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The Temples of Kathmandu, Nepal………….

October 21, 2009

Kathmandu is truly the most spiritual place I have ever been. There is a tremendous mix of Hindu and Buddhist influences and we were told if you look hard enough you can even find one or two Christians and/or Muslims. There is an almost overwhelming focus on prayer and reverence and finding a connection with God. (Please don’t take this to mean it is an “in your face” experience – it is really a peaceful and calming experience. No one comes out of the wood work and actually talks to you about God. You are really left to feel what you feel. No questions asked – no pressure.) Really, I guess I should more accurately say a connection with the gods – the Hindu faith has over 1 million gods. But of course we take our own experiences wherever we go and end up translating more than just the language and the currency into our own terms – so, for me personally, God it is.

There were prayer wheels and prayer flags everywhere. I guess I have never really experienced a physical manifestation of prayer. I am not Catholic so I have never used a rosary. But there is certainly something extremely comforting and connected about doing something while you pray. Spinning the prayer wheel makes praying feel more active. Seeing the flags makes it appear permanent. Prayer becomes more than just a whisper that often seems to disappear into thin air, remaining most alive in our hearts. Faith tells us our prayers are heard, but where do they go? The flags let them dance forever as active hopes and dreams. It’s more than just going through the motions.



The town is filled with temples of all sizes and shapes. I have mostly seen churches, mosques, and temples that are defined in a finite space. The temples in Kathmandu cover a wide birth of land and seem to go on forever – up stairs, then down  stairs, and then around corners. They are not contained within walls or confined under roofs. They are open air arenas where you can literally feel the connection to the surrounding natural and spiritual worlds.

Of course, the fact that Kathmandu sits at the base of the Himalayan Mountains automatically makes the spiritual areas feel more majestic and more a part of nature. The structures are certainly man-made but they are God-inspired. And I did not feel smothered by Hinduism or Buddhism, but rather just a part of the beauty of trying to reach out to whatever god you know. Trying to find peace on earth in the human realm.

Here is a little bit about one of the temples we visited:


Pashupatinath Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kathmandu – it is the largest Hindu temple in honor of Lord Shiva. Pashupati was established in the 5th century and the priests who perform ceremonies here are largely Brahmins from South India. It is not known for certain when Pashupatinath Temple was founded. But according to Nepal Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, one day Lord Shiva grew tired of his palace atop Mt. Kailash and so went in search of a place where he could escape to. He discovered Kathmandu Valley and, without telling anyone, he ran away from his palace and came to live in the Valley. He gained great fame there as Pashupati, Lord of the Animals, before the other gods discovered his hiding place and came to fetch him. He disguised himself as a majestic deer and would not help the other gods when they asked for his help. When Shiva did not yield to their pleas, they planned to use force. God Vishnu grabbed him by his horns and they shattered into pieces. Vishnu established a temple and used the broken horns to form a linga on the bank of the Bagmati River. As time went by, the temple was buried and forgotten. Then a cow was known to have secretly sprinkled her milk over the mound. Apparently, when the cow herders dug around the spot, they found the lost lingas and again built a temple in reverence. (Thanks Wikipedia)

I am one of those people that changes the nature channel when the lion is about to eat the rabbit. I completely understand that it is the way nature works. I don’t take up arms against the lion. I just don’t want to see it. So, I am really glad that I did not understand that this temple has a crematorium along the banks of the Bagmati River. I would have avoided it at all costs. I would have not wanted to explain it to my children. I know that death is a part of life. I get it. But our kids have been largely unaffected by death so far in their lives and I want them to enjoy that for as long as they can. It will come full force in their lives soon enough. And it will surely hit them hard when it comes. So I have been an ostrich with my head in the sand – patiently delaying the inevitable. Basking in the glory of life.

But it was amazing. Really amazing. There were bodies being cremated. There was no wailing. No fanfare really. It was just a process. Part of life. Hindus, of course, believe in reincarnation. So ultimately there is no reason to be sad about the discarded body – the empty vessel. The soul has moved on to a new being. And, practically speaking, cremation has tremendous benefits in a world where there won’t always be room to bury the dead. I want to be cremated mostly because I don’t want to get eaten by bugs. So it was fascinating to see the whole process in action. It was remarkably calming.

When a someone in a family dies, the family members of the deceased must spend 11 days in the temple mourning. The temple is right next to the river. They wear white and stay together without touching anyone else, even each other – there is no physical contact – and, I believe, talking only to each other. This exemplifies the importance of family in Asian cultures. Can you imagine completely stopping your world for 11 days? I mean leaving your house – not driving your car – not going to the grocery store  – not answering the phone – doing nothing but mourning. I am not saying that Westerners are unaffected by the loss of a family member or loved one – of course we are very affected – but we certainly do not give ourselves permission let life screech to a complete standstill. It’s fascinating.

