Mankamana … finally

It all started in late 2014 when my sister Maeve and I bought a bunch of tickets to the Cork Film Festival.  Her hubbie does not like going to see films much and I had not seen a film for quite some time.  This was after all the time I returned to the western world after spending a year in Nepal, Bangladesh, India s well as visiting family and friends in Australia, New Zealand, Spain, UK and Ireland.  It was a mammoth travel year back then.  But I digress …..

Mankamana, before I ever knew it was a sacred temple, was a documentary film to me.  We chose to see this film from the huge selection offered by the Cork Film Fest, purely because it was Nepal-related.  If you like a slow, thought-provoking, visually stunning film featuring snippets of ordinary people’s lives, then you will enjoy this film.  You can check out the trailer here.

The filmmakers installed a camera in one of the cable cars that ferries people from the road, across the raging Trisuli River and up up up high to the Manakamana Temple in the clouds.  They did a lovely job of linking all the vignettes together.  I particularly adored the clip with the women eating the ice creams.  I so loved the film that I was determined to visit the real place.

There’s much evidence of massive landslides along the highway that connects it to Kathmandu some 140 km away.  It’s the threat of landslides particularly during monsoon season that has prevented me from making the journey there late in 2015, Summer and Fall 2016 and again in Spring 2017.  Luck was on my side in June 2017 when Prajwal and I made the 5-7 hour one-way journey by bus, there and back all in one day.  Man was it ever a long day!    But worth it, as I got to be reminded of the inherent beauty of rural Nepal in all it’s monsoon luscious glory.

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The Mankamana Temple is in the Gorkha district of Nepal at 1,302 meters in elevation and overlooks the raging Trisuli River. The Temple sits close to what was the epicentre of the 2015 earthquake and restoration work continues to rectify the structural damage from over 2 years ago.

Manakamana is the sacred place of the Hindu Goddess Bhagwati, an incarnation of Parvati.  Its name originates from two words: “mana” meaning heart and “kamana” meaning wish.  It is said any wish truly coming from your heart, is always granted by the Goddess Manakamana.  I don’t think this is a myth, the wish I put forward on my visit there has been granted not six weeks later! Not for me, for someone else.

The pilgrimage to Manakamana is known as Manakamana Darshan and many Hindus make it frequently, especially when a new wish is sought, or thanks needs to be given for a wish granted.  Popular times of year to go of course are during Dashain (September/October) and Nag Panchami (July/August).  Going in June meant less crowds, still crowded enough for me though!  Offerings are an important part of the pilgrimage and include a selection of rice, red cloth, nuts, flowers, coconuts, oil lamp, incense and betel nuts.  Everyone gets in line with their offering and waits while the long line snakes it’s way along,  On the day we were there it was at least a one-hour wait.

 

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Sacrifice of roosters and goats is common, as in all temples and there’s even a separate cable car to transport the goats to the temple, oblivious to what is about to happen to them.  That same cable car transports the bloody sacks of carcasses down where people bring the slain animal home to eat.

In the western world we are so far removed from where our meat comes from, it’s sometimes good to be reminded.  If you have the stomach for it, you can revisit a post I write in early 2014 where a goat was slain on the SIRC Staff Picnic to Dhakshinkali, another sacred temple.  But this goat was for lunch, and was never intended to be a sacrifice.

The cable car ride was a highlight for me.  Nepal’s first cable car system, it was manufactured in Austria and opened for business on Nov 24, 1998.  Before the cable car, pilgrims had to hike over 3 miles with an elevation gain of over 3,500 ft … thank goodness for the cable car!  It runs during daylight hours with a break for lunch and has had a consistent safety record, even after the earthquakes.  It can carry 600 people to the summit every hour, and with 3 cable cars for the goats, who knows how many goats at a time.  From what I could see, roosters travel up with their owners in burlap sacks.

The cable car is in part sponsored by NCell, one of Nepal’s mobile companies and boy do they take advantage of the opportunity to splash their corporate colours around!

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* Just under three years after the opening of the Mankamana Cable Car, the same HRH Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah massacred his parents, brother and sister over a disagreement on who he should marry.

My journey to Manakamana was a long time coming, and I was really thrilled to make it there.  Much thanks has to go to Prajwal for accompanying me and figuring out that there was a bus direct from Jorpati where he lives with Sanjita his wife.  So much easier to be picked up and dropped off close to ‘home’!

And do you think I have a photo of Prajwal and I on our pilgrimage that day – unfortunately not.  Mad at myself about that.

About Kate Coffey

After 30 or so years in the investment management industry, 2013 saw me turn my life up-side-down, making my way first to Nepal, then Bangladesh during that first ‘year away’. The year took me on a journey I did not expect, had me fall in love with Nepal and its people, and become inspired at the work of Spinal Injury Rehabilitation Centre (SIRC) located in Bhainsepati - 2 hours east of Kathmandu in the Saanga foothills. Since 2014, I have returned to SIRC numerous times, working closely with the folks there in the aftermath of the 2015 earthquakes. In the past two years, my work in Nepal has expanded to the Bo M. Karlsson Foundation www.bomkarlsson.com and the Spinal Cord Injured Network Nepal. In Bangladesh I marvelled at the strength and resilience of marginalized women who have the courage and audacity to break the rules and make a better life for themselves and their children through microfinance programs with BRAC. 2016-2017 saw me embark on a totally new experience in Sri Lanka, a place I never would have chosen to end up in. It’s the 40C+ heat, big humidity and tropical snakes & animals that scared me! But I ended up love love loving! my time there, working with predominantly Tamil small business owners in remote villages in the north and east of the country, trying their best to recover their businesses and the lives of their employees, after decades of a civil war. My time in Sri Lanka made me realize my hard-earned business skills and experience can really be put to good use! The work the BIZ+ team and I did there ended up earning me International Volunteer of the Year Award in December 2017, presented on Capitol Hill, Washington DC no less. I am currently home on Bowen Island, in the west coast of Canada, shoring up my finances before I head off to who knows where, for my next expert volunteer assignment. This blog initially started out as a travelogue of sorts to keep friends and family worldwide updated while I was off on my travels in 2013-2014. Since then it has morphed into a life story of the many places I have lived and worked and of the wonderful people I have met along the way. I hope you enjoy.
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6 Responses to Mankamana … finally

  1. pcwing says:

    Interesting, Kate – potentially fascinating. A 12 minute segment of the movie is available on Vimeo, and iTunes has the full movie for sale or rent.

    Peter

  2. Mick Canning says:

    I’ve never been to the temple, Kate, but I have rafted the Trisuli (about 20 years ago) which was fun!

  3. Pingback: 2017 – a year that was | Bowen to Bangladesh

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