Lumbini, birthplace of the Buddha. But I'll leave the most of that place to Paul to describe, apart from the German built stupa- a temple if you like, that we wandered into as part of our cycle trip around what I can only describe as a spiritual Disneyland. We heard what I thought was a tape being played but as we stepped into the stupa seated on the floors were several hundred maroon clad monks. Sounds of drums, clashing symbols, and hymn like chanting of texts. The cacophony is supposed to shock you out of your everyday thoughts….it worked. Underscoring the sound was an ultra low, growling tone. This, according to our book, was a form of gyu-ke or tantric voice. Monks from the Gelug- pa order use this extraordinary throat singing technique as a virtuous practice in the recitation of holy texts, also the demanding technique creates its own meditational discipline. I was casting about to see this holy growler and there he was, large, ancient as the Himalayas, with long black hair caught up in a bun on the top of his head. Truly impressive, even more so as he never seemed to breath.
Alpenhorn like trumpets blasted, hand bells rang and a damaru rattle drum was beaten. A damaru is a particularly powerful instrument :commonly used by shamans in Nepal, it may be made of two human half skulls. Interestingly my book tells me that the pair of beaters used on the drum should ideally contain male and female pubic hairs. All good stuff and suitably esoteric. After that we climbed back on our bicycles and peddled off to see what the next temple had on offer.