Nepal bans protests around temple over priest row

Protesters called on businesses around the temple complex to close on Tuesday, demanding the government reverse the appointment quickly.

Nepal bans protests around temple over priest row
Temple authorities in Nepal banned demonstrations around one of the Hindu shrines in Kathmandu on Tuesday amid a row over the replacement of an Indian chief priest with a Nepali "holy man".

Regular prayers at the centuries-old Pashupatinath Temple have been disrupted since last week, when three new Nepali priests were chosen by the Himalayan nation's coalition government, which is led by former Maoist rebels.

More than 100 junior priests of the temple have been protesting against the appointments, saying the Maoists had ignored normal procedures in making the choice of the chief priest and two others.

Authorities say the changes were prompted by the resignation of the former chief priest, an Indian, last week.

About a dozen people were injured at the weekend in clashes between the protesters and Maoist supporters outside the temple, a U.N. world heritage site.

"We have prohibited demonstrations in the temple complex," said Parmananda Shakya, a senior official of the Pashupati Area Development Trust.

"There is a possibility of more clashes taking place there."

Protesters called on businesses around the temple complex to close on Tuesday, demanding the government reverse the appointment quickly.

"The government is trying to politicise the place of worship," said junior priest Harihar Man Bhandari.

"This is a blow to religion, culture and tradition."

For the past 260 years, the chief priest of the Pashupatinath Temple was appointed by temple authorities with approval of the king of Nepal. The priest was chosen from among high caste Hindus from neighbouring India.

Nepal abolished the monarchy in May and became a republic. Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda, who authorised the replacement of the priest, is now the patron of the temple.

The pagoda-roofed Pashupatinath Temple complex sits beside a small river, regarded as holy, in Kathmandu.

It draws tens of thousands of pilgrims from Nepal as well as from India each year.


Reuters
Last Mod: 06 Ocak 2009, 17:28
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