5 Shiva Temples to Visit in Kathmandu during Shivaratri
January 26, 2024
Come February/March every year the exhilarating energy of Shivaratri consumes Kathmandu. The auspicious night brings fervent devotion across the land bringing together thousands of Hindu devotees. Witness crowds swarming the iconic Shiva temples in Kathmandu like Pashupatinath, where holy fires burn, sweets are exchanged, and celebrations carry on till dawn. From colorful fairs to cannabis-infused sweets and holymen in saffron clothing Kathmandu immerses in the festive spirit honoring Shiva’s cosmic dance and energy. In this article, we give you a list of 5 Shiva temples to experience firsthand the profound mystical festival of Shivaratri.
When is Shivaratri in 2024: 8 March, Friday
The Myth Behind Shivaratri
Shivaratri or Mahashivaratri directly translates to “The Great Night of Shiva” and is usually a night-long celebration. There are many myths behind the celebration and depending on the location and ethnic groups the story changes. According to one mythology, Shivaratri commemorates the wedding night of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. It is said that on this auspicious night, Lord Shiva performed the Tandava Nritya, the cosmic dance that signifies eternal energy and creation.
Another legend states this was the night when Lord Shiva drank the “Kalakooda” poison that emerged from Samundra Manthan, the churning of the ocean. He held the poison in his throat which turned it blue, earning him the name Neelakantha. Had he not drunk the poison, it would have destroyed the world. Shivaratri thus also marks the saving of the world from destruction.
Another popular legend of Shivaratri involves a hunter. Lost in the forest on a moonless night, he climbed a bael (stone apple) tree to protect himself. Unintentionally, he kept watch over a Shiva lingam underneath the tree by staying awake all night, starving, and unknowingly offering bael leaves and water to the lingam. This fast and vigil pleased Lord Shiva who blessed him. It is thus believed that worshiping Shiva throughout the night, without falling asleep and keeping a fast during Shivaratri pleases the Lord. Devotees can achieve moksha or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth on this night which makes it an extremely auspicious one in Hinduism.
5 Shiva Temples in Kathmandu to Visit During Shivaratri
- Pashupatinath Temple
The holy Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal dedicated to Lord Shiva. This iconic temple complex on the banks of the Bagmati River sees hundreds of thousands of devotees flocking especially during the festival of Mahashivaratri.
On this day, the temple complex is the focal point of grand celebrations and religious fervor starting from dawn and lasting throughout the night. Devotees line up with offerings of ghee, milk, bael leaves, and honey for the main Shiva lingam, the temple reverberates with the chanting of hymns and mantras, and holymen draped in saffron robes covered in ashes and high on cannabis (Shiva’s favorite) line up the steps. The energy and passion surrounding Mahashivaratri make it the most sought after place to experience this significant festival.
- Bhaleshwor Mahadev
Located on the hilltop of Chandragiri, the Bhaleshwor Mahadev Temple is the spot where Goddess Sati’s forehead (bhala) fell when her body was being carried after death by Lord Shiva. According to Hindu texts, a lingam came forth from the spot, thus turning it into Bhaleshwor Mahadev Temple. Devotees believe the Mahadev fulfills one wish of all who come to pay homage. On Mahashivaratri, Bhaleshwor becomes one of the Shiva temples where Hindu devotees throng. A special arati takes place in the evening, and prayers and offerings are made to the enshrined Swayambhu Lingam throughout the night. Devotees break their fast only the next morning once festivities conclude. It is believed Lord Shiva himself resides in the temple on this greatest night.
- Doleshwor Mahadev
The sacred Doleshwar Mahadev temple located in Sipadol, Bhaktapur is considered the head of Lord Kedarnath. Legend says that when Pandavas tried catching Lord Shiva disguised as a bull after the Mahabharata war, the bull’s head severed from its body. The body remained in Kedarnath, India while the head fell at the site of Doleshwar Mahadev. Therefore, the trip to Kedarnath is incomplete without a visit to the Doleshwor Mahadev. During Shivaratri, thousands flock to Doleshwar Mahadev for a chance to worship Lord Shiva with special offerings.
- Santaneshwor Mahadev
Perched on a peaceful hilltop in Lalitpur, Santaneshwor Mahadev Temple is one of the sacred spots where Sati’s breasts fell when Lord Shiva took her around after her death. It is known to bring blessings for childless couples. Since it is also a shrine that is mentioned in scriptures, it attracts thousands during Shivaratri celebrations. For its mythic aura and fervent festivities, Santaneshwor Mahadev is a top Shiva pilgrimage site near Kathmandu during the holy night.
- Gokarna Mahadev
The ancient Gokarneswor Mahadev temple sits along the holy Bagmati River in Gokarna, east of Kathmandu. Located in the confluence of Bagmati, Chandramati and Suryamati, this beautifully preserved temple showcases classic pagoda architecture and wood carvings. Devotees flock to the temple on special occasions such as Shivaratri to receive Lord Shiva’s blessings and bathe in the confluence.
Revel in the essence of Shiva across Kathmandu’s temples, feeling the devotion come alive on vibrant Shivaratri nights.