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Nepal's royal palace turns people's museum

The Narayanhity royal palace, Nepal's best-known landmark that was once the seat of power as well as the venue of the nation's darkest tragedy, has officially become a people's museum.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Kathmandu
UPDATED ON JUN 15, 2008 05:16 PM IST

The Narayanhity royal palace, Nepal's best-known landmark that was once the seat of power as well as the venue of the nation's darkest tragedy, officially became a people's museum Sunday, four days after the final exit of deposed king Gyanendra.

"Narayanhity National Museum" said the board that went up at the main gate of the palace, once out of bounds for ordinary people.

To commemorate the end of monarchy in Nepal and the return of sovereignty to its own people, the triangular national flag will start flying from the palace, where in the past had stood the royal standard.

The flag of the royal family was quietly removed by the palace May 28, when the newly elected constituent assembly proclaimed Nepal a federal republic, ending the former Hindu kingdom's 239-year-old tie with its Shah dynasty of kings.

The move showed deposed king Gyanendra's readiness to accept the nation's verdict and begin a new life as a commoner.

The former king and his wife Komal vacated the palace June 11 after handing over the royal crown, sceptre and throne to the government. The ruling parties now face the tough task of making a complete inventory of the valuables inside the palace, including documents of historic importance and ensure their preservation.

Nepal's national library has urged the government to establish a national archives while tourism entrepreneurs say the palace should be developed as a major tourist attraction.

With the king now having become a part of history, his place as head of state has been taken for now by Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala.

At a ceremony in the palace Sunday, to be attended by ministers, bureaucrats, army and security chiefs and the heads of diplomatic missions, Koirala will unfurl the national flag.

It marks the start of a new chapter in Nepal's turbulent history.

The palace was also an integral part of Nepal's cultural life where ordinary people, Hindu organisations and royalists flocked during the Hindu festival of Dashain to seek the blessings of the king and queen.

In 2001, it was in Narayanhity palace that then king Birendra, Gyanendra's brother, was gunned down along with nine more members of his family.

The dethroned Gyanendra has moved out of the palace into an old summer mansion of the former royals. However, the Nagarjuna summer palace, located on the outskirts of Kathmandu, is also a temporary abode loaned to him by the government.

He will be asked to vacate it soon and the summer retreat will also be formally taken over by the state.

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