King Gyanendra attends Temple festival in Kathmandu

Kathmandu: Amid slogans in support of return of monarchy, Nepal's ex-King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah attended a centuries-old festival at the Shwetkali Temple here as chief guest and performed all rituals which were earlier done by his ancestors.

Gyanendra, 62, visited the temple at 7.30 pm last night and attended the rituals and traditional function almost two years after monarchy was abolished in Nepal, king's aide Sagar Timilsina said. He also inquired about the tradition and rituals of the temple.

After the monarchy's abolition, President Ram Baran Yadav as head of the nation was attending the function.

The temple, also known as Azima or Bhagawati, is visited by devotees for fulfilling their wishes and attaining powers, said Pradeep Kumar Bhatta, a local resident.

The organisers said they did not invite the President or any other official this time. "We invited the former King as per the age-old tradition," said Satyanarayan Dangol, the secretary of the organising committee.

The festival was organised after 30 years though it should be marked every 12 years. Dongol said the festival used to be organised after a person, who is influenced by divine power, performed special dance. "However, such incident never took place in last 30 years," he said.

In 1980, then King Birendra, who was killed during the palace massacre of 2001, had attended the festival as the chief guest, the organisers recalled. The festival is said to have begun in the 10th century.

As the ex-monarch walked around the temple, some pro-King groups shouted slogans like 'come back the King, save the nation' and 'The King is dearer than our life'.

Last week, Gyanendra after visiting Pashupatinath temple had endorsed the campaign for turning the country into a Hindu state.