Pashupatinath, or Pashupati, is a Hindu temple is located on both banks of Bagmati River on the eastern outskirts of Kathmandu. in Deopatan, a village 3 km northwest of Kathmandu. It is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of Animals). It attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and has become well known far beyond the Kathmandu Valley. The temple is barred to non-Hindus, but a good view of the temple can be had from the opposite bank of the river.
It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath was founded. Tradition says it was constructed by Pashupreksha of the Somadeva Dynasty in the 3rd century BC, but the first historical records date from the 13th century. The ascetic Pashupata sect was likely related to its foundation.
Pashupati was a tutelary deity of the ancient rulers of the Kathmandu Valley; in 605 AD, Amshuvarman considered himself favored by his touching of the god's feet.
By the later Middle Ages, many imitations of the temple had been built, such as in Bhaktapur (1480), Lalitpur (1566) and Benares (early 19th century). The original temple was destroyed several times until it was given its present form under King Bhupalendra Malla in 1697.
According to a legend recorded in local texts, especially the Nepalamahatmya and the Himavatkhanda, the Hindu god Shiva once fled from the other gods in Varanasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Parvati. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) linga.
Pashupati Temple stands in the center of the town of Deopatan, in the middle of an open courtyard. It is a square, two-tiered pagoda temple built on a single-tier plinth, and it stands 23.6 meters above the ground. Richly ornamented gilt and silver-plated doors are on all sides.
On both sides of each door are niches of various sizes containing gold-painted images of guardian deities. Inside the temple itself is a narrow ambulatory around the sanctum. The sanctum contains a one-meter high linga with four faces (chaturmukha) representing Pashupati, as well as images of Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Ganesh.
The priests of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priest is answerable only to the King of Nepal and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.
The struts under the roofs, dating from the late 17th century, are decorated with wood carvings of members of Shiva's family such as Parvati, Ganesh, Kumar or the Yoginis, as well as Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Ramayana.
Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the temple, for instance, is Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th-century temple of Brahma. On the south side of Pashupati temple is the Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.
In the northeast corner of the temple courtyard is the small pagoda temple of Vasuki, the King of the Nagas. Vasuki has the form of a Naga (mythical snake) from the waist upwards, while the lower parts are an intricate tangle of snakes' bodies. According to local belief, Vasuki took up residence here in order to protect Pashupati. One can often see devotees circumambulating and worshipping Vasuki before entering the main sanctum.
The Bagmati River, which runs next to Pashaputinath Temple, has highly sacred properties. Thus the banks are lined with many ghats (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. Renovating or furnishing these sites has always been regarded as meritorious.
Arya Ghat, dating from the early 1900s, is of special importance because it is the only place where lustral water for Pashupatinath Temple can be obtained and it is where members of the royal family are cremated. The main cremation site is Bhasmeshvar Ghat, which is the most-used cremation site in the Kathmandu Valley. The preferred bathing spot for women is the Gauri Ghat, to the north.
Across the Bagmati River are 15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivalaya, which were built to enshrine lingas in memory of deceased persons between 1859 and 1869.
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