FIRST SPREADING IN A HOLY RIVER Pt. 2
Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
43Trip End Mar 19, 2011
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Ram was waiting for us upon our return to Kathmandu. Kathmandu has eight rivers and the Bagmati s a holy one. On that river is the Passupati Nath, the temple where I would have some of Jim’s remains blessed and possibly spread into the river. This is where you will find the funeral pyres on the river
Now dear reader, I want you to bear in mind I’m writing this well in retrospect. There have been several spreadings since this, but this was the first spreading in which I had actually had ashes blessed. Immediately upon entering the temple gates, I sensed solemnness that belied the tourism going on all around us, which I would later find to be true at Varanassi as well. Varanassi was the biggie; this wasn’t the Ganges, but it was still a holy river. I truly wasn’t sure about this place and how I felt about it. Yes, it was sacred, but the water was dirty (I would later come to learn that murky waters don’t necessarily obliterate holiness. You have to get past the western concept “cleanliness is next to Godliness.” In fact I’m learning that there are a lot of western concepts that should just be unlearned and thrown out the window.
On the banks of the river the cremation fires were burning. Three men were getting their heads shaved to show that they had lost a loved one.
Ambling through the complex, we stopped “inside” an old age home
Stepping over the small plates heaped with marigolds (marigolds = yellow; yellow = intellect) and whatever else meant as offerings to the gods, we crossed the river where a holy man smoked reefer (it’s legal) with some tourists. As if waiting for us (they weren’t) a group of holy men, called Sadhu and considered the reincarnation of Shiva, were sitting beneath a tree Their faces were decorated with natural paint
Ram found a Hindu priest and secured him to perform the blessing. Directly across the river from us a cremation was taking place. The male family members were standing around (cremations are a “men only” affair). The body was properly cloaked for cremation. I go into more detail about this in the chapter about the cremations in Varanassi.
Sitting cross-legged with the priest on the bank of the river, I opened the envelope and took out the ashes. I handed them to the priest and watched while he placed the ashes on a large leaf and mixed them with some various powdered substances that I didn’t understand. Some holy water was sprinkled over them, then he had me take some marigolds in the palm of my hand. I believe the ash mixture was placed in my palm as well, and at one point I had to sprinkle holy water on top of the heap. I had to repeat Jim’s name and the mantra began. As he chanted the mantra, I repeated after him, “OM NAVO SHIVAYA”. I truly didn’t understand any of this, but that was okay. It occurred to me that growing up I didn’t understand half the Christian religious rites I was taught then either. However this oddly felt more sacred than anything I’d ever done before (of course, once again, I hadn’t yet arrived in Varanassi). The time came for me to place the ashes in the river, and the second spreading of the day, the first of the spreadings to take place on a holy river, was done.