This is how millions worth embezzlement happened in Pashupati Jalhari

Published On: May 28, 2023 08:30 AM NPT By: Bhuwan Sharma

KATHMANDU, May 28: Govinda Tandon, who once held the position of the member secretary and treasurer of the Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), used to carry water from home to his office because he was afraid that he would commit a sin by utilizing the property of Lord Shiva.

Tandon felt that he should not even drink water from Pashupatinath's property. He used to bring lunch from home. He did not even board the office’s car. Tandon worked as an official of PADT for 11 years and two months. Most of the time he did not take the salary and allowance.

When the then queen Aishwarya Shah found out that Tandon didn’t take his salary, she asked him, "Accept the salary even if it is little.” Unable to refuse the queen's request, he started accepting a salary of Rs 2,000 per month. However, he used to pay 10 percent of that amount to the development trust. Tandon worked as the member secretary and treasurer of  PADT for 11 years and 2 months from 2044BS to 2050 BS and 2070 BS to 2074 BS.

"When I was working in the Pashupati Area Development Trust for a long time, I didn't take any salary, allowance and facilities. I even took water and lunch from home," said Tandon, "Upon the request of the then Queen Aishwarya, I started receiving Rs 2,000 per month. I used to pay 10 percent of that amount to the trust.”

 Tandon said embezzling even a rupee of the Pashupatinath temple would be tantamount to committing the greatest sin (Shivaswa). “However, the salaries taken honestly by the priests and stewards are not subject to Shivaswa," he said. According to Tandon, the subject of Shivaswa is also explained in religious texts.

In the year 2077 BS, after it was confirmed that there was irregularity in the Jalhari kept in the sanctum sanctorum of Pashupatinath temple, the issue of Shivaswa came up. At that time KP Sharma Oli was the prime minister.

During his tenure as the prime minister, Oli had decided to replace the silver Jalhari in the sanctum sanctorum of Pashupatinath temple with a gold Jalhari. It is said that millions of rupees was embezzled for implementing this decision. The subject is mentioned in the 59th annual report of the Auditor General. In the report, it has been stated that there were irregularities regarding the use of gold Jalhari in the sanctum sanctorum of Pashupatinath Temple. This matter had reached the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA).

For the construction of gold Jalhari to completely cover the inner sanctum sanctorum of Pashupatinath temple, 103.773 kg of gold worth Rs 800.11 million was purchased from Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB). 

Considering the purity of the gold and the mixtures of other metals and chemicals including copper 2.89 kg, silver 1.249 kg, and zinc 12.75 grams used for the Jalhari and other accessories, it was found that a total of 107 kg 924.75 grams of gold (with impurities) was used for the entire purpose, states the report..

The weight of gold used in Jalhari, Jaldhara (water fountain), Nag (serpent), Nagamurti (serpent statue), gold nails etc has been found to be 96.822 kgs and the rest of the gold was made into rings of 10. 976 kg. The value of the gold used to make the ring is believed to be worth Rs 78.64 million. The details have not been submitted and it is questionable if the amount of gold that remained after making the Jalhari was used in making the ring.

According to the report, a meeting of PADT on January 27, 2021 decided that the board of directors would make arrangements to pay directly to the goldsmith. “It seems that the purchase of gold was done for Rs 800 million. The amount paid by the donor for the Jalhari construction work has not been accounted for,” the report says,addung,  “The details of the contract with the goldsmiths in Patan industrial area and the payment to 13 people involved in crafting the Jalhari have not been submitted.”

The officials of PADT insist that 108 kg of gold was used in the Jalhari installed in Pashupati's Shivalinga. However, the report says only 97 kg of gold has been used in the Jalhari. The officials of the trust have been accused of misappropriating the remaining gold.

At 5 PM on February 23, 2021, it was announced that the work of applying gold to the sanctum sanctorum of Pashupatinath Temple was completed. A report was prepared by 8 PM on the same day. The report prepared at that time clearly mentions that only 97 kg of gold was consumed in the Jalhari and the remaining 11 kg of gold was made into gold rings. 

A question has been raised as to how the 11 kg gold ring was prepared within three hours after completing the work of decorating the inner core of the temple with the gold Jalhari.

According to PADT sources, the claim that 11 kg gold rings were made in three hours is not credible.

On February 24, 2021, President Bidya Devi Bhandari inaugurated the Jalhari. On that occasion, it was announced that 108 kg of gold Jalhari was installed. The inauguration program was announced all of a sudden.

Critics say there is something fishy as some people of the trust worked secretly on February 23, 2021 to announce the inauguration.

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