Pashupatinath Temple: History and 8 Auspicious Symbols

30 November, 2023 By Dambar Khadka

One of the oldest Hindu Pilgrimage sites, Pashupatinath Temple represents spirituality. Situated near the Bagmati River, it is believed to be the home of Lord Shiva. It is a Hindu temple; Pashupati means “guardian of animals,” a form of Lord Shiva. The temple is constructed on a 246-hectare area and has been a part of the World Heritage Sites since 1979. 

The area of the temple is covered with 518 small temples, one of which is the main temple, with four entrance doors, silver-coated and gold-covered at the top of the roof. The Pashupatinath architecture structure is made in the Pagoda style. Inside the main temple of Pashupatinath, there is a four-faced Shiva Lingam, an avatar of Shiva.

The Shiva Lingam is believed to have five faces, with one invisible. Devotees think that even at one time in your life, if you step foot on Pashupatinath and go inside the door and look at the four-faced avatar of Shiva, you’ll go directly to heaven. Furthermore, it is regarded as accurate that the virtue of visiting is the same as going to Kedarnath Temple. 

History of Pashupatinath Temple

However, the year in which the temple was made is not precisely known, but it is said to have been built by the Licchavi King, Prachanda Dev when the Licchavi dynasty ruled Nepal. Although the presence of the Pashupatinath was noted in 400 CE, the present form of the temple was organized in 1692 CE. 

Pashupatinath Temple

The exact history of Pashupatinath is unknown, but we believe in one mythological tale: on the east side of the Bagmati river, Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati made the appearance of deer in the forest. Later, other gods learned about their appearance by taking deer and forcing lord Shiva to be in his actual form, grabbing the appearance of deer’s horn.

The one horn of deer was broken and worshipped as the Linga of Shiva, but as time passed, the horn vanished. After centuries, one cow always came and Swept his milk on the land; the herdsman dug where the cow always Swept his milk and found that vanished linga of Lord Shiva. Later, the temple of Pashupatinath was built and is still believed to be one of the mighty Hindu temples in the world.  

Cultural and Religious Significance of Pashupatinath

Pashupatinath is the holiest Hindu temple that holds cultural and religious significance to pilgrims from Nepal and India who want to seek blessing and connect with the divine presence of Lord Shiva from the world. The Pashupatinath serves various religious and cultural practices. Rituals, prayers, and ceremonies are the daily activities devoted to getting engaged within the temple premises.

The temple is not only a physical structure but also a sacred site, significant for connecting Spirituality, culture, and history. 

8 Auspicious Symbols of Pashupatinath

The eight auspicious symbols, the “Ashtamangala” in Sanskrit, symbolize good fortune and spiritual significance. Eight auspicious symbols are also appreciated in Buddhism, except for Hindus. The Ashtamangala plays a vital role in making the environment pure. The eight auspicious symbols of Pashupatinath are:

  1. Conch Shell (Shankha): The conch shell symbolizes the primordial sound and is associated with God. At Pashupatinath, it calls for prayers and declares the temple’s sanctity.
  2. Dharma Wheel (Dharma Chakra): The Dharma Chakra symbolizes the human life cycle, birth, death, and rebirth. In Pashupatinath, it represents how life and spirituality are constantly repeating and how people go on a spiritual journey there.
  3. Lotus Flower ( Padma): Even though the lotus flower grows in mud, it is still beautiful. It symbolizes being pure and finding spiritual enlightenment. At Pashupatinath, it represents the growth of spiritual awareness in between life’s challenges.
  4. Parasol (Chatra): The parasol represents protection and the umbrella of spiritual power. In Pashupatinath, it’s like a shelter and guide for people on their spiritual journey.
  5. The Endless Knot (Shrivasta): The endless knot symbol signifies the interconnection of all phenomena and eternal continuous existence. In Pashupatinath, it represents the connection of devotees with the divine and each other.
  6. Golden Fish (Matsya): The golden fish signifies fertility, happiness, and prosperity. In Pashupatinath, golden fish represents having lots of spiritual wealth and success because of living a dedicated and good life.
  7. The Banner of Victory (Dhvaja): It signifies the potential to overcome challenges and reach enlightenment, happiness, success, intelligence, and power. At Pashupatinath, it means God’s awakening and devotees’ ability to overcome every obstacle.
  8. Treasure Vase (Kalasha): The treasure vase shows the potential to gain more wisdom, knowledge, peace, happiness, and power. In Pashupatinath, it indicates a lot of blessings and divine grace come from the sacred temple.

