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Pashupati Naath

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Pashupati Naath Shiv Temple
By Jabali Muni

Pashupati Naath Temple is one of the most famous temples of Shiv Jee situated in Kathmandu, Nepal.

We all at some point of our lives have heard about the rarest and priceless gems like Naag Mani (snake jewel), Gaj Mani (elephant jewel), Neel Mani (blue precious stone) - But do they really exist??? There is one temple where only Hindu are allowed to enter and which is the Holiest temple in the world. It is none other than the Pashupathi Naath temple of Shiv in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Many of us often say that there is a lot of bad and evil in this world but the truth is the world is full of divinity. It is just us who fail to look in the right direction. By visiting one such sacred and divine temple one cam make one's life feel blessed. Pashupati Naath, or Pashupati, is a Hindu temple on the banks of the Baagmatee River,  which has highly sacred properties, sin Deopatan, a village 3 km northwest of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal country. It is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiv called Pashupati. Pashupathi Naath is the guardian spirit and the holiest of all Shiv shrines in Nepal. Lord Shiva is known by many different names; and Pashupati is one of them. Pashu means living beings, and Pati means master. In other words Pashupati is the master of all living beings of the Universe. This is how Lord Pashupati is eulogized in the Ved, Upanishad and other religious books.

Regarded as the most sacred Hindu temple of Lord Shiv in the world, Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 AD. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come here to pay their homage to this temple. It is one of the oldest Lord Shiv temples in the world. It is only accessible to those of the Hindu faith, for those who are not, they must be satisfied with viewing the Temple from a distance. Even from a distance it is worth viewing the gold and silver Temple glittering in the Sun. The main treasury 'Mool Dhukuti' of Pashupati Naath is believed to contain priceless items, including Naag Mani, Gaj Mani, Neel Mani, (blue precious stone).

The banks of Baagmatee River are lined with many Ghaat (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. Renovating or furnishing these sites has always been regarded as meritorious. Near the river is where you will find an Aarya Ghat where most of the dead are taken and cremated. Aarya Ghat, dating from the early 1900s, is of special importance because it is the only place where lustrous water for Pashupati Naath Temple can be obtained and it is where the members of the royal family are cremated. The main cremation site is Bhasmeshwar Ghaat, which is the most-used cremation site in the Kathmandu Valley. The preferred bathing spot for women is the Gauree Ghaat, towards the North.

Across the Baagmatee River are 15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivaalaya, which were built to enshrine Ling in memory of the deceased persons between 1859 and 1869. It is not known for certain when Pashupati Naath Temple was founded. Tradition says that it was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but its 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, Anshuvarman 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 Banaaras (early 19th century). The original temple was destroyed several times until it was given its present form under King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697.

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 Ling with four faces (Chatur-mukh) representing Pashupati, as well as images of Vishnu, Soorya, Devee and Ganesh.

The priests of Pashaputi Naath are called Bhatt 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 Shiv's family such as Paarvatee, Ganesh, Kumaar or the Yoginee, as well as Hanumaan, Raam, Seetaa, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Raamaayan.

Situated on the south side, is a depiction of Shiv as Yogeshwar, Lord of Yogee.

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

Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the Temple, for instance, is Chadeshwar, an inscribed Linchchhavi Ling from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th century temple of Brahmaa Jee. On the south side of Pashupati Temple is the Dharm Shilaa, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.

Carving on the Western Gate - 
From the narrow ambulatory way inside the temple itself is around the sanctum. where one can have closer view of Shiv Ling. On the both sides of each door of the temple there are artistic niche of different sizes containing attractive images of Apsaraa, Asht Bhairav and other gods and goddesses. These images and niches, painted with gold enhance the grandeur of the temple. The latticed windows below the roof are another elements of attraction. The struts supporting the roofs and depicting the image of different postures are equally alluring. The gold gilt images of birds in flying posture in all the four corners of the roof and the winged images of lion, griffin, Ajar Purusa and Mahanaga on the struts in all the corners of the Temple gives soaring beauty to the Temple. On the upper part of the struts supporting the lower roof, the images of the Moon, the Sun and a Poorn Kalash are carved out. This Poorn Kalash is worshiped as a symbol of Guheshwaree. The western door has a statue of a large Bull, Nandee, is ornamented in gold. This black stone idol, about 6 ft in height and circumference, adds to the beauty and charisma of the Temple.

Golden Door at the Temple Entrance -
The two level roof of the Temple are embellished with gold and the four main doors are adorned with silver. The Temple is famous for its awe-inspiring and astounding pagoda architecture. In the sanctum of the Temple, there is a very attractive, about three feet high, Shiv Ling with four faces. All these faces have different names and significance. The face facing East is known as Tatpurush and the one facing South as Aghor. Similarly, the faces looking West and North are known by the name Sadyojaat and Vaam Dev respectively. The upper portion of this Ling is known as Eeshaan. These faces are also defined as the symbol of four Dharm (the most famous places of pilgrimage for Hindu) and four Ved (sacred books of Hindu). The images of Vishnu, Soorya, Devee and Ganesh are also placed in the sanctum of the Temple.

