Nepal’s ex-queen mum yearning to leave palace museum: Report

March 4th, 2009 - 2:42 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 4 (IANS) With Nepal’s formerly impregnable royal palace now open to the public as a national museum, the former queen mother, who is still living in her mansion inside the sprawling complex, is now yearning to depart from there, a report said.

Deposed king Gyanendra’s stepmother Ratna Shah, who had been the most powerful woman in Nepal during the reign of three kings, beginning with her husband, late king Mahendra, now wants to leave the Narayanhity palace which has become an object of enormous public curiosity.

The former queen mum, who is reported to have encouraged Gyanendra to grab absolute power with the support of the army in 2005, has expressed her desire to spend her last days far from the madding crowd in a resting place meant for pilgrims.

The white rest house, now in a state of disuse, is located near the Guheshwori temple on the premises of the famed Pashupatinath shrine in Kathmandu, Nepal’s official media said Wednesday.

In the past, when Nepal was a Hindu kingdom and its kings were revered as incarnations of a Hindu god, the rest house was used for religious festivals, the Gorkhapatra daily said. Ratna Shah had two adopted daughters whose weddings had also been conducted there.

However, with the abolition of monarchy last year and the ousted king being stripped of his position as patron of the trust that runs the Pashupatinath shrine, the rest house has been taken over by the locals and the rest house padlocked.

The 81-year-old ex-queen mum is asking her retainers to convey her wish to the appropriate authorities.

Last year, after a historic election decided that King Gyanendra would lose his crown and become a commoner, he was also asked to vacate the Narayanhity royal palace that had been rebuilt by his father King Mahendra.

Though the disgraced king accepted the verdict, he persuaded the government to allow his stepmother to spend her last days in her mansion in the Narayanhity which she had entered in 1955 as the queen consort.

Though the government agreed, now the former queen mother is anxious to leave the palace as it is no longer the haven it used to be for the royals.

Besides being thrown open to the public, it has also resurrected the memory of the carnage in 2001 when the then king Birendra and his entire family were gunned down.

Now the Maoist government has announced a fresh investigation into the palace massacre that could rattle old skeletons.

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