A Wedding: The Feast of Love

I am thrifty. I think thirty times (ok, that was an exaggeration to relate thrifty and thirty) a lot before I spend a hundred rupees. When my expenditure increases, I get worried. Therefore, I say to my parents often, “My wedding will sure be expensive for sure. How can we cut expenses?”

“By not including alcohol in your feast,” Dad says.

I like the idea for I am a teetotaller but I offer a radical solution. “Let’s not have the feast at all.”

“Don’t say that,” Mom disagrees. “We have attended weddings of hundreds of couples. We can’t exclude them.”

I shut my mouth and start thinking the solution. The thriftiest solution would be a temple wedding and no party hence. But my parents disagree to that. Society has an more important role in helping me and my parents the mode of the feast.

Society criticizes someone who does not conduct a feast. Some complaints are:
“Falana* did not call us in his wedding.” (*Falano is a word used to indicate someone without mentioning their names. Falana is masculine. Falani is feminine.)
“Falani bosated her son earns crores. She did not give a party on his wedding!”
“Can’t they spend a little of what they earn to feed their neighbours?”

But people complain everytime. They make a fuss if they are not called. The invited ones complain about the variety and quality of the food. If you don’t include alcoholic beverages, they say, “That was like a Pooja, not a wedding Bhoj.” If somebody pukes because of excessive drinking, others holler about the inclusion of “hard” drinks. You can’t satisfy everybody.

But there might be more to to the feast. Jantis plus the relatives, neighbours and friends who could not attend the main ceremony are yet to celebrate the union of the two families. The groom and his family invites them before the actual ceremony on a feast called the Preetibhoj. The compound word is derived by combining Preeti (love) and Bhoj (feast). An English term “Reception” has become popular but I like the translation of Preetibhoj, “Feast of Love”, more.

The Feast of Love is the first formal gathering for the couple. Where a guy and a girl walking together in the street can be a taboo, the Bhoj helps people identity the groom and the bride as a couple.

Dowry, huge feasts and high expense make me feel that appeasement of the society is more important than the real status of the community. So, people fall in debt to try making others happy, who unfortunately are never going to be satisfied.

***

The Feast of Love of my neighbours is held at a party palace not too far from my home. Therefore, there won’t be much problem when we return. My family goes with many of other neighbours. Once we reach the party palace at about six in the evening, one aunty says, “People around here must be happy. Music and feast everyday!”

We have an excellent proverb: “गुण पनि धेरै खायो भने तितो हुन्छ ।” (Translation: If you eat too much sugar, it gets better.) Too much music and partying is hated by the people of the surrounding. They shut their doors and windows, shut their ears and mutter curses! Some curses come up on Twitter. Most get welled-up.

Another aunty says what I had in mind. We enter the one storeyed, zinc plate covered party “palace” which has been divided into two sections. A second wedding feast is taking place on the other side. The feast has begun, people are clicking photos with the bride and the groom, eating, drinking, dancing and are everywhere!

Children are running. No parents can control them. Forming suitable groups, they go here and there. They sometimes knock upon elders, sometimes upon waitiers and sometimes break glasses spiling cold drinks to the floor. While the owner is earning, the workers are burning!

In almost every wedding I have attended, I get to see unhappy faces of the waiters and helpers. While the host and the guest are enjoying, they are in grief that they have to work.
It’s natural to be sad that you can enjoy, it’s human to be jealous. Even anger can be justified because of the activities of people and their children. The food might be good, the drink might be excellent, the music may be loud, but the owners and managers have failed in making their employees smile.

Had they been in the West, their Party Palaces may not run for long with unhappy workers. Because we only care about the food and the behaviour of the owner(s), they’re still doing good. However, in long run, they must pay attention to keep their employees happy. They must sort out the problems.

But still I feel bad for people who are sad. Will they ever be happy?

***

The food items that are used as starters are good but heavy. They fill my stomach even before I reach the dining hall for the main course. I don’t feel like eating but I’m attracted by chicken and fish, which I don’t usually get to eat at home.

I make my stomach believe that it can accommodate more. I take about half an hour before I eat everything except a few bones. Will my stomach digest it? I doubt. So, I decide to boost digestion by chewing up antacid tablets as soon as I reach home.
I get a remedy in the form of yogurt. It’s cold but refreshing. My stomach already feels better.

