The Temple of Pashupatinath in Nepal is the biggest temple complex in the nation in the lap of Himalaya. E
very year lakhs of Hindu devotees come here to free themselves from the bondage of the fruits of their karma(results of their actions).
Skanda Purana,the ancient Hindu scripture describes that there is a holy place of Lord Shiva in the form of Pashupatinath in the Himalayas. The purana also describes that if devotee takes holy bath in the river Bagmati, which passes by the temple, enchants Rudra mantra and worships Lord Pashupatinath with Panchamrita, the devotee is free from bondage of births and rebirths.
The Pashupatinath temple is on the bank of river Bagmati amidst number of temples. Its on the outskirts of Kathmandu , the capital of the Himalayan Kingdom.
Pashupathinath is the guardian spirit and the holiest of all Shiva shrines in Nepal. Lord Shiva is known by many different names; and Pashupati is one. Pashu means living beings, and Pati means master and so Pashupatinath is “Lord of Animals” or “Lord of the living beings”. The temple is spread over in an area of 281 hectares, which is one of the biggest temple complexes in Nepal.
Mystery of origin of Pashupatinath
No one knows about the time of Pashupatinath. It is said that it is a tale of the time when lords roamed on our land like us, the common man.
It is said that getting bored of staying on Himalaya from the time immemorial, that Lord Shiva and his consort Parvati once decided to wander around the universe and left Mount Kailash their permanent home. They were enchanted by the beauty of the area near the river Bagmati. They decided to make it their home. And they started living in the form of Mruga, deer. They liked it so much that they decided to settle down here.
These developments disturbed deities living in Kailash with the Lord Shiva and Parvati. They came to Bagmati area to request them to come back to Kailash, but they refused.
Lord Shiva however said that he liked the place very much and the area would be main place to worship him and also the place would be known as Pashupati. Hence Lord Shiva who stayed here in the form of Pashu (animal) is known as Pashupatinath.
The second story relates the Mahabharat epic. The Pandavas after having won over the Kauravas in the Kurukshetra war felt guilty of having killed their own Kith and Kin and brahma hatya and sought the blessings of Lord Shiva for redemption. Maharshi Ved Vyas advised them to please Lord Shiva and therefore Pandavas went to the Himalayas. Lord Shiva unwilling to give darshan to the Pandavas fled to Uttarakhand and lived in Guptakashi. But Pandavas traced him here too. On being located by the Pandavas,Lord Shiva went to Kedarnath. Pandavas followed him here too.He assumed the form of a bull and started grazing amongst the cattle. But determined Pandavas did not take much time in detecting him in this form.
To make sure the identity of the Lord Shiva, Bhima, second of the five Pandavas came up with an idea.At dusk, when it was time for cattle to return home, Bhim stretched his legs across the mountains. This forced all cattles to pass from under his stretched leg.
All except Lord Shiva passed. Bhim noticed this. As Bhim bent to catch hold of him, Shiva sank into the earth and Bhim could catch only his back. Lord Shiva being pleased with the determination of the Pandavas, exonerated them from their sin, gave them darshan and requested them to worship his hump. It is from that date the hump of Lord Shiva worshipped in the temple of Shri Kedarnath in the conical Shiva Pinda form.
The remaining portions of Lord Shiva appeared at four other places and are worshipped there as his manifestations. The arms appeared at Tungnath, the face at Rudranath, the belly at Madmaheshwar and his locks (hair) with head at Kalpeshwar. Kedarnath and the four above mentioned shrines are treated as Panch Kedar.The complete face of Lord Shiva appeared in Pashupatinath.. Hence,it is mandatory for the devotee to have a darshan at Pashupatinath after completion of Dwadash Jyotirlinga.
The other story is like this: As stated in chronicles, the image of Lord Shiva in the form of Jyotirlinga was covered with earth over the years, and soft green grass sprouted over it. Further, as the legend goes, a cow used to come here mysteriously every day and offer her milk to this holy but hidden Linga of Lord Shiva. When the gwala (shephard) saw that the cow had stopped giving milk for past few days he began a watch on her. Finally, he came across the place where the cow used to offer her milk. With a natural curiosity, the gwala dug the place and found the Jyotirlinga of Lord Shiva.
