The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority has started investigating possible financial irregularities in the use of 108-kilograms gold for the jalhari at the sacred Shiva Linga inside Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu.

Officials of Pashupati Area Development Trust told THT that they had received a letter from the CIAA about the possible irregularities in use of such a huge amount of gold.

The CIAA has also collected all the receipts and other legal documents related to installation of the jalhari.

Pradeep Dhakal, member-secretary of PADT, said that the CIAA's letter was part of a regular process to be followed if anyone files a graft case with the CIAA. "Naturally, when there is a complaint regarding any irregularities, the CIAA will have to initiate investigation.

We have fully supported the CIAA authorities and have provided all the necessary documents they asked for," Dhakal added.

A highly-placed source claimed that the authorities had not even used 10-kg gold for the jalhari. The PADT, a government body that undertakes all kinds of managerial and religious works in the temple, however dismissed the claims. "Some golden screws and nails are yet to be used in the Jalhari. This work can be done only with the hands of the main Bhatta priests. So, there is some delay in completing jalhari installation work," Dhakal said.

The source, however, said that the CIAA had been keeping a close eye on this right from the time the government decided to use 108-kg gold for the jalhari. The source also said that they started the investigation on the basis of information the CIAA received.

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari on February 24, in a dramatic manner, inaugurated the golden jalhari installation process. The president's inauguration was fast tracked as hearing on the case filed against PADT about using large amount of gold was scheduled for the same day.

Just a couple of hours after the president's inauguration, the Supreme Court had stayed the installation process of the jalhari. Before that, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had, on January 25, decided to provide Rs 300 million to place the golden jalhari. Interestingly enough, the then minister of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation had, within a few days, released the amount.

A writ petition was filed by advocate Nikita Dhungana and provincial lawmaker Narottam Baidhya against the government decision to use such massive amount of gold in the Shiva Linga of the temple.

The petitioners, heritage experts and right activists had protested against the government's decision to invest such a huge amount of money in the non-productive sector.

They had also condemned the government for promoting a particular religion even though the country had already become a secular state.

A version of this article appears in the print on July 11 2021, of The Himalayan Times.