From Islamabad we flew to London and spent a little more than one day. We started with a ride on the London Eye on the left. It provides a spectacular view of London.











In the evening we ate in a pub. Since smoking is no longer allowed, pubs installed street counters for smokers who have to smoke outside on the sidewalk.




After all the fuss about the da Vinci code (Dan Browns book), we decided to visit the Temple church of the Templars. On the left is the beautiful Romanesque entrance portal of this late 12th c. church.


Inside this round church based on the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem there are a number of tombs.




One of the major reasons we wanted to stop in London was to visit the British Museum again.


We found this vivid Tibetan Tantric sculpture (early 19th c). Depicted is Yamantaka Vajrabhairava, a fierce Tantric deity for overcoming evil and death. He is a frightening manifestation of Manjusri – the Bodhisattva of knowledge. Yamantaka has become the tutelary deity of the Dalai Lamas and of the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) school of Tibetan Buddhism. Yamantaka is shown embracing Vajravarahi his wisdom partner. Their union represents the spiritual passion for enlightenment.


On the right is a stoneware figure of Budai dating from 1486 (Ming Dynasty).


Budai, the fat smiling monk, is an accretion of several Chinese Buddhist legends. He is sometimes regarded as and incarnation of Maitreya the future Buddha who will follow Shakyamuni. It is in this role that Budai is placed in the entrance halls to temples and monasteries.


We’ve always been told that rubbing this ubiquitous fat and happy monk’s tummy brings good luck. The Chinese think that being fat is a sign of the prosperity they wish. However, in the British Museum we learned that he sometimes is a Buddha image!




Our most fascinating find was an assortment of Assyrian stone reliefs from Nimrud dating from about 865-860 BCE.


King Ashurnasirpal II appears twice, dressed in ritual robes and holding the mace symbolizing authority. In front of him is a sacred tree (symbolizing life) and he makes a gesture of worship to a god in a winged disc. The god (perhaps the sun god Shamash) has a ring in one hand; this is an ancient Mesopotamian symbol of god-given kingship.


What we found so fascinating is the depiction of the god in the winged disc. The Zoroastrian tradition, rigidly codefied under the Sassanian rule (2nd through 6th c. CE), calls it a Fravahar or guardian soul and gives extensive symbolic meaning to all of its components (wings, ring etc). See our Iranian website.


This ancient Mesopotamian deity was adopted some 300 years later by the Achemenids where it is found abundantly (see the tombs of Naqsh-e-Rostam and Persepolis). There is no mention in any of the Achemenid writings of Zoroaster. It seems likely that when Zoroastrianism became a formal religion much after the Achemenids, this Mesopotamian deity was also incorporated into that tradition.