A “Bhajan” Evening at Bhaktapur

The sun sets and the day visitors from Kathmandu lrave. Bhaktapur reverts back to whst it really is, a living ancient Newari town still steeped in its ways.

I follow the sound of drumming and end up in Tamaudhi Tole.  A group of elderly  musicians playing drums and cymbals are gathered in a circle on the dance platform on the front right of Bhairabnath Temple.  

An old man leads the singing of bhajan, devotional songs, from an open book while the rest follows.  It sounds almost chant-like.  More men join the circle sitting cross-legged on simple mats laid on the floor.

On the front right porch of the Bhairabnath Temple, a much smaller group of men are gathered. The music of the two groups create a mesmerizing cacophony of sounds.

Three young men and an older man arrive and join the group in a circle.  Out of some long cloth bags lying on the floor come  long thin oboe-like instruments.  The instruments add a little fanfare to the music.

The surprise doesn’t end there.  The two gentlemen and young lady seated together behind the circle bring out shawms!  All along, I thought they were just spectators.  Their sound dominate the ensemble.  I notice that the the two groups of aerophones don’t play together. 

In the meantime, another group has assembled at the front left porch of the temple singing and playing music instruments.  

The entire square is filled with music.  The temple bell  on the right side of the temple soon joins in played by a teen-aged boy in the small group.  Close to 7pm, the three groups stop.  The smaller group that was first to arrive, clasp their hands in namaste, pack-up their instruments and leave.  One of them, a bespectacled youn man smiles at me and nods.  For a few minutes, the square is silent.  

The two remaining groups resume their music.  Once again, the shawms dominate.  A few minutes later, the group in a circle ceases to play. Finally, the other group dominates the square with their  chanting punctuated by a single double-headed drum and a few pairs of cymbals.  The square is nearly empty now except for a few vegetable vendors and a couple of Nepali police patrolling the streets.

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