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Pashupatinath Temple

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Title: Pashupatinath Temple  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Kathmandu, Bagmati River, Kathmandu Valley, Nepali Mandir, Nepal
Collection: 5Th-Century Hindu Temples, Hindu Temples in Kathmandu, Newar, Padal Petra Stalam, Shiva Temples in Nepal, World Heritage Sites in Nepal
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple
A view of  Pashupatinath Temple
A view of Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is located in Nepal
Pashupatinath Temple
Location in Nepal
Proper name Pashupatinath Temple
Devanagari पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर
Country Nepal
District Kathmandu
Locale Kathmandu
Primary deity Shiva
Important festivals Shivaratri, Teej, Bala Chaturdashi
Architectural styles Pagoda

The Pashupatinath Temple (Nepali: पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) is a famous, sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Pashupatinath and is located on the banks of the Bagmati River 5 kilometres north-east of Kathmandu Valley in the eastern city of Kathmandu,[1] the capital of Nepal. This temple is considered one of the sacred temples of Hindu faith .The temple serves as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath.This temple complex is on UNESCO World Heritage Sites's list Since 1979.[2][3] This "extensive Hindu temple precinct" is a "sprawling collection of temples, ashrams, images and inscriptions raised over the centuries along the banks of the sacred Bagmati river" and is included as one of the seven monument groups in UNESCO's designation of Kathmandu Valley as a cultural heritage site.[4] One of the major Festivals of the temple is Maha Shivaratri on which day over 700,000 devotees visit here.[5]

The twelve Jyotirlinga (in India) are the body and the Jyotirlinga at Pashupatinath in Kathmandu (Nepal) is the head over this body.

The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva) on the continent. Kotirudra Samhita, Chapter 11 on the Shivalingas of the North, in Shiva Purana mentions this Shivalinga as the bestower of all wishes.


  • History 1
    • Legend surrounding the Temple Origin 1.1
      • The Cow Legend 1.1.1
      • The Linchchhavi Legend 1.1.2
      • The Devalaya Legend 1.1.3
      • Other beliefs 1.1.4
      • Finding of Shiva Linga at Pashupatinath Temple 1.1.5
  • Temple complex 2
    • Temples and Shrines in the inner courtyard 2.1
    • Temples and Shrines in the outer complex 2.2
  • Main Temple Architecture 3
  • The Deity 4
  • Priest 5
  • Entry and Darshan 6
  • Festivals 7
  • Controversy of 2009 8
  • 2015 Earthquake 9
  • Gallery 10
  • References 11
  • External links 12


The temple was erected anew in the 15th century by Lichhavi King Shupuspa after the previous building had been consumed by termites.[6] Countless further temples have been erected around this two -storied temple. These include the Vaishnav temple complex with a Ram temple from the 14th century and the Guhyeshwari Temple mentioned in an 11th-century manuscript.

Legend surrounding the Temple Origin

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,[7] the deity here gained great fame there as Pashupati, the Lord of all Pashus, which are living as well as non-living beings. Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or holy symbol of Lord Shiva. 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.

The Linchchhavi Legend

According to Gopalraj Vamsavali, the oldest ever chronicle in Nepal, this temple was built by Supuspa Deva, 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

Another chronicle states that Pashupatinath Temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supuspa Deva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupatinath 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 medieval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it.[8][9] 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'.

Other 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 a while the people and gods began to search for Shiva. 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.

Finding of Shiva Linga at Pashupatinath Temple

It is said that the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu took shelter in a cave on the Chandravan mountain. Everyday Kamadhenu 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 Kamadhenu 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 and started worshiping it.

Pashupatinath Temple Panorama of the Pashupatinath Temple from the other bank of Bagmati river, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Temple complex

The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectare of land including 518 temples and monuments.[2] Main pagoda style temple is located in the fortified courtyard within the complex guarded by Nepal Police and has a police outpost post along with living quarter within. In front of the western door there is a huge statue Nandi bull, in bronze. Along with many temples and shrines of both Vaishnav and saiva tradition.

