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Sadhu (Yogis) and I.

Sadhu (Yogi) and I.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about my visa experience at the Kathmandu Airport Customs and Immigration checkpoint; and, my visit to Boudhanath Buddhist Temple. Today, I’ll tell you about my visit to the Pashupatinath Temple. So many fascinating things occurred while I was there, including the visible washing of dead bodies by relatives and then their subsequent cremation. For some uninformed westerners not used to seeing such religious rituals, this might be a bit too much to process or even shocking. However, all of this has meaning in the Hindu religion.

For me personally, I learned so much yesterday from my guide, Mr. Richard Dvaz. Quite frankly, Richard, who was educated in Great Britain, should be giving lectures at universities and colleges about this place. He was so articulate and knowledgeable about the history of this site, as well as being an expert on the Hindu religion, that my visit here was enhanced immeasurably by having him as a guide. Thank you very much Richard and please feel free to comment and/or correct me on anything I convey here.

Richard Dvaz, my expert tour guide of the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple.

Richard Dvaz, my expert tour guide of the Hindu Pashupatinath Temple.

On Sunday (today in Nepal), the Maha Shivaratri Festival will happen. It lasts all day through tomorrow morning. Approximately 1.5 million people will make a pilgrimage to this site from not only Nepal, but from all over the world. Yesterday when I visited, thousands of people had already arrived, yet it was relatively easy to walk around the entire site. Again, without Richard leading the way, I would have been lost.

Body being cremated as part of a Hindu holy rite. Not for the squemmish (as I saw a foot still not completely burned on one of the pyres.

Body being cremated as part of a Hindu holy rite. Not for the Squeamish (as I saw a foot still not completely burned to ashes on one of the pyres).

First it should be noted that Pashupatinath is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. Locally, it is known as an “open living Museum of Nepal.” The Pashupatinath Temple is one of the holiest temples of the world revered and worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Pashupatinath is Lord Shiva, the God of Gods. Ancient Scriptures (the Vedas, Upanishads and Puranas) have described “Him as Lord of the entire living beings and the source of eternal bliss and peace.”

Votive shrine.

Votive shrine.

According to Richard, “In the sanctum of the temple stands what is called a Jyothirlinga (believed to have self appeared) the like of which is not found existent anywhere else in the world. It is a phallic symbol, the symbol of Pashupatinath which has four images carved on its four sides. In front of the west gate of the temple is kept a colossal image of a gold guilt bull seated with composure on its four legs and with its eyes fixed on Lord Pashupatinath inside It is mentioned in the Hindu scriptures that the bull is the carrier of Lord Shiva.”

Another votive shrine . . . If you look carefully, you can see other votive shrines one after the other through the arc of the first one.

Another votive shrine . . . If you look carefully, you can see other votive shrines one after the other through the arc of the first one.

Carving above votive shrine.

Carving above votive shrine.

Preparing bodies (washing them in the river) for cremation.

Preparing bodies – bathing them in the river – for cremation.

Monkey God statue.

Monkey God, Lord Hanuman.

The protruding figure represents a penis set upon the rectangular shaped stone, which represents a vagina.

Both of these figurines symbolize a penis (protrusions) and vagina (flat rectangular and circular stones).

Maha Shivaratri, the night of the worship of Lord Shiva, is celebrated on the 13th/14th  night of the new moon, during the dark half of the month of Falgun as per the Hindu calendar each year. It is believed during this day Lord Shiva transformed and appeared as Shivalinga. Maha Shivaratri is celebrated with fasting and being awake all night. Hindus perform puja of Shiva all through the night in the temple. Sadhus (yogis) will smoke marijuana in celebration and honor of Shiva during Maha Shivaratri. Consequently, smoking marijuana is taken as “prasad,” i.e., holy food blessed by the Gods. Anyone else attempting to do this – for example, other worshipers – would be arrested by the local Kathmandu police.

One of the three Sadhu who posed for photographs with me.

One of the three Sadhu who posed for photographs with me. Notice how long his hair is . . . He draped it around my shoulders when we took a group picture. He also blessed me with the bindi red dot.

Another Sadhu who allowed me to photograph him.

Another Sadhu who allowed me to photograph him.

The 3rd Sadhu who posed for a photograph.

The 3rd Sadhu who posed for a photograph.

Group picture of us.

Group picture of us.

Pashupatinath viewed from across the river on a hill which overlooks the temple.

Pashupatinath viewed from across the river on a hill which overlooks the temple. The large temple in the middle is where the Golden Bull is and this area is forbidden to be entered, except by Hindu worshipers.

Elephant is a God that is the son of Lord Shiva.

Elephant is called Ganesha, a God that is the son of Lord Shiva. Lord Ganesha is widely revered as the remover of obstacles and more generally, as the Lord of Beginnings and Lord of Obstacles. This information was provided by my friend, Laurie in Colorado Springs, U.S.A., who is studying Ayurvedic medicine. Thanks Laurie!

God

Lord Hanuman (Monkey God).

Shrines at Pashupatinath Temple.

Shrines at Pashupatinath Temple.

The cow is revered by Hindus as the source of food; and is a symbol of life. It may never be killed.

The cow is revered by Hindus as the source of food; and is a symbol of life. It may never be killed.

Near the entrance to the holy shrine, which only Hindus can enter. You can see the Golden Bull through the gate.

Near the entrance to the holy shrine, which only Hindus can enter. You can see the Golden Bull through the gate.

This is as close as I got to the Golden Bull, since non-Hindus are not allowed in this inner sanctum of the Pashupatinath Temple.

This is as close as I got to the Golden Bull, since non-Hindus are not allowed in this inner sanctum of the Pashupatinath Temple.

Carved figures guard the entrance to the inner sanctum.

Carved figure (a son of Shiva) guards the entrance to the inner sanctum of the temple.

Another carved figure at the gate to the inner sanctum.

Another carved figure (Shiva’s other son, Garesh, the elephant God) at the gate to the inner sanctum.

I am not certain what this figure represents.

I am not certain who/what this figure represents.

Lord Shiva, also known as "The Destroyer."

Lord Shiva, also known as “The Destroyer.”

I captured this shot of the Golden Bull from above the temple.

I captured this shot of the Golden Bull from above the temple.

Monkeys near the votive shrines.

Monkeys near the votive shrines.

Taken at the end of the day, with the city of Kathmandu in the background.

Taken at the end of the day, with the city of Kathmandu in the background.

Besides the Maha Shivaaratri festival, there are other festival days which are celebrated at Pashupatinath. One is Teej in the month of August. This is celebrated by women only. Women go on a fast and observe an overnight “visile” around the temple, singing and dancing. The other day that is celebrated, occurs in the month of November. It is called Balachaturdashi. It is the day on which men and women trek along a fixed path, scattering uncooked food grains over it for the departed souls for their eternal peace of their family members who have passed away early that year. The scattering of grains is basically a socio-religious ritual from what I have read.

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