Bouddhanath: Prayer Wheels and Spinning Shuttles    

The Bouddhanath Stupa

Bouddhanath, or Bouddha, is a Kathmandu suburb. At one point it was its own village but now it is hard to tell where Kathmandu ends and the former village begins. We took a very mini minivan there and as is the tradition with these things, they really pack you in. The conductor kept reaching through the window tugging on people's clothing to get them to move. We'd all do a little wiggle but since we were packed in with butts and legs squished together, no additional space was gained. I guess Rowshan's and my big foreigner butts threw their calculations off. They still managed to squeeze more people in but one of the last guys was partially sitting on the laps of the people next to him. Fortunately people got off and fewer people got on so aside from the long waits in traffic, the ride was tolerable.

The main reason to visit Bouddha is the Bouddhanath stupa, the largest stupa in Nepal and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is in the center of a plaza off the main street, a shining white structure whose brightness seems to add to the heat of the sun.

Eyes of Buddha
All around the stupa are souvenir shops, restaurants, thangka galleries (and schools) and guesthouses. The area also has several monasteries. Bouddha has become a center of Buddhism and a lot of Tibetan refugees have made it their home. At the edge of the square was a shrine with a huge prayer wheel.

Children turning a prayer wheel
We walked out of the square and headed towards the Kopan monastery. We passed a lot of metal workers, tailors, men and women spinning wool on wooden shuttle wheels, kids playing or returning from school in neat uniforms. We also saw yards where bunches of frames with what looked like some kind of treated cloth stood drying in the sun. We didn't know what they were at the time but now we think they may have been for making handmade paper.

Spinning wool

Screens for paper
The monastery is on the top of a tree covered hill. We took the car road which circled the hill-- a longer route but it gave us a view of all sides of the valley and the surrounding hills. The monastery was a peaceful, modern-looking place with a splendid view. Robed monks sat talking and we could hear young monks chanting.

View hiking up to the Kopan Monastery

Monk at the monastery
At a large prayer wheel I read that prayer wheels are believed to help prevent disease, and bring peace to the world. It is a pretty thought but I am still skeptical. We still turned the wheel and make a point of turning other prayer wheels we come across. There is something peaceful, and meditative about it. On one of the monastery walls there was a quote from the 14th Dalai Lama about first having to change yourself and that would improve your family, and then the world.

Prayer wheel

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