Saturday, October 25, 2014

My visit to Lord Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu

Embarked on a journey for Darshan of Lord Pashupatinath in Nepal recently. Below is the hurried travelogue of the holy journey. I will add pics and maybe videos to it soon.
23 Oct 11:05 pm – Boarded train no. 15008/LJN MUV express from Lucknow Junction station.
24 Oct 6:30 am reached Gorakhpur station on scheduled time
Got out of station and without waiting left for Sunauli the last stoppage before Indo-Nepal border on Indian side. Gorakhpur is not exactly famous for courteousness or honesty so I was expecting neither but the driver was a rather nice guy and we reached Sunauli in nearly two hours. The driver charged me Rs. 1500/-.  I was carrying my pass port as an id proof but neither the Indian immigration people nor Nepalese immigration people were interested in me since I was an Indian. I went to both the offices to make sure I did not miss any paperwork. Paperwork is required only if you are carrying a vehicle with Indian license plate into Nepal. That could be tricky I was told.
I had no prefixed plans for onward journey into Nepal. Once you cross into Nepal you land into Bhairahwaha or Siddharthnagar. It is a much undeveloped town with very little facilities. From my knowledge gathered from internet and bits of info from travel agents I could make out that there was an airport at Bhairahwa and that I could get a ticket at one of the several airline counters.
I quickly changed money from a bearded Muslim guy who used his waistcoat pockets as his bank lockers. He quickly gave me Nepalese rupees at the rate of 1.6 Nepalese rupees per Indian Rupee. In Nepal Indian rupee is popularly referred to as IC and at least in Kathmandu IC is accepted as freely as Nepalese rupee but the catch is that they do not like big notes like 500 and 1000 rupee notes so I had taken along lots of 100 rupee notes though that proved to be quite cumbersome.
At Bhairahawa parking I again met the driver who had brought me in from Gorakhpur. He offered to take me to Bhairahwaha airport for another Rs.250/- so I agreed. Bhairahwa airport is really a joke of an airport but the Nepalese staff is extremely polite and helpful both the airline staff as well as the police. I went to the first airline I could spot which was Yeti Airlines. The man said the flights are full and my heart sank but then he asked for an id proof and I presented my passport to him and he said there was one last seat for Rs.3900 approximately. I told him to give me the ticket right away which he did along with a pack of biscuits. The security check was hilarious but the man was extremely courteous. There was no X-ray scan just frisking. After the security check I was ushered into a medium sized hall full of Indians and tourists from, as far as I could make out, France, Japan and USA.
In a few minutes a really tiny cute little plane from Yeti Airlines showed up. The ladder was so hilariously small I almost laughed. I looked more like a plane from World War II movies though it was, as I later found out, a rather newish production a Jet stream.
The airhostess was very very polite and in a few minutes we were airborne. I took the liberty of taking out my camera and photographing the Himalayan mountain range though my vision was blocked by the turbofan engine of the plane to a great deal. The pilot was a lady but she flew the plane most smoothly and with no jerks or pressure changes.
Soon it was announced that the plane was about to land. I was flummoxed because there seemed to me no open space for a runway. We were right on top of densely crammed together houses but a landing strip soon appeared and the plane landed smoothly.
I was anxious all the time for my checked in baggage but I soon spotted it in the cargo cage and requested the airline bus driver whether I could pick it up out of turn, he allowed me and soon I had my precious baggage in my hands. The bus driver was all praise for India and said “I love India!” to which I answered “I love Nepal!” so this was a good beginning!
The departures terminal was even shabbier then the Bhairahawah airport but the people again were very friendly. I took a prepaid taxi for Nepali rupee 500 to Pashupatinath temple. I wanted to have darshan as soon as possible but felt extremely tired. I was told the aarti would be 6 pm.
Now was the turn to find a hotel. I located a neat looking hotel belonging to Indians after seeing a couple of other hotels. This hotel was Hotel Maharaja Palace right on Tilganga road and what sealed the decision was that the Shikhar of Pashupatinath temple was visible from my room window.
I checked in and ate a hearty meal in the hotel’s restaurant which served vegetarian meals freshly cooked. I wanted to take a small nap but dozed off and slept for nearly an hour and a half. Then I quickly woke up bathed and wore a new dress and after wearing my slippers and leaving behind my mobile and camera set out for darshan. The taxis in Kathmandu charge rather exorbitantly though they are really the discarded Maruti 800 mini cars from India and very poorly upholstered. The minimum that I could negotiate with them was Rs.100 in Nepali currency for the shortest distance. I took one such taxi and he took me from a roundabout way to the entrance of Pashupatinath temple. It was early yet only about 4:30 pm so I spent a lot of time sitting in front of temple gate and counting beads. At about 5 pm I decided to enter the temple. The temple gates were open but the gate of Garbha Griha or sanctum sanctorum were closed yet. It may be mentioned here that non-Hindus are strictly not permitted inside the temple according to temple rules.
