Beware Maoist! This is not Secularism

via published on January 5, 2009

Pashupatinath: Tradition under attack

Author: Rakesh Upadhyay

Only those who see the imbroglio over the replacing of head priests at Pashupatinath from the viewpoint of Nepal’s Maoist PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachand will have no problems with the order to replace traditional Indian priests with those from Nepal.

Prachand, who is now spearheading the move towards secularism and democracy by abolishing the monarchy in the only remaining Hindu kingdom, is the guide and philosopher of the Young Communist League, a frontal organisation of ruling Maoist party’s Peoples War’s Veterans.

The Young Communist League (YCL) is the organization that led the movement to replace Indian priests by force from the temple premises, in clear violation of the stay order of Nepal’s Supreme Court, which was passed on the 1st of January 2009. The Supreme Court had restrained the government by passing a stay order against government’s decision. Now the agitation is spreading across Nepal and the 108 Bhandaris, the Nepalese priests who help the Rawal-the chief priests belonging to south India at the Pashupatinath temple, have boycotted work as a mark of protest against the Maoists intervention.

Nepal’s secular community and top leaders are also unhappy with the government’s step. In this regard the attitude of the Nepalese President has become very important. He is also unhappy with the decision. In a meeting with a delegation of Nepalese leaders on Friday, President Ram Baran Yadav expressed his annoyance and said that Maoists intervention is inappropriate in this religious and age-old tradition.

There is another aspect to this controversy, related to Indo-Nepal relations. Though India and Nepal are two separate entities on the world map, they are a part of the same religion and culture. Both are part of Sanatan Dharm or Vedic tradition. People of both nations share the same faith, customs, rituals and traditions.

They also follow the traditions of the same gurus. The tradition of Guru Gorakh Nath and Adi Shankar is well known in both countries. The impact of Guru Gorakh Nath, who spent most of life in Nepal, is clearly visible there till today. As a mark of respect to the people’s faith, the kings of Nepal used to pay his obeisance to the Guru Gorakhnath temple of Gorakhpur till the Maoist regime took over. The maoist government has not only neglected Gorakhnath, it has now launched an assault on Adi Shankar and Pashupatinath too.

The head priest of Pashupatinath has always been from a family of brahmins of south Indian origin. The tradition of these priests was established by Adi Shankaracharya himself in the 6th century. Shankaracharya also started the tradition of head priests of Badrinath temple, who too are south Indian brahmins of the Namboodiri sect. He gave very clear instructions that Vedic rituals should be maintained in their true essence so the selection of a head priest still goes through a difficult process. To provide the priests with the proper training in different school of the Vedas, he started various guru traditions like teerth, giri, saraswati and many others. He also divided their respective Vedas, regime, duties and work.

Maoist has attacked this system to appointing priests in violation of the tradition established by Shankaracharya. Is this secularism or anti Hinduism? The message that the Maoist seem to be sending out is very clear; they will not tolerate any tradition which goes against their establishment. To fulfill their intention they want to take the help of the Nepalese people’s anti Indian emotions; which is the result of the Indian government’s wrong policies vis-à-vis Nepal.

Hundreds of priests at Pashupatinath are of Nepalese origin except two or three heads – Rawals – who are of south Indian origin. But this tradition is not acceptable to Maoists. Maoist can take lessons from Varanasi where many of the priests in various temple are of Nepalese origin.

Maoist should understand very clearly that they actions will be inimical to good relations with the India.

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