As the time passed Lord Pashupatinath started gaining more and more popularity and reverence of the devotees as a guardian spirit and gradually the temple of Lord Pashupatinath became a great place of pilgrimage. The rulers of Nepal, over centuries made contributions in enriching and beautifying this holy temple.
The date of construction of this temple is unknown. According to Gopalraj Vanshavali, 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).
Yet, there is another chronicle which states that this 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 mediaeval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it. As described in the history, this temple was attacked and badly destroyed by Sultan Samsuddin of Bengal in the mid 14th Century. This plunder caused so much damage to the temple that it needed reconstruction.
It was only after ten years, in 1360 AD, that it could be reconstructed and renovated by Javasimha Ramvardhana. Another renovation work here after was taken up by Jyoti Malla in 1416 AD. 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). The temple of Lord Pashupatinath stands in the middle of an open courtyard.
How the temple is?
The temple of Lord Pashupatinath stands in the middle of an open courtyard. It is a square shaped pagoda temple built on single platform measuring 23.6 meters from the ground. Three sides of main sanctum doors are plated with silver and Southern side of the door is plated with gold. Inside the temple there is a narrow walk engulfing the sanctum from where one can have closer view of Shivalinga. On the both sides of each door of the temple there are artistic niche of different sizes containing attractive images of Apsara, Ashtha Bhairava and other gods and goddesses. These images and niches, painted with gold enhance the grandeur of the temple. The latticed windows below the roof are other attractions. The struts supporting the roofs and depicting the image of different postures are equally alluring. The gold gilt images of birds in flying posture in all the four corners of the roof and the winged images of lion, griffin, Ajarapurusa and Mahanaga on the struts in all the corners of the temple present soaring beauty to the temple. On the upper part of the struts supporting the lower roof, the images of moon, sun and a Purna-Kalasha are carved out.
Five Faces of Shivalinga:
In the sanctum of the temple, there is a very attractive, about three feet high Shivalinga with five faces. All these faces have different names and significance. The face facing east is known as Tatpurusha or Parbrahma, which means Supreme Being. He is Indra, the king of all deities. The face of Pashupatinath towards the south is called Aghora,which is in a calm form. It is the symbolic representation of Yamraja or the Lord of death.
The north face of Pashupatinath Shivalinga is called Vamdeva which is worshipped as god of giving. It is also regarded as form of Ardhanarishwar(half man and half woman).The West face of Shivalinga is called Sadajyot,which depicts the face of a child.
The upper face is shapeless and is called Ishan.It is the symbolic representation of Lord Shiva.The upper form is the main Pashupatinath,the symbol of happiness.It is the form of Shakti or energy and the face is worshipped for the knowledge and fulfillment of desires.
The four faces are also defined as the symbol of four dhamas –Dwarika (West face) Rameshwar(South face),Jagannath (East face) and Badrinath (North face).It is believed that a visit to Pashupatinath is therefore considered as rewarding as to visit all the four dhams or pilgrimages in Hinduism.
The main entrance of temple complex:
Pashupatinath temple has three entrances. The devotee enters from main West Gate and first gets a glimpse and darshan of Huge idol of Nandi. This idol of Nandi is the largest idol in Nepal. Made from copper,it glitters like gold.A small idol of Nandi is also placed just before the west side gate of temple sanctum.
West side main entrance gate is attached with small bazaar of religious materials, rudraksh and puja materials like flowers, bilva patra etc. Many devotees of Nepal particularly from tarai region and some devotees from Bihar believe that first darshan of Nandi is unauspicious. Hence such devotees first enter from Eastside gate starting from Aryaghat of Bagmati river.
