Category Archives: Nepal 2012 / 2013

Manakamana Temple: Nepal

Manakamana is the temple of Goddess Durga (Hindu Goddess), situated in Gorkha District of Nepal. Manakamana means the “Wishes from the heart”. It is believed that Goddess Manakaman fulfils the wishes of the ones who worship her with a pure heart.

The Manakamana temple lies 12 Km south of the town of Gorkha. The temple is located on a distinguished ridge 1302 meters above sea level and overlooks the river valleys of Trisuli in the south and Marsyangdi in the west. The spectacular views of the Manaslu- Himachali and Annapurna ranges can be seen to the north of the temple. The temple is approximately a 104 Km drive from Kathmandu.

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Initially we were planning to visit the temple on our way back from Pokhara so that we would get lots of time to spend there but while my FIL was reading the paper in the car, he came across a notice that the day we were planning to visit the temple, cable car to the temple would be closed for maintenance so we made the decision to visit the temple on the way to Pokhara. I hadn’t been there for over 7 years so it was nice to visit the temple. I was with AS, MIL and FIL.

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Once we parked the car, we bought the cable car ticket and joined the queue. The queue was not too long so we got our turn in a cable car quite quickly. We had the car to ourselves.

Manakamana Cable Car has 31 passenger Gondolas and 3 freight carriers. The time of travel from the station below at Kurintar to the top station situated at Manakamana is only 10 minutes. The Cable Car can hold 6 adults or 480 Kg and has doors that close and open automatically and the system is one of the most modern and is totally computerized.

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Once we got off the cable car, we have to walk for a while before we reached the temple. On the way there various vendors were trying to sell their products to us. They used the same dialogue “It is the best.” Or “It is the cheapest you can find”.  My MIL bought Puja stuffs from one of the vendors and we went to the temple.

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Manakamana is a Hindu Goddess so she is worshiped with offerings of flower, sound, scent, dress, make-ups and colours. There is a tradition of sacrificing animals at the temple. Devotees stand in line for even 5-10 hours during festivals. The line starts from the temple gate is longer than a few kilometres sometimes, especially during festivals. People can be seen standing in line with pooja samagri (worship materials) in hand and some of them carrying duck, cock or goat with them. People seem to enjoy standing in the line without food, some even with no water.

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 The legend of Manakamana Goddess dates back to the reign of the Gorkha king Ram Shah during the 17th century. It is said that his queen possessed divine powers, which only her devotee Lakhan Thapa knew about. One day, the king witnessed his queen in Goddess incarnation, and Lakhan Thapa in the form of a lion. Upon mentioning the revelation to his queen, a mysterious death befell the king. As per the custom of that time, the queen committed sati (ritual immolation) on her husband’s funeral pyre. Before, her sati the queen had assured Lakhan Thapa that she would reappear in the near future. Six months later, a farmer while ploughing his fields cleaved a stone. From the stone he saw a stream of blood and milk flow. When Lakhan heard an account of this event, he immediately started performing Hindu tantric rituals at the site where the stone had been discovered thus ceasing the flow of blood and milk. The site became the foundation of the present shrine. According to tradition, the priest at the temple must be a descendent of Lakhan Thapa

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The day we were there, there was not a long queue but it may still have taken us an hour to reach the front door of the temple.

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As we were on our way to Pokhara and short of time, we decided  not to stand in line and just prayed from the outside. My MIL did some puja and lit some diyo too.

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As the cable car was going to shut down for lunch we didn’t want to get stuck at the top for an hour so we decided to go back down and have our lunch in the restaurant there.

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The ride down was equally spectacular and I really enjoyed it. Down by the river, in the restaurant we had typical Nepali lunch with dal (lentil), bhat (rice), tarkari (vegies), achar (pickle) and masu (meat). It was really yummy.

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After lunch we made our way to Pokhara.

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*Paragliding in paradise *Zoo visit in Nepal *Swayambhunath: Kathmandu, Nepal

Paragliding in Paradise

This article was published in +977 (a Nepalese Lifestyle Magazine in Australia) in March 2013 issue.

Paragliding for blog

We have all heard about Paradise but we have never seen it. Today I am happy to announce that I have been there and it is called Pokhara, 200 km away from Kathmandu, capital of Nepal.

Pokhara is heaven for domestic and international tourists with its luscious green hills, snow-capped mountains and beautiful lakes. These days Pokhara is also famous for its various adventures like paragliding, gliding, ultra-light flight and zip fly.

I have been waiting to sky dive for ages so I thought paragliding would be a great step towards it. So when I went to Nepal this year, I went to Pokhara where I saw the paradise from a bird’s eye view with the magnificent mountains up close.

We booked the paragliding through the hotel. So the company picked us up at the hotel. Initially, it was only me and my husband who were planning to glide but my mother in law also joined us for the flight once we asked her. They took us to their office first where we filled out forms and signed a no liability statement. From there we were off to Sarankot, which was around 30 minutes’ drive from the office.

