Last week we drove up to the Seto Gumba (Druk Amitabh Mountain)- The White Gumba in Kathmandu, locally referred to as Nepal’s Potala Palace. The trip up the mountain was a little fraught. The monastery only opens to the public on Saturdays, and is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. The road up the mountain is narrow in places, and the traffic gets a little clogged.
However, it is well worth the effort. Entry is through the wide gate beautifully decorated with dragons and Buddhas, and from which there are spectacular views back across the valley. Entry to the site was free, which was surprising considering the huge expense it must take to maintain the monastery and sculptures. The White Gomba was constructed fairly recently, and on a grand scale. We walked around the beautifully landscaped grounds marvelling at the numerous huge gold statues of Deities including Padmasambhava, Tara, and several statues of the Buddha. The monastery itself is large and consists of a number of white buildings in Tibetan style. Approximately 300 nuns reside and practice in Seto Gumba. Everyday, they wake up at various Buddhist 3am and finish their day at about 11pm. The youngest nun is about 9 years’ old and the oldest, about 60 years’ old. They come from remote places in Tibet, Ladakh, Lahaul, Bhutan and Sikkim.
The main temple room is a wonder (no photos allowed here) with finely decorated ceilings and walls of copper statues, and another huge Padmasambhava statue. From the large open spaces around the white buildings you can look out over the spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. The White Gumba is a “must see” for visitors to Kathmandu.
Small Blessings: Amulets, Magic and Medicine
We attended a short talk on the amulets at the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford at the weekend . The museum is using a recent award from the Designation Development Fund (DDF) to explore and interpret their huge collection of religious and folkloric amulets collected by the French ethnologist Adrien de Mortillet more than a century ago and acquired by Sir Henry Wellcome before its transfer to Oxford.
The 2500 objects in the collection came from various cultures from around the world. Often completely unique and personal, utilizing auspicious materials and symbolism, amulets were made for various purposes, e.g., to avert evil or disease, or to bring good luck in harvests, journeys, or war. Yet a theme that unites them, and one which the project will seek to explore, is that the people who created and used them believed they had the power to alter or affect the world around them. In this sense amulets can help us understand the human need for well-being and the universal concepts of hope and belief.
Windhorse Imports often acquire Tibetan amulet boxes. Tibetan Amulet boxes or “ghau” are generally made from metal in a repousse style of construction. The purpose and function of these is for protection when travelling. They sometimes have a small window on the front with a religious image inside. Typically the front is very ornate and decorated with the Eight Auspicious Symbols and other motifs. Amulet boxes are also commonly used to store all manner of sacred materials such as small texts, blessing cords, consecrated medicine, relics, and the like. Objects such as this were generally carried when travelling some distance away from home, such as on pilgrimage, or for extended business trips.
On 30th January 2012 we were fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to the remote mountain village of Ratbash, in the Kavre District of Nepal, to visit the Community hospital built by the DCWC (Development of Children and Womens Centre) Charity. The trip took about five hours in a four-wheel drive jeep, much of it along a rocky mountain track. Continue reading