Pashupatinath is Nepal's holiest Hindu Pilgrimage site (followed by the remote Muktinath in the Himalaya). Like Varanasi in India - although on a much smaller scale - it is a time-warp of temples, cremation ghats, ritual bathers and bearded, half-naked sadhus (religious mendicants). Dedicated to Lord Shiva (one of the Hindu trinity), the shrines and temples of Pashupatinath straddle the now-polluted Bagmati river which, like the Ganges, is considered sacred by the faithful. To die and to be cremated here is to be released from samsara (the cycle of rebirth in this world). This wooded ravine near the golf course and airport is considered to be one of the abodes of Lord Shiva who is the patron deity (in one of his more benign forms) of Nepal. Pashupati is another name for Shiva and means 'Lord of the Animals'.