02/27/2006, 00.00
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Whites not allowed inside famous Hindu temple

by Prakash Dubey
White foreigners are not allowed to visit Kathmandu's Pashupatinath Temple even though it is promoted as a tourist destination.  High caste Hindus are said to be behind the exclusionary policy.

Kathmandu (AsiaNews) – High caste Hindus in Nepal have banned White foreigners from entering Kathmandu's Hindu shrine of Pashupatinath (God of animals) despite government's efforts to turn it into an important tourist attraction.

On Sunday, some half a million Hindus flocked to the temple for the Hindu festival of Shivaratri. A handful of foreign tourists mingled amongst them tried to join in but were barred from entering the shrine to take part in the ceremony. This is undermining efforts by Nepal's Tourism Department to promote the festival and the shrine in order to revive the fortunes of the local tourist sector prostrate after years of a Maoist revolt.

AsiaNews spoke to some of the foreigners who were turned away. 

"They won't allow us Whites to go inside saying that only Hindus can go inside," said James Cohen, a Jew from New York who converted to Hinduism. "I told the temple priests that I am a Hindu convert [. . .] Yet, they refused to let me go in the temple."

Mary Julian, a young woman from Britain, said that she also wanted to visit the temple even though she was a Christian. "I was amazed to see so many people visiting this temple. So I thought to visit it too. [. . .] But when we tried to go inside we were told we would contaminate the Hindu god," she said. She added she was surprised that the brochure handed out by Nepalese Tourism bureaus should "sell" the temple to tourists as a local attraction even though "White-skinned people are not allowed in".

A Hindu pilgrim, Rameshwar Upadhyaya, said he was against the ban. "Lord Pashupatinath is considered the protector of all living species on the earth. So how can we exclude the white race from offering their respect to him!"

He added that this gives his community and religion a bad reputation. "This is not the spirit of Hinduism. Only some obscurantist Hindus are responsible for this".

A Buddhist official with the Tourism department said on condition of anonymity that high caste Hindus have even banned low caste Hindus. "The Pashupatinath Shrine is in their control," he said.

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