Meanwhile, people take more than they require and leave food on their tables. Just as at bride’s during the wedding ceremony, a lot of food fills the trash. My parents taught me never to throw food. Maybe their parents did not teach them, maybe they forgot or maybe they chose not to follow their parents’ advice.

***

The dance never attracts me. I shy away from the crowd listening to songs now dominated by Nepali over Hindi. “We now have a lot of “party” songs,” my sister says.

They are not Western-style Bollywood party songs, they are Nepali folk style party songs. (Sometimes, they are remixed, which I don’t like.) I agree with my sister and we make a list of songs that are being played. We can count them on our fingers but it’s okay to have something than to have nothing.

The bride and the groom, their parents and relatives, neighbours and friends all dance together. I wish everyone stayed as happy as they are. I also wish they didn’t need a stimulant (alcohol) to make them happy.

At 9 o’clock, the music stops, the party palace prepares to close and we all prepare to leave. Kathmandu has no night life except at a few places. I sleeps after ten. I don’t know if it’s good or bad. As a tourist city, it’s bad but as we are a bunch of free and happy people who must sleep in time, I think it’s okay. We don’t want to be zombies!

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A Wedding (Part 2/4): The Groom’s House

(A Wedding is a single essay that I chose to break into 4 parts because of its length. This is the 2nd part. The feature photo was obtained from http://photos.merinews.com)

***

A pile of furniture items, plus a television arrive the groom’s house. The furniture set includes everything: a double-size bed, a sofa set, a glass table, a dining table, six chairs, the TV drawer, and a beautiful wardrobe. There is a problem. Where are they going to keep everything?

The groom’s house is not that small but renting two other flats have made it smaller. The porters do a good job of bringing the furniture set up to the terrace. They scatter the items all over, one after the other.

Dark clouds are hovering close to the hills. They have not hidden the sun but the cold wind is threatening to bring a downpour. I look at the groom’s house. I don’t see anyone. I find it a little strange. Where are all the people?

***

A couple of hours have passed. The clouds have darkened. My mom comes home from her work. She is curious. She opens the curtain and looks. “Who piled all those? And where are all the people?”

“Don’t know,” my sister and I say.
“It’s going to rain. If the furniture all get wet, they’ll damage soon.”

I look up again. It’s really strange. There is no hustle and bustle. What’s going on?

“Before my wedding, I’m going to sell everything and empty the house. A part of the expenses will also be covered,” I say, laugh and roll on my bed.

“What are you saying? Why would you do that?” Mom and sister are shocked and then they understand. “To avoid this situation?”

I reply with a nod. Mom starts laughing. I laugh more. Sister stops me.

“What would we do with the double furniture set?” I ask.

“One set for us, one for you and your wife. Don’t you understand?”

“No, I don’t. Why should the bride’s family should give everything to the groom? And why should a groom accept everything he is given? As if he does not have anything. As if they cannot buy anything on their own.”

“This strange new custom is making things difficult for the bride’s parents.”

“Exactly! They are not only sending off their daughter, they are also drowing themselves in debt in their old age. If they’re in their youth, we can expect them to earn again. How will they spend the rest of their life?”

Mom agrees. She understands the problems but can’t solve them. Neither can I, but point out another problem, “The bride’s parents send everything with their daughter so that the couple can easily separate from the family.”

“Yeah, she has everything already. She has every right to use her stuffs. She can also fight when others use her stuffs.”

“Couples also get lazy. They don’t have to work to earn anything. They don’t know the value of the stuffs.”
As I was preaching, I remembered that Mom too had got some furniture and stuffs from her parents. When I said that, Mom said, “But I left them in the home (in Terai). We had only a couple of utensils when we came Kathmandu. We earned everything one after the other. We didn’t expect anything from our parents.”

Will I expect anything from my parents once I get independent? Will bringing stuffs from my wife’s parents damage my self-esteem.

I can’t decide. The bride’s parents love their daughter, obviously. However, back in their mind they have other issues:

  1. showing off
  2. daughter’s security

“Showing off” is what Mom said “the strange new custom”. A part of our society is always better off. They can afford anything. Another part copies them. They don’t “cut their coat according to the cloth they have”. They borrow money and stuffs. They fall in debt. They show to the society that they are better than that uncle with the biggest house in the community.

