About Pashupatinath temple in Nepal

One of the holiest Hindu shrines, Pashupati (पशुपति Paśupati) Temple is located in Kathmandu, Nepal on the banks of the Bagmati River. This temple is dedicated to Lord Shiva and he is the God of destruction . He has 1008 names, among them Pashupati is very famous one. The word Pashupatinath is derived from Sanskrit words: “pashu” means animal, “pati” means protector, and “nath” means Lord. Therefore, Pashupatinath means “Protector and Lord of all animals”. Shiva is the lord of all beasts, gods, mortals and titans. In 1979, Pashupatinath temple was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Lord Pashupatinath is the guardian deity of Nepal which attracts millions of pilgrims each year and has become well known far beyond Nepal. Pashupati area is the pilgrimage place where many people in Nepal desire to spend their last hours, for their souls to be released.

The place has been acclaimed in the Purans as more sacred than a combination of thousands of pilgrimages. History records the worship of Pashupatinath as far back as Fifth Century B.C. In Mahabharata there is mention of a place called “Pashupatipuri”. Pashupati town or Deopatan as it was called then was a well known township in Mahabharat period.

The holy shrine of Pashupatinath is a two-story pagoda styled temple with gilded roofs. The temple is famous for it’s astounding pagoda architecture. The four main doors of the sanctum sanctorum are gold and silver-plated. Each of them has a silver polished tympanum (toran). It is heavily decorated with images of deities. The western door has a statue of a large Bull, Nandi which is ornamented in gold. The supreme architectural marvel is crowned by the trishul (trident), the damru (Lord Shiva’s hand drum) and bancharo (axe). All three the attributes of Shiva.

The temple is surrounded by open spaces, monuments and forests. To the east there is Tribhuvan International Airport, to the west there is a large meadow; to the south there are houses and to the north you’ll see Kailash.

Devotees should enter from the Western Gate, as one encounters the colossal form of the gilded Nandi seated on a pedestal. Nandi is the mythological bull on which Lord Shiva rides and people believe that it is inauspicious to look at Nandi before Lord Shiva. So they direct their sights to the pinnacle of the Pashupatinath Temple. Vedic precepts direct the devotee to take a clockwise tour of the temple before the darshan of Pashupatinath, taking the left hand route to the temple of Vasukinath. It is believed that the pilgrimage of a person to Pashupatinath cannot be complete unless Vasukinath darshan is completed first.

The Pashupatinath Temple stands at the middle of the courtyard. The courtyard is full of small Shiva lingams which are 64 in total and in the center of the courtyard there is Kotilingeshvar. The inner courtyard has temples of Vasuki Nath temple, Surya Narayan Temple, Unmatta Bhairav Temple, Kritimukha Bhairav shrine, Hanuman, Budhanilakantha shrine etc. Four doors in then temple such as the southern gateway, eastern stairway from the Arya Ghat and western gate. The Nandi (bull of Shiva, bull is the vehicle of Shiva) was originally constructed in stone and later covered in gilt copper by princess Vikramadevi. Near the Nandi there is Hanuman, in red cloth. At the northeast of the courtyard there is the Temple of Vasuki. He is one of the naga (snake) kings.

Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to Pashupatinath every day as well as on special occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, Teej Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) etc.

The main area of the temple is only accessible for Hindus. Non-Hindus are allowed up to the western gate of the complex only and can have a top view of the complex from an adjacent hillock at the back end of the temple across the river Bagmati.

