I am writing this note a few moments after King Gyanendra of Nepal announced, in a televised address to his nation, that he was giving up absolute power, and would restore democracy and return power "to the people from this day forward."
This follows two weeks of violent demonstrations in which 14 people have been killed and hundreds injured, with many still in critical condition in hospital. These demonstrations of ‘people power’ – the largest ever in Nepal - resulted in curfews being imposed in Nepal’s major cities, which in turn gave rise to food shortages and the collapse of the tourism industry.
Things weren’t always so bad for King Gyanendra. This photograph was taken on 7 July 2004, when people like these holy men came out onto the streets of Kathmandu for a different purpose – to celebrate the King’s 58th birthday.
However, six months later King Gyanendra seized absolute power claiming it was a necessary move to defeat a long-running Maoist insurgency. He initially promised that democracy would be restored within three years, but with the Maoists threatening "a massive bloodbath" if elections were announced, nothing happened. Then after restrictions were imposed on civil liberties, the media was subjected to censorship and some human rights activists were detained, the international community started putting pressure on the King, culminating in India sending one of its top envoys to Kathmandu a few days ago to urge the King to restore electoral democracy.
Gyanendra became King in June 2001 after his nephew, Crown Prince Dipendra (then heir to the throne) murdered his father King Birendra (Gyanendra’s brother), his mother Queen Aishwarya and seven other members of the royal family before turning his gun on himself.
The picture I have posted was taken just outside Kathmandu's Narayanhiti Royal Palace where the ‘royal massacre’ took place in 2001. The holy man in the middle is not waving to me – he is waving to a group of soldiers behind me who were keeping an eye on the crowd lining up to enter the palace to pay their respects to the King. (I’ve posted a picture of the soldiers in their unusual blue and black camouflage uniforms in the workshop).
Two years ago when I was in Nepal for the King’s birthday, it was clear that the people worshipped King Gyanendra like a god (in fact many believed him to be an incarnation of a Hindu god) and thousands of people would line the streets holding his portrait like the holy men I this picture. But over the past few weeks we have seen TV news images of people on the streets of Nepalese cities burning effigies of the King – something that would have been absolutely unthinkable just two years ago.
PP: Adjusted levels, saturation +6, USM.
Critiques | Translate
delkoo (68) 2006-04-21 11:07
it's terrible what happen curently to Nepal.
Nepal's royalist government imposed a strict curfew in the capital, Kathmandu, ahead of a mass rally against the king planned for Thursday.
Authorities have issued orders to shoot violators on sight.
Political party leaders say they will defy the orders.
it's very strange to see the holy to brandish king's portrait...
PeterC (2242) 2006-04-21 20:06
A great image of a very current situation. It is very bad in Nepal at the moment with a shoot to kill curfew in place at the moment. I love the colours and the contrast of the characters in the fore and background. Great reportage image.
riclopes (35577) 2006-04-22 3:57
What an interesting issue, so well exposed in your note. Although, TE is not quite for political issues, this is really interesting and your shot from 2004 is also a very good documentary picture, with excellent quality of the image. And captured naturaly, with so many details to observe, including the guys from the store in the back. Also good work with the shot in ws, without noticed you. Congratulations and thanks a lot for sharing this issue!
kensimage (8565) 2006-04-22 14:54
This is really photojournalism rather than art, which is good because the background clutter reduces its power as art, but as photojournalism it is fascinating. The idea of people worshipping a king despite his seeming lack of merit seems so out of place in the 21st century, and this is a very vivid illustration of it. (Of course a worthy king can be admired in any century.) Nice capture, David. Regards, Ken.
dsidwell (9783) 2006-04-23 23:30
Hello David! I like this very interesting scene. It really portrays so much of the personality of this city. Nice work!
Kenny10pin (19301) 2006-04-24 3:55
what an interesting picture, I do like this strange setting gopd take too, well done
david (3992) 2006-04-25 8:17
hey david ... i really see a different shot in here. there's something poetic about the two men on the left, standing with the no parking sign behind them. or the man on the right, in yellow robes, has such a great face.
i like your idea of the protest, but i think closer these men have much more character which is lost in a wider shot.
i agree, the changes in nepal are problematic. now the maoists are refusing to agree to a ceasefire.
good shot, but i'd like to see some of these men from a closer pov.
Polonaise (5802) 2006-04-27 9:16
Nepal is very hot issue these days in the news.
And here comes David A. with his excellent (as usual)insight of 'what's goin'on down there'.
Thanks David. We ALL owe you big time just for being here, on TE. You serve us with never ending story about our planet.
siolaw (38292) 2006-05-01 16:44
A nice and relevant photo,with good (dangerous?) POV...sharp and good colors and a special note,,
All the best \
Stepan (27210) 2006-05-04 14:58
Excellent note and composition. I like the way the left man hold the king's portrait while speaking and doing other things ! A lot of meaning. Great colors in this grey atmosphere too.
I like it.
Didi (60590) 2006-05-08 14:33
Nice scenary of local way of life.
It's a very interesting picture and for the notes also.
oochappan (15638) 2006-05-09 11:22
Pleasant this row of people on the border of the footpath, excellent also using the shot to inform us about the actualities.
colinbrenchley (6431) 2006-05-21 6:17
Good capture of an historic event. Excellent notes.
plimrn (21344) 2006-05-29 13:06
Politics are a huge part of the world, understanding them is a huge part of understanding the world; there is a theme titled 'public demonstrations,' in which Adam posted a photo. Partisan politics is advocating for a particular position and not a part of TE. Your presentation seems only to present the fact of the people's change in their viewpoint of the king. In fact, TE has become my best news source. If it's not important enough for TE members to post, maybe I don't need to know. Given the huge bias in US media, I don't read the paper or watch television. The Internet is my news source; at least many points of view are presented. Your presentation piqued my interest to see what's currently happening in Nepal. Thank you, Pat
- Copyright: David Astley (banyanman) (7789)
- Genre: People
- Medium: Color
- Date Taken: 2004-07-07
- Categories: Event
- Camera: Nikon D100, Nikkor AF-S 12-24mm f/4G ED
- Exposure: f/8, 1/250 seconds
- Photo Version: Original Version, Workshop
- Date Submitted: 2006-04-21 10:46