Holy Pilgrimage - Hindu temples in Nepal
Pashupatinath Temple (Nepali: पशुपतिनाथको मन्दिर) is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, located on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. The temple serves as the seat of the national deity, Lord Pashupatinath. The temple is listed in UNESCO World Heritage Sites list.
Pashupati (Sanskrit: पशुपति Paśupati), "Lord of all animals", is an epithet of the Hindu god Shiva. In Vedic times it was used as an epithet of Rudra. The Rigveda has the related pashupa "protector of animals" as a name of Pushan. The name was also applied by John Marshall to a figure, probably a deity depicted as sitting among animals, on a seal discovered in the context of the Indus Valley Civilization[
The temple is one of the 275 Paadal Petra Sthalams (Holy Abodes of Shiva on the continent). Over the past times, only born Hindus were allowed to enter the temple. Others could look at it from other side of the river. However, the norms have been relaxed due to many incidents. If the individual is destined, he/she takes and completes the journey to reach these footsteps without any resistance or obstructions along the way, is believed to be under loving grace of Rudra. It is final stage of harsh penance. Thus, the slave (pasu - the human condition) becomes the master (pati - the divine condition).
LegendPashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. But according to Nepal Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, the deity here gained great fame there as Pashupati, the Lord of the Animals.
Pashupatinath Temple's existence dates back to 400 A.D. The richly-ornamented pagoda houses the sacred linga or holy symbol of Lord Shiva.
There are many legends describing as to how the temple of Lord Pashupatinath came to existence here. Some of them are narrated below:-
The Cow Legend
Legend says that 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.
The Linchchhavi Legend
According to Gopalraj Vamsavali, the oldest ever chronicle in Nepal, this temple was built by Supuspa Deva, a Linchchhavi King, who according to the stone inscription erected by Jayadeva 11 in the courtyard of Pashupatinath in 753 AD, happened to be the ruler 39 generations before Manadeva (464-505 AD).
The Devalaya Legend
Another chronicle states that Pashupatinath Temple was in the form of Linga shaped Devalaya before Supuspa Deva constructed a five storey temple of Pashupatinath in this place. As the time passed, the need for repairing and renovating this temple arose. It is learnt that this temple was reconstructed by a medieval King named Shivadeva (1099-1126 AD). It was renovated by Ananta Malla adding a roof to it. Thousands of pilgrims from all over the world come to pay homage to this temple, that is also known as 'The Temple of Living Beings'.
HistoryThe temple was erected anew in the 17th century by King Bhupendra Malla after the previous building had been consumed by termites Countless further temples have been erected around this two -storied temple. These include the Vaishnava temple complex with a Ram temple from the 14th century and the Guhyeshwari temple mentioned in an 11th-century manuscript. The priests who perform the services at this temple have been Bhat-Brahmins from South India (Karnataka 2010) origin since last 350 years. The priests of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priest is answerable only to the King of Nepal and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.
This tradition is reported to have started by the request of Adi Shankaracharya who sought to unify the different states of Bharatam (Unified India) by encouraging cultural exchange. The unique feature of this temple is that only 4 priests can touch the deity. This tradition is supposed to have started by Sage Shankaracharya in 8th century, ostensibly to stop human sacrifice which was prevalent in that temple. This procedure is also followed in other temples around India which were sanctified by Adi Shankaracharya. Malla kings honoured the request of Adi shankarachaya as latter being one of the greatest ever Hindu acharyas.
However,this tradition was broken after the historic political revolution in Nepal which demolished the monarchy and established a secular republic. The newly formed government allowed Nepalese priest to worship by discontinuing the centuries old tradition. There was a widespread protests as many thought this as an interference in their religious tradition.
