President Pranab Mukherjee, on a three-day state trip to Nepal, on Thursday visited the 5th century Hindu shrine PashupatinathTemple on the bank of Bagmati river in Kathmandu and performed a special puja.
Upon his arrival at the premises of the famous temple, Mukherjee was accorded warm welcome by chief of Pashupati Area Development Trust Govinda Tandon and other members of the trust.
He was welcomed by 108 Batuk (Hindu boys) chanting swasti mantras amid musical resonance of panchai baja and thime baja (traditional musical instruments) after entering through the main eastern gate of the temple.
He performed a special puja called Rudrabhisek, which includes bathing the Shiva Linga with panchamrit -- consisting of milk, curd, honey, sugar and ghee -- and lighting one lakh cotton lamps or ‘lakh batti’ at the holy Hindu shrine.
The temple, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation heritage site, is visited by thousands of Hindus from across the world and considered one of the most sacred temples across the world.
The 400-year-old structure on the banks of Bagmati river was closed for a brief period to facilitate the visit.
He spent more than 45 minutes while performing the puja, which is performed by donating a sum of Rs 27,000 to the treasury of the temple.
While worshipping at the main temple, Mukherjee was assisted by a team of Indian priests, led by chief priest Ganesh Bhatta.
He also performed puja at Basuki Naag temple in the premises of the Pashupatinath by pouring milk, which is known as ‘Dugdhabhisek’.
Traditional drum and other instruments were played in Mukherjee’s honour as soon as he arrived at the temple premises accompanied by Indian Ambassador Ranjit Rae amid tight security.
As part of the preparations to welcome the Indian President, the temple premises were decorated with colourful flowers.
While keenly inspecting the shrine, the president also commented about the Bagmati river, according to chief of the trust Tandon.
The President said that Bagmati river was cleaner than what he saw seven years ago, when he visited there as the Indian external affairs minister, according to Tandon.
He also inquired about the damaged caused to the temple and its premises by last year’s devastating earthquakes.
Very little damage was done to the PashupatinathTemple by the earthquakes, Tandon said, adding that except a kitchen in the premises of the temple, no other structures were damaged.
The 34-hectare complex of the temple was eaten up by termites in 17th century following which the then King Bhupatindra Malla restored it. The temple complex houses the five-faced Shiva lingam, spread in over 200 acres.
Mukherjee also showed his interest in the preservation of Bagmati river and renovation of Aryaghat, the traditional crematorium site of the Hindus situated near the river bank.
In his remarks in the guest book of the temple, he wrote: ‘I am delighted to be here at the Pashupatinath temple once again. It is a place having cultural, religious and historical importance. I felt blissful after performing the special puja.’
Tandon also presented a beautiful wooden idol to Mukherjee, who arrived in Nepal on Wednesday at the invitation of President Bidya Devi Bhandari as the first Indian president to visit the country in 18 years.
IMAGE: President Pranab Mukherjee visiting Pashupatinath Temple in Kathmandu on Thursday. Photograph: @presidentofindiarb/Facebook