Monument to royal folly

May 23rd, 2008 - 8:49 pm ICT by admin  


Kathmandu, May 23 (IANS) The Narayanhity royal palace is almost as old as Nepal’s Shah dynasty of kings but destined by fate to live on even after the kings of Nepal cease to be. Built in the late 18th century to commemorate the victory of the kings over their powerful hereditary prime ministers, it derives its name from a water spout on the sprawling palace premises.

Located in the heart of the capital, it is also the crowded city’s green lungs, boasting of lush green foliage.

It is also considered one of the most ill-omened mansions in Nepal since King Birendra and nine more members of the royal family died in a midnight massacre in its billiards hall in June 2001.

Since then, the hall where the royal blood was shed was razed to ground.

By a quirk of fate, Gyanendra, who was crowned king after Birendra’s assassination, moved into the palace with his wife, Queen Komal, 13 months after the massacre, from their residence Nirmal Niwas in the nearby Maharajgunj area.

The new government that came to power after the fall of King Gyanendra’s short regime in 2006 has said seven palaces belonging to the king have been taken over by the state and would be turned into museums after the formal proclamation of a republic on May 28.

With the departure of the king, the Narayanhity would lose much of its attraction.

The guards outside the palace and the officials attired in traditional garb are still as great an attraction for tourists as the change of guard at Buckingham Palace.

On Hindu religious occasions, the palace also served as a uniting ground for the rich and poor who flocked there to receive blessings from the king and queen.

It would also be an ecological setback.

When the king wielded power, multi-storeyed buildings were not allowed in the vicinity of the palace.

But now, with the arrival of democracy, many of the old spacious houses in the area have been pulled down to make way for high-rises, adding to the disaster potential of the city located in a zone prone to killer earthquakes.

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