Nepal’s oldest and most revered Hindu temple. One of the most important pilgrimages for Shiva devotees, Pashupatinath temple is located in the Kathmandu valley and city by the river Bagmati. Hidden from all sides by the other buildings, with its pinnacle just about visible, this temple is open only to Hindus. Of course, there is no ID check.
As you approach the temple through the narrow lanes lined with small shops selling Pooja items, the spirituality in you comes alive.
Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
The main temple is double-storeyed and follows Pagoda architecture. The current structure is about 400 years old, erected by Mall King Bhupendra. It was built by replacing the old structure that was eaten by termites. So we do not know what was the original structure like. No photography is allowed inside the main temple. All you can see from the outside is the back of the big bull in brass looking towards the Linga from the entrance door. Colorful and carved wooden strips or rafters support the roofs. That makes it look more Chinese or Tibetan in appearance, though the deities carved are all Hindu. Temple has four silver doors and you can see the Linga from any of them. The roofs are made of copper plated with Gold and the pinnacle is pure gold.
Pashupatinath literally means the protector of animals. This name comes alive when you see as many animals inside the temple as humans. Temple is open in the morning and evening hours and closes in the afternoon. Many smaller temples have come up around the main temple. Some even belong to the Vaishnav sect. Bhatta Brahmins of South India take care of this temple and only they are allowed to touch the Main Shivalinga. This tradition was set up by Adi Shankaracharya in his endeavor to bind India.
The main temple has a Chatur Mukhlinga i.e. a Linga that has faces carved on it on all four sides. It is about 6 ft in height as well as circumference and black in color. From a distance, I could not make out what these four faces represent. Yoni if any is not visible to the visitors. There is Shiva Linga everywhere in this temple. In an open courtyard behind the main temple, there is a maze of 504(or so) Shivalingas. And devotees enter this maze and pray before each Shivalinga twice making it 1008 (or so) times bowing before the deity. People offer coins or flowers to the Lingas. It is very interesting to go through the maze, as there is only one way to enter and get out. Once you enter, you have to go through the whole narrow path before you can come out.
Pashupatinath Temple Precincts
There are many big and small buildings in typical Nepali red color with dark brown intricately carved windows. Some half-walls and structures have motifs and symbols engraved on them. Wherever you look you find some symbols like Naga associated with Shiva but in a typically Nepali style. There are ponds in grey stone with carved ends of taps, which are empty now and local people come here to take water. One end of the temple has cremation sites where the last rites of the Hindus are performed. Unfortunately, this has become a tourist attraction here as many guides will come and tell you that they can show you these death ceremonies.
You can go around the high walls of the outer complex of the temple. And get a top view of the temple. Also, see the white domes with golden spirals from the side of the cremation ground. We skipped that part of the temple.
This temple complex is a part of the UNESCO world heritage site monuments cluster in Kathmandu Valley. Visit it to see the mingling of architectural styles. Nepali buildings in the complex and Pagoda architecture for a Shiva temple, to see the living seat of devotion in the valley.
Recommend you to read the following blog posts on Things to do in Kathmandu.