Pashupatinath: A brief Summary

Last Updated on June 13th, 2022

With a long history, countless myths, and a heavy religious significance, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most Famous Religious spots in Nepal. Located at a rough distance of 5 Kilometers in the direction of the northeast Kathmandu Valley, Pashupatinath is a Temple that has a huge impact on the social, cultural, and economical aspects of the lives of the people within the Valley.

This temple is one of the 275 Tamil Paadal Petra Sthalams on the continent and is among the things listed in the UNESCO world heritage site of Nepal. But this is just the gist of where and what it is. Being one of the 275 Tamil Paadal Petra Sthalams and one of the World Heritage sites of Nepal is not what makes this Temple culturally and religiously significant, it is the legends and Myths behind this temple.

Location of Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple is located in the North-eastern direction of Gaushala, surrounded by Gauri ghat and Kumarigal on the northland Sinamangal on the South. It is rather easy to travel to since a lot of bus and tempo route goes pass Gaushala. So it is easily accessible for anyone within the Kathmandu Valley.

If one wants to find the Location of Pashupatinath on a google map, you can insert the following coordinates there:

27.7105° N, 85.3487° E

Enlistment in UNESCO World Heritage Site

As per the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, world heritage sites are places of cultural or natural significance. In Nepal, there are 4 places that qualify as the prime location for the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are:

Among these 4, Kathmandu Valley and Lumbini are considered to be the prime locations for Cultural World Heritage sites.

Pasupatinath Temple was among the first places in Nepal to be Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This was done so in 1979 AD or 2036 BS

Mentions in the Religious Texts

Being one of the major religious sites for Hindus, there are quite a few mentions of Pashupatinath in the religious texts. In Rig Veda, “Pashupa” was a protector of cattle that was derived from Pushan. As per the texts, Pashupatinath, meaning lord of animals was the epithet (an adjective or a that expresses the quality or attribute of the person or thing) of Rudra in the Vedic Period. Nowadays Pashupatinath is considered to be one of the epithets for Lord Shiva.

Besides this Pashupatinath is considered to be one of the Avatars of Shiva. The five faces of Pashupatinath Represent five incarnations of Lord Shiva. These are described in Purana as:

Sadyojata, Vamdeva, tatpurusha and Agroha are th four faces- The fifth is Ishana, unknown Even to the seers

The Architecture of Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath Temple covers a wide area and has a specific type of Architecture. Along with this, the temple complex also has a wide range of individual temples and shrines as well each with its own significant Deities as well. So to cover the overall architecture of Pashupatinath Temple we have divided them into three parts – the origin/history of the Pashupatinath, the temple complex, and the diety of Pashupatinath.

The Origin Of Pashupatinath Temple – Who built it?

It should be noted that no one knows the exact of when this temple was first constructed. But as far as the records go, the earliest evidence suggests that this temple was already there back in 400BCE. But while the exact origin date of this temple is still unknown, there is a myth surrounding its origin. 

That being said, as the records go, back in the 17th century, the temple had to be rebuilt due to the weakening of the structure from termite infestation. 

Lichhavi Period

Although there are not many records of Pashupatinath during this Lichcchavi period, as per the Gopalraj Aalok Vhat Bencis, this temple was built by Prachanda deva. As per the inscription erected by Jayadeva 11 in the courtyard of Pashupatinath 153 CE.

As per this inscription, Prachanda Deva was the ruler of his Dynasty 39 generations before Mandeva (463 CE to 505 CE). If we cross-reference with the estimated record of Pashupatinath, the date seems to check out as the oldest record states that this temple already existed back in 400BCE.

Temple Complex of Pashupatinath Temple

Pashupatinath is a big World Heritage site. In fact, it covers an area of 0.64 Hecters. For easy reference, this area is equivalent to 6400 square meters. Within this large area of land, Pashupatinath contains a total of 518 Temples and monuments – most of which are built-in Pagoda Style. Within them, the main monument of Pashupatinath is located in a fortified courtyard which is then guarded by the Nepal Police.

Besides these, one of the main highlights of Pashupatinath is the Bronze statue of Nandi the Bull – located in front of the Western Doors. The entire area of Pashupatinath is divided into the inner and outer complexes to make the navigation a bit easier. 

This entire temple is built in the style of Nepalese Pagoda with all of its classic elements present including a tiled roof and wooden rafters. 