My children were remarkably aware and accepting of what was happening. They were not overwhelmed by it. They were not scared by it. They just watched the burning mounds with respect and distant curiosity.



On the other side of the river, life was continuing on in full force. Tourists snapped pictures, children played in the river, Holy men gave blessings, and women washed laundry. It was a beautiful example of the full circle of things. Life imitating life.

There were literally hundreds of monuments beyond the river. Wear comfortable shoes if you come here. There is a lot of walking. But it is really a tremendous place. As I mentioned before, the Hindus have over a 1 million gods and this park is a tribute to many of them.You could see monument after monument after monument in a never ending testament to the devotion of the Hindu believers. The mini temples were often guarded by cement dog or lion statues and there was an sense of tranquility in the air.





You are not allowed to enter the main temple if you are not Hindu. In fact most foreigners are shown this site from only one side of the river. However, we were taken around to the entrance of the main temple. We were not invited in of course, but it was lovely to see it closer up.


This is another view of remarkable architecture that you can see from the park.


This is getting to be m.u.c.h longer than I thought it would be, so I will continue tomorrow. “See” you then..

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dirgha Raj Prasai permalink
    October 22, 2009 5:57 am

    Dear editor,
    Thanks. You have released this very good news about Hindus & Buddhists temples, Gumbas and life styles.The Lord Pashupathinath, Shoyambhunath, Lumbini, Barahachetra, Gosaikunda, Muktinath, Ridi, Janakidham, Devghat of Nepal, Kailash Mansharobar of Tibet (well accessed for Nepalese and Hindus), and Tirupati, Rameshroram, Jagannath, Badrinath, Amarnath of India are the symbolic shrines of Hinduism & Buddhism. The people of Nepal and India always have cordial relations due to the cultural and religious resemblance. They should know that if instability persists in Nepal, it could be a bastion of terrorism posing a threat to the whole world. When present India(present Hindustan) was not in existence, there were more than 25 nations, 250 years ago, the great King Prithvi Narayan Shah expressed –”Nepal is true Hindustan”
    Dear editor,
    I am very impressed about your interest on Nepalese culture,temples and God and Goddess. So, I am sending the research about Hindus Shrine Pashupatinath.
    The Lord Pashupathinath, Shoyambhunath,Lumbini, Barahachetra, Gosaikunda, Muktinath, Ridi, Janakidham, Devghat of Nepal, Kailash Mansharobar of Tibet (well accessed for Hindus and Buddhas), and Tirupati, Rameshroram, Jagannath, Badrinath, Amarnath of India are the symbolic shrines of Hinduism & Buddhism. Hindu philosophy and its culture and tradition are the founder of world civilization. Hindu shrine Pashupatinath (Shiva) is the Lord of all Hindus. The Lord Pashupatinath Temple sits on a sacred river on the edge of Bagmati, Kathmandu Nepal. The complex rises up from the bank amid a mass of pagoda-style buildings. The temple moves to ancient rhythms. And one of its many traditions has been to recruit its priests from Brahmins from far-away south India. But, for the first time, the south Indians have been replaced by local, Nepali priests. It used to be that the temple authorities would appoint its priests in conjunction with the king- and he was always happy to maintain the link with south India. The fiercely secular communists would have few qualms about dispensing with the services of the south Indian Brahmins.

    Nepalese Maoists have tried to destroy the identity of Pashupatinath, Living Goddess Kumari, Bikram Sambat and its calendar and every norm of Hindus. In 2008, the Maoists have appointed their own people. We Nepalese people are worried that Pashupati complex is being used as a playground for politics.The Bhandaris are the traditional temple caretakers, including Nepalese nationalists the Bhandaris also protested against the decision of Maosts. The temple decision has led to demonstrations by Hindu groups. Nepal’s Supreme Court directed the temple authorities to clarify the controversy and not to let the newly appointed Nepali priests perform the rituals. The Supreme Court has ordered the trust to allow the three Indian priests to carry on with the rituals till its verdict.Traditionally; the temple authorities would appoint its priests in conjunction with the king.

    LordPashupatinath’Temple Dirgha Raj Prasai

    King Gyanendra said to keep the hallowed Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath out of dispute and not to tarnish the image of Nepal as a country where different religions had co-existed in harmony down the ages’. So, the Pashupati temple should not be the place for the party’s decision. Almost in 1343 AD in the regime of Licchabi, Muslim ruler Samsuddin, who hailed from Bengal (India) attacked Kathmandu and attacked Pashupatinath temple. After 665 years, more than a hundred Maoists and cadres of YCL (agnostic) broke the lock of the Pashupatinath’s main shrine and took the newly appointed priest. It was a matter of regret.

