Sri Garuda, Part 6

BY: SUN STAFF - 6.9 2021

Sri Garuda
Pashupatinath Ghats, Kathmandu

A serial exploration of Sri Garuda, the transcendental carrier of Lord Visnu.

Kathmandu Garuda

In previous segments, we looked at the history of Sri Garuda's presence in Nepal, and at a number of the beautiful murtis found in Patan and Bhaktapur. Today we complete the Nepal Garuda tour with a visit to the City of Kathmandu.

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal, and its largest metropolitan city. Situated in Kathmandu Valley along with Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, Kathmandu is home to some 700,000 souls. The city stands at an elevation of about 4,600 feet above sea level - a height that is dwarfed by the distant rise of the Himalayas.

Overview of Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu

Like neighboring Patan, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur, 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 another of the holy sites included on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list, along with the Patan complex.

Sri Garuda, Pashupatinath

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.

Not surprisingly, where Visnu and his devotees are found, the Lord's transcendental vahana, Garuda, is also nearby. The Kathmandu Garuda murti's featured here are among the most beautiful. And below, another famous vahana murti of Kathmandu - Sri Ganesh's devoted Mooshika.

Mooshika Vahana