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Pashupatinath, a sacred Hindu temple located on the banks of the holy waters of the Bagmati river is the largest temple complex in Nepal. It serves the Hindu god of destruction Shiva, also referred to as Pashupatinath.
The exact date of the construction of the site is uncertain, however, the earliest evidence of the temple's existence stretches back to 400 A.D. The temple was later renovated by the Malla kings and the present form of the main temple was built in the end of the 17th century that was said to have been destroyed by the termites.
In light of the multitudinous renovations of Pashupatinath throughout the past few centuries, the structure of the temples in the area (around 492 temples), dedicated to several Hindu and Buddhist deities, have diverse architectural styles.
Western Entrance of Pashupatinath Temple, Main Gate (Wikimedia commons)
The main temple of Pashupatinath stands in the middle of an open courtyard and is built in the Pagoda style that features cubic constructions, a gilded roof and exquisite wood carvings on rafters (also called Tundal). It has four main doors covered with silver sheets and a gold pinnacle (Gajur).
There are two Garbhagrihas inside the shrine, the sanctum sanctorum serves as the throne to the idol while the outer sanctum is an open-corridor-like space to worship from.
Lord Shiva's vehicle, or vahana, Nandi's golden statue sits facing the main shrine. A Shiva lingam is established in the inner sanctum and there are hundreds of Shiva lingams within the compound.
Only Hindus are allowed through the gates of the main temple.
Crematory rites being performed at Aryaghat (Unsplash)
As Shiva, in Hindu mythology signifies the end or the destruction for re-creation, the site is also largely considered for cremation. Along the rivers of Bagmati, on raised platforms, Aryaghat, the crematorium, witnesses hundreds of funerary rites and mournings every day. It is a belief that those cremated at Pashupatinath surely reborn as a human as their sins wash away with the burnt ashes that the holy water carries away.
Dome-styled temples as well as Shikara styled temples spread throughout the banks of Bagmati in the Pashupatinath area. The majority of these religious structures are small single-story buildings made from stone. However, they are sacral constructions and sanctuaries great religious values.
India is a country of diversity with many religions, languages, cultures, cuisines, etc. From which Hinduism is one of the most widely followed religions of the country. The fundamental elements of Hinduism are spirituality and symbolism which deeply incorporate animals into the Hindu belief. Animals have been reckoned as channels for love and unity, symbols of the culture and impetuses of growth, by many ancient Indian literary texts. It is believed that an animal's life has equal value and worth as that of a human. There are various instances in the Indian literary texts where animals were represented as the incarnations of Gods stressing the importance of animals even more. Among the prominent seats of religion in India is the legendary Karni Mata Temple in Bikaner.
Karni Mata temple or the "temple of rats" is a famous temple situated at Deshnoke, a semi- town which is located 30 km away from Bikaner in Rajasthan, India. The temple is known all over India and the world for housing over 20,000 black rats inside the temple. The rats that live inside the temple are revered and served by devotees from all over the world. The rats are considered holy and are called "kabbas" meaning little children and none of the rats are hostile towards the visitors and devotees. People from far-off places come to visit this temple and pay their respect to these rats and pray for their desires to turn into reality. The temple witnesses a large number of visitors and curious tourists from all over India just owning to the presence of these "rats".
The legend behind the temple
According to some local folklores, once an army of 20,000 soldiers was deserted in a battle that took place nearby and they came to the village of Deshnoke running. When Mata learned about the sins of desertion punishable by death, however, she spared their lives turning them into rats. The soldiers also paid gratitude in return and promised the goddess to serve her forever.
Other legends say, that once Karni Mata's son Laxman was trying to drink water in Kapil Sarovar in Kolayat Tehsil and he drowned in the pond and died. Grieved by the loss of her son Mata Karni prayed to Yama, the god of death to spare his life to which first he refused. Later he's moved by her sorrow and will, he gave in to her pleas and reincarnates Laxman and all of Karni Mata's male children as rats. One can find few white rats among those black rats who are believed to be Karni Mata herself and her four sons, they are considered to be especially holy. Sighting a white rat amongst the other 20,000 black rats is a special blessing and visitors put in extensive efforts to bring them forth, offering prasad, and sweets.
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Eating the food nibbled or leftover by rats is considered holy and is said to bring good fortune to those making the pilgrimage to the temple and if a rat runs over the visitors' feet it's considered very auspicious. According to the temple laws, if one of the rats is accidentally killed by any of the visitors, it must be replaced with a rat made of solid silver or gold, so the visitors are especially careful while walking around in the temple.
The food eaten by the rats and later eaten by the devotees has been proved disease free, thus the visitors do not hesitate to partake in the practice. However, all the sweet foods, the fighting between rats, and the sheer number of animals living in the temple make the rats themselves prone to diseases. Stomach disorders and diabetes are extraordinarily common among the rats living in the temple, and every few years a rat epidemic brings down their population. Surprisingly, despite the dangers to the rats themselves, there have been no recorded cases of humans contracting a disease from the temple rats.
