Pashupatinath temple

Pashupatinath Temple (Nepali: पशुपतिनाथको मन्दिर) is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple served as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath, until Nepal became a secular country, at least on a formal level. The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent). Hindus alone are allowed to enter the temple premises. 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).


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, the deity here gained great fame there as Pashupati, the Lord of the Animals. Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or phallic symbol of Lord Shiva. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'. 2011

There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here. Some of them are narrated below:-

The Cow Legend Legend says that Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river's east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath 2011.

The Linchchhavi Legend According to Gopalraj Vamsavali, the oldest ever chronicle in Nepal, this temple was built by Supus Padeva, a Linchchhavi King, who according to the stone inscription erected by Jayadeva 11 in the courtyard of Pashupatinath in 753 AD, happened to be the ruler 39 generations before Manadeva (464-505 AD).

The Devalaya Legend 2011 Another chronicle states that Pashupatinath Temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supus Padeva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupatinath in this place. As the time passed, the need for reparing and renovating this temple arose. It is learnt that this temple was reconsturcted by a mediaeval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it. Ref Pashupatinath


The temple was erected anew in the 17th century by King Bhupendra Malla after the previous building had been consumed by termites. Countless further temples have been erected around this two -storied temple. These include the Vaishnava temple complex with a Ram temple from the 14th century and the Guhyeshwari temple mentioned in a 11th century manuscript. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Bhat-Brahmins from South India (Karnataka 2010) origin since last 350 years. 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 reported 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 deity. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 8th 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 a republic 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 2010.

Origin Beliefs

There are several complex stories involving the origins of Pashupatinath. One story goes, in brief, that Shiva and Parvati came to the Kathmandu Valley and rested by the Bagmati while on a journey. Shiva was so impressed by its beauty and the surrounding forest that he and Parvati changed themselves into deers and walked into the forest. Many spots in the Kathmandu Valley are identified as places where Shiva went during his time as a deer. After awhile the people and gods began to search for Shiva in 2010. Finally, after various complications, they found him in the forest, but he refused to leave. More complications ensued, but ultimately Shiva announced that, since he had lived by the Bagmati in a deer's form, he would now be known as Pashupatinath, Lord of all Animals. It is said that whoever came here and beheld the lingam that appeared there would not be reborn as an animal.

Another origin story involves Parvati's incarnation as Sati, who gave up her life because her father didn't respect Shiva. Grieved at losing her, Shiva wandered the world carrying her body. Wherever pieces of her body fell, temples were established 2010, including one at Guhyeshvari adjoining the Pashupatinath complex.

Parvati offers Buddha boon that Buddhist and Shivaist will live in harmony in the Valley

One belief associated with the temple goes like this: Vishnu in the form of Buddha came from Saurashtra and meditated on Mandihatu mountain in the middle of four burning fires and with the sun as a fifth fire burning on his head. The meditation was so intense then it created the river Manimati. Buddha also pleased Parvati who appeared to him in the form of the buddhist godess Vajrayogini and offered Buddha a boon. Buddha wanted that there would always live buddhist people in the holy land of Kathmandu Valley. Paravti gave Buddha the boon and said that in this holy area of Nepal Shiva devotees and Buddhist will live in harmony. Parvati then asked Buddha to establish a lingam at the confluence of the Bagmati and Manimati river. And so Buddha established the Karunikeshvara here.

The gods built a big accommodation of gold to stay close to Pashupatinath and called it Maheshvarepuri. The city with gold and rubies was called Pashupatipuri with the pashupatinath lingam brightly shining in the center. Though at the end of the Dvapara yuga the golden city turned into rock, wood and soil. By the time of the Kali yuga the lingam had sunk deep into the soil. The gods where back living in their heavens.

Finding of the Shiva Lingam at current Pashupatinath Temple

It is said that the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu took shelter in a cave on the Chandravan mountain. Everyday Kamadenu went down to the place the lingam was sunken into the soil and poured her milk on top of the soil. After ten thousand years some people saw Kamdenu pouring milk on that same spot everyday, and started to wonder what that would be. So they removed the soil and found the beautiful shining lingam. After having a good look they disappeared into the lingam, freed from sin and rebirths. More and more people came to look and more people disappeared into the lingam. This was a big concern for Brahma.


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.

Temple architecture

The temple is of the Nepalese pagoda style of architecture. All the features of pagoda style is founded here like cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest (tundal). The two level roofs are of copper with gold covering. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. This temple has a gold pinnacle, (Gajur), which is a symbol of religious thought. The western door has a statue of large bull or Nandi, plated in bronze. The deity is of black stone, about 6 feet in height and the same in circumference.

Vasukinath lies to the east of Pashupatinath.

Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple and Pashupatinath Temple

During the reign of Marthanda Varma of Travancore, the idol of the Principal Deity of the famous Sri Padmanabhaswamy Temple was re-consecrated. For that, the King of Nepal, who had close links with the Royalty of Travancore, sent thousands of saligram stones on elephants to Thiruvananthapuram. So rituals commemorating the association of Sri Padmanabha with Pashupatinath were conducted at the Pashupatinath Temple.

Controversy of 2009

The priests are called Bhattas and the Chief Priest is known as Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priests of temple have been Brahmins from South India since the Malla era. This, along with the allegations of corruption within the temple had been an issue among the Nepalese people.

In January 2009, after the forced resignation by the chief priest of Pashupatinath temple, the Maoist-led government of Nepal "hand picked" Nepalese priests to lead the temple, thus bypassing the temple's long-standing requirements. This appointment was contested by the Bhandaris of the temple, stating that they were not against the appointment of Nepalese priests but against the appointment without proper procedure. After the appointment was challenged in a civil court, the appointment was overruled by Supreme Court of Nepal. However, the government did not heed the ruling and stood by its decision. This led to public outrage and protests over a lack of transparency. The paramilitary group of the CPN (Maoist), called YCL, attacked the protesters, leading to over a dozen injuries. Lawmakers and activists from opposition parties joined protests, declaring their support for the Bhandaris and other pro-Bhandari protesters.

However, after long dissatisfaction and protest by Hindus both in and outside of Nepal, the government reversed its decision and reinstated Indian priests.

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 the Dharmashila, 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.

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. ref

Building Activity

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