Coming Soon to a Browser Near You:
Live Street Video : : 10 cameras : : 24 hours

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Before the Big Bath... and After

Here are some glimpses of the environment in Janabahaa in the evening of Janabahaa Dyo's annual bathing ritual.

The stage is set (meaning, it is cleaned thoroughly to try and rid it of the pigeon droppings as much as possible).

The people start gathering from late afternoon onwards.

Representation of the older devotees is understandably  large.

A large religious crowd means a large marketplace for religious books and pictures.

It is either the old or the very young who show up. The youth, sadly, do not seem too interested.

The seven-headed serpent or "Nagaraja" protects Janabahaa Dyo.

All the "seats" are soon gone.

Only standing space is available now.

The biting mid-winter chill does not seem to deter the devotees.

The headgear worn by the officiating priest during the bathing ceremony.

The crown represents Janabahaa Dyo while  the idol is removed from its sanctuary.

Devotees vie for drops of the holy liquid (water from Bishnumati River, milk, ghee and honey) from which the idol of Janabahaa Dyo was given a bath.

A popular and highly knowledgeable priest of Vajrayana Buddhism talks to Avenues Television after the ceremony.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Philosophy vs. Ritual

What was the original significance behind the elaborate annual bathing ceremony of Janabahaa Dyo and the accompanying fanfare? It is hard to imagine that this display of pomp and pageantry was initiated solely to please the crowds. There must have been a deeper meaning to this ritual, as there is for every little action and icon in Vajrayana Buddhism practiced in Nepal.

But that meaning is now virtually lost. Perhaps a handful of individuals who possess that knowledge are still around, but those who are knowledgeable are perpetually stuck in enacting the rituals or watching them silently, without realizing the importance of dwelling on the philosophy behind the rites.

The bathing ritual of Janabahaa Dyo or "Nhawan" is probably its second most important annual event, after the chariot festival. It is conducted in the evening of the eight day of the waxing moon of the month of Poush (Poush Shukla Ashtami), which fell coincidentally on Christmas this year.

What happens is this: the official caretaker or "Dyo Pala" priests fetch water in seven containers from the holy Bishnumati River at Shova Bhagwati the evening before. The fact that Bishnumati is probably one of the most polluted rivers in the world now is totally ignored -- in honor of tradition. The idol of Janabahaa Dyo is removed from its sanctuary on the afternoon of the auspicious day and placed elsewhere to prepare it for the bath. It is carried unceremoniously by one of the priests in his shoulders to the dais in the south-east corner of Janabahaa, covered with ornate fabric. After half an hour of extravagant tantric ceremonies, the idol is disrobed of its dozen or so layers of clothing. Finally, several containers of the "holy" Bishnumati water, milk, ghee and honey are poured over the idol.

Drops of the thick liquid that accumulate on the pedestal on which the idol is placed are sprinkled to eagerly awaiting devotees, as the holy liquid or "jal" is supposed to have magical healing powers. The idol is then covered with decorative material and carried back to the temple.

Thousands of devotees gather to watch the ritual bath, many singing hymns in praise of Janabahaa Dyo. The most important spectator is probably the living goddess Kumari, for whom attending this event is one of the few occasions where she gets to come out of her temple-residence in Durbar Square.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Compassion vs. Passion

This lady has put up her bird feed and incense stall in Janabahaa near the main gate, and supports a family with this occupation.

She does brisk business all day long, selling a basket of grains for Rs. 30 to devotees, who feed them passionately to pigeons -- an act of earning good karma.

Neither the devotees nor this lady spend much time thinking about the ill effect that bird-feeding has in the cleanliness of Janabahaa. The high number of devotees who wish to earn good karma by feeding the pigeons in Janabahaa every day contributes to an uncontrolled growth in the pigeon population. The droppings of the burgeoning bird population makes it almost impossible to keep the area clean.

There are many who feel compassionate for those who scrape up a living off of Janabahaa,. Their compassion, however, is in direct conflict with those who are passionate about keeping Janabahaa clean.

Note: among the many names of Janabahaa Dyo, the most popular one is Karunamaya, the Compassionate One.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Do You Own a Heritage Home?

