Shiva’s Birthday

Today was god Shiva’s birthday. We stayed at Mama’s house last night, and this morning, during breakfast, I asked how old Shiva is today. Everybody laughed. So I guess he’s too old to count. But that hasn’t lessened the intensity of the celebration of his birth, at least not in Kathmandu.

People have been warning me this past week that Maha Shivaratri can be a crazy holiday. Hindus living in Kathmandu and many Indian Hindus come into Nepal to visit Pashupatinath, one of the holiest Hindu temples in Nepal and even in South Asia. I wanted to go there and check out the crowd, but Tri said that there would be way too many people and that it would be impossible to get anywhere near the action.

Kids stopping us on the road

Because we had the day off, though, we did get to see some of the festivities. During Shivaratri, kids gather in groups in the street to ask for money. In the morning, when we left Mama’s house, some kids stopped us on the road with a rope. A few drivers were obviously irritated by the kids and were just driving right over the rope, ignoring the poor kids’ plees for money. But we stopped, paid the toll of a few rupees and kept on going.

The parachuting man is beyond the prayer flags

We had to make a quick trip to the doctor this morning, and after we got out of his office, we looked up at the sky to see people floating down with colorful parachutes trailing behind them. Tri was so excited and spent about ten minutes staring at them. It has been six years since he’s seen this, so I understand his excitement 🙂 Apparently, the men in the sky were all soldiers. Shivaratri is a big holiday not only for Pashupathi goers but for the army as well. Last week, I saw tanks assembling in Tundikhel (a big field in the middle of Kathmandu) and soldiers preparing for the festivities.

Another thing that people do on this day is eat bhang, a marijuana derivative. A lot of people, even those who wouldn’t normally touch the stuff, have a little bit of bhang on Shivaratri, and the Nepali government legalizes it for just one day. Shiva is/was a lover of marijuana, so eating it honors him in a way. Tri was saying that we had to be especially careful on the roads today because accidents on Shivaratri are common. In fact, a few years ago, one of his teachers from high school died after riding his motorbike while high. If you’re going to eat this stuff, please don’t drive!

There are aparently two types of bhang, one that doesn’t make a peson high and one that does. The first kind is added to achaar. I guess as a flavoring? The kind that does have an effect is often added to some kind of milk drink. I still haven’t seen anyone stumbling around the streets yet, but I’m keeping my eyes peeled.

For more information on Maha Shivaratri, check out nepaliaustralian’s blog.

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That’s One Big Shiva

A few weeks ago, the Chinese Prime Minister came to Nepal. In Nepal, when someone big comes to visit, the government closes off the roads and puts everything on lock down, much to my irritation. Although most of the Nepalis I know just shrugged their shoulders.

That day I really wanted to go do something in the city, but alas, no access! So Tri and I decided to head in the other direction, past Bhaktapur, towards Dhulikel, a big dusty field on the outskirts of Kathmandu Valley. We wanted to stop by Sanga, the location of South Asia’s biggest statue of Shiva.

Although we took a few wrong turns here and there, we were able to backtrack and get up the hill to Sanga just fine. It was 100 rupees to get in, a price which included a free cup of tea.

After making it up the steep inclines, we got to the gate, bought our tickets and went inside. I was getting ready to take some pictures when I noticed my camera had lots of dust on it, so I blew on the lens to try and clear the particles away. And then this happened…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear god, I can be stupid sometimes!

I thought it was permanent, but thankfully, after a few minutes in the sun, the condensation evaporated and I could take some better pictures…

The god's foot

Me in front of Shiva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were wondering how they assembled the statue. I guess the builders must have hauled it up in pieces and stuck them together at the site. Or maybe they helicoptered them in? It’s hard to imagine the pieces properly fitting on trucks and being driven up the narrow, uneven roads on the hill.

There were a few people doing puja and getting tika at one of the mundirs (temples). Actually, the whole place was packed with people checking out the statue and taking pictures in front of a nice little waterfall to the side of it. There were also kids jumping all over the playground in the park and people eating at the restaurant. I was very surprised to see no other foreigners there. (I guess there could have been some other South Asian-not form Nepal-tourists, but it didn’t look like it). I would expect something like that to be a big attraction for tourists, but maybe it’s just too out-of-the-way to be popular.

The site also had a spa, and there was a billboard advertising some of their services. Here’s one I found kind of interesting…

I don’t know what Colon Hydro Therapy is, but it must be intense! because three people need to be present to perform it 🙂

 

 

 

 

After we had meandered around the compound for a while, we looked to our right and saw some stunning mountain peaks…

The Himalayas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The statue and park were pretty nice. Not awe-inspiring but definitely worth visiting on a beautiful day.