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.
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.
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!
* 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.