Pashupatinath: I See Dead People

Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, the Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important Hindu temples in Nepal – and is an interesting introduction to crematories.

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My taxi ride from Thamel, was, as usual, a somewhat haphazard affair, with my driver darting in and out of the traffic quite dangerously. Still, I arrived in one piece at Pashupatinath, which to be honest I had not really planned to visit during my stay in Kathmandu, as I considered it to be a tad too macabre for my liking. In the end, a taxi driver from the previous day that had taken me to the Boudhanath Stupa had begged me for him to take me there, too. I did decline at the time, but upon thinking about it overnight, I realised it was a much better preference than sitting in my hostel trying to connect to some dodgy WIFI.

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The temple is dedicated to a manifestation of Shiva called Pashupati (Lord of the Animals). There are plenty of pagodas and smaller temples that make up the entire complex that is Pashupatinath, and the main reason people come here (at least the backpackers) is because the temple is known as a place where the dead are cremated and left to float away on the river. This funereal procession is in keeping with the beliefs of Hinduism, and is observed eagerly by all and sundry.

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The main thing I enjoyed about Pashupatinath Temple, perhaps even more so than at the larger Swayambhunath Temple nearby, is the grandiose Nepalese architecture on display within the temple itself. There is a smoky haze, and an unpleasant smell (you could say that about all of Kathmandu, actually), but when your sight is not obscured you can see some breathtaking shrines and temples, dedicated to nagas among other things, and you realise that the Nepalese take their worshipping very seriously indeed.

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Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple

The Priests here are called Bhattas and the Chief Preist among them is called the Raval, who I was interested to learn reports directly to the King of Nepal and discusses temples matters with His Highness. It is he who oversees everything in Pashupatinath Temple, including the ghats on the Bagmati River where many cremations occur. This is a very sombre sight to experience and perhaps is not for everyone. As mentioned before, only Hindis can access the temple itself, though all faiths can watch proceedings from the banks of the river.

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