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No takers in Nepal for slain king's memorabilia

Slain music icon John Lennon's possessions continue to fetch astronomical prices at auctions more than 25 years after his death.

world Updated: Feb 02, 2009 15:49 IST

Slain music icon John Lennon's possessions continue to fetch astronomical prices at auctions more than 25 years after his death.

So do the effects of Hollywood star Marilyn Monroe and Britain's Princess Diana, whose tragic death in a car crash was mourned worldwide.

However, there are no takers for the memorabilia of Nepal's assassinated king Birendra, who was considered the most pragmatic member of the 239-year-old royal dynasty of the Himalayan nation.

The widow of a Nepali man, who was presented several items worn by the slain king, including a lesser crown, watch and ornaments, is lamenting that even months after she announced her intention to put up the items for sale, there is no serious buyer.

On June 1, 2001, the king, his queen Aishwarya, and eight more members of the royal family were gunned down in the tightly guarded Narayanhity royal palace in Kathmandu, in a watershed tragedy that eventually led to the abolition of the world's only Hindu kingdom.

As Birendra's younger brother Gyanendra was named his successor, following traditions, palace officials appointed a Brahmin priest to accept the sin of regicide and cleanse the country.

Durga Prasad Sapkota, the appointed priest, was gifted the dead king's clothes, shoes, spectacles and even a lesser crown, put on elephant back and asked to symbolically leave Nepal.

After Sapkota's death, his widow Hom Kumari last year announced that she was in straitened circumstances and would auction the prized possessions.

However, months later, the widow is yet to get a serious buyer.

"Only comedians and actors have been dropping in, asking me to lend the articles to them for a couple of days for satirical performances," she told Nepal's official media.

"Now I have a good mind to donate them to some museum.

"At least people will then remember us too when they see these exhibits in some museum."

Last April, Nepal held a historic election in which, for the first time, people were asked to vote to keep or scrap monarchy and decided to give embattled King Gyanendra the thumbs-down.

A sea change has overtaken Nepal since then with the former guerrillas, the Maoists, coming to power legitimately through an election.

The mystique of the royals is fading in public minds and the battle for survival, compounded by the worst energy crisis ever in Nepal as well as the percolating effect of the worldwide financial crash now preoccupies the new republic.

Perhaps the Maoist-led government would take an initiative in preserving the royal remnants.

The palace, which saw the exit of King Gyanendra in June, is now on the way to becoming a national museum. Maybe that could be the fitting final resting place for the dead king's belongings.

First Published: Feb 02, 2009 15:40 IST