Last Nepal king breaks ancient taboo

By Sudeshna Sarkar, IANS
Tuesday, February 9, 2010

KATHMANDU - Almost two years after he was stripped of his crown and became a commoner, Nepal’s deposed king Gyanendra himself has broken a centuries-old taboo.

The last king of Nepal, known to consult an army of astrologers before embarking on a journey or taking any major decision, hit the headlines Tuesday with reports that he had attended, for the first time in the history of Nepal’s Shah dynasty, a religious fair in a town till now considered out of bounds for his family.

Escorted by bodyguards and aides, the 62-year-old ousted king drove himself to Panauti Monday, a town 35 km southeast of Kathmandu, to attend the Makar Mela, a Hindu fair held every 12 years.

In the past, legend had it that Panauti was a forbidden area for the Shah kings of Nepal since it was the domain of Hindu god Narayan and the kings of Nepal were considered incarnations of the same god.

Since Gyanendra’s ancestor Prithvi Narayan Shah annexed Panauti in the 18th century, the legend sprang up and flourished, keeping the royal family away from the town.

The former king, breaking the taboo, said he was visiting the fair as a common citizen attending a religious event and not as a king. He, however, declined to comment on the cries of welcome by royalists who lined up the road and shouted slogans for the restoration of monarchy.

The former king, unaccompanied by his wife, also donated Nepali Rs.200,000 to build an old-age home and a college.

With the Panauti taboo broken, it remains to be seen if Gyanendra will now take on the remaining one.

North of Kathmandu lies a colossal statue of Vishnu, another incarnation of Narayan, lying in a bed of serpents on a pool.

The Budanilkantha temple is the only one in Nepal that was forbidden to the royal family of Nepal after a legend arose that the king would die if he ever gazed on the 15 feet high statue.

Nepal’s history is often closely woven with legends and curses, which were given a fresh lease of credulity when King Gyanendra’s attempt to rule the country with the support of the army led to a snowballing protest and the eventual abolition of monarchy in 2008.

It seemed to give credence to a lore that an ancient sage, angered by the supposed disrespect shown to him by an ancient Shah king, had put a curse on the dynasty, predicting it would end after 10 generations.

Filed under: Religion

will not be displayed