Slain Nepal king’s mementos up for grabs

December 16th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Dec 16 (IANS) The winds of change that began overtaking Nepal from 2006 reduced king Gyanendra to a commoner and brought former princes under the tax net. Now, in another blow to the royals, the personal possessions of slain king Birendra are being sold - not in any prestigious auction but in a sale similar to a flea market.A crown worn by the king whose death in 2001 triggered the demise of the ruling Shah dynasty of Nepal, his glasses, watch and clothes are being offered to collectors by the widow of a man who too became part of Nepal’s history in a small way.

In June 2001, after king Birendra and nine more members of the royal family, including the queen and crown prince, were killed during a family dinner in the Narayanhity palace, tradition dictated that the mourning nation choose a man who would accept the sin of regicide and cleanse the kingdom of its collective guilt.

A Brahmin, Durga Prasad Sapkota, was chosen to bear the burden of guilt. He was gifted an elephant and money to symbolically leave the country on the back of the beast, signifying the purging of the national sin.

When Sapkota died about three years ago, his widow Hom Kumari Sapkota gathered the royal belongings given to her husband. These include a crown, Birenda’s glasses, some clothes, a cap, dagger, watch, sunglasses, shoes and other memorabilia.

The widow told Nepal’s state media Tuesday that she was in straitened circumstances and had decided to sell the royal items in her possession to the highest bidders.

Her husband, she said, had sold the elephant for Nepali Rs.300,000 ($4,650).

The articles in her possession have been certified as authentic by a former palace official who used to head the palace treasury.

The news of the proposed sale comes at a time the new government headed by the Maoists is converting the royal palace into a national museum where priceless old royal artefacts, jewellery and documents would be preserved for the nation.

It remains to be seen if the news will draw the attention of either Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda or the slain king’s sole surviving brother, former king Gyanendra, and persuade an initiative by either to buy the mementos of the best loved king of Nepal and preserve them as national heritage.

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