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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 13:06 GMT 14:06 UK
Hundreds view 'sweating' statue
The statue of the Hindu God of trade and commerce, Bhimeshwor
The sweat is being seen as a bad omen
Hundreds of Hindus in Nepal are flocking to see a statue of a deity which is said to be "sweating".

Devotees believe the apparent perspiration is a sign of impending turmoil or natural disaster.

The statue of Bhimeshwor, who is worshipped as the Hindu God of trade and commerce in Nepal, has reportedly been sweating since Saturday.

The statue is located in Dolakha district, 70km (43 miles) east of the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

Sceptics say the appearance of moisture on the surface of the statue is probably caused by condensation.

'Forgiveness'

The chief priest of the temple where it is kept, Shanta Krishna Shrestha, told the AFP news agency that such sweating usually precedes disasters or crises for the royal family.

"Most famously the idol sweated just before the royal massacre in 2001," he said, referring to the incident in which the crown prince at the time - who was allegedly drunk - went on a shooting rampage that killed nine royals, including the king and queen - before turning the weapon on himself.

King Gyanendra
Some believe that the king's days as Nepal's monarch are numbered

"I saw the right side of the black stone idol had become wet because of sweating," Mr Shrestha told Reuters news agency.

"We must hold special prayers and make sacrifices asking for forgiveness."

Correspondents say that sacrificing animals such as goats or cockerels to appease Gods is common among Hindus in Nepal.

Local newspapers say that the Dolakha idol broke into a sweat prior to a massive earthquake in 1934.

Republic

It was also reported to have perspired during large-scale street protests last year in which King Gyanendra was forced to abandon his powers of direct rule.

The incident comes at a time when the future of Nepal's monarchy is being called into question.

Former Maoist rebels say they want an immediate end to the 238-year-old Shah dynasty.

They have joined the government since signing a peace deal last year - and are now pushing for the country to be declared a republic.

The king himself has been stripped of many of his powers since a peace deal between the Maoists and the government was signed in November.


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