Tag Archives: religion

The God. Whose God?

Religious posters pasted on the wall of a house owned by a Dalit in Pipariya Dostiya village of Rhautahat district.

Religious posters pasted on the wall of a house owned by a Dalit in Pipariya Dostiya village of Rhautahat district.

Many Hindus actively practice, promote and protect untouchability, the caste-based discrimination. There are several layers of untouchability in Hindu society but the most visible is the one against the Dalits (collectively those who are at the lower levels of the caste hierarchy) by the non-Dalits (collectively those who are at the higher strata). Untouchability exists among Dalits too. It exists among non-Dalits as well. Continue reading

No Sin Was Committed While Taking This Photo #Guhyeshwari

guheshwari temple no photo notice

Are you sure you are not sinning by photographing the temple? Why do you commit a sin? Photography (still, mobile, video) is strictly prohibited in the Goddess Guhyeshwari's temple complex. Strong action will be taken if you photograph temple after reading this notice. Let us all abide by the temple rule. Thank you. -Shree Guhyeshwari Temple Management Committee.

I got very angry when I saw this notice pasted on the walls of Guhyeshwari temple complex today afternoon. My blood is still boiling- six hours after I first saw this. I felt like giving a tight slap- saale ko galai ma- on the cheek of this guy who ordered for this to be pasted here. The kind of slap that leaves imprints of all five fingers clearly visible on the cheek and the person receiving this falls instantly on ground. And then a few kicks on.. you name the body parts. And throw him on the nearby Bagmati river.

Photography could be barred at certain places. Fine, though I don’t see any reason to do that at temples complexes. What harm will be caused to the God if someone photographs Him? Still, I have no problems if some temples restrict photography. BUT I have problem with the tone and language of this particular notice. It associates SIN with photography. A classic example of playing the “paap lagchha” card (babu, teso garnu hunna, paap lagchha), playing with the religious sentiment of people, exploiting the ‘superstitious instincts’ of many illiterate people of Nepali society. Instead of giving convincing reasons, scientific argument for barring photography in the temple the notice associates the act of photographing in the temple complex an act of SIN. Who the hell is this person or the committee to decide that photographing the temple or the deity is a sin?

Another insane thing one can see at Hindu temples is a notice that says: “Entry for Hindus only.” Why do we restrict people from other faith from entering temples? Will they eat our deities? Utter nonsense. A Shillong-based Nepali-speaking writer and an ex-Indian army officer once told me: “How do we tell people of other faiths about Hinduism when we bar them from entering our temples? Who wants to learn about Hinduism when they can’t even see the Hindu God and Goddesses?”

P.S.: I am not concerned about spreading Hinduism or interested in converting people of other faiths into Hinduism.I am against Hindu fundamentalism. And I also strongly protest any efforts of converting poor Hindus of Nepal into other religions. BUT I don’t agree with such foolish notice that associate photography in temple premises with sin.

1. Burning Effigies [in the Name of Lord Shiva]
2. Politics of Religion and Conversion

Beloved Bamboos of Budha Subba in Bijaypur (Dharan)

A kid and pryaer threads

A kid plays with prayer threads

I first visited Dharan in 2001. I was on my way to Kimathanka, the remote and smallest village of Nepal by population bordering China. I stopped for a few days in Biratnagar, booked my air ticket to Tumlingtaar, and went to explore nearby towns of eastern Nepal. Dharan, Itahari and Birtamod. Back then my primary beat in journalism was Information and Technology. (The coverage got me CAN’s “Best IT Journalist Award- Nepali” in 2003.) So I wanted to get sense of the latest IT scene in that part of Nepal. Internet Cafes were recent phenomenon; connection was primitive and expensive. A lot of computer training institutes were sprouting everywhere targeting youths. I made it a point to visit Cyber cafes in all towns and computer institutes. Later, after coming back from Kimathanka with a cover story for Nepal magazine, I did a story on IT scene in eastern Nepal. The story was euphoriant (Title: पूर्वमा आइटीको रन्को) ।

Apart from checking in to a Cyber Cafe that was divided into several cabins and interviewing a friendly man who ran a Computer institute and a website on Dharan what I fondly remember about that trip is a relatively quick hike to the Bijaypur hill. Budha Subba was waiting for us. The mild mannered and soft spoken young boy who gave me a tour of the famed temple is now a staff reporter (sports) with the newspaper I work for.

