Monday, Tuesday, Happy Buddha

On our hike down from Phousi Hill this morning, we noticed that many of the Buddhas were labeled with signs like “Monday Buddha” and “Thursday Buddha.” In fact there was a Buddha for every day of the week!

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This inspired a little song, that was then stuck in my head for the remainder of the day:

Sunday, Monday, Happy Buddha,
Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Buddha,
Thursday, Friday, Happy Buddha,
Saturday, What a Buddha,
Meditatin’ all week with you.

After the Buddhas, we saw the main attraction of this side of the hill, the imprint of the Buddha’s foot.

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Space Artichoke

Seema would never have forgiven us if we didn’t make the pilgrimage to the Lotus Temple, the most famous Baha’i House of Worship in the world. It receives more visitors per day than the Taj Mahal, a statistic to which we have helped contribute, given that we will not be seeing the Taj on this trip.

All of the tour guides are well-spoken young volunteers from around the world. After the tour, we walked around and enjoyed the peaceful environment. The breeze off the pools makes it a particularly pleasant place to spend a hot morning in Delhi.

Lotus Temple

Lotus Temple

Lauren explaining the Space Artichoke
Lauren explaining the Lotus Temple

More Mahabalipuram

We saved a few major sites for our second day in Mahabalipuram: Arjuna’s Penance and the surrounding mandapas, and the hillside featuring Krishna’s famous Butterball.

Arjuna’s Penance, built in the 7th century, is an impressive bas-relief carving with two very different interpretations:

  1. Arjuna is performing penance (or austerity) so that Shiva will give him the Parsupata, a powerful weapon that can kill gods, to use in the Mahabharata War.
  2. The figure performing the penance is actually Bhagiratha, who is summoning the goddess Ganga to the earth to wash away the sins of his dead relatives.

Arjuna/Bhagiratha is not the only figure engaged in self-humiliation: there is also a cat standing on one leg, his act of penance for a group of surrounding mice.

After checking out the carvings and nearby attractions, we made another visit to the fabulous veg thali/chapatti vendor that we found on our first day and then had to get indoors for some A/C. It is much hotter in Tamil Nadu than Karnataka! Late this afternoon, we’ll head to the Chennai airport by car and then back to Bangalore.

Kenny and a mandapa
Kenny explains one of the mandapas near Arjuna’s Penance

Arjuna's Penance
The intricate carvings of Arjuna’s Penance

Krishna's Butterball
No tourist can resist this cheesy shot with Krishna’s Butterball, a huge rock precariously balanced on a hillside

Banana split
Relaxing in the A/C with a cryptic crossword and ice cream. Our waiter was incredulous when Kenny ordered the banana split, and laughed when he delivered it. We couldn’t figure out what was so funny. It was delicious.

Changu Narayan

Today we hiked from Bhaktapur to a Vishnu temple on a hill called Changu Narayan. We were fortunate to arrive at the temple before the rain, but once we got there the heavens opened up and we were stuck for a while. More on our adventure later, but for now some pretty pictures (full Changu Narayan photo set here):

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Chad gad yah, chad gad yah… (I had this song stuck in my head for most of our walk)

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Detailed wood carvings on the main temple. The carvings on the roof struts show the ten incarnations of Vishnu.

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An elephant with great eye makeup

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Kenny chatting with a local student, who told us a bit about the temple while we waited out the rain

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Swayambhunath

We rose early this morning to beat the heat and the crowds for our walk to Swayambhunath, a temple complex on a hill in northwestern Kathmandu. The hill’s most famous feature is a stupa that has been completely overrun by monkeys. Being a big fan of monkeys, I was excited to check it out. I had never seen a monkey temple before, although I heard that monkeys once piloted a ship from here to Monkey Island!

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The early morning walk to Swayambhunath

To our surprise, the monkey sightings started as we arrived at the foot of the hill, and continued all the way up the long staircase to the stupa. I had fun playing wildlife photographer, snapping as many action shots of the primates as I could get. At times it was even more fun to watch the tourists react to the monkeys than to watch the monkeys themselves.

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Monks and other devotees circling the stupa and spinning the prayer wheels

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Tourist kitsch for sale at the top of the hill

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This monkey seemed particularly curious about the nutrition facts on his carton of juice

We saw even more monkeys as we made our way down the other side of the hill. The staircase that we descended dropped us off directly opposite where we had started, so we walked back around the hill and then continued on to Thamel. Along the way, we passed several smaller pagodas and shrines, which exist in high numbers in this holy district of Kathmandu.

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Mischievous monkeys

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Kenny and me under the prayer flag canopy

The Monkey Temple is certainly very touristy, but definitely an essential part of any visit to Kathmandu. Tomorrow we’re planning to follow the LP’s Kathmandu walking tour, and then move on to Bhaktapur in the afternoon.

Sikh Temple

Our first New Delhi sightseeing stop was an impressive Hindu temple – unfortunately, no photos allowed.

Next was the Bangla Sahib, more commonly known as “the Sikh Temple” by tourists. The temple complex is awe-inspiring, with its beautiful white buildings and golden dome surrounding a large ritual pool. Female visitors are asked to cover their heads (Meera had warned me to bring a scarf) and all are asked to leave shoes at the entrance. Normally the shoe requirement would be no problem, but on this 37 degree day in Delhi, the ground was hot!

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