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Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple
Nepal Travel Attraction

The Pashupatinath Temple is the holiest and most sacred site in Nepal for all Hindus and is probably the most frequently visited Hindu religious site by locals. It is a goal for all Hindus to travel to this site at one point in their lives in order to be truly blessed and cleansed. There are so many myths – true or not, each person must decide for themselves – about the Pashupatinath temple and premises that if not explained, might leave some questions about the Lord Shiva who is highly worshiped here.

Lord Shiva was getting bored staying at his magnificent palace on the Kailas Mountain, and he just wanted to get away from his armies of ghosts, spirits and even his beautiful wife, Parbati. So he searched for the perfect location – not for leisure travel but to escape from his normal routine. Without telling anyone he fled to the Slesmantak Forest in the Kathmandu Valley which is surrounding the Pashupatinath temple area. One of his names was Pashupati meaning “Lord of the animals” and he disguised himself as a deer in order to not be recognized by anyone.

When Parbati and the other Gods could not find Lord Shiva at his palace, Parbati send some fellow gods to look for him. When they had no luck, Parbati went looking for him herself. She immediately recognized him in disguise and brought him home.

His name as the Lord of the Animals seems suiting for the hundreds of monkeys living in the temple area and some on top of the temple. There are also cows and other animals roaming these sacred grounds. Anyone – traveler or local – should be weary about these wild animals, especially the monkeys because if harassed in anyway, they are known to fight back.

Some other interesting characters you might find around the area are the Sadhus. These are men who have given up their possessions – homes, and even clothing – to follow the lifestyle of Shiva. They are usually covered in ash and if you are lucky they will be wearing a loin-cloth, although some have given up clothing altogether. It is advisable to ask if you may take their photo, and they might ask for a small donation in return.

The temple of Pashupatinath is just one of the worshiping buildings in what is considered the “Pashupatinath Temple.” In fact there are several shrines, temples, statues, and even a cremation area in the complex.

Before the current Pashupati Temple that stands today, there was another temple dedicated to Shiva dating back to 879 AD, but was rebuilt in 1697 by King Bhupatindra Malla who added the golden-plated roof along with the silver doors, and the spectacular wooden carvings.

There is another temple, Guheshwori, which is dedicated to Satidevi, Shiva’s first wife, and the temple has a representation of the female “force.”

Another legend is: Lord Shiva once again escaped to Pashupati from Mt. Kailas, this time disguised as a hunter. Parbati followed him and disguised herself as a beautiful huntress. Shiva could not resist her and he tried to seduce her, but when he realized who she really was, he shamefully returned home. The Kirateswar Temple is said to represent this embarrassing moment in his life.

Some other attractions on these sacred grounds are the statue of Bramha – the creator, and the 6th century statue of Lord Buddha. The Rajrajeswari Temple was built in 1407 and it has some lingas (phallic symbol of Shiva) dating back more than 1,400 years.

The cremation grounds are actually on the Bagmati River which eventually meets with the Ganges in India. The river flows through the center of the Pashupati complex and is a holy river. Many people from all over the valley and the world travel here just to bathe in this holy water, upstream from the cremation area. The cremation area can be viewed by anyone, although it is rude to take photos of the deceased and the grieving families. The sight is quite beautiful and no matter what your belief about death, it is a moving sight spiritually for all.

The Pashupatinath Temple is definitely a sight to see for any traveler in Nepal for its ancient history and its beautiful layout. It is even more lovely and exciting during festivals when hundreds or even thousands of people gather here throughout the year. If you have the chance to see a festival here, take the opportunity to see how important these gatherings are to the cultures that make up Nepal.

To view pre-designed Nepal travel packages, see our programs page or the encyclopedia for more Nepal Travel items.