Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal

You need to be called to participate in a yatra (pilgrimage). Without the assent of the Gods, any number of obstacles, reasons, excuses will crop up and prevent you for participating. Even in our family group, many dropped out for various reasons. I count my blessing that I could make this happen.

The yatra was difficult and at times fraught with danger. Appropriate then that we started by paying our respects to Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath (Lord and Caretaker of All Living Beings). He is the patron deity of Nepal and his temple in Kathmandu is worthy of a separate visit.

The temple dates to the 8th century (or earlier) with many later renovations. The Shiva linga is an imposing 3-4 ft tall with humanoid Shiva faces at each of the cardinal sides. The four faces on the linga are called: Tatpurush (East face), Aghora (South face), Sadjyota (West face) and Vamadeva (North face). The top surface facing the sky is called Ishaan. These are the names of the four side of Mount Kailash – the abode of Shiva-Parvati, and our final destination.

Above is the quadrangle leading to the entrance of the temple. On entering, you see the back of an imposing gold covered Nandi (bull) on a raised pedestal, facing the Shiva linga in devotion.
pics of Nandi at entryway of Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag

The linga is placed in a small square garbha gudi with doors at each face. Devotees can walk around the linga on a raised walkway. Priests at each doors accept offerings of flowers and bael leaves, place it briefly on the linga and bring back the prasad. Around the garbha gudi, Nepali women in bright red sarees light oil lamps and chant prayers. It was a beautiful scene – one I wish I had more time to savor.

The temple complex is a huge pavilion with 20-30 mini shrines around the periphery of the Shiva linga. Notable are the fierce-looking, bronze Kaala-Bhairav and a small temple with 125 lingas arranged in a maze. The lingas are placed knee high and as you walk the maze, you can touch all the lingas. Nice! There is a public cremation ghat right beside the temple, which I was not prepared to visit.

These kids were tending shoes and chappals outside the temple. They should have been in school instead! Rather than place money in the temple hundi, I gave money to these boys. They were puzzled, but accepted it. I intentionally over-paid the women selling flowers. They quoted in Nepali rupees, while I paid in India rupees (=1.6 Nepali Rs).
pics of boys tending chappals at Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu, Nepal by Arun Shanbhag

A beautiful temple. Wish I had more time to experience this sacred place fully – would prolly require a whole day. Also wished they allowed photography inside the temple complex, so I could share the ambience with you all.


Kailash Manasarovar Travelogue continues: Monks at the Pashupatinath Temple
To start at beginning of Travelogue: Rendevous with Sagarmatha (Everest)

Baanganga: Satellite View

A satellite view of Baanganga. Its the dark green quadrangle on the left.

If you have Google Earth: enter the co-ordinates as above, or in fractional degrees as:
18.945454N 72.793612E
But first, in PREFERENCES and the default VIEW tab, select “Degrees.”

Baanganga: In the Heart of Mumbai

Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag
After a refreshing early morning run in Mumbai I recounted the route to my parents. I had run from Electric House, via Mantralaya, along the Chowpatty sea face, past Wilson College, to the top of the hill.

“That's Walkeshwar hill,” my father revealed, “and if you had gone a little further you would have reached Baanganga and the Walkeshwar devasthan (temple or mandir).” My father explained how the Baanganga – the fresh water spring only a few yards from the ocean – came to be by the grace of Shri Rama. Being a Mumbaikar, I prided myself on knowing every significant site here. How did I miss this important landmark, while growing up only a few miles away? Perhaps I was not ready to walk here; here where Shri Rama walked?

Next day, I continued running to the top of Walkeshwar hill and over to Baanganga. Here enroute to Lanka, Sita, Rama and Lakshman are believed to have rested. I too removed my shoes and stretched my feet.

According to legend, Shri Rama and Lakshman did not find drinking water on this spit of land surrounded by salty ocean. Lakshman then shot an arrow into the ground, springing forth a stream of fresh water. The water pooled forming the Baanganga, (see pic above) refering to the purifying waters of river Ganga brought here by an arrow Baan.

For his prayers, Rama fashioned a linga from the sand, giving the area its name Walkeshwar (Wallu – sand + Ishwar – God). The crudely fashioned linga, with petrified finger marks is now enshrined in the tiny Walkeshwar mandir right across from the Baanganga. The mandir is to the left on this schematic. For bearings, the above pic was taken from the steps by the Ganapati mandir.

