Nepal: A Republic Is Born But a King’s Watermark Lingers

As we blogged about transiency in China yesterday, Nepal’s newly-elected assembly voted to end almost 240 years of monarchic rule. The new republic has given King Gyanendra and his entourage 15 days to leave the royal palace, which will be turned into a national museum. (Art and Politics merge yet again.)

The transition has been brewing for some time. Widespread protests two years ago stripped King Gyanendra of his powers (himself having just been named king in 2001 when his brother’s entire family was massacred by the crown prince), setting the stage for major political change. In April, the country’s former rebels, the Maoists, won the most seats in the assembly. Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala has been acting as head-of-state until a new President is appointed.

Regime change always has an impact on visual materials, so we thought we’d look into Nepalese currency, the rupee. It seems spectres of the past are not that easy to erase. In IHT last month:

Shortly after the king gave up power in 2006, the government ordered the printing of new money, starting with the 500 rupee note, free of the king’s portrait. In the new design, developed by the central bank, the image of King Gyanendra was replaced by that of the noncontroversial Mount Everest. But the paper on which the new bills were printed, having been ordered long ago, still bore a watermark of the king’s face.

Unable to afford new currency paper, bank officials took creative license. They slapped a dark-pink rhododendron on top of the watermark. The king and his bird-of-paradise plumed crown can be seen only if the bill is held up to the light.

rupeeIn Sri Lanka’s Sunday Times last October: a woman holds up an old 500-rupee note (top) and a new one (bottom) with Mount Everest and the concealing rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower.

The notes were ordered from an Indonesian manufacturer before April 2006, when the king was stripped of his authority.

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