Worship at Pashupatinath faltered for just 3-4 days

Worship at Pashupatinath faltered for just 3-4 days

The temblor that shook Nepal late last month temporarily upset the traditional worship schedule at the revered Pashupatinath Temple.

Devotees, too, have turned to a trickle at this 17th-century temple dedicated to Lord Pashupatinath, where only Dravidian Brahmins from Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh are eligible to enter the sanctum sanctorum and perform “puja”.

Forty-eight-year-old Ganesh Bhatta, who hails from Udupi, is the head priest at the temple. He is assisted by three others—Ram Karanth from Mangaluru, Girish Bhatta from Sirsi and Narayana Bhatta from Bhatkal.

Temple sources said the earthquake had disrupted the puja schedule at the temple for three-four days. “The puja was performed early for three-four days,” said a source.
The four priests perform the morning rituals at 8:30 am, followed by another puja at 2 pm and final puja followed by an “aarti” at 6:30 pm.

Mondays, Saturdays and Sundays see the maximum number of devotees thronging the pagoda-style temple on the banks of the Bagmati river.

“On Mondays and weekends, the numbers touch anywhere between four and five thousand. But, since the quake, not even a thousand devotees have come on a single day,” said an official of the temple that dates back to 1696.

Ganesh Bhatta, appointed head priest last July, was away in Biratnagar to inaugurate the Durga Bhagwati temple when the earth shook. He had sought permission from the temple management to attend the ceremony at the town 300 km from here, near the Indo-Nepal border.

Since flights were grounded after the earthquake, Bhatta travelled the 300-km distance by road to return to the temple in the early hours of Sunday.

The main temple, with a two-storey gilded roof and richly decorated wooden sculptures, survived the 7.9-magnitude temblor. Some minor temples within the complex have, however, been damaged.

The earliest evidence of the temple’s existence dates back to 400 AD. The current main temple was built at the end of the 17th century to replace the previous one, destroyed by termites.

The tradition of having Dravidian priests at the temple was set by Adi Shankara. The temple has records of chief priests for the last 650 years.

Ganesh Bhatta, who studied his scriptures at the Shringeri Mutt in Chikkamagaluru in Karnataka, is the 15th head priest of the Pashupatinath Temple.

Bhatta, who has taught Hindu scriptures in the Netherlands, was appointed a priest in 1998. Earlier, the head priest was appointed for life. Only recently has a retirement age of 65 years for priests been fixed by the temple authorities.

Bhatta’s predecessor was Mahabaleshwara Bairy from Belve, Kundapur, who resigned from the post last year and returned to Bengaluru.

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