kathmandu valley: the cremation grounds of pashupatinath

Friday, January 18Pashupatinath, a complex of temples, statues, and pilgrims, is Nepal’s holiest Hindu pilgrimage site.  Despite the many things to see in this complex, Buddhi takes me directly to the public cremation grounds along the Bagmati River, which he tells me is a tributary of the sacred Ganges in India.  He also tells me it’s okay to take pictures, which I do because I find it fascinating.  In Varanasi, India, it was strictly forbidden to take photos, so I see this as an opportunity.  If you think it might offend your sensibilities, then I might suggest you don’t read further (or look at my pictures)!

a shop on the way to Pashupatinath ~ selling marigolds used in cremation ceremonies

a shop on the way to Pashupatinath ~ selling marigolds used in cremation ceremonies

fruits and vegetables for sale

fruits and vegetables for sale

one shrine or temple at Pashupatinath

one shrine or temple at Pashupatinath

We find a spot along the east bank of the river across from Arya Ghat, the cremation area reserved for the higher castes: for prominent politicians, minor royals, and these days, anyone else who can afford it.    We stand on a stone terrace studded with 15 great shivalaya (boxy linga shelters), erected to honor women who committed sati on the pyres opposite.  Sati is the now-banned practice where a widowed woman threw herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Other onlookers are positioned on a bridge over the river.

the Bagmati River

the Bagmati River

Spectators watching the cremation

Spectators watching the cremation

There are two cremations in progress today. Buddhi tells me that when a Hindu dies, the body must be burned on that same day.  It takes about 3 hours for a body to burn, during which time the family stands and watches respectfully.  After the body burns, the ashes are thrown into the Bagmati River.   Sadly, the river itself is clogged with rubbish: plastic bags and containers and every other sort of debris you can imagine.  I can’t understand why there isn’t some effort by the Hindu community or by the government to keep such a holy place clean.

the family washes the deceased feet in the Bagmati River

the family washes the deceased feet in the Bagmati River

Both corpses are wrapped in orange-colored cloths, which Buddhi says is a spiritual color.  The first body is taken down to the river by family members and the feet are washed.  I can’t tell if the corpse is a man or a woman.  Buddhi tells me that the feet of the corpse are washed in order to purify the body, to wash away its sins.  After the feet of the first are washed, the family of the second body carries it down to the river and performs the same ritual.

After the washing rituals, the two families carry both bodies under the bridge to the cremation pyres upriver, to the Ram Ghat, which is used for cremations by all castes.  These two cremations are obviously of the lower castes since the bodies are burned here.

The bodies are put on two pyres.  The families use yak tails to brush away the evil spirits and then place marigold necklaces around the deceased’s necks.  Then the families place brush on top of the bodies and the eldest sons walk around the bodies 7 times.  Buddhi doesn’t think these two bodies are related people, as there seem to be two separate families gathered around each body and they don’t seem to mingle.  We watch in silence as they start to burn the bodies, but it’s obvious it will be a slow process.

the family places the body on the pyre

the family places the body on the pyre

Before I came here, my friend Mona Lisa told me that when she spent 5 months living in Kathmandu, she used to come here to watch the cremations.  It gave her a sense of calm to watch the way Nepalis accept and understand the cycle of life.  As Westerners, we tend to treat death as something to be feared, whereas Eastern cultures see it as a part of the natural cycle.  I don’t feel upset watching these cremations as, over the years, I have become more accepting, and less afraid, of death.  I find other cultures’ treatment of death as interesting, something I can learn from.

brush is placed on the body

brush is placed on the body

...and the pyre is lit

…and the pyre is lit

Buddhi points out the tall whitewashed buildings overlooking the river as dharmsala (pilgrims’ rest houses), for Hindus who are approaching death.  He likens them to what we westerners know as Hospice.

