Footloose in the Buddhachitta capital

Devendra Gautam

Devendra Gautam

Footloose in the Buddhachitta capital

Legends have it that the Shakyamuni Buddha visited Timal once. The Buddhachitta is his gift to the wonderful people of Timal

The Timal region was always on my mind, especially after the start of the coronavirus pandemic toward the end of the year 2019. The region had seen far better days before the pandemic.

Why would it not?

After all, it is said to be the only place on Planet Earth where the magical Buddhachitta trees grow. The trees bear those round, beautiful, magical things called the Buddhachitta that cost (or used to cost in those heydays) a small fortune.

There’s an interesting folktale about the Buddhachitta tree. It goes something like this. The Shakyamuni Buddha came on a visit to this abode of peace and bliss once. Before leaving, he wanted to bless the place and the wonderful people living there. When asked, the local people asked for his rosary.

The kind and the compassionate one gave the locals more than they had asked for. He gifted them the plant that would bear the fruits used to make his rosary. Apparently, for the faithful, the Buddhists from around the world in particular, Buddhachitta rosaries are a must-have. Many look for the finest ones having perfect shape and size and the ones that bear some sort of ‘natural engravings’ associated with the Buddha and his life.

There was a time when the demand for the Buddhachitta was soaring, enabling local communities to make hay and have a party. Bottles of alcoholic drinks finely stacked by the entrance to those inns are perhaps a reminder of both the good and the bad times that have passed Timal by. At the height of the boom came reports about local farmers keeping guards to prevent the theft of their magical tree crops. Amid burgeoning trade and open hostilities, fights became common.

But good things don’t last, or do they? First came the 2015 Gorkha Earthquake, then came the coronavirus pandemic and the Russia-

Ukraine conflict, in a space of barely four years, pushing both the pandemic-infected global and national economies into deeper crises amid feeble signs of recovery. Against the backdrop of hard times, I went to meet Timal (Remember, I had a promise to keep) on a rain-soaked evening in May, to find that adverse weather conditions were already having an impact on the magical crop.

The Kot Timal Bazaar appeared half-asleep (Or was it me, tired to the bone at the end of an hours- long journey?). To shake off sleep, I went around town, chatted with a couple of people, feasted on Ainselus/Chautaris (Chutro) by the roadside and managed to capture the dying ‘northern lights’ of the day from the meadows. Even on a piece of heaven, venturing out too far on your own was not a wise idea, so I retreated.

At the ‘guesthouse’, as it turned out, I was the only human guest! For most of the night, a bumblebee trapped in the room kept buzzing from I don’t know where, giving me some company. As ventilation was almost non-existent, I feared for my breath and remained awake for the most part.

The next morning, a rather chatty bird started his/her bird-talk long before the first tweets from Elon Musks, KP Olis and Donald Trumps of this world. Initially, I thought it was the bird’s way of wanting to know whether I was impressed with the room service. As the morning matured, the talk became faster and more intense, making me wonder if these chirpy little things imitate heated verbal exchanges that take place in families.

The next day, my footloose streak continued well into the afternoon, taking me to places like the Raktakali Temple, Timal and Narayansthan on foot. Through conversation with some locals, I came to know about the shortage of water in their areas and how they were tapping rainwater to use it for irrigation, washing and for the cattle.

Their hope was on a project that aimed to draw water from the Sunkoshi and distribute it to households through a network of water tanks and pipelines. During my wandering into the woods, the sound of a one-odd vehicle passing by occasionally would disturb the meditative peace of the woods that were in perfect harmony with chirps of birds and the roar of the Sunkoshi flowing down below. Even on this lap of Mother Nature, scars of development were clearly visible under the watchful eyes of Father Sky. Close to the Sunkoshi banks, earth-moving equipment were roaring, perhaps for the construction of some export-oriented hydel.

Landslides by the roadside dampened my spirit a little bit. It is no secret that bulldozer-led works have often wreaked havoc and given development a bad name. Now that the local, provincial and federal elections are over, one hopes that the elected representatives will be a little more mindful of the environmental fragility of their constituencies. How about starting with environmental audits of past development works, learning vital lessons and moving on at albeit slow pace with environmental well-being, and not bulldozers, on the driving seat of development?

Here’s hoping that this will help places like the Buddhachitta capital remain at peace with themselves and the rest of the world, even in hard times like these. With peace and bliss, other good things such as progress and prosperity will follow, won’t they?


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