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.

 

 

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खोइ नागरिक समाज ?

हिजो अचानक यो प्रश्न मनमा उठ्यो । देशमा राजनीतिका नाममा ठगी भइरहँदा, कुटनीतिका नाममा लुटनीति चलिरहँदा अनि राज्य पुनर्संरचना (शब्दै कति गार्‍हो रै’छ टाइप गर्न !)का आवाज उठिरहँदा नागरिक समाज कता हरायो?  दश वर्षअघि राजाको प्रत्यक्ष शासनको विरोध हुँदा “नागरिक समाज” एकदम प्रचलित थियो । नागरिक समाज नभएको भए  २०६२/६३को आन्दोलन नै हुने थिएन ।

तत्कालिन अवस्थामा नागरिक समाजका कसरी बनेको थियो ? के उद्देश्य थिए ? इतिहास नबुझी हुन्न भन्ने ठानेर गुगल सर्च गरेको थिएँ । हिजो नै सेतोपाटिमा चुडामणि बस्नेतको एउटा लेख प्रकाशित भएको रै’छ । उक्त लेखलाई आधार मान्दा त्यो समयको नागरिक समाज तल दिइएका वर्गको समूह पो रै’छ-

  • समाजका केही अगुवाहरू,
  • काठमाडौंमा केही बुद्धिजीवी भनेर कहलिएकाहरू, र
  • सञ्चार क्षेत्र
  • केही गैरसरकारी संस्थाका अगुवाहरू

नागरिक समाजको उद्देश्य थिए- १) माओवादी द्वन्द्वको वार्ताद्वारा समाधान; २) लोकतन्त्र र गणतन्त्रको प्राप्ति; ३) समावेशीकरण; ४) राज्य पुनर्संरचना ।

पछिल्ला दुई उद्देश्य माओवादीलाई मुल धारको राजनीतिमा ल्याउने कडीका रूपमा मैले बुझेको छु । ०६२/६३को आन्दोलनमा ती सवाल कसरी उठेका थिए भन्ने चाहिँ मलाई याद छैन । (म बाह्र वर्षको मात्रै थिएँ नि त !) अघिल्ला दुई उद्देश्यमा जनताको प्रत्यक्ष चासो थियो र राजनीतिक दलको स्वार्थ पनि त्यहीँ गाँसिएको थियो ।

त्यस ताका राजाले शासन आफ्नो हातमा लिँदा दलहरूमाथि जनताको विश्वास नै थिएन । उनीहरूले गर्ने विरोधका कार्यक्रममा जनता जाँदैनथे (रक्तकुण्ड, कृष्ण अविरल) । उनीहरू एउटा माध्यम चाहन्थे जनतासम्म पुग्न । नागरिक समाज त्यस्तो एउटा पुल थियो । त्यही भएर नै नागरिक समाजविना आन्दोलन सम्भव थिएन ।

जनता आन्दोलनमा होमिए । राजाले शासन छोडे । विघटित प्रतिनिधि सभा पुनर्स्थापना भयो । लोकतन्त्र आयो । राजाको शक्ति सीमित भयो । संविधान सभाको निर्वाचन भयो । गणतन्त्र घोषणा भयो । जनताले आन्दोलनमा भनेका थिए- “खबरदार नेतगण धोका देलाउ ।” नागरिक समाजलाई भनेका थिए- “यी नेतालाई मुर्ख्याइँ गर्न नदिनू ।” 

तर लोकतन्त्र र गणतन्त्र आउँदासम्म नागरिक समाज हराउन थालिसकेको थियो ।

सेतोपाटिको लेखअनुसार जतिजति समावेशीकरणको अवाज उठ्यो, नागरिक समाज फुट्दै गयो । जबजब राज्य पुनर्संरचनाको कुरा उठ्यो, नागरिक समाज विभक्त हुँदै गयो । मधेस आन्दोलनले यसमा झन् मद्दत गर्‍यो । क्षणिक उद्देश्यका कारण नागरिक समाज टुक्रिएको हो भन्ने म मान्दछु ।

तत्कालिन नागरिक समाजले देशको मुख्य शत्रुलाई निर्मुल पार्न कुनै कदम नै नचालेको जस्तो म देख्छु । नेपालका मुख्य शत्रु हुन्- अस्थिरता र भ्रष्टाचार । यिनै दुई कारणले गर्दा राजनीतिक दलसँग आजित भएका जनताले राजाको प्रत्यक्ष शासनलाई समर्थन गरेका थिए । यिनै दुई कारणले गर्दा राजाको शासन डगमगाएको थियो । यिनै दुई कारणले भुकम्प पीडित जनताले उचित राहत पाएका  छैनन् । यिनै दुई कारणले नेपाल विदेशी चलखेलको केन्द्र बनेको छ । यिनै दुई कारणले जनता गणतन्त्र देखि नै आजित हुन थालिसके । समस्याको चुरो बुझेर पनि बुझ पचाउने राजनीतिकर्मी र बुद्धिजीवी भनाउदाले गर्दा नै हाम्रा समस्या समाधान नभएका हुन् ।