I can’t describe the feelings parents go through when they send their daughters to someone else’s home. In rural areas, parents cannot meet their daughter for years. In some places, daughters-in-law have suffered for “not bringing enough dowry”. The groom’s family beat, burn and kill the bride. In urban areas, particularly in Kathmandu, such cases are rare. Daughters can visit their parents whenever they want. And the parents send away stuffs even if the groom opposes. Still, they are scared.

They are scared that their daughter may not get the love and affection she gets with them. They are scared that the mother-in-law and/or sister(s)-in-law may not stay in harmony for long. In their subconscious mind, they have implanted a thought that the bride and the groom may/will have to separate themselves from the family.

“Parents should teach daughters to be independent,” I say. “They should not show that their parents can do everything for them. They should also focus on their family’s integrity. They should not provide their daughters a backup for separation.”

Mom disagrees a little on my last statement. “They are not giving backup for separation. They do it thinking it is the best for their daughter. The bride should also take care of the husband’s parents as her own and she should not boast of what her parents gave. Her excessive pride can cause separation.”

We come to the same conclusion through different routes blaming the bride and her family completely and overlooking the problems that the groom and his parents might bring up. In almost every part of the world, a girl leaves her birth home at marriage. It is etched as one of the most important gender roles. Accommodation in the new home is always difficult. In absence of good facilitation, the bride may feel excluded and the rest of the family might ignore her. Both result in conflict.

Right now, however, we are looking at the dark clouds and the groom’s house again. The wind is howling. Mom decides to help them out. She flashes out amidst the clapping and sparkling clouds.

***

Wedding expenses have always bothered me. More often in the bride’s side. Groom and his family too have expenses but as my Mom says, “The only real expense is on feeding people. Actually, there is a net profit.”

The party begins the day (in some cases, a week) before the wedding. Usually, the day before the wedding, a Yagya is perfomed. Relatives of the groom, his neighbours and friends come to his home and take the Prasad.

The wedding reception is the occasion where the expenses are maximized. The same people who attend on the Pooja above, come to the reception as well but there is a substantial increase in the number of mouths, main course, desserts and beverages.

The net profit for groom comes with the “precioussss” yellow metal and papers that can be used instead of the metal. Both the bride and the groom receive a good amount of gold from both their parents. They again receive a hefty amount, in Kathmandu, during the reception.

***

The groom’s house is now covered by beautiful lights, almost as in Tihar. The family is exhilarated. A Laxmi is about to enter the home.

When I died

I had been sick for some time. My parents, wife and children were sitting around me with grim faces. I had already lived more than twenty five years of my years and I felt like I was going to die. However, I did not want to die young. So I remembered my parents, my wife, my children and everyone who had been dear to me. All of a sudden, I lost consciousness. I stopped remembering anything.

When I regained consciousness, a man dressed in black was standing before me. He had a pale face with a big mustache and huge beard. His eyes were hollow. He looked at me as if he was disgusted with me. He produced a whip from the thin air and lashed hard at me. Before I could cry, the whip had tightened around my throat. I struggled but in vain. He was too strong.

He rose above in the air and I was dragged behind him. I tried to free myself again but I feared that I would fall down. He dragged me up to the clouds. He stopped and looked at me with disdain. He said, “Do you want to see your world before I take you to mine?” His voice was deep and sounded like he was speaking through a hollow bamboo. That moment I knew that he was death. I nodded slowly in affirmation to his question. He then told me to look down and that I did.

The world looked tiny from that height but Death mystically zoomed it for me. He said, “Look at your family for the last time.” And my children were in front of my eyes.

They were crying. My body lay amongst them. I called them out. But they could not listen to me. I tried to touch them but could not. I could do nothing to console them. Sometimes later, they carried my body to the crematorium and it was cremated. The existence of my body had come to an end.

Death did something and the time ran pretty quickly. My family was not sad. My children were playing. My wife looked a little weak but she was smiling. “They have learnt to live without you now,” Death said. He then showed me images from all around the world. Poor and rich, happy and sad, stupids and geniuses, religious and non-religious, rulers and the ruled, he showed me all sorts of people. “Why do you think I showed you all these?”

