Nepal | November 19, 2019

Aarati performers won’t play national anthem, face action

Ujjwal Satyal

Kathmandu, Sept 10

The Pashupati Area Development Trust is all set to take action against an organisation for not playing the national anthem prior to performing aarati, a Hindu ritual in which deities are hailed, at Pashupatinath temple.

The Bagmati Aarati Pariwar has been performing Ganga Aarati every evening at Pashupatinath temple for the last 12 years. The ritual is performed on the banks of the Bagmati River.

File – This image shows the eastern entrance of Pashupatinath temple on Mahashivaratri festival, on Monday, March 4, 2019. Photo: Suresh Chaudhary/THT

On August 26, Minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation Yogesh Bhattarai directed the PADT to play the national anthem before performing the aarati. The Bagmati Aarati Pariwar started playing the national anthem from August 30 as per the instruction, but did so only till September 3. This has prompted PADT to take action against the Pariwar.

“We will be forced to ban the Pariwar from performing aarati at the temple if it does not follow our instruction,” PADT Member Secretary Pradeep Dhakal said. The PADT has summoned the Pariwar to its office. “We have not heard from them. If they continue to ignore our calls, we will ban them and start performing the aarati on our own,” said Dhakal.

The Pariwar claimed that it discontinued playing the national anthem after facing criticism.

“The place where aarati is performed is located right next to the cremation ground,” said Basudev Shastri, vice chair of the Pariwar. “The playing of the national anthem causes inconvenience to bereaved families, as it is mandatory to stand up whenever the national anthem is played. This has drawn criticism from a cross section of society, including renowned cultural expert Satya Mohan Joshi.”

Minister Bhattarai, who chairs the PADT, has not clearly explained why the national anthem has to be played prior to aarati. He could not be contacted.

But, ironically, even senior officials of his ministry are not willing to take ownership of the decision that he took. “He took this decision in the capacity of the chair of the PADT and we have not been formally informed about it,” MoCTCA Spokesperson Ghanshyam Upadhyaya said.

The minister, according to a PADT official, instructed that the national anthem be played before performing aarati after witnessing a huge crowd that had gathered to watch the ritual on August 12. “He decided to cash in on it prior to Visit Nepal 2020 and directed that the ritual be telecast live through YouTube and national anthem be played prior to aarati.”

A version of this article appears in print on September 11, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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