अफसोस, नेपालका बुद्धिजीवीहरू र सञ्चार क्षेत्र   जातीय, क्षेत्रीय, वर्गीय  रङ्गमा रङ्गिएका छन् । यस्तोमा हाम्रा समस्याहरू झन् बढ्दै छन् । कहिलेसम्म ? प्रश्न अनुत्तरित छ ।

Some women who died for love

I happened to see a photo on Facebook today. It says:

“Romeo died for love, Valentine died for love, Jack of Titanic, Samson from the Bible, Hercules, Achilles, and even Jesus died for love.”

And then it goes on to say that there is not a single woman who died for love. It challenges women to come with at least five names of women who died for love. I had a strange feeling towards this post. First I felt that it was a challenge to women. A few minutes later, I thought, “This post (most certainly made and circulated by men) is an example of stupidity. It was probably made by an arrogant teenager, who does not care the contributions of women in the world history and even in his life or an ignorant adult, who does not know anything.” But if it was intended to be a challenge, I said to myself, that it is indeed a good question. It checks the intelligence of his girl. This article, thus is an information to those who do not know the answers (or pretend not to know) and a help from my side who would like to get answers.

I have limits, though. I can’t tell anything from the Bible or the Iliad, whose characters appear above. I am unable to provide answers related to the history and literature I do not know. I’ll try my best in providing information of the five women I have known from the history of Nepal, and Nepali, English and Sanskrit literatures.

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1. Sati
I guess I had given primary information about her on my previous article. She comes back to show that hers was one of the most painful sacrifices for her love.

Sati, according to the Hindu Puranas was the daughter of Prajapati (King) Daksha and Virani. She was married to Shiva, the Lord of the Lords.
For the reasons that Shiva wandered around Kailash (his abode) on improper clothes taking narcotics, Daksha disliked Shiva. On one Yagya (a sacrificial worship) he did not invite Sati and Shiva but invited all his son-in-laws. When Sati knew of this through Sage Narad, she goes to the Yagya and quarrels with her father. He keeps humiliating Shiva, though. Unable to listen to those words, she sacrifices herself on the burning pyre set up for the Yagya. She burns slowly to death until her body is recovered by Shiva himself after a huge war against the soldiers of Daksha.

This story has been altered by Amish Tripathi  in the last book of The Shiva Trilogy. Sati, the wife of Shiva, fights with Daksha, the King of Meluha because he had been using the love of her life in suppressing the poor people of other neighboring countries. When she comes to know that Daksha has planned to kill Shiva, she fights the Egyptian killers. At the end of extremely violent and gory fight, she dies. Shiva comes later to bring about the destruction of Daksha and his country.

2. Muna
Muna is a famous character from Muna Madan, an epic poem by Laxmi Prasad Devkota. The plot follows Madan going to Bhot (Tibet) while Muna awaits at home in Kantipur (old name for Kathmandu).
Madan gets ill on the way returning back home. He is stranded is about to die when a Bhote (resident of Bhot) finds him and saves his life.
At home, however Madan’s friends tell Muna that he has died. Unable to suffer the pain of loss, though false, she dies before Madan comes home. Muna and Madan reunite in the heaven, after Madan dies a few days later.

3. Rajendra Laxmi
If you talk about love and leave away the love for motherland, you are misinterpreting love. This brave woman survived the custom of Sati (I have discussed it on my earlier article) because of her child to extend the territory of Nepal.
After the death of Pratap Singh Shah, the eldest son of king Prithvi Narayan Shah, she took over the responsibility of unifying the small states into a bigger Nepal. Initially, helped by Bahadur Shah- her brother-in-law, she united the eastern states and some of the western states as well. Fighting the unhelpful courtiers and family members, she continued the campaign. By the time she died, Nepal had its eastern territory up to Sikkim and western up to the Kali Gandaki river.

