05/04/2015, 00.00
NEPAL

Nepal: the earthquake destroyed lives and ancient Hindu traditions

by Christopher Sharma
The latest toll is 7,350 dead; 15 thousand serious injuries; 150 thousand houses destroyed and 160 thousand with partial damage. Numerous temples of Kathmandu valley are now rubble. Devotees bring the idols of the gods to safety, breaking the traditional rituals. The government appeals to public not to plunder the destroyed places of worship.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Breaking ancient rituals, for the first time the statue of Kumari - the "living goddess" - has been moved to an open area, safe from new tremors. The temple dedicated to her, located in Basantapur’s durbar square, May 2 last collapsed permanently. According to tradition, the idol of Kumari is taken out from the place of worship only during special celebrations, after performing special rituals.

Nine days after the quake that devastated Nepal, the death toll now stands at 7,350; the seriously injured are more than 15 thousand; about 150 thousand houses are destroyed, 160 thousand partially damaged.

Dozens of temples and holy places - many of which Unesco World Heritage for humanity - were destroyed by the quake. The temples of Rato-Machhindranath (Patan square), and Changunarayan Kasthamandap have been reduced to rubble, as well as those of Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The idols of the deities are in pieces. The government has issued an official statement in appealing to the public not to steal parts of temples and statues.

Many devotees and Hindu religious died in the collapse of the worship places. This was the case with Laxmidevi Karmacharya, who was leading a prayer service when the Chagunarayan temple collapsed.  A fellow spiritual leader, Chakradharananda Rajopadhyaya, survived: "We were offering special prayers, when we felt the quake. I managed to run away and save myself, but many faithful and one of our priests died. Our gods failed to save us”.

The temple was dedicated to Vishnu Chagunarayan (the builder), one of the three deities of the Trimurti (the "Trinity" of Hinduism) along with Brahma (the creator) and Shiva (the destroyer).

Kathmandu, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur - the three districts of the valley - are known for cities rich with Hindu temples. An old saying claims that in the area there are more places of worship than people.

Even a holy man from the temple of Rato-Machhindranath, god of rain and reincarnation of Shiva, died in the collapse from the quake. His name was Ratinarayan Gubaju and he was preparing the place for the celebration of the gods, that fall every 12 years. "We are confused - said his fellow monk, Mohan - we do not know what to do. We do not know why this god of nature became violent and did not save us".

Bharataman Pradhan, a devout Hindu from Shovabhagawati, lost 17 relatives in the earthquake on 25 April. He is the only survivor of his family. That day he was organizing special celebrations in the temple: "I was making a fire when the earth began to shake. Our four-story house collapsed, killing all my relatives who I had invited to pray together ". Now the man lives in a camp, sheltered by a tent: "My Hindu god could not save me, but Christian volunteers have given me new hope, bringing tents and food".

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