By Dirgha Raj Prasai
Maoist cadres and riot police have been deployed at Nepal’s holiest Hindu temple to stop protesters getting violent at the government’s attempt to remove Indian priests. The decision has led to demonstrations by Hindu groups.
The Lord Pashupatinath temple is on the edge of Bagmati river in Kathmandu. The complex rises above the bank amid a mass of pagoda-style building. The temple moves to ancient rhythms. And one of its many traditions has been to recruit priests from far-away south India. But, for the first time, the south Indian priests have been replaced by local Nepali priests. It used to be a practice that the temple authorities would appoint the priests in conjunction with the king, and the King was always happy to maintain link with south India. The fiercely secular communists would have few qualms about dispensing with the services of the south Indian priests.
After the appointment of Nepali priests, many protesters in Pashupatinath shouted ‘Down with Maoists’, and ‘Scrap this decision’, as the two priests performed religious ceremonies. This decision must be scrapped immediately. The Maoists have appointed their own people as priests. Dozens of riot police and Maoist volunteers escorted the temple’s new Nepalese priests when they visited the holy sites around the temple complex, which dates from the third century BC. The Nepalese are worried that Pashupati complex is being used as a playground for politics. The Bhandaris, traditional temple caretakers, also protested against the decision of the Maoists.
Maoist cadres and riot police have been deployed at Nepal’s holiest Hindu temple to stop protesters getting violent at the government’s attempt to remove Indian priests. The decision led to demonstrations by Hindu groups. Nepal’s Supreme Court directed the temple authorities to clarify the controversy and not to let the newly appointed Nepali priests perform the rituals. Traditionally, the temple authorities would appoint the priests in conjunction with the king. The way Maoist government replaced the priests without fulfilling any formality has hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus.
After the formation of Maoist led-government in Nepal, the Maoist leaders are going to disturb and destroy the democratic norms and religious, cultural and traditional values of the country. Now, they are trying to take over the Pashupatinath temple. The Supreme Court has ordered the Trust to allow the three Indian priests to carry on with the rituals till its final verdict, the new priests have begun their work in violation of the order. Maoists and cadres of the Young Communist League (YCL) stormed the temple, broke the lock of southern gate, vandalised it and thrashed the Bhandaris. The daily worship was performed without following the traditional rituals. It is a blatant attack on the centuries-old tradition and it is against the Supreme Court order.
A prominent journalist Yuvraj Ghimire reported the Culture Minister Gopal Rai (Maoist central committee member) saying that the Government would not obey the Supreme Court order staying the appointment of priests.
In such a situation, King Gyanendra advised the Maoist led-government to keep the shrine out of dispute and not to tarnish the image of Nepal as a country where different religions co-existed in harmony down the ages.
Under the new rule, formulated after the installation of democracy, anybody whether Nepali or a foreign national, who is qualified and well versed with Hindu religion and is acquainted with the practices of Pashupatinath temple, can be a candidate for the post of the priest. Almost in 1343 AD during the regime of Lichchhavi, Muslim ruler Samsuddin, who hailed from Bengal, attacked Kathmandu and Pashupatinath temple. Now after 665 years, more than a hundred Maoists and cadres of YCL broke the lock of the Pashupatinath’s main shrine and took the newly appointed priest.
If Bhatta had voluntarily resigned new priests could have been appointed with the reason thereof citing the prevalent law regarding the worship and management of Pashupatinath. Since legendary period Newar Rajopadhya could also be appointed as Bhatta (priest). Rajopadhya should be traced from Bangemuda (Kathmandu) and Banepa (Kabre). In 1746 AD, Pratap Malla, the King of Kathmandu, appointed Gyanananda and Lambakarna as priests of Pashupatinath. They were tantrik (having mystic power). Till now, there are four Bhatta priests and 106 Newars as Bhandaris (store keepers and protectors). Bhandaris are chronologically important. Only those born in Devpatan, the Pashupati area, are entitled for worshiping Lord Pashupatinath.
The area of Pashupatinath imcompasses 264 hectare of land including 518 temples and monuments. We want to protect and safeguard this heritage. The Rajbhandaris must be reinstated. Maoist followed the villainous part as played by Samasuddin having a force of thirty one thousand Muslims plundering and vandalising the faith and trust of Hindus and Buddhists in Vikram Era 1400. The last Lichchhavi regime was very weak. There was a great chaos after the Muslim attack. To save the regime from such a dreadful situation Jayasthiti Malla, the Ksha King having cooperation and assistance from kings of Palpa, Kaski, Gorkha and Lamjung, attacked vigorously the Muslim army. Thirty thousand four hundred soldiers were killed and about six hundred fled away. It can be seen in Bhatapur Taleju temple. Then, Jayasthiti Malla ascended the throne of Kathmandu and reconstructed the temple and constructed the Rama temple across the Bagmati river and also established Kumbheshwar Mahadev and performed Kotihom. He also laid the strict rule regarding the entrance of Hindus and Buddhists only.
King Jyotirmalla writes in a stone lablet—‘About Pashupatinath in a 1465 Vs, Lord Pashupatinath having five mouth along with worshipable Bashuki the holy serpent.’ King Pratap Malla was famous in stone tablets. Prithvinarayan Shah the great, worshipped Lord Pashupatinath during his integration of Kingdom. It is stated in Lingua Bambshabali. Prithvinarayan Shah had got carved in Basantapur Place in 1826 Vs after victory over Kathmandu valley—‘Lord Pashupatinath and Goddess Guheshwari may bless Nepal for keeping sovereignty and stability along with Shah popular regime.’ Royal seals were also attached regarding the worship of Lord Pashupatinath by King Ranabahadur Shah, King Mahendra and King Birendra as well. Since 1979, UNESCO has kept this core area as a world heritage. It encompasses four hectare of land as a very sensitive area.
Let the Maoists-led government be away from imposing political interference over Hindus and Buddhists. The decision taken in contravention of all the rules and regulations regarding the worship be scraped immediately. This is the high time to be conscious and united on the part of Hindus, Buddhists as well as all patriotic Nepalese.