Annapurna Post, 12 April 

A group of 40 Taiwanese pilgrims last month buried the mortal remains of their family members at the holy Mayadevi Temple sanctuary in Lumbini. An internal inquiry has revealed that the Taiwanese bribed on-duty policemen and field staff of the Lumbini Development Trust to allow them to perform their funeral ritual and bury remains of dead relatives beneath a tree near the temple on 26 March.

Pic: Annapurna Post

Although the Trust administration knew about the case almost immediately, it had not bothered to investigate. But the locals put pressure on the Trust to reveal the truth, and an inquiry panel was set up on 5 April. It found the Taiwanese entered the temple area after office hours by paying Rs 1,000 to each of the 18 policemen, security guards and caretakers at the birthplace of the Buddha.

They had brought teeth, nails and locks of hair of their departed family members all the way from Taiwan. These mortal remains were wrapped in 14 plastic bags, which also contained ashes and rice grains. They dug a 0.5m x 0.5m hole in the ground where they placed the remains and buried it.

Without the approval of the Trust and UNESCO, no one can carry out an excavation in the temple area. Pilgrims need to take off their shoes before going in, and they are not allowed to pluck flowers or damage plants. At the entrance, security guards examine bags of all pilgrims.

But the fact that the Taiwanese buried the remains of their dear ones by distributing just a few thousand rupees has exposed how vulnerable the sacred temple is. The Trust has sought clarification from all caretakers who were on duty that day. They told the inquiry panel they kept Botany Officer Sabbir Ahmed in the loop, but he has been let off the hook. The Trust’s Vice Chair Awadhesh Tripathi has defended Ahmed, saying he allowed the burial only outside the temple periphery.

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