Caroline Letrange

Caroline Letrange Bring your bag to travel on the summit of the Himalayas and Kilimanjaro ! Nepal, Tibet, India, Bouthan, Mustang, Kilimanjaro... Travel to regions among the most beautiful. Discover photos and advice before booking your trip.

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NEPAL: Visit of Bouddhanath

Par Caroline Letrange :: 18/06/2007 à 1:47 :: Cultural Adventure

What a beautiful visit !! Bouddhanath is a very beautiful place where religiosity and serenity are very deep. I love this place!

The stupa of Bouddhanath, center of Tibetan Buddhism, is only 8 km from Kathmandu and the atmosphere is radically diffrent here. It is one of largest the stupa in the world with its 6meters top. In 1979 the site has been registered with the world inheritance by the UNESCO. Since 1953, the Tibetans refugees who fled Tibet, decided to settle around this wonderful site which was quickly regarded as a "small Tibet".

Around the octagonal base of the stupa, there is a long line of prayer wheels that all visitors make turn so that the quotation engraved in metal "Om Mani Padme Um" rises with the rotational movement. On the site, surrounding the stupa, plenty of small traditional shops selling Tangkas, spices and food are opened around the circular place. Many Tibetans leave here and the numbers of temples and gompas (monasteries) around call us with meditation. Butter lamps are lit by the believer and thousands of flags of prayers are floated with the wind, sending mantras to the gods.

The site was built by king Manadeva on the recommendations of the goddess Mani Jogni. Eyes of the Buddha are painted on the 4 square faces of the stupa to take care on the human kind and deliver prosperity. Between the eyes, the eyebrows symbol as the sign of holiness. Then as your eyes goes to the top of the stupa, you can see various levels that indicates the layer before reaching the Nirvana and finally the parasol, symbol of the Buddha.

This place touch you in your soul. You can feel the faith and the quiteness in every stone. The colors, the flags of prayers, the slow sway in the crowd which turns around the Stupa to revere Bouddah while the prayer wheels are turned by the people ... all this make you feel as if you were a part of it. This place is really amazing !

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NEPAL: Patan, Ancient City

Par Caroline Letrange :: 18/06/2007 à 1:49 :: Cultural Adventure

Patan, the royal city !

In the south of kathmandou, about 6 km from inner kathmandu, you can discover Patan, the old royal city built in the south side of the Bagmati river. The old city  has the name Lalitpur, the City of the Beauty or, the city with the gilded roofs and for its inhabitants, Lalita Patan, the splendid city.

But i am not telling you about patan itself. you may find excellent descriptions of Patan in all the good books of history or tourist guides.

Then what am I talking about ? I'm gonna try make you discover Patan through anecdotes. Might give you more pleasant thing to read without beeing bored ?

Nevertheless, let me give you some infos about the city itself. Patan is an expansion of Buddhist temples and stupas set up around the royal palate. The various numbers of ancient Buddhist stupas makes Patan the oldest Buddhist city in the world. The city was very famous between the 16th and the 18th century and becomes an important artistic center, highlighting the Newari craft industry. The main palace, partly destroyed during an earthquake in 1934, has been rebuilt. This royal palace is divided into 3 huge yards and the massive gilded door, leading you to the yards, is kept by 2 imposing stone lions.

And then, here are the expected anecdotes :

In the main yard of the royal palace, called Mulk Chowk and built in 1868 a weird sacrifice accurs. Every year, during Dashain, the sacrifice of 108 animals takes place there ; actually, 108 animals per day during approximately 10 days ! but the number of sacrifices is less and less observed.

Why such a sacrifice ? and why 108 animals ? This sacrifice is carried out in honor of Kali. This god is supposed to have 108 incarnations, therefore they are 108 animals, incarnations of Kali, that will be sacrificed.

Animals are decapitated with an axe in one shot only. If the torturer misses his strike does not cut the head, he  is supposed not to be able to reach the nirvana. Then it is hightly recomanded to cut the head with a nice blow done with an incisive sabre or a big axe. The blood of the animals is then sprinkled on the walls around the temple dedicated to the god. two representations of gods are keeping the door of the temple : Ganga, resting on a tortoise and Yamuna, a crowned crocodile at her feet. Ganga represente the river Gange, the crowned river and Yamuna is the sister of the God of hells.

Facing with the Royal Palace, a column stone has the represenation of king Yoganerendra Malla on its top. His body is protected by a cobra raising up itself on its body with, on its head, a small bird. The legend says that the king is stil alive and as soon as the bird will take-off the cobra's head and fly towards the palate, the king will then be considered as dead. At this very moment, the end of the world will begin.