Major attractions

  • Gold-painted images of guardian deities
  • Chaturmukha (four-faced statue)
  • Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century
  • Brahma Temple
  • Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken
  • Arya Ghat
  • Gauri Ghat (holy bath)
  • Pandra Shivalaya (15 shrines)
  • Gorakhnath and Vishwarup Temples
  • Guhyeshwari (Guhjeshwari) Temple
  • Kirateshwar Mahadeva Mandir and Surya Ghat

A portrayal of his Divine Form

The Pashupati form of Shivalingum at the holy shrine is about 3.5 feet (1 meter) high. His divine form has five faces attached on the lingum, one on each side of the lingum while the fifth, which is shapeless is on the top. By the sides of each of the four faces is a pair of hands. The right hands have a 16-beaded rosary of 12-furrowed “rudraksha” and the left hands hold a “Kamandalu” (holy water vase) supposedly filled with holy nectar (amrit). Rudraksha mala shows the importance of time and water vessel shows water is life.

The deity of Pashupatinath is Shiva-Shakti and personifies the Pashupata philosophy. Taking any picture of the deity is forbidden.

Pashupatinath temple history

The Pashupatinath Mandir was built in the 3rd Century BC during the time of Somadeva dynasty. The gilt roof was added in 1297 AD and the lingam was replaced in 1360. In 1754, the temple was renovated by King Bhupalendra Malla. The Pashupatinath temple is built in a pagoda style temple with a golden spire. It is a masterpiece of Hindu architecture. The present architectural of the temple came into existence after renovation during the reign of Shivasimha Malla (1578-1620 AD) by Queen Gangadevi.

There are many stories involving the origins of Pashupatinath and it is said that Lord Shiva came to the Kathmandu Valley and rested at side of Bagmati river while on a journey. Shiva was so impressed by beauty of surrounding forest that he changed themselves into deers and walked into the forest. When Loard Shiva leave this place then he 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. Thus, Pashupati temple area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followers of Hinduism.

The Legend of Pashupatinath

The prayer of Lord Pashupatinath has come regurally many times in Rigveda, Yejurveda, Samveda and Atharvaveda. Shiva Puran the ancient holy text of the Hindu religion, describes the fame of Nepal as – “in the Himalayas there is a most auspicious blessed place, where Shankar in the form of Pashupatinath resides”.

There are many legends about the existence of Pashupati and some of them are as follows:

The Cow Legend

Skanda A legend from the vedic period recorded in the chapter on Nepal Mahatmya in Skanda Puran says that Lord Shiva hid himself in Shleshmantaka forest (presently known as Mrigasthali). The gods searched for him and traced him living in disguise in the form of a Mriga (deer).

The gods later caught up the deer grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form, which in the melee broke off and the deer escaped. Lord Vishnu made a lingum of the broken horn and placed it at the spot. The lingum in course of time got buried under the earth. Centuries later, the chief of herdsmen noticed one of his cow named “Bahuhri”, showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the cosmic lingum.

By some ancient chronicles, King Supusapa Varma built the pagoda style temple of Pashupati. Amshuvarma, famous king of Lichhavi period 605 – 621 AD was a proclaimed devotee of Lord Pashupatinath and described himself as “favored by the feet of Lord Pashupatinath, the protector”.

The Linchchhavi Legend

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

The Devalaya Legend

It says the temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supus Padeva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupati. This temple was reconsturcted by a mediaeval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD) and renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it.

Sadhus at Pashupati

Priests of Pashupati

The priests of the Pashupati Temple are also known as Bhattas and the chief priest is known as Mool Bhatt. They are Brahmans from South India, only four priests can touch the idol of Pashupatinath. The Bhatta and the Rajbhandari carries daily rituals. Bhatta performs ritual and Bhandaris help them.

Bhatta’s are educated Vedic Dravida Brahmin scholars from Karnataka. Priesthood of Pashupatinath is not hereditary instead selected from a group of scholars. They are educated by Shri Shankaracharya Dakshinamnaya Peeth Sringeri on Rig Vedic recitation and after qualifying they are selected for priesthood by Raj Guru of Pashupatinath Temple. There will be strict examination on Vedas and Shiva Agamas, qualified priest is sent to perform daily worship of Pashupatinath.

Rajbhandaris are the temple caretakers, assistant priests and treasurers.

