to the gills but the food looked and tasted so good, I overate like there was no tomorrow.  Arun Ji is not shy about chatting nor is his son bu Adärsh's mom was a bit reserved when we first met her. 

By the time dinner rolled around, she had gotten more comfortable around us and we shared a lot of laughs with her.  I really like her - she's very down to earth and a wonderful hostess.

We also got to meet Adärsh's younger brother who strolled in with a few of his friends.  Most certainly, there was plenty of food for them all but as is the case with so many young people, they had their own agenda for the night and after a quick introduction, they left.  

It was a enjoyable dinner but we tried not to overstay our welcome or keep Bindu up to late waiting for us to return.  So it was a short chat after dinner and then we said our thank you's to our host and hostess who have been incredibly hospitable.  How many people do you come across who invite you their house and treat you as if you are an esteemed guest?  I feel so blessed to have such people enter my life.

After dinner, we left with Sonam to head back to Bindu's house where he and Sumina were still awake and waiting for us.  It's been a long day for all of us and hopefully, Sonam will get a good night's rest before we meet back up with him tomorrow.

Goodnight from Kathmandu!