I noticed that the whip had gone away from my throat but still I could not speak. He said, “Everyone I have showed you and every life in this world, everything in this universe will die one day. They can’t escape death.”

“You know you must die. Yet you are scared of Death. You never lived life to their fullest because of the fear. You were also more concerned about afterlife than the life you lived. You donated to the poor to make your afterlife better, so that you can rest in heaven and avoid hell after death. That was very selfish of you. You followed religions in the hope that the door to the heaven will be opened. You looked after your parents because the scriptures said you will be in heaven after your death.

“You have not done anything that will make other people’s lives better. Give to the poor to see their smiles. Take care of your parents with all your heart. Start thinking that good things you do will make someone happy, that those acts will create heaven in your life. Stop thinking that your good deeds will land you to heaven only after your death. Stop fearing hell. Understand that your bad deeds will create hell around you. You don’t need to die to see the hell. Stop fearing death. Death will come to you for sure.”

I opened my eyes. The sun had risen up high. I was neither sick, nor dead. I recalled everything the man in black robes said in the dream. I smiled, got off from my bed and went to meet my life. It was grinning ear to ear.

Monthly Feature 16: Midnight in Paris

The exam schedule came unexpectedly. There was not a month to study and I had no notes. I took risk. I wrote and wrote and wrote on my notebooks. After two weeks, I was fatigued. I decided to watch Midnight in Paris. 
The movie was in my watch list for about a month. And it absolutely refreshed my mind from the first second. The beauty of Paris and the light humour changed my mood, made me more energetic.

The best thing is Gil’s travels from 2010 to 1920s presenting the debate of better present versus better past. I am not writing much about the movie. I just want to share a couple of quotes from the movie (Source: IMDb).

This one is when Gil meets Hemingway for the first time.

Gil : Would you read it?

Ernest Hemingway : Your novel?

Gil : Yeah, it’s about 400 pages long, and I’m just looking for an opinion.

Ernest Hemingway : My opinion is I hate it.

Gil : Well you haven’t even read it yet.

Ernest Hemingway : If it’s bad, I’ll hate it because I hate bad writing, and if it’s good, I’ll be envious and hate all the more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.

And this is the one which I had previously shared on Facebook as well.

Nostalgia is denial – denial of the painful present… the name for this denial is golden age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one one’s living in – it’s a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.

In the end, Gil realises that people feel the past was golden because we think our present is painful. But if we look at the lives of  people in the past, their own lives were not easy. (For Gil 2010 was painful than 1920s in the beginning, when he is in 1920s, he knows that people thought Renaissance was the golden age.)

Director: Woody Allen

Rating: 9/10

(P.S.:​I have been busy for some months now. First there was a month long field tour. Then the report writing and then exams. I am in the middle of my exams but the immediate cause I have not been able to read or write anything on WordPress is the internet connection.)

The Mathematics of Love and Depression

Love: exciting, interesting. Synonymous to happiness. A feeling everyone wants to embrace.

Depression: dull, gloomy. Antonymous to happiness. A feeling everyone wants to aver.
How are they related? I’ll try doing so using three expressions.

1. Love = Depression

Presenting love and lost love as a cause of depression is popular in literature, movies and music. Is love really a cause of depression?
About three months ago, I read ‘Monsoon’ by Subin Bhattarai. In the novel, Subhan falls in love with Monsoon and falls into depression (twice) when she goes away from her. Lost love is a cause of depression in the novel.
I remember reading Chetan Bhagat’s “2 States” about two years ago. The male character, Krish falls into depression when his lover Ananya leaves him. A depressed character, whose girlfriend has left him, also appears in Bhagat’s another novel “Revolution 2020”.
“Ghumti ma na aau hai” is a popular Nepali song from the movie “Kumari”. It is a song sung by a boy who is in love with a girl who had been made Kumari (living goddess) but can not express his feelings because of the society. He asks her not to come to meet him as they might be bound by ties of love and they may have to cry alone when separated.
A lot of people write poems (Ghazals, Muktaks, etc.) mostly saying that love is something that gives tears. They say, “If you can, avoid loving anyone.”

With this we come to our second expression:

2. Love < Depression

When depression takes over someone, love dies slowly. The feeling of “one-sided love” may not die. People may not be able to forget their lovers who left them. But should love be restricted between two people?

