Kathmandu’s Secret – Part 1 – December 2013
BABA GORAKHNATH & KATHMANDU VALLEY
Gorakhnath is unarguably the topmost among the clan of Nagas, Naths & Siddhas. I say is and not was, because people believe that this greatest among Siddhas still roams the holy spots on Earth in his invisible form.
Baba Gorakhnath, it is believed, had perfected the science of Alchemy – the ancient art of turning base metal into gold. He was one of the few Siddhas who could ingest the (poisonous) chemical mercury through one nasal tract & bring out an exact quantity of liquid gold through the other nasal tract.
The purification process that Gorakhnath often referred to, was internal cleansing of mind where: when you develop the art of converting your base thoughts into gold in the mental space – your physical body automatically follows suit by converting the base metals in your human body to the metal gold. When this happens, you develop the proverbial `Midas touch’- where whatever you touch converts to gold.
With Gorakhnath, this was `literally’ possible – his touch could turn base metal into gold. But with lesser mortals, it simply means that whatever you `touch’ on a symbolic plane (people, projects, jobs et al), it will turn to `gold’, as in it will succeed; come to fructification.
Baba Gorakhnath travelled far & wide. Travelling north towards Himalayas, he stopped by a huge lake in midst of mountains. Incidentally, it was also the resting spot for many travellers, monks & siddhas – but unfortunately it was devoid of any homing facilities in the harsh Himalayan weather. Gorakhnath then split a mountain to create a wide crack, which then allowed the large lake to drain across the mountains – creating a lush green valley. (In Tibetan mythology, this act is associated with Buddha Milrepa – a highly revered monk in Buddhist order).
In the centre of this valley, Gorakhnath erected a wooden Mandap (a large space created by roof & pillars). He called it Kastha-Mandap (kashtha-mandap). Kastha / kashtha = difficulty / difficulties in Sanskrit. Mandap = place of common gathering.
Seating himself in the midst of this Mandap, Baba Gorakhnath made a vow that whosoever shall walk into this Mandap & rest a while, his troubles (kastha / kashtha) would be left behind in the Mandap & he would walk away lighter.
In the midst of this Kastha-Mandap, is thin, long wooden pillar. It is said that if you join your spine to the pillar & take a 360 degree turn, your back / spine problems will be solved. This spot went on to become the meditation spot for Tibetan monks in centuries to come.
Gorakhnath’s Kasthamandap. Its translation in Tibetan language – Kathmandu. In the land of (ney = good) & (pal = people). Nepal.
- Kathmandu city reminds you of any small town north India.
- Language script is Devnagri & their dialect has many traces of Hindi.
- Kathmandu’s fascination with red brick buildings is evident from Tribhuvan airport itself. You feel you have stepped into IIM Ahmedabad.
- Kathmandu wears a highly neglected, disorganised look in many places, its highpoints being bad roads & chunks of hanging cable wires.
- Kathmandu’s city centre covers up with its share of malls & high street lifestyle shops. The city’s Durbar Square is the ancient heritage part of the city – the area with houses the ancient Kasthamandap & Kumari temple.
- Thamel area of Kathmandu is most lively with its Indian restaurants, pubs, small casinos & lanes of street shops. Tourist’s delight.
- Indian currency is accepted, but carrying 500 & 1000 rupee notes is a criminal offence and liable to imprisonment.
- Newa community of Nepal has a unique custom – their women are married thrice. At age 5 to the Bel Tree; on attaining puberty to the Sun God; and finally to a man of their choice as they grow older. That way, no Newa woman experiences widowhood.
- Mustang community of Nepal has another unique custom – if there are more than 2 sons in a family, then they do not bring home multiple brides. The wife of the eldest is the wife of all brothers. She spends one month with each brother & apparently there are no serious discords between brothers on this issue.
- The `Kumari’ custom is also unique to Nepal. Kumari is a living Goddess. She is chosen only from the Sakya clan, the birth clan of Gautama Buddha. A search is carried out for young girls in the age group of 5 years. She has to be blessed with 32 signs of physical perfection, in addition to having a good horoscope that matches with the horoscope of the King. Once a Kumari is selected, she is revered as Goddess Parvati and lives in royalty. Till she attains puberty. That is the catch. She is the queen of Nepal for about 6 years; then puberty brings her back to common life. An ex-Kumari cannot marry as no man will attempt to marry a girl who was once a Goddess. So in that sense she remain a Kumari (a virgin) all her life. Not by choice perhaps, but by sad default.
- An interesting point of mention is that Nepal’s original boundaries extended to include India’s Garhwal region, Darjeeling & Gorakhpur in UP. When British invaded India, they attempted to invade Nepal too, but the ferocious Gorkhas fended them off, and finally signed a peace treaty after signing off the aforementioned territories to India. Since then, these fiery Gorkhas have been an integral part of Indian Army, the most decorated & feared Gorkha Regiment.
- The Gorkha’s knife – the Khukri is a beautifully crafted knife. When in Kathmandu, don’t miss the Khukri shop to get an insight into how it is designed & crafted.
- Don’t also miss Kathmandu’s local liquor brews – their Khukri Spice Rum & their Ruslan Vodka.
NAGARKOT & BHAKTAPUR
Nagarkot is about an hour & half’s drive from Kathmandu. It is the nearest highest point from Kathmandu from where you can see the majestic snow capped Himalayas.
Bhaktapur is an ancient heritage city. Spread over 5 square kms, be prepared to walk its length & breadth to enjoy its beautiful architecture, its old palaces and its temples – all dedicated to Shiva, Parvati & Bhairava.
Continued… Kathmandu’s Secret – Part 2 – Lord Pashupatinath & His Hidden Consort