Thousands of Indian Hindus arrive to worship at Pashupatinath

Kathmandu: Tens of thousands of devotees, including those from India, have arrived at Nepal's world famous Pashupatinath temple to celebrate Mahashivratri, one the most popular Hindu festival in the country.

Some 5,000 Indian devotees have already arrived and 100 Naga sadhus are scheduled to worship at Pashupatinath tomorrow, said officials at Pashupati Area Development Trust (PADT), which manages the the fifth century Hindu shrine.

The PADT officials said 4,000 security personnel would be deployed on the occasion as they expect 5,00,000 people to visit the most sacred temple of Shiva.

"The temple management committee has arranged 4,000 security personnel and 5,000 volunteers are being mobilised for security of the devotees," they said.

Located on the banks of the Bagmati river, Pashupatinath is regarded as the most sacred temple of Shiva and the oldest Hindu shrine in Nepal. It is also listed in UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site list.

Last month, Nepalese government had set up a top panel to make the functioning of Pashupatinath Temple more transparent, following a Supreme Court directive to streamline the management of the Hindu shrine.

The temple had been at the centre of a row when the Prachanda-led Maoist coalition government in 2008 sacked the chief priest and other Brahmins from South India, and appointed Nepalese priests to replace them.

It had triggered widespread protests across the country as it was a break with centuries-old tradition where Brahmins from South India have led the worship at one of the holiest Hindu shrine.

Later, Nepal's Supreme Court had stayed the government regulation aimed at ending the 300-year old monopoly of Indian priests at the famed Pashupatinath.