Pashupatinath or Pashupati is the incarnation of Lord Shiva that also goes by the epithet Shree Pashupatinath. The name Pashupati means 'the lord of beasts' or the 'lord of animals'. It derives from the Sanskrit words 'pashu' meaning "animals", and 'pati' meaning "the protector". Pashupati as the incarnation was one among the eight Rudras, the one who holds the place of fire. In the Rig Veda, "pashupa" was related as the protector of cattle deriving from the name Pushan. The name Pashupati also stands for a figure that has been suggested as an earlier form of Rudra and shown as sitting among animals in the Indus Civilization. One of the biggest and most important Pashupatinath temples is Shri Pashupatinath Temple in Nepal and the other in Mandsaur, Madhya Pradesh.
Origins of Pashupati
The Pashupati Temple located in Nepal is believed to have been constructed in 400 A.D. The structure of the temple was destroyed by the termites until 17th century when it was re-built. It is believed that the original temple (400 A.D.) was built on the place or site where Lord Shiva disguised as deer lost one of His antlers. While visiting the site of Bagmati River, Shiva and Parvati found the sight extremely pleasing for divine and spiritual practice. Soon they morphed into two beautiful deer in order to hide their true identity. When the gods and other celestial sages found it out, they requested Shiva and His wife to return to their celestial abode. However, Shiva protested and picked a fight with them. In the fight, He lost one of His antlers which turned out to be the first Lingam for worship. This legend was lost in due course of time until a herdsman whose cow led him to the spot of the Lingam. The cow irrigated the spot with her milk. And with the touch of that milk (Abhisheka in a sense), the Lingam appeared to the herdsman who dug it out.
Another Vedic legend is that Lord Shiva was named Pashupati by Lord Vishnu and other gods during the time of Tripura Samhar, when Shiva became the lord of all demons (pashu) and destroyed Tripura, the three cities of illusion, which were being ruled by the asuras Kamlaaksha, Taarakaaksha, and Vidyunmaali who were wreaking havoc by attacking gods and sages. It is also believed in Shiv Purana that any living being, including humans, that is in the clutches of his ego, desires and ignorance, is considered an animal (pashu) and only Pashupati can relieve liberate them.
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The different faces of Pashupati
Pashupatinath has five faces symbolizing the various avatars of Shiva - Sadyojata or Barun facing West, Vamdeva also called Uma Maheswara facing North, Tatpurusha facing East, Aghor facing South and Ishana facing Zenith. These representations stand for the five primary elements of Hinduism that is earth, water, air, light and metal. The idol of Pashupati usually has Nandi, the bull that carries Shiva seated in front with his eyes fixed on the lord. Some idols have Shiva holding a deer (Mrugadhara) and a deer below his altar.
Article Written by Neeta Singhal
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