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( One of my favorite paintings of Lord Shiva )
The word Pashupatinath is derived from three Sanskrit words: "Pashu" means organism, "pati" means protector, and "nath" means Lord.
I had seen all the 12 sacred Jyotirlingas in India along with my father. From then onwards, my liking towards Lord Shiva increased. I came to know that Pashupatinath is also a famous Shiva temple in the world, other than the ones situated in India. Hence visiting this holy temple was my dream from a long time.
Pashupatinath Temple ( पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) is one of the most significant Hindu temples 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 the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, Nepal is a secular country . The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent). Hindus alone 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, the deity here gained great fame there as Pashupati, the Lord of the Animals. Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or holy symbol of Lord Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'.
There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here. Some of them are narrated below:-
The Cow Legend
Legend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river's east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.
Continuation of Kedarnath :
It is believed that Lord Shiva turned into a bull, while the Pandavas were chasing him. So, he buried himself under the ground at Kedarnath(Uttarakhand, India). When Bhima tried to grab the bull by its back, the structure turned into a Linga which is the Jyotirlinga at Kedarnath. The bull that went inside the ground came up at Pashupatinath. Thus the hind part of the bull was at Kedarnath and its head part was at Pashupatinath.
The Linchchhavi Legend
According to Gopalraj Vamsavali, the oldest ever chronicle in Nepal, this temple was built by Supus Padeva, a Linchchhavi King, who according to the stone inscription erected by Jayadeva 11 in the courtyard of Pashupatinath in 753 AD, happened to be the ruler 39 generations before Manadeva (464-505 AD).
The Devalaya Legend
Another chronicle states that Pashupatinath Temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supus Padeva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupatinath in this place. As the time passed, the need for repairing and renovating this temple arose. It is learnt that this temple was reconstructed by a medieval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it.
The temple was erected in the 17th century by King Bhupendra Malla after the previous building had been consumed by termites. Countless further temples have been erected around this two -storied temple. These include the Vaishnava temple complex with a Ram temple from the 14th century and the Guhyeshwari temple mentioned in an 11th-century manuscript. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Bhat-Brahmins from South India (Karnataka) origin since last 350 years. The priests of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priest is answerable only to the King of Nepal and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.
This tradition is reported to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. The unique feature of this temple is that only 4 priests can touch the deity. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 8th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that temple. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. Malla kings honoured the request of Adi shankarachaya as latter being one of the greatest ever Hindu acharyas.
However,this tradition was broken after the historic political revolution in Nepal which demolished the monarchy and established a secular republic. The newly formed government allowed Nepalese priest to worship by discontinuing the centuries old tradition. There was a widespread protests as many thought this as an interference in their religious tradition.
There are several complex stories involving the origins of Pashupatinath. One story goes, in brief, that Shiva and Parvati came to the Kathmandu Valley and rested by the Bagmati while on a journey. Shiva was so impressed by its beauty and the surrounding forest that he and Parvati changed themselves into deers and walked into the forest. Many spots in the Kathmandu Valley are identified as places where Shiva went during his time as a deer. After awhile the people and gods began to search for Shiva. Finally, after various complications, they found him in the forest, but he refused to leave. More complications ensued, but ultimately Shiva announced that, since he had lived by the Bagmati in a deer's form, he would now be known as Pashupatinath, Lord of all Animals. It is said that whoever came here and beheld the lingam that appeared there would not be reborn as an animal.
Another origin story involves Parvati's incarnation as Sati, who gave up her life because her father didn't respect Shiva. Grieved at losing her, Shiva wandered the world carrying her body. Wherever pieces of her body fell, temples were established, including one at Guhyeshvari adjoining the Pashupatinath complex
Pashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followers of Hinduism. Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to pay homage to Pashupatinath every day. And on special occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, Teej Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) the whole atmosphere turns festive and mirthful as people congregate here in a far greater number. During the Shivaratri (also spelled Shivratri) festival Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the night and the temple remains open all night. Thousands of devotees take ritual baths in the Bagmati river on the day of the festival and observe a fast for the whole day. Hundreds of sadhus (sages) from different parts of Nepal and India come here on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri.
