Pashupatinath Temple

Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath Temple (Nepali: श्री पशुपतिनाथ मन्दिर) is a revered Hindu temple complex in Kathmandu, Nepal. This sacred site, which dates back to the 5th century BCE, is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is considered one of the holiest shrines in the world for Hindus.

Pashupatinath Temple is one of the seven monument groups designated by UNESCO in the Kathmandu Valley. The temple complex is a sprawling area that covers over 264 hectares and includes several shrines, temples, and ashrams. The main temple, which is believed to have been built in the 5th century, is a multi-tiered pagoda-style structure with a golden pinnacle that rises 23 meters high.

Attractions of Pashupatinath Temple

The Pashupati Temple complex is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal, drawing visitors from all over the world. Here are some of the top attractions in the complex:

  • Main Temple: The main temple of the complex is a multi-tiered pagoda-style structure dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is adorned with intricate carvings and golden embellishments and is a true marvel of architecture.
  • Courtyards: The temple complex includes several courtyards where visitors can observe the daily rituals and offerings. These courtyards are also home to many sadhus (Hindu holy men) who meditate and perform rituals.
  • Mini Temples: The complex includes 518 smaller temples, each dedicated to a different deity. Visitors can explore these temples and offer prayers to their preferred deities.
  • Bagmati River: The Pashupati Temple is located on the banks of the Bagmati River, which is considered holy by Hindus. Visitors can take a dip in the river or observe the funeral rites that take place on its banks.
  • Ashrams: The temple complex is home to several ashrams, where devotees can stay and practice yoga and meditation.
  • Festivals: The Pashupati Temple is a vibrant hub of activity during major festivals like Maha Shivaratri and Teej. Visitors can witness the colorful celebrations and participate in the festivities.
Pandra Shivalaya and ghat (viewpoint for tourist from adjacent side of river Bagmati, East of the main temple)
Pandra Shivalaya and ghat (viewpoint for tourists from the adjacent side of river Bagmati, East of the main temple)

As you approach the temple, you will be greeted by an intricately carved entrance gate that leads to a series of courtyards and shrines. The courtyards are filled with sadhus (Hindu holy men) clad in saffron robes, who meditate, pray, and perform rituals.

One of the most striking features of the temple complex is the Bagmati River, which flows right beside it. The river is considered holy by Hindus, and it is believed that a dip in its waters can wash away sins and bring good luck. The riverbank is lined with several ghats (stone steps) where devotees come to take a holy bath or perform funeral rites.

Daily Aarati

One of the main attractions of the Pashupatinath Temple is the daily Aarati (worship ritual) that takes place at the temple. An aarti is a form of devotional worship that involves the offering of light, incense, and other items to the deities.

Aarati at pashupatinath temple

At Pashupatinath, the Aarati takes place twice daily, in the morning and evening. The morning Aarati starts at around 5:30 am and the evening Aarati takes place at around 6:30 pm. The Aarati is performed by the temple priests and is accompanied by the ringing of bells, chanting of mantras, and blowing of conch shells.

The Aarati is a highly spiritual and meditative experience, and visitors are welcome to participate in the ritual. During the Aarati, the devotees offer flowers, incense, and other items to Lord Shiva and seek his blessings. The Aarati is a way of expressing devotion and gratitude to the divine and seeking divine intervention in one’s life.

The daily Aarati at Pashupatinath is a must-see experience for visitors to the temple. It is a beautiful and peaceful way to start or end the day and connect with the divine.

The Legend Related to Its Origin

The legend related to the origin of the Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most famous and intriguing stories in Nepalese mythology. According to the legend, a cow used to come to this spot every day and offer her milk to the ground. One day, her owner followed her and discovered a Jyotirlinga (a sacred symbol of Lord Shiva) buried in the ground.

The news of this discovery soon spread, and people started coming to the spot to worship Lord Shiva. Over time, a temple was built on the site, which became known as the Pashupatinath Temple. Today, the temple is considered one of the most sacred and important Hindu pilgrimage sites in the world.

The legend highlights the significance of cows in Hindu mythology, as they are considered holy animals and are believed to possess divine qualities. It also showcases the power of faith and devotion, as the discovery of the Jyotirlinga led to the establishment of a temple that has been a center of worship for centuries.


The temple complex is a vibrant hub of spiritual activity, especially during major festivals like Maha Shivaratri and Teej. During these times, thousands of devotees from Nepal and India flock to the temple to offer prayers and seek blessings.

Apart from its religious significance, the Pashupati Temple is also an architectural marvel. The intricate carvings on the temple walls and the pagoda-style architecture are a testament to the rich cultural heritage of Nepal.

How to explore

Visitors to the temple complex can hire a guide to learn more about the history and significance of the various shrines and temples. They can also witness the daily rituals and offerings at the main temple.

Only Hindus can Enter the Temple

The Pashupatinath Temple is a Hindu temple, and therefore the main sanctuary is accessible only to Hindus. Non-Hindus are allowed to enter other parts of the temple complex but are not permitted to enter the main temple.

This restriction is in place to maintain the sanctity and integrity of the temple and to respect the beliefs and customs of the Hindu religion. Visitors are expected to dress modestly and behave respectfully when visiting the temple complex. Photography is allowed in some areas, but visitors should be mindful of the sanctity of the place and the privacy of those engaged in worship.

It is worth noting that this restriction on entry to the main temple is not unique to the Pashupatinath Temple, as many Hindu temples around the world have similar rules in place. While it may be disappointing for non-Hindu visitors not to be able to enter the main temple, they can still appreciate the beauty and significance of the temple complex from the outside and learn about the rich history and culture of the Hindu religion.

Arya Ghat & outdoor cremation ritual

Yes, Arya Ghat at the Pashupatinath Temple is of great significance. It is the only place near the temple where the water is considered pure enough to be brought into the temple. The ghat is also considered auspicious and is where the members of Nepal’s Royal family and common people are cremated.

Pashupatinath Cremations
Pashupatinath Cremations

The outdoor cremation ritual that takes place on the banks of the Bagmati River next to the Pashupatinath Temple is a significant part of Hindu culture and tradition. It is a solemn and peaceful event, where the eldest son of the deceased shaves his head and performs the final rituals before the body is cremated.

The practice of open-air cremation is deeply ingrained in the Hindu culture and is believed to release the soul from the physical body and allow it to move on to the afterlife. The location of the Pashupatinath Temple and the Bagmati River has made it a popular destination for people seeking to perform the final rituals for their loved ones.

Visitors are allowed to observe the cremation rituals from a distance, but it is important to be respectful and maintain a solemn demeanor. It is also worth noting that photography is strictly prohibited during the cremation ceremony, as it is considered disrespectful and intrusive to the grieving family.

Overall, the Pashupati Temple is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Hindu culture and spirituality. Its serene surroundings and magnificent architecture make it a truly unique and unforgettable experience.

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Sailendra Bhatta

An adventurer, writer, and Founder of Nepal Travel Vibes.

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