I had reached to Kathmandu, capital and largest city of Nepal, by Druk Airlines from Thinpu, on a bright sunny day of May at late morning time.
Tribhuvan International Airport is about 6 kilometres from the city centre.
Almost totally different setting with Bhutan where the quietness predominated, Kathmandu was very active and lively. Attractive also with its own colours, fragrances, and glamour.
Weather was like our Kalaw, as it located at an elevation of approximately 4,600 ft in the bowl-shaped Valley known as “Nepal-Mandala”. Surrounded by 4 major mountains, and 8 rivers flow through, Kathmandu valley according to Old Myths was once a lake called Nagdaha, which was drained by Bodhisattva Manjusri (Myin-Zu-Thiri), then established a city called Manjupattan. It was changed again after KASTHAMANDAP, Kastha (wood) and Mandap (covered shelter), temple in Durbar Square.
Ancient trade route between India and Tibet enabled for many centuries, a fusion of Hindu and Buddhist cultural traditions, to be mixed with local ones. These treasures of Kathmandu valley been categorized under 7 groups which UNESCO declared as World Heritage Site (WHS).
Gateway to tourism in Nepal, Kathmandu was ranked 3rd among the top 10 travel destinations in the world and ranked 1st in Asia.
FRIEND IN NEED
I was picked up by my friend Deepak Domzone, to whom I sent the information that I’ll come to Kathmandu. Deepak is a friend in deed because he secured me in the huge metropolitan. Enjoyed a wonderful breakfast, with my new friend Takashi from Japan, introduced by Deepak and having some nice talk together.
RUSHING DAY OF DAZZLEMENT
At Kathmandu, on that day everything was like a magic for me. It happened so many things within a few moments. Especially owing to my friend Deepak, who can do various events in an instant like a whizz.
That afternoon in Kathmandu, I get so many new experiences. Following behind my friend’s motorbike through narrow tortuous lanes and crowded roads, having lunch in Deepak Ji’s home and meeting with his charming family, Visit to his younger son’s school for admission, get together with some expert Guru’s of energy healing in engagement. Within the windows of those times I acquired opportunities to observe the enchanting views of Kathmandu over the shoulder of my friend.
As Kathmandu was only a transit for me that day, Deepak had showed his mystic power of social connections, in a split of time. He arranged my currency changing, placed air tickets to Lumbini in my hand, and disposed a taxi to Tribhuvan Airport for me.
It’s really dreamlike. Came in from International arrival at this morning and departed again from domestic terminal at evening, now I was heading to Bhairahawa, for Lumbini, by Yeti Airlines.
SIDDHARTHA NAGAR TO LUMBINI
From Kathmandu by domestic Yeti Airlines, I reached to Gautam Buddha Airport of Bhairahawa, which is also known as Sidhhartha Nagar, 25 km far from Lumbini. Although the airport is a small one, wifi facility is available good enough to communicate.
I continued my journey to Lumbini by a taxi arranged by a Guruji, who I met in Kathmandu Airport.
The weather is dry and hot with sandy winds, much differ from Kathmandu. Summer is vivid here.
On the way I met with a market day of small village, seeing crowds of colorful rural people.
At Lumbini I was resided in a medium sized rest house named “Buddha Bhumi”. A fair place with reasonable price, including free wifi service.
HERITAGE OF LUMBINI
Lumbini (the lovely) in the time of Lord Buddha was a park and now is an important Buddhist pilgrimage site in Rupandehi district of Nepal.
Here was where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Bodhisattva Prince Siddhartha Gautama. It includes as one of 4 places pivotal to the life of Lord Buddha. Others 3 being are Bodh Gaya (Enlightenment), Sarnath (First Sermon) and Kushinagar (Mahaprinirvana).
Lumbini is an UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997, specifically nominated for the international World Heritage program.
Total area of Lumbini is 2 km by 6 km elongated park ground, known as Lumbini Development Zone, designed by Japanese architect Kenzo Tange in 1978. It comprises Maha Maya Devi temple at the centre surrounded by landscaped canals, ponds, forests, and monastic zones. Very peaceful place even under the glaring summer heat.
MAYA DEVI TEMPLE
It is the main temple at Lumbini Heritage Zone.
In November 2013, an international team of archaeologists discovered the remains of an ancient shrine dated before 550 BCE, which possibly “the earliest Buddhist shrine in the world.”
The discovery was made under a series of brick temples below the current temple. Also revealed the fragments of mineralised tree roots, which is consistent with the Buddhist tradition that associates shrines with trees; Queen Maya Devi, supported herself by holding a Sal tree branch during the birth of Bodhisattva Prince Siddhartha Gautama. (Photographing is strictly prohibited inside the main temple.)
Sacred pond beside the temple is where Maya Devi bathed before giving birth to the Buddha.
There is an inscribed pillar erected by Emperor Asoka (249 BC) marked his visit to this spot of Buddha’s birth.
