09/08/2014, 00.00
NEPAL
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Strike by Nepali holy men endangers Indra Jātrā

by Christopher Sharma
Taleju temple priests ask for higher wages. Without the performance of rituals (pooja), the festival cannot begin. Celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists, the event is the foremost event in the worship of Kumari, the "living goddess".

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) - Nepali Hindus and Buddhists have not yet been able to celebrate the Indra Jātrā, one of the country's oldest and most important festivals. For days, priests have been protesting to demand higher wages and allowances. This morning, the first day of the festival, they failed to perform the pooja (rituals) in honour of Kumari, the "living goddess".

This is the first time in the history of Taleju Temple - built in the Malla Era some 252 years ago in honour of the goddess Taleju Bhawani - that the daily rituals were not performed.

Until this morning, government authorities and the Guthi Sansthan (the agency that employs Hindu priests) tried to persuade the holy men to perform the pooja, without which the Indra Jātrā cannot be celebrated.

"Our salary is very low and has not been increased in more than ten years," said Udabh Karmacharya, chief of the Taleju Temple priests. "Hundreds of priests from around the country say they have similar problems and support us."

Indra Jātrā is an ancient Nepali festival celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists. Established by King Gunakamadeva, it commemorates the founding of the city of Kathmandu in the 10th century. One of its most important moments is Kumari Jātrā, the procession dedicated to Kumari.

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