Songshan Tsu Huei Temple.
|Bodies burn on cremation ghats|
|Boys drag coffin, man tends to the fire|
I wrote the poem below as I sat on the banks of the Bagmati, who's flow eventually reaches the Mother Ganges, while watching four bodies turn from what was once a mother or father, brother or sister, son or daughter, into a pile of ash. At one of the ghats, a funeral had just begun and I watched as all the rituals were carried out. I watched as the female's body was placed atop the wood pile by wailing family members. I watched as all of her clothes, all of the flower garlands around her neck, were removed and thrown into the river. I watched as flames gathered and soon engulfed her body. I listened to the sound of her head exploding from the pressure of the brain boiling...I watched as young children played and splashed in the river's water, where ashes were falling like waterfalls from the platforms. I watched as teenage boys waded up the river, dragging behind them uncovered coffins.
|Boy plays as offerings from the funeral float by|
|Family members lower body onto pile of wood|
As Pico Iyer said, "...The first great joy of traveling is simply the luxury of leaving all my beliefs and certainties at home, and seeing everything I thought I knew in a different light, and from a crooked angle...The sovereign freedom of traveling comes from the fact that it whirls you around and turns you upside down, and stands everything you took for granted on its head. If a diploma can famously be a passport (to a journey through hard realism), a passport can be a diploma (for a crash course in cultural relativism). And the first lesson we learn on the road, whether we like it or not, is how provisional and provincial are the things we imagine to be universal."
|Sitaram Baba & his disciple in their cave|
|Village settling (14,000ft) at the base of Manaslu|
|Sadhu in his cave, Pashupatinath|
|Check out the Sadhu's dreads coming out the door on the left........|