PASHUPATINATH (pronounced Pash-patty-nat) is where they burn the bodies in the open. But it is, of course, much more besides. Crammed up against the mouth of a ravine, 4km east of central Kathmandu and just beyond the Ring Road, it also straddles a tirtha, or sacred crossroads and is Nepal’s holiest Hindu pilgrimage site, a smoky and stirring melee of temples, statues, pilgrims and half-naked holy men.

The entire complex overflows with pilgrims from all over the subcontinent during the wild festival of Shiva Raatri (held on the full moon of Feb–March), which commemorates Shiva’s tandava dance of destruction, according to some, or his drinking of blue poison to save the gods (see “Old Blue-Throat”), according to others. Devout locals also come for special services on full moon days and on the eleventh lunar day (ekadashi) after each full and new moon.

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