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Pasupatiksetra (A Historical Inventory)

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Item Code: NAN208
Author: Axel Michaels & Govinda Tandon
Publisher: Himal Books, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2017
ISBN: 9789937597357
Pages: 131 (Throughout B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch X 7.0 inch
Weight 420 gm
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Book Description
Pashupati Area Revisited-Preface to the Second Edition

Preliminary note: The present book is a revised version of the supplement to Axel Michaels’ book Die Reisen der Gotter: Der nepalische Pashupatinatha- Tempel und sein rituelles Umfeld published in 1994 (an abridged English version appeared 2008). Govinda Tandon who himself has published a two-volume publication on the Pashupati Area (1996 and 1999) supported Axel Michaels in his various fieldworks periods between 1982 and today. The maps and most photos present the spatial situation of the early 1990s. Given the recent developments and changes in the Pashupati Area in the past decades, our book is a kind of inventory of a past time. However, the basic structures and monuments remained almost the same so that the reader can still use the book to identify temples, shrines and other holy places. In order to keep the atmosphere of the Pashupati area of that time, we have refrained from actualizing text, maps and photos, but we added a few more historical pictures to the maps as well as the following few words on the renovations and alterations that took place in the past 25 years. We would like to offer our gratitude to the Pashupati Area Development Trust for the support to publish this edition.

The recent changes in the Pashupati Area have to do with a concept that goes back to the 1970s when some social activist and influential person of Nepal felt that population pressures had created a situation in the Pashupati area that threatened the authenticity, appearance and dignity of the site and its vicinity. In response to these ideas, they developed an agenda to improve the site and proposed it to His Majesty’s Government in order to protect, conserve and develop the Pashupati area as well as to declare it a cultural heritage site of national and international importance. And in fact in 1979, during the Third Conference of the World Heritage Committee in Luxor (Egypt), the Pashupati Monument Zone, along with six other sites, in Nepal was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Monument Site.

Immediately thereafter the late king Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev established the Pashupati Area Renovation and Development Committee (Shri Pashupatikshetra Sudhara tatha Vikasa Samiti) and demanded the development of a Master Plan. This plan was published by His Majesty’s Government of Nepal V.S. 2038 and edited by Ramesh Jang Thapa (1981).

According to this ten-year Master Plan it was intended to divide the Pashupati area into several different zones and to develop it into a pilgrimage place in order to attract pilgrims mainly from India and tourists from all over the world. It was also planned to preserve the place as a kind of open-air living museum (jivita khula samgrhalaya) or living cultural heritage (jivita samskritik sampada).

For these purposes it was proposed to ban new housing in the pure area (pavitra bhumi) between the Ring Road and the Bagmati River, to remove various small curio and tea shops, to build proper pedestrian paths and to segregate motor traffic, to regulate the water flows of the Bagmati, to re-afforest the Mrigasthali Forest and to fence it in order to keep deer in it, and to establish a museum that should house and shelter various now scattered statues and historical objects. Many of these tasks have been fulfilled until today.

A few years later in 1986, king Birendra established the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), or Pashupati Kshetra Vikasa Kosha, under a ‘Special Act’ as an autonomous body with the objectives “to maintain the Pashupati Area accordingly, as Nepal has remained the only one Monarchical Hindu Kingdom, and the Pashupati Area of Lord Pashupatinath has remained as the Centre of devotion and a common pilgrimage to the Hindus”. It also states the objectives “to protect, conserve and develop the Pashupati Area in accordance with the ideal, dignity and importance of Lord Pashupatinath in a planned way; to conserve, protect and promote the objects or places of ancient, historical, religious, cultural and national importance and - the natural resources of the Pashupati Area; and to improve this sacred pilgrimage in a suitable dimension in a planned way for the convenience of all native or foreign followers of Hinduism, including tourists” (H.M.G. V.S. 2044, paras 6.1.1-6.1.4).

