Photographer's Note

I seldom plan the order of my posts. Maybe the only loose rule that I often follow is avoiding posting successive photos of the same place aiming at not being too boring. I have just noticed that both of my last posts feature religious places, so I went looking for a photo of another religious place. So, after showing you the first Buddhist temple that I visited (*), here you have the first Hindu sanctuary or temple compound that I visited and one of the most impressive places where I have ever been.

In the WS's: sadus and Western visitors in the area on the right of this post (#1) and another Hindu temple in the centre of Kathmandu (#2).

Pashupatinath or simply Pashupati is one of the names (avatar?) of the Hindu god Shiva, the Lord and Caretaker of All Living Beings, and another name for the place is 'Temple of the Living Beings'.

Pashupatinath is the holiest Hindu place of Nepal and as such it attracts thousands of pilgrims from all the country and all the Indian subcontinent. It is located in the outskirts of Kathmandu, close to the airport and also of the city centre. It is often referred as a kind of miniature Varanasi / Benares (the holiest Hindu city located in India) and it is one of the preferred places for Hindu cremations in Nepal. The river that flows through it, the Bagmati is also a sacred and being a tributary of the Ganges, the ashes of the deaths thrown into it end up in the holiest of the rivers for the Hindus.

It's believed that the presence of temples in the area is quite old, maybe older than 600 or even 400 AC, although the first written references date from the 13th century. It was subject to various reconstructions and most of what is seen now dates from the 16th century. The existence of various imitations in places in Nepal and India, some dating from the 15th century, shows the popularity of it (even in Varanasi there is one).

The main temple, where only Hindus are allowed to enter, lies to the left of this photo and houses a lingam (a stylized phallus worshipped as a symbol of the god Shiva). Only four priests appointed by the king of Nepal are allowed to touch that idol. Interestingly, those priest are always of Southern India origin.

In my search to write this note, I found a couple of interesting legends about this place:

From Lord Shiva once took the form of an antelope and sported unknown in the forest on Bagmati river's east bank. The gods later caught up with him, and grabbing him by the horn, forced him to resume his divine form. The broken horn was worshipped as a linga but overtime it was buried and lost. Centuries later an astonished herdsmen found one of his cows showering the earth with milk. Digging deep at the site, he discovered the divine linga of Pashupatinath.

From Shiva once fled from the other gods in Varanasi to Mrigasthali, the forest on the opposite bank of the Bagmati River from the temple. There, in the form of a gazelle, he slept with his consort Parvati. When the gods discovered him there and tried to bring him back to Varanasi, he leapt across the river to the opposite bank, where one of his horns broke into four pieces. After this, Shiva became manifest as Pashupati (Lord of Animals) in a four-face (chaturmukha) linga.

From One day Lord Shiva got tired of his glittering palace on the Mount Kailash, so he searched a perfect location where he could holiday. Without telling anyone (even his wife Parvati), he ran away from his palace and, through his cosmic powers, arrived in the Kathmandu Valley. He gained great fame here as Pashupati, the Lord of the Animals, before other Gods discovered his hiding place and came to fetch him.

Location (latitude, longitude): 27.71002,85.34916

Links to the other posts of the series: Sanctuary of Fatima (Christian, Portugal), Golden Buddha of Wat Traimit (Thailand), Hassan II mosque (Muslim, Morocco) and El Ghriba synagogue (Jewish, Tunisia).

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Additional Photos by Jose Pires (stego) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4422 W: 612 N: 7301] (24132)
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