A few minutes walk from the international airport in Kathmandu is Pashupatinath temple, one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites in Nepal. Every day at 6 pm on the eastern bank of the Bagmati river of Pashupatinath temple-the holiest shrines of Hindus-hundreds of people huddle together to indulge in the spiritual journey of evening aarati. Pashupatinath Evening Aarati is a religious ritual dedicated to Lord Shiva, his consort Parvati and the Bagmati river. This evening ritual advances with chanting of sacred mantras, playing of classical instruments, the cadence of prayers, and Tandav dance, scent of burning incense, and in all radiance of oil lamps.
The three priests line up facing the main temple, backed by a Bhajan-singing band (Bhajan is a devotional song with a religious theme) and a crowd of devotees. Each priest holds blazing oil lamps to move in a circular motion and offers reverence to Lord Shiva. For 2 hours, everyone-people of all ages, including tourists, immerse in this divinely act of appeasing Lord Shiva and for the good of all humanity.
You, as a devotee or attendee, have a lot to experience if you are in the Pashupatinath temple in the evening. Expect to witness something magical and mesmerizing. Ensure to be there before half an hour or so to find yourself a spot to sit and observe the ritual. Or if you are late, you can stand around the crowd and still watch the whole performance. If you are on time, you would see priests preparing for the aarati with oil lamps and other ritual paraphernalia while the band prepares Bhajan. If you’re allergic to smoke (coming from the open-air crematorium), it is advisable to wear a mask or maybe a balaclava to cover your mouth and nose.
On the western side of the bank of the river is a cremation site that reminds of the mortal world. The deep-rooted tradition to cremate at the Bagmati river is an auspicious practice, according to Hindus. Do not get overwhelmed if you see people cremated at the cremation area. While the site is engulfed with commotion and celebration at the same time, the evening ceremony and open cremation could evoke mixed emotions.
Just as you are watching the aarati, if you eye on the Bagmati river, you can see it clogged with garbage. Nonetheless, don’t mind it at all; it’s been like this forever. Also, you gotta dodge beggers who impersonate themselves as a diseased person and some begger-and-homeless kids who sit by the walking space and ask for money. My advice here: don’t give them money, even if they persist or appear obstinate.
Getting back to aarati, it’s a truly exhilarating experience. You can witness some devotees and sadhus dancing in the steps of Lord Shiva on the platform just below the priest’s ground. The Bhajan played on the speaker is mellifluous and instills tranquility in you.
If you are a photographer or a travel vlogger, you can indulge in photography or vlogging. Trust me; you can get some insane pictures with stories, and needless to say, the video will be great for your YouTube. Ahhh! I almost missed saying that you need not stay for as long as the aarati gets over; you can walk away in the middle of the rituals. However, if you stay till the end, make sure to shout “JAI” with everyone there. Someone will say “PASHUPATINATH KI,” and you will have to say “JAI.” This literally translates to Victory of Pashupatinath.