Like many of my generation I had first heard about Budha Subba from one of my text books in school. The old man and his slingshot. The absentee crows and the unique bamboos. Then, not sure if it was mentioned in the text books, came another information about the temple with a romantic angle: lovers thronging in to the Budha Subba temple complex to carve their names on the bamboos nearby. The lovers were “attracted by the legend”, according to a magazine, “that writing the name of your beloved or tying threads blessed at the temple to one of the bamboo plants will bring luck and success to your relationship.” Every now and then the youth magazines like this or some other publications would come up with a story about the declaration of love on the woody stems of the tropical grass that blesses Nepali hills all over. The teen in me had understandably been excited by those stories and other hearsays. When I reached there, on the spot in 2001, I saw innumerable names carved on the bamboos. Coupled names were separated only by the + sign. I admired and took photos of what I saw. Continue reading

Politics of Religion and Conversion

By Dinesh Wagle

A conference of Nepali and Indian ultra-Hindu rightists in Mumbai last week has decided to launch “a coordinated campaign to re-establish Nepal as a Hindu state”. Kamal Thapa, who sees his future in religion-based politics, participated. Thapa said the conference expressed concern over sinister plans being carried out in Nepal to wipe out the identity of a Hindu state.

On a sweltering April afternoon in New Delhi, I met a former Nepali Congress lawmaker who is best known these days for pulling strings at the highest levels of the Indian establishment to get his wife deported to Nepal a few months ago. But Amresh Kumar Singh is not a man to be taken lightly when he talks about political happenings in Nepal.

“Do you think Ramdev went to teach yoga?” he asked referring to the Indian yoga guru’s highly publicised trip to Nepal a week earlier. “No. He was there to explore possibilities of establishing a new political party. That is why he met and talked to a variety of people during his stay.”

“You mean Ramdev will open a party in Nepal?”

“No, he and other people [from India] will help Nepalis to form a political force,” Singh said.

“Mark my words; we will soon see a rightist party in action in Nepal that will advocate restoration of Hindu Rashtra Nepal.”

The chronic disease of Hindu fundamentalism that has been spreading the viruses of hatred in India has slowly been asserting itself in Nepal in recent months. Under the more appealing banner of Hindutva, Nepali agents of the Indian Hindu right are gradually pushing the agenda of restoration of the monarchy. As the popularly elected political leadership is struggling to draft a constitution and take the peace process to a logical conclusion, these religious zealots are equating the issue of Hindu Rashtra with the dead monarchy.

What I know for sure is that people like me, liberal Hindus with a secular mindset, are in an overwhelming majority in Nepal. We want the country to be a forum equally accessible for people of all faiths. My own view — expressed first on my Facebook profile — is that religion is certainly not opium but a cigarette that should be smoked in private without disturbing other people. It’s a very personal thing. Politicising religion is dangerous as it inevitably invites conflict and violence in society. I even feel that people shouldn’t be classified according to their religious standing. They shouldn’t be asked about their religion in the national census. People should be given complete freedom to have or not to have faith in religion. That is precisely what our Interim Constitution does. More importantly, it bars forced conversion. While the constitution, for example, lets me dump my current religion and go for another if I wish to do so (because this act involves no one but me) it bars me from luring a person of a different faith to my religion (because this act involves a person apart from me).

But some people with vested interests are not happy with this constitutional provision. Take, for example, our cash rich European brothers who believe that they can buy Nepali dignity with some scratched euro or pound notes as if it were a stale pizza on sale in a rural Italian bakery. I was shocked to read a report in the Post few weeks ago that said, “The European Union… urged the [Nepal] government to allow ‘full freedom’ to proselytise while drafting the new constitution.” A letter forwarded by the French Embassy, in its capacity as the EU local presidency in Kathmandu, to the government said the current constitutional provisions on religious rights were “limited”. The sinister motive of the letter is clear: Buying poor Nepalis to Christianity should be legalised.

Who are the Europeans kidding here? This letter is a textbook example of unsavory forces trying to fish in the troubled waters of Nepal that is going through a difficult transitional crisis. Instead of doing so, the Europeans should look at themselves in the mirror where they will see countries like Malta, Monaco, Greece, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and England that, with their official religion, have a long way to go to become a secular nation like Nepal. The EU should write such letters to Germany and Finland, apart from the aforementioned countries, where the Evangelical and Roman Catholic Church and Finnish Orthodox Church enjoy de facto privileged status. Okay, for once, forget all this. Go and tell the Vatican City to become secular before lecturing us on religious freedom. Ask the BBC to give equal coverage to Benedict XVI and Ramdev, will you? This type of brazen intervention undermines our, secularists’, fight against Hindu fundamentalists in Nepal. This intervention also strengthens people like Kamal Thapa.