The temple is of the Nepalese pagoda style of architecture. All the features of pagoda style is founded here like cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest (tundal). The two level roofs are of copper with gold covering. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. This temple has a gold pinnacle, (Gajur), which is a symbol of religious thought. The western door has a statue of large bull or Nandi, plated in bronze. The deity is of black stone, about 6 feet in height and the same in circumference.
Vasukinath lies to the east of Pashupatinath.
Pashupati Temple stands in the center of the town of Deopatan, in the middle of an open courtyard. It is a square, two-tiered pagoda temple built on a single-tier plinth, and it stands 23.6 meters above the ground. Richly ornamented gilt and silver-plated doors are on all sides.
On both sides of each door are niches of various sizes containing gold-painted images of guardian deities. Inside the temple itself is a narrow ambulatory around the sanctum. The sanctum contains a one-meter high linga with four faces (chaturmukha) representing Pashupati, as well as images of Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Ganesh.
The priests of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priest is answerable only to the King of Nepal and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.
The struts under the roofs, dating from the late 17th century, are decorated with wood carvings of members of Shiva's family such as Parvati, Ganesh, Kumar or the Yoginis, as well as Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Ramayana.
Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the temple, for instance, is Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th-century temple of Brahma. On the south side of Pashupati temple is the Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.
In the northeast corner of the temple courtyard is the small pagoda temple of Vasuki, the King of the Nagas. Vasuki has the form of a Naga (mythical snake) from the waist upwards, while the lower parts are an intricate tangle of snakes' bodies. According to local belief, Vasuki took up residence here in order to protect Pashupati. One can often see devotees circumambulating and worshipping Vasuki before entering the main sanctum.
The Bagmati River, which runs next to Pashaputinath Temple, has highly sacred properties. Thus the banks are lined with many ghats (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. Renovating or furnishing these sites has always been regarded as meritorious.
Arya Ghat, dating from the early 1900s, is of special importance because it is the only place where lustral water for Pashupatinath Temple can be obtained and it is where members of the royal family are cremated. The main cremation site is Bhasmeshvar Ghat, which is the most-used cremation site in the Kathmandu Valley. The preferred bathing spot for women is the Gauri Ghat, to the north.
Across the Bagmati River are 15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivalaya, which were built to enshrine lingas in memory of deceased persons between 1859 and 1869.
Myself at Pashupatinath
Pashupatinath is an avatar of Shiva, one of the Hindu Trinity. He is also the male counterpart of Shakti.
The five faces of Pashupatinath are five amongst various incarnations of Shiva viz. Sadyojata (also known as Varuna), Vamdeva (also known as Uma Maheswara), Tatpurusha, Aghor & Ishana facing West, North, East, South and Zenith respectively. These represent five primary elements namely earth, water, air, light and ether.
Sadhu at the temple premises
The Bagmati River (बागमती नदी) is a river of Nepal. It flows through the Kathmandu valley and is the river separating Kathmandu from Lalitpur. It is considered a holy river both by Hindus and Buddhists. A number of Hindu temples are located on the banks of this river.
In Kathmandu the river receives a high load of untreated sewage. There is high pollution in bagmati river in Kathmandu because of its high population. People directly throw garbages in Bagmati river. In particular the Hanumante khola, Dhobi khola, Tukucha khola and Bishnumati khola are the most polluted. Attempts are being made to monitor the Bagmati River system and restore its cleanliness. These include "pollution loads modification, flow augmentation and placement of weirs at critical locations".
It is also believed that any person who attains death at Kathmandu or any other surrounding region, is cremated at Pashupatinath on the banks of the Bagmathi river. " It is said that , he who is cremated here will attain salvation or Mukti ."
Tips for travellers :
1. Photography is not allowed inside the temple. It is only allowed outside the temple.
2. There are many shops that sell " Rudrakshis" , "Spatika" , "Saligrama" , "Corals", "Jades" and many other similar stuffs near the temple.
3. Never miss the Aarti which is performed at the temple in the evening .
4. Taking bath, or drinking water from the river is not recommended as it is highly polluted.
5. Do not pollute the temple premises or the river. It is already polluted.
6. Beware of monkeys.
Om Namah Shivaya