    Now, since Sep.1st 2009 two priests have beaten by Maoists into the compound of Pashupatinath. The priests were badly injured. Since 300 hundred years, the priests are devoting in Pashupatinath as a pure Hindu but not as Indian. The tradition has been already establishing. Then, who can ovoid the cultural traditions? Cultural traditions can’t change by the political Party and constitution. But, now, it is a simple thing for Maoists to beat and thrash. A group of Maoists are active to disturb and abolish the Hindus cultural assets. The priest- Girish Bhatta and Raghavendra Bhatta, are not the problem, but that is the issues of abolishing the Hindu Monarch & Hindu Kingdom from Nepal. Hindus & Buddhists are feeling, without Nepalese monarchy, the culture and Dams, Temples of Nepal and India can’t save.

    Yes, if Bhatta had voluntarily resigned new priests could be appointed with the reason there of citing the prevalent law regarding the worship and management of Pashupatinath. Since legendary period Newar Rajopadhya could also be appointed as Bhatta (priest) . Rajopadhya should be traced from Bangemuda (kathmandu) & Banepa ( Kabre) In 1746 AD Pratap Malla the King of Kathmandu came in touch of Kartatac King and appointed Gyanananda & Lambakarna as priests of Pashupatinath. They were tantrik (having mystic power). Till now, there are four Bhatta priests & 106 Newars as Bhandaris (store keepers & protectors) Bhandaris are chronologically important. Only those born in Devpatan, the Pashupati area are entitled for worshiping lord Pashupatinath. Bhandaris are the owners of their houses.

    The area of Pashupatinath imcompasses 264 hectre of land including 518 temples and monuments. We want to protrect and safeguard the heritage. The Rajbhandaris must be reinstated. The decion done by Maoist must be scraped out. Maoist followed the villainous part as played by Samasuddin from Bangal having a force of thirty one thousand Muslims plundering and vandaling the faith and trust of Hindu & Buddhist in Bikram Era 1400. The last Licchivi regime was very weak. There was a great chaos after the Muslims attack. To save the regime from such a dreadful situation Jayasthiti Malla , the Ksha King having cooperation and assistance from kings of Palpa, Kaski, Gorkha and Lamjung, attacked vigorously on Muslim army. Thirty thousand and four hundred soldiers were killed and almost six hundred fled away. It is carved and can be seen in Bhatapur Taleju temple. Then, Jayasthiti Malla ascended the throne of Kathmandu and reconstructed the temple and constructed the Rama temple across the Bagmati river and established Kumbheshwar Mahadev and performed Kotihom ( oblation for one Crore over the sacred fire) He laid the strict rule regarding the entrance for the Hindus & Buddhists only. This is inviolable.

    King Jyotirmalla writes in stone lablets- ‘about Pashupatinath in 1465 Bs, lord Pashupatinath having five mouth along with worshipable Bashuki the holy serpent. King Pratap Malla was famous in stone tablets. Prithvinarayan shah the great, worshipped lord Pashupatinath duing his integration of Kingdom. It is stated in Lingua Bambshabali. Prithbinarayan Shah had got carved in Basantapur Place in 1826 Bs after his Victory over Kathmandu valley-‘ lord Pashupatinath & Goddess Guheshwari may bless Nepal for keeping sovereignty and stability along with Shah popular Regime. Royal seals were attached regarding the worship of Lord Pashupatinath by King Ranabahadur Shah, King Mahendra, King Birendra and King Gyanendra as well. Since 1979 Unesco has kept this core area as a world heritage. It encompasses four hector of land as a very sensitive area. Let this government be away from imposing political interference over Hindus & Buddhists. The decision done in contravention of all the rules & the regulations regarding the Pashupatinath worship is scraped immediately. So, this is the high time to be conscious & united on the part of Hindus, Buddhists in all over the world as well as all patriotic Nepali.
    Thank you.

    All the best
    Dirgha Raj Prasai
    Political & Cultural Analyst.

  2. October 22, 2009 1:26 am

    Arent the temples lovey and spiritual. Although, now thronged by too many tourists like us 🙂
    Death is hard reality and I had always avoided seeing or attending any funerals…till my own granpa passed away a a few months back. That hit me hard and am yet to get over it. So, in a way I feel that it might be good your kids are seeing life from now…
    I am an Indian, but have never seen a body being cremated…its just too much for me to bear and see. For that matter, we do burials, but I have never seen any burial too. God grant me enough courage to face all this.

    By, the way how was Diwali for you in Delhi? Too much noise/pollution or fun 🙂


  1. The Temples of Kathmandu – part 2………… « A Reason To Write – India

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