Where: Near Kathmandu, Nepal
When: A temple constructed on the site in 9th century AD, rebuilt by King Bhupatindra Malla in 1697
History: Elegant and highly decorative Hindu temple and internationally important burial ground for Hindus. The original temple dates back to King Manu’s Age of Truth
Go there for: only the courtyard is accessible to non-Hindu, but you can observe the burial rituals on the ‘ghats’ on the nearby Bagmati River
Nepal is more popularly known as the land of the Himalayas, but to every visitor’s surprise Nepal entails more than just the mystery of the mountains. About three miles northeast of Kathmandu, on the West Bank of the holy Bagmati River, stands the most popular Shiva-temple of Nepal. The Pashupatinath is not only the most important Hindu temple in Kathmandu, it’s also an important cremation ground for the native Hindu people. Most of the rituals related to the cremation take place on the banks of river Bagmati.
What’s the History Here?
According to Hindu belief, the history of the development of Nepalese civilization and culture can be traced back to the Age of Truth when King Manu, who is said to be the first king of the world, ruled Nepal. A temple dedicated to Shiva existed at this site in AD 879. In 1697, King Bhupatindra Malla built the temple which exists today.
A gold-plated roof, silver doors, and woodcarvings of the finest quality decorate the pagoda construction. A circuit of the Pashupati area takes visitors past a sixth-century statue of the Buddha, an eighth-century statue of Brahma the creator and numerous other temples.
What’s There to See and Do?
The temple of Pashupatinath is a pagoda with two floors covered by a gold coloured roof. The four great entrances are decorated with silver. The site, housing many sanctuaries, is dominated by a statue of the bull Nandi, the riding-animal of Shiva. There are linga images of Shiva along with statues, shrines, and temples dedicated to other deities in the Pashupatinath complex.
Most of the temple is closed to foreigners and those of non-Hindu faith, who may enter the main Pashupatinath courtyard only. As a visitor, you can observe the complex from the hill which is situated on the other bank of the river. You can also look at the rituals and you see the “ghats” (cremation place) along the riverbank near the Bagmati River.
Taking photographs of the cremation rituals or of the bereaved families is not advised under any circumstances. Sadhus, sages who follow the lifestyle of Shiva, may be seen covered in ashes and loincloths and you wish take their photograph in exchange for a little money.
Along the bank you can see little houses in which old people that are waiting for their death can stay. After cremation on the “ghats”, the ashes are scattered into the river. Many Hindus believe that they reach “nirvana” when their ashes are strewed in the Bagmati River.
Hair today: Ian Wright with a Sadhu at the temple
The official tourist board website for Nepal with lots of practical information on visiting the cities and its sites of interest.