While watching, I get into a brief conversation with an American couple from Santa Fe who have a shop selling Berber carpets.  They visit Morocco quite often to buy carpets for their shop.  I say I love Santa Fe and think it would be a great place to live.  They just finished a 10 day tour of India and four days here in Nepal.  They are really ready to get home.  I know how they feel, especially about India, as the three weeks I spent there in March of 2011 nearly killed me.  As fascinating as it was, it was also an endurance test.

one of many sacred cows along the riverbank

one of many sacred cows along the riverbank

The book I'm reading in Nepal: What I Loved

The book I’m reading in Nepal: What I Loved

After Pashupatinath, we head back to Kathmandu Guest House, where I check my emails, rest a bit, eat my leftover Momos from lunch, and then head to the outdoor dining area for an Everest beer.  I then relax and read the book I have brought along, What I Loved by Siri Hustvedt.  So far, this book has been about the friendship between two men, art critic Leo and Bill, a famous artist.  It also involves their wives, Lucille (Bill’s first wife), Violet (his second) and Erica (Leo’s wife) and the families’ sons: Matthew and Mark.  Tonight is the first night I’ve picked up the book here in Nepal, though I was reading it for some time in Oman before I came here.  I am shocked to come upon the death of Leo and Erica’s son Matthew in a freak accident at camp.  It’s funny how reading a book can color your experience of a place, and I’m upset reading this turn of events in the book.  Little do I know how disturbing it will become in the coming days.

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kathmandu valley: the boudha stupa

Friday, January 18: The great stupa at Boudha (also known as Boudhanath) was the biggest, most auspicious landmark along the ancient Kathmandu-Tibet trade route.  One of the world’s largest stupas, Boudha is also the most important Tibetan Buddhist monument outside of Tibet.  Nowadays, Tibetans run most of the businesses surrounding the stupa, and they have also built monasteries, extending the community well past the stupa’s borders.   Historians cannot establish an exact date for the origins of the stupa, but legend has it that the monument was built in the 5th century.

The Boudha Stupa

The Boudha Stupa

The Boudha stupa commands veneration because it’s believed that it contains holy relics, perhaps part of the Buddha’s body (bones, hair and teeth) and possibly objects owned or touched by him, including ritual objects and sacred texts.  Because the stupa has been sealed for centuries, no one knows for certain what is inside, but faith continues to draw pilgrims to this day.

pilgrims & tourists walk clockwise around the Boudha stupa

pilgrims & tourists walk clockwise around the Boudha stupa

Pilgrims come from all over the Himalayan region because of the Boudha’s powers to fulfill wishes and bestow blessings.  People are allowed to climb up on to the stupa’s base.  The stupa is elevated on three 20-cornered plinths of decreasing size; this establishes the idea of the stupa as a mandala, or meditation tool.  The Buddha’s blue eyes are painted on four sides of the central spire, topped by the 13 steps to nirvana.  Prayer wheels are mounted around the perimeter wall.  According to Rough Guide to Nepal, one spin of a prayer wheel here equals repeating the mantra engraved on it 11,000 times!

around and around the Boudha

around and around the Boudha

the Boudha with prayer flags

the Boudha with prayer flags

and more prayer flags

and more prayer flags

Buddhi and I walk clockwise around the huge stupa.  He asks me if I’d like to see a studio where thangkas are painted.  A good thangka takes hundreds — even thousands — of painstaking hours to do.   A cotton canvas is stretched across a frame and then burnished to a smooth surface.  The design is then drawn in pencil, but there is not much artistic license here as these designs are supposed to represent religious truths.   An apprentice blocks in the large areas of color, and then the master brings the figure to life with lining, stippling, facial features, shading, the eyes, and other minute details.  I watch as apprentice works on one with fierce concentration.

a thangka store

a thangka store

a mandala thangka

a mandala thangka

There are four main types of thangkas: Wheel of Life, Buddha’s Life Story, tantric deities, and finally mandala drawings used in meditation. I agree to go in, where of course they try to sell me as many expensive thangkas as they can.  I actually am interested in these, so I do buy two of them, but not the outrageously expensive ones: a mandala and a wheel of life.

