Friday, February 12, 2010

Maha Shivaratri - 2010

12 February saw half a million devotees throng Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu on the occasion of Maha Shivaratri when Lord Shiva is worshipped all over and especially at the holiest Shiva shrine in the world - Pashupatinath. All four windows of the inner sanctum were opened. Long ques wound their way through the occasional family of pilfering monkeys. Holy men from all over, in saffron and ashes, could be seen, high on prayers and "ganja", the hallucinatory weed considered a "prasad" of Lord Shiva. The President of our "secular Republic" came and payed his homage. He was followed by former King Gyanendra who was met with cries of "Raja aau, desh bachau" (Come back, King, and save the country) and practically mobbed between his car and the temple gate. For the first time, people could pay Rs.1,000 (approx. US$14) and not have to stand in the long lines of non-payers. Some folks stayed in line for about 4 hours, others less than an hour, but everyone of them came back feeling blessed. The army of volunteers kept most things moving smoothly. A light drizzle through most of the day was another auspicious sign, as prayers for Shiva always commence with bathing the shrine with water.

A few comments on the above scenario. If Nepal is officially a secular state, how can the President's visit to the shrine be termed as "a continuation of the tradition of the head of state" offering "puja" to Pashupatinath on this holiest of holy Hindu occasion? Secular Republicans, you cannot have it both ways. The President, as a Hindu, can go pray in his personal capacity but not claim any continuation of a tradition which his Party, among others, squashed under their heathen boots. The true tradition lies with the Hindu King, who may not be King just now. But his statement to the media, while being mobbed by well-wishers as he returned from the temple, says it all. He felicitated all Hindus on this auspicious day and wished them peace and prosperity. And this he did as a common citizen of Nepal, mind you.

Now this Rs.1,000 fast-line to worship. In my opinion, the rich do NOT have the right to easier access to God. Period. Many temples in India use this means to raise funds for the temples. Pashupatinath has enough funds from the Pashupatinath Trust. Here we are, speaking of the fabled "New Nepal" where equality is supposed to be a cornerstone. And with Rs.1,000, a measly amount for the rich and totally unaffordable for the poor, we are allowed quick service at the holy altar of God. Shameful!

The "ganja" smoking may be considered a "prasad" of Lord Shiva. But the 500 or so young youth buying ganja and tobacco mixed cigarettes and getting high were not using it with that in mind. Drug addiction is a major problem among Nepali youth. Allowing the sale of "ganja" openly, under the averted eyes of the police, is not "cool" by any means. As one policeman put it, "The 'sadhus' may smoke it, but no one else". Difficult to enforce that subtle distinction. Best not to have had drugs on sale. Lord Shiva could handle it; our youth cannot.

So another Shivaratri has come and gone in what was once the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal...


Deepak said...

Excellent and very pointed analysis on "evolving and percieved" secularism - as per convenience! ;-)

Author's "fixation" (or shall I call love-n-hate) with similis drawn with India in most of his articles, is apparently relentless!! But, I truely like it.

Cheers.... DG

Horatio said...

Thank you for your comment, Deepak - so infrequent and so speedy!

The reference to the paying lines in some temples in India was not meant as a critique. My point is funds for Pashupatinath do not need to be garnered by this method.

Om Namo Shivaya!

Anonymous said...

As the President of the Federal, Democratic, Secular Republic of Nepal, few more points hurray!!

Now the Prez better prepare himself to attend the Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Bahai, Sikh and Jain religious occasions with the same protocol without any discrimination or recrimination.

Two of the same kind should not be authorized to hold the P, VP, PM, Speaker and CJ appointments at the same time too.

Also while introducing inclusiveness, religion should be considered too.

Similarly a national census must be held to establish the third gender population and proportional quotas be granted them for power sharing.

We should establish a SOP to subject to the Parliamentary Accounts Committee all the cash collected through the fast channel for puja at the rate of Rs 1,000/ and also the bheti. Then why should an Indian be the Chief Bhatta in Pasupati Nath ?

Why the reform in the Security Forces alone? The Judicial and the Bureaucracy should also be subjected to necessary reforms. Inclusiveness should be strictly enforced in them too. Let the Brahmins (the initiators of inclusiveness) feel the pinch too.

Ultimately, let all understand that the creation of a potent state is directly contradictory to the establishment of autonomy within.

Lastly, the proper definition of an ethnic community must be ascertained through the law of the land. The Sherpas who migrated in the 16th Century are considered an ethnic group, while the Chettris, who migrated as far back as the
4th century are ignored. Yes, the Kirantis were here before the Chettris.

Anonymous said...

OK since the country is the abode of immigrants, pray tell when Pashupatinath came here.

Anonymous said...

Very astute point about "carrying on tradition" when the change to a secular state has been made. Typically Nepali: the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.
By the way not sure if your claim that Pashupati is the oldest Shiva temple is true. Brihadeshwar built by the Chola kings over a thousand years ago in the Tanjore area in South India could be a strong contender to that title. It is true however that Shiva's icons and lingams in general may be the oldest architectural finds regarding religious "finds".

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

some relationships are blessed by namah shivah...