Nepal in the Mahabharata Period, Part 23

BY: SUN STAFF

Sri Garuda, Pashupatinath Temple


Mar 04, 2013 — CANADA (SUN) — The Yadava dynasty's presence in Nepal, and the events that preceded and followed.

One of the most recognizable divine personalities in Nepal who is associated with many pastimes in the Mahabharata Period is Sri Garuda, the winged vahana (carrier) of Sri Krsna/Visnu. Numerous beautiful shrines and pieces of statuary depicting Garuda are found throughout Nepal, with a concentration of them in the Kathmandu Valley.

One of the most recognizable divine personalities in Nepal who is associated with many pastimes in the Mahabharata Period is Sri Garuda, the winged vahana (carrier) of Sri Krsna/Visnu. Numerous beautiful shrines and pieces of statuary depicting Garuda are found throughout Nepal, with a concentration of them in the Kathmandu Valley.

Sri Garuda, the devata carrier of the Lord is frequently depicted with Vishnu or Laksmi-Narayana on his back, and sometimes with Sri Krsna and His consort, as in the case of the Banasura and Mura demon accounts.

The pastimes of Garuda's birth identifies him as the younger brother of Aruna, the charioteer of the sun god, Surya. Garuda's mother was held in slavery by her co-wife and sons, who were nagas , thus the lasting enmity between the eagle-like Garuda and the snakes. The nagas agreed to release his mother if he would obtain for them a drink of the elixir of immortality, the amrta. Garuda made a great effort to perform this feat and returning from the pastime, he met Lord Visnu and agreed to serve as His carrier.


Sri Garuda, Pashupati


Garuda is known by several names that describe his appearance, including Sitana (white faced); Rakta-paksha (red-winged); Swet-rohita (the white and red); Survarna-kaya (golden-bodied) and Taraswin (the swift). In many sculptures and paintings Garuda is depicted as having the head, wings, talons and beak of an eagle, and the body and limbs of a man. His body is golden, his wings red, but his face is white. His wife is Unnati or Vinayaka and Sampati is his son.

Pictured above is one of the most beautiful forms of Sri Garuda in Patan, Nepal, where Garuda has long been an intrinsic part of the local culture. Like neighboring Kathmandu is home to many beautiful murtis of Sri Garuda, done in both Buddhist and Vaisnava style. Some of the most well known are those in the area around the Pashupatinath Temple, a large complex dedicated to the worship of Lord Siva.

Situated on the banks of the Bagmati River in the eastern part of Kathmandu, Pashupatinath Temple is one of holy sites included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list, along with the Patan complex.


Sri Garuda, Pashupatinath Temple


Pashupatinath is the oldest Vaisnava temple in Kathmandu. According to Nepali sastra, Mahatmaya and Himvatkhanda, one day Lord Shiva grew tired of his palatial home atop Mt. Kailash, and went searching for a new domain. Upon finding the Kathmandu Valley, and secretly left Mt. Kailash and came here to live. Thus, Siva became famous in Pashupati as the Lord of the Animals.

When the other demigods came to retrieve him, and gain his return to Mt. Kailash, Siva disguised himself as a deer and refused to assist the demigods when they came asking for his help. Eventually Vishnu grabbed him by his horns, which shattered into pieces, and these were used by the Lord to form a lingam on the banks of the Bagmati River.

This temple site was eventually lost and to time and forgetfulness, until a mother cow sprinkled her milk over the mound, alerting the cowherds to dig. Doing so, they uncovered the lost linga and temple relics.

Only Hindus are permitted to enter the Pashupatinath Temple, in which a class of brahmins act as servitors, having come from South India during the reign of the Malla king, Yaksha Malla. The tradition of service here is said to have been established by the request of Adi Shankaracharya.

One of the unique aspects of temple rituals is that only four priests are permitted to touch the presiding Deity, which is made of black stone, standing 6 feet in height and circumference. The temple itself is of pagoda style, with gold-covered copper roofs. The four main doors are covered in silver sheeting, and a golden Nandi stands at the western door.



At the Patan Museum, you will find the throne of the Patan king circa 1666, who ruled up until the Kathmandu Valley was overtaken by the Shah dynasty. The gold gilded throne is flanked by two pairs of gilt copper trees, above which is fixed Sri Garuda. The Kings of Nepal at the time not only wished for Garuda's blessings, but wished the people to believe them the actual incarnation of Lord Visnu's vahaha. Thus, Gaurda is typically associated with the thrones of the kings.

Pictured here is the Patan king's throne, which bears a humorous inscription saying that the throne can be rented for just two rupees. Situated above Garuda's head is an extraordinary mountain of the entwined bodies of nagas, whose nine heads rise above Sri Garuda.


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