The Trust was presided over by the king as its patron and the queen as its first chairperson; its members were mainly members of parliament and officials from H.M.G. administration as well as social activists and the chief priest of Pashupatinath (mulabhatta).

With the onset of the decline of the absolute monarchy, the Interim Government removed all members of the PADT, and a new Pashupati Kshetra Development Act was planned by the parliament. According to a previously published Master Plan (PADT 2003: 16-20), the Pashupati Area as declared by the PADT Act was then divided into three zones: a Core Area with the Pashupati Temple complex and the Guhyeshvari Temple, a Consonant Area that encircles the Core Area and reaches from the Ring Road to the Bagmati River and the Mrigasthali Forest, and a Continuum Area that extends from the eastern parts of Deopatan to the Tribhuvan International Airport.

The Master Plan proposed the following major works: conservation and restoration of various temples and shrines; drainage and sewerage works in order to clean the water of the Bagmati; acquisition of land in the Core Area and parts of the Consonant Area; demolishing more than 119 houses in the Core Area in order to “clean” this area from “unauthorised encroachment, haphazard and illegal constructions, and uncontrolled commercial activities” (PADT 2003: 16); development of gardens and parks, including a fenced deer park in the Mrigasthali Forest; improvement of road networks, pavements, cleaning of the streets, and construction of bus parks and other parking areas; construction of an electric crematorium with a parking deck next to it; construction of basic housing infrastructure in the Continuum Area to relocate some people who have been removed from the Core Area; construction of an open-air amphitheatre, a conference centre, a research centre with a library, a museum and a ‘Ved Vidyashram’; establishment of a museum in the Mahasthanaghar; and the construction of gardens, viewing towers, a tourist information centre and other amenities for tourists (souvenir shops, toilets, cafeterias, etc.), a ceremonial path, an old people’s home, etc.

Along with these activities, a website of the PADT and the Pashupatinatha Temple was introduced, which was inaugurated by Queen Komal Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah. This website (www.shripashuparinath.org.np) more or less presented the religious landscape of the Pashupati Area as a place of pilgrimage for Hindu tourists and offered various online pujas and links to ‘religious’ organisation. It tried to transmute the Pashupati Area into an aesthetic Hindu heritage site.

After the actions undertaken by the PADT in the west of the Pashupatinatha, i.e. the Nasarvah, Bhakuntvah and Laganlachitvah, the Nasatvah is now being almost completely open up and transformed into a garden and open space. Previous quarters (tvah), traditionally equipped with a courtyard and a chowk, have now become a core area. Consequently, those who had been removed sometimes complained that they could not regularly participate in their festivals of Deopatan any more or that it became difficult to gather the ritual specialists required for the performance of the processions. However, the festivals of Deopatan continue to be performed in their traditional forms.

The protest in Deopatan further culminated in a signature campaign and a peace rally against the Trust’s decision as well as in court cases submitted to the Supreme Court by three parties from Deopatan: (a) Umesh Kumar Kuikel, a member of the Lawyers’ Forum for Civil Liberties; (b) thirteen residents from Deopatan from different castes (mostly Newars), among them the main Karmacarya priest Mrityunjaya Karmacharya and Madan Bhatta; and (c) the late Yogi Naraharinatha, an influential scholar and historian, whose grave (samadhi) is now in the vicinity of the Gorakhnatha Temple in the Mrigasthali Forest. The case, registered under nos. 3545 (Madan Bhatta) and 3551 of V.S. 2059 (Umesh Kumar Kuikel), was directed against the following institutions or persons: Kathmandu Municipality Ward No.8, the District Development Committee, Mulabhatta, the Council of Ministers, all members of the PADT, the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Aviation, the Guthi Samsthana, the Civil District Office Kathmandu, Kathmandu Metropolitan City and the Department of Archaeology, National Archives.