Then the colossal elephants which keep the entry of the temple of Vishwanath, finishing a whole line of temples of various styles, will leave their stone gangues to get towards the water of the Manga Hiti  fountain located opposite to the temple. At the elephant will start moving the world will disapear forever !

Manga Hiti fountain

The fountain has three spouts hones representing crocodile heads. The fountain receives its water directly of the Himalayas without passing through the urban system of water distribution is supposed to provide pure and holy water. It is said that you can drink this water without getting ill ; i did not expereinced the legend and did not test the veracity of this alleged purity !

The temple of Tank Narayan, easily recognizable thanks to Geruda, the vehicle of Vishnu * which faces him, is astonishing because it was built of only one holding in the stone.

*Each god has a vehicle, his means of transportation, to travel. As you can identify the mean of transportation, then you can put a name on the god venerated. Geruda is a half-man, half-bird vehicle of Vishnu.

The temple of Krishna Mandir is decorated with sexual representations. During the old days, the couples used to celebrate their wedding still they were very young. Then, they were tought about sexuality through the sexual decorative representations on these temples. The representions always start with an animal posture: a lion with a woman, in order to remain the young couple that we only imitate nature in the representation of sexuality. Other postures being carried out are between men and women.

Krishna is regarded as the god of love. It is a god whom I is supposed to be very lucky or very powerful (strong ?) because it has 108 women and approximativly 16 000 girlfriends!!

In old tradition, this god is venerated as the god of work... because it is very occupied with its numerus wifes  !!

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NEPAL: What about Gods ?

Par Caroline Letrange :: 18/06/2007 à 1:51 :: Cultural Adventure

On Kathmandou Durbar Square, gods are almost alive there !

You cannot visit Kathmandu without visiting the Kathmandou Durbar Saquer. Let me give you some useful indications about Dubar :  there are 3 Durbar squares in the Kathmandu valley. Durbar Kathmandou, Durbar Patan, beyond the river Bagmati, and Durbar Baktapur.

You may find lots of infos about Dubar on internet then lets talks here about the gods living In Dubar Kathmandu and do a short visit of the monuments around monuments.
Lets have a look at : the Hanuman Temple (the monkey god), the terrble god Kal Bhairav and the living godess, Kumari

1 Hanuman, the monkey god

get a little walk out of the center of Dubar Square and get to the Hanuman Dhoka Temple. The entry is prohibited to tourist and you will not be allowed to get in. His body is surmounted by a red platform and his face is covered with a thick layer of Sindur, a red dust, also used to apply Tikka, the red point place between the eyes, mixed with seneve oil, a mustard seed.
This god removes the pains and carries out the wishes. He also supports military successes. Every morning, the believers offer rice, money or small bits of paper where wishes are written.

On the top of the entry door of the temple, god Krishna and has human and tantric representations. Around Krishna, his human representation with its two favorite and, on the right, king Prata Malla and his wife. This temple was used for unfolding of the ceremonies of crowning.

It is also in this temple that is held the Dashain animals sacrifices (see Ticket: Durbar, royal city).

2 - Kal Bhairav, the terrifying god

Not far from there, dont miss the astonishing statue of Bhairav the Black!

creepy God Crowned with death's-heads, having large eyes and pairs of arms drawn up towards the sky. In this hands a sword, a scalp, an axe, a shield and at his feet, a human dead body ...

But why such a flood of terror that leaves us, the dudy tourist that we all are, a little perplexed ? In fact this god is the incarnation of Shiva god in his destroying appearance to "awake" the unfaithful human, to frighten him and let him face his own ignorance, symbolized by the dead body. Never lie in front of Kal Bhairav god, or you will instantly die !!

Take along your reckless kids to this god,  sure that they will no longer lie any more !

This statue was found in a field in the north of Kathmandu in the 18th century and has been placed here.

3 - Kumari, the Godess living room

A venerated girl a such alive god...!

Indeed Kumari is a very girl élévée with the row of alive goddess, before her irremediable fall like a simple mortal. This goddess lives in her palate of Newari style built with the 18eme century. Kumari is the representation of Parvati (woman of Shiva, that you can see with the balcony of the temple facing the temple of Kumari) or of Durga (see ticket on Dashain), another form of Parvati... yes, I know, all these gods with all their incarnations, they diverting, but, one is made there good a little with long...

This girl is called Kumari royal during all her short period of deification, to be different from other Kumari, déchues. Why rise with the row in goddess this girl, the legend tells that a king received the Taleju goddess, in the shape of a very beautiful woman, in order to play the charts, the day when it wished it éperduement. But Couroussée, the goddess disappeared and promised never not to return. The king begged the return of the goddess who agreed to reach her request but returns in the shape of a young untouchable virgin.

