The picture in recent newspapers,of priests entering the Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal amidst a tight cordon of armed police made sad viewing. Is this any way for a worshiper to enter a House of God ? With guns ! Sign of the times.......
Many theories are floating around about the origin of the tradition of South Indian Priests in Pashupatinath. None actually substantiated. For all we know,the practice may have started as a practical solution for some predicament in the hazy past - a time, when the map of the world was completely different and equation between kingdoms completely different too. In today's changed scenario in a cartographically changed world, holding on to an unusual arrangement just to satisfy a "tradition" seems to me to be a sure way to invite repeated sociological snafus. After all, we , today, need visas to visit the holiest of our icons, Mt. Kailas, while our rishi-munis of yore could wander there at will without getting arrested for illegal immigration !
Pashupatinath Temple, situated in a valley near Deopatan, is a beautiful place of worship where the whole gamut of human existance plays out in micro format each and every day.
The hermit god is housed within gold and silver doors. All the superstar devatas of the pantheon have subsidiary shrines, while demonic figures stand sentinel around the courtyard. Sculptures depict lovely apsaras and gotesque gargoyles with equal attention to detail. Past kings, immortalised in stone and bronze sit atop tall coloumns adoring the lord, while the presently homeless clank their cans in hope of alms. Fearsome looking ascetics lounge under erotic art panels, lost in self inquiry and chillum smoke. Thieving monkeys make merry with the rice and fruit offerings left before the minor shrines. Babies are brought to be blessed with a prosperous life. Women in red keep vows for domestic bliss. Just beyond the portals, on the ghats along river Bagmathi, lie cremated bodies , smouldering slowly into ash. Ecstatic Bhajans and mournful dirges rise up to mingle with the clanging of bells and the rumble of the hoards. The Lord of all Pasus(living beings), as an august chaturmukha lingam, presides over everything in beatific serenity.
Only Hindus are allowed to enter the courtyard. Before entering , all leather articles are to be left behind. Non Hindus can have a seat on the balcony- like promontory on the river bank and watch the cremations. And have a fill of the gilded pagodas and golden pinnacles of this UNESCO World Heritage Site, dating from about the third century AD.
I wish dredging and desilting operations are undertaken frequently to release the emaciated Bagmati River from the thrall of effluents,plastics and abominable algae. Pitiable condition.
Three visuals retained, bright and clear, in memory :
1. The enormous golden Nandi
2. The thicket of tridents,lances and pennants standing massed in the courtyard.
3. The row of perfectly aligned pavilions - votive shrines with lingams commemorating deceased royalty - outside the courtyard. ( Called "Pandra Shivalay ")