Saturday, May 02, 2015

The view from Changu Narayan

On October 28, 2010 I went on one of the most lovely walks of my life. I’d just finished a five-day gathering for the first iteration of ERSEH in a town near Kathmandu, but had a few days before returning to the US. With an Australian colleague I went to the enchanting city of Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage site which I knew, as many do, from the film “Little Buddha.” The best part of the trip, however, was walking from Bhaktapur up to an ancient temple on a hill some ways beyond town called Changu Narayan – the site of the earliest attested human presence in the Kathmandu Valley. For countless centuries Changu Narayan has offered a spectacular view of the Valley, especially at sunset – which we were lucky enough to see. (Some pics near the end of this post.) We walked back the way we’d come as night fell, and fell ourselves into a dreamlike state. Lights were few. I remember seeing people clustered around the one shop in a little town which had light and, apparently, a television. The way we walked seemed empty until the light of an oncoming moped silhouetted all sorts of people sharing the road with us, old and young, in the distance and very close.

All this came back to me today as I read an article in the Guardian which began:

The road to the Changu Narayan temple winds through the outskirts of Kathmandu, past villages, wheat fields and up through leafy woods. There is a village, now partly ruined, and then a steep walk up a narrow alley between broken homes to the temple’s shattered remains. From the piles of rubble which surround the cracked central shrine, the view extends across the entire Kathmandu valley.

Below lies Bhaktapur’s Durbar Square and palace, a medieval township preserved almost intact for centuries but now in ruins. Further away are the palaces of Patan, which are cracked or collapsed. In the far distance are scores of other monuments, most listed by Unesco as being of global importance and almost all badly damaged.

These pictures are from that article, two from Bhaktapur, and one each from Patan and Swayambunath in Kathmandu - both places we'd been taken to see, as well. The temples we saw are in ruins. The villages we saw, too. And the lives of the villagers.

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