Democracy Day can refer to two different holidays in Nepal. While the two holidays have different names in the Nepali tongue, they are frequently translated the same way into English.
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“Loktantra Diwas,” the more recent of the two holidays is observed on April 24th to commemorate the restoration of the Nepali congress on that date in 2006. Usually, however, Democracy Day refers to the Nepali holiday on February 19th, which is called “Prajatantra Diwas” in Nepali. It looks back to the day in 1951 when the Rana Dynasty was overthrown after a century in power. From here on, we will be referring to February 19th as Nepal’s Democracy Day – Prajatantra Diwas.
Democracy Day is an off-work holiday for all government employees in Nepal. It is of great importance in Nepal’s history since the long-reigning Rana Regime held such absolute sway over the nation. A new king, named Prithvi Narayan Shah, led the movement to topple the Ranas.
Before the Ranas came to the throne, Nepal was really an assortment of divided mini-states rather than a unified nation. An official central government existed, but power was not much centralised. It was this diversity and division that allowed the Ranas to more easily take control of the government.
During the reign of one of the Rana monarchs, Janga Bahadur Rana, there were even mass killings and other intolerable abuses of power. However, the violent clinging onto total power and the accompanying opulence found at the royal palace ran throughout the whole century of Rana rule. This period is now looked back on by most Nepalis as a very dark time indeed.
Finally, in 1951, popular uprisings succeeded in overthrowing the Rana Dynasty once and for all. There were martyrs who died in the conflict, and they are honoured on Democracy as national heroes. The new freedom following escape from the rule of the Rana kings opened up an opportunity for democracy and for a fair, non-discriminatory government.
If in Nepal on Democracy Day, here are some activities you may wish to take part in:
- Attend any of the numerous rallies and special programs held throughout Nepal on this day every year. Nepalis will take these events as opportunities to honour the fallen heroes who struggled to topple the infamous Rana Regime in 1951. Both governmental and private organisations will hold special events, so be sure to inquire in the locality you will staying at.
- See the military marching parade put on by Nepal’s Armed Forces in the town of Tundikhel. The president and other high office holders of Nepal will typically attend, and you may be able to see the parade on TV as well. But, as there will be numerous cultural exhibits set up at the event, besides the parade itself, it would be well worth attending.
- Tour Kathmandu or another city you are staying in to see the decorative lights that will bedeck many private homes and public buildings. There will also be many fireworks displays in municipalities throughout Nepal for Democracy Day. The combination of lights on houses and lights exploding in the sky may look a little like Christmas and the Fourth of July wrapped into one to many American tourists.
Democracy Day is a day to remember past heroes and to be thankful for democratic government. There are many events for tourists to attend, where they can learn of Nepal’s history and see the nation’s patriotism on display.