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Rewriting a royal past for Nepal

If winds of change had not swept Nepal six years ago, the country would have celebrated the 290th birth anniversary of its founding father Prithvi Narayan Shah on Wednesday and his descendent Gyanendra Shah would have presided over the festivities.

world Updated: Jan 12, 2012 00:55 IST
Utpal Parashar

If winds of change had not swept Nepal six years ago, the country would have celebrated the 290th birth anniversary of its founding father Prithvi Narayan Shah on Wednesday and his descendent Gyanendra Shah would have presided over the festivities.

But except few small functions by royalists, a dwindling tribe in Nepal, the day marked earlier as National Unity Day passed uneventfully. Even Gyanendra, the last king of the erstwhile Hindu kingdom, had to be content issuing a statement stressing unity.

Prithvi Narayan Shah, the king from Gorkha, was solely responsible for uniting the small confederations in the region and bringing them under one administration in 1768. The dynasty ruled Nepal for 240 years till monarchy was abolished in 2008.

But change had set in earlier. Following end of the Maoist civil war and the growing call for overhaul of the country, Prithvi Jayanti was not celebrated for the first time in centuries in 2007.

Though some still debate whether it is proper to do away with everything associated with the country's royal past. But their voices are hushed or they fear going against the majority who want to get rid of the royal past and anything associated with it.

A columnist in Kantipur, Nepal's largest circulated daily, appealed every Nepali to express gratitude to Prithvi Narayan for giving them a unique identity rather than forgetting his contribution in shaping the country.

Not all agree to similar sentiments. Recently the Maoist government decided to remove the bust of King Tribhuwan Shah, Gyanendra's grandfather, from Shahid Gate, a martyrs' memorial, and place it at Narayanhiti, the former Shah palace now transformed to a museum.

The government was of the opinion that only busts of martyrs should be placed at the memorial. Following outrage from some sections and acting on a petition, the supreme court on Tuesday stayed the move to relocate Tribhuwan's bust.

It was earlier a tradition for all new prime ministers to offer flowers at the memorial after they were sworn in. The practice has now been discarded by all four PMs since 2008.

If things hadn't changed Gyanendra would still be roaming Kathmandu's streets on his Mercedes Benz. But even that has been acquired by the state and there are worries on how to 'dispose' this royal legacy.

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