The Pashupatinath temple of Nepal is one of the most sacred and significant Hindu temples dedicated to Lord Shiva. The temple is located 5 Km north-east of Kathmandu near the Tribhuvan International Airport on the banks of the Bagmati river in a picturesque area surrounded by the jungle. According to a legend, Lord Shiva had lived by the Bagmati in the form of an antelope, and hence originated the name Pashupatinath which means the “Lord of all Animals”.
Though it is not known with certainty when the temple was built, according to the tradition it was constructed in the 3rd century BC. The temple in its present form was erected during the rule of King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697.
The temple stands in the middle of an open courtyard and has the pagoda style architecture with beautifully crafted windows, doors, gates and other accessories. The four entrance doors to the temple are covered with silver sheets while the two-levelled roof is made of copper with a covering of gold. The door on the western side has a bronze statue of Nandi or the bull of Lord Shiva. Inside the sanctum sanctorum is the presiding deity or the Shiva Linga in black stone with a height and circumference of 6 feet each. Artistic sculptures and paintings with images of various Gods and Goddesses adorn the different parts of the temple.
Open air cremation takes place every day on the banks of the Bagmati river near the temple. The belief is that if one is cremated in the temple premises, he or she is assured of rebirth as a human irrespective of the number of sins committed in one’s life. Hence, many aged people spend the last few weeks of their lives at the temple.
The main temple is open to only the followers of Hinduism, though non-Hindus can enjoy a beautiful view of the temple from the eastern bank of the river. Thousands of people from within and outside Nepal visit Pashupatinath every day. Special occasions and festivals like Mahashivaratri, Teej Akshaya, Ekadasi, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse) and Poornima (full moon day) are considered auspicious for visiting the temple and are celebrated by the devotees with great fervor.
A must visit place for any tourist to Nepal, the Pashupatinath temple is on UNESCO’s world heritage sites list. The temple has withstood the effects of the earthquake that hit Nepal in 2015 with a magnitude of 7.8 and has suffered only minor cracks on the walls. Devotees see it as a sign of divine providence though scientifically it is also attributed to the strong base and architecture of the temple.