Have you ever watched the cremation ritual done within the Pashupatinath Temple area?
Rituals to worship god and rituals to cremate the human body befall correspondingly within the same area. On one side, people cry for the loss of a loved one, and on the other, people enjoy music and spirituality. Don’t you find it strange?
Yes, it is strange but still seems peaceful.
Odd but still blissful.
It’s a uniqueness of the most sacred Pashupatinath Temple, engulfing both sorrow and happiness at the same time. Isn’t it amazing? The actual glimpse of Life.
About Pashupatinath Temple
Spread over about 264 hectares of land, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the sacred pilgrimage sites for the followers of Hinduism comprising several temples, shrines, ashrams, and inscriptions of more than centuries. Altogether, this temple complex comprises 518 temples and monuments.
The term ‘Pashupati’ refers to the lord of animals. Pashupatinath is the almighty for all beings, either animals or humans eventually named Pashupatinath as a temple of living beings.
The temple is dedicated to the Hindu god ‘Lord Shiva’. Lies on the bank of the sacred river ‘Bagmati’, Pashupatinath Temple is a devotion to Hindus, along with its wide richness of art and architecture.
Proclaimed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979, Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple standing high as an emblem of faith, culture, and religion.
The Main Temple complex of Pashupatinath consists of:
· Vasukinath Temple
· Budanilkantha Shrine ( Sleeping shrine of Lord Vishnu)
· Shrine of Hanuman
· Unmatta Vairav Temple
· Shrine of Kriti Bhairav
· 164 Shivalinga ( Shiva’s shrine in black stone form)
Where is Pashupatinath Temple?
Located in Kathmandu- the capital city of Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is the holiest and most sanctified place for Hindu followers worldwide.
Around 5 kilometers east of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath lies within the Gaushala area, which is about 1 kilometer far from Tribhuvan International Airport.
Pashupatinath Temple History
Built-in a pagoda-style structure, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the twelve jyotirlingas that exist around the world.
Behind the origination of the Pashupatinath Temple, Hindu mythology narrates the story of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It tells that Lord Shiva, in the form of deer and goddess Parvati in search of the Lord Shiva descends into the earth. Other gods in trying to return Lord Shiva to heaven break the horn of the deer (a disguised form of Lord Shiva).
The same horn was buried inside the earth which after reinvented by Kamadhenu Gai (cow). The cow kept coming to the place (where the horn was buried) and kept on watering with her milk, found out by locals and get amazed. They dug the place and found the beautiful linga, where they constructed the wooden temple in around 400 CE.
Note it, the buried horn is worshipped as linga, the substitute for the origination of Pashupatinath Temple.
As per the inscriptions engraved inside the Pashupatinath complex, the wooden temple of Pashupatinath prospered in the year 800 CE, when king Supusapa Deva built a five-story structure in place of the wooden temple.
It is said that this temple was reconstructed in the 5th century. But it turned into a beautifully designed complex only after the king Ananta Malla showed concern over it.
Over the period, the Pashupatinath Temple get renovated but the current structure of the temple was set up in the 17th century with the construction of 492 more temples inside the complex.
However, there are no certain facts, legends have various claims. As stated by Gopalraj Aalok Vhat, Prachanda Deva a Lichhavi King built Pashupatinath Temple. Even the name of medieval king Shiva Dev (1099-1126 CE) is linked when it comes to the construction of the Pashupatinath Temple.
Why is Shiva called Pashupatinath?
‘Pashu’ means animals and ‘Pati’ means protector. Protector of animals is the verbatim meaning of Pashupatinath.
According to Hindu myths, Lord Shiva is bound within the animal kingdom. Snake on the neck, bull (Nandi) as his Bahan (vehicle). Hindu Vedas consider Lord Shiva as the God of the God, protector of the entire universe, who can protect and liberate the animals from any kind of Subjugation. Hence, Lord Shiva is called Pashupatinath for his grace to the animals of the whole universe.
Importance of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple carries religious importance to Hindus from all over the world. It has become the center of faith for the devotees. The complex adorns the true meaning of life.
