By Mr. Birendra Khati
Kathmandu is a city located in the heart of Nepal, the home of Everest. The city is bustling with life and you find people roaming around at all times of the day. The summers are pleasant but the winters are extremely cold here. The city, like all other metropolitan cities, suffers from universal traffic problems. At the peak hour, the city is drowned by the noise of the honks of the vehicles. Amidst this chaos, one can still come to terms with peace and tranquillity in this realm of Lord Pashupati, the Lord of all Pashus or animals, who resides in the temple nearby. The temple serves as an oasis in the vast desert of troubles of life, providing much needed relief to all the suffering souls from time immemorial.
The atmosphere of the temple is serene-abound with devotion. Just behind the temple, river Baghmati flows calmly, getting sanctified by passing through the premises of the Lord. The river is construed as the one absorbing all sorrows and sufferings of those who come by it, and rejuvenate their souls with infinite cosmic energy. The Ghats of the river serve as a crematorium for the ones who have departed to the eternal abode of Pashupati. On any day, you would find funeral pyres lit and people mourning the loss of their loved ones. The divine fire of the pyre returns all the elements of the deceased’s body to Mother Nature, eventually returning everything to the soil. This recycling process continues everyday; so does the cycle of births and deaths.
In the evenings, an Aarti is performed on the Ghats of the river. This ceremony is performed to express gratitude to the benevolent river. Though this event takes place every day, each day gives a unique feeling- watching the resplendence of lamps merge in the picturesque background of the river and the sun rays. The locals participate in the event with full enthusiasm. On special occasions, a classical dance performance is organized for the enjoyment of the audience. I was blessed with one such performance. It was the month of the November and weather was chilling cold. After offering obeisance at the feet of the Lord, I hurried to the back of the temple to inquire about the source of music. As I reached the Ghats, I saw at least three pyres lit. The fire was clearly visible under the darkness of the night. Just at a distance of a few meters from one of the pyre and on the opposite bank, a female artist was performing a classical dance. There was no stage per se. The seating arrangement on the banks was in the form of flat rocks similar to the arrangement in the sports stadium, descending at regular intervals. You would have to climb down these giant steps to reach the river. The artist danced on one of these flat rocks to the music of the drums provided by the other artist nearby.
While attending the dance show, initially I could not concentrate on the performance owing to the mourning taking place simultaneously in the crematorium, which was adjacent to the dance venue. I was surprised at how the dancer was unaffected by all the wailing and the burning pyres. Her performance was untouched by the grief of the relatives of the deceased. The dancer continued to perform with a poise that was out of this world. She appeared to be present in a world of her own while presenting her dance moves aesthetically to the beats of the drum.
To have a better view of the performance, I just moved a few steps away from the pyre and towards the music. There was a small crowd of around hundred people, with their eyes glued to the artist. The dancer’s gentle movements, beautiful facial expressions, and rhythmic steps combined with the sweet music of drums captivated the hearts of the audience. The dancer carried the audience to the celestial sphere through her performance. The audience was completely spellbound and unaware of anything else in the world. The time happened to freeze for those few moments, as if Lord Pashupati himself was performing the cosmic dance of creation. Only after the performance ended did we realize that we were back to this world.
On my way back home, I was wondering deep in thoughts of how contrasting the beautiful dance performance was with the grief of the people mourning just beside the river, where the performance was organized. It is an irony that extreme joy and extreme sorrow can coexist at the same place at the same time. Unaware of where we have come from or where we go, we dance to the tunes of our destiny till our last breath without any control. Compared to the billions of years of evolution in the planet, our existence is actually a speck of dust in the large cosmos. Still, most human beings are preoccupied with the thoughts of the material world built around themselves. They are lost in the maze of materialism and the never ending pursuit of maximizing ‘wealth’, which in fact cannot lead to a permanent blissful state. As even when millions of desires are met by this wealth, a million more are waiting in the pipeline to be fulfilled. The complete journey feels like a never ending dream. All questions pertaining to the whereabouts of the traveller and his destination look like a mystery. And this eternal mystery finds its answer in the cosmic play of Lord Pashupati where many parallel worlds peacefully coexist simultaneously, highlighting the temporary nature of existence.
The author is Deputy Manager at Bharat Electronics