Pashupatinath, or ‘Temple of the Lord of Animals’, is the most sacred Hindu temple in Nepal, and one of the four most important Shiva shrines in the Indian subcontinent. Pashupatinath is located in Deopatan, on the eastern part of Kathmandu, in Nepal. Pashupatinath is dedicated to Shiva, the Hindu destroyer and creator deity, one of the many gods in the Hindu pantheon. Shiva goes by many names including Bhairav (the cruel), Mahadeva (the great god), and Pashupati (lord of the animals).
Pashupatinath is renowned among foreign tourists because it is one of the places where they can watch cremations in progress. There are many cremation ghats at Pashupatinath, and they are all along the Bagmati River. There is even a royal ghat that was formerly reserved specially for the use of the Nepal royal family. At any time of the day, visitors to Pashupatinath can view a cremation in progress. In the olden days, wives would perform sati, ritual suicide, by leaping into the flames of their husband’s funeral pyre and burn themselves to death. This practice has been outlawed since the early 20th century.
The main temple at Pashupatinath is a large, gilded, triple-roofed structure built in 1696, on a site occupied for religious activities for a thousand years. Although non-Hindus are forbidden from entering this main temple, there is ample photo opportunities all around Pashupatinath. All along the Bagmati river are dharmsalas, or pilgrim resthouses. These are ornate stone shrines along the steps leading down to the riverside, on the opposite bank from the cremation ghats. One often come across sadhus, or holy men, with their dreadlocks. Many look simply fearsome, but not all are genuine. The busiest and most colorful time at Pashupatinath is around the months of February and March, to be precise, on Shivaratri, or the birthday of Shiva, when pilgrims and sadhus from all over converge on Pashupatinath. Another time for great photography opportunity is during the festival of Teej, around September or October, when Hindu ladies in red and gold saris come for ritual bathing in the Bagmati River.
Pashupatinath is recognized as one of the seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kathmandu Valley. During the 27th session of the World Heritage Committee in July 2003, however, the site was placed on the List of Unesco World Heritage in Danger, because the traditional elements of heritage had been partially or significantly lost since the time of inscription, resulting in a loss of authenticity of the property.