SYNOPSIS:  A visit to the Budhanilkantha Temple and a few scenes of daily life, cows, and dust from Kathmandu.

A bit off the beaten path on the northern outskirts of Kathmandu, there is a temple I learned about in graduate school called Budhanilkantha.  It has nothing to do with the Buddha but is rather the temple housing a large (16 feet) image of a reclining Vishnu.

Once again, I hired Bishwa.  He has his flaws but by now I have full confidence in his motorcycling skills.  Even on less frequented side roads, traffic in Nepal has its challenges.  As cows are proverbially sacred, they seem to know it!  Shamelessly, they position themselves in the middle of roads and either lay down or stand there motionless, nonplussed by honking horns and buses rushing by within inches.  What do they think they are doing there?!  There is nothing but traffic and dust. No food, no comfort.  They just seem to dare the patience of the Hindus who would rather die than harm a cow.

Vishnu is part of the Hindu Timurti along with Brahma, the creator and Siva, the destroyer.  He is considered the preserver of this world, resting on a primordial snake.  Many depictions show him with his wife gently tickling his feet to wake up, after Brahma created the universe.  The origins of this image are legendary.  And the question if it is floating in the pond or supported somehow, is not to be answered; scientific investigations are prohibited.  It is nice to think of this giant as floating. 

As a non-Hindu I was allowed inside the temple compound, but not inside the pond sanctuary.  I had to peek through a metal fence, pushing my camera lens through little openings to take pictures.  The giant is serenely lying under a cloth canopy.  Worshippers come and throw flower petals or rice onto the statue.  When I visited, three young temple assistants were in the middle of cleaning the statue.  As much as they obstructed the full view of it, they provided a good sense of scale. 

On the drive through town I shot pictures from the backseat of the motorbike:  oncoming traffic, garbage collectors, vendors, street scenes.  The images are a good reflection of life in the city.  What is most noticeable is the ever-present dust kicked up by all the traffic.  It was so bad today, that I created a makeshift face mask for myself that turned brown within the hour…  And I just had pneumonia!  I hope my lungs are going to stomach this. 

Kathmandu is surrounded by mountains.  From the mountain rims, beautiful views open up into the colorful mosaic of the multi-storied homes of the city.  From that distance it is hard to imagine all the destruction that becomes apparent only upon closer inspection. 

Enjoy the views.