KATHMANDU, Sept 23: The priests of Pashupatinath temple should be of Nepali origin, argued Ram Prasad Sapkota, chairman of National Youth Association, the youth wing of Nepal Communist Party.
The Pashupatinath Temple currently has Ganesh Bhat as the head priest (Mool Bhat) who is from Udupi, a city of Indian state Karnataka. Other four priests Ram Karanth Bhat, Girish Bhat, Narayan Bhat and Raghavendra Bhat also hail from India.
“Pashupatinath temple belongs to Nepal. Thus, the priests should be from Nepali origin,” said Sapkota during a television interview Janata Janna Chahanchan.
Following the abolishment of the monarchy, the then Maoist Center led coalition government had forced the Bhatta priests to resign in 2009 and subsequently appointed Nepal Sanskrit University Director Prof Dr. Bishnu Prasad Dahal and Sanskrit Bidhyapit lecturer Saligram Dhakal as the priests of the temple. Previously, the Kings of Nepal had been approving the appointment of high caste Hindu Bhramin scholars from India for over two and half centuries.
However, the decision to end the centuries-old monopoly of Indian Bhramins at the fifth-century temple erupted a widespread controversy across Nepal and in India.
After the appointment was challenged by the Bhandaris (caretakers of the temple) in the Supreme Court accusing the government of breaking the long-practiced tradition while appointing the priests, the SC had stayed the appointment.
Eventually, the government had to bow down to the public outrage and days-long protest and reinstated Bhattas.
“Unfortunately, the public and even the media are at odds. Isn’t it you (media) and the people who stopped us from changing priests. Didn’t the people and the media accuse Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ of trying to seize the rule?” he fumed.
“The whole system is at fault.”
“We have been lobbying for the appointment of Nepali priests at the temple for years now. We still demand it,” he added.
He also said that the monarchy will not be reinstated in the country.
When asked if former King Gyanendra Shah will be restored as the king, he said, “Who is Gyanendra Shah? I don’t know King Gyanendra. I only know an ordinary Gyandendra.”
“The revival of the monarchy is beyond imagination.”
He also expressed confidence that Dahal will become prime minister of Nepal after K P Oli.
“It was agreed that Prachanda will be prime minister after chair Oli. Therefore, Prachanda will be the next PM.”