Movies and literature have popularized the concept of love between two people, mostly a young man and a young woman. And that’s where the problem arises. Two people think they are the only people who love each other. That’s why when one leaves, the other feels that love has ended.
Whenever love ends, depression overcomes.

Subhan in ‘Monsoon’ has a family and decent friends. When Monsoon leaves, he is depressed. He detaches himself from his family and friends. He does not talk to his parents, and not even to his grandfather with him he is closer. He is not happy with his friends.
In his depression, he kills his love towards his friends and family.

Now, it’s time I discuss the third expression.

3. Love > Depression

Can love overcome depression?
I believe that only love can overcome depression. If you understand that there are a lot of people who love you, depression can be overcome. Sometimes the love of a single person can make a difference. (Euta manchhe ko mayale kati farak pardachha jindagima.)

When Subhan’s grandfather and friends realize that he is depressed the first time, they pull him out of his dark shell. It takes long, but he is able to overcome depression. And this is the only portion I liked about the novel.

“Love all, serve all,” is one thing preached by Eastern philosophers. I believe it is the key to happiness.

Monthly Feature 14: Is there problem in the world?

“The world does not seem to have any real problem.”
I read the comment as I was listening to a song on YouTube.

The song composed by A.R. Rahman was sung by students of Berkelee College of Music who belonged to different nationalities, religions and ethnicities. Yet they sang an Islamic devotional song together that has touched the hearts of thousands of people.

Each of us is different from the other. We should not be scared by the differences between us. Captain Paul says:

We must respect the differences we have. We must also be able to know that despite our differences, we have some similarities.

What really do we have in common? A lot. You just need to observe them carefully. One thing that I would like to discuss here, however is that we all want peace. Music is one form of art that has bound us since the beginning of time.

I love listening to songs of different religions. They have beautiful, meaningful words and soothing music (even if I don’t understand word.) They touch my soul. I feel my connection with the Being Supreme- the caretaker of all souls.

I have sung and listened Bhajans (Hindu devotional songs), I have listened (and cried with joy) listening to Buddhist hymns and Islam Sufis. These songs have taught me a lot of things: human culture, life and above all, humanity.

No song has taught me to disregard the Supreme Being. (Some pray Bhagwan, some Ram, some Krishna, some Buddha, some Allah, and some Khuda.) No song has taught me to kill others for fun. No song has taught me to cheat people. I have always learnt to be good to everyone and everything around me.

So, why are there disputes in the names of religions? All the religions in the world show path to the same Supreme Being called by different names. I intend to share a few other songs on YouTube that have touched my soul.

  1. Zariya – AR Rahman, Ani Choying, Farah Siraj – Coke Studio
  2. Phoolko aakhama by Ani Choying Dolma
  3. Bhagwan Timro – Ani Choying Dolma
  4. Tri Ratna

On this day of Saraswati Pooja–the day of the Hindu Goddess of knowledge, wisdom, art and music– I pray that our knowledge defeat the darkness of ignorance.

The day I reached the Birthplace of Gautam Buddha

I can’t believe almost one and a half month has passed since that fateful day because it is still fresh in my mind.

Mangsir 26, 2073 (December 12, 2016), was the day I was waiting for long. I had heard that during our field tour of Butwal-Palpa, we could go to their but I was not sure. Thanks to the teachers, I finally got to observe and walk on the Holy Land of Lumbini–the birthplace of Gautam Buddha.

Lumbini is in Rupandehi district, about 30 minutes drive from Bhairahawa, the headquarter of the district at the co-ordinates 27.484ºN and 83.276ºE in the Terai zone of Nepal. It has an area of (4.8 × 1.6) sq. km. and consists of several temples and monasteries.

It was a fine day at Masyam, Palpa. There sun was shining with its might. The hills were bright green. Some stripes of white clouds could be seen in the sky. We would first visit Semlar and Kalikanagar for our field work. Then we would visit Lumbini. Everyone was excited.

As we moved south towards Butwal, I noticed from the bus that the clouds were getting thicker. By the time we reached Siddhababa, the clouds covered the sun completely. I realized it was going to be cold.

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Fog being formed on the north of the Tinau River. Gives an idea on the cause of Sitlahar.