On one side of the stupa, we stop into a room with a giant prayer wheel, where I’m able to turn the wheel while saying a prayer for the thing I want most in this world.  Then we climb up into the Tamang gompa, where we have a good vantage point of the stupa.

entrance to Tamang gompa

entrance to Tamang gompa

the large prayer wheel in Tamang gompa

the large prayer wheel in Tamang gompa

the painted doors and walls inside Tamang gompa

the painted doors and walls inside Tamang gompa

the view of Boudha from the balcony

the view of Boudha from the balcony

From the balcony, we can see people climbing and walking atop the stupa, but Buddhi says that today is not an auspicious day to climb up on the stupa.  Apparently the monks determine which days are auspicious and announce those days to the public; today isn’t one of them, but that doesn’t stop people from climbing up.

another view from the balcony

another view from the balcony

view of the surrounding rooftops from the balcony

view of the surrounding rooftops from the balcony

I comment on the pigeons that are like drab confetti sprinkled all over Kathmandu.  Buddhi tells me that while Europeans routinely poison pigeons because they’re nuisances, Buddhists believe all life is sacred.  They value the lives of pigeons, as they do every life (I don’t know if what he says about Europeans is true!).

the view of the walkway around the Boudha, filled with pigeons

the view of the walkway around the Boudha, filled with pigeons

back on the ground again: pigeons up close and personal

back on the ground again: pigeons up close and personal

We continue to make the circle around the Boudha, enjoying the colorful shops, the devout pilgrims turning prayer wheels and walking meditatively, the different perspectives of the Boudha, and warm wool gloves for sale along the way.

more views of the Boudha with his all-seeing eyes

more views of the Boudha with his all-seeing eyes

Boudha

Boudha

colorful woolen gloves for sale

colorful woolen gloves for sale

shops around the perimeter, with a line of pilgrims or monks

shops around the perimeter, with a line of pilgrims or monks

Brightly colored shops

Brightly colored shops

After wandering around the stupa, we decide to eat lunch at Boudha Kitchen, where I have a delicious Momo and vegetable noodle soup and then an order of Momos on top of that.  It is way too much food!  It’s delicious, although I take most the momo order back to the hotel for a snack later.

heading to Boudha Kitchen for lunch

heading to Boudha Kitchen for lunch

Momo and vegetable noodle soup at Boudha Kitchen

Momo and vegetable noodle soup at Boudha Kitchen

a solitary figure on the Boudha contemplating... life?

a solitary figure on the Boudha contemplating… life?

After our lunch and long stop at the Boudha, we head next to the cremation grounds of Pashupatinath.

kathmandu: durbar square

Friday, January 18:  Under ominous skies, we enter Durbar Square at the southwestern end.  Listed as one of the eight Cultural World Heritage site by UNESCO, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a cluster of ancient temples, palaces, courtyards and streets that date back from the 12th to the 18th centuries. The square is known to be the social, religious and urban focal point of Kathmandu.

The first building we come to is Kasthamandap, an ancient open pagoda-roofed pavilion said to be Kathmandu’s oldest building and one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world.  The name of Kathmandu probably came from this building.  Buddhi tells me it was built in the 12th century from the wood of a single tree.  It has been renovated several times since 1630.  According to Rough Guide to Nepal, it used to serve as a rest house along the Tibet trade route.  It was probably the center of early Kathmandu.

the outside of Kasthamandap

the outside of Kasthamandap

Kasthamandap - one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world

Kasthamandap – one of the oldest wooden buildings in the world

On our way to the Kumari Chowk, we pass the 17th century Trailokya Mohan, a three-roofed pagoda dedicated to Narayan, the Nepali name for Vishnu.

Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple stands behind the domed pavilion in Durbar Square

Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple stands behind the domed pavilion in Durbar Square

Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple

Trailokya Mohan Narayan Temple

North of the Trailokya Mohan sits the 17th-century Maju Dewal atop a pyramid of 9 stepped levels.

Maju Dewal atop at 9-step pyramid

Maju Dewal atop at 9-step pyramid

We then go to Kumari Chowk, where we hope to get a glimpse of Kathmandu’s Raj Kumari, the most important of a dozen or so “living goddesses” in Kathmandu Valley.

The Kumari is a prepubescent girl who is worshipped as the living incarnation of the goddess Taleju.   Apparently the last Malla King of Kathmandu, the weak Jaya Prakash, lusted after Taleju.  Offended, she told the king that he should select a virgin girl in whom the goddess could dwell.  The Kumari is considered a Hindu goddess, but she is chosen from the Buddhist Shakya clan of goldsmiths.  Elders interview Shakya girls between the ages of 3 and 5 and base their decision on whether she has 32 auspicious signs: a neck like a conch shell, a body like a Banyan Tree, etc.  (Rough Guide to Nepal).

