EBC Day 03 - Boudhanath & Pashupatinath
The cycle to Boudhanath (Nepali : बुद्ध स्तुपा) was far more pleasant than the one to Pashupatinath had been, but this was only the case after I decided to turn off the Ring Road and cycle through the villages instead of the main roads. Boudhanath was only 3km away and was easy enough to find (given that you have a decent sense of direction).
Directions to Boudhanath Temple
I ended up bringing the mountain bike that I had rented into the complex as there seemed to be no where that I could lock it up safely elsewise, as the entrance to Boudha was just off the main street. The entrance fee cost NPR150. From the entrance I walked the mountain bike through the alley, and the complex just opened up before my eyes with the massive Boudhanath stupa and its imposing scale dominating the center of the courtyard. Tourists and locals alike just stared at me and the mountain bike (as most take taxis or vans to get to Boudhanath) so the first thing I did was to find a place where I could safely leave the bike.
There were several myths surrounding this stupa, which is apparently the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. The first refers to a woman who had asked the king for some land to build a shrine to Buddha. The king agreed but only to give enough land to cover the hide of a buffalo. The woman then went on to cut the buffalo hide into small strips in order to lay them out to mark a large circumference that apparently went on to be Boudhanath as it is today. Another myth states that the finger of the Buddha is buried beneath the stupa itself!
Once I moved into the courtyard, I was quickly caught up in the throngs of both worshipers and tourists who were allthe stupa in a clockwise direction. Witnessing the devotion and hearing the bells and sombre chanting of monks in unison from the nearby Tsamchen Gompa made the entire experience somewhat powerful.
It dawned on me then how those who lack the education and awareness can attribute such an experience to the divine, somewhat akin to those who go on the hajj or any other mass ritual of other religions. I suppose the main reason would be how rituals such as this tend to reinforce social homogeneity by strengthening the group identity either through the emphasis of a common purpose or the repetitive acts of the ritual itself. This also seems to be the case for non-religious rituals such as those practiced in university fraternities and exclusive clubs.
After wondering on and around the stupa, I found a quaint little cafe where I could take some time off for some well-deserved recuperation. Strangely enough, the cafe itself seemed to have a Japanese theme and was called Mochiko Food. I spent NPR160 eating the always delightful buff momo whilst sipping hot coffee. During this time however, an elderly man approached the tiny table and sat down across from me without uttering a single word. The man looked harmless enough but kept on staring at the momos that I was eating which was fairly unnerving. I came to the obvious conclusion that he wanted some food so I offered him one of the momos but to my surprise he declined by just smiling and shaking his head. His coffee arrived soon after and we both sat there in silence sipping away at our coffees.