JAN 24, 2012, KATHMANDU – Most Debated fund of treasure of Nepal’s Temples are now to be saved by stopping priests to take offerings of cash and prestigious metals by devotees are now goes to government fund.
The 23-year-old controversy surrounding the authorities’ plan to set up an appropriate mechanism to maintain transparency of monetary offerings to the Pashupatinath temple is finally over.
A subcommittee formed in November last year to decide the issue has proposed to Culture Minister Gopal Kirati that priests should be paid fixed salaries, authorising the Culture Ministry to handle the monetary offerings to the Hindu shrine.
If everything goes as proposed, the four sections of “sacred” priests—Bhatta, Bhandari, Bishet and Rairakami—will receive salaries and perks as provided to civil servants by the government.
Minister Kirati told the Post that it has been proposed that the Mul Bhatta, chief of the four Bhatta priests, should be paid Rs 40,000 monthly and a daily allowance of Rs 3,000. The remaining three Bhatta priests will receive Rs 30,000 per month and Rs 2,000 in daily allowance.
Four high-class priests called Bhatta, who are fetched from South India every four years, carry out religious activities at the Pashupati temple.
Regarding the salary of Bhandaris, Kirati said that there remain some technical problems. There are 101 Bhandaris, each handling temple affairs for a period of one month in turn.
“Since one has to wait for 100 months for the responsibility again, there is confusion on the amount to be paid to them,” he said, adding that, based on negotiations and discussions, a Bhandari could be paid Rs 350,000 when he is in charge of temple affairs. “That puts a Bhandari’s monthly income from the temple at Rs 3,000.”
Kirati said he was still studying the proposal. So far, the monthly income of the main temple, which is unknown to an outsider, is divided among the Bhattas and the working Bhandari every month, at the time of the Bhandari’s handing over the responsibility to his successor. Another sect of priests called Bishets—who are eight in number and who are responsible for managing logistics at the main temple, have already been receiving some amount of money as salary from the Pashupati Area Development Trust. According to PADT Director Ramesh Upreti, the chief Bishet, known as the Bishet Naaike, gets salary equivalent to that received by a section officer in government service.
“Remaining Bishets, who don’t have much of a role in temple affairs as they work only once or twice a month, are given Rs 3,000 to Rs 3,500 per month.” Rairakamis too receive salaries as non-gazetted government officials depending on their responsibility.
“We discussed the proposal with the temple stakeholders, including the four sects of priests,” said Mod Raj Dotel, former secretary and a subcommittee member. “They have signed the proposal. This is an historic agreement.”