Sampadā chem̐ thuvāyā saṃrakshana myānuyala : Svaniga Viśva Sampadā Kshetra, Nepāḥ : svanigale aitihāsika chem̐ta marmata yāyagu sujhāva

(Heritage Homeowner’s Preservation Manual: Kathmandu Valley World Heritage Site, Nepal: Advice for Maintenance of Historic Houses in the Kathmandu Valley)

The above might be a very, very long name for a book, but the name says it all. It has been brought to our attention, for the benefit of all of you via this blog, by Abin Pradhan, who is currently in Nepal for a short vacation from Charlotte, North Carolina in the US, where he has been living and working for the past few years.

Citing the significance of this book for places like Janabahaa where ugly matchbox concrete-and-steel structures are replacing the uniquely beautiful typical Newa style houses in an alarming pace, Abin says, "This book is a manual on maintenance and conservation of traditional residential structures, which I believe could be equally applicable - where relevant - to old temple and bahas like Janabahaa too. It is fairly comprehensive and gives plenty of examples. It is an interesting read without a doubt.. Let's keep the light on!"

With his earlier experience of working with top-level executives and decision makers of the nation, Abin is of the opinion that the grass-roots level approach to a problem can achieve only so much, and a top-down approach will do the rest to help meet the goals completely. In his opinion, formulation and implementation of national level policies that impact Janabahaa need to be created, if they do not exist already, so that the legal framework is there to enforce implementation for various problems like physical cleanliness, controlled commerce, adherence to architectural standards, etc.

Of course, much work needs to be done to achieve this lofty goal, but every major undertaking is initiated with baby steps. That is exactly what has been done at Janabahaa, with Abin firmly at the helm.

The book is written by Rohit K. Ranjitkar and published in 2006 by UNESCO (Kathmandu).The full version of the book can be downloaded from

All images are from the book.

Carpet Connection

Literally scores of carpet-bearers pass through Janabahaa every afternoon. They all enter from the main gate on the eastern side, carrying their heavy burdens on their shoulders, in groups of two or three. They walk briskly and silently out of the Bahaa, via the western exit, as quickly as they come.

Everyone knows that they are traveling salesmen, trying to get the best deal for their hand-woven Nepali carpets, which is a merchandise mass-produced in Nepal since the last several decades, but of Tibetan origin.

These hardy young men obviously are of the Chhetri caste, judging from their facial features. What motivates them to go into business, instead of following the Chhetri tradition of getting a government job or enlisting in the security forces?

Where do they come from every day, and where are they headed? Why do they always take this particular route? These questions remain unanswered, at least for now.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Of Walls and Windows

Intricate woodwork on the north, south and west walls of the ground floor of Janabahaa Dyo temple, and all four walls on the upper floor.

The ornate brass repoussé work depicting 108 Lokeshwor mounted along the north, south, and west walls of Janabahaa Dyo temple on the ground floor. This particular undertaking was completed in 2002, after about fourteen years of perseverance.

One of the last remaining Newaa-style houses inside the Janabahaa courtyard.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Power Cut? No Problem.

A devotee prays at Janbahaa Dyo temple during load shedding hours in the evening, the shrine being illuminated beautifully by dozens of butter lamps. Photo by Alok Tuladhar.

Sunday, December 13, 2009


Sometimes, it is good to shut yourself off from the world from for a while and just reflect. We did just that, and came up with this list. Having something in black and white helps tremendously to put things in perspective.

