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Nestled in the cradle of the highest mountains on earth, it is not surprising that Nepal has come to be known as the country where deities mingle with the mortals. Here are the Himalayas, the “Abode of the Gods”. Here too is the Mount Everest, the world’s greatest peak, known as Sagarmatha, the Brow of the Oceans by the Nepalese. Sherpa artists picture the peak as the god Chomolungma riding a snow lion through clouds of many hues.

Ancient sages sought the highest climes for meditative seclusion, amongst gods who bestowed love or sudden anger on a worshipful people. Here are Gauri Shankar, home of Shiva and his consort, Parvati; Ganesh Himal named for their son, the elephant-headed god, Ganesh; and Annapurna, the goddess of plenty. The devotion of ages past remains among Nepalese today: whether Hindu, Buddhist or animist, the people of Nepal live close to their gods.

Saints, like the immortal Guru Padma Shambhra, walked the length of the Himalayas to Tibet from distant Swat in today’s northern most Pakistan. The guru spread the teachings of Tantric Buddhism as he journeyed, an example of how one man, let alone a migrating people, could influence the lands he visited. Another was the sadhu Ne Muni, who may have given his name to Nepal.


No fewer than thirty six languages and dialects are spoken in Nepal. Similar diversity is observed in rites and religions, with wide variations between one ethnic group and its immediate neighbor. The prevailing pattern is of Hinduism in the south and Buddhism in the north; but animist and shamanistic practices, known as jhankrism, has survived in a highly integrated form.

Both major religions coexist in most of the country. It is only in the heart of the land, in the Kathmandu valley, that they merge, so that Hindu and Buddhist share the same festivals and the same places of worship. This unique blend of religions has created a homogenous and sophisticated culture and civilization.

Nepal’s religions actually had their origins with the first Aryan invaders, who settled in the north of India about 1700 BC. They recorded the Vedas, a collection of over 1,000 hymns defining a polytheistic religion. Different sects have developed a particular affinity with one or the other deity – especially with Brahma “the creator,” Vishnu “the preserver,” and Shiva “the destroyer.”

Most Nepali Hindus regard Brahma’s role as being essentially completed. Having created the world, he can now sit back astride his swan and keep out of everyday affairs. Both Vishnu and Shiva are very important in Nepal, however. But for all the devotion paid to Vishnu and his avatars, it is Shiva who gets the most attention in Nepal. Those who worship Shiva do so not out of love of destruction, but because man must respect the fact that all things eventually come to an end, and from that end will come a new beginning.

Like Vishnu, Shiva takes different forms. He is Pashupati, who guides all species in their development and serves benevolently as the tutelary god of Nepal. He is Mahadev, lord of knowledge and procreation, symbolized by the lingam. And he is the terrifying Tantric Bhairav, depicted with huge teeth and a necklace of skulls. Intent on destroying everything he sees – including ignorance.

Shiva is a composite god. He is both Destroyer and Creator, at once the end of things and the beginning of the new ones. He is also Ardha – Nareshwor, half male, half female, symbolizing Maa Shakti and God Shiva. Throughout the year, Shiva is worshipped at Pashupatinath as a lingam, or phallus. His vehicle, Nandi the bull, is regarded as an ancient symbol of fecundity. Indeed, Shiva as Pashupati displays only his sweeter side: a shepherd of animals and humans, and prime inheritor of original Vedic beliefs of fertility.

Shiva is usually represented as a light skinned man with a blue throat, five faces, four arms and three eyes. Today many of his faithful sanyasins and sadhus forever on the same trip of dust, ashes and ganja, swarm from all over India and Nepal to celebrate the festival of Shivaratri, the night he was born, at Pashupatinath in February/March. It is here, at this most sacred of all Hindu shrines, that Shiva’s dual aspects are best depicted.

The lingam at Pashupatinath depicts all the five faces of Shiva. Though it is the most sacred shrine of the Hindus, the Buddhists too worship it on Buddha Purnima, the day Buddha was born. The Shiva’s south face is known as Aghoreshwor and is worshipped by the Aghors, one of the important Shaivite sects. Guru Gorakhnath, belonging to one path of the Aghors, is said to have blessed King Prithvi Narayan Shah, whose dynasty ruled Nepal for nearly 250 years.


Shree Parameshwari Sewa Kendra
Sudharma Ashram
Dhaksi, Ward No 8,
Matatirtha, Kathmandu, Nepal.

Shree Ma-Guru Nari Samooh
Aghor kuti, Bishnu Dwar Shivapuri,
Kathmandu, Nepal.
General Post box-8633,

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