Pashupatinath Temple | Biggest Hindu Pilgrimage Site in Nepal

  • Hemanta Budhathoki
  • Last Updated on May 25, 2024

Table of Contents

Nepal is a country full of historical and religious sites and places. There are many temples and monuments that carry historical importance from the past. Pashupatinath temple is one of the most sacred religious places with historical importance. It was built in the 5th century by Lichhivi King, Prachanda Dev and later on, was renovated by Malla Kings. This temple is believed to have existed from the beginning of the millennium when Shiva linga was discovered here. Now, Pashupatinath Temple is one of the seven UNESCO Cultural Heritage Sites of the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal.

Pashupatinath is the largest temple complex in Nepal which stretches on both sides of the Bagmati River, which is considered holy by Hindus. The area of Pashupatinath encompasses 0.64 hectares of land including 518 temples and monuments. The main pagoda-style temple has a gilded roof, four sides covered in silver and gold, and magnificent wood carvings.  The pillars and doors around the temple area are carved in graceful shapes of God and griffins.

Temples dedicated to several other Hindu and Buddhist deities surround the main temple of Pashupatinath. The main idol in the temple is a stone linga with a silver serpent. This linga has four sides and five faces. Each face holds two hands with rudraksha mala and a Kamandalu. When you enter the large arch gate, you will see a golden bull statue, which is believed to be the enabler of Lord Shiva. Pashupatinath temple is built in pagoda style. You can find statues of Lord Parvati, Lord Ganesh, Lord Kumar, Lord Ram with Sita, Lord Hanuman, and Lord Lakshmi.

History of Pashupatinath Temple

The origin of the Pashupatinath temple starts several centuries prior to the construction of this structure. Many legends surround this place and most of them are quite interesting to listen to, whether or not you are a Hinduism follower. According to some legend, Gods sometimes take the disguise of animals, birds, or men to retire from their cosmic work and enjoy the earth. On one of such occasions, Lord Shiva and Lord Parvati visited earth in the form of deer. They reached the forest regions of Nepal and were fascinated by the beauty of the land. When they reached the east bank of the Bagmati river, they decided to stay there for eternity. 

When the other gods and saints decided to bring the couple back to their cosmic form, Lord Shiva rejected the offer. With no other option, Gods decided to use force in order to bring them back. During this enormous fight, Lord Shiva, in the disguise of a deer, lost one of his antlers. This broken antler was worshipped as the linga, but over time it was buried and lost. Until one day, Kamadhenu, a deity in the form of a cow came down to earth, irrigated the soil around the region with her milk, digging deep the villagers retrieved the linga and built a wooden temple. The temple is said to be at that site since 400 AD. There are many other interesting beliefs and legends about the origin of Pashupatinath.

The large grounds of Pashupati Temple include many other old and important temples, shrines, and statues. Pashupatinath area stretches from the main temple of Pashupatinath to Guheshwori. There are many other famous temples inside this area including the Bhuwaneshwori, the Dakshinamurti, Tamreshwor, Panchdewal, Bishwarupa, and others.  Each temple has its own specific values and customs and has its own set of rituals to be performed. The priests inside of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval.

The Bagmati River runs next to Pashupatinath Temple and has high sacred properties. Hence the banks are lined with many ghats (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. The temple of Kali, located on the banks of River Bagmati has an interesting appearance and is loaded with mythology. The myth is that the statue grows out of its original spot and that the world will come to an end when the half-in half-out figure is fully exposed. Renovating or gearing of these sites has always been regarded as meritorious.  On the other side of the river is a small forest Shleshmantak, homes to animals like deer and monkeys. A traditional crematorium stands on the bank of the Bagmati river. You might catch a view of a burning corpse during your visit.

Entry and door opening time of Pashupatinath temple
The temple has four entrances and the main entrance to the temple courtyard is located to the western side. The other gates are opened only during festivals and special occasions. The temple security and the Pashupatinath area development trust are selective regarding who is allowed entry into the inner courtyard. Only Hindus are allowed in the inner courtyard so if you are a Hindu, it is better to bring any proof with you (ID card). This will allow you to access the inner temple courtyard.

The inner temple courtyard is opened from 4 am to 9 p.m. for the devotees every day. The lingam is open for devotees from 5 am to 12 pm for the morning ritual and from 5 pm to 7 pm for viewing the evening ritual. And the Abhishekam timing is from 9 am to 11 am. Unlike many other Saiva temples, devotees are not allowed to enter the innermost Garbhagriha premises but are allowed to watch from the exterior premises of the outer Garbhagriha.

Accept the main gate, there are also 4 different doors inside of the main temple. All four gates do not open every time to pray or Darshan. Here is the list of timing opening main temple gates

4 AM to 9:30 AM Western door open

9:30 to 2 PM all four doors are open

2 PM to 4 PM all doors are closed

5:30 to 7 PM all four doors are open

Entrance fees for foreigners to enter the Pashupatinath complex

This temple is one of the highlights visiting places during any Tour in Nepal. Entry fee must be paid to enter the Pashupatinath temple complex. There is the same entrance fee for the third country and SAARC national. Entry ticket should buy from any counter at entrance gates.  

Foreigners: NPR 1,000 per person per day

SAARC country NPR 1,000

Indian and Nepalese FREE

There is a special puja that can perform privately inside the Pashupatinath temple using the regular Pandit of the temple. This called Bishes Puja and, there is a fixed rate of this Puja by the Pashupati development committee. Here is the list of Bishes puja rate
Pashupatinath Bishes Puja rate   

Festivals observed in the Temple
The best time to visit the temple is during local festivals. Many festivals are observed throughout the year and thousands of people attend these festivals. The most important festivals are the Maha Shiv Ratri, Teej festival, and Bala Chaturthi festival. Teej is one of the most celebrated festivals at Pashupatinath Temple. It is celebrated by Hindu Nepali women for the long and healthy life of their husbands. It is believed that fasting on that day will make a strong bond between the husband and wife. On this day, the Pashupatinath Temple will be with the biggest crowd. Also as this temple is one of the most religious temples for Lord Shiva devotees, the temple is crowded during Shivaratri. People come here to worship and keep fasting.

Most visitors are Nepalese Hindu devotees. There are many festivals and fest people reach to Pashupatinath for special prayers. The second number of visitors are Indians. Indians pilgrimage reach Pashupatinath temple in their Nepal visit. The number of Indian devotees visiting the temple for performing special worship has increased following the live broadcast of Indian prime minister Modi's special pooja by various Indian channels. They also include Muktinath temples, Manakamana and enjoy the natural beauty of Nepal in their single travel plan. The best 6 days Pashupatinath and Muktinath tour package that Nepal highland treks offering is the best short travel plan for them.       

Pashupatinath is a place where ancestral Hindu rituals are practised in their astonishing initial form, giving a chance to the visitors to feel the unique spirit of Hindu traditions of life, death, and reincarnation. Pashupatinath is more than just a religious destination, it is the combination of art, culture, religion, and history. This heritage site attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and has become well known far beyond the Kathmandu Valley.

Pashupatinath is the centre of energy with the active participation of people at all times of the day, every day. Every day hundreds of rituals are performed. The temple is barred to non-Hindus, although a good view of the temple can be seen from the opposite bank of the river. It offers peace and devotion. People come here to pray and receive blessings. It is a must-visit site in Kathmandu for an unbeatable mix of religious, cultural, and spiritual experiences. 

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki

Hemanta Budhathoki is team leader of Nepal Highland Trekking and travel company. 

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