At the Northern end of the Pashupati Naath terraces near Kathmandu is a Shiv Ling on a circular pedestal dating from the 6 BC. A finely featured face of Shiv has been sculpted on one side of the Ling. Two important idols inside Pashupati area‚ Mrigeshwar Mahaadev and Virupaaksh (also known as Kali)‚ are gradually losing their charm after Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) closed the Eastern entrance of Pashupati Naath Temple citing security reasons. Locals and priests say a huge crowd used to visit this small temple of the two idols situated in the Eastern side of the main Temple, but after Pashupati Area Development Trust has closed the Eastern entrance in 2010, the number of people coming to worship these idols is on decline, said Badri Adhikaaree, a priest who has been stationed in the Pashupati area for the last 15 years. Earlier, people used to worship Mrigeshwar Mahaadev before offering prayers at the main Temple, added Adhikari. Even around a year ago, the Eastern gate of the main Temple was closed for a day after the Indian priest (the main priest of Pashupati Naath Temple) was beaten up by a group of people demanding appointment of Nepali origin priest.

Priests say that the idol of Mrigeshwar Mahaadev carries the meaning of Pashupati. “Pashupati actually means the incarnation of Lord Mahaadev as an animal. “The idol of Mrigeshwar Mahaadev is the only idol which depicts Mahaadev's incarnation as a Mrig (deer). According to Hindu mythology, Mahaadev had chosen the Pashupati area as a hideout to trick his wife, goddess Paarvatee. It is said that once upon a time when Mahaadev was on bad terms with Paarvatee, he came to live in Mrig Sthalee in the form of a Mrig. Later, when Paarvatee came to know she also came there in the form of a female Mrig to placate her husband and took him back to Kailaash Parvat. There is another interesting belief associated with the idol of Viroopaaksh (Kali). The idol, half of which is already underground, is believed to be gradually sinking underneath the earth. Some Hindu believe that when the idol totally disappears underground, the universe will collapse, marking the beginning of a new era after Kali Yug. "Interestingly the idol is not sinking. It is exactly in the same state as it was 15 years ago." said Adhikari.

“However, what is important is the belief and the sentiments of people associated with these idols. “Pashupati Area Development Trust's decision to close the Eastern entrance has, in a way, played with the sentiments of people who want to worship Mrigeshwar Mahaadev and Virupaaksh. This place, which once used to be a major attraction of Pashupati, seems overshadowed by the PADT's irresponsible step. If it was closed on the ground of security, more police personnel should have be deployed instead of closing the gate. When asked, PADT treasurer Narottam Vaidya said that the gate will be opened as early as possible.

The 11 small stone Chaitya (Stoop), each with a Ling, lined up nicely to give a seemingly endless mirror effect. The unique feature of this Temple is that only 4 priests can touch the idol. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaraachaarya in the 8th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that Temple in those times.

The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.

Legends Behind the Temple

(1) According to a legend recorded in local texts, especially the Nepal Mahaatmya and the Himavat Khand, the Hindu god Shiv once fled from the other gods in Vaaraanasee to Mrig Sthalee - the forest on the opposite bank of the Baagmatee River from the Temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Paarvatee. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Vaaraanasee, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiv became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-faced (Chatur-mukh) Ling. There are many legends describing as how the temple of Lord Pashupati Naath came into existence here. Some of them are narrated below:-

(2) The Cow Legend : Legend says that once Lord Shiv once took the form of an antelope and sported alone secretly in the forest on Baagmatee River's Eastern bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. As the gods were using their force, the antelope's horn broke. The broken horn was worshipped as a Ling but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk at that point. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine Ling of Pashupati Naath.

(3) 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 Pashupati Naath in 753 AD, happened to be the ruler 39 generations before Manadeva (464-505 AD).

(4) The Devaalaya Legend : Another chronicle states that Pashupati Naath Temple was in the form of Ling shaped Devaalaya before Supus Padeva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupati Naath in this place. As the time passed, the need for repairing and renovating this temple arose. It is learnt that this temple was reconstructed by a mediaeval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Anant Malla adding a roof to it.

What to See :
Gold-painted images of guardian deities
Chatur-mukh (four-faced statue)
Chadeshwar, an inscribed Linchchavi Ling from the 7th century
Brahmaa Temple
Dharm Shilaa, a stone where sacred oaths are taken
Arya Ghaat
Gauree Ghaat (holy bath)
Pandra Shivaalaya (15 shrines)
Gorakhnaath and Vishwaroop Temples
Guhyeshwaree (Guhjeshwaree) Temple
Kiraateshwar Mahaadev Mandir and
Soorya Ghaat

The Pashupati story of the Mrig (deer) seems also associated with Mrigashiraa Nakshatra also. Since the story of holding the horns of the Mrig is there, this seems to be connected with the vernal equinox of the Vaidik period as concluded by Bal Gangadhar Tilak in his book entitled 'Orion'. We have the festival of Vat Shaileshwaree Jatra at the time of vernal equinox.



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Created and Maintained by Sushma Gupta
Created on March 15, 2003 and Updated on February 12, 2013