Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu Nepal
The temple of Pashupatinath is the richest and holiest Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is merely 6 km east of Kathmandu and a center of annual pilgrimage on the day of Maha Shivaratri which falls in the month of February/March. This temple is situated amidst a lush green natural setting on the bank of the sacred Bagmati River.
The temple in Pagoda style has gold gilted two tier roof and richly carved silver doors which are famous for the superb architecture. The premise of this temple is accessible only to hindus. Visitors and non-hindus are permitted to view the temple only from the east bank of River Bagmati.
Hindus arrive here to find shelter for the last several weeks of their lives, to meet death, be cremated on the banks of the river and travel their last journey with the waters of the sacred river Bagmati, which later meets the holy river Ganges. Hinduists from every corner of Nepal and India are arriving here to die.
It is believed that those who die in Pashupatinath Temple are reborn as a human, regardless of any misconduct that could worsen their karma. The exact day of their death is predicted by astrologers of the temple. If you are attracted to the places where the spirit of death can be felt, then consider Pashupatinath as your first destination. It is a temple with special atmosphere of death; death is present in almost every ritual and every corner of it.
The two-storied roof is made from copper and is covered with gold. This richly decorated temple with wooden sculptures is believed to make wishes come true. One of the most astonishing decorations of the temple is the huge golden statue of Nandi - Shiva’s bull.
Only followers of Hinduism can enter the main temple, but all the other buildings are available for foreigners to visit. From the Eastern bank of the river the main temple can be seen in its whole beauty. The western bank of Bagmati also hosts the so called Panch Deval (Five temples) complex, which once was a holy shrine but now serves a shelter for destitute old people.
Numerous religious buildings are also located on the eastern bank of Bagmati, most of them are devoted to Shiva. The majority of these buildings are small single storey constructions made from stone. From the outside these buildings are reminding crypts, but in reality these are sacral buildings, created for holding the symbol of the deity Shiva - lingam (erect phallus). Lingams can be found all over the complex.
Along the right bank of Bagmati numerous platforms for funeral pyres are built. The cremations on these platforms are a common activity.Usually tourists have the chance to see at least one open-air cremation.
The majority of religious rituals are culturally unusual and even mind-blowing for Westerners, but probably the most culturally unusual thing in Pashupatinath is the specific smell of cremated bodies. Unlike any expectation the smell has nothing in common with the smell of decaying flesh, but rather reminds the smell of clabber mixed with different spices.
Another culturally shocking thing in Pashupatinath is the image of local women washing clothes downstream the river. The waters of Bagmati contain animal fat because of the ashes of cremated Shiva followers and easily wash the dirt from linen. It is believed that this is how the soap was invented.
As far as Shiva is considered the patron of animals and all living organisms, monkeys and deers are wandering all around the temple complex on both banks of Bagmati. Monkeys are very often unfriendly, they beg for food, snatch things from careless tourists and may even be dangerous.
It is also very common to meet sadhus in Pahsupathinath.Sadhus are wandering ascetic yogis, who are trying to acquire liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth by meditating. They have very unique appearance with specific yellow paintings on their bodies.
Majority of sadhus are very tourist friendly and eager to pose for the photos with foreigners, but it is not free of charge. They live in caves or tiny cells on the territory of Pashupatinath. Sadhus have extremely ascetic and even miserable life but for a Westerner their independent and unconstrained behavior looks mysterious.