Dedicated to Lord Shiva, Pashupatinath is the holiest shrine in Nepal and one of the four important shrines for Hindus all over the world. Believed to have been built in the 5th century and later renovated during the reign of the Malla kings, the site is believed to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when a Shiva lingam was discovered here by cow herders. This largest temple complex in Nepal sits on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. The main pagoda temple is two-storied with a golden pinnacle and has four silver doors and intricate wood carvings. There are temples and idols of several Hindu and Buddhist deities on the temple premises. Located just 3 kilometers from the city center, the Pashupatinath Temple premises is a UNESCO World Heritage site. There is also a cremation site on the banks of Bagmati River where last rites of Hindus are performed. In the evening, a special aarti is offered to Lord Shiva amidst chanting of sacred mantras and performance of Tandava dance by young priests.
Pashupatinath Temple is considered the most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal. The temple is located on the banks of Bagmati River, east of the Kathmandu Valley.
The main temple is a two-storied pagoda structure with copper-plated roofs topped by a golden spire. The temple is considered a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. It has four doors covered with silver sheets carved with images of different deities. The roofs are supported by artistic wooden struts, depicting activities of different deities.
The inner sanctum has a beautiful statue carved in a blackstone. The statue has five faces — four facing four directions and the fifth one facing the sky. The five faces have distinct names — Ishan, Tatpurush, Aghor, Sadhyojaat and Bamdev — and they represent five elements: sky, air, fire, water, earth.
Everyday, priests perform a special worship on the main shrine. The statute is given a holy bath with the sacred waters of the Bagmati River amid chanting of sacred verses by the priests. The holy water flows through a small canal into the Bagmati River. Devotees take this sacred water as Panchamrit. The offering of milk, yoghurt, ghee and honey, among others, is made to the Lord during the bath. After the bath, the main shrine is adorned with magnificent silver ornaments.
There are four entrances to the main temple. However, the popular one is the western gate where a huge bronze statue of Nandi — the Bull guard the deity. Pilgrims first circumambulate the main temple clockwise before staying in queue to offer their worships to the main deity in the inner sanctum. Please note that no one is allowed to touch the main shrine. Only the Bhattas, or the main priests who hail from South India, can touch and offer worship to the main deity.
There are temple of numerous deities like Nagraj Basuki, Laal Ganesh, Budhanilkantha — the Sleeping Vishnu, Santaneshwar Mahadev, Kirtimukh Bhairav, Unmatta Bhairav and Navagraha, among others, at the temple premises. THere is a viewing deck in the eastern side of the temple from where pilgrims can observe activities on the banks of the holy Bagmati River. There is a even an open-air cremation spot.
The visit to Pashupatinath temple is often done together with the visit to the Guheshwari Temple. Guheshwari Temple is dedicated to Goddess Satidevi the consort of Lord Shiva. It is one of the most powerful deities in the Kathmandu Valley. Tantric rituals are performed on the goddess by the priests.
One of the mesmerizing rituals at Pashupatinath Temple is the evening Aarti. The Aarati is performed across the Bagmati River on a stone platform erected centuries ago. Three priests perform the Aarati by taking oil lamps, incense sticks, flowers, Akshatas etc turn by turn, moving them in circular motion, dedicating their act to the Lord. Devotees perform Bhajans, creating a blissful spiritual experience.
Hundreds of pilgrims gather everyday to participate in the Aarati. You can even be a Karta, or the organizer, by paying a certain fee that is used to keep the tradition going.
The Aarti concludes with the performance of the sacred Shiva Tandav Stotram by the musical troupe. All the pilgrims clap their hands and dance to the tune of Tandava verses. Tandav is a divine dance performed to Lord Shiva by his biggest follower Ravana.