MONASTIC ZONES Holy site of Lumbini is surrounded by 2 monastic zones in which only monasteries can be built, no shops, no hotels or restaurants. There are the eastern zone which have the Theravadin monasteries, and the western zone which have Mahayana and Vajrayana monasteries. WORLD PEACE STUPA The Japanese Peace Stupa is situated at the northern end of the gardens.
By Kenzo Tange, who designed the Hiroshima Peace Park, museum structure is beautiful with brick clad surfaces and has a good collection of ancient coins, religious manuscripts, terracotta fragments, stone and metal sculptures, that related to Buddhism, and also have illustrations, artifacts and photographs from Buddhist sites around the world, including Bagan of Myanmar. (Photography was officially allowed inside the museum with extra ticket)
When UN secretary general U Thant, visited Lumbini in 1967 and reportedly wept on seeing the dilapidated condition of Buddha’s birthplace. He initiate for developing Lumbini as an international peace site. International Committee was set up in UN to energize the process. Aim was to preserve the ancient monuments even as the site was made accessible to pilgrims and tourists.
Some 10 km to the west of Lumbini, in Tilaurakot, there is an ancient palace site of Shakya kingdom where Bodhisattva Prince Siddhartha grew up, spent his first 29 years of life in the vicinity of splendid family home.
After witnessed the aging, disease, death and a hermit, he had abandoned his luxurious life to search the reality of life, leave the palace from the Eastern gate.
When I reached here, images of all old legends came up into my mental eyes and my heart was touched by some sentimental feelings.
TWO REMAINING STUPA MOUNDS
Regarded as the burial place of King Suddhodhana and Queen Maya Devi.
HISTORICAL MUSEUM OF KAPILAVASTU
It is a small building, but items displayed are quiet interesting, including statues, terracotta figurines, earthen wares, coins, arts and artefacts concerns of the era of Buddhism which were excavated in the areas around the Kapilavastu.
I met with some young students, who came to museum for knowledge.
We became friends.
It is about 4.5 km south of Tilaurakot (Kapilavastu). There are huge mounds of structural ruins and a tank nearby that appear to be the remains of stupas and monasteries. The remains are those of Nigrodharma, where King Suddhodhana met Lord Buddha, when he came back to his native. “Kasaya” stupa was where a kasaya (yellow robe) was presented to Lord Buddha. This probably was the place where all the fire and water miracles were shown to Sakya tribes, and where prince Rahul was ordained as a young monk.
Some scholars believe that Kudan is Kshemavati, the birthplace of Krakuchanda Buddha.
I saw some finger marked bricks there.
“HOTEL KUMARI INN” OF KATHMANDU
After 2 nights and 3 days I had left Lumbini, again from Gautam Buddha Airport of Bhairahawa, by Yeti Airlines.
In Kathmandu I was resided in “Residential Hotel Kumari Inn”.
View around the “RHKI” is amazing, as it is located on a hillside, which can look over the part of Kathmandu.
Hospitality there is wonderful, warm and cordial. It was very cozy to be there.
Owner is Mr. Prem Bahadur Lama, who is a brother of my friend Deepak Domzone.
Me with Mr Prem Ji family, became very close to each other.
Mrs Prem Ji is a senior clinical nurse in Kathmandu hospital and their elder son is studying to become a doctor in Medical University of PRC.
FRIENDS IN KATHMANDU
Deepak came regularly to his brother’s hotel and we sat together for some mutual talking. Most of our dialogues were about culture, myths and legends, and also about some religious philosophy. As all of us are Buddhists, we get an opportunity to exchange our knowledge of Theraveda and Mahayana.
Another friend usually join in was Mr Raj Kumar Lama, Founder/Chairperson at Think Inc. Nepal.
DINNER AT HOME
I had visited again to my friend Deepak home, met with all of his family members, and having delicious meal as dinner. Unforgettable in deed! because of the kind genialness.
WORLD CULTURAL HERITAGE; KATHMANDU VALLEY
As I already mentioned, the whole Kathmandu valley is UNESCO ‘World Cultural Heritage’, and there are so many places, culturally, historically, and spiritually worth to visit.
It is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Shiva in the world, listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu.
There are many legends concerned. In one myth, Lord Buddha came and meditated on Mandihatu mountain in the middle of four burning fires and with the sun as a fifth fire burning on his head. Goddess Parvati appeared to Lord Buddha as Buddhist goddess Vajrayogini and a boon was offered that in this holy area of Nepal Shiva devotees and Buddhist will live in harmony.
Around the temple, there are vivid, colorful, and active scenes can be observed. Entry into the main temple is allowed only for the devotees. There is like a great museum for innumerable and amazing art works, crowded with Hindus worshippers. (Photography is strictly prohibited inside).
Kiosks around the Pashupathinath temples are selling goods mainly concern with religion and worshipping. They are quaint with bright colors and having local relevance.
KHASTI OR KHASA CAITYA
I had been visited to a stupa which is commonly known as Boudhanath or Boudha, located about 11 km from the central Kathmandu.
Massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas in Nepal. It consists of a dome at the base which represents the entire world, and above there is a cubical structure painted with eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions. Symbolized that when we will awake from the bonds of the world, with eyes of wisdom and compassion, will get enlightenment.
