29 April 2013

Morris Dancing

It is May Day this coming Wednesday which is the first day of the month and I have just been informed that it is a Public Holiday in Singapore for May Day.

I didn't know.

I am flying back to Singapore tonight from India and I am very pleased.

May Day is an English Holiday. They didn't invent it but they make a bit of a deal about it.

The Romans came up with May day before Christianity was invented and they associated it with their worship of seasons. Roman May Day was initially a festival for the Goddess Flora who was the Goddess of Flowers.

I have been in the United Kingdom on May Day’s before and I have witnessed firsthand the celebrations undertaken by the English. I have seen their strange and disturbing pagan rituals and I found them a bit dark and weird and spooky. I couldn't help but feel an underlying sense of doom for the May Queens that are nominated in many of the small English villages. There was a sacrificial air about the whole May Queen thing and I found the dressing-up-in-funny-costumes and dancing-around-maypoles a little disconcerting as well. 

The Morris Dancing was simply ridiculous.

When I first saw the Morris Dancers I thought that they were surely lunatics and I actually thought I was tripping. I had eaten mushroom soup the evening before I first saw a troupe of Morris Dancers and thought that perhaps the chef had slipped in some magic hallucinogenic ones.

Morris Dancing is one of the funniest and most bizarre things that I have ever seen. Here is a picture of some Morris Dancers. 

See for yourself.

I am not sure if any of the English with whom I work in Singapore do any Morris Dancing - on May Day or any other. I will have to ask them. I think the main event for Morris Dancing is on the First of May however I assume that there must be a lot of practice involved and there are also other events where they do more dancing. This could well be other Pagan dates.

Morris Dancing is high energy and is quite complicated. The Dancers whack sticks together at times and they also wave about white hankies. They dance around in lines and circles with crazed looks of absolute delight on their faces. 

They are synchronized.

Hankies are handkerchiefs. Globally they are used mostly by women  - however many English men also use them to daintily blow their noses.

Here is a picture of Morris Dancers whacking of sticks together. It is brilliant.

Actually it would not really surprise me if most of the English blokes with whom I work in Singapore do in fact do Morris Dancing. They probably have their own private and secret Morris Dancing troupe and I can well imagine all of them dressed up and waving their lily white hankies about. I can imagine it clearly.

Whacking each other's sticks.



I am back in Delhi. Its a little bit smelly. I've got a very sore belly. My legs are all wobbly. Like jelly. And there's nufink on telly. I am tired and I want to go home.

28 April 2013


The wheel came off the van in which I was a passenger this morning. - the left rear wheel in fact. It came off suddenly and whilst we were driving a fair speed. It was a bit scary but it could definitely have been worse. A lot worse. No one was hurt. I was in the van with my friend Bhim and his wife Sasawarthi and their three children Aishworya, Jasmine and Krishnan. We were on our way to Bhaktapur - we were heading out for a family outing.

The wheel has come off a vehicle in which I was a passenger in Nepal once before. It was therefore not a new experience. I didn't like it then either The first time this occurred was a couple of years ago. It happened on a very steep and slow curving mountain road near a place called Katunje. That time I was on the flat bed at the rear of a large truck and it all seemed to happen in slow motion. Actually it was in slow motion. We were crawling up a very steep mountain. It could have been worse then too. 

Much worse.

Today we were driving in downtown Kathmandu when the wheel came off. It happened very quickly. One moment we were just driving along and the next we were sliding along then nearly tipping over. I was more shocked and scared about half an hour after it all happened - mostly thinking about how worse it could have been.

Don't worry Mum. Chill out. Relax. I am alright. No-one was hurt and everything is OK. We hired a better and safer van from back at the hotel. It was a mini bus actually. It had seat belts and we still had our day out in Bhaktapur. 

It was very nice.

I am not sure what I have written previously about Bhaktapur and I couldn't be bothered reading back to check. Suffice to say it is one of the four ancient Durba of Kathmandu. These are the palaces and temples of the old city kingdom. Bhaktapur is outside of Kathmandu city though. It is a city unto itself.  All four of the Durba are spectacularly beautiful. The temples and palaces of the Bhaktapur are however my favorite.

