Ousted Nepal king still ‘head of state’ for Pashupatinath

June 17th, 2008 - 2:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 17 (IANS) He lost the support of the political parties and people but Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra, once revered as a living god, still enjoys the support of Hindu deities - the Pashupatinath temple here held special prayers in the former king’s name, honouring him as head of state. The temple decided to stand by the beleaguered former royals, following in the footsteps of Jagannath temple in neighbour India’s eastern state of Orissa that declared it still considered the dethroned monarch its patron.

The special worship at Pashupatinath temple, considered one of the most hallowed Hindu pilgrim destinations and declared a world heritage site by Unesco, honoured the deposed king as head of state, though he lost the position formally last month after Nepal’s newly elected lawmakers abolished monarchy.

After the prayers, Mahabaleshwor, the main priest, took the blessed offerings from the temple to the summer palace on the outskirts of the capital, where Gyanendra and his wife Komal have taken up residence since their final exit from the Narayanhity royal palace Wednesday.

In the past, the kings of Nepal, being the rulers of the world’s only Hindu kingdom, were also the custodians of the Pashupatinath temple and attended all major Hindu rituals there.

However, after King Gyanendra’s attempt to rule the kingdom himself with the backing of the army failed two years ago, the new government of opposition parties declared Nepal a secular state to cut off his Hindu support and replaced the monarch with the prime minister as head of state.

At the last ceremonial worship at Pashupatinath this year on the occasion of Mahashivaratri, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala attended the rituals as head of state while the king went as a commoner.

But despite the abolition of the 239-year-old institution of monarchy, conservative Hindus retain a soft spot for the crown.

On Saturday, Mahabaleshwor took the 10 cooked food offerings made to the deity and used a government car to convey them to the Nagarjuna summer palace, which the former king and queen have been allowed to use, Nepal’s official media said Tuesday.

He also held an hour-long special worship in the temple in the name of the former king, the Gorkhapatra daily said.

There was no immediate official reaction from the government.

However, the religious rights issue has been a thorny one. In the past, an enraged Koirala accused the king of trying to upstage him as head of state by continuing to attend all traditional Hindu ceremonies as he used to during his days in power and ordered the government to strip the king of his cavalry guards.

The Pashupatinath temple does not allow non-Hindus to enter the sanctum sanctorum where the deity is worshipped only by Hindu priests brought from southern India.

In the past, it contributed to the cold war between the late Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and the then king Birendra, after the latter shot down Gandhi’s wish to visit the shrine, on the ground that Gandhi had Parsi blood while his wife Sonia was a Christian.

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