One of the most sacred Hindu temples, Pashupatinath is dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath, a manifestation of Lord Shiva. It occupies a beautiful position on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Though this temple is located in the Kathmandu Valley, its popularity has reached far and wide. Pilgrims from almost every corner of the world arrive in Kathmandu in large numbers to make a visit to this holy temple.
The temple is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
At Pashupatinath, you'll come across a beautiful collection of several temples and ashrams. The architecture of the temple is worth exploring and its doors and roofs are covered with precious metals.
The temple lies at a distance of 5 km north-east of the Kathmandu Valley, on the western banks of the Bagmati River. The small town where the Pashupatinath Temple lies is known as Deopatan.
The religious significance of Pashupatinath has been described in the ancient Hindu scripture Shiva Purana. According to Hindu mythology, the twelve Jyotirlinga that are located in India represent the body and the Jyotirlinga which lies at Pashupatinath is considered to be the head of the body.
Followers of the Hindu religion wish to be cremated at Pashupatinath for its extreme religious significance. That's why, a large number of Hindus arrive here to spend the last few weeks of their lives. Hindus believe that dying and being cremated at the Pashupatinath Temple leads to rebirth as human, despite bad karma. This is the temple where pilgrims can feel death. The astrologers at Pashupatinath are said to predict the exact day and time of one's death.
According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva once ran away from the group of other gods in Varanasi. He came to a place called Mrigasthali, which is the forest on the banks of the Bagmati River – just the opposite side of the temple. The other gods kept looking for Lord Shiva. At Mrigasthali, Lord Shiva acquired the shape of a gazelle and slept with his consort goddess Parvati. When other gods became aware of Lord Shiva's location, they tried to bring him back to Varanasi. Unwilling to go back, Lord Shiva jumped to the opposite bank, where the temple is located. But in the process, Lord Shiva broke one of his horns and it fell apart into four pieces. Finally, Lord Shiva manifested himself as Pashupatinath in the form of a four-face linga.
The exact date of when the Pashupatinath temple was constructed is still unknown. But it is believed that Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty erected this temple during the 3rd century BC. The foundation of the temple, however, is accredited to the Pashupata sect. The original structure of the temple was imitated in several places like Bhaktapur, Lalitpur and Benares.
The original structure of the temple was destroyed multiple times in due course of time. And the present form that you see today was given by King Bhupalendra in the year 1697. Later, many other temples were constructed in the vicinity of the Pashupatinath Temple turning it into a temple complex.
The Pashupatinath Temple is the most ancient in entire Kathmandu, with its history dating back to as early as 400 BC.
If you love exploring different types of temple architecture, a journey to Pashupatinath will prove to be an enriching experience.
The design of the temple follows the Nepalese pagoda style of architecture. It uses almost all the features which the pagoda style includes. The overall structure of the temple is in a cubic shape – with four main doors each of which is covered with precious metals. The roof of the temple contains two storeys. It is made up of copper and plated with gold. The pinnacle of the temple is made up of gold.
The temple has two parts – outer and inner. The outer sanctum is open like a corridor whereas the inner sanctum is where the idol of Pashupatinath is placed. Every part of the temple is beautifully decorated with precious metals. Beautiful wooden sculpture enhances the beauty of the temple even more.
The Pashupatinath Temple also features a huge golden statue of Nandi (Lord Shiva's Bull). Its decoration is a feast for the eyes.
What to See
At Pashupatinath, there is an entire temple complex containing as many as 518 temples and monuments. While the main temple stands within a secured courtyard, it is surrounded with temples dedicated to multiple Hindu deities. If you move towards the south of the main temple, you'll see Chadeshvar, dating back to the 7th century. The Brahma Temple is located to the north of the main temple. To the northeast, there is the Vasuki Temple, dedicated to the King of Nagas.
Other temples that you'll see within the courtyard and the complex include Surya Narayan Temple, Unmatta Bhairav Temple, Kirti Mukh Bhairav Shrine, Hanuman Shrine, Ram Mandir, Virat Swaroop Temple, Guhyeshwari Temple and the 12 Jyotirlinga and Pandra Shivalaya among others.
The Bagmati River on the banks of which Pashupatinath is located is also held in high regard by the Hindus. Devotees and pilgrims taking a holy dip on the riverbanks is a common sight. Hindus also perform different types of rituals at the numerous ghats that line the banks of the Bagmati. It's also quite interesting to see monkeys and deer roaming around the banks as well as the temple complex. Sadhus, yogis and rishis can be seen all around Pashupatinath.
Arya Ghat is one of the most sacred. This is also the place where members of the royal family have been cremated. If you are interested in viewing open-air cremation, you should head straight to the Bhasmeshvar Ghat. Gauri Ghat is where pilgrims take their holy bath and perform other rituals.
Everyday, Pashupatinath sees hordes of devotees from all across the globe. But it's during the festivals that you'll see Pashupatinath in its true color and fervour. During Ekadashi, Sankranti, Teej and Mahashivratri, the entire Pashupatinath temple complex turns into an atmosphere of festivity and mirth.
It's a good idea to plan your trip to Pashupatinath around Shivratri, which is the most vibrant of all festivals.
On the occasion of Shivratri, the Pashupatinath Temple is bathed in a flood of colorful lights. Tons of ghee lamps burn all night. The temple also remains open for visitors throughout the night while devotees make darshan, take holy dip in the Bagmati River and perform other rituals.
How to Reach
After you have arrived in Kathmandu, there are regular bus services that you can use to reach Pashupatinath. You can take buses from either Ratna Park or City Bus Station. But bear in mind that these buses are usually crowded. A better option is to hire a taxi service so that you can avoid any kind of discomfort. The road journey from Ratna Park to Pashupatinath should take around 1 hour.
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