A Religious Mind (Kathmandu, Nepal)

My leave application for a trip to Kathmandu was sanctioned from the bank without any delay only on the ground that I should visit Pashupatinath temple and get blessings for the branch. We had a stiff target to be met at the end of the financial year.
I would have, in any case, gone to the temple, not because it was a world cultural heritage site, but to get some peace of mind too.
Located on the right bank of the Bagmati River, the temple is about 5 kms from Kathmandu. We reached when it was already evening. The entrance was a bit congested and lined up with small stalls selling Prasad. A little boy in one of the shops made up my basket of offerings, which included some nice flowers, a garland, a coconut split into two halves and two packets of sweets. On taking the money from me, (I did not bargain) he spoke to me in broken English. He said, after the ‘Puja’ I should go around the temple once, if I wanted my wish to be fulfilled. He also said, ‘be careful of the Prasad, there are monkeys all around, (read, infested with monkeys) will try to snatch the prasad.’ I was a bit tensed.

After a few minutes I reached the main courtyard of the temple. With all the lights on, the square shaped Pagoda style temple in the center of the courtyard looked beautiful. Inspite of Kathmandu being the only Hindu kingdom of the World, it has most of its temples styled like the pagodas. This temple, built on a single platform, is around 24 metres from the ground. A huge silver ox sits right in front of the door in the courtyard. The four sides of the temple have heavy gold plated doors on either of them. Artistic images of gods and goddesses are painted with gilt on both sides of each door. The roofs have latticed windows below it. These type of windows are very commonly seen in our Indian ‘Havelis.’ The structures supporting the roof are also nicely decorated. The four corners of the roof adorned by the gilted images of flying birds are not really visible due to insufficient lights inside the temple. The entire set up looked decent even though the entire area did not appear to be very hygienic.

Inside the temple was not very bright and a narrow corridor covering the sacred place gave a view of the Lord. Handing over the basket to the priest I started on with my prayers. Now it was turn to take back the basket from the priest and go for the ‘pradakshin.’(Going around the temple). As I reached the rear part of the temple, I could see hoardes of monkeys, of all possible size, roaming around freely. Alarmed, I covered the basket with my scarf and walked past. A medium sized monkey walked along with me with a tiny one hanging from her bosom. A very cute sight indeed and may be for a fraction of a second I lost my concentration. A feel of a light slap on my left arm and right in front of me was the tiny monkey sitting on my arm. I don’t know what happened next. I only remember, along with a scream I had flung away the little creature somewhere in the horizon. Next step, I was in the car. I could no way give away those sweets. I would lose my job. On my way back, I felt that I could have offered some sweets to the little one. But I did not dare think of the consequences. Back to India and to work, the prasad was distributed to everyone. Came April and the results were out. We had achieved our target. Lord Pashupatinath had heard my genuine prayers, and the monkeys; I think I surely should have offered a few sweets to the baby.