I recently visited the ancient Pashupatinath temple in Nepal. Pashupatinath is a significant place for Tantra worship.
Earth, water, fire, ether and space represent the five elements of the universe. The Shiva linga in Pashupatinath represents all the five elements. The masculine part of the stone is its phallic shape and the feminine is the egg shape thus representing both the manifestations.
The Shiva linga in Pashupatinath is of the pre Vedic period and self-manifested. It is mentioned in Yajur Veda and Atharva Veda. The five faces of the linga represent the number of life faces. It also represents the cycle of creation and destruction.
The east face is Tatpurusha, which represent the consciousness inherent in souls. The side facing west is Saddhyojata that represents creation. It also symbolises happiness, sadness, anger and curse. The side facing north is vamadeva that represents preservation and provides healing physical and mental healing. The side facing south is Aghora that represents dissolution and depicts peacefulness and also a quality of assuming a ferocious form.
All the qualities are inherent in human beings and these four faces represent most of the qualities that humans can understand and comprehend.
The fifth face is Ishana the one on the top. This represents the space and transcending the qualities that represent all the other faces and merging with universal consciousness. This is expected to be the ultimate goal of humans to merge with universal consciousness and to be freed from the clutches of the cosmic law.
The priests who perform the religious rites are south Indian and chosen by Sringeri Shankaracharya math from a pool of experts who are knowledgeable on Rig Veda and Shiva Agama. They are subsequently initiated in Pashupata Yoga and sent to Kathmandu for performing the daily worship. This tradition is believed to have been started by Adi Shankara. The unique feature of this temple is that only the four selected priests are allowed to touch the deity.
After spending time in the inspiring and astounding temple complex, I made my way outside the Pashupatinath temple towards the cremation ghats situated just outside the temple complex. I sat on the steps on one side of the river watching the procession of dead bodies in the opposite bank. The atmosphere is serene and the place is peaceful. The funeral pyre seemed to represent Aghora the peaceful face and the bright fire consuming the bodies as the golden ornaments of Pashupatinath.