By Sudeshna Sarkar,IANS,
Kathmandu : He has been in the thick of political plotting, has his earnings under audit and rubs shoulders with film stars and tycoons. Now, Lord Pashupatinath, one of the most revered Hindu deities in Nepal, is cutting ribbons at social events.
The icon, whose 17th century shrine in Kathmandu hit the headlines this month after an aborted bid by the ruling Maoist party to control it, made a surprise “appearance” at a yoga programme in the capital Wednesday.
Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav, who in 2008 replaced the country’s last god-king Gyanendra as head of state, had been requested to inaugurate the programme to mark the 30th International Yoga Day Festival.
However, the head of state did not turn up, sending a message at the last minute that he had been detained due to work, the organisers said.
“When the president informed us at the last minute that he would not be able to come, we decided to make Lord Pashupatinath the chief guest in his place,” Yatiraj Bhattarai, one of the organisers, told the Naya Patrika daily.
The programme was being held close to the Pashupatinath temple and accordingly, the organisers fetched a photograph of the phallic symbol that is worshipped as the god, and put it on the chief guest’s chair on the dais.
“Who is higher than Lord Pashupatinath?” Bhattarai said. “So we decided to make him the chief guest.”
In the past, when Nepal was a Hindu kingdom, the icon was privy to all state decisions taken by the kings, who ended their messages with the wish that the god would bless the country.
The shrine, a Unesco-declared world heritage site, draws visitors from neighbour India’s megabuck film industry Bollywood. They include Bollywood stars Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan and Govinda as well as former actress and tycoon Anil Ambani’s wife Tina Ambani.
However, the presence of royalists on the temple management trust created political tension after the fall of the royal regime in 2006 when questions were raised about the earnings of the shrine.
If Wednesday’s instance becomes a trend, the revered icon will throw a stiff challenge to atheist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who loves cutting ribbons.
In his five months in office, despite a power crisis, deteriorating law and order, and industries, telecom, health and education being hard-hit, the former revolutionary has inaugurated at least six festivals, released various book launches and presided over sports activities like paragliding that are remote from the portfolios he holds.