There is an interesting Darshan protocol for devotees in Pashupatinath temple. Normally the devotee enters from main West side gate and visits huge idol of Nandi. After that having darshan of Bhuddi,Lal Ganesha and Buddha(old)Nilkantha, enters at Aryaghat on the banks of river Bagmati.At Aryaghat,the devotees offer water of Bagmati to the temples of Ganga,Mrigeshwar and kali(Virupaksh) and enters in to complex.The devotee than have a darshan of Changanarayan, Goddess Saraswati, Santaneshwar Mahadeva, Lord Krishna,Kritimukha Bhairav,Shitalamata,Sixty four lingas,Unnat Bhairav,Yagyashala Navdurga and Navgraha.After completing this order the devotee than enters in main temple and first darshans south face,east face and north face of Pashupatinatha shivalinga. After that the last place of darshan is west face.In return order of darshan the devotee goes to Hanumanji and Satyanarayan temple in the complex and finally takes exit from Pashupatinath temple complex with a final glimpse towards west side face.
No entry for Non Hindus:
Non Hindus are not allowed in the Pashupatinath Temple complex. They can have a good view of the temple complex from the other side of the Basmati River.Many tourists come towards Bagmati river side and take glimpse of main temple. Even though foreigners cannot enter the Pashupatinath temple, it is still worth coming here, because there are many temples in the area. It is an ancient and interesting place.
Priests or Bhattajis in sanctum:
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 (Now President of Nepal) and reports to him on temple matters periodically. Priests who perform the services at this temple are always Brahmins from South India. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 6th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that temple.
Another interpretation is that Indian priests are stationed at Pashupatinath for eternal worship. Nepal has a tradition of long mourning of one year at the time of the death of the King. At such time local priest cannot perform rituals at the temple. As the Pashupatinath needs to be eternally worshipped, Indians were brought to make sure that the Pashupatinath is worshipped even at the time of official mourning. One of the best known of these priests was Raval Padmanabha Shastri Adiga (1927-2005). He started as a priest in 1955 and was promoted to Chief priest in 1967. In his time, he started a movement to use the temple funds for local development. He retired in 1993 and moved back to his home town Udupi.
Other story says that Adi Shakaracharyaji initiated the tradition and he appointed Dandiswamy to perform pooja of main Shivalinga. The Nepali literature describes that the dandiswamys were touching their danda (A small wooden pole) to linga. For a devotee this was an insult of Lord Pashupati.Hence during the time of King Yakshamalla, he stopped this tradition and requested South Indian Brahmins to take charge as Bhattas.
There are four Bhattajis and one Mool Bhatta. The Bhattajis perform pujas of main Shivalinga and one bhatta performs puja at Vasuki temple.
The Bhattajis are assisted by Bhandaris(store keepers).The Bhandaris have Nepali origin and they can’t perform puja of main Shivalinga.Only Bhattajis can perform the puja.Bhandaris assist devotee by offering their puja materials to Lord Pashupatinath Shivalinga.
Bhandaris are appointed by legacy. The basic qualification is that the Bhandaris should be borne in the Pashupatinath area. However, the Bhattajis have to pass the exam conducted by Rajpurohit of Nepal Kingdom and some learned scholars. The basic criteria for Bhattajis is that they should be South Indian married Brahmin, should have deep knowledge of Vedas, Upanishads etc and should be able to recite shlokas clearly.
No entry for devotee in sanctum:
Only Bhattajis can enter into sanctum and perform pujas. The Bhandaris can not perform puja of Shivalinga.No devotee is allowed in the sanctum.
Pashupatinath is worshipped in two ways comprising of daily worship and special worship. The temple door of Pashupatinath facing west face opens at 4:00 a.m. The other three doors open at 9:30 a.m. During 4:00 am and 9:30 a.m. only Bhandaris remain in sanctum and the devotees can have darshan only from west face gate.At 9:30 am, he 4 Bhattajis arrive in sanctum, cleaning up main Shivalinga and attends the linga with holy water of holy places. The Pashupatinath linga is then bathed with the holy water of river Bagmati.
The Bhattajis before entering Pashupatinath temple sanctum visits Vasuki temple .It is customary to first have a puja at Vasuki temple. Vasuki temple is very important one in Pashupatinath. Vasuki, the king of nagas (snakes) is the presiding deity, who is said to protect the gold,precious jewellery of the temple as per belief.
