Kathmandu and Nepal assume a mythic place in popular culture; between Bob Seeger’s 70s crooning “I’m going to Kathmandu” and as a gateway city to the jagged Himalayan peaks, the city’s a confluence of cultures swirls among its dusty, rutted streets.
Often no wider than a ford Escort and maybe a pedestrian on bicycle, surprises tease Kathmandu’s explorers (read travelers) and aimless wanders (of which I fall into both groups).
When walking by temples, Nepali Buddhists make absolutions and place chalk on the effigies carved into doors, walls and the freestanding statues often surrounding temples. Even a lonely shrine carved into a brick wall assumes religious significance, a distraction from the otherwise secular roadway.
Famous temples perched on hillsides surround the city and I’ll be posting some photos from up on high.
Have a great turkey (or Tofurky) day and I look forward to sharing more Nepali photos soon.
A shrine in central Kathmandu built into a graffiti-covered wall
A Buddhist statue in central Kathmandu
The tarnished, copper plated entrance to a Buddhist temple
The Sikhs have a reputation throughout India as fierce warriors. The guards at the Golden Temple reinforce this perception. Dressed in yellow tunics and often carrying spears, the guards are scattered throughout the temple grounds and the pilgrims hostel. Colors and symbols hold deep symbolism in Sikh tradition and the guards embody these ideals.
This is the final installment from Amritsar. Stay tuned for more photos from India and soon to be Nepal.
The symbol on the guards arm is the symbol of Sikhism, the Khanda. The Khanda represents divine knowledge, perfection of G-d the eternal, and the equal importance in Sikh life of spiritual aspirations and an obligation and to society.
Guards at the Golden Temple wear yellow tunics. In the Sikh tradition, yellow represents our sense of self and the ideas of happiness and joy.
A guard standing watch outside of the Amritsar pilgrim lodgings
A worshipper at the Ath Sath Tirath, the Shrine of the Sixty-Eight Holy Places. Sikh tradition says bathing near the Shrine will fulfill the dreams of visiting the 68 holy places in India.
Hunger and inequality breed many societal problems. Each culture and religion confronts these issue in different ways, but Sikh altruism resolves to address these issues through a full belly (yours).
At the Golden Temple (and other Sikh temples) a kitchen provides free meals for all visitors. At the Golden Temple, volunteers prepare, serve and wash dishes for the more than 75,000 partakers every day.
Anyone can participate: from stirring massive cauldrons of dal (lentils), to baking the thin roti (bread) to washing the metal plates, an amazing sense of community for all involved – including the eaters – teaches a lesson in humility.
Visitors of all castes and colors, men and women, tourists and locals, sit on the ground together under a Sikh roof, in the Golden Temple’s shadow.
Check out photos of a few faces enjoying a delicious (and fulfilling) meal.
Thousands of clean plates at the soup kitchen waiting to be used
Honey-soaked sun rays burnish the burly men with bushy beards and stout bellies as they walk amidst the temple’s golden glow, its 750 kilograms of gold shimmering like a terrestrial sun.
As the Sikh religion’s holiest site, Harmandir Sahib (Temple of God) draws pilgrims to Amritsar, a sprawling city in northwest India’s Punjab province.
Known for its Golden Temple and the city’s delicious cuisine (most Indian restaurants in the US serve Punjabi Indian food), Amritsar’s visitors encounter the Sikh religion, learn about its history (persecution and warriors) and experience Sikh hospitality.
Free accommodations are provided for pilgrims and travelers (read: grungy backpackers). I tried staying but arrived too late and the 30 or so beds set aside for backpackers were full. Across the road, near one of the temple complex’s four entrances (a symbol of Sikh inclusiveness) a massive open air eating area staffed by volunteers provides meals 24-hours a day.
More than 100,000 people visit the temple daily, wandering its marble passageways, while pilgrims dipping in the Pool of the Nectar of Immortality.
Check out photos from this beautiful d below and stay tuned for more photos in the coming days.
Pigrims outside of the Golden Temple, early in the morning
Pilgrims resting while others wait in line to see the first Holy Book of the Sikhs housed within the Harmandir Sahib
A pilgrim dipping in the holy pool surrounding the temple
The orange color represents courage and wisdom in the Sikh tradition
The temple is a shoe-off area and guests leave their shoes at stations set up at each of its 4 entrances