Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple serves as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath. The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva) on the continent. Over the past times, only born Hindus were allowed to enter the temple. Others could look at it from other side of the river. However, the norms have been relaxed due to many incidents. If the individual is destined, he/she takes and completes the journey to reach these footsteps without any resistance or obstructions along the way, is believed to be under loving grace of Rudra. It is final stage of harsh penance. Thus, the slave (pasu – the human condition) becomes the master (pati – the divine condition).
It is regarded as the most sacred among the temples of Shiva (Pashupati). Kotirudra Samhita, Chapter 11 on the Shivalingas of the North, in Shiva Purana mentions this Shivalinga as the bestower of all wishes. One of the major Festivals of the temple is Maha Shivaratri on which day over 700,000 devotees visit here
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 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. 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’.
The Shakti Peetha, the divine shine of Mother Goddess is located near to the Pasupanath Temple. It is said that the temple is the Shakti of the Shiva in Pasupanath Temple. The shrine is one of the 51 major Shakti Peetha all over South Asia. The Guhyeshwari Temple is near the Bagmati River.
The temple was erected a new in the 17th century by King Bhupatindra Malla 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. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Bhat-Brahmins from South India (Karnataka) origin since last 350 years. The priests of Pashupatinath 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 Namboothiri Brahmins from Kerala, India were given the chair to do the rites and rituals. The Travancore Maharaja selected the apt priest and send him to Pasupanath in Nepal. This tradition is reported to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. The unique feature of this temple is that only 4 priests can touch the deity. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 8th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that temple. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. Malla kings honoured the request of Adi shankarachaya as latter being one of the greatest ever Hindu acharyas.