Pashupatinath Temple - Kathmandu, Nepal


Pashaputinath Temple

Pashupatinath, or Pashupati, is a Hindu temple on the banks of the Bagmati River in Deopatan, a village 3 km northwest of Kathmandu. It is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals). It attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and has become well known far beyond the Kathmandu Valley. The temple is barred to non-Hindus, but a good view of the temple can be had from the opposite bank of the river.

History:
PashuPatiNath Temple is one of the biggest Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part ofKathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple served as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal was secularized. The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Believers in Pashupatinath (mainly Hindus) are allowed to enter the temple premises. Anyone not born in Nepal or India is considered a non-Hindu by the temple authorities. Non-Hindu visitors are allowed to have a look at the temple from the other bank of Bagmati river.

It is regarded as the most sacred among the temples of Lord Shiva (Pashupati).It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath was founded. Tradition says it was constructed by 

Legend:
Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. But according to Nepal Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, one day Lord Shiva grew tired of his palace atop Mt. Kailash and so went in search of a place where he could escape to. He discovered Kathmandu Valley and, without telling anyone, he ran away from his palace and came to live in the Valley. He gained great fame there as Pashupati, Lord of the Animals, before the other gods discovered his hiding place and came to fetch him. He disguised himself as a majestic deer and would not help the other gods when they asked for his help. When Shiva did not yield to their pleas, they planned to use force. God Vishnu grabbed him by his horns and they shattered into pieces. Vishnu established a temple and used the broken horns to form a linga on the bank of the Bagmati River. As time went by, the temple was buried and forgotten. Then a cow was known to have secretly sprinkled her milk over the mound. Apparently, when the cow herders dug around the spot, they found the lost lingas and again built a temple in revrence.

The temple was first established in the 17th century. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Bhat-Brahmins from South India (Karnataka) origin since last 350 years. Only the priests from Shimoga District - Karnataka are selected as priests. 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 and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.

This tradition is supposed to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. The unique feature of this temple is that only 4 priests can touch the idol. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 17th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that temple. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. Malla kings honoured the request of Adi shankarachaya as latter being one of the greatest ever Hindu acharyas.

However,this tradition was recently changed after the historic revolution in Nepal which demolished the monarchy and established democracy where Nepalese priests supported by the anti- Indian Maoists government.There was widespread protests by most Nepalese as they saw this as an intereference in their religion.



Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but the first historical records date from the 13th century. The ascetic Pashupata sect was likely related to its foundation.
Pashupati was a tutelary deity of the ancient rulers of the Kathmandu Valley; in 605 AD, Amshuvarman considered himself favored by his touching of the god's feet.
By the later Middle Ages, many imitations of the temple had been built, such as in Bhaktapur (1480), Lalitpur (1566) and Benares (early 19th century). The original temple was destroyed several times until it was given its present form under King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697.
According to a legend recorded in local texts, especially the Nepalamahatmyaand the Himavatkhanda, the Hindu god Shiva once fled from the other gods inVaranasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Parvati. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) linga.

What to See:
Pashupati Temple stands in the center of the town of Deopatan, in the middle of an open courtyard. It is a square, two-tiered pagoda temple built on a single-tier plinth, and it stands 23.6 meters above the ground. Richly ornamented gilt and silver-plated doors are on all sides.
On both sides of each door are niches of various sizes containing gold-painted images of guardian deities. Inside the temple itself is a narrow ambulatory around the sanctum. The sanctum contains a one-meter high linga with four faces (chaturmukha) representing Pashupati, as well as images of Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Ganesh.
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 and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.

The struts under the roofs, dating from the late 17th century, are decorated with wood carvings of members of Shiva's family such as Parvati, Ganesh, Kumar or the Yoginis, as well as Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Ramayana.
Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the temple, for instance, is Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th-century temple of Brahma. On the south side of Pashupati temple is theDharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.

In the northeast corner of the temple courtyard is the small pagoda temple of Vasuki, the King of the Nagas. Vasuki has the form of a Naga (mythical snake) from the waist upwards, while the lower parts are an intricate tangle of snakes' bodies. According to local belief, Vasuki took up residence here in order to protect Pashupati. One can often see devotees circumambulating and worshipping Vasuki before entering the main sanctum.

The Bagmati River, which runs next to Pashaputinath Temple, has highly sacred properties. Thus the banks are lined with many ghats (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. Renovating or furnishing these sites has always been regarded as meritorious.
Bagamati River at Pashaputinath Temple 
Arya Ghat, dating from the early 1900s, is of special importance because it is the only place where lustral water for Pashupatinath Temple can be obtained and it is where members of the royal family are cremated. The main cremation site is Bhasmeshvar Ghat, which is the most-used cremation site in the Kathmandu Valley. The preferred bathing spot for women is the Gauri Ghat, to the north.

Across the Bagmati River are 15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivalaya, which were built to enshrine lingas in memory of deceased persons between 1859 and 1869.



Festivals at Pashupati Temple
Pashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followers of Hinduism. Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to pay homage to Pashupatinath every day. And on special occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, Teej Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) the whole atmosphere turns festive and mirthful as people congregate here in a far greater number.
During the Shivaratri (also spelled Shivratri) festival Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the night and the temple remains open all 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 Maha Shivaratri.


Auspicious Days to Visit
In August, during the Teej festival, thousands of women visit the temple to bathe 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.

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