Kathmandu is a dirty, sprawling city. While most foriegners rarely get out of the main tourist zone called the Thamel, the city is a vast, noisy, colorful mixture of several cultures and religions. While primarily a Hindu country, Nepal is home to a large refugee Tibetan Buddhist population. These different cultural ethnicities mix and meld together as one, yet each is distinctly beautiful. I explored the spiritual side of Kathmandu for three days while waiting for my visa for India to get processed. Each holy site seemed to me like tranquil oasis amidst the urban chaos. What struck me the most was the authentic, deep level of spirituality of the Nepalese people I encountered at the temples. They weren't performing their rituals for tourists or to 'look religious' to others – their devotion came from deep within their hearts and infused all aspects of their lives with sanctity. I'll let my pictures communicate more elequently than I can.
I first visited the impressive Boudhanath temple – an enormous stupa where the local Buddhists come each morning for rituals and prayer.
Morning devotional ritual of walking around the stupa turning prayer wheels
Then I traversed the city in typically beat up, tiny taxi to see Swayanbuth, aka the monkey temple. After some bad experiences in Bali and Thailand involving monkeys, I was initially hesitant but very curious. Set up on the valley's flank and offering impressive views of the city, this Buddhist temple was crowded with tourists who climbed the long staircase to experience this unique temple complex. The monkeys behaved themselves for the most part.
Finally, I spent two days in the ancient village of Bhaktipur, a beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site famous for its dramatic and unique architecture. I stayed in a guesthouse on the main square and woke up early to the sounds of devotion at the Kama Sutra temple…interesting.
400 year old peacock window
Oddly, I felt very unconnected with my own spirituality throughout these temple visits. Perhaps seeing the prayer rituals and intense devotion of the Nepalese people made me question my own level of spirituality. Or maybe it was simply that I didn't fully understand how to authentically pray while in these holy sites and didn't feel comfortable faking it. I had my prayer bead necklace but I wasn't using it like the locals…for whatever reason, my heart wasn't in it.