Here I am in Bhaktapur. I am soaking up the pleasure of being here. As you can see the deities of Bhaktapur are shining their divine light upon me.

Here I am a few seconds later at the same temple. I am looking a little shocked because the deities had suddenly switched off their divine light.

I will perhaps put up some other photos I have taken today of Bhaktapur but I will write very little more about the city. It is one of those places that is better seen than described - that is best experienced actually. Total immersion is indeed recommended for Bhaktapur and for all of Nepal. It will invade and captivate all of your senses if you allow it. 

Nepal will delight and enthrall you.

Here is a picture of me taken by Bhim with his wife Sasawarthi and his daughters Jasmine and Aishworya. They are as beautiful as the temples of Bhaktapur. 

Bhaktapur is World Heritage Listed by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation which is otherwise known as UNESCO.

The whole city.

It's history is long and colorful and fascinating. Up until the fifteenth century Bhaktapur was the capital of the Nepali Kingdom. The streets are narrow and cobbled and ancient and they randomly twist and ramble. You stoop and then step through tiny wooden doors and emerge into squares and courtyards and secret gardens. They are full of stunning temples and stupa and monasteries.

They are breathtaking.

The buildings of Bhaktapur are as much carved as they are constructed. They are carved and chiseled of wood and stone. The craftsmanship in the detail and intricacy of the architecture is outstanding. It is more art than craft and try as I might I can not adequately describe it. Words wouldn't do the beauty sufficient justice. Google it or go to Wikipedia or better still go there. Every one should do the 'Du at least once in their lifetime. It is a wondrous and wonderful city in a stunningly beautiful country.

It really is.

Here is a picture of a mobile temple. It is a very big one with wooden wheels and it is not something you see every day. When I asked Bhim how many buffalo were required to pull the temple around he laughed and told me that no buffalo were used. He told me that people pulled it. Monks actually. 

Lots of monks.

There was no evidence of any festivals today in Bhaktapur - nor indeed in Patan where I am staying. This is unusual. The Hindi calendars are full of festivals for their many gods and goddesses and Buddhist holy days are also many.

When he is working as a guide my friend Bhim likes to take tourists to watch the animal sacrifices that are conducted during many of the Hindi festivals. He told me that the tourists liked it too. Bhim told me that the European tourist backpackers in particular were fond of the blood rituals that are involved and that they took a lot of photographs.

The act of sacrifice is a very ancient one. It is an offering of something to someone who is considered divine. It is sometimes offered just for thanks but more often though it is offered in hope. In some instances this offering involves killing. It is the offering of a life - an animal life. In Nepal anyway. I don't think the Nepali Kingdom has ever offered up human sacrifices. This was mostly an ancient Greek and Incan thing - and some African tribes.

Our modern day take on sacrifice is a bit different. We sacrifice when we give something up for someone we love. We do without for them. We give up our time or an experience and sometimes bits of ourselves for someone or something we care for. These are things that we sacrifice in the modern western world. The people for whom we sacrifice might not be divine but we adore them regardless.

We cherish them.

We do this most often for our children. We have all done it and we should probably do more of it.

The world would be a better place.

Bhim knows that I am not a big fan of watching animals being slaughtered. He knows that I have an aversion to blood and it makes me squeamish. I have also told Bhim that I certainly don't want any animals sacrificed for me. He has offered before. The act of animal sacrifice in Nepal is both spiritual and very real. The flesh of the animals sacrificed in Hindi rituals is not always eaten. This is a sacrifice indeed for the many hungry people here.

Apparently the bigger the animal sacrificed the better. A buffalo carries more weight than a goat and a goat more than a chicken.

And so on.

Bhim once told me, a long time ago now, that the sacrifice of a coconut - by cutting it in half with a machete - is also an acceptable offering at a Hindi shrine. I have told him that I thought that this would be the best way to go for me.

Bhim told me today that when he goes back to his village for some special festivals he always now sacrifices a coconut for me and my brother Richard. He sacrifices one for each of us. I told Bhim that I feel both blessed and honoured by this but that it wasn't really necessary. 

I told him that I am blessed simply by having him and his family as my friends.