Daily Rituals and activities at Pashupatinath

  • Every day at 4 am, early in the morning, the west gate of the Pashupatinath is opened for worshippers.
  • Pujaris arrived around 8:30 am and started cleaning and bathing the lord and changed the jewelry and clothes of the lord.
  • At 9:30 am, Bal Bhog/ breakfast is provided to the god.
  • From 10 am to 1:45 pm, Abhisheka is done, and all four doors are opened at that time. At the time, the people who wanted unique worship/ Puja called the pujari for carrying specific puja. At Abhisheka, god’s four faces are bathed by milk, yogurt, rose water, honey, ghee, and pure items.
  • At 1:50 pm, in the main temple of Pashupatinath, lunch is offered to the god. 
  • At 2:00 pm, the morning worship ends.
  • From 5:15 am, Aarati (flame worship) is done at the main Pashupati Temple.
  • From 6:00 pm, aarti at Bagmati starts; the Bagmati aarti is famous among the people. Everest day at the Bagmati aarti, also called Sandhya aarti, many people come to see and worship. The Sadhya aarti is done at the bank of the river, and the Shiva tandav and other devotional songs dedicated to Lord Shiva are carried out. Besides the people of Kathmandu, many tourists also came to Sandhya Aarati and appreciated the night flame workshop. 
  • At 9:00 pm, the door will be closed, and the same activities will be repeated each day except for some special days. On some special days, the daily route may get changed.

Besides the above activities, many visitors find peace by meditation at Pashupatinath. Although meditation is carried out all over the temple premises, it is mainly done at the backside of the main Pashupatinath and on the bank of the Bagmati River.

Major Celebrations in Pashupatinath Temple

At every festival celebrated in Nepal, the Pashupatinath is a focal point for worshipping. During every festival, the temple will be full of devotees. Some of the grandest festival celebrations on the Pashupatinath are: 

  1. Teej: Teej is a Hindu festival dedicated to lord Prarvati, wife of lord Shiva, so the focal point for worship is the Pashupatinath. On the day of Teej, women will be dressed in red dresses, especially sarees, with some makeup. Both married and unmarried women celebrate Teej. There is a belief that if you fast and worship lord Shiva and Parvati on teej, you’ll get a good spouse if you are unmarried and blessed with lord Shiva. And if you are married, your marital bond will last until your death and the prosperity of your family. On the day of Teej, the road of the Pashupati area will be full of women engaging in a long day fast to get a blessing from lord Shiva. 
  2. Maha Shivartri: Maha Shivaratri is the grand festival celebrated in the Pashupati Temple. Mahashivaratri is the night of lord Shiva. It is believed that lord Shiva does Tandav on the night of Shivaratri. On the day of Manahashivaratri, every Hindu worships Lord Shiva. On the day, large numbers of Sadhus are seen at Pashupatinath smoking weed, as weed is said to be Prasad of Lord Shiva. During Shivaratri, not only women but also men do fast to impress lord Shiva. Due to the worshiper’s crowd, there would be little space to take foot in the Pashupati area. The area will be grand at night as devotees will be seen praying, meditating, and doing many activities. More than 1.5 million people visit Pashupatinath during this grand festival. Many people also go to the tallest statue of Lord Shiva (144 ft.) in the world, located at Sanga.

Major Attractions of Area: 

Besides Pashupatinath Temple, the Pashupatinath area has some lovely and peaceful places, some of which are: 

  1. Guhyeshwori Temple: When Sati Devi died, lord shiva took her dead body and carried it around the world. At that time, her body’s different parts fell in other places. The two knees of the Satidevi feel on the site of Guhyeshwari temple, located 1 km east of the Temple premises. The temple is not very attractive on the outside, but from the inside, it is decorated with flowers. Due to Satidevi’s knees on the Guheshwori site, the place is said to have a presence of ‘’Adisakti’’. The Guhyeshwari temple is a prominent hub for marriage ceremonies and tantric rituals. 
  2. Gorakhnath Temple: You see the stairs from the opposite side of Pashupatinath. After walking through the stairs, you’ll see the Gorakhnath temple at the top of the hill. The Gorakhnath temple is dedicated to Guru Gorakhnath, a yogi and saint. Although the temple’s door is usually closed, you can get Sadhus worshiping there. Other small chaityas and shrines are also there for exploring around Gorakhnath. 
  3. Aarya Ghats: When you look down from Pashupatinath temple’s opposite viewpoint, you can see some people on the bank of the river mourning their relatives and loved ones’ deaths. Aarya Ghat is a place where Hindu people fulfill their funeral rites and cremate the dead body as per Hindu rituals. Even though Pashupatinath is peaceful, when you look at Aarya Ghats and see the burning of the human body, you may become unconscious if you see that for the first time. Looking at the burning body, we feel the human body is nothing. Aarya Ghat is an attraction in that we can see the reality of human life. There are two ghats in Pashupati: Western and Eastern. It is believed in the Hindu culture that if your body is cremated in Pashupati Aryaghat, you’ll be reborn as a human in the next life. 

