Saturday 9 December 2023



                                     By Vikram Seth



·       The chapter ‘Kathmandu’ is written by Vikram Seth based on his personal experiences, and that’s why he has successfully brought out true picture of a tourist spot in Kathmandu.

·       Vikram Seth, an Indian writer and novelist, has written several novels and poems. He is renowned for his novels such as A Suitable Boy, The Golden Gate and An Equal Music and the collection of his poems, Mappings.

·       This chapter presents a beautiful glimpse of the capital city of Nepal, Kathmandu which is varied in its heritage and cultural variety, rich in arts and handcrafts, land of temples and a heaven for tourists.

·       The Hindu and Buddhist temples of Kathmandu tell that people of Nepal accept their cultural and religious diversity and welcome all their good things in foreign cultures making them a part of their culture for ever.

·       The chapter about Kathmandu demonstrates Nepal’s richness in tourist destinations, temples, markets and its arts and crafts highlighting its geographical variety, cultural richness and economical strength.

·       This chapter touches upon write’s personal interest for music through a beautiful description of a flute seller in the market streets of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal.


Synopsis / Summary 

In the chapter ‘Kathmandu’, the author describes his experience of travelling the city. When he arrives in the city, he secures a cheap room in the town centre where he rests for an extended period during his stay in the city. Accompanied by Mr. Shah's son and nephew, he explores two temples of significance to Hindus and Buddhists. Pashupatinath, a Hindu temple, is described as a place of bustling activities, featuring priests, devotees, tourists, animals, and even a brief encounter with Nepalese royalty. The devotees pushed and elbowed one another to get ahead, monkeys ran and fought everywhere and the police pushed western devotees saying that they were not Hindus. The scene captures the chaotic yet vibrant atmosphere of religious fervour.

As a complete contrast, the narrator visits the Baudhnath stupa, a Buddhist shrine, where a sense of stillness prevails. The stupa is surrounded by small shops owned by Tibetan immigrants. The scene offers a peaceful heaven amidst the busy streets at outer circle. The chapter paints a vivid picture of Kathmandu's diverse and lively atmosphere, from crowded narrow streets adorned with artistic objects and crafts to the quiet and serene and ambiance around the Buddhist stupa.

The chapter concludes with a poignant reflection on the impact of flute music heard in the city square. The flute seller, with his array of bamboo flutes, plays meditatively, creating a universal and intimate connection through the shared language of music. He describes various other types of flutes from various countries such as China, Japan, America, etc. The narrator finds himself unexpectedly moved by the bansuri's familiar phrases, contemplating the significance of such details, which he previously might not have noticed in his returns from abroad.

The narrator immerses himself in the city's mercenary and religious aspects, indulging in local treats and observing the daily life around him. Despite considering various travel routes, he decides to head home, purchasing a flight ticket from Nepal Airlines.

The chapter captures the rich tapestry of Kathmandu's cultural, religious, and sensory experiences, blending the chaotic with the serene and the mundane with the profound.

Important Terms

Shrine                  Temple, small place of worship

Febrile confusion:       hurried activity, complete chaos

Haven:                 a safe place

marzipan:            a sweet made with grated almond

brazier:                open stove

nauseating:          sickening

per-se:                 by itself

Important Question - Answers 

Q1. Compare and contrast the atmosphere in and around the Baudhnath shrine with the Pashupatinath temple.

Ans. The atmosphere in and around the Baudhnath shrine is completely different from that of the Pashupatinath temple. There is an atmosphere of ‘febrile confusion’ in the Pashupatinath Temple. Priests, hawkers, devotees, tourists, cows, monkeys, pigeons and dogs roam through the ground in the temple. There are so many worshippers that some people trying to get the priest’s attention are elbowed aside by others pushing their way to the front. At the main gate, some saffron-clad Westerners struggle for permission to enter but the policeman didn’t allow as they are not ‘Hindus’. A fight breaks out between two monkeys. One chases the other and one jumps onto a shivalinga, then runs screaming around the temple. At the Baudhnath stupa, the Buddhist shrine of Kathmandu, there is, in contrast, a sense of stillness and quietness. Small shops stand on its outer edge of the stupa. Unlike Pasupatinath temple, there are no crowds and no hue and cry. This stupa is a haven of quietness in spite of the busy streets around, and which is a complete contrast to the atmosphere at the Pashupatinath Temple.

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