The holy water of Pashupatinath linga is sprinkled by the Bhattajis on the devotees daily thrice after Arti. To get even few drops of the holy water is regarded very auspicious. Between 1 pm and 1:30 p.m.,the Shivalinga of Pashupatinath is elegantly dressed. During this time one can listen Shehnai and arti is performed. After this process, balbhog is offered to Lord Pashupatinath. Balbhog comprises of rice ,pulse, khir and vegetables and fruits. It is not distributed as Prasad to the devotees.The temple doors close at around 2:00 pm. At 5:30 pm the doors reopen for evening darshans. Arti is performed at 7:30 p.m. After that the doors close.
Special worship to Lord Pashupatinath is performed on special festive occasions.Special worship takes place on Mahashivaratri(around February).On Mahashivaratri,the temple remains open throughout the night.During the Shivaratri festival Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the 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
In August, during the Teej festival, thousands of women visit the temple to take bath 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.
Performing pujas in Pashupatinath:
The devotees can not enter into main sanctum of the temple.Only Priests(Bhattajis) are allowed to perform a puja on the Shivalinga.However,in the temple complex,Nepali Brahmins(Pandas) are available to help the devotees.Devotee can perform Rudripath with the pandajis.There are three types of Rudripaths comprise of one edition path,Maharudripath and Laghurudripath.The devotees who want to perform the rudripaths in complete shastrokta(strictly following Hindu scriptures) manner,can fixed the amount of dakshina to pandajis and also provides bhojan(food-lunch) to Brahmins and give Ghamachha(A thin cotton fabric) and Dhoti to purohits.It is observed that the purohits are satisfied by the amount of dakshina offered by devotee.They are easy going and simple in nature.
However,Pashupatinath Tehsil Karyalaya ,which is the controlling body of Pashupatinath Temple is also make arrangements for the devotees.There are different rates for different pujas.
These include Panchamruta Puja-NRs(Nepali Rupees).1100/-,Panchamruta Puja with Balbhoga-NRs.2100/-,Panchamruta Puja with Rudri and Balbhoga-NRs.3100/-,Panchamruta Puja with Laghurudri and Purna Bhoga-NRs.4100/-,Panchamruta Puja with Laghurudri and Purna Bhoga-NRs.8100/- and Laghrudri,Purnabhoga with Savalakshabilvapuja-NRs.1,35,000/-.The devotee has to deposit the amount to temple office.The office makes arrangement and devotee can perform the puja in the temple complex with the help of purohit deputed by the office.
The Bagmati river which originates at Baghdwaar(Bagh means tiger) or mouth of tiger in the Shivapuri mountains,north of Kathmandu is considered to be the holiest and the most revered as Holy Ganga in India.It is also known as Shiv Ganga.The holy river Bagmati has the power to wash away sins as per the Nepali scriptures.It is mentioned in the scriptures that if devotee takes bath in the holy Bagmati river,the devotees desired will be fulfilled.The temple of Pashupatinath is located at the bank of Bagmati. It is considered especially auspicious to bathe in the Bagmati during the Sivaratri Festival, Magh Sankranti (January 14 or 15), Bala Chaturdashi (Nov/Dec), on full moon days, ekadashis, and for women the Teej Festival in early August or late September.
The cremation ground is near the temple and it is popular place to be cremated. The ashes of persons cremated are sprinkled into the waters of the Bagmati.The Arya Ghat burning ground right next to the temple north of the bridge is only used by royal family of Nepal for cremations. Next to the ghat is a 7th century statue of Virupaksha, the “Three-eyes Siva.” The Ram Ghat cremation grounds south of the bridge are used by the normal people.
Photography is allowed during a cremation. Photos should be taken discretely, as a cremation is a funeral and a family tragedy. Would you want a bunch of tourist taking pictures during one of your family’s funeral?