It was deposed by the plaintiffs that owing to the destruction of the old houses in Deopatan the various traditions (parampara), festivals (parva), and processions (jatra) would also be destroyed (nasht hunu). The measures of the PADT would therefore violate Article 88(2) of the Constitution of Nepal, 2047 (1990/91). After the case was submitted, the court gave fifteen days’ time to the accused offices and persons to react and to express their point of view. All but one of the institutions that had replied within that period rejected the accusations, claiming that the plaintiffs and the people of Deopatan who had been affected had been given sufficient notice and received compensation. They also argued that all their actions had been based on the PADT Act and its Master Plan, which had been duly approved by H.M.G. Nepal, so that they could not be illegal. The only exception was the Kathmandu Municipality Ward No.8, which agreed with the arguments of the plaintiffs. The Guthi Samsthana even argued that the inhabitants whose houses were dismantled were not the original inhabitants (adivasis) of the area, bur people who had illegally occupied the land. The Department of Archaeology argued that they had not been involved in the decisions of the PADT, and could not therefore be accused.

The judges of the Supreme Court, Mina Bahadur Rayamajhi and Paramananda ]ha, accepted the arguments of the accused and rejected the case on the grounds that all actions undertaken by the PADT were in accordance with the Master Plan, sufficient compensation had been granted and the government had the right to take land when this was in the public interest provided that compensation was granted. This judgment was issued on Wednesday jyeshtha 4, V.S. 2062 (May 2005).

Since 2006, the Prime Minister is the patron of the PADT and its chairman is the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. The Pashupati Area Development Trust Act was amended several times bur still lists the following objectives:

To maintain the Pashupati area as such as the Pashupati area of the Lord Pashupatinath has remained as a centre of reverence and a holy place for Hindu pilgrims since time immemorial;

To safeguard, maintain and develop the Pashupati area in a planned manner, in conformity with the ideals, glory and importance of the Lord Pashupatinath;

To maintain, protect and promote objects or sites of ancient, historical, religious, cultural and national importance, movable and immovable assets of the Lord Pashupatinath and natural heritages in the Pashupati area;

To make arrangements for the performance of cultural feasts and festivals, and social and benevolent activities and worships in accordance with traditional religious rites and rituals in temples of all Gods and Goddesses, including the Lord Pashupatinath temple, under the State trust (Rajguthi), in the Pashupati area;

To make improvements in this holy site of pilgrimage as practicable in a planned manner and develop it as a site of international pilgrimage for the convenience of all Hindu devotees within and outside the country and of tourists, as well;

To perform other functions in a well planned way in consonance with the objectives of this Act. (Nepal Law Commission, Pashupati Area Development Trust Act, 2044 (1987) as amended V.S. 2066, 6.1.1-5)

Though the Master Plan might not always contribute to preserve the architectural and cultural heritage of the Pashupati Area as documented in this book and instigated by Pashupati Area Development Trust Act 2044, the PADT is now on its way to moderate the process of modernising and preserving the tradition of this unique site.


This book is by way of being an introduction to Deopatan and the Pasupatiksetra, “Pasupati’s domain” or the holy field surrounding the temple of Pasupatinatha. To a certain extent it summarizes the results of our own separate books on the topic, which for academic and administrative reasons had to be in German and Nepali. Given this unfortunate situation, we felt that we should make at least some of our findings accessible to an English-speaking readership. However, we did not feel that repeating all the descriptive details, exact historical dates and facts, tables, illustrations or bibliographical references presented in our previous publications would here be justified. We therefore decided to publish jointly the maps of the Pasupatiksetra for orientation purposes along with a short introduction into the ritual implications of the Pasupatiksetra, the whole addressed not only to readers familiar with the cultural situation in Nepal but also to a more general public. We have taken the liberty to use extracts from our books and articles on Deopatan published elsewhere.

All dates are given according to the Christian era; exact dates can be found in the edited documents and tables printed in our two theses. In the maps we have only given the dates when the establishment of the holy site is verified by documents or inscriptions.

