Court issues stay order after President unveils golden Jalahari at Pashupati templeTwo petitions were filed at the Supreme Court against the government’s decision to release a large sum of money from the state coffers to the temple.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a stay order on the government’s decision to install a golden Jalahari at Pashupatinath temple, hours after President Bidya Devi Bhandari had already unveiled the 96kg golden structure.
Jalahari is the foundation on which the Shivalinga stands and from where the water and milk offered by devotees flows out.
President Bhandari unveiled the new Jalahari after performing a special puja at Pashupatinath Temple at 11:45.
But later in the day, a single bench of Justice Purushottam Bhandari ordered the government to put on hold the decision to install the Jalahari until March 1. He also ordered the plaintiffs and the defendants to be present before court for discussion on the issue.
On Monday, Narottam Baidya, former treasurer of the trust who is also a Province 3 assembly member, and advocate Nitika Dhungana had filed petitions against the government’s decision to install a golden Jalahari at Pashupatinath temple.
The petitioners had named defendants in the case, including Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, also the patron of the trust, Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, minister for culture, and Pradeep Dakal, member secretary of the trust, and the Guthi Sansthan.
“The trust called President Bhandari and unveiled the golden ‘Jalahari’ although the case has been filed in the court. By the time the court made the decision, they had already replaced the Jalahari,” said Baidya, one of the petitioners.
“Even knowing that the writ [petition] had been filed in the court, the trust proceeded with installing the new Jalahari. This is a foul play,” said Baidya.
Pradeep Dhakal, member secretary of the trust, however, said they were unaware of the writ petition.
Govinda Tandon, former member secretary of the trust, said the issue should not be politicised.
“I do not know what will happen because the court’s ruling came after installing the Jalahari,” said Tandon. “Since it is a very sensitive matter, this should not be made an issue in court because that does not give a good message.”
Earlier this week, the trust had brought 25 priests from India to perform Kshama Puja (forgiveness ritual) at Pashupatinath temple to initiate the work of installing the new Jalahari.
“The government is working unlawfully. We won’t give up our legal fight because the government’s move is unethical,” Baidya told the Post over the phone.
The petitioners have argued that the government’s decision goes against the Ancient Monument Preservation Act-2013, which states that structures over 100 years old must be preserved in their original design. Their petition also states that the government’s decision violates the UNESCO World Heritage site’s criteria and it goes against the spirit of secularism, as a secular government is not supposed to allocate money in the name of religion.
Kedar Man Bhandari, chairperson of Pashupatinath Sewak Sangh, also one of the priests at the temple, said the Jalahari was installed on Tuesday.
“I am also not happy with the trust and the government because they installed the golden jalahari without consulting the stakeholders. There is no good mechanism to handle or protect the golden Jalahari” said Bhandari, who attended Wednesday’s function.
On January 25, Oli had performed a special puja at Pashupatinath and made an announcement to provide Rs 300 million to the temple to install a golden Jalahari. He had instructed the Ministry of Culture to allocate the amount.
Since then the trust had been working to install the golden Jalahari in place of the silver one.
The government’s decision to allocate a large sum of money from the state coffers to the temple was widely criticised.
The trust said 142kg of gold would be procured for the temple, of which 108kg would be used to replace the Jalahari and the remaining 34kg for beautification works.