Places to see in and around Kathmandu:
The capital of Nepal Katmandu (Kathmandu) is placed at a height of 4521 feet surrounded by a valley that is laced by green terraced hills. The capital is further surrounded at a distance away by some of the world’s tallest mountains.
It is home to UNESCO world heritage site that contains many Buddhist and Hindu monasteries and temples that includes the Durbar Square, Temple of Kumari, Swayambhunath, Bouddhanath Stupa and popular Pashupatinath Temple.Besides other places include Buddha Nilkantha,casino etc.Local taxis are available and they charge NRs.1200.00 for a 5/6 trip in and around Kathmandu.
The tourist can also enjoy the ride of Mountain flight in which the tourist has a glimpse of world’s tallest mountain Mount Everest in a flight journey.The 8 seater small aircraft takes 45 minutes to one hour and flies around Everest,Annapurna and top peaks of Nepal.It costs NRs.7000 to 8000 and bargaining is possible.However if weather do not permit one has to disappoint as flight can not take off.
Points to note;
One has to take Nepali currency while traveling in Nepal.The exchange rate is Nepali Rs.1.60 for One Indian Rupee.However in Nepal both currency are accepted except Indian Rs.500 and Indian Rs.1000 notes.Both denominations are banned in Nepal.
While if you are going for shopping make sure about the which currency the shop keeper will accept.If possible keep the Nepali currency for routine shopping and payments.
There are many Hotels in Kathmandu as the country is known as tourist place.It is available from NRs.800 to NRs.5000.For strict vegetarians there are less options available for food diversity.Hence one has to eat selective food items.
Power cut is very common in Nepal.It is advisable to keep torch and candle in Nepal.
How to reach?
from India one can go by air or by road.Kathmandu is connected by air with Mumbai,Delhi and Kolkata.The air distance between Kathmandu and Delhi is 815 km and it takes one hour to reach Kathmandu.
There are many options to reach Kathmandu by road.One can first go to Gorakhpur.Local shuttle jeeps/buses are available between gorakhpur and Sunauli,the village situated on Indo Nepal border.The distance between Delhi and Gorakhpur by railway is 789 km.From Gorakhpur it takes 3 to 4 hour reach Sunauli.Bhiravah is the first place in Nepal after border crossing.The distance between Sunauli and Bhiravah is about 1 km.One has to clear the formalities at the checkpost.For Indians no visa is required.However,passport or Election card is required for Indian national proof.
From Bhiravah,jeeps(normally Toyota micro buses) and buses are available for Kathmandu and it takes 10 to 11 hours to reach Kathmandu.
If you are travelling by air,immigration procedure is required.
Nepal-A beautiful country:
Till recently,Nepal was known as only Hindu nation on the planet. Last few years, the country has witnessed major power shift-End of King Shah’s dynasty and emergence of Left ideologue based democratic system. At present, Mr Pushpakamal Dahal “Prachand” lead Mao ideology based government rules in the country. The country is now inclined towards secular nation instead of traditionally regarded as Hindu nation.
Nepal is also a very interesting country. The Nepali books describe that a sage called ‘Ne’who performed penance in this region had played a key role to help Bhaktaman, who was a ruler of the state. Hence the name Nepal derived .
It is the only country which never celebrates Independence Day, because Nepal never became dependent !It is the country of world’s highest mountain Everest(Height-29,028 feet).Mount Everest is locally known as Sagarmatha. Besides there are top peaks like Annapurna,Dhaulgiri etc.It is the only biggest nation purely situated in the Himalayas. Of course Bhutan is also situated in the Himalayas.
From geographic point of view, Nepal is engulfed by India in Southern, Eastern and Western sides and with Tibet on its Northern side. It is divided into three regions-Himali,Pahadi and Tarai.Himali region comprises height of more than 10,000 feet, Pahadi spreads between the height of 3000 feet and 10,000 feet and Tarai is below 3000 feet height. There are 75 districts in Nepal and 205 elected members represent in the Parliament.
Vipul K Shukla
The writer is Ahmedabad based Public Relations consultant and he visited pashupatinath in September,2008.he can be contacted at [email protected]