Pashupatinath temple is the one of the biggest Hindu temple of Lord Shiva in the world located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple served as the seat of national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises. Non-Hindu visitors are allowed to have a look at the temple from the other bank of Bagmati River.
It is regarded as the most sacred among the temples of Lord Shiva (Pashupati)
Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. But according to Nepal Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, one day Lord Shiva grew tired of his palace atop Mt. Kailash and so went in search of a place where he could escape to. He discovered Kathmandu Valley and, without telling anyone, he ran away from his palace and came to live in the Valley. He gained great fame there as Pashupati, Lord of the Animals, before the other gods discovered his hiding place and came to fetch him. He disguised himself as a majestic deer and would not help the other gods when they asked for his help. When Shiva did not yield to their pleas, they planned to use force. God Vishnu grabbed him by his horns and they shattered into pieces. Vishnu established a temple and used the broken horns to form a linga on the bank of the Bagmati River. As time went by, the temple was buried and forgotten. Then a cow was known to have secretly sprinkled her milk over the mound. Apparently, when the cow herders dug around the spot, they found the lost lingas and again built a temple in reverence.
The temple was first established in the 5th century. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Brahmins from South India since the time of Malla king Yaksha Malla. This tradition is supposed to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. Malla kings honored the request of Adi shankarachaya as latter being one of the greatest ever Hindu acharyas.
Another interpretation is that Indian priests are stationed at Pashupatinath because when the King passes away, the entire Nepali people are supposed to stop religious services and enter a year long period of mourning and as Pashupatinath needs to be eternally worshiped, Indians were brought in to make sure that Pashupatinath is worshiped even at the time of official mourning.
However, this tradition was recently challenged after the historic revolution in Nepal which demolished the monarchy and established democracy where Nepalese priests supported by the anti- Indian Maoists government. There were widespread protests by most Nepalese as they saw this as interference in their religion. The Maoists lost power after a few months of this.
What to See at Pashupatinath
- Gold-painted images of guardian deities
- Chaturmukha (four-faced statue)
- Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century
- Brahma Temple
- Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken
- Arya Ghat
- Gauri Ghat (holy bath)
- Pandra Shivalaya (15 shrines)
- Gorakhnath and Vishwarup Temples
- Guhyeshwari (Guhjeshwari) Temple
- Kirateshwar Mahadeva Mandir and Surya Ghat
- The two level roofs of the temple are embellished with gold and the four main doors are adorned with silver.
- The temple is famous for its awe-inspiring and astounding pagoda architecture.
- The western door has a statue of a large Bull, Nandi, is ornamented in gold. This black stone idol, about 6 ft. in height and circumference, adds to the beauty and charisma of the temple.
- The present architectural nature of Pashupatinath temple came into existence as a result of renovation by Queen Gangadevi during the reign of Shivasimha Malla (1578-1620 AD).
Auspicious Days to Visit
In August, during the Teej festival, thousands of women visit the temple to bathe in the holy waters of the Bagmati River. Because this ritual is meant to bring a long and happy marriage, many women dress in red saris, which are traditionally worn for wedding ceremonies. Full moon and New moon days are also considered auspicious to visit the temple.
Good to know
According to a legend recorded in local texts, especially the Nepalamahatmya and the Himavatkhanda, the Hindu Lord Shiva once fled from the other gods in Varanasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Parvati. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) linga.
How to Reach
There are regular bus services from Kathmandu (from Ratna Park or City Bus Station) to Patan,. It takes approximately 45 minutes to reach Goshala, the stop for Pashupatinath.
Battery-operated Sofa tempos depart from near the Ratna Park office in Kathmandu and drop the pilgrims at Ring Road, west of Pashupatinath. Thereafter, a tempo going to Chabahil or Bodhnath can be hired.