Besides the above attractions, you can explore the Pashupatinath conservation site, which is situated near Gorakhnath temple. Here, you can see deer and other animals. 

Activities You can get involved in Pashupatinath:

  1. Exploration: The Pashupati area is large, covering a 246-hectare area. You may not finish visiting the whole area in one day, especially if you are new. If you are non-Hindu, you can explore every area of Pashupati except the main temple. Every location has its uniqueness and significance. 
  2. Meditation: As a peaceful place, you can get involved in the meditation practice. Pashupatinath is a quiet place for people to meditate and self-discovery. 
  3. Festival celebration: If you visit Pashupatinath during the festival, you can participate. Taking pleasure in the festival celebrations at Pashupatinath provides a unique cultural experience.

Things Allowed Inside the Pashupatinath Temple:

  1. You can get insights and witness the daily ceremonies held inside the temple.
  2. At certain times, you can get a blessing from the four-faced Shiva lingam through the four doors of Pashupatinath.
  3. You can see the Sandhya Aaarati, which takes place on the bank of the river every evening.
  4. You can explore the temples, monuments, and shrines of the area.
  5. You can get involved in the occasion during festivals, including Maha Shivaratri, teej, and others.

Things that are not Allowed Inside the Pashupatinath Temple:

  1. If you are non-Hindu, you cannot go inside the main temple. Furthermore, you can visit and explore other parts and temples. 
  2. Before stepping inside the main temple area, you cannot wear shoes or leather items. 
  3. In the Pashupatinath temple, speaking loudly, shouting, and doing activities that harm other’s peace is strictly prohibited.
  4. Photography inside the main temple is prohibited; if you are caught taking photos inside the main temple, you’ll be fined, and your mobile may get seized.
  5. Wearing a modern and non-religious dress is not acceptable; you may not get permission to get inside if you dress openly.
  6. Bringing your pets inside the main temple is not allowed.

Tips for Tourists and Pilgrims

  1. Be aware of Monkeys: If you feel like giving something to monkeys and playing with them, don’t try it. Monkeys may attack you anytime, so stay away from them. Please do not show your belongings in front of the monkeys; they can take your stuff.
  2. Take permission for an interview: If you are recording any video and want to ask questions to people there, ask for their permission first. People will generally answer you with a smiley face, but not all will be the same. Before recording someone, consider seeking their approval first. 
  3. Maintain Silence: You should remain silent inside the Pashupatinath main temple. Making noise and using loud voices may distract others.
  4. Be prepared for crowds: Due to religious sites and tourist destinations, Pashupatinath may get crowded, so be prepared before going. Consider researching peak times or ask locals about possible crowds.

Cultural Exploration Around Kathmandu:

If you are willing to visit other sites, we have a side trip for a day, including the Bhaktapur area, Kathmandu Durbar Square, Chandragiri, and Pashupatinath area exploration. 

  1. Bhaktapur Exploration: Bhaktapur is a must-visit destination near Kathmandu Valley, providing a unique combination of cultural richness, historical significance, and authentic experiences. Bhaktapur Durbar Square is the major attraction of the place. Tasting local Newari cuisines is another unique experience you’ll get on Bhaktapur exploration. Other exciting parts are connecting with the locals and learning about their culture. 
  2. Kathmandu Durbar Square:  Kathmandu Durbar Square is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Durbar Square is a living museum of Nepalese history and culture, showcasing ancient temples and places. The Kumari Ghar and Taleju Temple are a masterpiece that shows the Newari architecture. Kathmandu Durbar Square exploration allows you to taste local cuisine and the area’s street food. Furthermore, Kathmandu Durbar Square is a must-visit destination showcasing Nepalese history. 
  3. Chandragiri Temple: On the southeast side of Kathmandu, Chandragiri Temple lies at the Chandragiri hills. Chandragiri temple is another pilgrimage site where Bhaleshwor Mahadev is Workshippes. The temple lies at the top of the hill, providing a fantastic viewpoint. It is the best place that combines spiritual connection and natural beauty. The Chandragiri temple is the most visited destination in the Kathmandu valley. The temple is located at an elevation of 2551m above sea level. As the temple is at the top of the hill, you must go by Cable Car. Hiking can also be done, but if you are on a day trip, you must choose the Cable Car option.

Dambar Khadka

Dambar Khadka, a passionate adventurer and the founder of Boundless Adventure Nepal, has spent his entire life writing about nature and Nepal's developing tourism business. Dambar's passion with nature and its different cultures began as a child in Nepal's stunning landscapes. He began writing following successful treks and expeditions across Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. Dambar Khadka created Boundless Adventure Nepal in 1992 to share the majesty of the Nepal Himalayas with the rest of the planet. As an explorer and writer, he is committed to responsible tourism and cultural connection, allowing readers and adventurers to immerse themselves in Nepal's enchantment through his works.

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