Mukhalingam or Chaturmukha

There is a chaturmukha Shiva linga inside the main temple of Pashupati. Pashupatinath 5 faces represent various incarnations of Lord Mahadev, Vamdeva (also known as Uma Maheswara), Sadyojata (also known as Barun), Tatpurusha, Ishana and Aghor which is faced East, West, North, South and Zenith respectively. It also represents 5 elements of Hinduism namely earth, water, air, light and ether.

The lingam inside the temple is a chaturmukha lingam which has humanoid faces looking towards the four directions and one on the apex. In different Shaivite temples, different faces are worshiped and at Pashupatinath temple it is the north face. The faces depict the five “Brahma” forms looking towards the four directions.

  • The face towards the east is identified as “Tatpurush“, the creator. It is also known as Bhava in the Vedas.
  • The face facing south is identified as “Aghor“, which is the representation of Yama, the God of Death. It has three eyes, a nagakundala (snake earring) in his right ear and a simple earring in its left ear.
  • The one facing north is identified as “Vamdev“, known for it’s kindness and boon giving aspects. It’s hair is slanted towards the right side forming a crown like structure.
  • The face towards west is called “Sadyojat (just born)”, with a child-like face.
  • The fifth face or the one on the top is “Ishan“, also known as linga sharira which is the center of all forms of the Lord.

Bankali

Behind Mrighastali and towards the Gujeshwari there is place named Bankali which is the graveyard for a number of Nepali ethnic groups. This site has turned into graveyard over the last few decades for ethnic groups like Kirant, Rai and Limbu. These ethnic groups prefer to be buried rather then cremated. Kirants were permitted to bury their dead close to their deity. They have always claimed to be the descendants of Shiva.

Mrigasthali

Mrigasthali can be reached crossing a small bridge to the eastern bank of the Bagmati River and climbing the hill one enters the woods. It is the important place where Lord Shiva lived in the form of mriga (deer). It is a beautiful and peaceful small forest also known as deer park as you can see deers here. It is also home to a variety of birds which is said to be loved by Shiva and Parvati.

They are numerous votive lingams including the Pandra Shivalaya or the fifteen abodes of Shiva, erected between 1859 and 1869. The road climbing the Mrigasthali hill leads all the way past the Gorkhanath Mandir to Ghujeshwari Temple.

Gorakhnath temple

The Gorakhnath temple is an important 11th century red and white temple dedicated to the founder of the Shaivite monastic tradition. The shikhara style (temple with tall corn cob–like spire) Gorkhanath Mandir is surrounded with a proliferation of lingam, and other Shaivite Iconography. After crossing the Bagmati river and walking few minutes above on left at the top of the hill will take you to the Gorakhnath Temple.

Guhyeshwari temple

Guhyeshwari temple is dedicated to Goddess Sati. It is an important pilgrimage destination especially for Tantrik worshipers, located on the southern bank of the Bagmati River about 1 km east of Pashupatinath. Guhyeshwari temple is recognized as a Shakti Peetha (symbol of power) and is one of the 51 Shakti Peethas of Goddess Sati. Guhyeshwari Temple is designed in Bhutanese pagoda style of architecture and the inside of the temple is decorated with flower motifs etc. The Newar community performs rituals at Temple. Bajracharya community worship as Vajrayogini.

It is believed that if a marriage is performed in the Guhyeshwari temple, the married couples will be soul mates for another 6 generations and live a peaceful life.

The Holy Bagmati river

Bagmati river is a holy river and devotees takes ritual baths in the holy Bagmati river. It is a holy river of Nepal that flows through the Kathmandu valley. It separates two cities Kathmandu from Lalitpur. It is a holy river for Hindus from all around the world, Hindus and local Buddhist of Kathmandu are cremated on the banks of this holy river. Bagmati river originates at Bagdwaar (“Bag/bagh” means tiger and “dwaar” means gate in Nepali language) on the northern hills of Kathmandu valley and the river mixes with Bishnumati river at the place Teku Dovan.

