Among infinite exquisiteness Nepal’s capital Kathmandu has to offer, the holiest Hindu shrine Pashupatinath – the home of Lord Shiva – often tops the list. On the bank of holy Bagmati River stands the sacred century-old temple, the epitome of Hinduism and divine energy.
Call it the guardian deity of the Himalayan country or the supreme pilgrimage of Hindu devotees from across the world; the glory of a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site Pashupatinath cannot be limited in just few phrases.
Surrounded by lush forest enriched with wildlife, green meadow and colorful outlook, the heritage site features ample of spaces for the temples of different Hindu and Buddhist deities and idols dedicated to Lord Shiva, particularly Shiva Lingas. Besides, there are ashrams and centuries-old inscriptions, which reflect rich history.
There are multiple myths and stories revolving around the origins of Pashupatinath, though its existence dates back to 400 B.C. The deity is believed to have the four faces symbolizing different avatars of Lord Shiva. He is considered as not only the Lord of humans, but also of all living as well as non-living beings. In Hindi language, it’s called “debo ka dev Mahadev,” referring to the god of gods.
The extensive Pashupatinath temple, spread across 240 hectors of land, has been built in the pagoda style, which is often considered as a masterpiece of architecture. The main temple features finest sculptures, roof of copper with gold covering, beautifully carved wooden beams, four artistic doors with silver sheets, a gold pinnacle with the huge statute of Shiva’s vehicle – bull or ‘Nandi’ – at the entrance.
The courtyard represents rich sculptural legacy with art on stones, metals and woods on every nook and corner. The perfect combination of religion, art and culture, Pashupatinath blesses you with a feel of visiting any open museum.
Be it women’s biggest festival Teej, religious fests like Bala Chaturthi or Swasthani, or the most important Hindu festival Maha Shivaratri, Pashupatinath is a magical pilgrimage that binds all, and beyond.
Among many special occasions, Shivaratri is the perfect time to be around Pashupatinath, when summer is not that hot, winter is warm and spring blossoms with fragrance are around.
This is the time when hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees from different parts of the world, particularly India, gather in the holy shrine, thanks to easily accessible bus and air service, with hopes of rail way in the future.
If you are seeking an escape from daily hectic schedule or struggling with complexities of life, Shivaratri is an ideal occasion to celebrate some me-time and to discover the meaning of life, existence and death. Shivaratri is termed as ‘The great night of Lord Shiva’, which refers to overcoming darkness and ignorance in life and the world.
On the occasion, Hindu devotees observe fast, stay awake for whole night under the open sky in great devotion of Lord Shiva, and perform hymns, songs and even dance with a great energy.
Special tents and all-night vigil is set-up in the nearby Sleshmantak forest by the visiting sages from India where devotees can spend their night by offering prayers to Lord Shiva, or can opt to have a comfortable rest in the hotels, which are just few minutes’ walk away from the site.
Strolling around the temple premise, witnessing the live Ganga Aarati (evening prayer ritual) with the soulful hymns and Tandava bhajans, enjoying the dance in typical Nepali bhajans or just watching the setting sun from the corner of trees, Pashupatinath provides a sense of peace, relaxation and spiritual vibe, a lifetime experience to any visitor.
For many, taking a holy dip in Bagmati River is a long awaited wish, some find relief in chanting of Om Namah Shivaya, Bam Bam Bholey and Jay Sambho, whereas some enjoy chatting to the Sadhus and knowing about the life, God and much more.
With the yellow paintings on the bodies and heavy accessories portraying a unique appearance, don’t get surprised if the Sadhus asked for money in return of your few camera clicks. It has been a normal activity, openly accepted by visitors with a smile on their faces.
Pashupatinath is not just about the divine glory and fervor, but it also represents the cycle of life and death. Many religious rituals related to birth, growing up, and marriage among others take place in the courtyard, while traditional cremations take place in the river bank every day, which can be a surprise for many visitors.
The sight of open-air cremations in the raised platforms along the river bank and mourning family members often compel the visitors to realize the importance of life and to accept death as a natural and inevitable process. With the air of fire moving towards the blue sky, many foreign tourists have regarded the atmosphere as an eye-opening moment.
While you are in Pashupatinath premise, don’t forget to utter Jay Sambho in a way that your voice reaches to the Lord Shiva, put Chandan (Prasad of Lord Shiva) in forehead and light butter lamps or incense sticks for prayers. In addition, buy accessories like Rudraksha, special prayers beads, for your friends and family, which will help the local economy and bring smile on someone’s face. Believe me, you will get some pleasure.
Besides the essence of Hinduism, the holiest shrine holds faith, spirituality, culture, art, festivity and values of existence. To achieve a lifetime experience, visit Pashupatinath and try to seek and achieve the balance between body, mind and spirit.
After all, it’s all about feeling, one’s life journey and contentment.
- Pashupatinath: UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Where: Gaushala, Kathmandu
- Distance from Tribhuvan International Airport: 2 kilometers
- Entrance to the site: All visitors (entry fee 10 $ approx. for foreigners)
- Entrance to main temple: Only Hindus
- Opening of Main Door: 4:00 am to 7:00 pm
- Major Offering: Milk, flower and green Bel leaves
- Arati: Every day after 6:30 pm (for around one hour)
- Most Special Occasion: Shivaratri (depends upon lunar calendar); This Year: March 4, 2019 Monday
- Food and Accommodation: Hotels of different range nearby and beyond