Sunday, November 9, 2008

Saturday in Thamel

I've been investigating post-graduate Buddhist Studies programs, not so much because I need another degree, but I thought as long as I'm doing all this reading in Buddhism anyway, and if it doesn't cost me too much, I might as well acquire social sanction for my studies. There's also the more practical purpose in Nepal of obtaining more permanent visa status.

The head of Tribhuvan University's Buddhist Studies department requested by email I meet him Saturday morning at Chhusyabaha, an old Newari temple in the center of Kathmandu. When I arrived just before 7:00 I was greeted by a man who was not Dr Vajracharya, but who pointed him out to me as the priest preparing to lead the morning puja.

I sat for a little more than an hour through chanting and a sermon, all in Nepali or Newari, I can't say which. Most of the chanting seemed fairly typical of what I've heard in other Buddhist traditions, though the 10-minute Om Mane Padme Hum mantra was unique, starting very low and building almost to a shout before returning to a quiet hum.

The professor/priest and I had a nice chat after the service about options for studying at TU, which I need now to follow up with more specific information on curriculum and instructors. In the meantime, my Italian housemate continues his efforts to convince me that the only program worth my consideration is the one he is currently enrolled in at KU.

After I left the temple I wandered around Thamel for a couple of hours, browsing in the bookstores, checking email, and walking alleys I'd never been down. I came across a street of butchers, who seemed at least for Saturday to be selling only boar. Or maybe that was the boar butcher's street.

Just beyond was a frame shop, which doubles as a merchant of religious iconography. Here we have quite an assortment of gods and gurus – Shiva, Pavarti and Ganesh, Kali, Buddha, Jesus, and Sai Baba.

I then wandered over to my favorite Nepali diner in Thamel, passing a Japanese restaurant along the way.

The walking about was largely to occupy time waiting for the noon start of the final day of the International Folk Music Festival. Several groups from different regions of Nepal, as well as artists from the Middle East and Europe were performing for four days in venues across the valley. Saturday was to see the artists together for a grand finale on the busiest street in the city's tourist quarter. The planners seemed to have envisioned the musicians and audience taking over the street, but that seemed not to have been planned and did not happen. Everyone was squeezed onto one side of the street, only a meter from passing traffic. One of the volunteers I spoke with said they were planning to shift to a nearby location that was better suited to the event. By then we'd already been standing in the street for an hour. It might take another to get things sorted. So I left happy to have heard a little and to have captured a few images.



Post a Comment