The drive was a bit bumpy at times but the driver was giving us lots of information about the paragliding. He told us that even an 80 year old man had done the paragliding from their company. Once the jeep stopped, we had to walk a few minutes to reach the top of the hill where I saw many gliders were already taking off from the mountain and floating away. We were each assigned a pilot and I got Vlad from Serbia. He has been flying for over 10 years all over the world and seemed well trained. He buckled me up with the gears and a few instructions on how to take off. With a little bit of fear and a whole lot of excitement, I was ready for my flight.

After checking all the equipment and wind flow we ran together to take off. I was quite surprised how easy that take off was as we glided off the cliff and I naturally fell back onto the seat and began drifting peacefully. It was great to realise that I was in the air flying. I was already high up on the sky when I saw my husband and mother in law taking off from the hill. Once in the sky, I could see lots of colourful gliders filling the blue sky on the sunny winter day. I could see eagles circling below us as well.

The pilot informed me that we were cruising above 8000 feet in the air and I could see the magnificent view of the Himalayas, hills with pockets of green forests, beautiful lakes and Pokhara city.

As we climbed higher, the view of Dhaulagiri, Annapurna, and Manasulu were so close and breathtaking. We cruised for almost 20 minutes while the pilot pointed out a few places. Also it was fun trying to find my husband and mother in law among many gliders as we could hardly recognise any face from so far away. As the flight was smooth, I asked the pilot if I can take my own camera from my pocket. He said it would be fine so I took my camera out and took a video and photos of our flight.

After a while the pilot asked if I was ok to do some acrobatics in the air. I was scared but I said yes so he let me hold his camera as he prepared for some spinning and spiralling. I put my own camera back in my pocket and we did some acrobatics over the lake swinging back and forth and dropping in the air. It was such an adrenalin rush and I would have liked him to keep going but it was almost time for us to descend and land next to Fewa Lake.

He asked me to put my foot up and not try to touch the ground when we landed so I did as I was told and I was safely on the ground. My husband and mother in law had already landed and we all were very happy with the experience.

Once they packed the equipment, we were back in the jeep on the way to their office where we waited for our photos and video. They also gave us certificates for the flight!

It was an incredible experience and is totally worth a try 🙂

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*Abseiling *Oceanwalker *Zoo visit in Nepal 

Zoo visit in Nepal

I hadn’t been to the zoo in Kathmandu for more than a decade but this time we were lucky that we had time enough to visit the zoo. The zoo is located a few kilometres away from the city centre, Kathmandu. It is the only zoo in Nepal, a country with a population of 30 million, and hence fulfils an important role.

We hadn’t planned to there. We were out for lunch with my parents, my brother, SIL and little nephew. As we were close to the zoo, my dad suggested that we should go and visit it so that my little nephew could have some fun and all of us agreed to it.

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I remember around 3 years ago, me and AS wanted to go to the zoo. We were outside the gate and we saw so many people that it put us off from going inside. But I am glad we went this time.

As we walked inside, I realised nothing much had changed in the last decade, which is very sad.

The animal enclosures are arranged around the perimeter of a large boating lake which takes up a large proportion of the zoo’s area.

As we started of tour, we saw an elephant riding area. My dad wanted my nephew to have his first elephant ride so we went and asked the guys there for more information. They said there are a few groups already booked for the tour so asked us to buy the ticket and come back in an hour.

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The elephant ride cost us RS 100 each for around 15 minutes ride. So after buying the tickets we continued our tour.

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The zoo is arranged according to taxonomy, with mammals, birds, reptiles and fishes all occupying different parts of the zoo. There are also playground rides, picnic lawns and boat rides on the lake. As we started walking around the zoo, I realised that there were lots of families with small kids enjoying their picnic as well as many lovebirds in corner benches enjoying their time together away from prying eyes.

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The zoo houses some 780 species including the critically endangers white-rumped vulture and Chinese alligator and six endangered species: Asian elephant, royal bengal tiger, one horned rhino, wild buffalo, gharial and yellow headed turtle.

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Along with these animals, there were hippos that was lazily sunbathing, a hyena, a giant deer, peacocks, white-napped crane, two big rhinos, monkeys, water buffalo, chimpanzees, leopards, beer, tigers, lions as well as golden pheasant, silver pheasant, chukar, kalij, parrots, owls. They also have small reptile collection featured a common cobra, an Indian rock python, snakes and a turtle.

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By the time we had a look around; it was almost our turn to ride the elephant so we went back to the riding area. We waited for 10 minutes and it was our turn.

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The guy told us it is OK for all of us to ride at the same time (poor elephant) so me, AS, my dad, my brother, SIL and my nephew got on the top of this elephant. I was glad that my nephew enjoyed the ride.

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Initially, the elephant was not listening to its handler and I was a bit scared as he was not moving according to the pre-planned route but after a while he relented and followed the route. While talking to the handler, he told us that the elephant is round 70 years old and does 8-10 trips every day. I felt sorry for the poor animal as he is so old and has to do this every day.

We were taken half way around the lake and then back to the same spot where we got on it. For some reason my nephew started to cry, poor baby. We were all glad when we get off as we were worried if something might have happened to him. But he was fine, just restless as he had to sit in one place too long. By this time it was getting cold and windy so we decided to go home.

