King prays as Nepal calls for republic
Apr 25, 2007 - 11:09:32 AM

Kathmandu, April 25 - As the people celebrated the first anniversary of his fall from power and renewed their call for the abolition of monarchy, Nepal's King Gyanendra turned to the gods for help, offering sacrifices at the altar of a Hindu goddess of power.

Tuesday marked exactly a year since the king, who had grabbed absolute power in 2005 with the help of the army, was forced to reinstate parliament and hand over the reins of power to the opposition parties after public protest brought the nation to a standstill for 19 days.

As Nepal celebrated the fall of the king's 15-month regime and restoration of democracy Tuesday with three days' festivities, the monarch and his queen Komal ignored the growing animosity towards the crown to head for a temple on the outskirts of the capital.

The Dakshinkali temple in Kathmandu, had been the first public place visited by the royal family in May last year, after the king was forced to quit as head of government.

Since then, Nepal has undergone a sea change, becoming a secular country from the only Hindu kingdom in the world. It also witnessed an end to the decade-old Maoist insurgency with communist guerrillas finally joining the new government.

The king, once regarded as an incarnation of god and above law, was stripped of his position as head of state and the army and the new government began making preparations to hold a historic election that would put the crown to vote.

However, the changes have apparently not shaken the royal family's strong faith in gods and divine intervention.

Though lavish prayers to the gods could not quell growing public resentment against his reign, King Gyanendra Tuesday chose to spend the anniversary of his exit from power by offering five animal sacrifices at the Dakshinkali temple.

Besides offering a goat, sheep, buffalo, rooster and duck, the royal couple also offered gold to the goddess, whose blessings, devotees believe, help vanquish enemies.

Keeping in mind the Maoists' growing opposition to the king and their recent confiscation of royal property, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala's government stepped up security for the royal visit.

Despite crowds clamouring for a republic in a different part of the capital, the temple visit was reminiscent of the heady days of power enjoyed by the king since the royal coup.

The army, once branded for supporting the palace, offered a 21-gun salute and played the old national anthem that was scrapped last year for extolling monarchy.

The palace also mobilised villagers to line up the road taken by the royal motorcade. People chanted pro-king slogans as the king approached the temple.

According to Nepal's media, royal astrologers have predicted a bright future for monarchy. The predictions could turn true with the new government failing to hold the election even after a year in power.

It has also not been able to punish the royalists who abetted the king's reign that resulted in the death of 25 protesters and the disappearance of dozens.

Fresh cracks have appeared in the ruling coalition and new ethnic protests have erupted in the southern plains, giving the beleaguered monarch ample time to marshal his forces.

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