4. Julia Rana
It’s just been some days I have read about her. Born in the Rana family, she was the love of Martyr Dashrath Chand.
Dashrath Chand was a friend of Dharma Bhakta Mathema (another martyr) and was employed at the home of General Rudra Shumsher. There Julia and Dashrath met and both knew sometime later that they loved each other. Rudra Shumsher had agreed upon their marriage but the wedding was cancelled twice because of the deaths in the families. Later, the then Prime Minister, Juddha Shumsher got against Rudra Shumsher and he was exiled from Kathmandu. Almost a month after the exile, Julia died of TB. It was said in that article that Dashrath Chand did the rituals a husband does at the death of his wife and her death also ignited in him the anti-Rana views.

5. Juliet Capulet
My question to the creator of that challenge is- how can you separate Juliet from Romeo? If you have read this world famous work of Shakespeare, you will know that Juliet dies not once but twice- once in a pretence to bring Romeo back and in real when he dies. The pretence is made by the use of medicine (anaesthetic?) but Romeo gets a wrong message to find her dead. So, how could you dare to say that only Romeo died for love.

That’s all from my side. But as I write, I also ask a question- what is the definition of love in that Facebook post? It surely is not only the romantic love between a man or a woman. Jesus is an example for the love of humanity. If he can be included, why not include the names of Mother Teresa and her followers, Florence Nightingale, Eleanor Roosevelt, Benajir Bhutto and so many women who have spent their lives for the care of humanity? If sacrifice is what you call love, almost all women would be included. Women have sacrificed their parent’s house and comfort, changed their surnames, given up their jobs and interests, have died everyday and yet, have smiled just for you and your family. So if your girl or wife adds her name in that list, don’t get surprised. She has given a lot of things just for your happiness.

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200 Years Of Friendship!

It began with a war.

A conflict of more than fifty years ensured that the war was inevitable.

One of them had dominated more than half of the world. Their Empire was the one on which the sun never set. They wanted to annex all states within the Indian sub-continent. There was one nation left to defeat.

That Nation had just arisen from bits and pieces in the Himalayas. Some Kings and Lords of the petty states had not been satisfied with the unification. They wanted their shares. They sought help of the Empire to get back their states.

That was a golden opportunity for the Empire. They had discovered weak spots of the Himalayan Nation. They sought out ways to defeat them.

It was not easy, however. The new Mukhtiyar (equivalent to modern day Prime Minister) was a patriot. He would not let the Empire seize his nation. He brought about changes in the military. It enraged the Empire.

The Empire had to make a move soon. They gathered their own army and sent a letter to the Himalayan Nation with some terms. They had to respond it in time, else they had to fight with them.

The Monarch of the Himalayan Nation decided not to respond to that letter. The war began. From east, south and west, the army of the Empire marched. They had dreamed of victory over the majestic Himalayas.

The army of the Himalayan Nation, blessed by the ever tall and proud Himalayas fought bravely with the Empire’s army. Of the five major wars, the Empire won three. The two defeats were heavy. Even the ones they won were not as convincing to them. The soldiers of the Himalayan Nation had fought with all their potential.

Sugauli Treaty (Source: Wikipedia
Sugauli Treaty (Source: Wikipedia)

The Empire had to change their strategy of dominating the Himalayan Nation. They did an agreement – the Sugauli Treaty in the year 1816. The Himalayan Nation lost almost half of their territory but they stood up as the biggest independent nation in the Indian sub-continent.

The treaty brought about a diplomatic between the Empire and the Himalayan Nation. It was based on the dominance of the Empire, with the then Rana Prime Ministers improving the status of the relation. The friendship agreement of 1923 declared the Himalayan Nation as an independent nation.

The Empire was helped by the Himalayan Nation during the World War II. They had sent their best soldiers into the war. These soldiers were feared wherever they fought. They were the mighty Gurkhas.

The Empire fell. Revolutions around the world after the Great War brought about its downfall. The Empire lost a huge territory. Ranas of the Himalayan Nation fell. The friendship remained. It continues to exist, almost 200 years now. Long live the friendship!

Notes:

  • Inspired by presentation of Hamlet in Nepali on the occasion of the 200 years of co-operation between Nepal and Britain.
  • In the year 1768 (1825 B.S.), Prithvi Narayan Shah had declared the annexation of Kantipur into Gorkha. That was the formal beginning of Mordern Nepal.
  • The then East Company of the British Empire had waged a war against Nepal. During the treaty of 1816, Rana Bahadur Shah was the King and Bhimsen Thapa was the Prime Minister of Nepal.  
  • During 1923, Chandra Shamsher was the Prime Minister of Nepal. Since then, Gurkhas have been a part of the British Army.
  • The relation between Nepal and Britain has been well described by Mr Andy Sparkes in this speech: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/two-hundred-years-of-nepal-britain-relations-a-way-forward