Nepal ready with guided tour of royal palace

February 25th, 2009 - 3:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, Feb 25 (IANS) As Nepal’s last king Gyanendra heads for India to begin his first visit abroad after being stripped of his crown and throne, the ancestral palace he quit last year readies to throw its gates wide open to the public Friday, when it is metamorphosed into a national museum.

The Narayanhity royal palace, one of the best-known sights of Kathmandu where three kings had lived and one gunned down in a surprise attack, becomes the new Himalayan republic’s latest tourist attraction from Friday. Now curious onlookers can saunter right up to the razed-down building where the dark and mysterious massacre occurred in 2001, killing the then king, queen and eight other family members.

Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, who led his underground Maoist party to a 10-year armed insurrection to end monarchy in the world’s only Hindu kingdom, will feel fresh triumph Thursday when he formally inaugurates the royal palace as a museum dedicated to the people.

Gyanendra and his wife, the former queen Komal, left the Narayanhity last June after being ordered by Nepal’s lawmakers. However, the government decided to unbend in the case of the former queen mother, Ratna, who has been allowed to continue to live in her mansion.

The government has also allowed a surviving concubine of Gyanendra’s grandfather Tribhuvan, Sarala, to stay on in her old quarters inside the palace.

The unravelling of the royal Shah dynasty of Nepal began June 1, 2001 in the Narayanhity when king Birendra, his queen Aishwarya and seven other family members were gunned down, reportedly by a drugs and drinks-crazed crown prince Dipendra, who shot himself at the end of the carnage.

Tribhuvan Sadan, the mansion where the tragedy occurred, was razed in 2006 on the order of King Gyanendra, who had inherited his brother’s crown and begun a disastrous journey towards self-destruction.

Ignoring muted public outrage that the act would destroy invaluable historical documents and evidence, the royal regime pulled down the mansion, including the billiard room where the shootout took place, and Dipendra’s bedroom, where he had reportedly retired after a surfeit of alcohol only to return dressed in army combat uniform and armed to the teeth.

Till now out of bounds, the grim memento of death and destruction would be accessible to public from Friday with a sign marking it as the tragic spot.

In addition to the razed mansion, 19 rooms of the palace would be opened in the first phase.

They include the bedrooms of the former kings and princes, the banquet hall and the imposing salons where the king received dignitaries.

Also on display would be ornate sculptures, mirrors, photographs and oil paintings.

The government has planned an admission fee of NRS 100 for Nepalis, NRS 250 for SAARC and Chinese visitors and NRS 500 for other visitors.

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