Major Achievements of Janabahaa Society/Janabahaa Heritage Information Center

1.       September 2006: Establishment of Janabahaa Heritage Information Center, an office space to carry out the various works of Janabahaa Society in an organized manner. Rented and renovated a room inside Janabahaa courtyard, created brochure and membership certificate, part-time staff hired. Solicited support of half a dozen local non-profit organizations, such as the Aryavalokiteshor Sarva Sangh, Machhindra Bhajan Khala, Pradipta Pustakalaya, Macchindra Club, Machhindra Rover and Ranger Scouts, Kanak Chaitya Mahavihar Sudhar Samiti, etc.
2.       September 2006: Membership campaign launched to involve as many volunteers (professionals from all fields) as possible in the various activities of Janabahaa Society. Database of members’  address, email, telephone number, etc. created. Periodic newsletter sent to members electronically to maintain a close link with the member community using modern technology. Current membership stands at over 200.
3.       September 2006: Launched official website and blog
4.       October 2006: Cleaning campaign launched with the help of youth volunteers from different non-profit organizations to keep the periphery of Janabahaa courtyard physically clean.
5.       November 2006: Published and distributed a New Year calendar on the occasion of Nepal Sambat 1127.
6.       March 2007: A documentary entitled "Jheegu Janabahaa" aimed at creating awareness about the various religious, cultural and social aspects of Janabahaa was produced in DVD format. It was distributed in Kathmandu and London at a nominal cost.
7.       May 15, 2007: Survey trip to Raniban forest to locate fallen and aged “chilaune” trees required for renovation of Janabahaa Dyo temple after receiving permission from the authorities.
8.       May - August 2007: Numerous trips taken to Raniban forest by youth volunteers from Janabahaa area to fell and collect “chilaune” trees required for the renovation of Janabahaa Dyo temple.
9.       May 2008: Children’s mini library started at the Center with books donated by members of the Society. Objective of the library is to get the local youth interested and involved in the Society’s activities and objectives over a period of time.
10.   June 28, 2008: First annual meeting held with the participation of a large number of community members and public figures to discuss the achievements of Janabahaa Society and to chart out the way forward.
11.   July 12, 2008: Free health clinic launched to  monitor community health and to provide general health awareness education with the help of volunteer doctors.
12.   August 27, 2008: Janabahaa Dyo temple renovation works officially launched on this auspicious date to replace the age-worn wooden beams in the inner sections of the first and second floors.
13.   September 15, 2008: Charity show of Nepali feature flim "Sano Sansaar" to raise funds for the activities of Janabahaa Society at Jai Nepal cinema.
14.   October 4, 2008: Children's group ("Macha Puchah") rolled out with the aim of bringing about increased awareness among the younger generation regarding the rich heritage of Janabahaa.
15.   April 2009: Janabahaa Dyo temple renovation works officially concluded (wooden beams were replaced on the inner section of the first and second floors and brick tiles on the first floor were replaced) with financial support from local community members and devotees. This was the first major renovation of the temple structure carried out after about a hundred years.
16.   May 2009: Repair works started on the votive stupas in the Janabahaa courtyard with financial help from community members and devotees.
17.   July 2009: Fundraising campaign started to collect the money required to repair the maney (prayer wheel) and daloo (metal oil lamp) structure and to relocate them from the temple platform to the lower ground surrounding the stupas.
18.   August 2009: Weekly meetings launched to plan for the design and construction of the Agam (Digi) Chhen – the multipurpose public building on the eastern face of Janabahaa. It was completely burnt down in a fire in 1917 AD, and was rebuilt with an European-style façade. It will now be rebuilt from the ground up, with a typical Newaa portico. Senior architects and engineers from the local community have taken the lead in the planning.
19.   September 3, 2009: Screening of rare footage of Kathmandu Valley shot in 1955-7 for the benefit of the general public.
20.   November 2009: Research work launched for the preservation of historical archives with the objective of locating, transliterating, translating and digitizing the numerous ancient inscriptions found in various wooden, stone and metal objects in and around the Janabahaa Dyo temple with technical and financial support from experts in this field who are based in Nepal and abroad.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Punk is Not Dead

Who says punk is dead? Three of them ended up in Janabahaa just the other day, and spent quite a bit of time looking around and taking pictures.

Photo by Alok Tuladhar.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Cloud Lakes, Circle of Bliss and Creatures of the Rain Rivers

Cloud lakes, circle of bliss and creatures of the rain rivers all sound mystical, and remind one of Shangri-La. Well, across the world from the mysterious East and the possible location of Shangri-La, Dr. Gautama Vajracharya of Madison, Wisconsin is an expert on those topics.
Dr. Vajracharya has taught Buddhist art and iconography for many years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His latest works published in internet journal include "Elements of Newar Buddhist Art : Circle of Bliss - a Review Article" and "The Creatures of the Rain Rivers, Cloud Lakes: Newars Saw Them, So Did Ancient India." Due to the sheer length of those articles, it is not possible to replicate them here, so please click on the links above to go to them directly.

