This travel memory is not one of the most pleasant ones but I still want to share it, since not all new experiences are nice ones. I usually enjoy visiting temples very much because of the peaceful atmosphere there, but this place turned out to be quite different.
While we were in Kathmandu we wanted to visit some temples and went to some in the city and then wanted to go on a small day trip to a temple a bit outside the city. I don’t remember the name of the temple or specifically where it was, but I believe it was a temple dedicated to the goddess Kali. We (the two friends we stayed with, B and I) rented a taxi for the day and went up the mountains. The road there was quite beautiful and I enjoyed the scenery, we passed by fields and a monastery, going up and down the hills.
When we arrived we parked on the big parking lot where other cars and big buses were. It seemed like a nice place, surrounded by jungle and a walking path down toward the valley where the temple was situated. It was not a very short walk and on both sides of the path were small shops. They were selling different things but mostly things to sacrifice at the temple, like flower baskets and coconuts but also other things. Many shops were also selling chickens or hens and I also saw a few goats there, and I thought it was a bit strange place to sell them at. We just kept walking until we reached the end of the shops where we stopped and the others in our group selected and bought a flower basket for the temple visit.
I felt that I shouldn’t join the others down to the main temple area since I had been stopped at other Hindu temples before and not been allowed in because I’m not Hindu, so I didn’t want to be disrespectful at this temple even though it didn’t seem as strict as the others. And besides, someone had to hold bags and guard the shoes. While they went down to the temple, washed their hands and feet in the river and went to the temple area, I took pictures of them and walked around the area a bit more.
After a while I started noticing that some things were a bit different here than the other temples I had been to. The whole feeling was different, it’s difficult to explain but I felt a bit uneasy the whole time. It didn’t feel quite as peaceful as other temples I’ve visited, maybe because of it’s odd placement down in a valley instead of on a mountain or hilltop. That might have contributed since less fresh air got down there and the area around the small river was not so clean either.
As I was standing on one of the platformes that acted as a bridge, looking down into the river, the water in the river went from blue to being mixed with a red colour. I realised that the red colour was actually blood and that this was a temple where people sacrificed animals. It suddenly made sense why they sold chickens on the way down and why people walked around with a goat in a short leash. I got to see it a bit closer up where I met up with B and our friends when they were finished. Someone had sacrificed two chickens or hens that lay there.
All of it together; the smell, blood in the water and dead animals laying around, were too much for me. I just started to feel nauseated and cried. It might not seem like something to get sick over but it was a very strong experience for me and I’m also a sensitive person. B and our friends tried to comfort me and support me but nothing helped much, I just wanted to get out of there. It only started to get better in the car on the way away from there.
I think it was a strong experience for me because I don’t like the thought of killing animals. Sure I know people kill animals to eat every day and have been doing for a long time. I do think it’s better that people know their animals, how they lived and died before eating them, it might give some more respect towards animals than the disconnected meat industry we have in the west where a lot of children don’t even know meat comes from animals. But personally I just don’t feel comfortable with the though of breeding animals and keeping them just to kill and eat them, especially since it’s normally their young ones people prefer to eat. I stopped to eat red meat more than 15 years ago but still eat seafood and chicken occasionally, so even though I prefer vegetarian food I’m no better. Even at home I don’t feel comfortable buying and cooking meat because I feel sorry for the animals that had to die for my meal. Here in the west people generally eat way too much meat and mostly only the parts considered best so in that sense perhaps it’s better to have to go back to the basics of killing your own dinner, then maybe the meat consumption would go down (which would be good for the environment in whole, as well as for the health). Anyway I think for me this experience of the killing was just too much in my face and it was a cultural clash that I had not had before.
This experience sadly made the temple visits after less exciting. I kept getting worried that the same thing would happen again and I couldn’t enjoy it so much. I hope I can get over it and look forward to visiting temples again like I used to do.