Eating the food nibbled or leftover by rats is considered holy and is said to bring good fortune to those making the pilgrimageWikipedia
The construction of the Karni Mata Temple was concluded in the early 20th century as the late Rajput architecture by Maharaja Ganga Singh of Bikaner. The temple has a Mughal design with its intricate marble panels and solid silver doors that are beautifully carved with details. The silver doors with panels depict various legends of the goddess Karni. The shrine of the goddess is placed in the inner sanctum of the temple. The jeweler Kundanlal Verma further decorated and beautified the temple in the year 1999. He donated the marble carvings and the silver rats to the temple.
ALSO READ: Story Behind the Khajuraho Temples
Karni Mata temple is living evidence of how deeply Hinduism includes and values animals in their culture and it is their belief that has kept the rat-worship that goes back to the 15th century alive and the temple was built in the early 1900s and further beautified later to honor Karni Mata.
Keywords: Karni Mata, rats, temple, devotees, silver, rat-worship.
Murudeshwar Temple is located in Karnataka, and is built on the Kanduka Hill which is surrounded by the Arabian Sea on all the three sides.
The entrance of the temple is called the 'gopura', and it stands at 123 feet, and visitors can also witness the breathtaking view of the Lord Shiva statue from the top of the gopura.
One the most magnificent feature of this temple is that the entire surface of this temple is covered in the most detailed carvings. At the same time, the compound of the temple has recently been modernised, except the sanctum sanctorum, which still remains in its original form.
Interestingly, the main deity of worship in the temple is the Sri Mridesa Linga, which is believed to be a part of the original Atma Linga.
The story behind this temple is quite interesting. According to storytellers, the Atma Linga or the Soul of Lord Shiva was the key to invincibility and immortality.
Once, Demon King Ravana decided upon acquiring the Soul of Lord Shiva for which he devoutly prayed. Pleased by his devotion, Lord Shiva granted him the Atma Linga, but on the condition that it must not be placed on the ground before he reaches back to his home, Lanka. However, Lord Ganesh and Lord Vishnu tricked him into putting the Atma Linga on the ground, post which it got attached and became immovable. Seeing this, Demon King Ravana became angry and tried to destroy the Atma Linga, but the force of his attack only managed to scatter the Atma Linga to different places, which gave rise to many a sacred spot throughout the country, one of them being Murudeshwar.
So, if you're planning to getaway this winter season, then you must choose this place as there is no difficulty in reaching here, too. Easiest way to reach the Murudeshwar Temple is by air, and the nearest airport is Mangalore International Airport.
It must be noted that strict dress code is followed, and so men visitors are required to wear only dhotis, and women visitors are required to wear only saree or churidaar with dupatta.
The Khajuraho Temples are located in the Chattarpur district of Madhya Pradesh, India. These temples are associated with two religions, namely, Hinduism and Jainism. Interestingly, this site has been well recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), and was given the title of “World Heritage Site" by the organisation.
It is believed that these temples were built between 885 AD and 1050 AD by the Chandela Dynasty.Now, who were the Chandelas? An interesting story is on its way for you. Once there was a woman, named Hemvati, who was very beautiful and gorgeous, hailed from modern day Varanasi. It is believed that Hemvati was the daughter of a priest.One day, while she was bathing in the nearby village pond, Lord Chandra, the God of the Moon, became enchanted by her beauty, and decided to spend the night with her in human form. Following this event, Hemvati became pregnant in the morning.
So, she asked Lord Chandra as to what she should do now, as she will not be accepted by her family and village. To this, Lord Chandra replied that she will find refuge along the banks of the Karnavati river, and her upcoming child will go on to become a great king. As expected, Hemvati was rejected by her family and was thrown out of the village for her unexpected pregnancy. But, she followed the advice of Lord Chandra, and took refuge near the Karnavati river. Soon, Hemvati's son was born, and out of respect for Lord Chandra, she named him, Chandravarman.
As it was said by Lord Chandra that Hemvati's child would become a great king, the prophecy was becoming true with passing days. Chandravarman became a successful king by defeating many kings and their kingdoms. But still, there was a blemish on the king's face because he did not had a father.
So one day, Chandravarman ordered a cabinet of Bramhins to help him solve this problem. Surprisingly, majority of Brahmins suggested that he should make 84 statues depicting sexual acts around his place of birth, which was near the Karnavati, in order to normalise the act of “illegitimate sex", which means getting indulged in the act of sexual intimacy without being married.
Hence, Khajuraho Temples are famous because they depict how “illegitimate sex", “polygamy" “polyandry", and even “homosexuality", are all normal phenomena, and it is completely fine.
Keywords: Khajuraho Temples, India, UNESCO, Sexual Intimacy, History, Chandela Dynasty.