It is said that a holy bath in the Bagmati river at this spot, praying with hymns of “Rudra Mantra”, followed by worshipping Pashupatinath Lingum with Panchamrita – curd, ghee, sugar, honey and milk will render the person free from the cycle of births. The origin of Bagmati was held itself by the sound of Lord Shiva, so it was known as Vakvati in ancient time and later on people prefer to call it as Bagmati.

Deopatan

Deopatan is the village where the priests of Pashupati lived since Pashupati’s earliest history. Still today it is the home of priests. The foundation of Deopatan village dates back to 3rd century. Prince Devapalli founded Deopatan in 3rd century BC and gave it his name. He married Princess Charumati, the daughter of the great Emperor Ashoka. It’s streets were laid out in the form of a bow and arrow with the arrow pointing at the main Shiva Shrine.

Large part of the old village of Deopatan has disappeared in these days with urban development and there are many shrines scattered throughout Deopatan, the “city of gods”.

Arya Ghat

Located just north of the footbridge, Arya Ghat is the most sacred funerary ground in Nepal. This is the place where members of the royal family are cremated. There are shrines of Gangamai (built in 1848) and Virupaksha situated next to the eastern stairway. It is said that there was a time when Virupaksha was completely submerged and now it stands waist deep. The Virupaksha shrine rises an inch or two every year.

Gauri ghat and Kailash hill

Gauri Ghat is where the Bagmati river enters the Pashupati, situated in the northern side of Pashupatinath. From the Ghujeshwari a lane follows the river downstream, turning back to the main Pashupati complex. This road passed the Kirateshwar temple, on the right and a little further downstream, at the opposite bank there Gauri Ghat is located. Gaurighat hosts temples of Goddess Parvati, Kiranteswar Mahadev, Hanuman statue and a Ganesh statue.

Kailash hill is named after the Tibetan sacred mountain and from this spot you can see a good view of the Pashupati area. There are several caves where you may find Sadhus.

Hindu ritual after death
Hindu ritual after death

Best time to visit Pashupatinath temple Nepal

There is easy transportation facility available by land or by air so you can visit the temple in any season you wish to. But the best time to visit Pashupatinath temple may be different according to your preferences.

During winter: You cannot enter inside the temple with your shoes and if you’re visiting the temple during wither then you may feel cold without your shoes. Sometime during festival season you may have to stay in queue from few minutes for few hours. You’ll have good experience walking around the temple premises with warm sunlight.

During rainy season: Bagmati river becomes big and surrounding forest looks beautiful than in other seasons.

During summer: Walking around the temple premises early in the morning or at the evening is enjoyable but during daytime it may be little hot. You can carry an umbrella with you during daytime. Temperature reaches up-to 30-33 degree Celsius on average.

Festivals

Akchhaya Tritiya (Baisakh/April-May)

Akchhaya Tritiya is a festival celebrated during Baisakh (April-May). It is celebrated to honor the wedding of Shiva and Parvati which occurs on the 3rd day of the waxing moon in Baisakh.

Shivaratri

Each February, tens of thousands of people come to the Kathmandu during the Maha Shivaratri festival which is also known as “The night of Lord Shiva”.

Jatras celebrated at Pashupati area

Matatirtha aushi shnan, Bankali jatra, Bagmati jatra, Trishul jatra, Ganga mai jatra, Gathemangal, Guhla dharma, Gai jatra, Khadga jatra, Ropai jatra, Krishna astami, Upako wonegu, Indrajatra, Dipankha jatra, Chandra binayak and Bhairab jatra, Guhyeshwari jatra, Nawadurga naach, Harshiddhi naach, Madhav narayan yatra, Bhimsen jatra, Dudu chya chya, Deshwodwar puja, Bajreshwori and Batsleshwori jatra.