Origin beliefsThere are several complex stories involving the origins of Pashupatinath. One story goes, in brief, that Shiva and Parvati came to the Kathmandu Valley and rested by the Bagmati while on a journey. Shiva was so impressed by its beauty and the surrounding forest that he and Parvati changed themselves into deers and walked into the forest. Many spots in the Kathmandu Valley are identified as places where Shiva went during his time as a deer. After awhile the people and gods began to search for Shiva. Finally, after various complications, they found him in the forest, but he refused to leave. More complications ensued, but ultimately Shiva announced that, since he had lived by the Bagmati in a deer's form, he would now be known as Pashupatinath, Lord of all Animals. It is said that whoever came here and beheld the lingam that appeared there would not be reborn as an animal.
Another origin story involves Parvati's incarnation as Sati, who gave up her life because her father didn't respect Shiva. Grieved at losing her, Shiva wandered the world carrying her body. Wherever pieces of her body fell, temples were established, including one at Guhyeshvari adjoining the Pashupatinath complex.
Parvati offers Buddha a boonOne belief associated with the temple goes like this: Vishnu in the form of Buddha came from Saurashtra and meditated on Mandihatu mountain in the middle of four burning fires and with the sun as a fifth fire burning on his head. The meditation was so intense then it created the river Manimati. Buddha also pleased Parvati who appeared to him in the form of the Buddhist goddess Vajrayogini and offered Buddha a boon. Buddha wanted that there would always live Buddhist people in the holy land of Kathmandu Valley. Paravti gave Buddha the boon and said that in this holy area of Nepal Shiva devotees and Buddhist will live in harmony. Parvati then asked Buddha to establish a lingam at the confluence of the Bagmati and Manimati river. And so Buddha established the Karunikeshvara here.
The gods built a big accommodation of gold to stay close to Pashupatinath and called it Maheshvarepuri. The city with gold and rubies was called Pashupatipuri with the pashupatinath lingam brightly shining in the center. Though at the end of the Dvapara yuga the golden city turned into rock, wood and soil. By the time of the Kali yuga the lingam had sunk deep into the soil. The gods were back living in their heavens.
Finding Shiva Lingam at Pashupatinath TempleIt is said that the wish-fulfilling cow Kamadhenu took shelter in a cave on the Chandravan mountain. Everyday Kamadenu went down to the place the lingam was sunken into the soil and poured her milk on top of the soil. After ten thousand years some people saw Kamdenu pouring milk on that same spot everyday, and started to wonder what that would be. So they removed the soil and found the beautiful shining lingam. After having a good look they disappeared into the lingam, freed from sin and rebirths. More and more people came to look and more people disappeared into the lingam. This was a big concern for Brahma.
FestivalsPashupati area is regarded as one of the most important places of pilgrimages for the followers of Hinduism. Thousands of devotees from within and outside the country come to pay homage to Pashupatinath every day. And on special occasions like Ekadasi, Sankranti, Mahashivratri, Teej Akshaya, Rakshabandhan, Grahana (eclipse), Poornima (Full moon day) the whole atmosphere turns festive and mirthful as people congregate here in a far greater number. During the Shivaratri (also spelled Shivratri) festival Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the night and the temple remains open all night. Thousands of devotees take ritual baths in the Bagmati river on the day of the festival and observe a fast for the whole day. Hundreds of sadhus (sages) from different parts of Nepal and India come here on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri.
Temple architectureThe temple is of the Nepalese pagoda style of architecture. All the features of pagoda style is founded here like cubic constructions, beautifully carved wooden rafters on which they rest (tundal). The two level roofs are of copper with gold covering. It has four main doors, all covered with silver sheets. This temple has a gold pinnacle, (Gajur), which is a symbol of religious thought. The western door has a statue of large bull or Nandi, plated in bronze. The deity is of black stone, about 6 feet in height and the same in circumference.
Vasukinath lies to the east of Pashupatinath.
What to seePashupati Temple stands in the center of the town of Deopatan, in the middle of an open courtyard. It is a square, two-tiered pagoda temple built on a single-tier plinth, and it stands 23.6 meters above the ground. Richly ornamented gilt and silver-plated doors are on all sides.
