FaithWorld

from Photographers' Blog:

The man with the coconut and the GoPro

Lalitpur, Nepal

By Navesh Chitrakar

Rato Machhindranath is the god of rain, so huge crowds gather in Lalitpur around a 32-meter (104 foot) high tower mounted on a chariot during the chariot festival in an effort to ensure good rains and prevent drought.

The highlight of the day is when someone climbs to the top of the chariot and throws a coconut to devotees below. This is an ancient ritual thought to guarantee the catcher of the coconut the birth of a son. Few people believe this nowadays and I think participation is more about enjoying and preserving the tradition.

Every year I saw the same man climb atop the chariot. Every year he threw the coconut down towards the devotees. I really wanted to show in pictures what the perspective of this man looked like.

This year I started searching for him as soon as I reached the chariot and there he was in his favorite spot, up at the top. I could not call him down, as he was sitting so high and the sound of the drums was too loud. I waited for him to come down.

Finally, the man I was waiting for came down. I was very happy to see him descending. He reached me and I introduced myself to him and asked for his name. I was shocked to learn that this man who I had been shooting pictures of for years could not speak. I wanted his help to shoot the picture I had planned and even though my challenge was growing tougher I didn't give up. I smiled and grabbed his hand to get his attention. He smiled back at me. Once again I tried to ask for his name and he led me to another person who knew him and they told me his name. It was Chakala Dangol and he was 75-years-old.

from Photographers' Blog:

Two sides of a living God

By Navesh Chitrakar

Born and raised in Kathmandu's Newar community I am familiar with Lord Ganesh. His elephant head attached to a human body makes him easy to identify. Ganesh is honored at the beginning of rituals and ceremonies as we celebrate religious festivals.

This month, I had the opportunity to take pictures of Living God Ganesh after I asked one of my friends who was close to the living god's family. I was pleased and surprised that the family was willing to accept me since they don’t normally allow pictures to be taken.

The first thing I saw was a six-year-old boy sitting on the sofa and yawning. The boy was the living god but he looked totally different from how he had looked when I saw him on the streets during festivals. In his home, the sofa was his throne.

China plans to help Nepal develop Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini

(A reclining Buddha at Wat Po temple in Bangkok April 8,2008/Sukree Sukplang)

 

A Chinese-backed foundation and Nepal’s government plan to transform Lord Buddha’s birthplace in southern Nepal into a magnet for Buddhists in the same way as Mecca is to Muslims and the Vatican for Catholics. The Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation plans to raise $3 billion at home and abroad to build temples, an airport, a highway, hotels, convention centres and a Buddhist university in the town of Lumbini, about 171 km (107 miles) southwest of Nepal’s capital Kathmandu.

The foundation, blessed by the Chinese government, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Nepalese government last month to jointly develop and operate Lumbini, where Buddha was born Prince Gautama Siddhartha about 2,600 years ago. The foundation also pledged to bring communications, water and electricity to Lumbini.

Buddhism was virtually wiped out in China during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when temples were shut, Buddhist statues smashed, scriptures burned, and monks and nuns forced to return to secular life and marry. In recent years, China has become more tolerant of Buddhism, which is considered “traditional culture” alongside Taoism and Confucianism.

Nepal Christians threaten ‘corpse’ protest in burial row

pashupatinathChristians in Nepal have threatened to parade corpses in the capital to press the government into finding them alternative burial grounds after burials near the country’s holiest Hindu shrine were banned.

Christians account for less than two percent of Hindu-majority Nepal’s 28 million people. Authorities barred them this month from burying their dead in the forested graveyard at Sleshmantak saying the land belonged to the Pashupatinath Hindu temple, a U.N. heritage site in Kathmandu. (Photo: Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu September 2, 2008/Shruti Shrestha)

“Burial after death is a fundamental human right and the government is violating this by not giving us any place to bury the dead,” C.B.Gahatraj, a senior official of the Committee for Christian Recommendation for New Constitution told Reuters.

Nepal’s “living goddess” eyes banking career

goddess

Living goddess Chanira Bajracharya at her residence in Patan, near Kathmandu, April 6, 2010/Gopal Chitrakar

Even a “living goddess” is sometimes faced with tough decisions.

Chanira Bajracharya, 15, has been the Kumari or “living goddess” of Patan, an ancient town south of Kathmandu, for nine years, blessing devotees at the temple and riding in decorated chariots 18 times a year during Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

Now, with her time as living goddess drawing to a close — the young virgin deities retire on reaching puberty — Bajracharya is contemplating a career in banking if she makes grades good enough to study commerce or accounting.

Nepal Hindu temple conducts biggest animal sacrifice on earth

sacrificeAt least 15,000 buffalo and “countless” goats and birds were sacrificed in a temple in southern Nepal on Wednesday in a ritual billed as the single biggest animal slaughter on earth.

Hindus in Nepal routinely offer animals for sacrifice to appease deities, especially power goddesses, for good luck and prosperity. But the festival held every five years at the Gadhimai temple in southern Nepal was condemned this year by animal rights activists, including French actress Brigitte Bardot, who called for an end to the centuries-old ritual of slaughtering animals.

“We had more than 15,000 buffalo sacrificed Tuesday. But the number of goats and birds, including roosters and pigeons, sacrificed Wednesday is countless,” Shiva Chandra Prasad Kushawaha, chief of the festival’s organizing committee said.

In Nepal, human rights apply to living goddesses too

A kumari at a Kathmandu festival, 26 July 2008/Shruti ShresthaWhenever God is mentioned in connection with human rights, the idea is usually that there are “God-given rights” bestowed on humans.

Nepal’s Supreme Court has turned this around by bestowing basic human rights such as education and healthcare on gods. Goddesses, to be more precise. It seems that kumaris , virgin girls venerated as “living goddesses” and confined to Buddhist temples until puberty, return to their families as teenagers unprepared for real life. Critics of the tradition filed a suit that led to the Supreme Court decision.

“A directive order has been issued to the government to provide basic human rights, including education and health (care) to the child,” Supreme Court spokesman Hemanta Rawal said. “This means the child’s rights can’t be violated in the name of culture.”