Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most significant Hindus temple 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.
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).
It is regarded as the most sacred among the temples of Shiva (Pashupati). Kotirudra Samhita, Chapter 11 on the Shivalingas of the North, in Shiva Purana mentions this Shivalinga as the bestower of all wishes. One of the major Festivals of the temple is Maha Shivaratri on which day over 700,000 devotees visit here.
Pashupatinath 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 all Pashus, which are living as well as non-living beings.
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 is Cow legend one of them is narrated below:-
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 temple was erected a new in the 17th century by King Bhupatindra Malla after the previous building had been consumed by termites. Countless further temples have been erected around this two -storied temple. These include the Vaishnav 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) origin since last 350 years. The priests of Pashupatinath 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 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.
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.