The Narayanhity Palace on Saturday wore a festive look, and there was at least some reason for Nepal’s unpopular King Gyanendra to be cheerful on his 60th birthday.
Amidst strong criticism from pro-democrats, members of the royal family of Nepal were nervous that their "loyal" subjects would not be able to reach the palace and greet the King.
However, braving threats from the Maoist-affiliated Young Communist League (YCL) and other democratic students’ organisations, tens of hundreds of "royalists" reached the Narayanhity Palace on Saturday morning from far-flung areas of the country.
Dressed in their finest attire, they made it a point to come with bouquets and colourful gifts for their King, even though the Nepal government has put the controversial monarch under suspension.
The supporters of monarchy in Nepal took out a small rally, accompanied by musicians and cultural troupes, from Ghantaghar to Narayanhity Palace and shouted slogans against the eight parties and eulogised King Gyanendra.
The Maoist cadres demonstrated around Ratnapark, Bhadrakali, Shahid Gate and New Road. The government mobilised large number of Nepal Armed Police personnel around the palace to avert any confrontation.
The anti-King forces had threatened to storm the palace to foil the celebration. In view of the threats, the palace on Friday had requested the government to provide special security for the King’s birthday celebrations.
Police put up barbed barricades on all the roads around the royal palace, and traffic was diverted for the special security bandobast.
The visitors to the palace on Saturday also included monks and saints, who generously blessed King Gyanendra, and wished him all success in life. “Tera jarur jeet hogaa (you will definitely emerge victorious),” a cluttered-hair saint shouted.
Some of the Buddhist monks chanted hymns to wish luck to King Gyanendra. Traditionally, the King of Nepal is revered as the Hindu Samrat (Hindu Emperor), and considered the reincarnation of Lord Vishnu.
However, the spiritual status of King Gyanendra has also suffered a major beating after he was politically-marginalised by the Nepal government led by Girija Prasad Koirala. None of the members of the ruling Eight Party Alliance (EPA) visited the palace on Saturday.