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Spirituality and cultural life of KathmanduModern Kathmandu is melting pot of different ethnic groups and cultures from around the country. But in the backstreets of modern Kathmandu, Newars still solemnize their age old festivals, pray every day in their temples and socialize in their hidden courtyards, making Kathmandu a living heritage. It is well said that – there are more festivals than the days in the calendar and more temples than the houses.
Newars are the aboriginals from Kathmandu valley who have settled and created marvelous temples, palaces, shrunken water spouts, stupas, monasteries and pavilions in over a millennium. They are righteous, artistic and humble people who still bring Old Kathmandu to life with their mystic rituals and practices.
There are seven groups of monuments which together list Kathmandu as UNESCO Heritage site. Nepalese monuments are heavily carved with spiritual symbolism and figures of god and goddesses. Many of the wood carvings are extraordinarily detailed and exquisite for even world class craftsmen to wonder. Ancient and medieval town planning and architectures are based on traditional science of ‘Vastushastra’ to harness positive vibration.
Kathmandu valley was a safe haven for Buddhist and Tantric practices for hundreds of years while its neighbors were going through internal strife, invasion and colonization. Here esoteric Tantric practices have been passed down from generations to generation. Hinduism, Buddhism and Tantrism coexists and live in harmony. This is where monks and nuns follow celibacy but worship the erotic copulating gods and goddesses of metaphoric meanings.
Kathmandu is unique and lively place to learn and immerse in spirituality and cultural life of Hindus, Buddhists and Tantrics. With the crack of dawn, Newar women dressed in traditional attire, walks out with offering tray and disappear in the maze of hidden courtyards. Old Kathmandu has got many such hidden courtyards to watch spiritual life of locals. There are the place where the elders congregate and chant, meditate or practice Yoga.
Framers from the outskirt brings vegetables and spices to sell along the medieval trade route leading to trans-Himalayas and finally to Silk Road. The trans-Himalayan trade have vanished but the charm of the market here is still vibrant.
Just about 6km northeast from the center, country’s largest Stupa Boudhanath is center of Himalayan Buddhists from around the region. With over 60 monasteries in its vicinity, the area is known as ‘Little Tibet of Kathmandu’. This is great place to see rugged pilgrims from distant village prostrating, a westerner in robe meditating, and groups of young monks doing their daily monastic chores. There are ample places you can spend night in monastery and practice with monks.
Last but not the least, Pashupatinth temple complex is another place to witness the undeniable truth of life, the death. This is the most preferred cremation ground for denizens of Kathmandu. You can see and learn lifestyle of Shadus, the Hindu ascetics visiting the place they sleep, eat and dwell for alms. On the bank of Holy Bagmati, while dead body is openly being cremated on one side, rituals of death anniversary are being carried on by Hindu priests on the other side.
If you are planning to visit Kathmandu, try to see it from the eyes of insider and get the deeper insight of the city.