The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous, sacred Hindu temple dedicated to Pashupatinath and is located on the banks of the Bagmati River 5 kilometers north-east of Kathmandu Valley in the eastern city of Kathmandu, 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’ list since 1979. 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. One of the major Festivals of the temple is Maha Shivaratri on which day over 700,000 devotees visit here.
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.
The temple was erected anew in the 15th century by Lichhavi King Shupuspa after the previous building had been consumed by termites.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.
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, 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 B.C. 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:-
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.
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).
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. 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'.
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.
The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 264 hectare of land including 518 temples and monuments.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.
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 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. 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 Dravida Brahmin Scholars from Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh or Maharashtra.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;
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.
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