Pashupatinath Viewpoint

After crossing the Bagmati river via a small bridge and climb up to the hilltop. You will have a beautiful panoramic view of the main Pashupatinath temple. If you’re not a Hindu then this is the best way to see the temple closely.

Pashupatinath temple timings

Pashupatinath temple darshan is best during morning time. People visits temple in the morning without having even a drop of water. Pashupatinath opening and closing time is as follows:

4:00 a.m. door opens
8:00 a.m. temple door opens
8:30 a.m. nitya puja starts
9:30 a.m. all four doors of the temple opens
9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. special puja
2:00 p.m. to 5 p.m. main temple will be closed
5:15 p.m. gates are opened again

Pashupatinath evening aarti time

5:15 p.m. Pashupatinath temple aarti begins daily at this time. This aarti is in the main temple.
6:00 p.m. Bagmati Ganga aarati

7:00 p.m Temple doors are closed

Nepal oldest statue

In Pashupati there is Nepal’s oldest statue.

Pashupatinath temple of Nepal

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Where is Pashupatinath temple ?

It is located in Kathmandu, Nepal which lies between India and China.

How to say Pashupatinath ?

Pashupatinath can be pronounced as Pa-shu-pa-ti-nath, Paśupatinātha

Pashupatinath temple height from sea level.

The temple stands at an elevation of approximately 4,600 ft (1400 m) above sea level.

Is Pashupatinath temple a world heritage site ?

Yes, Pashupatinath temple is a world heritage site declared by UNESCO in 1979.

Pashupatinath temple open for tourist ?

It is open for Hindu tourist only but the area is very large, non-Hindus will have other interesting things to observe except the main inner courtyard and Pashupatinath temple. There are around twelve 12 Jyotirlingas (phallic shrines), 492 temples etc. Hindu tourists from India and other countries are allowed to enter into the temple. Other tourists can view from crossing the Bagmati river.

How to reach Pashupatinath ?

You can reach Pashupatinath from Ratnapark or Jamal in Kathmandu. There you’ll get a local bus, micro-bus or a temp to Gaushala. Cost from Ratnapart to Gaushala/Pashupati will be less than US$ 0.4. You can also take a taxi. For taxi there are two options one is take a taxi from a taxi stand and another is download app “Pathao”. It is just like Uber in USA. If you travel via Pathao then there will be no chances that you’ll be overcharged.

How to reach Pashupatinath temple from Kathmandu airport ?

Kathmandu airport to Pashupatinath temple distance is not so far. You can reach there by a taxi, public vehicle or by walking. If you love to walking and wish to do Kathmandu city walk then you can reach there by foot but will be easy without heavy bags.

How to reach Pashupatinath temple from Gorakhpur ?

From Gorakhpur you can enter Nepal via Nichlaul in India and then Chitwan in Nepal to Kathmandu. There is another route also which is Gorakhpur to Kushinagar then to Sugauli and then entering Nepal via Birgunj, Hetauda and then to Kathmandu. By road it may take upto 10 hours and the distance is 333 kilometeres approximately.

How to reach Pashupatinath temple Nepal from Delhi ?

From Delhi you can take direct flight which will take you around 1 hour and 30 minutes to reach Tribhuwan international airport, Kathmandu. By road you can travel via Agra, Gorakhpur and Kathmandu. By bus it may take upto 24 hours to reach Pashupatinath and the distance is approximately 1128 kilometers.

Guwahati to Pashupatinath temple distance.

It is approximately 941 km, by land it may take 21 hours.

Kushinagar to Pashupatinath distance

It is approximately 296 km far from Kushinagar and it may take 9 hours to reach there.

How to reach Pashupatinath temple by train ?

There is no train to reach to Kathmandu till today so it is not possible to reach Pashupatinath temple by train.

Where is Pashupatinath temple located in map of Nepal ?

Pashupatinath temple contact number

Pashupatinath temple contact numbers are +977-1-4471828, +977-1-4470340 and +977-1-4464698

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