Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sexual Surprise in Nepal’s Heart (Kathmandu, Nepal)

Once the central shrine to the hippie and flower-power children of the sixties, Durbar Square in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu remains an evocative travel wonder. With an astonishing collection of over fifty immaculately carved, quasi-Oriental wooden buildings strung across three loosely connected squares, Durbar Square throngs with worshippers, workers and tourists.

Durbar Square is a place for soaking up time, watching people, chilling out and absorbing the sights, sounds and smells of this area which once fronted the royal palace.

Women sell vegetables, fabrics and supplies neatly presented on old sheets spread on the ground in front of five hundred year old temples. Old men with leathery creased faces focus on a card game in the shade of another ancient temple. Rattly rickshaws rumble across the neighbouring streets while hawkers accost tourists with their varied collection of curios and handicrafts. The sweet aroma of spices and incense waft through the narrow alleys. Travellers, probably in preparation of a trek into the towering Himalaya, snap photos and wander aimlessly among the historic structures. A sprinkling of sadhus with their painted faces and brightly coloured robes present a strange mixture of religious spirituality and fund-raising enterprise encouraging photography for a heavily bartered fee.

The triple-roofed Maju Deval temple is a popular meeting point and sits across from the Kumari Bahal, which houses the Royal Kumari. This young girl is a living goddess and stays in her house except when she is paraded a couple of times per year on religious or ceremonial occasions to bless the people. She remains in this role until the onset of puberty with her first period which marks her return as a normal human and a new candidate is ritualistically selected.

The carvings on the various temples are extraordinarily ornate. Firstly they appear to be in a neat pattern but closer inspection shows each tiny face is carved with their own unique expression and character.

More striking is seeing the carvings on the pillars for the multi-layered roofs. Explicit carvings of sexual activities decorate the roofline. More startling is the intermix of men, women and animals in just about all imaginable (and several unimagined) combinations and sexual positions that adorn these historic buildings in all their technicolour glory. While clearly espousing tantric principles, a number of these depictions challenge any balanced thinking and are probably illegal. It seems bizarre that such extreme erotic imagery decorates these religious buildings in a region of such conservative sexual values.

Meander the streets and alleyways around the main square, enjoy the intricate carved wooden temples and palaces and take your time to let life unveil in all its Nepalese glory in this timeless history-rich travel wonder.


Suzanne Perazzini said...

I'm surprised that at some time in the past, the building hasn't been destroyed by some overzealous despot.
I feel a little sorry for that living Goddess. It must be a boring life.

Pierre said...

It all sounds rather Kama Sutra ;-) Thanks for an enjoyable, interesting Blog and some superb photographs - I've thoroughly enjoyed it and have bookmarked it for future visits.

Lifecruiser said...

Thanks for the excellent tour :-) This is one place that I suspect that I'll never go to. There is just too many great places to explore in this wonderful world!

Mark H said...

@suzanne: I am amazed they have survived all this time too. I suspect the goddess has a dull life too and make take some significant adjustment on finishing up the role and getting back to a "normal" life.

@pierre: Welcome and thank you. Please come back often and leave some comments.

@lifecruiser: You never know but I have found that the more I have travelled, the more I realise that there is far too many things to see and do, and not enough life to do them all...

Martin in Bulgaria said...

Its the pure innocence of this that is very refeshing. Lovely photgraphs and commentry.

Mark H said...

@martin: Thank you. I guess the innocence is what has allowed it to remain in its natural state and not be destroyed, locked up or replaced.

Cecil Lee said...

Nepal is one of the place that I wanted to go, or, should have been to, during my younger age.... but not now anymore where there are 2 little devils (children)at my back. :(
Envy is the only thing in my mind when you show more and more travel wonders... :)

Final_Transit said...

@ Suzanne, Mark:
Most Hindu temples in Nepal and parts of north India survived because the Muslims never reached that part of Himalayas.

You would love reading about the erotic temples at Khajuraho. It's a 10th century temple of sex ;-)

Mark H said...

@cecil: Maybe when they have grown a little.

@finaltransit: Is that mhy they survived. Khajuraho sounds remarkable.

Sherry said...

I never noticed the sexual surprise there before - I"m going back in a month so will check it out this time! I personally love to just sit on the steps of a temple and watch the Nepalese go about their day - truly amazing!

Sherry said...

Super information! I'm going back in a week so will def. look for these carvings! I was there once for the living Godess festival - it was insane!

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