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Nepal's Princess Weds - 2003-01-23


A carriage carrying Nepal's princess and her new husband left Kathmandu's royal palace Thursday, taking the newlyweds to their new home in a suburb of the capital. It was the first royal wedding in Nepal in five years and came nearly two years after 10 members Nepal's royal family died in a massacre carried out by the country's deranged crown prince.

By all accounts it was somber wedding ceremony that united Princess Prerna, the only daughter of King Gyanendra, with her commoner husband Raj Bahadur Singh, a computer programmer educated in the United States.

The two-day ceremony consisted of ancient Hindu rituals and informal family gatherings. It was the first time Nepal's extended royal family had come together since funeral observances were held for King Birendra and nine other members of Nepal's royal family in June 2001.

The king and his family were gunned down by Crown Prince Dipendra, who shot himself afterwards. Police say he was high on drugs and alcohol and furious at his parents forbidding him to marry his longtime girlfriend.

Bushan Dahal is a Kathmandu television producer who attended the wedding. He says many at the ceremony were clearly remembering those killed in the royal massacre.

"There was a lot of composure in the face of the king and I think whoever attended the wedding and especially the members of the royal family did feel the absence of their family who they lost a year and a half back," he said. " But a wedding is a matter of celebration so it cannot just be alongside mourning."

In keeping with tradition, Princess Prerna's marriage was arranged by her parents. King Gyanendra gave away his daughter at a time Tuesday evening specially designated as auspicious by Hindu priests.

Nepal, the world's only Hindu kingdom, has been wracked by a Maoist insurgency for the past six years.

Violence escalated in 2001 after a state of emergency was imposed and the army joined the fight against the rebels. More than five-thousand people, mostly Maoists have died in the fighting.

As the violence has escalated, political infighting among Nepal's parliamentary parties has also gotten worse. Just a little more than three months ago, King Gyanendra sacked the country's prime minister and appointed an interim administration which pledged to hold talks with the Maoists and arrange new elections. So far however the new administration has been unable to deliver on its pledges, raising concerns about Nepal's democratic future.

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