Constitution Day in Nepal was, in earlier years, held on November 9th to commemorate the 1990 constitution, but in 2015, a new constitution was enacted on September 20th, with the date of celebrations correspondingly being moved.
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The first attempts at turning Nepal into a republic came in 1948, when the introduction of even minor elements of democracy ended in failure. Another constitution in 1951 also did little to change the status quo. In 1962, a step backwards occurred when the latest constitution banned all political parties and bolstered the power of the king. Finally, with the 1990 constitution, things looked promising. A parliament and supreme court were established. The 1990 changes came on the heels of a popular uprising, and a multi-party system was re-established, but the monarchy somehow managed to still hold onto its power.
Finally, an “interim” constitution was put in place in 2007, while a special assembly worked on crafting a permanent one. They were supposed to finish in 2010, but the deadline kept getting extended as disagreement continued. When the people’s patience ran thin with the endless waiting, a new assembly was elected in 2013 to draft Nepal’s next constitution. This second assembly promised to finish by January 22nd of 2015, and while they were a little late, they did finally finish on September 20th of that same year.
Protests soon erupted, however, over elements of the new constitution. One issue was the creation of new states to share power under the new federal system. There were also disputes over certain Nepali citizenship laws, which were claimed to be discriminatory. Despite some imperfections, however, this is easily the best constitution Nepal has ever had. The army, for example, is now under the control of the electorate, a president instead of a king will hold the main executive power, and the new government is “secular” in the sense that there is freedom of religion instead of Hinduism being the state-supported religion.
Those visiting Nepal on Constitution Day may wish to engage in any of the following activities:
- Based on celebrations held upon passing the new constitution in 2015 and on past celebrations of the older November 9th Constitution Day, you can expect events to include: political meetings with patriotic speeches, display of the Nepali flag, buildings lit up in the same manner as for Deepavali Festival, and large public gatherings with traditional song and dance, artistic performances, and other cultural displays.
- To get an overview of Nepal’s history, visit the National Museum of Nepal in the capital city of Kathmandu. You will find art exhibits, weaponry from the 1700’s and 1800’s, antique Nepali coins, numerous cultural collections, and a section devoted to the plants and animals of Nepal.
- Since September 20th is very near the most important festival on the Nepali calendar, Dashain Festival in late September to early October, you may well still be in the country when it arrives. It is primarily a religious event that takes place in private homes and temples, and it causes a two-week slow-down in the middle of peak tourist season. However, many use the opportunity to shop Kathmandu’s markets, tour historic sites in the major cities, and go trekking across the beautiful Himalayan countryside.
While events for Constitution Day are limited and not well established, they do exist, and there are many other worthwhile activities to take part in in Nepal in late September.