When people living in the hills think of Terai, they only think of the hot climate. However, Terai is a difficult place to live in. Just before Spring, (we call “Shishir” in Nepali), strong winds uproot trees, blow away roofs. In summer it is scorching hot. Hot air “loo” blows from Rajasthan, India and in winter it is bitterly cold due to “Sitlahar”. This “Sitlahar” occurs because the relatively warm air rising up from the rivers and lakes cool down when they reach the Siwalik hills. As a result, thick fog covers the Terai. Sun remains absent for weeks. The cold gets its hold slowly, killing people who are deprived of proper shelters, clothes and food.

Our field work was completed by half past eleven. It would take a little longer than an hour to reach Lumbini. We sang different melodies. Some of my friends danced on the bus. Everything was going on well until our vehicle was dragged into a case of accident by a local Bolero. The Bolero driver claimed that our bus had hit his vehicle on its front. Our driver denied and said that our bus had been hit on the back. The traffic police got involved, looked into the case but could not say if the vehicles had hit each other. In the end both were charged a fine of a thousand rupees. What a chaos on the way to the land where the preacher of peace was born! This incident not only tensed us but also got us late by an hour.

At 2 o’clock, we reached Lumbini Bus Park. At four, we had to return to the bus. As I said earlier, Lumbini was enveloped by cold dark clouds. Everything looked gloomy, except our hearts. Several structures were being constructed in the area under Lumbini Development Master Plan. We walked joyfully down the bus park through a bazaar. About two hundred metres down, I saw something I had never ever imagined: a canal.

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The structure on the far end gives the feel of a terminal. Also notice the foggy weather.

The first time I saw the canal at Lumbini, I was awestruck. Even those of my friends who had come here before had not seen it. We could see arc-bridges in across the canal from where we stood. As we went a little further, we saw motorboats. This astonished us again. Some took motorboats for the experience. I say for experience because they were not that fast and the canal is almost half a kilometer long. The motorboats were noisy, moved along the mid-canal as if zipping and unzipping a zipper and created huge ripples which hit the banks of the canal. At the end of the canal is a huge bell and a continuous blazing fire, which everyone said was artificial.

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A canal and motorboats at Lumbini
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Ripples produced in the canal by a motorboat
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An arc bridge across the canal

We had time enough to observe one structure only. So we headed to the Maya Devi Temple. On the way we were greeted by the little golden Siddhartha Gautam pointing his right index finger to the sky. About a hundred metres ahead was the entrance to one of the holiest temples of the world.

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The little golden Siddhartha Gautam

It was (and still is) a tradition to send a pregnant woman to her parents as she is about to give birth to a child. Maya Devi, the Queen of Kapilvastu was pregnant. Suddhodhan, the king sent her along with servants to Devdaha from their palace at Tilaurakot . However, before she could reach her parents at Devdaha, she gave birth to a baby boy while she was standing grabbing a branch of a tree precisely at the location of Maya Devi Temple, Lumbini. The boy is believed to have walked seven steps just after his birth. However I believe the boy tumbled down and survived. Both the mother and the son were then bathed in the pond by the name of Puskarini nearby.

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Maya Devi Temple from the bank of the Puskarini Pond. On the left of the Temple is Asoka Pillar

Maya Devi Temple was built circa third century B.C. It was renovated and restructured several times until seventh century A.D. After that the land was forgotten for centuries. The archaeological remains are preserved under the current modern structure. As we walked around the temple to see the stone which is said to have preserved the footmark  of Siddhartha Gautam (Myths say Siddhartha Gautam walked seven steps. I just saw a single footmark!), I saw old, ripped up structure of the ancient temple made up of pale ancient bricks. Above my head however, I saw beams and pillars supporting the modern structure. It is forbidden to take photos inside the temple. Else I could show what I am talking about.

We then observed the Asoka Pillar erected by Asoka, the Emperor of Magadh in the third century B.C. The Pillar bears a strange language which, unfortunately I forgot to take photo of (I thought taking its photo was also forbidden). Several other photos were taken around the Maya Devi Temple and Puskarini Pond.

We returned to the bus park, bought some cakes (They were yummy!), and took our seats. Tired and delighted, we returned back to our camp at Masyam. I wish I can be there again. I still have so much to observe.