Saturday, February 24, 2024

Nepal royal massacre site to open Friday

It was on a Friday eight years ago that gunfire destroyed the quiet of the night in Kathmandu’s pink royal palace, triggering a series of catastrophes that started with the murder of 10 members of the royal family and eventually, led to the end of monarchy in the world’s only Hindu kingdom.
Come Friday again this week and the public will, for the first time in the history of Nepal, be allowed to visit the site of the massacre that is to become an exhibit in the palace turned national museum. On Thursday, Maoist prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, whose party accomplished Mission Impossible by toppling Nepal’s once-revered royal dynasty, will formally inaugurate the Narayanhity National Museum, following which it will be open to public from Friday.
Till June, when the last king of Nepal and the last occupant of the palace Gyanendra made his final exit with his wife Komal, the Narayanhity was a tightly guarded bastion that did not allow even tall buildings in its vicinity for suspicion that the royals’ privacy would be curtailed. But Friday onwards, any Nepali can walk in unchallenged by paying an admission price of NRS 100. Curious foreign tourists who loitered outside the imposing gates of the palace, clicking away with their cameras, can saunter right inside by paying NRS 500 while for the Indian, Chinese and other SAARC country tourists, the admission fee is NRS 250.
“This is the first phase and the museum will only display the different mansions,” said Jal Krishna Shrestha, spokesman at the ministry of culture and state restructuring. “The former king’s sleeping quarters, banquet hall and rooms of other family members. However, there are no personal items in these rooms, except for the traditional furniture, paintings, photographs, statues and hunting trophies.”
Also on display will be the rubbled site of Tribhuvan Sadan, the mansion named after Gyanendra’s grandfather, where the infamous palace massacre took place on Friday, June 1, 2001. Besides the then king Birendra, queen Aishwarya and their two children, five other royal relatives were also killed, reportedly by the crown prince Dipendra, who at the end turned the gun on himself.
After Gyanendra ascended the throne, he ordered the Tribhuvan Sadan to be destroyed. Nothing remains of the billiard room where Dipendra was the first guest to arrive, played a couple of shots, drank Famous Grouse whiskey and began staggering.
He was taken to his bedroom inside the Sadan which held the key to the massacre that now has been irretrievably lost. It was here that the stupefied Dipendra is said to have changed into army fatigues and armed himself with lethal guns, then stormed the billiard room and began to shoot indiscriminately.
“We are putting up a sign saying this is where the massacre occurred in 2001 and subsequently, the mansion was pulled down,” says Shrestha. “In the nearby rooms, you can still see traces of the marks left by the hail of bullets.”

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