Pashupatinath Temple has been on my must-see list for the past week, and every day there has been a hindrance - mostly the monsoon rains - but today the two other volunteers and I grabbed our raincoats and umbrellas and set out for a day of spiritual enlightenment.
The gold temple is Pashupatinath.
This Hindu temple is the most important one for Nepali Hindus, and many Indians and Hindus from around the world travel to pay respect to the lord of the beasts: Pashupati, a form of the god Shiva. This temple is so holy that only Hindus born into Hindu families are allowed to enter. While I was forbidden from entering the actual temple, I was able to see some interesting things, like the shrine where humans used to be sacrificed; now, only animals like water buffaloes are killed to offer blood to Shiva. (Hopefully I'll get to come back to the temple to see this for my own eyes.)
There are also cremations held along the Bagmati River 24/7. Sometimes family members come and hold a ceremony, but not always. When I arrived today, I got to see the end of a cremation. There are many Hindu rules about where a person can be cremated depending on his/her caste and which member of the family receives the privilege of lighting the fire (it's usually the oldest son, I believe). The cremation was performed in a very matter-of-fact manner, which is kind of nice, in a way. For Hindus, death is just the next journey, after all.
Near the temple, a funeral was being held for an elderly woman from a higher caste. I felt a little uneasy snapping these photos, but our tour guide gave me the go-ahead, so hopefully I wasn't being too insensitive. After cleansing the body, it is moved to the pyre for cremation.
Some more photos:
People come here to pray for fertility. The opening of the shrine gives a mirror illusion, since identical shrines are placed directly in front of one another.
Panch Deval (Five Temples), symbolizing the Earth's elements.
A Saddhu (Hindu holy man). I had to be sneaky about this photo, because they expect money when they pose for tourists. That's kind of a strange thing for holy men to do.
Also, I went to Boudhanath Stupa, which is a much larger version of Swayambhunath.
Some monks gazing at the stupa.
Now it is way past my bed time. I will be posting soon about my experiences at my new internship.
Shubha ratri! (Goodnight)