We took a road trip to Lumbini, setting off at dusk leaving Kathmandu to huge traffic jams which held us up for three hours or more. We arrived in Lumbini, at around four in the morning. after quite a scary taxi ride in heavy rain covering the two hundred kilometers from Kathmandu. We then had a long wait till six o’clock which is when they opened the gates.
There is a serenity that pervades Lumbini, a tangible and almost supernatural sense of peace that still exists at this the birth place of Gautama Buddha. This is the place where Queen Mayadevi gave birth to Siddhartha Gautama in 563 BCE; she is said to have first rested by the People tree in the grounds of the castle, then bathed in the waters of Puskarini or Holy Pond where she took her ritual bath before giving birth.
We walked round the gardens, early in the morning as the sun rose above the Stupas of the Buddhist countries of the world. The eternal flame burnt away at this world heritage site. We left mid-morning to start the long journey home back to Kathmandu. With several more hold ups on the way.
The Monkey Temple, Kathmandu
The Monkey Temple is an ancient religious complex at the top of a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The reason for it being named the Monkey Temple is its permanent monkey inhabitants, who live around the complex begging food from the tourists. The ascent up to the top of the Monkey Temple is an impressively steep climb and rewarded by the spectacular views of the city. At the top of the mount is the Buddhist Stupa and various Hindu places of worship; Hinduism and Buddhism sit very closely and comfortably along side one another in Nepal.
On the day of my visit to the Monkey Temple, I met a Buddhist monk in one of the shrines at the top, near the Stupa. I asked to take his photograph and happily he accepted. As well as taking his photo, I asked ‘why had he chosen to become a Buddhist monk’. Expecting to hear an explanation regarding great religious devotion, he simply said that he had been the middle son of his family; and becoming a monk was a duty and a matter of honour for his family. I was surprised to hearing this. The resulting portrait I was particularly pleased with.