Suitcase and World: Patan. Kumbeshwor Temple.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Patan. Kumbeshwor Temple.

After our visit to the Golden Temple, it was time to head to Kumbeshwor Temple which is located a short walk down the same street from the Golden Temple.  Not that I remember this from my previous visit but because the posted signs pointed me that way.  So far, Chantale has just be following me and thankfully, I have a good enough memory to remember the names of these places!

Along the way, we got slowed down by some street work that was taking place as part of the Melamchi Project.  Just so happens that Chantale, who is a civil engineer by training, worked on the funding for this project back when she was working full time.  She has a very impressive resume!  So....I teased her and told her that all this mess in the street was her fault 😁

According to the project's website, the main objectives of the Melamchi Water Supply Project are
 ... to alleviate the chronic water shortage in Kathmandu Valley on a sustainable, long-term basis and to improve the health and well-being of its inhabitants. The Project also seeks to develop a comprehensive institutional framework for urban water management within the valley. The Project comprises (i) infrastructure development; (ii) social and environmental support; (iii) institutional reforms; and (iv) project implementation support."
Sewage doesn't smell nice 😧

Of course, Chantale had to stop and watch what was going on.  Sewage and water infrastructure are her thing.  Who knew?  In the scheme of things, I've not known her for a very long time but this side of her was knew to me.  It didn't surprise me that she wanted to watch the men at work.  She did comment that they weren't doing the job quite right as far as installing pipe the *correct* way is concerned.  This underscores the fact that even if you can provide financial assistance to countries to address basic infrastructure needs, it doesn't necessarily mean that they have the expertise to do the job.  There needs to be a fully qualified engineer onsite inspecting the work but given the scale of the Melamchi project, I don't know how feasible that really is.  Will be interesting to see how well this new infrastructure serves the people in the years and decades to come. 

Obviously, there was no road for us to walk on and barely any sidewalk so we had to inch our way along as best we could.  At one point, I found myself standing side by side with a local shop worker.  I asked him how long the work had been going on and when would it be done.  He replied that they had just started the day before and had been told that the work would be completed in a week.  I have no idea if that is fast or slow but he didn't seem bothered by the timeframe.  I think the people are just looking forward to the outcome which presumably better access to running water or better running water.

As always, lots of men looking, few men actually doing the hard work!

Past the short section that was being worked on and we were in the heart of a quiet neighborhood.  This was the part of Patan that I remembered wandering through a decade ago.  I love these backstreets.  Somehow, I did expect to see more tourists strolling around but it was just Chantale and I.  Not complaining, just an observation.

I didn't know exactly where Kumbeshwor Temple was located but it wasn't hard to figure out.  The vendors selling offerings is the sign.  I looked at one of the photos I took on my last visit here - there were far fewer vendors than today.  Progress, I guess.

The other clue that you've arrived is the sight of the temple itself as it is one of the only two free-standing five-storied temples in the Kathmandu Valley - the other being the Nyatapola Temple in Bhaktapur.  Kumbeshwor was originally constructed as two storied shrine by King Jayasthiti Malla in around 14th century. The additional 3 stories were given by King Srinivas Malla during 17th century.  The sight of the scaffolding was indication that the temple had suffered some damage as a result of the 2015 earthquake though it was still fully standing.

We entered inside to be greeted by a mob scene.  Dozens of people crowded into a small square.  Smoked filled the air.   Something was going on.

Kumbshwor is home to several temples and shrines.  Bagalamukhi Temple, named after the Hindu goddess of the same name is the most famous of the shrines here.  Today is Thursday and it just so happends to be THE day that devotees of Bagalamukhi come here to worhip because she known as the goddess who fulfills wishes.

According to the legend, a demon named Bagala had tortured and threatened the lives of the people. The people worshipped and prayed to the goddess Baglamukhi who, pleased by their prayers, came to their rescue and killed the demon. So the temple was built as a tribute to the goddess.  The temple is ruled by the planet Jupiter and Thursday is considered as the special day for worshiping at the temple.

There was a very long line of worshippers in queue to get to the shrine.  Too many people for us to stand in line so we just observed the activities from afar.

In the small square in front of Bagalamukhi Temple, fire sacrifices were taking place.  I couldn't tell exactly what was being burned.  I'm guessing it's some of the offerings that the vendors were selling outside the temple complex. In any case, I was in absolute awe of this barefooted woman who was stoking the fires.  I am sure the pavement was hot from all the burning that was taking place around here!  Who knows how long it had been going on for.

Just off to the side of Bagalamukhi, in the shadows of Kumbeshwor Temple itself, groups of people had gathered for celebration.  There were piles of offerings laid out everywhere - cooked food, flowers, fruits, nuts, seeds, and of course, money.  There were small fires burning as well adding to the smoke filled air from Bagalamukhi.  It all looked very messy to me but I guess this is the custom.  Whatever space you can claim is yours to use.  I did wonder who cleans up all this mess afterwards.

We spotted a religious man giving blessings to whomever approached him and slipped him a small donation.  I stood and watched for a bit, curious to see the blessing being carried out.

We also spotted a group of local women, all dressed in red, sitting against a bright red wall.  I thought they made for a beautiful composition so I asked Chantale to pose with them.  Okay, my photo didn't come out as I had intended.  I wanted all the women against the red wall but oh well, they are still a very pretty group.  No surprise, Chantale then took a selfie which I took a photo of her doing.  This picture I like.

I found it unusual that they were all wearing red colored saris so I asked them about that.  They told me that red is the color of Patan and since today was a special day, they dressed in the appropriate color.  After seeing them, I then realized that many of the women here are wearing saris in red.

I had hoped to see more sadhus wandering around but so far, only one.  I haven't spotted any since we've been in Patan Durbar Square.  This man didn't mind my taking a photo and he didn't stick his hand out to ask for money either.  Had he done that, I would've have not viewed him as a true sadhu but someone who dresses up like on to lure tourists into taking photos for money.

The women who we had taken photos of had lined up to receive their blessings.  As we stood and watched, I suggest to Chantale that she also be blessed.

And so she did but she had to wait a bit as the line was quite a long one.

I don't know how you title this man.  Priest?  Guru?  In any case, he performed the blessing ceremony with Chantale ending it by tying a string around her right wrist and dotting a bindi on her forehead.

With Chantale blessed, we turned back towards Bagalamukhi.  I paused to take a photo of Kumbeshwor Temple.

I did a quick walk around to take some photos.

By now it was nearly 2:30p and I was getting hungry.  We decided to head back to Durbar Square mainly because I had no idea where to go next.  This is when having a guide would've been useful.  Lucky for me, Chantale is happy to just see street scenes.

Back in Durbar Square, I suggested we head to a roof top restaurant for a quick bite and to catch a nice view of the area from above so we did exactly that. On my last visit, I did the view from the second floor of Patan Museum.  Today it was a different vantage point and some of the structures are no longer standing.  It was nice to sit for a few minutes and watch the world go by below us.

Chantale eats like a bird and I knew that tonight we would be heading to Arun Ji's house for dinner.  So as to not spoil our appetites, we just ordered a typical Nepalese snack called badem sadeko.  It's a popular Nepalese dish made with peanuts that are fried alongside other ingredients - in this case, some shallot, coriander, green chilies, tomatoes and spices.  A squeeze of lime juice gives it a bit of acidic touch to balance out the spice.  It's a really tasty!

After our snack and a chance to use the facilities, we headed back to the entrance of Durbar Square where Chantale called Sonam to come pick us up.  It was off to another iconic tourist highlight - Swayambunath.