Though physically very distant from Janabahaa, Dr. Vajracharya is not very far removed in spirit from the place he was born and brought up in. He has recently retraced his steps back to his roots via our blog. Here is an email received from him over the weekend:

From: Gautama Vajracharya
Sent: Saturday, December 05, 2009 9:41 AM
Subject: Janabaha

Dear Alok,

Almost certainly, you don't know me because I left Nepal thirty five years ago and most of my works are published in the west. I taught Buddhist art and iconography for many years at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA. I am deeply interested in your Janabaha project not only because I am from Janabaha but also because there are plenty of materials, both manuscripts and artistic works, some of them in the inner room, /garbhagriha/, at the second floor of digi, others in the main temple. I am quite familiar with the objects, particularly the manuscripts because I worked on them thirty years ago when my father Divyavajra Vajracharya and my uncles were alive. They need to be well preserved and photographed in detail before renovation begins. Please be extra careful with these valuable objects.

I will be in Nepal for a week at the beginning of February 2010. I may be able to help you to protect the heritage both intellectually and financially (few hundred dollars from my personal saving).

Gautama Vajracharya

Two of the many interesting illustrations included in Dr. Vajracharya's articles mentioned above.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


When does one circumnavigate Janabahaa Dyo anticlockwise? Well, when one is dead.

A high-ranking Buddhist priest belonging to the Newa community passed away on December 3, and his dead body was taken on a funeral procession the next day to the banks of the Bishnumati River where his relatives performed last rites before cremating his body. Now, it so happened that Janabahaa fell on the procession route. Instead of going around Janabahaa in the clockwise direction, as done normally by all living Buddhists, the funeral parade went counterclockwise, following centuries-old tradition.

Friends and relatives attending the funeral procession carry incense in their hands.

Traditionally, the dead body, placed on a palanquin, is carried by relatives, but this one was mounted on a vehicle.

This particular body was wrapped in colorful, gold-yarn embroidered fabric, and kept in a sitting position throughout the cavalcade, indicating the deceased individual's special status.

 Close relatives walk barefoot all the way to the cremation spot, covering their heads with Dhaka shawls. Only male friends and relatives participate in the funeral procession.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.

Monday, December 07, 2009

The Three Boys from Barcelona

Here is an email received early this week from Barcelona, Spain. At the end are the screen shots of their web site (the original, as well as the translated version). Shows the popularity Janabahaa is gaining by the day, not only locally but also globally. Much thanks to Manel and friends for helping publicize Janabahaa Dyo, and for letting us know about it.

jwajalapa friends!

How are you? we are already in christmas time, cold days... Do you remember us? We are the 3 boys from Barcelona who came in year 2007 to take film about Janabahaa dya jatra...

We have just published an article about the festival:

Tha article includes only a few pictures from the thousands we did in year 2007 during our visit and it is only a short version text of all what we will like to explain, but even though we think it is sufficient to let know you fantastic festival around Seto Matxendranathbetween here in Barcelona, Catalonia.

We hope you enjoy the pictures... the text is in catalan, but you can translate by using Google translate:

As you can see we have put a link to Janabahaa dya society. Please send us your comments and explain how are the things going!!

best regards from Barcelona!


Associació Rebombori Digital
c/wellington 78 4rt 1a
08018 Barcelona

Screen shot of the same web site machine-translated into English by Google (not so accurate!).

Friday, December 04, 2009

Coverage on Republica daily newspaper

Today's edition of Republica broadsheet daily included a story on the ongoing renovation and preservation efforts at Janabahaa. The interview for the story was conducted at the Janabahaa Society office two days ago by Kanchan Burathoki. The story is available online at

Here is a screen capture from thew newspapers's online edition.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Children of Karunamaya IV

Karunamaya, the compassionate one, provides a virtually unlimited-size drawing board to these children who are growing up happily in Janabahaa. The long-haired girl's mother is a full-time sweeper at Janabahaa, and also sells flowers at the gate all day long to support her two kids. The parents of the girl on the right scrape up a living with a tea-stall that has the sky as its roof just outside Janabahaa.

A visitor at Janabahaa basks in the sun happily.

Another happy visitor.

Photos by Alok Tuladhar.