Nepal’s Royal Palace Becomes the Narayanhity Durbar Museum

Nepal’s Prime Minister, Girija Prasad Koirala, presided over a history-making ceremony on 15 June 2008, during which the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu was declared as belonging to the people of Nepal. The Prime Minister hoisted three national flags at the main entrance of the pink palace, and unveiled the new plaque which bears the insignia of Nepal’s government and describes the former palace as the “Narayanhity Durbar Museum”.

This momentous occasion came about as a result of the election held by the government of Nepal in April to decide the fate of the country’s 239-year-old monarchy. The results of the election were a clear indication that the people of Nepal wanted an end to the crown, which is what Maoists have been fighting for over the past ten years or more. The dethroned king recognized the right of the people to make this choice, and willingly left the palace that had once been the seat of power in Nepal. Prime Minister Koirala acknowledged that this action by the former king was a contributing factor to Nepal being proclaimed a republic without conflict or bloodshed.

Koirala has been quoted as saying: “The national flag fluttering here sends the message of unity.” He also stressed the need for the country to move forward on the basis of “consensus, cooperation and trust” with the flag serving as a symbol of unity for the people. The new flag replaces the flag of the royal family, which was removed without fanfare on 29 May, indicating King Gyanendra’s willingness to accept the choice of the people. The royal crown, scepter and throne were handed over to Nepal’s government and the deposed king and his wife left the palace on 11 June 2008.

Authorities responsible for the new Narayanhity Durbar Museum face the enormous task of making a complete inventory of all items inside the building, many of which are valuable – from a monetary point of view, as well as having historic and cultural value. There are also countless documents of historic significance which need to be preserved. The national library of Nepal would like to see a national archive established in the former palace, while tourism entrepreneurs are keen to see the palace developed into a major tourist attraction. Considering that Nepal is a popular tourist destination generating substantial revenue for the country, the latter choice is favored by many and no doubt tourists visiting Kathmandu would be very interested in exploring a building that once housed the royal family of Nepal.