Pashupatinath temple is one of the most sacred Hindu temples of Nepal. Pashupatinath stands as a ‘Jyothirlinga’, believed to have self appeared. The temple is located in the both banks of Bagmati River on the eastern periphery of Kathmandu. It is approximately 5 kilometers from the major tourist area, Thamel. The temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva, which was built in the 5th century and later renovated by Malla kings. UNESCO has listed this temple as a ‘world heritage site’ in 1979. Holiest Bagmati river flows in behind of the Pashupatinath temple.
Pashupatinath Temple is the center of Hindu religious faith and belief.
Lord Pashupatinath is generally worshipped as the deity with five faces. It is believed that Lord Shiva holds the following five things very close to him. The five things are “Gangajala (Holy Water), Godugdha (Cow Milk), Vilva leaves (aegle marmelos), Dhaturo (thorn apple) and Rudraksha (Utrasum).
The main idol is a stone Mukhalinga with a silver yoni base bound with the silver serpent. The lingam is one metre high and has faced in four directions. These faces represent various aspects of Shiva; Sadyojata (also known as Barun), Vamadeva (also known as Ardhanareshwara), Tatpurusha, Aghora and Ishana (imaginative). Facing West, North, East, South and Zenith respectively representing five primary elements namely earth, water, air, light and ether.
History of Pashupatinath Temple.
According to the ‘Skandapurana’, Lord Shiva and his spouse Parvati had once been staying in an untrodden forest for a long time. After a constant search by the other Gods they found him frolicking among the bushes in the form of a buck with a shiny horn of his head. With great effort they seized him by the horn. As soon as they clutched it, the horn broke into three pieces. One of the pieces soared into the sky and the second piece dived into the earth and the third that remained in their grip the gods took away with them.
They later placed the horn piece on a mound at Gokarna as a sign of Lord. Ages after the piece from the mound came by flying to settle permanently at the spot where the Jyothirlinga today stands. The divine horn piece remained buried for ages, until it was unearthed by a cowherd in the form of the Jyothirlinga.
Now Pashupati Area Development Trust is there to take care of Pashupatinath Temple.
It is said that the cow of that cowherd used to spill some milk over a particular spot before she returned home after day’s grazing. The owner noticed about the shortage of the milk and found the reason. One day he went to the place along with his men and dug a pit and found a fiery phallus lying deep down. The cowherd hurriedly covered the pit with the earth and later installed a Linga on the spot.
There is no any exact date when the temple was built. King Shiva Deva III was rebuilt the temple with golden roof in around 1120 AD. King Jayanti Malla gave the present shape of the temple in the 14th century. In 1920 Rana prime minister Chandra Shamhser reshaped its present state and King Mahendra renovated the temple and surroundings to give a new look at 1959. Now Pashupati Area Development Trust runs the entire maintenance and repair to take care of this heritage site.
Major Attractions of Pashupatinath Temple.
There are around 492 temples, 15 Shivalayas (shrines of Lord Shiva) and 12 Jyotirlinga (phallic shrines) to explore inside the Pashupatinath area. Here are the some of noticeable temple names of them:
- Vasuki Nath Temple
- Unmatta Bhairava Temple
- Surya Narayana Temple
- Kirtimukha Bhairava shrine
- Budhanilakantha shrine
- Hanuman shrine
- 184 Sivalinga shrine
Just closed to Pashupatinath temple, one can worship at some other temples too. Ram Mandir, Virat Swaroop temple , 12 Jyotirlingha, Pandra Shivalay and Guhyeshwari Temple are them.
Daily Rituals at Pashupatinath Temple.
One might be curious about how is the daily rituals operates in the Pashupatinath temple. Lord Mahadev is the supreme god of Hindus so the active participation of people all times of the day, every day. Here is the daily rituals of Pashupatinath Temple are as follows:
04:00 AM: West gate opens for visitors.
08:30 AM: After arrival of Pujaris, the idols of the Lord are bathed and cleaned, clothes and jewelry are changed for the day.
09:30 AM: Baal Bhog or breakfast is offered to the Lord. All 4 gates opens.
10:00 AM: Then people who want to do Puja are welcomed to do so. It is also called Farmayishi Puja, whereby people tell the Pujari to carry out a special Puja for their specific reasons. The Puja continues till 1:45 pm in the afternoon.
01:50 PM: Lunch is offered to the Lord in the main Pashupati Temple.
02:00 PM: Morning prayers end and gates are closed.
05:15 PM: The evening Aarati at the main Pashupati Temple begins. Reopens the gates.
06:00 PM: Recently the Bagmati Ganga Aarati, done by the shores of Bagmati, has been gaining lots of popularity. We can see the shores of Bagmati crowded mostly on Saturdays, Mondays and on special occasions. Ganga Aarati along with Shiva’s Tandava Bhajan, written by Ravana, is carried out on evening Ganga Aarati.
07:00 PM: Door is closed.
Festivals and Occasions at Pashupatinath Temple.
Every year Mahashivaratri is celebrated with devotions, enthusiasm and joy to the greatest day of Lord Shiva. It is the most important religious occasion to worship and pray. The festival is celebrated throughout the country. One can meet with thousands of Aghori Sadhus during the Maha Shivaratri festival at Pashupatinath.
Teej is the other festival which is celebrated at the Pashupatinath temple. Women go on a fast and observe and overnight walk around the temple.
Balachaturdashi is the another festival, on that day pilgrims trek along a fixed track. They scattered the uncooked food grains over it for the departed soul’s eternal peace of their family members who passed away earlier that year.
Besides these festivals every Monday a large number of Shiva’s devotees visits to the temple on the special day of the lord.
Hindu Cremation at Pashupatinath Temple.
In the bank of Bagmati river Hindus completes the ‘Antyesti’ of their departed souls, Antyesti means “last sacrifice”, and refers to the funeral rites for the dead in Hinduism. The human body and the universe consist of five elements in Hindu texts – air, water, fire, earth and space. The last rite of passage returns the body to the five elements and its origins. One can discover in details about the Hindu cremation during the visit to Pashupatinath temple.
Evening Aarati at Pashupatinath Temple.
Every evening a group of Bhajan Mandal performs Sandhya Aarati in the bank of the Bagmati river. Aarati is a ritual of worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) is offered to God. Pashupati Bagmati Aarati follows three priests conducting the custom with oil lamps, lanterns and other religious elements by chanting sacred mantra. Evening Aarati is one of the must experience rituals in Pashupatinath Temple.
The Aarati starts at 6 pm every evening. This is a ritual that allows everyone to be a part of it and creates an environment of the union of God and the devotees.