And France, by the way, should be the last country to advise us on religious affairs. The country, where religious minorities are treated very badly, has a terrible record on religious freedom. I am not saying this. In its 2009 edition of the annual International Religious Freedom report, the US State Department says the French government’s “discriminatory treatment of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientologists remained a concern”. The report says, “Some religious groups voiced opposition to legislation passed in 2001 and 2004, which provides for the dissolution of groups under certain circumstances and bans wearing of conspicuous religious symbols by public school employees and students.”

France not only violated its own 1905 law on the separation of religion and the state that prohibits discrimination on the basis of faith by banning Muslim symbols and allowing Christian symbols to be worn. No one has left Nepal because of an unfriendly religious environment; but according to several reports, many people belonging to the Muslim faith have been forced to leave France because of tightening control over religious freedom. No student has been expelled from a Nepali school for their faith, but two female junior high school students, Dounia and Khouloudewere, aged 12 and 13 respectively, were the first to be expelled under a draconian French law for refusing to take off their headscarves on Oct. 20, 2004 from a school in Mulhouse, Alsace.

The Europeans, instead of unnecessarily poking their nose into Nepali affairs, should rather go for trekking in the Himalaya and enjoy their Nepal assignment which anyway is nothing but a long holiday for them. If trekking is not enough and you miss your home, here is a suggestion: The Roadhouse Café in Thamel serves mouthwatering pizza; Délices de France, a restaurant run by a wonderful French woman and attacked by Maoist thugs during the recent strike, serves excellent chicken liver terrine; and nearby Dohori Saanjh restaurants serve unlimited glasses of beer. Chew, drink and cheer for your favourite football team. The World Cup is coming.

This article first appeared in today’s Kathmandu Post.

Burning Effigies [in the Name of Lord Shiva]

Dinesh Wagle
Wagle Street Journal
[This article originally appeared on the Op-Ed page of the Kathmandu Post today. See it here as it appeared on the paper.]

Indian Hindu Rightwing Fundamentalists Demonstrate In Agra, India Against Nepal Government Decision To Apointment Nepali Priest in Pashupatinath Temmple

The other day I came across a Reuters video on an AOL web site that showed some angry men on the street burning effigies of the government of Nepal, shouting slogans against the Nepali Maoists and demanding the restoration of the Indian priest at the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. The visuals were not from Gaushala or Chahabil or any other places in the Nepali capital.

They were from Agra, India. The people in the video were not immigrant Nepalis who are in their millions in India but the members and leaders of a radical Indian Hindu outfit called Bajrang Dal. I don’t recall when I first heard about Bajrang Dal but whenever I come across this name, the images of angry men with swords in their hands willing to kill people from other faiths come to my mind. I am always proud of the fact that we don’t have such a squad like Bajrang Dal that frequently promotes religious disharmony in society in the name of defending Hindutva in Nepal. It was widely reported by Indian media last October that members of this group were involved in raping a Christian nun in Orissa. That is why the Agra video frightened and shocked me. Continue reading

अरेवियन समुद्री किनारमा

तीन समुद्र वे अफ बंगाल, हिन्द र अरेवियनको मिनल हुने सुदूर दक्षिण भारतीय नगर कन्याकुमारीमा सूर्योदय पर्खिरहेका दुई कन्या (माथि) र सूर्य अस्ताउँदै गर्दा गोवाको कोल्भा विच

sunset goa kolva beach

दिनेश वाग्ले
वाग्ले स्ट्रिट जर्नल
यो लेख गत शनिवार (२५ अक्टोबर) को कान्तिपुर कोसेलीमा प्रकाशित भएको हो । पत्रिकाकै पन्नामा देखिए झै‌ हेर्ने भए यहाँ

कोल्भा विचमा उभिएर लगभग एक घन्टा सूर्यास्त हेरेपछि र एक गेगावाइट जतिका तस्बिर खिचेपछि म अरेबियन समुद्र किनार नजिकैको त्यो क्याफेमा छिरेको थिएँ। गोवामा ‘कफी डे’ को साइनबोर्डमा उल्लेखित ट्याग लाइनले मलाई सबैभन्दा बढी आकर्षित गरेको थियो– ‘अ लट क्यान ह्याप्पेन ओभर कफी…।’ कफीको बाहानामा धेरैकुरा हुनसक्छ।