I had a really nice time with my family and was happy to see my nephew have his first elephant ride.

Even though the zoo in Nepal is small but it is well maintained I am sure it is a great place for kids to visit to learn more about different animals. Construction was going on everywhere so it looks like it is in the process of a face lift with new paths and enclosures so I think in a few years it will be quite lovely.

Roti and fruit shops in Nepal

While I was shopping in Nepal for my nephew’s Pasni, I went to many Roti shops and fruit shops. I was so fascinated by the items on the shelves that I took the photos of so many varieties of rotis and fruits. You will notice that there are many varieties of rotis and I don’t even know the names. Also fruit shops are so different from the ones in Australia, I was just fascinated. Sharing the pics here 🙂fruits (1) fruits (2) fruits (3) fruits (4) Roti shop (1) Roti shop (2) Roti shop (3) Roti shop (4) Roti shop (5) Roti shop (6) Roti shop (7) Roti shop (8) Roti shop (9)

Swayambhunath: Kathmandu, Nepal

Going regularly to a temple is big part of Nepali culture. You will often see people of all age going to a temple early in the mornings. While in Nepal, we tried to go to different temples as well. For us it was more of going to see the place than for religion but if we were to get blessed while we were there then even better :). One of the temples we visited was Swayambhunath, also know was Monkey Temple by tourist in Kathmandu.

One day we were invited for lunch to our aunt’s house, which is near to Swayambhunath, so we decided to visit the temple before we went for lunch. Swayambhunath is an ancient religious complex atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. Even though Swayambhunath is a Buddhist stupa, yet it is equally popular with the Hindu pilgrims as well.

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Legend has it that Kathmandu Valley was once an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as Swayambhu, meaning “Self-Created.” The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame (svyaṃbhu) over which a stupa was later built.

Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and so head lice grew on them. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.

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The Bodhisattva Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and traveled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley could be a good place for settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, Manjusri cut a gorge at Chovar. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower became the Swayambhunath stupa.

As we were driving to the hill where Swayambhunath stupa is, we could really see how beautiful the temple is.  Around the bend of some roads, the temple comes into full view, and we can see the large Buddha’s eyes, sitting below a golden roof at the peak, keeping watch over the valley.

These large pair of eyes, which represent Wisdom and Compassion, on each of the four sides of the main stupa. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. It is said that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which act as messages to heavenly beings, so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha. The hellish beings and beings below the human realm cannot come to earth to listen to the Buddha’s teaching, however, the cosmic rays relieve their suffering when Buddha preaches.

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The dome at the base represents the entire world. When a person awakes (represented by eyes of wisdom and compassion) from the bonds of the world, the person reaches the state of enlightenment. The thirteen pinnacles on the top symbolize that sentient beings have to go through the thirteen stages of spiritual realizations to reach enlightenment or Buddhahood.

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When we reached the gate leading to the steps, there were many monkeys all over the place. Some people were feeding monkeys which were running everywhere. I am scared of monkeys as a monkey had snatched a bag from my hand when I was kid so I went and hid behind my husband and brother when I saw them running towards us. I have to say they are pretty well behaved as they don’t bother you unless you annoy them.

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On the side of the gates, there were ladies selling Puja items like candle, flowers and souvenirs.

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There are 365 steps and it is believed that there’s a step for each day of the year, starting at the gate and ending at the stupa. We started to climb the stairs and more monkeys emerged. I stayed close to AS and I was fine. We took a few photos as we climbed up and as we went higher the view got even better. There were many beggars sitting on either sides of the stairs as well and some of them I felt really sorry for as they had small children with them.

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As we reached the top, we could see more monkeys everywhere. There were also stalls selling the usual touristy items. There were many interesting, well-done acrylic paintings of the Himalayas, Nepali hand puppets and other handicrafts.

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There were also lots of people worshipping in the temple with diyo and candles. I could see prayer flags around the stupa and lots of diyo lit in front of the temple next to stupa. The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period as well as a Tibetan monastery, a museum and a library.

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 As we walked around the temple, we rotated the prayer wheels. A prayer wheel is a cylindrical “wheel” on a spindle made from metal, wood, stone, leather or coarse cotton. Traditionally, the mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. According to the lineage texts on prayer wheels, prayer wheels are used to accumulate wisdom and merit (good karma) and to purify negativities (bad karma).

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At one end of the temple area, there is a viewpoint from where you can see the entire Kathmandu. I remember coming there when we were young and we used to try to find our house from there but these days due to population and pollution, you can’t see very far. I felt really sad to see how Kathmandu has changed in the last decade and definitely not for the better in terms of the environment.

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After looking around for a few more minutes, we decided to back down to the car. As you come down, there is a golden statue of Buddha surrounded by water. People were throwing coins into a bucket there and it is believed if your coin enters the bucket, it will bring good luck. My brother and SIL were trying their luck so AS asked me to throw some coins as well. It reminded me of the Trevi fountain when we were in Italy. There were lots of coins lying around the statue there as well but I am sure, the amount of money thrown here is nowhere near the amount in the Trevi fountain.

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After our visit to the temple, we were really hungry so we went to our aunt’s house for lunch 🙂

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