I had paid a taxi driver a flat fee to take me to the temples of Kathmandu, but he didn’t speak much English. So I knew nothing of what I was about to experience at the sacred Pashupatinath Temple.
Smoke rose ominously from the funeral pyres next to the Bagmati river. I watched as a body was placed on one of the pyres to burn. I could feel death all around me, but not just feel it. Ashes touched my skin, the smell of decay mixed with burning spices entered my nose, and I will never forget the cries of those who mourned for the demise of those they loved.
But, these weren’t just cries. This was bitter wailing. I have never heard such howling at a funeral like I did that day at the Pashupatinath Temple. I wonder what would happen in our world if more people truly grieved like this while their friends and family were there to support them.
Something in me ached with these people who were grieving. And, yes, something else in me saw everything as profoundly beautiful. The way these people were so freely able to release their pain. The way the cow slowly meandered along the bank of the river, showing that life continues to go on in its ebb and flow.
I caught the glance of a man watching the funeral proceedings from a window, and saw a lifetime of stories in his eyes. I saw wisdom, and I saw something else. I saw hope. I knew that for the people here, this wasn’t only the end of their loved ones, but only the beginning of something new.
Curious monkeys wandered around hoping for a scrap of food, not giving a thought to their own mortality.
Sadhus, yogis who have left behind all material attachments, also wandered the area. This was one of the times I wish I had spoken their language, as I would have loved to hear their stories.
I later learned that the Pashupatinath Temple is believed to make wishes come true. And, just like the smell of spices mixed with loss had entered my nose, isn’t that what our very wishes bring us?
For, along with the hope that our dreams come true, we all know deep inside eventually all that we create must come to an end. This impermanence is knowledge that is burned into our very cells and the very reason we must release everything that we have once loved. I think it is this knowledge that makes us remember to feel into each moment a little more, to look a little deeper into someone else’s eyes, and to offer comfort to someone else’s trembling heart.
The Pashupatinath Temple was left untouched by the April 2015 Nepal Earthquake. There is a 1000 rupee ($10 USD) admission charge, and it is located 5 km from the Kathmandu airport. Keep your distance from the monkeys, as they are aggressive, and they do bite. You can also hire a guide, which I do recommend, as they will tell you the interesting history of The Pashupatinath Temple. Just make sure to negotiate the price before the tour.
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Beautiful. It’s good to know that the Pashupatinath Temple was unaffected by the earthquake that devastated so many communities. And good tip about the monkeys.
Wow! What an experience. Definitely will visit when I finally make it to Nepal.
Yes, it was definitely incredible!
We were there a couple a days ago. There is significant earthquake damage up towards the back of the complex, little down on the burning Ghats. It was our 2nd visit, 15 years apart. This place has stood still in time. But that smell of burning fat and skin…ugg. Even with masks.The lepers with bloody bandaged stumps were a little bit much for my boys, but the funeral and cremation process they found fascinating. It’s far more visible here than in Varanassi.