Monday, December 10, 2001

Temple complex of Lord Pashupatinath

Heritage Tour

Razen Manandhar
Since thousands of years, the 264-hecate-big complex of Lord Pashupatinath temple by the bank of holy river Bagmati, which shelters around 500 Hindu temples, and also residences of the a thousand or so local people related, have been the centre of creed. Beside being the prime centre of devotion for the Hindus of the Himalayan Kingdom, it has been one of the most adored pilgrimage for the Hindus of India too.

A popular legend has it that a gifted cow used to drizzle milk on a particular knoll by the Bagmati River, on the first step of flourishing of civilization in the Kathmandu Valley thousands of years ago. That was the time when cow herdsmen ruled the valley. One among them became quite curious about the knoll and he dug the place one day, just to discover a "like-a-light" idol of Lord Pashupatinath. The historical cronicles atest that the form of the linga, as the idol, have came into existance in as early as by the begining of the 5th century. However, the present one should not be older than that of 1350 AD as that was the year when a Muslim invader shattered the holy idol into pieces.

After that most of the kings who ruled the country in the past paid homage to the Lord and either re-constructed the prime temple or added individual temples to beautify the complex.

The temple is one among the seven major monument zones that makes the Kathmandu Valley a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apart from the main shrine, the temples of Basuki, Unmatta Bhairav, Kotilingeshwar and some other are inside the temple courtyard. Guheshowri, Vishowrup, Gorakhanath, Ram, Kirateshwar, Rajrajeshowri, Batsaleshowri, Panchadeval, Bankali and Shitala lie around the holy shrine. And the temples of Battais Putali, Jaya Bageshowri, Charumati Bihar, Chabahil Lokeshowr, Chabahil Stupa, Chandra Vinayak, Bhandareshowr Mahadev, Tamreshowr Mahadev are some among other major shrines of the protected monument zone.

The Pashupatinath Temple area is an abode of rituals and festivals around the calendar. Mahashivaratri is the most widely celebrated festival in the Pashupatinath area. Balachaturdashi, Haritalika Teej, Haribodhini Ekadashi, Harishayani Ekadashi and Mukhastami are some of the local festivals.

A committee was formed in 1977 for the development of the holy area and Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT) was founded in 1986 to launch and integrated development of the whole area. A Bagmati Area Development Project is spending quite a lot of money to clean the river that flows along the temple area. There are over 200 youth clubs and social organisations are working in the Pashupati area development. Quite a big number of people, including some well-known industrialists have come up with enthusiastic proposals to improve the area.

But almost all have cooled down before the dreams are materialised. The 15 years old state-funded Trust is still selling the dreams and other clubs are juut dormant. The real status of the prominent Hindu shrine of the Hindu State that lies in the centre of the capital city comes under the leaders’ notice only when their close relatives die and they have to sit there for an hour. Then it can not be unusual that their sentimental proclamation to develop the area dries as the monsoon passes.

The PADT has started collecting entrance fee from the tourists several months ago but any remarkable improvement is yet to be seen. There are scores of temples waiting for restoration, some lucky ones were also granted with too slow projects. The security in the archaeological area is almost nil. News of art theft are on the rise. The Trust plans to improve the area by chasing away the local people, who in fact are a part of the living heritage of the temple area. Thy are not allowed renovating their houses and a nightmare of being dislocated haunts them every night. Illegal construction around the area are going on. Even the monkeys and oxen have been victim of the deteriorating environment. The queue of beggars, hawkers, drug-abusers and pseudo-jogis are what today feature the holy area. Under this circumstances, the holy region which is also a major heritage site too, needs more sincere hands to protect and preserve it.