Temples and Shrines in the inner courtyard

  • Vasuki nath temple
  • Unmatta Bhairav temple
  • Surya narayan temple
  • Kirti mukh bhairav shrine
  • Budanil kantha shrine
  • Hanuman shrine
  • 184 shivaling shrine

Temples and Shrines in the outer complex

Pashupati temple surroundings

Main Temple Architecture

This main temple is built in 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. The temple resides on a square base platform with a height of 23m 7 cm from base to pinnacle. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. This temple has a gold pinnacle (Gajur).Inside are two Garbhagrihas, outer and inner .The inner garbhagriha or sanctum sanctorum is where the idol is placed and outer sanctum is an open corridor like space.

The Deity

The sacro sanctum, or the main idol is a stone Mukhalinga with a silver yoni base bound with silver serpent .The lingam is one metre high and has faces in four directions .These faces represents various ascepts of Shiva; Sadyojata (also known as Barun), Vamdeva (also known as Ardha nareshwor), Tatpurusha, Aghor & Ishana (imaginative).Facing West, North, East, South and Zenith respectively representing five primary elements namely earth, water, air, light and ether.[10] Each face has tiny protruding hands holding rudraksha mala on right hand and a kamandalu on the other.Unlike other shiva lingams in India and Nepal this pashupati shiva lingam is always Dressed in its golden vastra except during abhishakam, so pouring milk and ganga jal is only possible during abhishakam through the main priests.


Daily rituals of Pashupatinath are carried out by two sets of priests ;one being the Bhatt priests and other Bhandari. Bhatta or Bhatt are the one who performs the daily ritual and can touch the lingam, where as Bhadaris are the helper and temple care taker priests but are not qualified perform pooja rituals or to touch the deity.

  • Bhatta or Bhat are highly educated Vedic bhramin Scholars from Brahmin family from South Indian State Karnataka.Unlike other Hindu temples priesthood of Pashupatinath is not hereditary. Priests are selected from a group of scholars educated by Shri Shankaracharya Dakshinamnaya Peeth Sringeri on Rig Vedic Recitation, initiated in Pashupata Yoga by Kashi Math,Shiva Āgama and learned Recitation of Samaveda from Haridwar.After qualifying and fulfilling all those criteria they will be selected for Priesthood by Raj Guru of Pashupatinath Temple undergoing strict examination on Vedas and Shiva Agamas and then the qualifies are sent to Kathmandu for performing Puja and Daily Worship of Lord Shri Pashupatinath This tradition is reported to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya in the 8th century, who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. This procedure is also followed in other temples around Bharata-varsa which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. The unique feature of this temple is that only 4 Bhatta priests can touch the deity.Current Bhatt priests of the temple are;
  • Ganesh Bhat (15th head priest of the Pashupatinath Temple aka Mool Bhat) from Udupi.[11]
  • Ram Karanth Bhat from Mangaluru.[11]
  • Girish Bhat from Sirsi.[11]
  • Narayan Bhat(Recently appointed) from Bhatkal[11]
  • Raghavendra Bhat (Priest for Vasuki Nath temple only)

Bhandaris or Rajbhandari are the treasurers, temple caretakers, and assistant priest of the temple.[2] These Bhandaris are the descendants of helper priests brought up by early Bhatts, but were allowed to settle in Kathmandu valley and later assimilated in existing Newar caste of Rajbhandari - a high-caste Chathariya/Kshatriya clan of Kashyapa gotra. Their main function is to help the Bhatta priest and perform maintenance of the inner Garbhagriha. They can have little or no Vedic knowledge but still qualify as assistant priests if they belong from the same family lineage and undergo some basic criteria like caste, gotra, lineage purity, educational qualification, etc. They work in set of four and change in every full moon day.[2] There are a total of 108 Bhandaris.

