The many faces of Pashupati – a photo essay

by | Feb 21, 2020 | Art & Culture, Sravasti's Blog

His ‘floating hair and flashing eyes’ have always fascinated me. I went in search of Him in some known and unknown nooks and corners of Nepal, the land of the ‘Lord of animals’ – the Pashupati. Pashupati is an incarnation of Lord Shiva. He is depicted with 5 faces, symbolising the different avatars of Shiva, facing north, south, east, west and zenith.

Like the crescent moon atop His matted hair, my camera caught a slice of His omnipresent symbols and faces that I have tried to bring to you in the form of a photo essay.

Snow-capped mountains

Himalayas from Chandragiri Hill. The entire range from the Annapurna to the Everest can be viewed from here

In the lap of the mighty Himalayas, the abode of snow. Lord Shiva is said to reside on Mount Kailasha, with his consort Parvati. 

wooden panel image of Nataraj

A wooden panel on a door

The images of Nataraj, depicting his dance of creation, preservation and dissolution has a mesmerizing effect on the beholder.

Shiva's trishul and snake

Truck art on highway from Mugling to Kathmandu

The trishul or trident of Pashupatinath represents various trinities, like creation, preservation and destruction. The snake Vasuki, that Shiva has around his neck, is the King of Serpents and was used in the churning of the ocean. Many of the trucks on the highways of Nepal have artwork representing Shiva and his emblems.

Trishul in temple

Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple on the Chandragiri Hill, 16 km from Kathmandu

Shiva had performed the cosmic Tandava dance with his trishul and damaru or two-headed drum. The trishul, with the damaru, is the most powerful weapon of the universe and is known to have spiritual sounds. Legend says that the Sanskrit language was recognized by the drumbeats of the damaru. The Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple is believed to have been erected where Sati’s forehead (‘Bhala’) had fallen.

stone shiva lingams

Shivalingas forming a balustrade within the premises of the ancient Pashupatinath Temple

The Shivalinga is the abstract omnipotent form of the lord that symbolizes the union of the male (Purush) and the female (Prakriti) powers of Nature.

Shiva lingam artefact

Near the entrance to the Pashupatinath Temple premises

Innovative depiction of the Shivalinga for commercial purposes.

art gallery pashupatinath temple

Shiva Shakti Art Gallery, the Pashupatinath Temple premises

Artistic creations with the blessings of Lord Shiva.

Shiva truck art

Shiva truck art; Highway from Mugling to Kathmandu

It is said that the chanting of Om Namah Shivaya reduces high blood pressure. Maybe these images help keep one’s blood pressure in control on journeys through potholed and polluted roads.

Shiva Parvati Shiva smoking

Shiva & Parvati; Shiva smoking; Highway from Mugling to Kathmandu

It is hard to think of Lord Shiva without his consort Parvati and weed. Truck art like this keeps one’s spirits high. Maha Shivratri is one day of the year when everyone is allowed to smoke weed in Nepal.

Shiva Parvati photo

Shiva-Parvati photo in the premises of the Chhota Pashupati Temple, Bhaisepati, Lalitpur

Shiva and Parvati in more domestic surroundings.

Tharu house with Shiva and a boy

Tharu tribal village in Sauraha, Chitwan

The Lord at the entrance of a house, blessing all those who enter.

man taking selfie in front of Shiva Temple

Selfie in front of Bhaleshwor Mahadev temple on the Chandragiri Hill

A selfie with Shiva. Even the gods have to go digital. Incidentally, the latest Nepali film in town is called ‘Selfie King’.


Sadhus gathering from all over Nepal and India for MahaShivRatri at the Pashupatinath Temple

The sadhus are not into selfies, though. Some of them will allow a camera click against payment. No posing for free.

Shiva and ganesha clay idols, with snakes

Shiva Temple at Tharu tribal village in Sauraha, Chitwan

Idols of Lord Shiva and his snakes can be found in small neighbourhood temples, all over Nepal. The two most worshipped Hindu gods in Nepal are Lord Shiva and Lord Ganesh.

Tallest statue of Shiva in Asia

Kailashnath Mahadev Temple in Sanga, Bhaktapur

Built in 2010, the tallest Shiva idol in Asia is Kailashnath Mahadev in Sanga. The idol is 108 feet high and with the pedestal it measures 142 feet.

Pashupatinath temple

Pashupatinath Temple and shrines

The UNESCO Heritage site of the ancient temple of Pashupatinath, on the banks of the river Bagmati, is more than 2000 years old. It is built in the Nepali Pagoda style of architecture. There are 559 Shiva shrines and temples in the premises.

Text & Images: Sravasti Ghosh Dastidar