Buddha replaces Vishnu on new Nepali banknotes
by Prakash Dubey
Nepal’s caretaker government announces new banknotes with Buddha, Everest and a local princess who married a Chinese emperor. Hindu priest says “better Buddha than Mao or Marx”.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – Nepalis have welcomed the decision by Nepal’s caretaker government to replace the king’s effigy with the Buddha, the apostle of non-violence and peace, on the country’s 500 and 100 rupees banknotes. Buddha will take the place of King Gyanendra, who considered himself a reincarnation of the Hindu god, Lord Vishnu. But the change “is not a sacrilege for the country’s large Hindu community”.

Hindu priest Pawan Pathak told AsiaNews that “in our pantheon, Buddha too is a reincarnation of Vishnu. Hence, we are happy of the choice. It would have been different if Mao or Marx appeared on the money, but fortunately that did not happen”.

Pathak stressed that “Buddha is in fact a true symbol of Nepal’s culture and history. According to tradition he was born in Lumbini to a tribal royal household more than 2,600 years ago and was the tenth reincarnation of Vishnu. The king usurped the role and declared himself a divine reincarnation but no holy scripture backs this claim”.

The current Nepali king lost power in April 2006 after weeks of popular unrest and armed clashes. With the rise of a democratic government the state has become secular and lost its Hindu connotation.

In addition to references to Buddhism, banknotes will also show geographic features of the country.

Prof Anil Kumar Sinha, an expert in local culture, said that banknotes will show “world famous Mount Everest and Bhrikuti, a Nepali princess who was married to a Chinese emperor. This way we shall remind [the world] that our culture is close that of India, but that its roots are in China.”