The Walkeshwar mandir is a tiny shrine and I shot this pic from the doorway. You can see the Nandi (seated bull) in the small antaralaya – foreroom. Past the collection box on the left, the linga is slightly below ground level, under the watchful eyes of the Naga Devata (Snake God). Early in the morning, all visitors can pour water on the linga (performing abhishek) and pray.

My fingers traced the ridges on this linga, where Shri Rama’s fingers had crudely moulded and turned to stone. How many had touched this before me? The blessed Sita, Shri Rama and Lakshmana too! And the millions and millions of devotees before me, thanking the divine for her munificence. And then I realized, how insignificant my life is. A tiny being, a tiny droplet from the ocean of Brahman – the Paramatman. I let the water flow over my fingers over the linga, and watched it swirl away into the unknown. Another devotee had offered a few bael leaves on the linga. I picked one up as a blessing from the divine, touched it to my forehead and carefully placed it in my running shorts.

I picked up my running shoes and walked around the numerous shrines, which have sprouted around this hallowed tank.

Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

In front of the Walkeshwar Mandir, these steps lead to the tank itself. There is a tiny shrine to Ganesha in the niche in the wall, behind where the lady in the red saree is praying to Nandi. The rest of the family appeared to be enjoying their outing here.
Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag


The little girl and the younger brother she held, were both mesmerized by the glinting waters of the Baanganga.
Baanganga in Mumbai by Arun Shanbhag

Yes, its the shoes! It’s my running shoes which bring me to fascinating places, where I meet fabulous people and take away great memories. Everyday I run is a day to remember! If you see me smiling, its because I am running today!

Precious Kids we met in Karnataka

Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag
A nice part of visiting temples in India is, I get to meet the locals. The hard working laborers with a few days off to visit temples. These you wouldn’t meet in hotel lobbies or in coffee shops. Their kids care less for the soulful art, and are playing around with each other. Them, I look forward to meeting.

And so many I met on this trip to Karnataka. All, despite being poor, were rich of heart, of kindness and grace. Their eyes brimmed with joy. Through them life reminds us – there is a way to live! Through them I asked – what have I done with my life? For what? In the kindness of these, I find my happiest moments. Not in the bars, not in ritzy coffee shops on Colaba Causeway, not with my fancy gadgets. My camera incidentally is the vehicle for reaching out; actually, for them to reach out to me.

It's usually the poorest who will strike a conversation with us. Perhaps they have nothing to fear. Most are kids – certainly fearless! When they see I have a big camera, they come up and ask to take their pic. The common phrase was, “Anna (elder brother) photo!” pointing to themselves. I gladly shoot multiple pics and they scramble away, jumping up and down. With my big camera, they prolly feel like stars in a movie production. And I treat them like stars. Some stay back to ask where I am from. If they hang around long enough, I show them the pics on the LCD screen – then their amazement sees no end.

While I derive joy from this encounter, what's in it for them? Perhaps in approaching and dealing with me, their confidence is boosted. They may hesitate less, the next time they have to stand-up for something. Perhaps. Here I have assembled a few pics from our recent trip to Badami, Pattadakal and Hampi. Other than the actual sites, these interactions I craved the most.

Pic above: As we parked near the Cave temples of Badami, these two came up and he confidently asked me to take their pic. They appeared to be siblings – look at their beautifully intertwined fingers.


At the MahaKuta Temple complex near Badami: The kid selling Goli Soda darted by as I tried to get his attention. The other two noticed, ran after the kid and brought him back to pose with them. The kid was ~ 8-10 years old, selling Goli Soda.
Kids at the MahaKuta Temple complex near Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag


Busily shooting at the Hazara Raam Temple in Hampi, the girl in the center asked to first take a pic of their largish family. Then she wanted a pic with only a couple of her friends.
Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag

These boys did not want to be left out and asked to take their pics.
Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag

Kids at the Cave Temples of Badami pics by Arun Shanbhag
These girls were tending the baby and were thrilled to have their pic taken.


At the Vithala temple in Hampi, this young girl Gouthami asked me to take a pic of her family. About 10, she directed her mother and older relatives to pose. Then she wanted one with her mother (above). While I was surprised at her english, my jaws dropped when her mother spoke flawless english and explained. They were from a village in AndhraPradesh and were leaving for Tirupati on the night train. Gouthami wanted more pics and her mother wrote out their address; and I mailed the pics.

