KATHMANDU (AFP) --- The Royal Flag was taken down from Nepal's Royal Palace this morning, as the Himalayan nation celebrated a vote consigning its 239-year-old Monarchy to the history books, and declaring a republic.
The country was marking late Wednesday's decision by a Maoist-dominated constitutional assembly with a 2-day public holiday, and King Gyanendra --- faced with a two-week deadline to evict himself from the premises --- was said to be in the midst of packing his bags.
"The Royal Flag was replaced by Nepal's new national banner within the Royal Palace," said a Palace source. "The Flag has now been changed as part of the Government's decision to implement the Republic of Nepal."
In a landmark vote capping a peace accord between the Maoists and mainstream parties, lawmakers voted just before the stroke of midnight on Wednesday evening to abolish the nearly three-and-a-half-century-old Monarchy, replacing it with a secular Republic. It also ordered that the main Palace at Kathmandu be converted into a Museum. The Nepalese Army, long seen as a bastion of Royal support, has said that it will respect the Assembly's verdict. "The decision has been taken by the constituent assembly, and it must be abided by by all stakeholders," said Army spokesperson Brigadier General Ramindra Chhetri.
Said Kishore Shrestha, editor of the Nepali-language weekly newspaper Jana Aastha, the King was packing up his stuff, and was expected to move to a Royal lodge on the outskirts of Kathmandu as early as tomorrow afternoon.
The Maoists, the clear winners of last month's elections to the Constitutional Assembly, had waged a decade of war against what, in their belief, was a backward, caste-ridden structure which kept the balance of Nepal's 29 million people living in dire poverty. They repeatedly warned King Gyanendra that he faced "strong punishment" were he to fail to bow out gracefully.
"It's a great day for Nepal," cheered 20-year-old Damodar Mainli, a city resident celebrating this radical change for this otherwise impoverished nation. "The new Nepal belongs to people like me."
For his part, Maoist spokesman Krishna Bahadur Mahara said that Nepal was now "free of feudal tradition," and accordingly promised a "radical social and economic transformation."
Many Nepalese are delighted to see the fall of the dour, unpopular Gyanendra, along with his son and would-be heir, Crown Prince Paras --- notorious for his playboy lifestyle.
Gyanendra ascended the Throne amidst grief and suspicion in June 2001, after the balance of the Royal Family was murdered in a Palace massacre most say was commited by then Crown Prince Dipendra. Having been forbidden by his mother, Queen Aiswarya, to marry the woman he loved, 30-year-old Dipendra avenged his beloved by killing the Queen, her husband, King Birendra, Dipendra's brother and sister, Prince Nirajan and Princess Shruti, Birendra's sisters, Princesses Shrada and Shanti, and the King's brother-in-law Kumar Kahdga --- before apparently turning the gun on himself. Gyanendra was at the center of many conspiracy theories linking him to the murders; and his unpopularity only deepened when he sacked the entire Government and embarked upon a period of autocratic rule in early 2005.
"There was no development under the Monarchy," commented 26-year-old Prakash Karki, a local businessman. "But there will be now that the people will run the country."
And so there are now, presuming that Wikipedia is indeed accurate about it, 45 monarchies on the Planet. Of those that call themselves constitutional monarchies, now 32 are known to survive. What, in the end, would become of them in an era dominated by YouTube, the web, and an America wondering where its post-9/11 destiny lies? No, these are not easy questions. If there is a point to my remarks --- and, as ever, there is one, it's that we find Monarchy unworthy of popularity, and yet we continue to dream about it, having been subjected to so many Faerie Tales in our childhoods. Where, then, will the Royal Road take these crowned heads? Only the Forces of Time can answer such a question; until then, a Wizard such as I can do little save speculate.
For now, America, as ever, I wanna know what you think. Gimme an e-mail at either firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.