Kathmandu, Feb 16 (IANS) Nepal's oldest and most famous Hindu temple, Pashupatinath, has begun a crackdown on couples found necking inside its premises, fining over 70 pairs since Valentine's Day, celebrated worldwide as the day of lovers.
The keepers of the seventh century shrine, also a Unesco-declared World Heritage Site, began the drive Monday after warning that they would not condone embracing, kissing, petting and other amorous activities inside the sprawling complex that houses several temples, a burning ghat where dead bodies are cremated, and a home for the aged.
On Monday, when Valentine's Day was celebrated in Nepal with fanfare, the Pashupati Area Development Trust with the help of police caught 53 couples in the act, the Kantipur Daily reported.
Forty pairs were slapped with a fine of NRS.200 while the rest, who said they were married, were let off after a warning.
The trust said it was employing microphone-wielding staff to patrol the extensive grounds, warning amorous couple that they would be fined.
The drive continued Tuesday as well, with 18 more couples being hauled up, the daily said.
Of these, 10 couples were found to be people involved in extramarital liaisons. Though they were married, they were found courting with people who were not their spouses.
While the measure has been hailed by the trust itself, Pashupatinath, according to the Hindu holy books, is one of the most liberal deities who accepts as his followers people regarded as dregs of society.
In the past, Hindu temples were considered the most liberal shrines adorned with erotic art and sculpture.
The trust came into a series of controversies after it first banned non-Hindus from using the forested land adjoining the temple complex to bury their dead, triggering protests from Christians as well as Kirats, an indigenous community.
Now the trust is also under the scanner of law after it signed an agreement with a businessman without a bidding process.
The businessman was allowed to lease land owned by the shrine for sand-mining at a favourable rate without calling for tenders from others.
The decision came under fire after the deal was challenged in court by a disgruntled trader and the Supreme Court Tuesday stayed the deal till it resolved the row.
(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)