Kathmandu: Close on the heels of Nepal`s government banning any public celebration of exiled Tibetan leader Dalai Lama`s 76th birthday, a small but loyal group of royalists on Thursday celebrated the 64th birthday of deposed king Gyanendra.
Ignoring an early morning drizzle, men, women and children holding aloft placards with the former king`s photograph and flowers made their way to Nirmal Niwas, the sprawling mansion that was Gyanendra`s private residence as a prince before he was crowned king of Nepal in 2001 following the assassination of his elder brother, King Birendra.
The flocks included Hindu mendicants in saffron, who have remained loyal to Gyanendra, who was seen as the king of Hindus worldwide till 2006, when Nepal`s Parliament suspended monarchy to punish the king for trying to become an all-powerful ruler with the help of an Army-backed coup in 2005.
Though Nepal`s newly-elected Parliament in 2008 formally abolished monarchy and ordered the last king of Nepal to leave his palace, diehard royalists have still been campaigning for the restoration of a Hindu kingdom in Nepal with the Shah dynasty at its helm once more.
The former royal family has been keeping a low profile, staying out of controversies, especially after Gyanendera`s son Paras became embroiled in a drunken brawl and was arrested for firing in a public place.
It was an unprecedented incident as Nepal`s royal family had once been above law.
The pony-tailed former heir to the throne was among the first to wish his father a happy birthday at Nirmal Niwas on Thursday.
With Nepal`s communist government failing to unveil a new Constitution twice, royalists are hoping for a reprieve for the crown.
Gyanendra, who was crowned king when he was only four, and then ascended the throne again in 2001, is also the longest living male member of the dynasty that has a medical history of its men dying young, either due to intrigues or heart attacks.
Like the Dalai Lama`s birthdays, which are not allowed to be celebrated publicly for fear of antagonising China, the deposed king`s birthday celebration in 2006, after he was forced to surrender power, was muted due to protests by the Maoists and boycott by foreign diplomats and government officials.