I lingered around the sanctum sanctorum and started counting my beads there and to my amazement I found the temple to be extremely beautiful. It is built in Pagoda style with gilded top and all the doors covered with solid silver sheets. Outside the sanctum sanctorum are two figures of kings of Nepal prostrating themselves before Lord Pashupathinath. The decoration all over the temple, which is mainly made of wood, is extremely intricate with great attention being paid to detail. Not a square inch of space is left undecorated. It is not advisable to carry eatables inside the temple as an army of monkeys is always on the lookout for exotic delicacies though they are well fed otherwise. The temple staff is extremely friendly unlike most temples in India. One is not allowed to go and touch the shivalingam and has to watch from a distance while aarti is performed. I stayed for a long time in the temple as I could not take my eyes off Lord Shiva and left only with a heavy heart but having a sense of being blessed by Lord Pashupatinath himself.
The darshan done and my job over I suddenly became very homesick and wanted to return back home the very next day. I tried my luck at Yeti Airlines which has an office on Tilganga Road but the lady told me that the morning flight at 9AM for Bhairahwa was full so I rushed off to Buddha Airline office half a km ahead. The guy was closing down the office but as a special favour he again checked his system and said there was one ticket left for next day’s flight but it was held by an agent. I again ran to Yeti Air’s office and pleaded with the lady for a ticket for next day’s flight but she said everything was booked out. I returned crestfallen to the hotel but mentioned the fact of my not finding the ticket to the hotel owner. He immediately arranged for a ticket for me and there I was booked back to India the next day!
25th October 2014 – I could hardly sleep and walked down to the temple in the morning. It was so peaceful and serene. I did not enter the temple though just bowed before Lord Pashupatinath. Then I walked down to shops selling Prasad and flowers. What I actually wanted were pictures of Lord Pashupatinath.
I went back to the hotel and had some breakfast with owner of the hotel.
Soon I checked out. The waiter brought me a taxi which charged me Rs. 500 Nepali.
Reached domestic airport. By mistake I had brought along a Swiss knife key ring so the security guy plucked off the Swiss knife and handed over the keys though very politely.
It was ok with me! Rules are rules!
I waited and then went for security check which was better than the one at Bhairahawah complete with and X-ray machine. After security check I found myself in a large hall crammed full with people but the vibes were good all around, not something one experiences generally in India. After about fifteen minutes we were ushered into the airline bus.
Buddha air ATR was in an excellent shape and the two airhostesses were extremely polite and helpful.
Soon we took off.
Flight took only 35 minutes!
At Bhairahwaha luggage collection was easy. Most passengers left for Lumbini. The Nepali drivers and rickshaw pullers started asking for insane amount of money to take me to Sunauli the Indian border. I decided not to co-operate with them. I waited for an Indian taxi but none turned up. Soon I saw an educated Nepali gentleman turn up in a battered jeep. I requested him to drop me to the border he agreed but the Nepali taxi drivers started a verbal duel with him too. He scolded them severely and said to them that they were standing on the land where Buddha was born and they had the bad manners to misbehave with guests from abroad who had come on pilgrimage. This cooled them down a bit but I do not think this is going to change anyone. Perhaps they had very strong reasons to do what they were doing. The gentleman had mentioned at the outset that he would not be able to go all the way to Sunauli but would drop me at a place where I could get a bus. It did not work out though since all buses were crammed full and I ended up paying a taxi guy just about the same amount the guys at the airport were asking.
I managed to reach Bhairahawa border taxi stand. A taxi guy approached me for drop to Gorakhpur for only Rs.1100 it was a large air conditioned taxi so I agreed. The guy was very nice and dropped me at Gorakhpur railway station. After making inquiries I understood I was not going to get an inch of space in any train so I decided to drive down to Lucknow in a taxi. It was tough almost 300 km and more than half the day gone.  Finally I found a taxi at the station itself which agreed to take me to Lucknow for Rs.6000 including toll tax expenses with I later realized were almost Rs.450.
The taxi driver drove like a man possessed and we were in Lucknow in almost five hours which was excellent for the areas we drove through!

So it was back to Lucknow safe and sound...God willing will go to Lord Pashupatinath once more!