Hindu Mythology confirms the stay of Lord Shiva in the Pashupati area, because of which devotees find faith and belief inside the complex.
Not only the temples, but the complex even comprise Brridaashram (Old age home). The utmost significance of this temple is that it has given a roof to those who do not have a home.
Ritual to cremate body is done here, which paves another journey of human life (life out of life). It can be said that the doorway to life beyond life begins in Pashupatinath Temple (According to the religious concepts).
The Temple is important architecturally (for both Hindus and non-Hindus). Pashupatinath Temple is constructed in Nepalese pagoda-style with the craft on the walls of various temples. The small holes windows represent the original Nepali form structure. The doors and roof of Pashupatinath Temple are layered with Copper, silver, and gold, which illustrates the greatness and importance of the temple in Nepal.
Hence, Pashupatinath Temple is important both culturally and architecturally. It even conveys the essence of humanism.
What are the rules of Pashupatinath Temple?
Pashupatinath Temple, being the most sacred place for Hindus consists of some strict rules and regulations, that the visitors should follow.
· To enter the temple complex, visitors need to take off their shoes and slippers. ( To keep the shoes, in a safe place- the locker is organized in the area)
· Items made up of leather, even the belt that you put on your waist is not allowed while entering the main temple.
· Use of a camera is allowed outside the temple area but one cannot take it inside.
· Non-Hindus are not allowed to enter the main temple.
One of the most attractions of Pashupatinath Temple is Aarati which is performed every morning and evening.
Especially, the evening Aarati is more popular, where devotees in an enormous amount show their presence at the edge of the Bagmati river.
The priest follows the rituals to impress Lord Shiva. The use of classical instruments to sing Vedic mantras along with ringing bells and lighting lamps make the surroundings blissful. On both sides of the Bagmati river, people clapping hands and musical rhymes, dancing in tandav form, the fragrance of (dhoop and batti) light sum up the environment to the next zone (devote feel like heaven on earth).
Before Aarati, people even can pay homage to the four-door of the main temple where the shrine of Lord Shiva is placed. The four-door is opened for people two times a day, before Aarati.
Evening Aarati starts at around 6:30 PM.
Connection of Pashupatinath with Kedarnath
The story of Pandavas in Mahabharat, the epic connects the Pashupatinath of Nepal and Kedarnath of India.
The story says, Pandavas (Five-brothers) assassinates the Kauravas and the priest for integration and justice. But Pandavas took it as a sin ‘Bramhahatya (killing of brahmin) and gotrahatya (killing of cousins of the same lineage)’. So, they started searching for Lord Shiva to be free from their sins. Lord Shiva in bull form tried to run away from Pandavas but Bhima, one of five Pandavas caught the bull which results in the disappearance of the bull leaving the five pieces of the body. The head, hump, face, arm, and stomach a reappeared body parts of the bull remained in the hand of Bhima.
The reappeared parts of the bull consist of a link between Pashupatinath and Kedarnath. That five-part are buried in five different locations. The head part of a bull is Pashupatinath and the hump part is Kedarnath.
The present condition of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is in the same phase, performing the different rituals to worship Lord Shiva.
During the covid time, it was closed to the public. But after the case of covid decreased, people have started visiting Pashupatinath Temple, enjoying evening aarati. Guheshwori on the opposite to Pashupatinath is inaccessible even now.
The western-style crematoriums have been constructed inside the Pashupatinath area, while the rest of the things remain as always (there are no new changes).
Facts of Pashupatinath Temple
· The main priest to perform the rituals in the main temple of Pashupatinath belongs to Karnataka of India, they are of Bhatt lineage.
· Non-Hindus are not given permits to enter the main temple.
· Scriptures show that Pashupatinath Temple exists since 400 CE.
· It is retrieved as a pilgrimage site after a cow named Kamadhenu started milking.
· The silver sheets have covered the four doors of Pashupatinath while the copper-coated gold is the covering of the roof of Pashupatinath Temple.