Some of the Major Shrines in the Outer Complex of Pashupatinath are:

  • Ram Temple
  • Virat Swaroop temple
  • 12 jyotirlinga and Pandra Shivalaya
  • Guhyeshwari Temple

Major Temples and Shrines in the Inner Complex/ Courtyard

  • Vasuki Nath Temple
  • Unmatta Bhairava Temple
  • Surya Narayana Temple
  • Kirtimukha Bhairava shrine
  • Budhanilakantha shrine
  • Hanuman shrine
  • 184 Sivalinga shrine

The Diety of Pashupatinath

The primary idol of this temple is a stone “mukhalinga” with a silver base bound with the serpent which is silver as well. This Lingam is around a meter in height and has a wide number of faces in four directions each referring to various aspects of Lord Shiva. They are:

  • Sadyojata (Barun)
  • Vamadeva (arhanareshwara)
  • Tatpurusha
  • Aghora
  • Ishana

Side note* as per the rules, there are only 4 selected priests that can tough the idol. The rest of the rituals are handled by two sets of priests: the Bhatta (Highly educated Vedic Dravida Bhramin Scholars from Karnataka) and Bhandari’s (The treasurers and temple take carers)

Myths surrounding the Pashupatinath temple

Being one of the most important temples for the Hindus in Nepal, Pashupatinath is bound by a lot of legends. These legends hail from the time when Pashupatinath Temple was first constructed.

Legend of the Origin 

While there are many legends about the origin of Pashupatinath, one of the most famous ones is the Legend about Lord Shiva.

As per this legend, back in the days, Lord Shiva once arrived at the bank of River Bagmati with his wife Parvati. Entranced by the serenity and beauty of the place, they transformed into deers and began to walk around the forests.

After a while, the gods noticed the absence of lord shiva and they began to search for him- only to realize that he was near the river Bagmati, living his life as an ordinary deer. When they came to bring him back to his duties, Lord shiva rejected their request. The lords then had to use force to bring him back. During the fight lord, shiva fought in the form of the deer which led to one of the gods cutting off one of his antlers.

This antler is said to be the first lingam of Lord Shiva and the place where he lost his antler is said to be the place where the first Pashupatinath Temple was established. 

Later it is said that the original relic – the alter – got lost in time.

Although this is the end of this myth related to Pashupatinath, it is mentioned in the legends that a herdsman found this antler when his cow shown the antler was buried by irrigating the location with her milk.

Legend Behind the Name

This myth is interconnected with the myth about the Origin of the Pashupatinath Temple and is the part before lord Shiva Departs. 

After the series of events leading to the defeat of lord shiva- who was in the form of a deer. Once he was defeated and the gods asked him to return back, it is said that Lord Shiva announced that since he had lived by the Bagmati river in the form of deer, he would thereby be called “Pashupatinath” which literally translates to the lord of animals.

“Pasu” directly translates to “animal” in English and “nath” is an old term that was used to show reverence to the lords. 

Hope you found this helpful. If you have any suggestions for us, do let us know in the comments. And as always, thank you for reading till the end. 

Popular Places to Visit in Pashupatinath Area

Pashupatinath Temple has quite a few places to visit within its complex. Since the temple is large and it has a long history, having a few special places within the complex is a rather normal thing. That being said you do have to note that some of these places can be a bit risky to visit without proper permission. Following are some of the popular places to visit in the Pashupatinath Area

Arya Ghat

This is the Cremation center of Pashupatinath Center located at the banks of the Bagmati River. As morbid as it may sound, this place located near the front of Pashupatinath temple is one of the most popular places in this temple complex.

This is the place where holy men perform rituals, where children dig for coins, and where funerals are held. The Arya Ghat of the Pashupatinath temple is the place where you can see the last phase of any Hindu’s life.

Yogi Caves

Located in the Northern Direction of the Arya Ghats, there are a series of caves used by the Yogis and the Babs of Pashupatinath for meditation.

These caves are said to have been in use since Medieval times and have religious and cultural significance as well as historical value as well.

Guheyshwari Temple

This temple is located on the fart North-eastern side of the Pashupatinath complex. The path of the forest leads to a large temple built by King Pratap Malla for Parvati in 1653 AD.

This is one of those places that is filled with rich history and cultural significance but is banned to everyone else but Hindus. This temple is also linked with the myth Behind the origin of Sati Prath – a now extinct social practice where the wife burned herself to death should her husband die prematurely.