Since 1979, Boudhanath became UNESCO World Heritage Site and also one of the most popular tourist sites in Kathmandu area.
Founded by Nepalese Licchavi king Sivadeva (c. 590-604 CE); though other chronicles date it to the reign of King Manadeva (464-505 CE).
It is said to entomb the remains of Kassapa Buddha.
As one of the most sacred place for Mahayanist Buddhists of Himalaya region, Boudhanath stupa and surrounding is filled with the fragrance, colours, movements, sounds of recitations, songs and worshipping music.
Sensational experience I get and feeling of devotion awakened in me.
SWAYAMBHUNATH (MONKEY TEMPLE)
An ancient religious complex atop of a hill in the west Kathmandu. As monkeys lived in north-west parts of the temple, known as Monkeys Temple.
Probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites, for the followers of Tibetan Buddhism, only second to Boudhanath.
Tibetan name “Shing.kun“ mean ‘Sublime Trees’, local Nepalese “Singgu” mean ‘self-sprung’. According to a legend, Kathmandu Valley was once a lake and a single perfect lotus grew in the center of the lake. When the bodhisattva Manjusri drained the lake with a slash of his sword, the hill topped by Swayambhunath rose spontaneously from the waters and the lotus flower settled on top of the hill and magically transformed into the stupa. Hence the name swayambhu, ‘self-arisen’
2 access points: a long 365 steps stairway from east, leading directly to the main platform of the temple and a car road around the hill leading to the southwest entrance. My friends arranged all important places to visit.
ATOP OF KATHMANDU
When reaching the hilltop it was evidently worth to climb.
Swayambhunath complex consist one stupa with white dome at the top there are Buddha’s eyes wisely looking out over the peaceful valley. It is accompanied by variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period 400-750 CE.
I saw some Pyu pattern, in other words early prototype of, stupas there.
Much of Swayambhunath’s architectural symbols are based on the Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important for other Buddhists schools, and also revered by Hindus.
RICH BUDDHIST SYMBOLISM
Buildings and decorations of Swayambhunath are rich with Buddhist symbolism. Whitewashed dome of main stupa represents the womb of creation, with a complement in the square tower, and rising spire made of 13 golden disks, representing the steps to enlightenment symbolized by the umbrella on the top.
Strewn along the steps are numerous mani stones, inscribed with the Tibetan mantra Om mani padme hum (“Hail to the jewel-Lord Buddha- in the lotus”).
At the top of the eastern steps is a great bronze Vijra (thunderbolt), a Tantric symbol of power, decorated with the signs of the Tibetan zodiac. This is the largest Vijra of all as I saw.
Devotees spin prayer wheels to release prayers and mantras to heaven.
POINT OF VIEWS AND VIEWPOINT
Some Buddha Images remind me of our Myanmar tradition, amazing for the similarity.
It is also a panoramic viewpoint from this hilltop to the who le Kathmandu valley. Sceneries are magnificent.
TEMPLE VENDORS are wonderful experience. Museum of the museums for me. Evidences of Mankind’s enormously powerful Creative Mind.
PRANIC HEALING CENTRE
My friend Deepak took me through the crowded Kathmandu to his “Pranic Healing Centre”. Pranic healing claims that “Prana” (energy) can cure ailments in the body by manipulation of the person’s energy field. Primary principle is utilizing the inherent energy of life in all beings for self-recovery.
His tranquil Centre is surrounded by a peaceful green herbal garden in between the noisy and alive urbanized Kathmandu. A quiet Oasis amidst of metropolitan Jungle. Simultaneously as a very relaxing place I sensed some “Mystical or Supernatural” energy potentials there.
FALL IN LOVE WITH A CITY
As the time is closer to depart from enchanting Kathmandu, my attachments seem to be stronger.
All the people, places, pacts, philosophies, palette of colours, aroma, artistry, etc. had their magnetic powers.
Especially the pleasant weather and fantastic blooming of purplish sapphire blue “Jacarandas” accompanied by bright golden yellow “Silver Oaks” reminds me a lot of my native hill station town “Maymyo” so called “Pyin Oo Lwin”.
I knew that I still had so many things to explore here. However, who can avoid the decision of “the TIME”?
Finally it’s catch up with the time to say adieu to the friends and the city Kathmandu.
In the Residential Hotel Kumari Inn, we had celebrated a small private farewell treat. When Mr Prem Bahadur Lama Ji tying a white silk scarf around my neck we all had some aching contentment. Tormented because we had to be parted, blissed for our friendship.
Since I have long way to continue, in keeping with my “assigned Karma”, I must go forward. All in all I am satisfied that I already had visited at least once here, and meeting these kind and wonderful friends. All the events passing through were leaving the marks on my heart.
Hope to be here and meet again!
RETURN TO THE NATIVE
After saying goodbye to all the friends in Kathmandu, I return back to Yangon from Tribhuvan International airport, through Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, as transit.
Finally I am reached again under the shade of the monumental Shwedagon Pagoda. It seem that I had concluded my long pilgrimage of India, Bhutan and Nepal.
Or just starting a new one?