Nepal: A Country Full of Myths and Stories

By Savaş YEŞİLÇAY

“Once upon a time, there was a lake in the place where Kathmandu Valley is right now. On the top of the lake there was a lotus flower that opened up a glamorous light scattering inside. The name of the miracle light is Swayambhu which means spontaneous.  Clergy and wise men were coming to Swayambhu to worship the miracle light.  One day Buddha, who saw the light in his dream, came to Swayambhu and was greatly affected by the light.  “If the water in the lake disappears, it would become easier to worship in the lake” thinking like this, Buddha opened a path in the mountains surrounding the lake with his sword. When the water flowed out of the way and left the valley, the lotus flower turned into a hill and the light turned into the Swayabhunath Stupa.”

This is a myth, of course. Nepal is a country of legends. Nepal has many myths like this.

A COLORFUL COUNTRY

I came to Nepal through the European Voluntary Service (EVS). As soon as I landed at the Tribhuvan International Airport on the morning of March 2, I realized that I was in an unusual place. The first thing I was feeling was dust and a heavy spring scent.

I started to throw all this amazement from my head, and then I found myself in the Nepal traffic. I don’t know how to explain this traffic! Nepal’s traffic is very different from the traffic rules I know. Lack of traffic lights and bad roads make movement even more difficult. Most of the vehicles in the traffic are motorcycles.

It is really interesting that the people of Nepal are calm even when traffic is so bad!

You can not make net sentences or comparisons about this country. Nepal is a completely different recession. Nepali people are friendly, even in the worst case, they always say Namaste. They always are smiling. You can not see any fighting and you can not hear a  swearing in this country.

Nepal is aptly the country of temples. It is possible to see a temple or two on almost every street. Of course there are many important temples in the city. I’ve often had the opportunity to walk around them. Here are my experiences about the three temples that have affected me the most.

PASHUPATINATH

First of all, I must say that Pashupatinath is one of my favorite places in Nepal. There is a saying in Turkish, “the place where the worlds ends”. Pashupatinath is like that for me.

Pashupatinath, one of the most important temples of Hindus in Nepal, sits on the banks of the holy Bagmati River, that continues to flow toward the Ganges river in India. In Hinduism, it is believed that  if the bodies are burned here after death, and the remaining ashes are thrown in the river, it is easier for the deceased to go to the heaven.

In the temple premises, you can encounter a mystical atmosphere. A lot of people sitting on the edge of the river were praying and crying for their deceased relatives. It is possible to see the purest state of death and grief here. Death is part of life. And death finds life in Pashupatinath, like a painting.

Besides all these, there is a smell of smoke coming out of dead people burned in to the air mixed with strong incense smells.

BOUDDHANATH STUPA

The Bouddha Stupa is always quite crowded. This is a very important temple for the Buddhists, who come to pray for their beliefs, as well as the tourists. When you enter the Stupa, the Buddha is a warm welcome to you. First of all, I must say that this is a more organized and cleaner place than other temples or stupas in Kathmandu. When you start to walk around the stupa, you are trapped in a mystical atmosphere. Bouddhanath Stupa becomes even more beautiful in the evening. Sitting in a cafe and watching around with a cup of tea is quite peaceful.

Bouddhanath Stupa is the center of Buddhism in Nepal. The upper part of the stupa is spherical and white. There is a golden square section on the top of the white roof with a pair of eyes on four sides of the square. These eyes symbolize the creator seeing every direction and everything. At the top of the roof is a triangular structure with 13 steps. These 13 steps represent reaching Nirvana. There are numerous windflags hanging from the top of the stupa.

Bouddhanath Stupa is very important for Buddhist people. The Buddhists, who come here, are walking around the temple. They believe that when they do this, they can easily enter the heaven.

SWAYAMBHUNATH STUPA

The Swayambhunath stupa, built on one of the hills of Kathmandu, is quite grand and magnificent. To enter the temple, first you need to climb 365 (three hundred and thirty-five) steps. During the climb, you can see many monkeys. For me, the real owners of this area are the monkeys. Monkeys can be seen walking freely everywhere. The temple is often called the monkey temple because of these monkeys.

The stupa premises offer wonderful view of the Kathmandu Valley. Hindu and Buddhist temples coexist in the stupa premises. When you enter the temple, you will see a small Stupa with the same characteristics as the Boudhanath Stupa. There are temples of Hinduism 3-4 meters away from the stupa. This is a very important proof of how tolerant both religions are towards each other.

The Buddhists are seen circumbulating stupa with prayer beads in their hands. In front of the Hindu temple, Hindus read the prayers and offer food and flowers to the deity.

If there is a place I will not forget about Nepal, it’s definitely the Monkey temple because one of the monkeys attacked me. It was really scary. It was also an unforgettable memory for me.

I must tell you: “Do not make eye contact with monkeys!”

While writing this article I realized that; in Nepal every street has a different story.  If you are thinking of coming to Nepal, stop thinking and come as soon as possible.

(Originally from Turkey, Savaş is a traveller and a social worker. He came to Nepal through European Voluntary Service (EVS) and spent few months volunteering here. He can be reached at savasyesilcay@hotmail.com or Instagram @ savasyslcy)

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