On both sides of each door are niches of various sizes containing gold-painted images of guardian deities. Inside the temple itself is a narrow ambulatory around the sanctum. The sanctum contains a one-meter high linga with four faces (chaturmukha) representing Pashupati, as well as images of Vishnu, Surya, Devi and Ganesh.
The priests of Pashaputinath are called Bhattas and the chief priest is called Mool Bhatt or Raval. The chief priest is answerable only to the King of Nepal and reports to him on temple matters on a periodic basis.
The struts under the roofs, dating from the late 17th century, are decorated with wood carvings of members of Shiva's family such as Parvati, Ganesh, Kumar or the Yoginis, as well as Hanuman, Rama, Sita, Lakshman and other gods and goddesses from the Ramayana.
Pashaputi Temple's extensive grounds include many other old and important temples, shrines and statues. South of the temple, for instance, is Chadeshvar, an inscribed Licchavi linga from the 7th century, and north of the temple is a 9th-century temple of Brahma. On the south side of Pashupati temple is the Dharmashila, a stone where sacred oaths are taken, and pillars with statues of various Shah kings.
In the northeast corner of the temple courtyard is the small pagoda temple of Vasuki, the King of the Nagas. Vasuki has the form of a Naga (mythical snake) from the waist upwards, while the lower parts are an intricate tangle of snakes' bodies. According to local belief, Vasuki took up residence here in order to protect Pashupati. One can often see devotees circumambulating and worshipping Vasuki before entering the main sanctum.
The Bagmati River, which runs next to Pashaputinath Temple, has highly sacred properties. Thus the banks are lined with many ghats (bathing spots) for use by pilgrims. Renovating or furnishing these sites has always been regarded as meritorious.
Arya Ghat, dating from the early 1900s, is of special importance because it is the only place where lustral water for Pashupatinath Temple can be obtained and it is where members of the royal family are cremated. The main cremation site is Bhasmeshvar Ghat, which is the most-used cremation site in the Kathmandu Valley. The preferred bathing spot for women is the Gauri Ghat, to the north.
Across the Bagmati River are 15 votive shrines, the Pandra Shivalaya, which were built to enshrine lingas in memory of deceased persons between 1859 and 1869
Swayambhunath (Devanagari: स्वयम्भूनाथ स्तुप; sometimes romanized Swoyambhunath) is an ancient religious complex atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. It is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. The Tibetan name for the site means 'Sublime Trees' (Wylie:Phags.pa Shing.kun), for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. However, Shing.kun may be a corruption of the local Newari name for the complex, Singgu, meaning 'self-sprung'. For the Buddhist Newars in whose mythological history and origin myth as well as day-to-day religious practice, Swayambhunath occupies a central position, it is probably the most sacred among Buddhist pilgrimage sites. For Tibetans and followers of Tibetan Buddhism, it is second only to Boudhanath.
The Swayambhunath complex consists of a stupa, a variety of shrines and temples, some dating back to the Licchavi period. A Tibetan monastery, museum and library are more recent additions. The stupa has Buddha's eyes and eyebrows painted on. Between them, there is something painted which looks like the nose - but is the Nepali symbol of 'unity', in the main Nepali language dialect There are also shops, restaurants and hostels. The site has two access points: a long stairway, claimed to have 365 steps, leading directly to the main platform of the temple, which is from the top of the hill to the east; and a car road around the hill from the south leading to the southwest entrance. The first sight on reaching the top of the stairway is the Vajra. Tsultrim Allione describes the experience:
We were breathless and sweating as we stumbled up the last steep steps and practically fell upon the biggest vajra (thunder-bolt scepter) that I have ever seen. Behind this vajra was the vast, round, white dome of the stupa, like a full solid skirt, at the top of which were two giant Buddha eyes wisely looking out over the peaceful valley which was just beginning to come alive.
