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2. At Pashupatinath (outside which a sign proclaims ‘Entrance for the Hindus only’) there is an atmosphere of ‘febrile confusion’. Priests, hawkers, devotees, tourists, cows, monkeys, pigeons and dogs roam through the grounds. We offer a few flowers. There are so many worshippers that some people trying to get the priest’s attention are elbowed aside by others pushing their way to the front. A princess of the Nepalese royal house appears; everyone bows and makes way. By the main gate, a party of saffron-clad Westerners struggle for permission to enter. The policeman is not convinced that they are ‘the Hindus’ (only Hindus are allowed to enter the temple). A fight breaks out between two monkeys. One chases the other, who jumps onto a shivalinga, then runs screaming around the temples and down to the river, the holy Bagmati, that flows below. A corpse is being cremated on its banks; washerwomen are at their work and children bathe. From a balcony a basket of flowers and leaves, old offerings now wilted, is dropped into the river. A small shrine half protrudes from the stone platform on the river bank. When it emerges fully, the goddess inside will escape, and the evil period of the Kaliyug will end on earth.
One of the two temples that Seth visited was Pashupatinath. The Pashupatinath Temple- dedicated to Lord Pashupati, an incarnation of Lord Shiva- is a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex located on the banks of the Bagmati River. The river is considered holy by both Hindus and Buddhists, and it is worthy to note that several Hindu temples are located on its banks. In its religious significance, it can be likened to the River Ganga in India.
In his visit to the temple, Seth notices a sign outside the temple that reads: "Entrance for the Hindus only". He also observes the crowd and the chaotic atmosphere at the temple. The clutter of "priests, hawkers, devotees, tourists, cows, monkeys, pigeons and dogs" in and around the temple gives way to an "atmosphere of febrile confusion". The phrase “febrile confusion” describes the cluttered and disarrayed scene at the temple.
Speaking about the list, namely, “priests, hawkers, devotees, tourists, cows, monkeys, pigeons and dogs", one could observe how animals were free to roam through the temple grounds. This could be because this avatar of Lord Shiva (Pasupati) is believed to be a protector of animals.
However, it is quite amusing to note how Seth included four sets of humans and non-humans in the list. Also is interesting is the order in which they were positioned.
First come the priests, as they hold one of the most prominent positions in temples. They are treated with reverence, just like the cows. Also, legend says that a cow was integral in the creation of the temple. Once, a cow was seen milking into the barren soil. Amused, the cow's caretaker dug deep at the site and discovered a Shivalinga. This soon led to the formation of the temple.
Second is the hawkers who try to attract the attention of their protentional customers, to the extent that it might seem a bit bothersome. Their presence is both amusing and bothersome, just like the monkeys. Moreover, they are at the temple every day, making them more of residents rather than visitors. Interestingly, so is the case with the monkeys: they live around the temple. Hence, due to their strong presence at the temple, they take up second place.
The third is the devotees. Both devotees and pigeons can be seen everywhere- both inside and outside of the temple. People come flocking and are hard to distinguish as there are just too many of them, same as the pigeons.
Fourth has tourists and dogs. Though they can both roam about as they wish outside the temple, entry to it is usually faced with obstacles. For instance, entry is absolutely denied to the 'tourists who are non-Hindus'. What they face is an invisible barrier. Dogs, on the other hand, might face physical barriers. Monkeys and pigeons, for instance, don't need doors to access the temple. Hence, their entry and exit are not determined by the humans. And, unlike the cows, dogs are not revered, so their presence is hardly anticipated.
Back to the lesson, Seth and his company offer a few flowers to the deity. He then describes the scene at the temple. He observes how the crowd is huge; there are so many worshippers. Those hoping to receive the priest's attention are pushed aside by those rushing to the front. Then, a princess from the Nepalese royal family appears, and everyone bows and makes way.
Speaking of the Nepalese royal family, there is none at the moment. When Seth was visiting Kathmandu, Nepal was under constitutional monarchy-where a country is ruled by a king and queen whose power is limited by a constitution. However, about two decades later, in June \(2001\), the reigning king and queen and several other members of the royal family were killed in a massacre. Less than a decade later, the monarchy was completely abolished, and Nepal became a democratic and secular country. Hence, had Seth visited Nepal a couple of decades later, he might have said things differently, such as, 'a former princess of the now-defunct Nepalese royal house appears'.
Back to the lesson, as Seth walks out, he sees a group of saffron-clad Westerners with a policeman, the former struggling for permission to enter the temple. But the police is unconvinced that they are Hindus.
As Seth walks further, he witnesses a fight between two monkeys. One of them pursues the other, who leaps upon a Shivalinga and races hysterically through the temples and down to the sacred Bagmati river below. Moving farther, he sees a body that is being cremated on the banks of the river. He could also see washerwoman washing clothes, and further down the river, children were bathing.
Seth also observes a basket of flowers and leaves were dropped into the river from a balcony. He calls it "old offerings now wilted" because the practice is almost dying.
A small shrine protrudes halfway from the riverbank's stone platform. It is believed that the shrine would eventually emerge all the way out, and when that happens, the goddess within the shrine will be freed, and the evil period of the Kaliyug will end on earth.
In Hinduism, the Kaliyug is the fourth and worst of the four world eras. Puranic scriptures state that Krishna's departure from the earth led to the beginning of the Kali Yuga. It is believed that Kali Yuga goes for a period of \(432,000\) years (i.e., \(1200\) divine years) and will supposedly end in the year \(428,899\) CE, following the prophesied arrival of Lord Krishna’s tenth and final avatar- Kalki.
Pasupathinath Temple*

Meanings of difficult words:
ProclaimTo announce something publicly or officially
FebrileExtremely active, or too excited, imaginative, or emotional
PriestA person who performs religious ceremonies and duties in temples
HawkerA person who travels about selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting
Having a dark yellow colour
CladCovered with clothes
CremateDispose of a dead person's body by burning it to ashes, typically after a funeral ceremony
WiltTo lose its presence, strength, and prominence; almost dying
ProtrudeTo have something extend above its surface
 10KaliyugThe age of darkness and misery; Kali is a demon and 'yuga' means 'era' or age'
National Council of Educational Research and Training (2006). Beehive. Kathmandu- Vikram Seth (pp.127 - 131). Published at the Publication Division by the Secretary, National Council of Educational Research and Training, Sri Aurobindo Marg, New Delhi.
*PC Pasupathinath Temple: Bijay Chaurasia, CC BY-SA 4.0