IANS, Friday, July 07, 2006
KATHMANDU: Less than a week after it asked the royal family to submit details of their properties, Nepal’s parliament will now investigate the wealth of an even greater power – Lord Pashupatinath, one of the Hindu trinity.
The Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu, one of the holiest pilgrimage destinations for Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike, has come under the scrutiny of the Parliamentary Public Accounts Committee, recently formed to probe the misappropriation of state funds since 2002, when King Gyanendra began ruling the country through a series of nominated prime ministers before finally seizing direct control with the help of the army.
“Devotees undertake special worship at the temple throughout the year, offering cash and jewellery worth millions,” Chitra Bahadur KC, chairman of the probe committee, said. “Yet there is no audited record. For a long time, people have been suspecting the money goes elsewhere.” The temple, one of the most popular tourist sites in Nepal, is run by a trust that is chaired by the queen. KC said. “It is also suspected that most of the money accruing from offerings goes to the palace instead of being spent on the temple or charitable organisations, like the norm in other temples. This is public money and every paise has to be accounted for.”
On Thursday, prior to holding an on-the-spot assessment, the parliamentary committee heard the director of the trust who denied knowing anything about the income generated from devotees’ offerings. He also said the head priest is in sole charge of the offerings. The head priest is Mahabaleshwar Bhatta from south India. According to tradition, the four priests at the shrine, including the head priest, has to be appointed from the “south of the Vindhyachal mountain range” – virtually meaning India and beyond. On July 13, the probe team will visit the temple, where they will meet Bhatta.