Travel Teaches Tolerance” Benjamin Disraeli
Smile….. put your hands together, and say Namaste. That’s all you need to do to be welcomed and feel welcomed in Nepal. It’s a country of incredible physical and geological contrasts but the one constant is the earnest friendliness of it’s people. As a cultural and travel photographer I’m always looking for that one special person or face which reflects a life well lived, an inner peace, an acquaintance with life’s vicissitudes or reflects the unique traditions of a place.
These are some of Nepal’s most interesting people.
Morning tea is a traditional rite in Nepal. Vendors will set up a hot plate and set out a half dozen milk crates and begin their morning business. These fellows don’t know each other but are participating in the ritual together.
I was able to photograph a number Hindu Holy Men, mostly around Kathmandu. As you can see this fellow gave me a routine OK sign. Nothing terribly inventive or revealing but he’s got a look with the hair and orange beard that appealed to me.
These boys are Mahouts who normally have a single elephant they care for. I took this photograph in Chitwan National Forest and these young men are bringing in a crop of grass they have just cut in the forest. The grass will be used to feed the elephants. You can’t quite see it here but the lead Mahout was reading an iphone as he ambled along.
Kumari, or Kumari Devi is the tradition of worshiping young prepubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions. The word Kumari is derived from the Sanskrit Kaumarya, meaning “Young”.
In Nepal, a Kumari is a prepubescent girl selected from the Shakya caste or Bajracharya clan of the Nepalese Newari Buddhist community. The Kumari is revered and worshiped by some of the country’s Hindus. (Wikopedia)
This young girl is 8 years old, lives in a secluded fashion with several adult helpers, and will retain her title and lifestyle until she menstruates. She will then be considered unclean and unworthy of worship and will be returned to her parents. There are obviously lots of questions and commentary that could be (and are being) asked and made regarding this tradition.
I love this photograph. And it speaks to the power of observation while moving in space. I was returning from a cultural celebration and was shoulder to shoulder in the street and barely able to lift my arms and all of sudden I looked to the right and saw this guy slumping against the pole. I struggled to raise my camera and get this one shot off as I was pushed along by the crowd. And as luck would have it he looked right at me as I pressed the shutter.
I’m proud to say this photograph was chosen to be displayed in a juried competition at the Plymouth Center for the Arts. This Holy Man is a much photographed figure and it’s not hard to discern why. He’s in his mid 80’s, hasn’t had a haircut in 50 years and has a great face.
I was privileged to visit an Assisted Living Facility in Kathmandu. Having a Mom who resided in a U.S. based Assisted Living Facility I found amazing similarties between them. These women had just received a Tikka (red dot on their forehead) from a Hindu priest visiting the facility.
This lovely woman graciously agreed to let me take her photograph and although neither of us spoke a common language, we managed to communicate beautifully. She really enjoyed seeing her image in my LCD.
I spent some time with this woman who was toiling in her small open workspace when I came upon her. She was busy sewing and immersed in her purse production when she noticed me asking to photograph her. At first she nodded no. I saw a group of people coming down her small alleyway and told her should come out and try to sell a few purses. She did and sold quite a few…I bought a couple for Christmas presents.
I don’t need to say anything about this image. It’s too cute and speaks for itself.
These Chrysanthemums are iconic and she is selling them to customers who use them to decorate their homes, cars, motorcycles or other possessions they want to give thanks for in the country’s Dashain festival.
Hindus believe cremation on the banks of the Ganges River frees the soul from the cycle of death and rebirth and spreading the departed’s ashes in the river will allow their soul to finally achieve nirvana.
This image of the final rites being given to a dear one is at the Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu. Shortly after the body was cremated the ashes were spread onto the river which runs into the Ganges downstream.
As with many of people I photographed on this trip, this woman could not have been more gracious in letting me take a few minutes of her time. I was taken with the beauty of her daughter and I believe the image shows the inner beauty of both of them.
I’d be remiss in these Nepal posts if I didn’t thank Nathan Horton and Bipin Tiwari for their help and guidance which allowed me to focus my creative abilities in the right places at the right times. I’m indebted to them.
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