Today, the goddess is selected among girls exit of the clan Sakya (clan of the blacksmiths) towards the 4 years age. She is then examined and will have to comprise the 32 distinctive signs of the Buddha; I deliver some of them to you: to have eyes of cow (beautiful and lengthened like those of the eyes of cow), a skin comparable with the softness of the bark of Boddhi Tree, the tree under which the Buddha preached, to have the loops of hair turning towards the line, to have the eyebrows which are rejoingnent with the top of the nose...

Poor girl will have finally will subject itself to a judicious ritual to frighten it it will be locked up in a part complétement black in which hang to heads sanguinolantes decapitated animals. If Kumari does not stumble and no sign of fear expresses, it will be regarded as the new alive goddess. Finally after a small meeting of choice of clothing (it must find, among various scattered samples, of the fabrics of old Kumari) and a blessing of the astrologer, Kumari is officially declared goddess.

Consequently, it saw reclue world in its temple and cannot touch the ground of its feet; she then is transported or conveyed in a tank with the top of the ground at the time of her rare public appearances at the time of the festivals.
But attention, as soon as a drop of blood leaves its body (wound or other), Kumari loses its statute of goddess it becomes a simple mortal and will be replaced by a Kumari news.

From this moment, it can turn over in its family and marry. But in the facts, the families badly accept this former goddess, the applicants with the marriage fear death if they bind with old Kumari, the idleness and the statute of divinity of very a 4 year old girl until her approximately 12 years modify its perception of the life considerably and to become again simple "human" is often difficult to consider spychologiquement. For numbers among they, all these factors push, sometimes, some of these girls to be finished in the prostitution.

Do not hesitate to find you in this temple around approximately 15 hours for, in exchange of a few rupees, to see Kumari throwing you a glance scornful the top of one of the windows of its monastery. But attention, photographs prohibited!!

As I did not have the right to photograph Kumari,
I made stereotypes with Saddhus outside the temple

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NEPAL : does the Yéti exist ?

Par Caroline Letrange :: 18/06/2007 à 2:05 :: Cultural Adventure
The yéti is a myth which fascine, legend or reality?

Religious rites are part of the everyday life both Nepali and Tibetan people. Monasteries or "gompas" are religious centers, places of medidation and teaching place of Buddhist philosophy. The myths and the legends make them also part of the sacred texts even if you can never distinguish legends from reality.

When you visist Nepal, get to Pangboche Monastery on your way to Everest base. Getting to  Ama Dablam after the Capital of the Sherpas, Namche Bazar, this monastery hides a treasure that the legend nourished during many years: the Yéti one. Indeed, the monastery holds the relics of what is regarded as those of Yéti !

View of Ama Dablam and in the very background,
Everest and Lhotse

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It is with the XV eme century that the "Yeh-teh" or "yeh-tch", "the man of the rocks" as calls it the Tibetans, for the first time evoked and is described not an European. Then English missions, in exploration in the area describe gigantic prints in snow and a sihouette of very big size moving on the heuteurs. They are the Westerners who popularized the legend of the "Abominable man of snows" or "Migyu" as calls it also the populations Tibetans!

According to legends' come from Tibet and Sikkim and brought back by Sherpas, Yéti would be presented in 3 distinct forms:
  1. a man of very big size which devours the cattle, it is the "dzu-tch"
  2. A monkey with the russet-red peeling of less size
  3. and another monkey, nearer to human appearance, covered of hairs and considered to be aggressive; it is our Yéti, the "Mih-tch" or "Meh-teh"
Several theories are advanced as for the existence of this mysterious animal: a giant Orang-outang (really?) or the "homme of Peijing" this monkey which the apprence approaches the man and who would have taken refuge in the mountains (oops believe you in it?) or an ancestor of the man of Néandertal which would have taken refuge in the hostile and moved back habitâts of the Himalayas to protect (Jurassic Park is back!!). Go the last theories lean for a large monkey of the family of Gibbon or Orang-outang (the revoilà) which would have evolved/moved to adapt to its new environment.

Lets be serious for a while ... Lets put feet on the ground, the scientists have shown that all these relics were fake. Then the relics are not,  the footsteps, a bear one, the sclap of Yéti held by the monastery of Khumjung would be in fact a goatskin... and still no photographs of the  beast  !

Finally, Without dreams and legends, life would be quite dull, sure ? Go back to my favorite book ... "Tintin in Tibet" ! Cool ...!

Get to everest base camp ?

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