The maps of this volume have been drawn to the scale 1:500 (and sometimes somewhat larger) on the basis of the “Kathmandu Metropolitan Area Map” by A.E.R.M.A.P Company, Firenze (Survey 1972-75, scale 1:2000). The “Pashupatinath Map” of that survey was published in Kathmandu Valley - The Preservation of Physical Environment and Cultural Heritage, a Protective Inventory (Vienna: Anton Schroll Verlag, 1975, vol. 2). The maps were enlarged to the scale 1:250, corrected and completed by hand without taking measurements in situ.

The cartographic field work was carried out by the architects Harald Fritzenkotter and Achim Schonmetz between October and December 1984. Settlement extensions after that period have been included in only a few cases. All maps were drawn by Harald Fritzenkotter, with those of Guhyesvari, Gorakhnath, Pancadevala and Visvarupa being based on maps by Surendra Joshi. For the map of the Pashupatinatha area we used a rough sketch by Siddhi Prasada Arjyala from 1983.

Govinda Tandon checked the place names and added a number of holy sites. However, due to technical reasons, we could consider such inclusions on only an exceptional basis. In order to facilitate comparison, place names are listed in their Sanskrit forms, wherever possible, and otherwise in Nepali or Nevari. We also added the names of donors or donees for many votive lingas dependent on whether it was established by the donor himself (mostly in the case of -bhaktesvaras) or in the name of somebody else (mostly -prakasesvara or -muktesvara). The final version of the maps and the index was jointly prepared by Axel Michaels and Govinda Tandon at Kiel University in June 1988.

Sivalaya denotes a domed linga shrine, sivalinga a linga without shrine. Those statues have been indicated as “missing« which were at their location in 1984 but could not be found when the map legends were rechecked after three years. Old processions, carried out mainly by Newars, are here called jatra, while new processions, mostly involving Bahun/Chetris, are termed yatra.


  City of gods 3
  Seats of the gods 5
  Servants of the gods 10
  Worship and rituals 12
  Administration 14
  Ascetics and sects 15
  Journey of the gods 16
  Conclusion 20
  MAPS 30
  Legend 30
I Special maps  
1 Pasupatiksetra 31
2 Topography 32
3 Caste and settlement structure 33
4 The Goddesses 34
5 Sects and Mathas 37
6 Institutions 38
II Processional routes  
1 Duducyacyajatra 39
2 Desoddharapuja 40
3 Pigamaijatra 41
4 Way of the Navadurga masks 41
5 Way of the processional litter (khah) 42
6 Vatsalajatra 43
7 First day 43
8 Second day 44
9 Third day 47
10 Upalingayatra 48
11 Kundayatra 49
12 Trisuljatra 50
13 Guhyesvarijatra 53
14 Gangamaiyatra 54
III Statues, shrines and temples  
1 Deopatan (grid) 57
2 Pasupatinatha 58
3 Vatsala, Aryaghat 60
4 Pandrasivalaya 62
5 Rama Temple 66
6 Bhasmesvaraghat 70
7 Pancadevala 70
8 Rajarajesvari 72
9 Car Sivalaya 76
10 Lower Town East (1): Nasatvah, Bhakuntvah 78
11 Bhuvanesvari 80
12 Upper Town East: Itatvah, Dathutvah, Kuchetvah 82
13 Upper Town West (1): Navalitvah 84
14 Upper Town West (2): Siphal, Tapakhel 88
15 Luhiti 90
16 Nirvanesvari 90
17 Lower Town West: Pacutvah 92
18 Lower Town East (2): Laganlachitvah 94
19 Kailasa Hill 96
20 Suryagha 98
21 Gaurighat 100
22 Gaurikunda 100
23 Guhyesvari 104
24 Gorakhnath Area 106
25 Visvarupa 108
26 Vanakali 110
IV Map of V.S. 2008 112
  Glossary 113
  Index to Maps 115

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