A visit to Nepal's shrine of the great god Shiva

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September 11th 2015
Published: September 11th 2015
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The MahadevThe MahadevThe Mahadev

At 143 ft, Nepal's Shiva statue is only 8 ft. shorter than the Statue of Liberty.
It looms over the highway that runs from Kathmandu to Dhulikhel, a giant bronze replica of Shiva who, along with Brahma and Vishnu, is one of the triumvirate of deities in the Hindu pantheon. He holds a trident in his left hand, his right hand is raised in a gesture of blessing, and a cobra encircles his neck, poised to strike. At 143 feet, Nepal's Kailashnath Mahadev is the world's largest monument to Shiva, god of destruction and transformation, patron of yoga and artistic expression.

Commissioned in 2004 by Indian businessman Kamal Jain, it took a team of artisans and engineers seven years to build. Today it towers over another of Jain's far flung enterprises, the Hilltake Health Spa and Hotel.

The statue was pointed out to me by my Nepali hosts on my first day in country as we drove from the airport to Kathmandu University, where I will be teaching a month-long course in creative writing. I'm also coordinating an oral history of the April 25th earthquake which left an estimated 9000 people dead, more than 23,000 injured, and tens of thousands homeless. It's a day that one of my fellow professors, Arun Sharma, has taken to
The path to the frontThe path to the frontThe path to the front

The side pat is steep and rocky
calling E-Q Day. "It's our equivalent to your 9-11," he says.

In light of recent events, it seemed entirely appropriate that I should go and pay my respects to the god of destruction. So after my classes and a spot of lunch, I headed over to the town of Sanga in a car provided by the University with the understanding that I would have to get myself back home by local bus.

The drive was an adventure in its own right. Like the Brits, Nepalis drive on the left side of the road. The rule here seems to be "keep moving, lean on your horn, and do not stop for any reason." We jockeyed past swarms of motorcycles, trucks, and buses, the driver honking incessantly and careening down the oncoming lane whenever the opportunity arose. He dropped me off at the foot of a steep hill that leads to the monument, wished me luck, and sped off.

It was here that I had to make a decision. I could either go up the paved road to the Hilltake Spa and enter via the back door, or take the dirt trail up and around to the front of
The final stepsThe final stepsThe final steps

The view from the front gate
the statue. Both are steep climbs and there are, according to the guide books, pluses and minuses to either alternative.

The climb is easier, but the major downside to the spa entrance is that they charge a "parking fee" whether or not you arrive by car. Enter via the dirt path and there's no admission fee, but the ascent, as I would soon discover, is maybe a little dicey, especially for an old fart like me with bad knees and virtually no climbing experience. The trail turned out to be steep and rocky, and I literally had to use hands and feet to get up and over the final hump.

I made it in one piece, although by the time I got to the top, I was a sweat-soaked mess. I went for a pee, washed my hands and face, and headed for the outdoor snack bar for some ice cream and a drink of water. From the snack bar you can see for miles, and I took in the view and shot some pix before finally turning to face the great god Shiva. I walked the remaining steps up to the base of the statue. It was,
From the bottom upFrom the bottom upFrom the bottom up

From the base, you get a sense of how enormous the statue really is

I paid homage in the way most moderns do, which is to say with my phone cam, snapping pictures until it was time to trudge back down the hill and catch a bus back to the university for a cold shower and a hot meal.

Additional photos below
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The viewThe view
The view

A portion of the Kathmandu Valley as seen from the outdoor snack bar.

You can walk back down via the Hilltake Health Spa and Hotel. There's at least one of the services they have on offer that you might choose to skip.

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