Nepal king to keep tryst with Pashupatinath on Shivratri

March 6th, 2008 - 2:53 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, March 6 (IANS) Undaunted by the stone-throwing incident that marred his journey to the country’s most hallowed Hindu shrine last year, Nepal’s King Gyanendra will visit the Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu Thursday to offer prayers on the occasion of Shivratri. According to sources in the Narayanhity palace here, the king, who faces a critical election next month, will arrive at the temple in the evening to perform the traditional annual rites of the royal family.

Last year, the king’s arrival at the crowded temple, where thousands of devotees had been waiting for hours for a glimpse of the deity, created a row. A section of people, enraged at having to wait in a cold drizzle while the king bypassed the queue, threw stones at the royal motorcade.

The ugly incident forced the government of Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala to conduct an inquiry. A teenager was arrested and charged with rowdy behaviour.

Though the Koirala government that came to power after the end of the king’s absolute rule two years ago strove to strip the monarch of all his powers and privileges, a defiant Gyanendra has continued observing Hindu rituals in public.

With the seven-party government becoming unpopular due to the worsening security situation, mounting corruption and a continued fuel and power crisis, the king’s religious jaunts have been gaining public support.

This year, breaking his long silence, the embattled monarch finally spoke out, indicating that he was gearing up to face the constituent assembly election on April 10, when for the first time in the history of Nepal people would choose between the two-and-a-half century old monarchy and a secular republic.

Though the Maoists, who fought a 10-year guerrilla war trying to end monarchy, last year forced parliament to declare the state a republic ahead of the election, the opposition parties are now flaying the move.

The Rastriya Prajatantra Party (RPP), once a staunch supporter of monarchy, was forced by the anti-king sentiments during Gyanendra’s 15-month rule to support the republic motion in parliament.

However, it is now saying that parliament erred by proclaiming Nepal a republic since such a momentous decision ought to be decided by the entire electorate.

Another opposition party, the Rastriya Janashakti Party (RJP), supports this point of view.

The RJP, headed by former prime minister Surya Bahadur Thapa, who was nominated by the king, also says it is the people and not parliament that have the authority to proclaim Nepal a republic.

Over two dozen royalist parties are in the poll fray. They claim the election, if free and fair, will throw up some shocks for the ruling parties.

The king has hinted at a secret understanding between the ruling parties and himself, which persuaded him to step down as head of government.

His decision to attend the Shivratri celebrations, this time with Queen Komal, is an indication that the crown is still very much in the reckoning.

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