· People follow the funeral ritual within the complex. Open-air cremation and electric cremation are accessible as a funeral option in the Pashupatinath complex.
· Several animal images like pigeons, monkeys, and deers are found. Pashupatinath even is home to thousands of living monkeys.
What is the main attraction of Pashupatinath Temple?
Comprising around 518 small and big temples with different shrines and monuments, Pashupatinath temple as a whole is an attraction to the devotees.
But let us see some of the attractive things about Pashupatinath Temple.
· 164 Shivalinga Shrines
· The main temple with the pagoda style golden roof
· Religious market
· Guheshwori Temple
· Yogi caves
· Shrines of Lord Shiva
· Hanuman shrine and many more
What is the best time to visit Pashupatinath Temple?
It depends on the personal choice. Pashupatinath Temple is open all day and throughout the year for the devotee.
In general, the month from September to November is best for those who like to have a peaceful environment. And the month of July/August and February/March is best for those who purely want to watch celebrations (so much crowd) inside the Pashupati complex.
However if consists the best time of the day to visit Pashupatinath temple, around noon and 5 PM is best as the four main doors of the main temple are open to the public. This is the time when you can pay homage to the main deity, Pashupatinath.
Your visit in the evening let you have the astounding beauty of Pashupatinath temple along with the vibration of music in your ears. The dazzling reflection of the golden roof of Pashupatinath while doing aarati shines in your eyes. And believe it, it’s an incredible view and majestic feeling.
Opening and Closing Dates of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is open throughout the year. There is no specific date when Pashupatinath temple gets closed (exception: during COVID, it was closed).
But there is a time of opening and closing of Pashupatinath Temple.
In general, at 4:00 AM, the temple is open for visitors but they need to enter from the west gate of Pashupatinath temple.
At 7:00 PM, the door of Pashupatinath is closed. However, people can enjoy Sandhya aarati (evening rituals) at the bank of the Bagmati river even after 7:00 PM.
Considered the most sacred religious site in South Asia, Pashupatinath Temple holds astounding beauty in art and architecture. The dazzling appearance of Pashupatinath infatuated the devotees with the peace and integrity it acquires.
Believe me, your visit to Pashupatinath temples (with faith within you) completes your soul. It’s serene. Your inner self will be calm and taste a great pleasure.
What to say, it’s a different zone. Visit Pashupatinath temple and enjoy Aarati and feel delighted.
Frequently Asked Questions
1) Who built Pashupatinath Temple?
There is no exact evidence to say. But, according to Gopalraj Aalok Vhat, it was the Lichhavi king Prachanda Deva, who built the Pashupatinath Temple.
2) When was Pashupatinath Temple built?
It is believed that the Pashupatinath temple exist since 400 CE but the exact date of the construction of the Pashupatinath Temple is not recognized yet.
3) Are animals sacrificed at Pashupatinath Temple?
Pashupatinath stands for the protection of animals, as the animals are worshipped inside the complex. So, animals are not sacrificed at Pashupatinath temple.
4) Why is Pashupatinath Temple so famous in Kathmandu?
Earlier, Pashupatinath used to be considered a national diety. Even now, people have faith in Pashupatinath. Being the oldest Hindu temple and listed as a world heritage site, Pashupatinath Temple is famous in Kathmandu and outside Nepal.
5) What is the actual meaning of Pashupatinath?
The actual meaning of Pashupatinath is ‘Protector/ Saviour of animals’.
6) When was Pashupatinath Temple listed as a world heritage site?
In 1997, Pashupatinath Temple was enlisted in the World Heritage Sites.
7) How old is Pashupatinath Temple?
Pashupatinath Temple is the temple of the common era. But, no certain age of Pashupatinath Temple is finalized yet.
8) Why Pashupatinath Temple is famous?
It is famous for its religious importance among Hindus, architectural importance among Hindus and non-Hindus, and is famous for being enlisted in UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
9) Which is the largest temple in Nepal?
Pashupatinath Temple is the largest temple in Nepal.