Pashupatinath and Shivaratri in Nepal
by Dirgha Raj Prasai on 20 Feb 2012 6 Comments

According to tradition, Shiva, Pashupatinath, spent his most of his time on the top of holy Kailas Mansarovar, practicing yogic austerities, joy and love with his divine consort Parvati. Lake Mansarovar and mount Kailas are the soul of all OM followers in the world. Lord Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath, Lumbini, Barahachetra, Gosaikunda, Muktinath, Ridi, Janakidham, Devghat of Nepal, Kailash Mansarovar of Tibet (holy for Hindus and Bauddhas), and Tirupati, Rameshwaram, Jagannath, Badrinath, Amarnath, Kedarnath of India, are the major shrines of Hinduism and Buddhism.

‘Doleswar Mahadev (Shipadol-Bhaktapur-Nepal) is the head portion of Kedarnath. Shiv Puran also mentions It’ - Shree 1008 Jagat Guru Bheemashankarling Shivacharya

The Swayambhunath complex comprises 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 it, while in between is painted something which looks like a nose - but is the Nepali symbol of ‘unity’.

Pashupatinath, Swayambhunath are Hindu and Bauddha shrines. There are some very early Buddhist sculptures here. A lingam, now lost, was named Karunikeswar, another name of the Buddha.

Nepal is a very pious land. Hindu philosophy, culture and tradition are its foundational civilization. Pashupatinath is Shiva worshipped as protector of all animals, including humans. Shivaratri is His holy festival and is celebrated with enthusiasm by Hindus all over the region. Celebrations are marked by fasting and observance of a number of rituals, with as many as six types of abhisheks (purifying) using milk, ghee, sugar, honey, water and sandalwood paste.

We pray to the Lord Shiva, as - "OM! O Shiva! We worship and adore you, O three-eyed one, You are sweet gladness, the fragrance of life, who nourishes us, restores our health, and causes us to thrive. As, in due time, the stem of the cucumber weakens, and the gourd is freed from the vine, so free us from attachment and death, and do not withhold immortality."

Pashupatinath Temple sits on a sacred river, Bagmati, Kathmandu. Bagmati River has highly sacred properties; hence its banks are lined with many Ghats for use by pilgrims. Bagmati River flows through Kathmandu valley and separates it from Lalitpur. It is considered holy by Hindus and Buddhists and many Hindu temples are located on its banks.

The Pashupatinath complex rises as a mass of pagoda-style buildings. Moving to ancient rhythms, one of its many traditions has been to recruit its priests from Brahmins from far-away south India. Recently, for the first time, the south Indians have been replaced by local, Nepali Maoist priests. Earlier the temple authorities would appoint its priests in conjunction with the King, and he was always happy to maintain the link with south India. But the fiercely secular communists had few qualms dispensing with the services of the south Indian Brahmins. Nepalese Maoists have tried to destroy the identity of Pashupatinath, the Living Goddess Kumari, Bikram Sambat and its calendar, and every norm of Hindus.

In 2008, the Maoists appointed their own people and we Nepalese are worried that Pashupati complex is being used as a political playground. The Bhandaris, the traditional temple caretakers, and Nepalese nationalists, protested against the decision of the Maoists. The temple decision has led to demonstrations by Hindu groups. Nepal’s Supreme Court directed the temple authorities to clarify the controversy and not let the newly appointed Nepali priests perform the rituals. The Supreme Court ordered the trust to allow the three Indian priests to carry on with the rituals till its verdict.

King Gyanendra urged that the hallowed shrine of Pashupatinath be kept out of dispute. Nepal remembers how in 1343 AD in the regime of Licchabi, Muslim ruler Samsuddin from Bengal (India) attacked Kathmandu and the Pashupatinath temple. Now, after 665 years, over a hundred Maoists and Young Communist League cadres broke the lock of Pashupatinath’s main shrine and took charge. It is a matter of regret.

On 1 Sept 2009, two priests were badly beaten by Maoists in the temple compound though they have been serving the temple for 300 hundred years, as pure Hindus, and not as Indians. A tradition has been broken; who can save the cultural traditions?