मन मेरो ‘अ थाउजन्ड स्प्लेन्डिड सन्स’मै थियो। खालेद होसेनीको त्यो दोस्रो किताबमा अफगानी समाजमा महिलाहरूको दुखको वर्णनले मनलाई टुक्राटुक्रा पारेको थियो। कथाले गम्भीर मोड लिँदै छ। तन्नेरी तारिकसँग जिन्दगीको रमाइलो सपना देखिरहेकी टिनएजर लायला घरैमा बजि्रएको अचानकको बमले बाबुआमा मारेपछि टुहुरी भएकी छ। ऊ बाबुकै समयवी त्रू्कर वृद्धसँग विवाह गर्न बाध्य भई। अफगान पुरुषहरूप्रति मलाई बेजोडको रिस उठेको छ। कथा अब कता जाला भन्ने तीव्र चासो छ। लात्तेँ र व्ल्याक फरेस्ट अर्डर गरेर म पन्ना पल्टाउँदै थिएँ। त्यही क्षण ट्याग लाइनलाई सार्थक र मलाई चकित तुल्याउँदै उसले हात मतिर बढाएको थियो– ‘हेल्लो!’ हेत्तेरी, ‘पल्पसा क्याफे’ मा दृश्यले सुन्दर पल्पसालाई भेटेको गोवामा म चाहिँ एउटा केटोले अभिवादन गर्दै छ। किन म उनीहरूलाई भेटाउने अन्जुना विच नगएर कोल्भामा आएँ हुँला? Continue reading

भगवान भरोसा

religion and nepali people

भगवान नदेखेपनि थुप्रै नेपाली मन्दिर जाँदा मनमा शान्ति महसुस गर्छन् । किन ?

दिनेश वाग्ले/ सुरज कुँवर
यो लेख आजको कान्तिपुरमा प्रकाशित भएको हो ।

रातको ११ बज्नै लाग्दा र अघिल्लो युगमा कृष्ण जन्मिएको पल नजिकिँदै गर्दा गतसाता पाटन कृष्ण मन्दिर परिसरमा राता सारी, हरिया पोते र नङपालिस लाएका महिला झुरुप्प बसेर गाउँदै, ताली बजाउँदै, हाँस्दै र नाच्दै थिए।

तिम्रो–हाम्रो भेट भा’को आजै हो
पहिलो पाला बोल्नलाई लाजै भो

छेवैमा उभिएका र जन्माष्टमी मनाउन त्यो रात त्यहाँ भेला भएका एकहुल अधबैंसेहरू तत्कालै महिलाका समस्या समाधान गर्ने मुढमा प्रस्तुत भए–

लाज मानेर नसोच्नु अर्को
हजुरजस्तै म पनि यो घरको

द्वापर युगको यमुना किनारमा भए दोहोरीले बिहानसम्म निरन्तरता पाउँथ्यो होला। तर यो कलिमा माहोल बिग्रने चिन्ताले पिल्सिएका प्रहरीले पुरुषलाई विनम्रतापूर्वक त्यहाँबाट धकेलेपछि महिला गफमा फर्किए। ललितपुरको सैंबु गाउँका १७ जनाजति ती श्रद्धालुले कृष्णका नाममा बत्ती बालेर, भजन गाएर र जाग्राम बसेर जन्माष्टमीको रात मन्दिर परिसरमै बिताउने योजना बनाएका थिए। बेलुका पाँच बजे पुगेका र बिहान चार बजे घर फर्किने उनीहरू एउटीको शब्दमा ‘भगवानको बड्डे खान’ त्यहाँ पुगेका थिए। ‘मान्छेको बड्डे केक काटेर मनाउँछन्’, उनले जन्मदिन अर्थ दिने अंग्रेजी शब्दावली ‘बर्थडे’को उच्चारण गर्दै भनिन्– ‘भगवानको बत्ती बालेर।’ बड्डे त फगत बहाना हो। शंकै छैन, धर्म गर्न मन्दिर पुगेका उनीहरू भगवानलाई भरपुर खुसी पार्न चाहन्थे, ताकि ‘केही होस्’! Continue reading

Kumaris, the Living Goddesses, of Nepal (or Kathmandu Valley)

My latest in Koseli: छातामुनी पिसकोर. Previous: गुगल, गाई र रिक्सा
Patan Kumari

Though I have been hearing about the Kumari tradition of Nepal (all these cute girls who are considered living goddesses and are almost always clad in dark gajal and red outfits) I hadn’t seen them directly until recently. A few days ago a Chinese reporter freelancing to an American publication for stories about Nepal hired me as his translator and fixer. Thus a few visits to Kumari Ghars (houses of Kumaris) of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The Kathmandu Kumari, virgin girl who is considered the living goddess by believers, was inaccessible to the general public except that tourists and curios onlookers get to see her at a certain time of the day from the ground floor when she appears on a window of the Ghar). Continue reading