Govt prevents Nepal`s ex-monarch from key religious function
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 19:20
Kathmandu: Nepal's deposed king Gyanendra was prevented from attending an ancient religious function to honour the 'Living Goddess' at his former palace on Tuesday, amid speculation that he has stepped up his public appearances in face of the deepening constitutional crisis in the country.

The 65-year-old former monarch was barred from attending a felicitation function for the 'Living Goddess' in his ancestral Hanumandhoka palace complex in the heart of the captial at the last moment today on the eve of Indra Jatra, a major Hindu festival in the country.

Nepal's 'Living Goddess' is revered by many as a "virgin deity" in a centuries-old tradition in the country.

On the Indra Jatra festival, the 'Living Goddess' in all her bejeweled splendor is borne in a palanquin in a religious procession through parts of the Nepalese capital.

It is a grand carnival attended by people in thousands, who come to see the 'Living Goddess' and seek her blessings.

In keeping with an old tradition, the Kumari also blesses the King of Nepal during this festival. Traditionally, the Kumari was regarded as the protector of the royal family.

Gyanendra was invited to the function as the chief guest by the World Hindu Youth Federation, which had organised the programme to felicitate Kumari, the Living Goddess, and former Kumaris.

However, authorities barred him from attending the religious function citing security reason.

"He is confined to his private residence at Nirmal Niwas as the security personnel did not allow him to come out of the residence to attend the function", an organiser said.

A police official at the Kathmandu Metropolitan Police Circle at Hanumandhoka complex said the former ruler was not allowed to visit the area as it might cause security problem for him.

A group of around 50-60 royalists, who had gathered at the venue today, staged protests and shouted anti-government slogans against the move.

The former King has been barred from visiting the Hanumandhoka complex where he was invited to felicitate the present and former Kumaris, a pro-monarchy activist said, adding they were planning to protest against the move.

Some nine former Kumaris, including the oldest 82-year old Dil Kumari Shakya, 82 and the youngest Preeti Shakya, 13 took part in the function at Hanumandhoka complex.

Some 504 girls, who had not reached the age of puberty, were also worshipped as Goddess Kumari during the programme.

President Ram Baran Yadav will visit the Kumari House at Kathmandu Durbarsquare to receive blessing from 'Living Goddess' Kumari during the Indra Jatra tomorrow.

The eight-day Indrajatra festival starts tomorrow and will include the pulling of chariot of different deities, including Kumari, Ganesh and Bhairav.

In the past, the Nepalese monarch used to worship Goddess Kumari on the occasion. However, after the abolition of the monarchy in 2008, the country's president has been entrusted with the popular religious responsibility.

The Hindu organisation has threatened to prevent Yadav from taking part in the function tomorrow.

Gyanendra has kept a low profile since he left the Narayanhiti palace in June 2008, when the country's governing Constituent Assembly voted to abolish the centuries-old monarchy and declare a republic.

The former monarch, however, has lately increased his appearances at public and religious functions, including visiting important temples across the country amid pomp and show.

Supporters of the monarchy in Nepal, where kings have been revered as the reincarnation of the Lord Vishnu, have demanded a national referendum to decide if the monarchy should be revived.

Even Gyanendra has hinted that the monarchy may one day be restored. In an interview aired last year, the deposed king did not rule out the revival of the monarchy if the people believed the institution was important for the country.

Mass protests against Gyanendra, who became the king in 2001 after the death of his elder brother Birendra in a palace massacre, finally culminated in the abolition of the monarchy soon after the United CPN-Maoist emerged as the largest party in the 2008 assembly polls.

The high-profile public appearances of Gyanendra comes amid a deepening constitutional crisis in the country due to the failure of the political parties to elect a new premier following the resignation of Madhav Kumar Nepal on June 30.

The country has been in political limbo since the resignation of Nepal, who is currently heading a caretaker government.


First Published: Tuesday, September 21, 2010, 19:20

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