Maybe Lord Shiva got caught by his fellow God friends when hiding out in Mrigasthali, hundreds of years ago, or maybe he was later found out by some farmer and his cow during the Lichhavi period. But no matter the reason, we have this beautiful temple, Pashupatinath Temple, dedicated to him in the heart of the bustling Kathmandu City, where millions of tourist flock each year, drawn in by the thick envelop of culture and mystic surrounding the temple all the time. The gold plated temple, with its beautiful silver doors, is surrounded by other smaller temples dedicated to different Gods and has devoted worshippers year round. White powdered, specifically ash powdered Sadhus, with bright colored turbans, accessories, and their dreadlocked hair are one of the major attraction for tourist. Posing for the camera has become their new side job. Lord Shiva, universe, is said to reside in this small embodiment along the bank of Bagmati with lush Mrigasthali forest, surrounded by the sounds of bells from his beloved devotees, smell of incense, monkeys with their mischief, cremation, and people contemplating on life and death, or just chilling.
Lord Shiva is regarded as the destroyer in Hinduism, but it is also believed that creation follows destruction. So, Lord Shiva is regarded as the all that there is. The ashes on the Lord’s body is cemetery ash, which points to the philosophy of the life and death and shows that death is the ultimate reality of the life. The flow of his matted hair represents Shiva as the Lord of Wind or Vayu, who is the subtle form of breath present in all living beings. It shows that Shiva is Pashupatinath, Lord of All Living Beings. Legend has it that the Lord allowed an outlet to the great river to traverse the earth and bring purifying water to human being. (Giri) The third eye of lord shiva indicates spirituality and is believed to eradicate all evil.
Nature is a very huge part of Hinduism, as mentioned in the various Vedas and Puranas, nature being the creation of God himself, and with many Gods and Goddesses being an impersonification of the different aspects of nature. Take for example, Lord Indra, who is the God of Rain, Lord Narsimha, a lion, Sesh Nag, the Lord of the snakes, and many more. Similarly, many animals are associated with different Gods and Goddesses, like Durga with tiger and lion, Saraswoti with swan, etc. In fact many natural aspects are considered re-incarnation of Lord Vishnu, like fish, Peepal tree, lion, turtle, etc. Now them being a re-incarnation automatically means their conservation. Like you will probably never see a hindu eat beef, you will never see a hindu chopping down a peepal tree. As Lord Shiva had taken the form of a deer in the jungle of Pashupatinath area, the area has a park dedicated to the conservation of deer and the forest.
The reverence of hindu towards the nature has been a very integral part of the development of Hindu culture. Many culture thrives with a water source, which they worship and conserve. Most of the worshipping that we do, have link to the practices observed by our ancestors. Since a very long time ago, people worshipped the land, bhumi, for providing base for our life, and to ask permission for use. We still do this puja when building new homes. Similarly, the earth, fire, water and air, basically the nature, has always been worshipped. Most of the settlements were done on river banks because they were the symbol of purity, which helped in replenishing freshness. Even now, the cremation is done in river banks, believing in the purification of soul after being washed. The Pashupatinath temple is considered one of the most holy temple, and people even wish to die in its premises, to get Moksh. The temple has many cremation sites along the river. The river has been in its purest state a couple of years back, to change into a dreadful mess, to now again get back to a better form, due to more conservation efforts.
The general management of the temple has also changed from the past. The temple would previously be full of different flowers, tikas, water, ghees being stepped on by all the devotees, but now, such haphazard use is not allowed. Certain spots are allocated in the premises where such offerings are offered. This has resulted in considerable improvement in the place with no littering here and there. Similarly, the outside premises have also gone considerable improvement, with better gardens and pavements. The tourists are required to pay a thousand rupee to be allowed on to the outer premises while the inside access is strictly prohibited. Previously, only traditional cremation was observed, but now the trust has also built an electric one, which discards the use of wood and burning.
Millions of people come to Pashupatinath every year, especially during the Shiva Ratri, festival dedicated to Lord Shiva, and the temple always has its charm. The area surrounding the temple has also considerably improved after the building of gardens around it. The management aspects has definitely improved. However, the holy river Bagmati is still in a very sorry state. The main reason behind the pollution of the river is the mixing of sewers in different areas as the water flows from the upland to the lower areas. The Bagmati’s origin is very clean and pure, but it becomes polluted as it travels across the city. In the temple premises, the offerings to the river are better controlled than before and are considerably cleaner. It looks lot better in the rainy season when the water volume increases. The locals, usually the elders of the community recall the time not many years back, when the Bagmati was really clean. They even swam in the river. But as time goes, the pollution creates more pressure, thereby resulting in many environmental problems. The river, the garden, the forest around the temple is what adds to the beauty and should be kept that way
Also published in Image Nepal Travel Magazine