Another Himalayan kingdom is falling, a chapter closing on an ancient historical tradition. But will the modern system of democracy do a better job?

Sikkim’s monarchs, the Chogyals, retreated into history when India annexed their territory in 1975. Tibet’s “priest-king”, the Dalai Lama, was forced in exile when China invaded his land in the 1950s.

Nepal’s King Gyanendra looks at an animal sacrifice being performed at a temple in Kathmandu May 12, 2008. REUTERS/Gopal Chitrakar (NEPAL)Now, after 239 years of the Shah dynasty, Nepal is set to become a secular republic on Wednesday .

In the Himalayas, only in Bhutan does a monarchy still play a significant role, and even there it voluntarily surrendered power this year to a new democratically elected parliament.

Many of these kings were once revered as incarnations of Buddha or Vishnu, some still are.