Kumari Chowk: the top center window is where the Kumari finally appears for a showing

Kumari Chowk: the top center window is where the Kumari finally appears for a showing

The young goddess lives a cloistered life inside the Kumari Chowk and is only carried outside on her throne during certain festivals.  Her feet are never allowed to touch the ground.  The goddess’s spirit is said to flow out of her with her first menstruation, at which time she is retired with a modest pension.  Apparently, it’s hard for the Kumari to find a husband since legend has it that the Kumari’s husband will die young.

the exquisitely carved windows and doors of Kumari Chowk

the exquisitely carved windows and doors of Kumari Chowk

The Kumari courtyard is decorated with intricately carved windows and doorways.  We are told upon our arrival into the courtyard that she is having something to eat, but we wait for a bit and she finally shows her face at the window, dressed in an auspicious red-colored coat, her eyes heavily made up.  The current Kumari has been in place since 2008, since she was 3 years old, meaning she is currently about 8 years old.  Sadly, it’s strictly forbidden to photograph the Kumari.

Kumari Chowk

Kumari Chowk

me under the window where the Kumari appears

me under the window where the Kumari appears

Walking along, we come to another area chock full of temples — and pigeons.  We see a column topped with a gilded statue of King Pratap Malla.  East of this column is the 16th century pagoda-style Jagannath Mandir.  The struts supporting the lower roof of the temple contain numerous erotic carvings, quite common in Nepali temples.  Other smaller temples surround the Jagannath Mandir.  Cows lounge in the square among the pigeons, and a solitary monk stands silently, not moving, accepting donations in a bowl.  Buddhi tells me that monks don’t ever ask people for money, but just stand silently in the belief that people will give them alms.

Column of King Pratap Malla and the Jagannath Mandir

Column of King Pratap Malla and the Jagannath Mandir

a monk stands silently seeking alms in front of Jagannath Mandir

a monk stands silently seeking alms in front of Jagannath Mandir

cows and pigeons in the square

cows and pigeons in the square

 

one of the many temples in this complex

one of the many temples in this complex

The 17th century octagonal Chasin Dega is dedicated to Krishna the flute player.

Chasin Dega

Chasin Dega

North of the Pratap Malla column is the rotund image of Kala Bhairab (Black Bhairab) dancing on the corpse of a demon.  It’s carved from a single twelve-foot slab of stone.  Legend has it that anyone who tells a lie in front of it will vomit blood and die (Rough Guide to Nepal).

Kala Bhairab

Kala Bhairab

We come across what I think Buddhi says is a Buddhist Shrine.  However, I may be misinformed as it seems to have Hindu deities in it.  It looks a little squished by this banyan tree.

A shrine being squished by a tree

A shrine being squished by a tree

probably a Hindu shrine??

probably a Hindu shrine??

Here is a random building that I think looks interesting.  I’m sorry I don’t know what it is.

an unknown building that looks interesting.  Don't know what it is!

an unknown building that looks interesting. Don’t know what it is!

At Taleju Mandir, which sits atop a 12-tiered plinth, we can see Kathmandu’s largest temple, erected in the mid-16th century by King Mahendra Malla, who made a law that no building could exceed it in height.  This law was in force through the mid-20th century.  Taleju Bhawain is considered by Hindus to be a form of the mother goddess Durga, while Buddhist Newars consider her as one of the Taras, tantric female deities.

Taleju Mandir ~ Kathmandu's biggest temple

Taleju Mandir ~ Kathmandu’s biggest temple

Here is the Lion’s Gate to the temple.

Lion's Gate to Taleju Mandir

Lion’s Gate to Taleju Mandir

Finally, we go to the Old Royal Palace, usually called Hanuman Dhoka.  A statue of the monkey-god Hanuman stands outside, installed by the 17th century king, Pratap Malla, to ward off evil spirits.  The Hanuman idol is veiled to render his stare safe from mortals and he’s been anointed with mustard oil and vermilion paste (abhir) through the centuries.

the monkey god Hanuman

the monkey god Hanuman

We enter the courtyard through the brightly decorated Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman Gate).

the entrance to the Old Royal Palace is through the Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman Gate)

the entrance to the Old Royal Palace is through the Hanuman Dhoka (Hanuman Gate)

The large central courtyard inside, called the Nassal Chowk, was the setting for King Birendra’s coronation in 1975.  The brick wings of the southern and eastern walls date from the 16th century.

