Hundreds of pilgrims have been rushing to a remote village in Nepal after reports that the statue of a Hindu deity had started to “sweat” – considered an ill omen for the country’s embattled monarchy and a portent of natural disaster.
The centuries-old idol of Bhimeshwor, the Hindu god of trade and commerce, was seen by a local priest to develop a sheen of moisture at the weekend in its shrine in Dolakha district, 40 miles east of Kathmandu, triggering a wave of panicked rumours.
Most recently, the idol broke into a sweat in 2001 just days before Nepal’s crown prince killed the then king and eight other members of the royal family in a drunken shooting spree before turning the gun on himself.
While some pointed to the sweating as another bad sign for Nepal’s embattled king who was last year forced to cede most of his powers under a peace deal with Nepal’s Maoist rebels, others said it heralded a natural catastrophe.
The idol is reputed to have sweated in 1934 before a devastating earthquake which killed 8,500 and destroyed one fifth of Nepal’s housing.
Seismologists and the historical record suggest that a similar quake is now some years overdue.
Whatever the meaning, the statue was attracting plenty of interest from pilgrims who came from far and wide to see for themselves if the rumours were true and to offer pujas – or prayers – to appease the god.
“I saw the right side of the black stone idol had become wet because of sweating,” said Shanta Krishna Shrestha, senior priest at the temple.
“This denotes something like major political change or a natural calamity. We must hold special prayers and make sacrifices asking for forgiveness.”
The priest added that in the past, cotton soaked in the idol’s “sweat” would be sent to the palace and in return, the king would send two goats and a sum of money to clear away misfortune.
However, local officials in Dolkha said since the king had been stripped of his position as head of state as part of last year’s peace deal, this time around, the cotton would be dispatched to the home ministry instead.
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