For most of the Nepalese, Lord Pashupatinath is the most revered deity in Nepal. Many Hindus, especially those belonging to the Shaiva cult, regard Lord Pashupatinath of the ancient Gwala city (nowadays Devpatan or Deopatan) as the chief deity of Nepal Mandala.
The ancient Gwala city has been surrounded by rivers like the Bagmati and Dhobikhola and often in distant past, these rivers used to be flooded in rainy seasons. This, however, created havoc among devotees who could not go daily to pay homage to Lord Pashupatinath. For ease, therefore, the Malla King, Mahindra Malla, established Pashupatinath temple in his palace in Kathmandu. This temple is situated in Makhan tole of Kathmandu and hence derives its name ‘Makhan Pashupati’ and ‘Sano Pashupati’. With the competition in the artistry in various cities of Nepal Mandala, the temple of Lord Pashupatinath has also been erected in Bhaktapur as Yaksheshwor Mahadev temple and in Patan and other Newar cities in various forms.
As in the original Lord Pashupatinath temple at Devpatan, the Sano Pashupati also houses a five-faced Shiva-lingum, with a basah inside the temple at east. The five heads of Shiva are called Ishan, Tatpurusa, Aghora, Vamadev and Sadjyojata.
A legend of the temple establishment goes as this. A certain Malla king used to go daily to Pashupatinath temple but once when there was a great flood he was unable to go there. He lay at the river bank to see if he could find a way. After a long wait, he slept and in his dreams came Lord Pashupatinath himself who asked the King to establish a temple dedicated to him at his palace.
The temple was established in a typical medieval architectural style — a two-storey pagoda style temple, ornate with artistic struts to support its wide roof and arty tympanums at the temple door. But only a photograph of this style of the temple remains. The photograph of this architecture has been recorded in a renowned photo-book “Images of a Century : The Changing Townscapes of the Kathmandu Valley”, a collection of heritage photographs of Kathmandu city during the 1900s.
In the modern age, the temple has seen many changes. Now the temple area has marble on its plinths, floors and steps. At the bottom plinth, directly in front of the temple, is a squared bronze plate where offerings are made to the Lord on every full-moon day. The temple walls are also neatly marbled. However, the medieval temple has lost its glory of artistic tympanums, struts and overall structure.
A new entrance to the temple has also been erected on a platform decorated with a 4.5 feet tall gold-plated idol of Lord Shiva (with his trident) and Nandi atop. It was set up by Rajan Maharjan, Chairperson of Vishwo Yuva Hindu Mahasangh with rituals performed by Hindu-activist saint Kali Baba and local guru-purohita, Ghanshyam Rajopadhyaya. “The homework to building the temple in the medieval structure is being initiated,” says Maharjan.