Pashupatinath is one of the most important Shiva Temples in the world. It is located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Nepal. The temple is said to be the home of Lord Pashupati (Shiva). And here it is traditional to burn the bodies of departed loved ones. When I visited Pashupatinanth there were several cremations in progress. Around the temple complex there are generally enormous crowds. Pashupatinanth is an important place of pilgrimage to those in Hinduism but many come to witness the burning of the bodies. Many Saddhus also live, eat and sleep in the Temple grounds. It is a very popular tourist destination for those visiting Nepal as there is much to see.
In 2007 armed with my new digital camera (Canon EOS 400d), I set off one autumn evening with my dad to drive the 27 miles, from Dorset where my parents live into Wiltshire. This was not only an excuse to try out my new camera but I felt the start of the adventure I had envisaged for many years. It was appropriate then that we were driving towards Stonehenge. The concept of photographing sites of the sacred and the holy had an obvious beginning with Stonehenge. Stonehenge is synonymous with mystery and in particular the unravelling of the unknown. No one is quite sure of the purpose that it served although many apply theories. Yet there seems no way of ever knowing. What a mystery then not like some abstract Loch Ness monster sighting but something tangible and yet beyond our understanding. This is almost what they built it for in a sense I believe; the nature of monument – to stand up against the passage of time, in order to say that what they believed in was strong enough to last and should be remembered. What ever drove them to build such a thing was ultimately tied up with their success as a people and the focus of their belief and that it has lasted the test of time.
We arrived at Stonehenge in the late afternoon, and except for a few remaining visitors the place was almost empty. The sun was low at that point, the day had been mostly clear but there were streaks of cloud painted across the sky. This was my first visit to Stonehenge and initially I was taken a back by the size of the stones. It really is an impressive place if you have not been. We walked around the stones somewhat soberly; which seemed fitting. I actually remember the feeling that I had, a sense of power and yet a peace at the same time. I remember thinking and coming up with my own theory about the function of this stone circle – I felt it had to have been used in a ceremonial practice associated with the celebration of life and death in some form or other and imagined that would meant human or at least animal sacrifice. Today I think people would rather shy away from believing in the more barbaric practices of early man and would want to forget that civilisation is built on such a thing. The world has not always been lit with electricity and in these darker times there would have needed to be a far greater dependence on nature and being in relationship with the earth. The seasons no longer present much of a challenge but in past times the darkness of the winter months surely would have been a very cold and inhospitable place for our ancestors. They would have drawn on every possible resource at their disposal to survive and make it through those months. So a megalith of these proportions, must have been built on sure faith; and the driving force that erected it in a sense is the same today as it ever was.
We finished our tour of the stone circle and were ushered out by security, the last to leave. We drove away in silence and for myself at least, touched by the experience.