Sunday, May 27, 2007

Holy Places, Farms, and Tiny Balls of Shit

Bandipur Travel Program Development Trip:

The town of Bandipur. Tina and Yanik, the other two summer Passage Program coordinators, and I went on a two day program development trip here this week. We are going to bring our students there for four days this summer. The town is charming, and the locals have even made their main bazaar pedestrian only, which has transformed the place from another dusty loud market area to a quiet evening playground for children. I will have more on this place in July, when we go with the students.

I climbed up the big hill north of Bandipur on our last day there for sunrise. I actually made it up there before the sun. It was very peaceful. This is a bell hanging next to the Tanimai temple on top of the hill, taken in the pre-dawn light.

The Spring of Enlightenment:

The trail from the road up to the Chumig Changchup (Spring of Enlightenment). I spontaneously decided to go for a short little pilgrimage up to this very holy meditation place of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), on our way back from Bandipur. I had to wait awhile for a bus, and ended up hitching a 3 hour ride on the top of a Nepal Oil Corporation Tanker truck up to Daman. I got up before sunrise to make the 30 minute hike to the spring from the lodge. The place is known as Rikeshwar to the Hindus, who associate any figure holding a trisul (trident), like Padmasambhava does, with Siva.

The lower side of the small Chumig Changchup gompa (monastery). I had some better photos but I deleted them, which really irritated me for about 3 seconds, but I let it go, realizing that I'd have to just go back and take more photos later. After all, it's only about 4 hours from Kathmandu.

The face of Padmasambhava in the rock face above the holy spring, which is said to have spontaneously emanated by itself. It is in this little indention that he is said to have spent some time in meditation retreat as he was on his way up to Parphing in the Kathmandu Valley. The story I was told is that after attaining a meditative realization, he took his purba (ritual dagger) and jabbed it down into the cliff. From that spot a spring spontaneously began to flow. He then climbed up on top of the hill and ritually subjugated the local female spirits, binding them by oath to protect the Buddhadharma (teachings of the Buddha) and all that uphold it in that place. It then became a sacred spot ideal for meditation retreat.

A self portrait, taken on top of the oil tanker on the way up to Chumig Changchup.

Farm Life:

Typical terraced farming in the hills of rural Nepal. The Nepalis have been experts at hand-carved terraced farms for centuries.

Here some resourceful Nepali hill farmers have taken bamboo staves and made a vast latticework over their terraced fields. Cucumbers, which grow very quickly and take over a large amount of land (and rot on the ground if you don't pick them in time), will climb up to the top of the lattice and spread over it in a few weeks. At that time, the farmer can just walk under the lattice and pick the vegetables as they hang down.

While staying in Bandipur we took a day hike to a local Magar village, Ramkot. It is famous for its traditional round houses with thatched roofs. In the village, which was quite dry, there was a good bit of intentionally cultivated ganja (cannabis, marijuana, hemp) growing nearby animal pens. I have been to a number of small farms in this country, and many of them harvest the mature buds off of the ganja plants. They take these buds and grind them up, and then...
they mix it up with hay and leaves as a medicinal food for their water buffalo, cows, goats and sheep when they are having stomach problems (apparently it cures indigestion, appetite problems, constipation and loose motion). It is technically illegal to grow it in Nepal, but it is overlooked for the small farmers.

On the way back from Ramkot, I noticed these little guys having a rolling good time in a pile of cowshit on the trail. These are dung beetles (scarab beetles) preparing some sweet evening snacks to bring home.

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