“Can I please go to Boudhanath tomorrow morning alone ? And I wanna go early morning.” – Anindya said before retiring for the day
“Do I have an option ? but please dont get delayed in coming back and ensure that you come back on time. We have a flight to catch and Tugga has to get ready.” – Madhushree stopped yawning and retorted .
This was the discussion between Madhushree and me, where I pleaded to go for Boudhanath on the last day of our Nepal tour. A successful and satisfying tour by all means till then. It was still the niggling feeling of not having a dessert after a sumptuous meal, was what I was going through . I had already visited Boudha a couple of days earlier in the evening with the family but without much result in terms of photography . I have been to Swayumbhu (read my experience in Swayumbhu here) but there was something special and different in Boudhanath . In the evening, when we went, this place was special, however I was told I needed to come here in the morning during the prayer. I did not want to miss it. Hence an early morning alarm on a holiday , tiptoeing out of my room and the house , catching a cab after letting go off 3 cabs for asking for abysmal fares and finally, reaching the venue by 6.20 A.M.
It was the same feeling as the previous evening. Visuals , sounds , aroma, all sending that message to the brain – stop the clock , disconnect with the world , look through the view finder and discover a world. A world with small individual stories which build up the epic .
Here are my reasons why you should visit Boudhanath if you are in Kathmandu –
1. Colour Riot – One will find splash of colours here . Morning or evening does not really matter . Boudhanath Stupa with whitewashed dome and piercing Buddha eyes painted on all four sides, is a view in itself . The stupa is symbolic of three dimensional reminder of Buddha’s enlightenment. The bright coloured prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent the five elements namely earth , water , fire , air and space . The prayer flags against the bright blue sky is a treat to watch and to click also.
2. People around – Boudhanath is a mini world in itself . From shop owners to visitors and monks and nuns, pilgrimages and photographers – you will find them all here . Dont be in a hurry . Circumambulate the stupa in clockwise along with the pilgrims and visitors as they chant Om mani Padme Hum while spinning the prayer wheels . Observe the faces and the people who have come to offer prayers . Its a revelation . The ideal time to come is either in the early morning or in the evening . Thats the prayer time and one gets to see a flux of people . Each face tells a story . Each activity paints a picture . Be alert not to miss them. Dont forget to explore the bylanes where I saw the seven monks in a row .
3. Tamang Gompa – If at Boudhanath,one should not miss out on Tamang Gumpha . Located just opposite to the main Stupa, this is perhaps one of the most visited monasteries in the area . Its a three layered structure where each level is worth exploring and experiencing . The minute one steps in to the monastery, before entering the main monastery, on the left hand side there is large prayer wheel from roof to ground . The main prayer hall is here . As one goes up the stairs , the walls are filled with murals with Tibetan symbolism. On the first floor there is a small prayer hall with a large traditional Taiko . Moving further up to the second floor, one gets the most breathtaking photo of the stupa . This is the biggest attraction for the tourists . There is a small hut to the left where butter lamps are being lit . One can take as many pictures as possible anywhere , get into some occasional chats with the monks in case they are not praying, as I did and please don’t forget to leave your shoes outside before entering any prayer hall .
4. In case the legs have started to tire out now after a good long walk around and circumambulating ( one lap is about 150 metres), take a break . One can just sit down on the benches which are interspersed in the Stupa and just watch the happenings around . Smell the incense burning , catch up on a conversation on the person sitting beside, after all this is why we travel isn’t it ? There are some amazing cafes and shops around with amazing views of the Stupa . Walk in to any of the coffee shops – order a coffee and if you have time in hand – open up that book which was long waiting to be read .
5. If the above reasons are not strong enough, this is Asia’s largest Buddhist Stupa . A UNESCO world Heritage site . As a matter of fact Kathmandu valley has seven UNESCO World heritage sites and this is one of them . Not only Asia , but this is one of the World’s largest stupa . Its also the most important Tibetan Buddhist Monument outside Tibet. As a tourist, its always a special feeling to visit one of the largest pilgrimage of a religion . Do not miss out on that feeling.
The reasons are personal and one may not have the same feelings as I had, however as a photographer and as a traveler, this is one place which should not be missed at any cost. I returned on time, Tugga was ready on time and we safely caught the flight .
P.S. – We were staying in Kathmandu with Komal, a very close friend of Madhushree . She has her home in Kathmandu and during our entire stay- her parents, her sister , her maid , her driver – everyone went out of their way to make us feel special . I tiptoed out of the house on my way to Boudhanath as I did not want to cause further trouble by waking up anyone .