Much of Swayambhunath's iconography comes from the Vajrayana tradition of Newar Buddhism. However, the complex is also an important site for Buddhists of many schools, and is also revered by Hindus.
MythologyAccording to Swayambhu Purana, the entire valley was once filled with an enormous lake, out of which grew a lotus. The valley came to be known as Swayambhu, meaning "Self-Created." The name comes from an eternal self-existent flame (svyaṃbhu) over which a sūpa was later built.
Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north-west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushree, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the Swayambhunath Temple stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys.
The Bodhisattva Manjusri had a vision of the lotus at Swayambhu and traveled there to worship it. Seeing that the valley can be good settlement and to make the site more accessible to human pilgrims, Manjusri cut a gorge at Chovar. The water drained out of the lake, leaving the valley in which Kathmandu now lies. The lotus was transformed into a hill and the flower become the Swayambhunath stupa.
HistorySwayambhunath, is among the oldest religious sites in Nepal. According to the Gopālarājavaṃśāvalī Swayambhunath was founded by the great-grandfather of King Mānadeva (464-505 CE), King Vṛsadeva, about the beginning of the 5th century CE. This seems to be confirmed by a damaged stone inscription found at the site, which indicates that King Mānadeva ordered work done in 640 CE.
However, Emperor Ashoka is said to have visited the site in the third century BCE and built a temple on the hill which was later destroyed.
Although the site is considered Buddhist, the place is revered by both Buddhists and Hindus. Numerous king Hindu followers are known to have paid their homage to the temple, including Pratap Malla, the powerful king of Kathmandu, who is responsible for the construction of the eastern stairway in the 17th century.
The stupa was completely renovated in May 2010, its first major renovation in 90 years and its 15th in the nearly 1,500 years since it was built. The dome was re-gilded using 20 kg of gold. The renovation was funded by the Tibetan Nyingma Meditation Center of California, and began in June 2008.
ArchitectureThe stupa consists of a dome at the base, above which is a cubical structure painted with eyes of Buddha looking in all four directions with the word "unity" in the main Nepali dialect between them There are pentagonal Toran present above each of the four sides with statues engraved in them. Behind and above the torana there are thirteen tiers. Above all the tiers there is a small space above which the Gajur is present.
SymbolismThe dome at the base represents the entire world. When a person awakes (represented by eyes of wisdom and compassion) from the bonds of the world, the person reaches the state of enlightenment. The thirteen pinnacles on the top symbolize that sentient beings have to go through the thirteen stages of spiritual realizations to reach enlightenment or Buddhahood.
There is a large pair of eyes on each of the four sides of the main stupa which represent Wisdom and Compassion. Above each pair of eyes is another eye, the third eye. It is said that when Buddha preaches, cosmic rays emanate from the third eye which act as messages to heavenly beings, so that those interested can come down to earth to listen to the Buddha. The hellish beings and beings below the human realm cannot come to earth to listen to the Buddha's teaching, however, the cosmic rays relieve their suffering when Buddha preaches.
There are carvings of the Panch Buddhas (five Buddhas) on each of the four sides of stupa. There are also statues of the Buddhas at the base of the stupas. Panch Buddhas are Buddha in metaphorical sense in Tantrayana. They are Vairochana (occupies the center and is the master of the temple), Akshobhya (faces the east and represents the cosmic element of consciousness), Ratna Sambhava (faces the south and represents the cosmic element of sensation), Amitabha (He represents cosmic element of Sanjna (name) and always faces the West) and Amoghsiddhi (He represents the cosmic element of conformation and faces the north).
Each morning before dawn hundreds of Buddhist (Vajrayana) and Hindu pilgrims ascend the 365 steps from eastern side that lead up the hill, passing the gilded Vajra (Tibetan: Dorje) and two lions guarding the entrance, and begin a series of clockwise circumambulations of the stupa.
Om Tat Sat
(My humble salutations to the great devotees , wikisources and Pilgrimage tourist guide for the collection )