New Year in Nepal is off to a bumpy start. Adding to the energy crisis, the country is now entangled in a row involving one of Hinduism’s holiest shrines -Pashupatinath.
At the heart of the dispute is the debate over whether the tradition of Indian priests conducting rituals at the main temple should continue or should Nepalese priests take over.
Pashupatinath Temple. By Flickr user wonker, used under a Creative Commons license
India-Server offers a glimpse of history behind Indian priests at Pashupatinath and the role of Nepalese monarchy:
“….breaking away from a nearly 300-year-old tradition, the deity will be ceremonially worshipped by Nepali priests instead of priests brought from neighboring India. Since 1747, the kings of Nepal began engaging priests from southern India, known for its orthodoxy as well as knowledge of Hindu rituals.
Previously, the king was the patron of the temple development trust and the queen was its chief. However, after King Gyanendra failed to seize absolute power and the consequent pro-democracy movement, a new government under Maoist leadership was formed in Nepal.”
Breaking the old tradition, now Nepalese priests have been appointed. But not everyone is happy about the decision. Protests have erupted in India and Nepal over the decision.
Singapore Star offers picture of discontent spilling out in Indian capital New Delhi:
“A number of people in the national capital staged protest at the Embassy of Nepal on Sunday to protest against the removal of the Indian priests from the famous Pashupatinath temple.
Agitated protestors shouted slogans against the Nepalese Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda. An effigy of Prachanda was also burnt. Protesters accused the Nepalese Government of hurting Hindu sentiments by appointing Nepalese national as priest at the ancient temple.”
The role of the Maoist lead government in the decision to replace the Indian priests is also being scrutinized.
However, United We Blog says that the role of Maoists and the issue of priests’ nationality are being blown out of proportion:
“The Maoist led government, with the direct orders from the Prime Minister, has appointed Nepali priests replacing the Indians in the largest temple of Nepal. Some people have protested the move for different reasons and they have their own vested interests. There is no need to created hue and cry over the appointment. In fact, the removal of the Indian priests and appointment of Nepali citizens was a long due. The Indian priests were literally looting the temple with the help and encouragement from former royals. There was no accountability in the temple. We were kept dark about the donations and offerings made to the temple. All that had to be changed for the betterment of the temple.”
The case has now reached Nepal’s Supreme Court:
“….the Pashupatinath Area Development Trust that manages the shrine Sunday announced it had appointed two more junior Nepali priests to assist the newly appointed two Nepali senior priests. The appointments come on the very day the trust as well as the Prime Minister’s Office and Kiranti(Gopal Kiranti, the Maoist minister for culture and state restructuring,) received a stay order from Nepal’s Supreme Court, asking them not to appoint new priests and to allow the old ones to continue till the dispute was resolved.
Kiranti said his office would reply to the Supreme Court, defending the appointments of Nepalis in the place of the Indians, a move that broke away from a nearly 300-year-old tradition.”
Maoists are on the offensive now, making their case through the press.
“Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda has assured top Indian leaders today that the Maoist led government will honour the verdict of the country's Supreme Court and allow Indian priest to “perform their duty” at the Pashupatinath Temple.”