02/26/2011, 00.00
NEPAL
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Hundreds of Hindu sages occupy Christian tombs in Pashupatinath

by Kalpit Parajuli
The possibility of Hindu-Christian clashes is growing. Celebrations on 1 March for Maha Shivaratri, a holy day dedicated to Shiva, are at risk. The dispute is over burials by Christians and other religions in an area near the Hindu temple of Pashupatinath.
 Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Hundreds of Hindu sages from Nepal and India are camping out in Slesmantak forest, near the Pashupatinath temple, to protest the presence of Christian tombs, despite the fact that they were authorised by the governments. With the excuse that they were cold, many sages dug up gravestones to keep warm themselves. In so doing, they destroyed tombs. Local sources said that Maha Shivaratri, a holy day dedicated to Shiva, could turn into a day of clashes between Hindus and Christians. The event is scheduled to start on 1 March and is expected to attract half a million people.

Rampuria Baba, a sage from Maharashtra (India), said, “Pashupatinath is our holy place. Why would Christians build their graves here? We should throw them out and remove all the stones.”

Pashupatinath temple is the largest Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shiva. Pilgrims from across Asia visit the site. The existing temple building dates to the 17th century and is a UNESCO heritage site.

Until 2006, the Mool Bhatt, the temple’s chief priest, was answerable only to the king of Nepal. Temple officials also kept people away the sacred grounds as well as banned cremations and burials.

With the overthrow of the monarchy and the arrival of democracy, the new, secular government allowed other religions to use the area near Slesmantak forest to bury their dead because of burial land in the capital was in short supply because of real estate speculation.

Sundar Thapa, president of the Christian advisory committee on the new constitution, has accused the government of dealing with Christian and tribal burials in a cursory manner, instigating Hindu protests. “The authorities should stop mocking us immediately and take responsibility instead for the incident caused by Hindu provocations.”

For his part, Sushil Nahata, secretary of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), said, “We have had to ban non-Hindu cremation and burials to uphold UNESCO rules.”

In response, local sources pointed out that the area is being polluted by Hindu cremation, which is causing deforestation. In addition, the Shiva festival will turn the place into on open-air latrine. Citing UNESCO is just a pretext to ban other religious confessions.
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