Gouthami at the Temples of Hampi pics by Arun Shanbhag

Gouthami at the Temples of Hampi pics by Arun Shanbhag


Kids at the Tungabhadra Dam near Hospet, Karnataka pics by Arun Shanbhag
I saved the best for last!
While visiting the Tungabhadra Dam, the adjacent gardens had a light and water show. We found seats in front of the fountains, which was to “dance” to the music. This group of kids were hovering along the perimeter of the fountain. They kept staring at us. To break the ice, I took a pic. They ran away. This happened a few times and finally one of the boys, boldly stood in front of me and posed a body-builder's pose. I took his pic and showed it to him on the LCD. He and his friends stared in amazement. Then they all wanted pics. Finally I got this pic of the 12 boys and girls in the group.

By now they were very friendly with us and all over our bench, squeezing themselves between M and me. I found some packs of Wrigleys chewing gum and offered it to them. They were thrilled! They spoke Telugu and I only knew a spattering of Kannada. I did understand “uuru” (town) in one of their queries and I replied, “Mumbai.” Sighs of approval spread through the group. They asked many more questions, but I could not understand what they were saying. But they just kept talking, and we listened intently and nodded. There was an older gentlemen with them, and he too only spoke Telugu. We could not figure out if the kids were from one family, or neighborhood kids out for a picnic.

As the show ended, our driver came to fetch us, and I asked him to inquire with the older gentlemen. We found that these kids were from an Orphanage in Raichur and were on a picnic to see the Dam and the gardens!!! My heart sank like a rock!

We walked back to the car in stunned silence; the kids waved us goodbye.

Here were kids with literally nothing in this world, not even family, and they seemed so content to be merry. M & I talked about how we had been quibbling earlier in the evening – we who have so much; and the kids, with nary a penny to their name were happily enjoying the moment. That was for an important evening, and I hope it changes our lives forever. Even today, whenever M and I have a disagreement, we think of those orphans we met at the Dam, see how happy they were with what little they had! Certainly, we have much more.

As part of our annual charitable givings, I hope to identify an orphanage in rural karnataka and make a huge donation to them. We have also decided not to take any more gifts to our relatives in India, but to instead continue and increase our contributions to the schools and other deserving opportunities. I encourage you to do the same.


Update May 2009: Now many years later, I see this event did have a profound impact on our lives.


Ram Temple Attack, Schematic

An early schematic of the terrorist attack on tuesday morning, in relation to the temple grounds can be seen here. Note the garbha griha (sanctum sanctorum, sacred womb) where the sacred murthi, representing the divine Ram is placed.

Cucumber Seller Smiles

photos of a woman selling cucumbers at the Mangeshi Temple Goa by Arun Shanbhag

Outside the Mangeshi Devasthan in Goa, this lady sold sliced cucumbers. It's a refreshing snack on a hot day. As I composed the pic, I fretted about this guy walking across, but then I noticed her face light up at an approaching customer. For her brilliant smile, and inviting pose, she deserved a post of her own.

photos of a woman selling cucumbers at the Mangeshi Temple Goa by Arun Shanbhag

Blue Skies: Ramnathi, Goa

Fields across from the Ramnathi Temple Devasthan in Goa pic by Arun Shanbhag
Ramnathi, Goa: On every trip to India, we first visit our ancestral Ramnathi Temple in Ponda, Goa. On the cab ride from the train station, you are taken-in by the lush fields rimmed by coconut trees swaying in the breeze, beautiful bungalows on either side of the road, with folks just hanging out on the porch watching life go by, and cows grazing in the fields. And every time I think to myself, “I could live this life. I just need a small house, over there by the fields.”

We usually spend a few days at the temple guest house (Rs 40/night; approx $1/night) before moving on south along the Konkani coast. Smack across the temple was this beautiful rice field. I couldn't avoid the trees without actually getting into the field, so I tried framing the field with the trees. Enjoy! or as they say in Goa, Devu baren karo!

August 2002, Canon Elan II, 28-135 IS, 200 ASA Velvia Slide, scanned and exposure adjusted



Posts Related to Ramnathi and other temples in Goa:


Flower Sellers at the Ramnathi Temple, Goa

photos of women selling flowers at the Ramnathi Devasthan Temple Goa by Arun Shanbhag

In March, I posted a photo essay on the Flower Sellers at the Dadar Flower Market. These beautiful people, with little material belongings, seemed so content with their lives. That left a lasting impression. Continue reading “Flower Sellers at the Ramnathi Temple, Goa”

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