Kora, incense & momos in Boudhanath - Photo Story Nepal | Travel Photo
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Boudhanath – Photo Story Nepal

Woman praying, enveloped in the smoke of incese, with a mala in her hands - Travel Photography of Nepal by Lorenz Berna

Photo Story Nepal

Kora, incense & momos in Boudhanath.

Kathmandu, and most generally the Valley of Kathmandu, is a very magnetic place to stay in for a while. But as most of Asian cities, it is quite hectic : lots of people, of motorbikes, of noise and lots of pollution too… After a few nights around Kathmandu’s old Durbar Square (or even more truly in Thamel, the modern district), you might surely enjoy going to stay in a more quiet area and get a second wind to enjoy your stay as much as possible. In the hustle and bustle cities of the Valley, two districts are however closed to the circulation, as two peaceful shelters : Bhaktapur and Boudhanath.

While the main population living in the valley are from Hindu confession, Boudhanath is a fully Buddhist Quarter : Little Tibet as the locals call it. There, Life  totally evolves around the massive and rounded white Stupa with Buddha Eyes looking in each of the four directions. Clothes, traditions and habits, mantras, prayer rosaries, food and music… everything here belongs to the Tibetan culture, as a relocated sanctuary for the oppressed population of this deeply pacific Faith.

Kora

The Kora is the act of walking around the giant Stupa, spinning the embedded prayers wheels with the right hand, a malla (rosary) in the left hand and repeating the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”. The mantra which is also written on papers placed inside the prayer wheels to multiply its effects, is an invocation of Wisdom and Compassion. Each of the syllables respectively represent the Qualities of Generosity, Ethics, Patience, Diligence, Renunciation and Wisdom.
The Stupa is the most venerated of all buddhist monuments in Nepal, as believed to enshrine relics of Kassapa Buddha, the 3d Buddha. Therefore, the activity around the Stupa almost never dies, with an endless procession of locals or pilgrims devotees, starting at dawn until late at night.
Try it by yourself, with no judgement nor fear, putting all your heart and full attention on the Qualities of Equanimity and Compassion. You will be quite surprised to feel your heart melting in a beautiful sensation of Wellness and Gratitude. A very peaceful energy running through your body and thoughts.
A cultural as well as spiritual experience.

Incense and offerings

As the Hindus, Buddhists largely use the incense at the beginning of their practice, as a way to purify the space around them. Sometimes, three incense sticks can be lightened together and would represent the Three Jewels of the Buddha’s teaching : the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sangha.
The Buddha is the Enlightened One helping the others to end their sufferings. The Dharma is the universal law of Nature, what gives support. The Sangha is the Community of the practitioners.

Appart from the incense offerings, we usually see people feeding the birds around the temples and pagodas, as a simple way to gain good Karma. The Karma is indeed a prime factor in the Life of Buddhists (as well as Hindus) as a moral code that helps getting a better future, in this Life and the others to follow. That’s the reason why fervent believers tend to act, think and speak in a good way.
And actually in Nepal, as in other Buddhist countries, you generally feel safe and respected.

Momos, tibetan culture and education

Staying in Boudhanath, you are fully immersed into the tibetan culture.
Starting by the food : yak butter tea, noodle soups, tibetan bread and steam raviolis rule! You find the same local restaurants as you would do in the rest of Kathmandu valley but with a specific menu, music and ornament. You get a small taste of Tibet.

For the rest, the quarter is filled with monasteries hosting pilgrims, locals or foreigners willing to learn on Buddhism from one of the monk teachers. Some of these school-monasteries propose several courses during the year for the many foreigners who keep coming back. Most of theses places are actually subsidized by an International community (America being one of the first).

Beside, Boudhanath counts also numerous local monasteries giving education to locals kids. In Nepal, as well as in many asian buddhist countries, the monastery is often a chance for poor families’ children to get a proper education for free. Indeed, most of the young monks you come across with, have been placed there by their parents as an opportunity to receive a basic education as well as moral principles for a more ethical Life. Growing up, they will be able to choose between staying in the monastery as monks or getting out to live a laic life, get a job, marry and have kids.

As always, living in the same place for a few days -or more if possible- gives you a good insight of the local culture, of the people’s habits and traditions. Like this, you also get to you know the unique and hidden corners of the place or the original and singular characters. A great way to know a location, understand it and call it home, somehow. Moreover, as photographers and storytellers, it allows you to get better pictures, always! As people get more confident with you, you are able to get authentic great portraits, intimate and real stories and original Street Photography in addition to nice perspectives for Landscape Photography. Once more, for us, Travel Photography in Nepal is one of the Wold’s best.

[  Photo by Lorenz Berna / Text by Florence Lepavec  ]
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