Communist rulers bound by Nepal’s religious traditions, says scholar

PM Oli’s remarks on Ramayana not sensationalist but reflect nation’s ethos, says Ramesh Dhungel

Updated - November 28, 2021 12:44 pm IST

Published - July 09, 2020 03:34 am IST - NEW DELHI

Prime Minister Oli's comments on the Ramayana and Ayodhya show that Nepal’s communist rulers have made adjustments with the country’s cultural and religious heritage, a leading religious expert from Nepal has said.

Speaking to The Hindu from Kathmandu, Dr. Ramesh Dhungel said on Wednesday it was not unusual for Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli to speculate on Lord Ram’s place of birth as despite its ideology, the ruling party of Nepal has to administer and mediate on religious affairs of the country.

“Nepal Communist Party is operating in a multi-party system. They are not implementing Communist ideology in the way that some Asian countries implemented in the second half of the 20th century in Southeast Asia and East Asia,” said Mr Dhungel.

He explained that it was not unusual for a Nepalese politician from the Left to speak about the Ramayana and the birth place of Lord Ram. Mr Oli had claimed in a public meeting in Kathmandu on Monday that the real Ayodhya could be a village near the border town of Birgunj and that Lord Ram was born in Nepal and not in Ayodhya of Uttar Pradesh.

“A temple of Ramchandra which is located near Pashupatinath dates back to at least 7th century AD. Nepal like India followed Sanatan dharma long before our dharma was described as Hindusim by the western and Persian scholars,” said the scholar, adding that Mr. Oli's comments should be seen in the context of cultural studies and not as a sensational remark.

Dr. Dhungel pointed out that Mr. Oli may not be a practising Hindu but his government’s responsibilities include sending representatives to religious bodies and temples where for centuries representatives of the Nepalese state have played a role.

“Nepal’s ruling royal dynasties have traditionally sent representatives to be the head of the governing committee of the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu. The same tradition is maintained by the present government headed by the Nepal Communist Party. Now the Minister of Culture has to be present in the meeting of the governing committee,” said Mr Dhungel who is an expert in Sanskrit, Tibetan, and ancient Pali apart from Nepali and Hindi.

Mr Dhungel, who is currently working on a Nepal government funded project on Guru Padmasambhava of the 8th century, said some of the temples of Lord Ram that are located in Nepal date back to the early medieval period and there is a need to study the practice of the Ramayana culture in Nepal.

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