| Prince Paras with his mother Princess Himani in Kathmandu. (Reuters)
Kathmandu, Jan. 9 (Reuters): Hindu priests conducted religious rites and gun salutes boomed as violence-wracked Nepal held a rare day of celebration today to mark the first public appearance of the grandson of the king and second in line to the throne.
It was the rice-eating ceremony for Prince Hridayendra, the son of Crown Prince Paras, who was born in July. His birth sparked jubilant celebrations in the troubled nation, which is battling an increasingly bloody Maoist revolt aimed at overthrowing the constitutional monarchy.
More than 80 food items were displayed before Hridayendra, whose name means king of hearts, by the child’s mother, Crown Princess Himani.
“The ceremony signifies knowledge, wisdom and purity,” chief royal priest Ramesh Prasad Pandey told Reuters.
Prince Paras fed him as priests recited hymns from the Vedas, Hindu religious texts, and a 21-gun-salute was fired.
“Rice-feeding is one of the 10 karmas (stages) in the life of a person starting from conception of the child,” Pandey said.
The rites were carried out at the Narayanhity royal palace, where Dipendra shot dead his father King Birendra and eight other members of the royal household before killing himself 19 months ago. The crown then passed to King Gyanendra, Birendra’s brother.
In Nepal, only male heirs can inherit the throne. Before Hridayendra was born, Paras had only a daughter. The government declared today a national holiday and has urged residents in the temple-studded capital Kathmandu to light candles. Public and private buildings will be illuminated.