Entry and Darshan

The western entrance of main temple courtyard
Pandra Shivalaya and ghat (viewpoint for tourist from adjacent side of river Bagmati,East of main temple)

Temple courtyard has 4 entrances in all directions.The western entrance is the main entrance to the temple courtyard and rest three entrances are only opened during big festival . Temple security(Armed Police Force Nepal) is selective regarding who is allowed entry into the inner courtyard . Practicing Hindus and buddhist of Indian and Tibetan descendent are only allowed into temple courtiyard . Practicing Hindus of western descent are not allowed into the temple complex along with other non Hindu Visitors. Sikh and Jain groups are allowed into the temple compound if they are of Indian ancestry.Others can look at the main temple from adjacent side of the river[12] and has to pay a nominal fee of $10 (1000 Nepali rupee) for visiting hundreds of small temples in the external premises of the temple complex . The inner temple courtyard remains open from 4 am to 7 pm for the devotee but the Inner Pashupatinath Temple where the Lingam of lord Pashupatinath is established is open from 5am to 12 pm for the morning ritual and viewing and from 5pm to 7 pm for evening ritual. Unlike many other Saiva temples devotees are not allowed to enter in the inner-most Garbhagriha but are allowed to view from the exterior premises of the outer Garbhagriha.


There are many festivals throughout the year .Thousands of people attend these festival.The most important festival is the Maha Shiva Ratri .Bala chaturthi and Teej.

Controversy of 2009

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.[13] 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.[2][14] After the appointment was challenged in a civil court, the appointment was overruled by Supreme Court of Nepal.[15][16] 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.[17] Lawmakers and activists from opposition parties joined protests, declaring their support for the Bhatta and other pro-Bhatta protesters.[18] After long dissatisfaction and protest by Hindus both in and outside Nepal, the government was forced to reverse its decision that had been declared illegal by the Supreme Court of Nepal and reinstate Bhatta priests.

2015 Earthquake

One of the outer shrine damaged in 2015 Nepal earthquake

The main temple complex of Pashupatinath and the sanctum sanctorum was left untouched but some of the outer buildings in the World Heritage Site were damaged by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake.[19]


Pashupatinath Temple scenes
Temple from the river side 
Front entrance from the street side 
Temple cremations on the Bagmati River 
Cremations up close 
Temple sadhus 
A sadhu in Pashupatinath Temple during Shivaratri 


  1. ^ "5th-century pashupatinath temple". 2014-08-02. Retrieved 2015-03-25. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Hindu Shrine: Pashupatinath in Nepal". 2009-01-08. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  3. ^ "SAARC tourism". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  4. ^ "Kathmandu Valley". UNESCO. Retrieved 10 August 2014. 
  5. ^ "Pashupatinath Temple expects over 7 Lakhs Devotees on Mahashivratri". IANS. Retrieved 23 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Robertson McCarta and Nelles Verlag: Nelles Guide to Nepal, First Edition, 1990, page 94
  7. ^ "Sacred destinations". Kathmandu, Nepal: Sacred destinations. 2009-05-05. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  8. ^ "Pashupatinath". Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  9. ^ "holy symbol". Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  10. ^ Encyclopaedia of Saivism, Swami P. Anand, Swami Parmeshwaranand, Publisher Sarup & Sons, ISBN 8176254274, ISBN 9788176254274, page 206
  11. ^ a b c d "Worship at Pashupatinath faltered for just 3-4 days". Deccanherald. Retrieved 2015-09-14. 
  12. ^ Mayhew, Bradley; Bindloss, Joe; Armington, Stan (2006). Nepal.  
  13. ^ "Indian Express". Indian Express. 2009-01-05. Retrieved 2014-08-05. 
  14. ^ "Kantipur". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  15. ^ "Sify". Sify. 2009-01-04. Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  16. ^ "Kantipur". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  17. ^ "Kantipur". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  18. ^ "eKantipur". Retrieved 2011-10-30. 
  19. ^ "holy symbol". economic times. Retrieved 2015-05-05. 

External links

  • Shri Pashupatinath Mandir, Nepal
  • Pashupatinath Temple
  • Pashupatinath Darshan
  • Video guide to Pashupatinath Nepal
  • Virtual Tour of Pashupatnath Temple
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