Tem­ple for Lovers

For some rea­son, this place of wor­ship in Nepal has ac­quired a spe­cial sig­nif­i­cance for court­ing couples, much to the con­ster­na­tion of lo­cal authorities.

Southasia - - Law & culture - By Sidra Rizvi

Make a prayer, not love’ should be the new mantra for the man­age­ment of the Pashu­pati Tem­ple in Nepal , as it is forced to ban couples seek­ing the Lord’s ap­proval for their courtship in one of the old­est tem­ples in the coun­try.

The Pashu­pati­nath or Pashu­pati Tem­ple, as it is more com­monly known, is an an­cient Hindu tem­ple ded­i­cated to the Hindu god Shiva, the Lord of the An­i­mals. It is lo­cated on the banks of River Bag­mati in Deopatan near Kath­mandu.

The tem­ple at­tracts thou­sands of Hin­dus pil­grims ev­ery year, es­pe­cially from neigh­bor­ing In­dia. The shrine boasts of pagoda style ar­chi­tec­ture, roofs with gold and cop­per cov­er­ings, doors plated with sil­ver and nu­mer­ous stat­ues, all made with pre­cious stones and met­als. Pashu­pati Tem­ple is deemed as the most im­por­tant Shiva shrine in the re­gion and its im­por­tance has been ac­knowl­edged enough to win it a spot on the UNESCO World Her­itage list.

Con­sid­ered to be an ar­chi­tec­tural gem, the tem­ple is seen to rep­re­sent the cul­tural, tra­di­tional and re­li­gious back­ground of Hin­dus. Much his­tory is at­tached to this an­cient ed­i­fice. Re­cently a con­tro­versy sur­round­ing the tem­ple came to light when the ris­ing cases of corruption within the tem­ple were brought to light. In fact, tem­ple en­joys be­ing in the limelight on an oc­ca­sional ba­sis.

Ev­ery year, the tem­ple hosts the fes­ti­val of Shivara­tri held to com­mem­o­rate the trans­for­ma­tion of Lord Shiva. Devo­tees from far and wide flock to the tem­ple to par­tic­i­pate in the fes­ti­val, which is held be­tween Fe­bru­ary and March ev­ery year. Since the tem­ple is em­i­nently rec­og­nized to be the holi­est shrine of Lord Shiva, it pulls in one of the largest gath­er­ings of pil­grims at this time of the year.

The sa­cred site is strictly for­bid­den for non-Hin­dus. But for the ones hop­ing to catch a glimpse, the tem­ple’s ma­jes­tic view can be seen by all from a hill known as ‘Aryaghat’ di­rectly op­po­site the shrine.

A chink in the breath­tak­ing view is the grow­ing num­ber of couples found loung­ing on the nu­mer­ous steps lead­ing to the en­trance of the shrine. Previ- ously a holy site for the re­li­gious, it has now be­come a fa­vorite hotspot for dat­ing couples. And bless­ings from the lord are cer­tainly not on their minds.

The sa­cred­ness of the site is un­der se­ri­ous threat as more and more peo­ple vis­it­ing the shrine show com­plete dis­re­gard for moral be­hav­ior. Bla­tant smok­ing, in­ap­pro­pri­ate pub­lic dis­plays of af­fec­tion and more dis­re­spect­ful be­hav­ior harm the im­age of this world her­itage site. Tak­ing pho­to­graphs is strictly pro­hib­ited and yet peo­ple are found do­ing just that.

The sit­u­a­tion has turned so grave that the man­age­ment of the tem­ple has in­tro­duced fines to dis­cour­age couples from mak­ing the premises an easy and ac­ces­si­ble dat­ing place. The fine is also ex­tended im­posed on any­one found smok­ing or tak­ing pic­tures of the holy site.

To make sure ev­ery­one en­ter­ing the tem­ple is aware of the new rules, a team of se­cu­rity guards has been ap­pointed. If any­one is caught break­ing the law, a fine of Rs. 500 ($7) is charged.

While the task of main­tain­ing the sanc­tity of the shrine poses quite some dif­fi­culty, authorities hope that with the new laws in place, some or­der and de­cency will be re­stored at this holy place. The writer is a fre­quent trav­eler and writes with keen in­ter­est on her trav­el­ing ex­pe­ri­ences.

The stairs lay de­serted af­ter the re­cent ban on court­ing couples

by the Pashu­pati Tem­ple.

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