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Pashupati-Kshetra (The Area of Pashupati) Mali, Ajaya


Pashupati-kshetra is a roughly one square mile of demarcated area of religious significance mainly to Hindus (but also containing some sites important to Buddhists) located roughly five kilometers to the east of the historical center of Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal. Situated in the central part of this religious area is a two-tiered, three-storied pagoda-style temple of Pashupatinath, an aspect of the Hindu god Shiva. The Sanskrit-derived phrase ‘Pashupati-kshetra’ translates into ‘The Area of Pashupati’, meaning the concerned area is land belonging to the deity Shiva. The Area comprises the Pashupatinath temple; shrines dedicated to other deities built in the area; and the settlement of Deopatan, a village traditionally inhabited by Newar caste groups that perform ritual duties at the Pashupatinath temple and the surrounding shrines. The Pashupati Area is today managed by the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), a legally mandated government body that was established in 1987 CE. The Trust not only manages the day-to-day administration of the Pashupatinath temple and the Pashupati Area but also carries out development projects for improving service delivery to pilgrims and tourists. The temple of Pashupatinath is of great political importance to the Nepalese state as the deity has served as the spiritual protector to all the ruling dynasties for the past fifteen hundred years. The origin myth of the temple takes us further back into pre-historical times and the deity already features as an important spiritual personage and the temple, as a prominent landmark, on the earliest royal stone edicts from the Licchavi Period belonging to the first half of the first millennium CE. Given the enormous historical and political importance of this place, it has always been the focus of political interest, patronage and reverence. Political interest shown by the state and political players continues even after the end of monarchy in 2008 CE. In the sacred landscape of the Pashupati Area, in addition to the temple of Pashupatinath, can be found temples and shrines dedicated to the Hindu Mother Goddesses reverential to practitioners of Shaivite/Tantric traditions. In addition, many different shrines and temples dedicated to other Hindu deities and built during different historical periods form a rich and complex religious topography. Almost all of these monuments are located in the area designated by the Pashupati Area Development Trust as the Protected Monument Zone. Beyond this core zone in the northern end of the Area, a number of historically important Buddhist monasteries and chaityas can be found. All in all, there are 700 or more ‘sacred sites’, including temples, shrines, monuments, statues, etc. to be found within the Pashupati-kshetra today (Michaels and Tandon 2017).

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