The Maoists are active to disturb and abolish Hindus cultural assets. The priests, Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, are not the problem, but the abolition of the Hindu Monarchy and Hindu Kingdom are. Hindus and Buddhists feel that without the monarchy, the culture and temples and pilgrimages cannot survive. It was in 1746 AD that Pratap Malla, the King of Kathmandu, appointed Gyanananda and Lambakarna as priests of Pashupatinath. They had mystic powers. Till now, there have been four Bhatta priests & 106 Newars as Bhandaris (store keepers & protectors). Only those Bhandaris born in Devpatan, the Pashupati area, are entitled to worship lord Pashupatinath.

During the Shivaratri festival, Pashupatinath temple is lit with ghee lamps throughout the night and remains open all night. Thousands of devotees take ritual baths in the Bagmati and observe fast for the whole day. Hundreds of sadhus from different parts of Nepal and India come here for the occasion. Last year, ousted King Gyanendra Shah and former Queen Komal visited the temple in the evening, to the jubilation of Nepalese nationalists and received a hearty ovation from the devotees.

Pashupatinath complex encompasses 264 hectares of land, including 518 temples and monuments. We want to protect and safeguard this sacred heritage. The Rajbhandaris must be reinstated and the decisions of the Maoists undone. 

Nepal suffered grievously in Bikram Era 1400. Then Jayasthiti Malla, the Ksha King, with cooperation and assistance from the kings of Palpa, Kaski, Gorkha and Lamjung, attacked and routed the oppressors and ascended the throne of Kathmandu; he reconstructed the temple and constructed the Rama temple across the Bagmati, established Kumbheshwar Mahadev and performed Kotihom oblations for one crore over the sacred fire. That is why believers in Pashupatinath (Hindus and Buddhists) are allowed to enter the temple premises but non-Hindu visitors can view the temple from the across the Bagmati. This is inviolable. Sadly, now the Bagmati is dirty and smelly and needs to be restored to its old glory.

Since 2011, Christians are creating problems in this pious land. It is wrong for Christians to use Sleshmantak forest to dispose of their dead, when the Nath Yogi community has been using the forest for this purpose. Rampuria Baba, a sage from Maharashtra, India, pointed out, “Pashupatinath is our holy place. Why would Christians build their graves here? We should throw them out and remove all the stones.”

The Christian community is becoming too active since the declaration of the country as a secular state. To protect Nepal’s unique identity, the country must be declared a Hindu Kingdom. We Hindus are not targeting any religious group; but to preserve Nepal’s unique identity, our nationalism and territorial integrity, we will not surrender to those interested to destroy the identity and prestige of the Hindus of the world.

Nepalese scholar Dr. Tilak Shrestha opines, “Christian people have every right to bury their dead, but not in Hindu sacred place, especially since Christianity regards other religions and temples evil. Similarly others should not bury in a Church without its permission. Let Christian people bury their dead in the cemetery of their Church. This is the case all over the world. Let Government build a modern crematorium in the area open to all, including Christian people. Origin of Shree Pashupati Nath temple is mysterious. However, Kirati were first to keep and protect Shree Pashupati Nath tradition, continued by Lichhavi, Malla and Shah Dynasties. The continuous ancient tradition was interrupted only twice due to Muslim invasion and Maoist misrule. We have tradition of worshiping Shree Pashupati Nath as Buddhist Avalokiteshwor once a year. It is to show the relationship and respect between Shaiva and Bauddha Darshans.”

Royal seals were attached regarding the worship of Lord Pashupatinath by King Ranabahadur Shah, King Mahendra, King Birendra and King Gyanendra. Since 1979 UNESCO has kept this core area as a world heritage.

Today the monarchy is absent. Let the current government refrain from political interference and undo all decisions in contravention of the rules & the regulations regarding the worship of Pashupatinath. It is going to be difficult to save Nepal, its religious culture and traditions without he monarchy. The monarchy must be reinstated for the sake of Nepalese sovereignty. For this, all conscious Hindus and Buddhists must unite.

The author is a Nepalese patriot; he lives in Kathmandu

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