Royalists in Nepal gathered at the statue of late King Mahendra in front of the royal palace, now declared the national museum, on the occasion of Mahendra’s birthday Tuesday. Mahendra was the father of late King Birendra, murdered in 2001 with most of his family, and recently-deposed King Gyanendra. A small crowd waited to add flowers to the offerings already laid at the statue, while Laxman Khadka put flower garlands and Nepali flags on the statue.
This statue and other royal statues in Nepal were defaced and, in some cases, damaged during the people’s movement in spring 2006 that brought Gyanendra’s two-year stint of absolute rule to an end. Recently Khadka and others have repaired and maintained the statues.
Khadka, 60, is well-known in Nepal for hanging banners that chide politicians and celebrate national and international events. He usually paints the banner text on his clothing too, becoming a human billboard. Khadka is also seen directing traffic in Kathmandu because, he once told an interviewer, the traffic police are too busy stopping cars and asking for bribes.
King Mahendra’s birthday is also the anniversary of the 1960 royal takeover in which Mahendra dissolved parliament, imprisoned most of the government and banned political parties. The significance of the date was surely not lost on visitors: The banner attached to the base says “Save The Nation.”
John Child is The NewsBlaze Nepal Correspondent, a journalist in Kathmandu who writes about goings-on in and around Nepal and her neighbors.