Sunday, August 28, 2011

lama dance

While walking through Boudha one morning, Lama S.T. turned to me and asked, "Have you ever seen a Lama Dance?" With a raised eyebrow and a grin, I declared that I had not.

"Come. We go." He flipped his crimson robe over his shoulder, and quickly dashed off. I struggled to keep up with him, trying to shade us both from the unforgiving sun with my tacky red floral umbrella. We wove through the rush of people and motorbikes to a small alleyway with a modest gompa at the end of it.


The dance hadn't started yet, so Lama led me to the shrine room. We kicked off our shoes at the door, and went inside— the coolness on my arms was immediate. Rice had been thrown on the floor and stuck to my bare feet, a wonderful sensation as Lama explained who the golden statues were behind the glass. The fierce eyes of Guru Rinpoche, with his curved moustache followed us from behind that immaculate glass as we moved on to watch the other lamas prepare their costumes for the dance.

Then, it was time.

Whirling colours, crashing cymbals and low, guttural chants washed over me. I studied the faces of the people around me, watching intently as the masked monks swayed and leapt. The overall seriousness was broken by the occasional smile from the young monks and nuns in the audience, who shuffled this way and that, trying to film the dance on their phones and cameras.

"People believe when they watch this dance, their obstacles go away for one year." Lama explained quietly.

"I hope so."


Friday, August 26, 2011

saying hello

Learn how to say hello in the language of the land you are in, and never underestimate the power and infectiousness of a whole-hearted smile.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


I was wolfishly devouring a plate of momos at Saturday Café when a jaunty tune wafted up to the terrace and seized my curiosity. I just had to follow the drumming and horns to their source.

I asked everyone I know what this mini-parade was all about, and no one could tell me.
It remains a fantastic mystery.

The mystery has now been solved! Harika reader Kancha, kindly explained in the comments that this is a "Lakhe (Demon's) dance. General belief is that the spirit of Lakhe... reside in that Demonic mask. When the dancer put that mask on, the spirit take over dancer's body and dictate the movement."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

the colours of pashupati

Lying on either side of the sacred Bagmati River, Pashupati is one of Kathmandu's holiest Hindu temple complexes. Cremations are performed on the river banks daily, and I must say, witnessing one certainly makes you ponder impermanence, and the fragility of life. Pashupati is a beautiful but strange place— I'm not sure why, but I felt a distinct unease whilst walking around the complex— a sort of pressure on my nerves. Perhaps it was the closeness of death, or the heavy history of grief that seems to have soaked into the soil, and moves with the trees. When I later mentioned this to Lama S.T. , he merely grinned and nodded his head.

a walk down phulbari road

Saturday, August 20, 2011


It was a quiet, clear blue afternoon in Bhaktapur. My skin was slowly changing shades, as I had forgotten my sunscreen, having gotten used to the grey, billowy blanket clouds of Boudha. From around a corner reached a beat and a cacophony of voices, both growing louder and louder until suddenly, I was swept away in a flood of colour and song. 

I found an island to watch the crowd from, and was tossed a marigold. I put it in my hair.

And just like that, it was quiet again.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

changu narayan

High atop a lush, green hill stands the humble and stunning Changu Narayan Temple. One of the oldest Hindu temples in the Kathmandu Valley, it is believed that Changu Narayan was built in the 4th century to honour the god Vishnu. Any attempt to describe my impressions of this holy, ancient place would fall short of how special it feels. Sheltered by bending, brick buildings, it is near silent, except for the chatter of myna birds and the occasional ringing of a bell— which I was told is meant to alert the gods to the presence of a devotee, wishing to offer a prayer. Curved eyes watch from figures frozen in carved wood, stone and embossed metal, the heavy scent of incense hangs in the air, and offerings of fiery red and magenta pigment mark the foreheads of gods. There is a feeling of a slow, deep pulse that beats from the soil upward, and the world you know, seems ages away.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

boudha by night

Blue sky bleeds into inky black as the faces of buildings turn orange by the light of a hundred butter candles. Sleepy dogs awaken in packs, hoping the butcher will be generous before he closes shop. Cricket and frog melodies compete for air perfumed by night-blooming jasmine and incense. Dark coolness soothes mosquito-bitten skin, which will be feasted upon once more.


While I recover from a bit of culture shock and get used to sleeping in my own bed, I thought I'd continue sharing with you some more photos and stories of my trip to Nepal.

These funny little boys were impressed by my sketches and decided to perform a series of Michael Jackson inspired dances for me.