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In yet another sign that Nepal’s royal family is losing its place in the nation’s socio-cultural life, King Gyanendra, for the first time in the history of Nepal, will not be attending the Ghode Jatra festival in the capital, one of the most colourful and attractive ceremonies watched by hundreds.
Held in the heart of the capital every summer, the festival draws spectators from far and wide to watch soldiers of the Nepal Army perform astonishing feats on horseback.
The event is traced to an old legend that associates it with the destruction of a demon who preyed on children.
 The change began to be evident from this year with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who is the new army chief and head of state, attending all the programmes earlier earmarked for the king.
Last month, the traditional army parade on Shiv Ratri, a widely celebated Hindu festival, took place without the attendance of the royal family.
With the octogenarian premier being ill, the army chief, Gen Rukmangad Katuwal, had to step in as the chief guest. The Ghode Jatra festival on Sunday, however, is expected to have Koirala as chief guest since the 84-year-old leader has recovered from jaundice.
The disappearance of the crown from Nepal’s colourful ceremonies comes at a time the government also decided to axe the servitors employed in the palace by 50 percent. From nearly 800 employees, the Narayanhity royal palace will now have less than 400 staffers with many due to retire as well.


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