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Pashupatinath Temple : Reflections on Devotion & Death


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Each one of you must have heard stories about this temple or to say the least, heard its name, right?! Pashupatinath Temple is one of the major attractions of Nepal that stands tall even after the huge wrath brought upon by the recent Nepal Earthquake. Call it devotion or the science behind its construction, the temple is an example of unprecedented faith. Let me take you through lesser known facts about this sacred place and why its favorite among saints. Here -

History :

One of the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in Nepal, this temple is a major religious attraction of Kathmandu. The temple is dedicated to Lord Pashupati (literally meaning ‘Lord of all animals’), one of the avatars of Lord Shiva. It is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu with its existence dating back to 400 A.D.  The temple is famous for its heavy gilded gold and copper roofs, silver doors, majestic courtyard and exquisite wood carvings. The main idol is stone (Mukhalinga) with faces in four directions representing various aspects of Lord Shiva. The vibes of the temple were strong and uplifting. I couldn’t reckon if I visited some temple like this before and being taken over by its awe and beauty.

Architecture :

The temple is built in Nepalese Pagoda style of architecture with gold plated copper roofs and four main silver doors.  Some say that the temple design is built according to the laws of Vastu Shastra (the ancient science of architecture) owing to its resistance to natural calamities while others give credit to its stable Pagoda design for withstanding the recent (April 2015) Nepal earthquake.  The temple pillars are made up of timber, an earthquake resistant material and wooden wedges are used for interlocking them instead of nails hence giving more flexibility to the overall Pagoda structure. Although the temple is renovated in the 17th century, yet it shows minimal signs of wear and tear. Personally I found the temple majestic and truly beautiful. As you enter the temple, you can’t take your eyes off the grandeur it holds and its gold roofs and silver doors and everything else. It strongly exemplifies the culture and tradition of Hinduism.

Interesting Facts :

  • Non-Hindus are forbidden to enter the temple. Only those born as Hindus are allowed in the main temple, others like Practicing Hindus and Buddhists, Sikh and Jain of Indian ancestry are allowed into the temple compound.  The rest can explore the external premises of the temple by paying a fee of $10. The main temple is visible from the other side of the river with no such restrictions.
  • Ritual cremations are easily spotted by the sacred river Bagmati. The burning smell of human flesh is evident as soon as you enter the cremation ghats. While for many, it may seem unpleasant to witness such sights the temple is famous among Sadhus for its burning ghats. For them it is a spiritual experience to confront the realities of death. While I was there, witnessing the burning bodies from a distance, I couldn’t shake the feeling of our obsoleteness and was compelled to reflect within. It is heart wrenching, trust me and not so easy to withhold. You can spot many faces in surprise and rather shock (mostly westerners) while watching/filming this. Though I wanted to, I couldn’t film it. Definitely, it was something that gave cold feet yet it was the truth, unembellished and hard one! But that’s how we learn, the hard way, isn’t it?!
  • Temple complex is among one of the seven cultural heritage sites in Kathmandu enlisted by UNESCO.
  • On the famous festival of Maha Shivaratri, the devotee count reaches up to 700,000 in a day.

For more pictures, check out the complete post here

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