| KATHMANDU, March 19
KATHMANDU, March 19 The crown worn by Nepal's
kings, once considered the reincarnation of the Hindu god
Vishnu, will be put up for public viewing at a palace museum, an
official said on Monday, nearly four years after the abolition
of the 239-year-old monarchy.
A specially elected assembly dominated by the Maoist former
rebels abolished the Hindu monarchy in May 2008, turning one of
the world's poorest countries into a secular republic.
The pagoda-roofed pink palace in the heart of Kathmandu was
made into a museum after the last monarch King Gyanendra left,
handing the ruby- and diamond-studded crown to the government.
"We are keeping the crown and the ceremonial sceptre in a
safe room in the palace as there are not enough security
arrangements in place at the museum right now," said Lekh
Bahadur Karki, chief of the Narayanhiti palace museum.
"The government has decided to display them for public
viewing. We'll prepare a bullet-proof show case for the crown
which will be put up at the Surkhet Baithak," Karki told
Reuters, referring to the room where former kings received their
Nepal's leading jewelers had been unable to put a monetary
value on the crown, saying only it was "priceless", Karki said.
"Its security and safety is our prime concern. Our goal is
to exhibit the crown in mid-July when the current fiscal year
ends," he added.
A 1939 Mercedes Benz presented by Nazi leader Adolf Hitler
to King Tribhuvan, Gyanendra's grandfather, is also to be
displayed at the museum.
The car is now rusting in a dusty palace garage after an
engineering college in Kathmandu, which used it to train
mechanics, said it did not have enough money and spare parts to
restore the antique car to its original form.
ROYAL MASSACRE REMEMBERED
In addition, authorities say they plan to rebuild the house
in the same royal compound where the then-Crown Prince Dipendra
gunned down his popular father King Birendra and eight other
royals before turning the gun to himself in 2001, according to
an official investigation.
Only a six-inch brick outline remains of the building now.
Many analysts say the incident, which vaulted Gyanendra on
to the throne, marked the beginning of the end of the monarchy
in the devoutly religious nation of 26.6 million people.
Although many people considered the king the incarnation of
Vishnu, the Hindu god of protection, Gyanendra failed to win the
same respect as his slain brother Birendra.
He sacked the elected government in 2005 and took on
Now he lives as a commoner with his family in a private home
and the former palace has become a popular tourist attraction in
the temple-studded capital ringed by lush green hills.
"It was nice to visit the rooms where the kings once lived
and see some of their possessions," said 45-year-old housewife
Poonam Bhandari, emerging from a room where two stuffed tigers
were on show.
"It is unbelievable that we can walk into what was once the
king's bedroom," she added. "I will come again to see the crown
after it is displayed."
Nepal, wedged in the central Himalayas between China and
India, is struggling to prepare its first republican
constitution as Maoist former rebels haggle with other political
parties over the system of government, creation of federal
provinces and how to split scarce resources between them.
Baburam Bhattarai, a senior Maoist leader whose party waged
a decade-long civil war to topple the monarchy, was elected
prime minister in August last year.
(Editing by Elaine Lies)