Nassal Chowk, the interior courtyard of the Old Royal Palace (Hanuman Dhoka)

Nassal Chowk, the interior courtyard of the Old Royal Palace (Hanuman Dhoka)

At the northeastern corner of the square is the round-roofed five-tiered pagoda-like turret, Panch Mukhi Hanuman Mandir: “Five-Faced Hanuman,” which supposedly has the faces of an ass, man-bird, man-lion, bird and monkey (Rough Guide to Nepal).

Panch Mukhi Hanuman Mandir - a five-tiered pagoda like turret

Panch Mukhi Hanuman Mandir – a five-tiered pagoda like turret

After this, it is starting to sprinkle and we hear claps of thunder.  We head back immediately to the car, where we hop in just in time.  As soon as we’re in the car, driving toward the great stupa of Boudha, it begins to pour.

just in time to get out of the rain!

just in time to get out of the rain!

kathmandu: swayambhunath

Friday, January 18:  After eating a great buffet breakfast in the chilly courtyard dining area of Kathmandu Guest House, I sit down over coffee with Uttam Phuyal and Lamichhane Dipak so they can help me plan my stay in Nepal.  As I didn’t have any time to plan or even read anything about Nepal before I came, I rely on their advice as native Nepalis.  They come up with a great plan, which includes a city tour of Kathmandu today (Friday), a flight Saturday to Pokhara with a two night stay there, a return to Kathmandu on Monday, a drive to Nagarkot via Bhaktapur on Tuesday, a long walk from Nagarkot to Changu Narayan on Wednesday with a return to Kathmandu that night, and finally another day in Kathmandu.  All this for the cost of $600, not including entrance fees to attractions, lunch, dinner or my stays at Kathmandu Guest House.

a wishing pool near Swayambhu

a wishing pool near Swayambhu

Of course as they tell me about this plan, the only thing I know is that my colleague Mona Lisa said Kathmandu was “magical,” my colleague Zida hated Kathmandu but thought Pokhara was beautiful, and the couple from Holland raved about Bhaktapur.  Other than that, none of the suggestions have any meaning whatsoever for me.  They could just as easily have said I’m going to blahblahblah and to Lala-land, for as much as I understood about these places.

my guide for the day: Buddhi

my guide for the day: Buddhi

I start out first thing in the morning with a driver and a guide named Buddhi (which he tells me means “knowledge”) to Swayambhu (or Swayambhunath), a 5th century Buddhist stupa that is the source of Kathmandu Valley’s creation myth. One myth states that the Kathmandu Valley was once a snake-infested lake.  Geologists actually agree that Swayambhunath may have been a hill protruding out of that lake that dried up 100,000 years ago.  In the legend, a perfect lotus flower appeared on the lake, which the gods claimed to be Buddhism’s essence, Swayambhu (“self-created”). The bodhisattva of knowledge, Manjushri, drew his sword and cut a gorge south of Kathmandu to drain the lake and allow people to worship Swayambhu.  As the water drained, the lotus settled on top of the hill, and Manjushri built a shrine, and then began to rid the valley of snakes (Rough Guide to Nepal).

Tantric Buddhists believe that an act of worship on this conical hill carries 13 billion times more merit here than anywhere else, according to the Rough Guide to Nepal.  Though many tourists call it the “Monkey Temple,” the name minimizes its importance to Buddhism.

coming upon Swayambhu

coming upon Swayambhu

We start at the hilltop to the west of Swayambhu, at Manjushri Shrine.  Manjushri is the Buddhist god of wisdom and founder of civilization in Kathmandu Valley.  At the shrine there is a wishing pool with a brass bowl in front of a Buddha image.  If you toss a coin and it goes into the bowl, your wish is sure to be granted.  I only have one coin in my possession.  I make a wish, toss the coin, and watch as it dances to the bottom of the pond.

As we walk up the hill to Swayambhu, Buddhi tells me he is Hindu but also practices Buddhism.  He recently married, a couple of months ago, and talks very maturely about how marriage is about compromise.

Near the top of the hill, we come upon a stand of artfully arranged slivers of coconut.

