This temple situated on the banks of the holy River Bagmati is the most revered Hindu temple in Nepal. The main temple complex is open only to the Hindus; non-Hindus can observe the temple premises and activities from the terraces across the Bagmati River to the east. As a mark of reverence and tradition, leather items that include shoes, belts and cameras are forbidden within the temple complex and must be left outside. Photography is strictly prohibited inside.
The most important festival observed here is Shivaratri, or ‘the Night of Lord Shiva’ – the night Lord Shiva self-originated – when devotees and pilgrims from far and wide across Nepal and India, including sadhus (barely attired holy men with long locks of hair and smeared in ashes) and ascetics, throng the temple to have a darshan (glimpse) of the sacred Shiva lingam. The other holy occasion when devotees descend to the temple in large numbers is on Teej (a festival solely observed by Hindu women) in mid-September. The whole temple complex and the adjoining areas turn into a sea of red as women draped in their bridal red sarees and wearing yellow or green bead necklaces offer prayers for the well-being, prosperity and longevity of their husbands. The temple is just as crowded with devotees every fortnight on the 11th day of the lunar month on Ekadashi. Among the Ekadashis, the most prominent and holiest two are the Harishayani Ekadashi in Ashadh (June/July) and four months later, Haribodhini Ekadashi in Kartik (October/November).
The Slesh Mantak forest encircles the holy site where monkeys abound, and deer is reared in captivity to revere the animal form that Lord Shiva took as per the Swasthani Brata Katha.
Main Temple Complex
The word Pashupati means “Lord of the Beasts”. It is one of the most venerated and famed Shiva temples for the Hindus. The main temple, a two-storey pagoda temple measuring about 24 metres in height and built on a square platform, is believed to be three centuries old. It stands in the middle of an open courtyard. The massive doors on four sides are silver plated and intricately carved with images of deities and auspicious signs. The main idol, or Jyotirlingam, carved on black stone has four faces facing in four directions, and a fifth one is believed to be facing upwards. The four faces are named as Tatpurush in the east, Aghor in the south, Bamadeva in the north and Sadojat in the east.
The Shiva linga is believed to be seven centuries old as the former one was supposedly disgraced by the Muslim invader, Sultan Shamshuddin from Bengal, who attacked Kathmandu in 1346. To the west of the temple are the figures of two bulls; the smaller one facing east towards the temple was constructed during the Malla period. The second one, a massive size bull made of brass and also facing the temple was built by Rana Prime Minister Jung Bahadur’s son, Jagat Jung, as an offering to Lord Pashupatinath. The bull known as Nandi is the baahan (carrier) of Shiva. It may be interesting to note that all Shaiva temples have Nandi, the bull, seated facing the temple.
Inside the temple complex are idols of many Hindu gods, goddesses and deities enshrined and instituted at different periods of history. The Vasuki Temple, devoted to the Snake God, was constructed by King Pratap Malla in the 7th century. The temple of Unmatta Bhairab is to the south of the main temple. The main entrance to the temple complex is on the west. There is an entrance from the east also, which leads/descends to the sacred Aryaghat along the Bagmati River, which is the cremation ghat for Hindus.
The western door of the main temple opens at 5 in the morning for worshippers, and the remaining doors are also opened to the devotees from 9:30 a.m. to 14:30. Doors reopen at 18:30 till 19:30 for Aarati (offering of oil lamps). Water and liquid offerings to the Shiva linga flows down the sacro sanctum to a place called Brahma Naal, a rectangular stone slab on the bank of the River Bagmati where those who are on the verge of death are laid down to breathe their last in the belief that dying at this spot at the foot of the Lord would assure them a place in Heaven.
Access: The temple lies 5 km to the east of the city centre. Besides taxis, microbuses or three wheelers called tempos will drop you at Gaushala from where it is a short walk to the temple.