Kurseong is home to great ethnic diversity, and the hills are filled with temples of many sects and religions….Perhaps more so than any other place we have visited.
On a green hill above the city, you will find churches and a holy spring that is sacred to the local Christian community.
All around the city you will find Hindu temples and shrines dedicated to different gods, and we saw the beautiful curves of some white minarets of a Muslim mosque.
We took a long walk up a beautiful hill and through a forest filled with flowers and tall trees, and we came upon a small village.
We saw people cooking in large vats, making noodles and many vegetable dishes.
It seemed as if the whole village were gathering that day.
It was a village of the Mangur sect of Nepali Hindus.
The gathering was part of the last day of a ten day funeral wake, in which the family and the neighbors from the village had gathered for a celebratory meal.
We met the two sons of a mother who had passed away.
They were sitting in a makeshift tent, doing rituals and offerings, guided by a local priest.
The two sons had to shave their heads and wear only a shawl and underwear, for ten days after the departure of their mother.
According to their customs, they were not supposed to eat more than one meal per day during those ten days.
They were not allowed to eat any salt, nor any vegetables that grow under the ground.
They were not allowed to eat meat of any kind, only some fruit and plain cooked rice with unsalted butter.
The local presiding priest was very welcoming and invited us to watch the ceremonies.
They made us sweet tea and brought some plastic chairs for us to sit on.
The priest drew with yellow colored rice grains, a diagram on the sand in the shape of a five pointed star.
They lined the star with 35 candles, for their 35 gods.
They placed offerings of food and sweets for the spirit of the departed mother.
Everything she loved to eat was there on the banana leaf, along with the betel nut Paan, which she loved to chew.
The priest also drew with spices other symbols on the ground and poured oil on top of the offerings, as a symbol of abundance so the spirit of the departed mother will advance into the next incarnation with a sense of blessing and abundance.
I felt so grateful that they invited us to sit and enjoy the ceremonies.
When we left, everyone treated us like family, and we felt so blessed that we took this shortcut through the forest and ended up in this village.
The steep hills of this region are dotted with many Buddhist monasteries and temples as well.
We were on our way to visit a small Buddhist Nunnery that is run by six nuns.
The Kunsamnamdoling Monastery is a quaint monastery within a pine forest and when we approached it, the stone path was lined with many prayer flags on both sides.
Inside the main hall we saw a large golden statue of Guru Padmasambhava.
This temple belongs to the yellow hat sect of Mahayana Buddhism.
A Buddhist nun is called an “Annie” (also spelled Anee), and so this nunnery was run by six Annies (‘Anees’).
The eldest Annie welcomed us with a warm smile.
She offered us chocolate and invited us to sit and hear the midday prayer.
She was very obliging about our taking photos inside their beautiful temple.
The walls of the temple were painted with intricate paintings done in excellent detail.
We sat on the floor cushions and enjoyed listening to the young monks who came there for training, as they chanted and played the trumpets, bells and drums for the midday prayer.
We had to take a local guide, to walk around the forest and the countryside.
It was part of the local government’s plan to assist the locals to find employment.
It was obvious that our guide did not know the area well, because he did not know which way to walk through the forest or how to get to the forest museum.
He kept on stopping and asking farmers and workers for directions, as we walked by them.
Still, our day was enjoyable and interesting to us.
After a long and leisurely lunch we left towards Darjeeling.