Friday, April 27, 2007

In Celebration of New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival: Parades!

Dustin' off the mitts after a bit of climbin'.

Oh I am missing my Jazzfest these days!

Although my experience of parades and religious processions of various sorts in Nepal cannot compare to what I've witnessed (and done) on the streets of New Orleans during the magnificent celebration of the pre-Lent carnival anticipating Mardi Gras, two parades last week reminded me of the fun of getting out in the street, maybe a little drunk, to beat some drums and yell and throw things at God for whatever reason, in whatever form, may it be Bacchus or Rato Macchendranath or the Buddha.


Shot taken from my balcony looking north towards the Kathmandu Valley. A line of about five hundred Newari villagers from nearby Baregaon coming to make offerings to the images of the Buddha in our monastery. The villagers have recently erected a new stupa (reliquary mound built as a basis for worship for future practitioners), and to commemorate the great even they walked on an all-day long procession to all of the surrounding villages to have darshan (holy vision) of the images of the Buddhas and other dieties and to make offerings to gain merit.

The local lovelies: Newar women wearing their traditional black saris.

Beat them drums! The wicker tray on the ground is the pile of offered rice, coins, food, candy, candles, incense, etc. given by the villagers in circuit.


The chariot of the red Karunamaya (popularly known as Rato Macchendranath).

The wheels of the chariot go round and round... slowly, some days not at all. When Karunamaya comes to your neighborhood, it is important for your family to provide a feast for all visitors (friends and relatives from other places), and to generally party. I dropped by the large family of some Newar Dharma friends of mine, and was forced to eat a plate of 6 kinds of blessed food from a ritual and then a 10 course feast tray. If I hadn't been vegetarian, it would have been a 14 course meal!

Ganesh, the obstacle clearer, is probably the most ubiquitous deity dwelling in the Kathmandu Valley, and here he is (as is common) enshrined on the streetside in the form of a rock that resembles an elephant head.

A local village low-caste girl (who I mistook as a boy at first) waiting by the pile of offered food as the offering procession goes by. She patiently sat there until the monks gave her some of the food, and she happily skipped away. A beautiful but hardened face for the young age.

Here the great chariot has run amok into the neighborhood homes, and a crane is pulling it loose from the roof. The locals won't fix the chariot until it falls completely over (which is as dangerous as it sounds, people die in this festival all the time), so it is still marooned in Jyatha Bahal as far as I know, inching along as the locals heave on the massive ropes, taking windows and watertanks with it.

A lovely stupa in pastel colors, near the Sundhara (Golden Waterspout) in Jyatha Bahal, Patan.

Every festival has its vendor of gaudy Chinese toys! This guy is probably wearing all white as he is in mourning for one of his parents.


Living in the monastery has truly tested my personal boundaries. I thought living with my brothers in a New Orleans Mid-city shotgun house was bad. I no longer have any privacy at all. The little monks come in my room whenever they like (I can't lock it as they have to come through to gain access to the roof). They take small things as they like (vitamins, incense, lighters, matches, water bottles, candles, clippers, razors, etc., which can be aggravating at times. I can't blame them, though. They share everything and don't realize that everyone doesn't always share everything. Anyway, a few of the monks found my camera and had some fun, about which I didn't discover until uploading the photos on the computer. Luckily for us, they took a couple of good ones, including this glamour photo of Rabjam, age 14.

The monk Ratna Mangalam, one of my best English students, teaching one of the new monks from Ilam, Nepal, how to read the Tibetan script.

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