Coconut for sale

Coconut for sale

Buddhi tells me that Buddha’s eyes stand for world peace and the third eye is for meditation.  The all-seeing eyes stare in all four directions.  The completely solid white-washed dome symbolizes the womb.

Buddha's eyes on the stupa stand for world peace.  The third eye is for meditation.

Buddha’s eyes on the stupa stand for world peace. The third eye is for meditation.

Walking up the hill, we pass monkeys flitting about on walls and on the walkway in front of us. As we round the corner, we catch a glimpse of the stupa in the midst of numerous other shrines.  The spire of 13 gold disks atop the pillar represent the steps to enlightenment.

the Swayambhu stupa

the Swayambhu stupa

Monkeys climb and leap around from statue to statue.  They gather for a small community meeting on the walkway. Pilgrims walk around the stupa in a clockwise direction, turning the prayer wheels around the perimeter.   According to Rough Guide to Nepal, there are six thousand small prayer wheels around the perimeter of the hill.

monkeys at "The Monkey Temple"

monkeys at “The Monkey Temple”

Buddhi tells me that the colors of the prayer flags represent the five elements: earth, water, air, fire and sky.  He tells me Nepal’s people are about 75% Hindu, 15% Buddhist, and 5% Christians.

another view of the stupa

another view of the stupa

We come upon the gilt-roofed Harati Mandir, built to appease Harati (also known as Ajima), historically the goddess of smallpox, but now known as the goddess of all childhood diseases. Harati/Ajima is both feared, as the bearer of disease, and revered, as the protectress from disease (if appropriately appeased).

the gilt-roofed temple of Harati Mandir

the gilt-roofed temple of Harati Mandir

Around the edges of the complex are the ubiquitous tourist attractions: a cafe in Nirvana and healing bowls offered as solutions to the soul’s distress.

Nirvana

Nirvana

A courtyard full of monuments are the gravestones of monks who have lived and died here.

cemetery of monks

cemetery of monks

At the northeast corner is the Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar, an active Buddhist monastery with its big Buddha and numerous butter candles, which Tibetan Buddhists light much as Catholics do.

Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar

Shree Karma Raj Mahavihar

On top of the stupa, a monk splashes arcs of saffron paint around the stupa in a lotus-flower pattern.

a monk splashes arcs of saffron paint over the stupa in a lotus-flower pattern

a monk splashes arcs of saffron paint over the stupa in a lotus-flower pattern

On the east side of the complex, at the top of over 300 time-worn steps up to the stupa, is a bronze sceptre-like vajra, the pedestal of which is carved with the twelve animals of the Tibetan zodiac.  It is a tantric symbol of power and indestructibility.

an oversized vajra, a tantric symbol of power and indestructibility

an oversized vajra, a tantric symbol of power and indestructibility

There are twin bullet-shaped shikra on either side of the vajra installed by King Pratap Malla during a 17th century dispute with Tibet.  This one is Anantapur; the other (shown above behind the vajra) is Pratappur.

the bullet shaped shikra of Anantapur

the bullet shaped shikra of Anantapur

Inscribed on a large prayer wheel attached to the stupa are words in Nepalese that are translated roughly by Buddhi as: “Hail to the jewel and the lotus.”

pilgrims and tourists rove around the stupa

pilgrims and tourists rove around the stupa

We look out over the polluted city of Kathmandu, but it’s not a pretty sight.

the view of Kathmandu from Swayambhu

the view of Kathmandu from Swayambhu

around and around the stupa

around and around the stupa

I’m surprised to run into the couple from Holland who I talked with last night at dinner.

I run into the couple from Holland who chatted with me over dinner last night

I run into the couple from Holland who chatted with me over dinner last night

As nice as Buddhi is, I find myself wishing I didn’t have a guide to I could spend time in a clockwise walking meditation around the stupa, turning the prayer wheels slowly.  I have enjoyed these kinds of walking meditations before, especially using labyrinths in the Episcopal Church.   I like moving slowly on predetermined paths that I don’t have to think about and trying to still the incessant chatter in my mind.

colorful prayer flags representing the 5 elements of earth, water, air, fire & sky

colorful prayer flags representing the 5 elements of earth, water, air, fire & sky

After we leave Swayambhunath, we head to Durbar Square, home of the old royal palace and a multitude of other monuments.