I have always maintained from the very beginning that I will refrain from expressing my personal opinion on politics and religion in my writings that might reflect any bias or hurt any religious/cultural/spiritual sentiment. Having grown up in the multicultural Kolkata we have participated in all festivals from all religion. My previous writings dwell deeply on this aspect (Article 1, Article 2). But I cannot deny the fact that the enigma of varied cultural/religious aspects of different places simply fascinate me. The strong beliefs and faiths reinforcing the expression on the faces of devotees during worship, the colours, the rituals, the stories underlying these rituals – I have always wanted to capture these elements in a soulful manner. And I hope that I’ve succeeded.
Religion in Nepal
It is fascinating and quite a complex task to understand Religion in Nepal because there is no simple straight forward philosophy. Many communities and many religion have become intermingled. There seems to exist 70 ethnic and indigenous communities in Nepal speaking at least 100 different languages and dialects. Though many perceive Buddhism as the predominant religion in Nepal, it constitutes less than 6% of the the country’s population. For Hindus the world over, the temple of Lord Shiva in Pashupatinath along the banks of the Bagmati river in Kathmandu is one of the most sacred pilgrimages. Thousands congregate here for the annual Mahashivaratri festival which falls in early spring. In-fact, this temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent).
At the same time Nepal is also the birthplace of Lord Buddha. He was born in Lumbini located in southern Nepal. The Stupas or sacred mounds of Swayambhunath and Bouddhanath are very important reference points for Buddhism. Hence, many Buddhist practices, customs and rituals have entered into Hinduism and vice versa. Interestingly, Buddhism here is considered to be a part of Hinduism.
The stalls lining up the street to the Pashupatinath temple selling Sindoor/Vermillion and Gulal/coloured powder for smearing on the forehead after the worship, the colourful threads to be tied in the hands as sacred threads, the fresh flowers for decorating the Dali/basket that would be offered during the worship, the famous Nepali Rudraksha chains used as prayer beads, the smell of incense sticks – all form a kaleidoscope for the visual senses. Here’s our journey…
The Abandoned Women Amidst Many Prayers
Where do I start? How do I explain? This is also the title of my post. Red bricks, intricate wooden carvings have shaped the house where the nameplate indicates that this is called the Mahasthan Ghar. An interesting subject for my camera indeed. Till I saw the ladies sitting there with profound expressions in their eyes and fine wrinkled lines on their faces that must have seen a lot and borne a lot. The temple premises are sacred – hence devotees throng to it’s doors on every important aspect of their lives – be it when a new life is ushered in or when a life is gone. The Ghats/Steps leading to the Bagmati river are considered sacred as well. The smoke from the cremation pyres, the baskets of offerings occasionally floating by – these are all witnessed by the devotees who have only prayers in their hearts.
And in this sacred land amidst many prayers, these women who have been abandoned by their families are just waiting for their final call. Their only wish is to die while waiting in the Mahasthan Ghar on this scared premise so that they can go to heaven.
All photographs have been taken after taking permission from these unbelievably dignified women. Notice how calm their faces are and how distant their glances are. Some of them were happy with the fact that I was photographing them but none of them were keen to even see how they looked in them. I still showed them. They were indifferent and saw the pictures without any reaction. Only one lady said, ‘Wait let me have a smoke first!’.
I didn’t venture towards the women who were not feeling comfortable.
On a lighter note
A little girl wearing red clothes and carrying her little brother in her arms suddenly disrupted the pegions which were perched on the fence and those who were lazing around on the ground. The flight of the pegions and their flapping wings took me away from the unbelievable existence of Mahasthan Ghar in today’s world to the happy moment of our vacation in Nepal.
Hope you enjoy the flight of the pegions as much as I did. Can you hear their wings flapping in tandem?
Unblogging it all… Ishita
All the photographs are my own. Please do not use them without permission. Do enjoy more of this soulful journey.