Nepal's top court on Monday ordered the government not to tamper with the ancient treasury of world famous Pashupatinath Temple, which Hindus believe has remained padlocked for centuries.
Bharat Jangam, a Hindu activist and writer, had filed a PIL in the Supreme Court on Thursday, pleading to strike down a decision taken by the caretaker government to open the main treasury of the fifth century Hindu shrine.
Justice Girish Chandra Lal of the Supreme Court on Monday issued a stay order against the government decision to open the main treasury of the Pashupatinath Temple. It fixed the next hearing in the case for February 10, The Himalayan Times online said on Monday.
Jangam has argued that the caretaker government has no right to open the more than 2000-year-old treasury of the Hindu shrine.
Jangam, who had earlier dragged the Maoists to court over its decision to dismiss Indian Brahmins from the holy Hindu shrine, has argued that in a secular state the government has no rights to interfere in religious matters.
If the government cannot open the treasury of a Buddhist monastery or a Christian church how can it interfere with the valuable assets of the Pashupatinath temple, he asked.
However, a legitimate government can do the same by enacting a separate act after holding consultations with Hindu scholars and priests and othe prestigious people, he underlined.
Located on the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath is regarded as the most sacred temple of Shiva (Pashupati) and the oldest Hindu shrine in Nepal. It is also listed in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list.
The main treasury – 'mul dhukuti' – of Pashupatinath is believed to contain priceless items, including Nagmani (snake jewel), Gajamani (elephant jewel), Nilmani, (blue precious stone).
In December, 2010, the government decided to open the treasury to maintain a record of the valuables and to ensure their safety, said officials at Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), that manages the affairs of the temple.
According to PADT officials, they are planning to open the treasury and list the valuable items in order to properly manage them and to make the affairs transparent.
Earlier in January, the government set up a top panel to make the functioning of Pashupatinath Temple more transparent, following a Supreme Court directive to streamline the management of the Hindu shrine.
The temple had been at the centre of a row when the Prachanda-led Maoist coalition government in 2008 sacked the chief priest and other Brahmins from South India, and appointed Nepalese priests to replace them.
It had triggered widespread protests across the country as it was a break with centuries-old tradition where Brahmins from South India have led the worship at one of the holiest Hindu shrine.
Later, Nepal's Supreme Court had stayed the government regulation aimed at ending the 300-year old monopoly of Indian priests at the famed Pashupatinath.