In the morning the rains lift away , and Kushinagar beyond the the plastic tarps and mala stalls is reavealed . Giant Thai-style stupa just across the dharamsala where I've stayed, and the vaguely 50's sci-fi hall housing the sleeping Buddha and a reliqary stupa behind it.
Pilgrimage : the endless re-inventing of the mix between piety and tourism. A Thai group arrives , bringing coverings ( like giant bedspreads in silk) for the sleeping Buddha - a soft spoken moment.
The next moment ... I think Siddharta would have laughed at the scene of the procession being led around stupa by a monk with a bullhorn , leading the prayers the same time.
Siddharta , who told people not to worship or believe him , only trust what people have tested with their own reasoning. And the early followers in the first monasteries, who made a concise statement on the use of imagery : the only embellishment found was a lotus bullseye in the urinoar.
Later I walk out to the cremation stupa (with numerous stops for chai, ras malai etc) together with Ramesh. The antipode of the gilt , slender Thai stupa : unadorned brick, oxidised black , with a indented profile that reminds me , gives some of the feelings as patients with "open lid" after brain surgery. Small flecks of gold leaf in the black.