escuchela, la cuidad respirando
Only the ten foot tall Kal Bhairav remains standing as stoic as it ever was, plastered in bright vermillion that could easily be the blood of a thousand sacrificed to this hungry god. The Kal Bhairav relief is the only structure that is consistently worshipped and prayed to. Devotees throng the menacing statue and tourists are often awe-struck by the god’s monstrous visage. The Kal Bhairav is befitting his name: an incarnation of death that is not the sinewy skeleton of the grim reaper nor the shadowy apparition of a spectre, he is fear and wrath incarnate, death at its most primal, a breaking away of form and matter, free reign to all passions, no longer boxed by the lie that is maya. No wonder so many come to pray to him. With his weapon held aloft, his eyes blazing like a thousand suns, Kal Bhairav stares down at all us puny humans, kneeling at his feet, supplicating ourselves so that he will stay away just a little longer, so that the shadow of his mighty form not fall upon us that night as we lay afraid and quaking in our beds, praying, praying for death to take the other door.
The Kathmandu Durbar Square seems to serve as a synecdoche for the city of Kathmandu, a contrasting symbol. Modern and ancient all at once, concrete jostling for space with brick and centuries old wood. A living goddess sharing space with us humble humans. Shiva Parvati looking out from their dabali window as young lovers walk hand in hand below their watchful gaze.
During day time, the square is full of people, alive and vibrant, a cacophony of sound. At night, there is only an owl’s baleful gaze, the streets yellow under the jaundiced glow of the streetlamps and the temples ominous and forbidding in the dark, Kal Bhairav looming like a mountain, seemingly grown taller in the gloom. It is only at night that you feel it, the steady throbbing of the city as it sleeps, its hearbeat, its breathing. And from Kathmandu Durbar Square, the heart of the city, you breathe in as the city breathes out; you begin where the city ends, or is it the other way around?