Nepal’s royal palace is now museum, open to people

June 15th, 2008 - 6:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, June 15 (IANS) In a brief but emotional ceremony, Nepal’s Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala Sunday inaugurated the Narayanhity royal palace, once the nation’s seat of power as well as the venue of its darkest tragedy, as a national museum, urging his countrymen to keep the national flag flying high. Four days after the final exit of deposed king Gyanendra through a back gate, the font doors of the pink palace were opened wide in an unprecedented scene as the government finally claimed it as the people’s.

Koirala, who has assumed the dethroned king’s place as head of state, hoisted three national flags at the main entrance of the palace and unveiled the new signboard stamped with the logo of the government that now describes the former palace as “Narayanhity Durbar Museum”.

“Such a day comes only once in an epoch,” the prime minister said. “The world’s eyes are on Nepal for the unique example it created of proclaiming a republic without any bloodshed.”

The premier, whose government held a historic election in April to seal the fate of Nepal’s 239-year-old monarchy, also acknowledged the dethroned king’s contribution, saying that he left the palace on his own after realising the desire of the people to see an end to the crown.

“The national flag fluttering here sends the message of unity,” Koirala said. “We have to proceed forward on the basis of consensus, cooperation and trust.

“This is the flag of the people. May it never fall. May we never surrender.”

The ceremony marked the culmination of a process that had started two years ago after a national uprising forced king Gyanendra to surrender the absolute power he had seized with the support of the army.

The new government stripped the king of all his power and privileges and the next year, parliament declared Nepal a republic with the actual implementation to be started after the elections.

The first constituent assembly election held April 10 saw the nation vote in favour of the Maoists, who had fought a 10-year war vowing to end monarchy.

Finally, on May 28, the constituent assembly held its first meeting where the new lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to abolish the crown and gave the king 15 days to vacate the palace.

The flag of the royal family was quietly removed by the palace on May 29, showing 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.

Now, with the palace becoming a national museum, the ruling parties face the tough job 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.

The dethroned king 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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