As per this legend, the father of Parvati insulted Lord Shiva and the Goddess literally became angered to flames from which the “Sati Pratha” is said to have been inspired from.

Nandi Statue

This statue is located on the west side of the compound from the main gate. It is famous for being beautiful and enormous. This bronze statue is big, shiny, and awe-inspiring.

Nandi was the Bahan (transport Pet) of Lord Shiva.

Bachharesharawi temple

This temple is located between two groups of ghats on the western bank of the Bagnati Temple. This temple is small and is decorated with tantric figures, skeletons, and erotic scenes from Hindu Epics.

It is said that back in the days, there used to be a practice of Live Human Sacrifices in Bachhareshwari temple during Shiva Ratri. If this practice is taken into the context of the ancient times when human deaths were as common as any other deaths, a few humans sacrificed for a belief of a prosperous year is not as bad as it seems.

Shiva Shrines

Located at two footbridges across Bagmati, there is a garden of stone terraces covered with dozens of Shiva Shrines. These temples are often used as lodgings for wandering sadhus and each contains a small shiva lingam.

While the designs of all of these shrines are quite unique, all of them do share a common feature i.e mask of Bhairav on the south wall, Nandi Statues on the west, and Bull head water spouts on the North.

Lingam Series

People can find a series of Lingam Statues once they cross the Pashupati ghat and near the edge of the forests. There is a sprawling complex of lingam series and more than 50 shrines.

Although several buildings were destroyed by the earthquake, this place is still one of the popular places to visit mainly due to the unusualness of the lingams.

Priests of Pashupatinath Temple

Unlike a lot of temples, where just about any priests can worship the deity, in Pashupatinath, only four are allowed to do so. These priests who are allowed to worship further need to be from the two specific categories/casts/

1) Bhatt

They are the priests who are Brahmin Scholars in Vedic Dravida. These priests hail from Karnataka in India and are selected from a group of scholars educated by Shri Shankaracharya Dakshinamanaya Peeth Sringeri. The courses that these priests are educated contain Rig Veda, Pashupata Yoga, Shiva Agama, and Samaveda.

They are selected by the Raj Guru of Pashupatinath after undergoing strict examination and are sent to Kathmandu for pujas.

2) Bhandari

Also known as Rajbhandaris, these are the group of people whose main job is to act as treasurer and assistants of the Bhattas. They are the descendants of the temple persist who was brought up by the early batts and were allowed to settle in Kathmandu valley.

Rajbhandaris later assimilated with the existing Newari cast of Rajbhandari. They can have little or no Vedic knowledge but they still do qualify to assist priests if they belong to the same family lineage and have some basic criteria like caste, gotra, lineage purity, and basic education.

They work in a set of three and change pairs every full moon day.

The Daily Rituals of Pashupati Nath

Being one of the Major Religious Hubs of Kathmandu and being located in an easy-to-access area of Kathmandu, the Pashupatinath temple is bound to be filled with ritualistic activities on a daily basis. Since there are a lot of people attending each and every one of these rituals, it can very easily get chaotic. So in order to avoid this issue, the cultural organizations of Pashupatinath have prepared a daily schedule. The daily schedule of Pashupatinath Temple is:

4:00 amThe door opens
8:30 amThe Pujaris arrive
The lords are bathed and Cleaned
The jewelry of the Lords is Changed
9:30 amBaal Bhog is offered to the Lord
10:00 amPujas are commenced – Farmayishi Puja
01:50 pmLunch is offered to the Lords 
02:00 pmMorning prayers end
5:15 pmAarati at Main Pashupatinath Temple
06:00 pmBagmati Ganga Aarati
07:00 pmThe door closes

And all of these are done within the complex of Pashupatinath.

Entry Fee

Nepalese are free to enter Pashupatinath as they please. There will not be any entry fee for Nepali personnel. Apart from the Nepali, the entry fee will be charged for the foreigners – but it will depend on the country of origin.

FeeCountry of Origin
ChineseNPR 1000
SAARC nationalsNPR 1000
Free for Indians
Other NationalsNPR 1000 Per day per entry

Have we missed anything?
We research many of the articles carefully, but it is possible that we could have missed something. So, if you find any incorrect information or writing mistakes, please let us know. We appreciate your feedback!

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