Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - The arrival of hundreds of naked Hindu holy men at Kathmandu's Pashupatinat temple to celebrate the birthday of Lord Shiva is creating many problems for local residents.
Their "ritual" use of drugs, total nudity and the practice of going after people for hundreds of yards asking for alms have been met with complaints by local residents who want the government to do something.
Known as 'babas,' the holy men come from various parts of Nepal and India. However, police recently arrested four of them as they tried to sell drugs or molested women.
"I am ashamed of all these naked people around the house," said Hari Sharma, who lives a few yards from the temple. "We cannot even go to the balcony, because women and children should not see these things. Besides, they are smoking dope all the day, exposing our youth to these illegal practices."
"This is a traditional practice that has been going on for centuries," District Chief Govinda Tandon said in defending government indulgence. "We told the babas to respect the law. If there are any problems, we will act."
About 150 officials work for the temple, checking that everything runs smoothly. However, more than 500,000 people are expected tomorrow for Mahashivaratri, Lord Shiva's birthday. Of these, 5,000 are holy men and some 500 of them will be naked.
"I came from Maharashtra, India, and this is my eighth visit to the temple," said Rampurna Baba, one of the au naturel holy men. "It is true that selling drug is illegal, but we are followers of Shiva and live the way he lived. Thus, we feel free to smoke, like all his followers."
Located on the banks of the Bagmati River, in Kathmandu, Pashupatinat temple is the most important Hindu temple in Nepal. It is dedicated to the god Pashupati, the incarnation of lord Shiva. Its oldest pagoda-like section dates back to the 6th century AD.