Beyond Beauty: Nepal
For my 21st birthday in January, I had one of the greatest gifts of asking for a holiday to wherever I liked by my aunt.
I thought about it as carefully as I could, and since I wanted her & my mum to travel with me, with the unfortunate case of my sister and dad being unable to make it, I had to think of a 3-4 day holiday that would be viable.
I picked Nepal.
I was thoroughly satisfied with my choice, but now I feel truly lucky to have been able to visit the beautiful country that Nepal is, since a lot of its beauty, unfortunately, was wiped out with the April 2015 earthquakes.
You must be wondering why I’m writing regarding my holiday after all this time, but I recently sat down to write a paper regarding Nepal for my university course on Peace & Violence Studies, where I picked my topic as the Living Goddess of Nepal, and remembered just how attached I felt to the country, its people and its issues in a mere 4 days.
I left on a Thursday, a day after celebrating my birthday in New Delhi with other family members, and went on to stay till that Sunday in Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal.
A stay that comprised of a lot of eating, mainly thukpa and momos that happen to be the fond speciality in regions of cold climate, I was handed over a sweet, brief itinerary which my aunt planned out with me since we wanted to make the most of my birthday gift.
Over the course of the next 4 days, I visited, first, the magnificent, and I kid you not when I say that the word itself is not enough to describe the beauty of what is known as the Swayambhunath Temple, atop a hill in Kathmandu Valley.
From being able to learn about the rituals followed by the (mostly) Hindu devotees in the region, I was fortunate enough to interact with few of the ladies who worked and ran shops within the Temple premises who went on to tell me about their wish to lead a simple life while serving the Gods and spreading peace and love. It sounded so surreal, their innocent aims of life.
Later through the day I walked through the streets of the Thamel area, where the hippies came and settled down back in the day. Narrow streets filled with tiny shops, leading to small restaurants and cafes that proudly provided free wifi with their local food, and bars that blared everything from Elvis Presley to Nirvana, my family and I managed to tuck in quite a bit of food before shopping for souvenirs amidst admiring the politeness of the locals.
The ensuing days followed visiting Bhaktapur, a World Heritage Site, and rightly so, owing to its architectural beauty and several Hindu Temples in the region. We saw the Nyatapola Temple, a 5-story brick temple built in the 18th century, opposite which we ate (of course) at a cafe situated high above the ground to offer a beautiful view of the Temple.
One of the nights, we were invited for an authentic Nepalese dinner which felt nothing short of royalty, watched Nepalese dances and drank just enough beer to be able to find our way back to our hotel.
The next day we visited the Boudhnath Stupa, a spectacular piece of architecture and religion, its periphery filled with small shops and cafes, again situated at a height to offer breathtaking views of the Stupa against the bluest of skies acting as its backdrop. Post this, I visited the Kathmandu Durbar Square and Hanuman Dhoka, another World Heritage Site comprising of the Royal Palace of the Malla Kings as well as the Kumari Ghar, the house of the Living Goddess of Nepal (you should definitely read up on that!)
Last but not the least, for being as far from religion as I think I could be, I decided to visit the Pashupatinath Temple; a thoroughly detailed piece of work, with the biggest Nandi Bull you can find, this “Hindus only” temple was one of the most serene yet uncomfortable places I have ever visited. At first it restricted me from entering as I didn’t look “Hindu enough”. I would have happily walked off if it wasn’t for my mother who explained that I was her daughter, after showing her passport and qualifying as an Indian lady, and therefore Hindu (what?)
With the burning of corpses taking place while children were being dipped into the same holy river of Ganga to be cleansed, I sat next to a Hindu baba (saint) who spoke not a single word but delightfully agreed to be photographed for me. Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to click any photographs beyond the actual temple gates, but I went in anyhow to absorb the calmness amidst the chaos of people shoving each other and getting handled by temple guards just to get a glance of the Shiva statue.
All marvellous sites and areas consumed, my trip to Nepal fell short of nothing at all. The beautiful people, the overwhelming yet peaceful presence of religion all around you, the most delicious local food to be had and plenty of stories later, I felt beyond connected to Nepal.
It was a very innocent decision to travel to Nepal, really. I had no idea what I was in for, did not bother looking up the place (and I’m glad I didn’t), but was surprised by every single thing I laid my eyes on.
Here are a few of the photographs I clicked, completely unedited too, to give you an idea of how absolutely breathtaking Nepal and everything about it is.
A lot of the places and temples I ended up capturing do not, however, exist anymore. I do hope restoration of the city brings back the best it can, but that doesn’t mean Nepal has lost any of its beauty. I would visit the country time and again, for now it needs people like you and me the most; those who would appreciate not just what they see, but learn the reasons for why what existed is so meaningful in the first place.
Have a look: