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Nepalese royal massacre

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Nepalese Royal Massacre
Narayanhiti Palace Museum.jpg
The Narayanhity Royal Palace, former home of the Royal Family. Following the abdication of the king and the founding of a republic, the building and its grounds have been turned into a museum.
Location Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kathmandu, Nepal
Date 1 June 2001
(19 Jestha 2058 B.S.)
Around 21:00 (UTC+05:45)
Target The Nepalese Royal Family
King Birendra of Nepal
Attack type
mass murder
Deaths 10
Non-fatal injuries
Perpetrator King Dipendra of Nepal (alleged)

The Nepalese Royal Massacre occurred on 1 June 2001, at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace, the residence of the Nepalese monarchy. Ten members of the family were killed during a party or monthly reunion dinner of the royal family in the house. The dead included King Birendra of Nepal and Queen Aishwarya.

Later, upon his father's death, Prince Dipendra was declared King of Nepal while in a coma. He died in hospital three days after the massacre without regaining consciousness.

Birendra's brother Gyanendra became king again after the massacre and the death of his nephew King Dipendra.[1]


Overview of eventsEdit

According to reports, at the dinner, Crown Prince Dipendra had been drinking heavily, had smoked large quantities of hashish and "misbehaved" with a guest which resulted in his father King Birendra telling Dipendra, who was his oldest son, to leave the party. Crown Prince Dipendra was escorted to his room by his brother Prince Nirajan and cousin Prince Paras. [2]

About an hour later, Dipendra walked outside the party room and pulled a SPAS-12 from a bag containing weapons which included an H&K MP5 submachine gun and an M16. He walked inside and fired a single shot with the SPAS-12, hitting his father, before firing into the ceiling. As the family began to aid King Birendra, Dipendra went outside, removed the M16 from the bag, and returned to the room. He walked up to his father, who lay on the floor, and prepared to shoot him again. When his uncle Dhirendra tried to dissuade Dipendra from doing so, he shot his uncle in the chest at point-blank range.[2] This was the beginning of the massacre. Dipendra aimed at Kumar Khadga, shooting him several times in the chest, killing him. His wife, Princess Sharada, ran over to her husband and began to cradle him. Dipendra then turned the gun on her and shot her multiple times in the back, killing her instantly.

Dipendra then shot Kumar Gorakha, hitting him in the face and hand. He fell onto a couch, groaning in pain. Princess Shruti, his wife, ran over to her husband, only to be fatally shot by her brother in the chest, falling on top of her husband. Excerpts from the official probe report, prepared by a two-member committee in Kathmandu, stated that King Birendra made an abortive last-minute attempt to shoot at Dipendra as the latter fired indiscriminately at the royals. Dipendra had thrown the 9mm caliber MP5 automatic submachine gun into the billiards room, when he returned for a second time. The king managed to take hold of it, however, his sister Princess Shova Shahi snatched the weapon from him and pulled out the magazine of the gun assuming it to be the only weapon Dipendra had. Dipendra walked over to his aunt, raised the rifle, and shot her. Shova was hit nine times in the back, but survived. While this continued, Prince Paras suffered slight injuries and managed to save at least three royals, including two children, by pulling a sofa over them.[2] The above version of the story is reportedly the one that Shova Shahi told the official committee. Corroborating Shova Shahi's version, Prince Paras is quoted as having said, "She [Shova] must have thought that it was the only weapon Dai (Dipendra) had but I saw that he had much more weapons."[3]

Dipendra then laid his eyes on Princess Komal, who was sitting on a sofa next to Princess Shanti. He fired, hitting Komal once in the chest, but she survived. He then turned the gun on Shanti, hitting her once in the abdomen and killing her immediately. He now had his sights on Princess Jayanti and her younger sister, Ketaki Chester. When Jayanti tried to call for help on her cellphone, Dipendra shot her multiple times in the chest. He then shot Chester in the shoulder as she pleaded with him. Chester later remembered that Dipendra was making sure they were dead by looking for movement. When he returned to Chester, who had blood running down her face as she was laying on her side, he thought he had killed her. Chester survived, but her sister did not. Dipendra then turned to Paras, who was protecting the other family members. Paras told him that he had done enough, and Dipendra, never saying a word, walked out of the room.

As the story later told, the Queen Aishwarya, who came into the room when the first shots were fired, escaped the room following Dipendra to reason with him.[4] She was accompanied in her pursuit by her younger son, Prince Nirajan. Nirajan was then shot in the chest, fatally, in the garden by the Crown Prince. His mother followed her son up to the top of the outside stairs, crying and asking Dipendra what he was trying to prove. Dipendra then turned, aimed the gun at his mother, who tried to run, but he fatally shot her multiple times in her nape and back. She fell, rolling down the steps. Dipendra proceeded to a small bridge over a stream running through the palace gardens, where he shot himself in the head which left a gaping wound and left him critically injured.[2] The only major reason, to surface later, behind the massacre was a love and marriage issue Dipendra of Nepal was facing. It was his family's opposition to his marriage to Devyani Rana which angered and frustrated him.




  • Princess Shova, King Birendra's sister.
  • Kumar Gorakh, Princess Shruti's husband.
  • Princess Komal, Prince Gyanendra's wife and future and the last queen of Nepal.
  • Ketaki Chester, King Birendra's first cousin who had renounced her title (and middle sister of Princess Jayanti).[6]


Dipendra was proclaimed king while in a coma, but he died on 4 June 2001, after a three-day reign.[7] Gyanendra was appointed regent for the three days, then ascended the throne himself after Dipendra died.

While Dipendra lived, Gyanendra maintained that the deaths were the result of an "accidental discharge of an automatic weapon" within the royal palace. However, he later said that he made this claim due to "legal and constitutional hurdles," since under the constitution, and by tradition, Dipendra could not have been charged with murder had he survived.[8] A full investigation took place, and Dipendra was found to be responsible for the killing.

A two-man committee comprising Keshav Prasad Upadhaya, the Supreme Court Chief Justice, and Taranath Ranabhat, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, carried out the week-long investigation into the massacre.[9] The investigation concluded, after interviewing more than a hundred people including eyewitnesses and palace officials, guards and staff, that Dipendra had carried out the massacre.[10] A large number of critics and Nepalese, both inside Nepal and abroad, disputed the official report because many facts and evidence reported by the investigation team seemed contradictory in many aspects. A close aide of Dipendra when he was prince said of Dipendra, "He can give up the throne for the sake of his love, but he can never do this kind of thing."[11]

Rumoured causeEdit

The widely circulated rumour is that Prince Dipendra was angry over a marriage dispute.[12] Dipendra's choice of bride was Devyani Rana, daughter of Pashupati Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, a member of the Rana clan, against which the Shah dynasty have a historic animosity.[citation needed] The Rana clan had served as the hereditary prime ministers of Nepal, with the title Maharaja, until 1951, and the two clans have a long history of inter-marriages.[13] It is also speculated that the reason for the marriage dispute over Dipendra's choice of wife was that the royal family had a position that the crown prince should not marry someone having relatives in India, as Devyani did.[14] Also, that Devyani Rana's mother, Usharaje Scindia was of Gwalior royal lineage, wasn't considered impressive by the Nepal royal family.[15] Prince Dipendra also courted Supriya Shah, who was the granddaughter of Queen Mother Ratna's own sister. Queen Aishwarya, though initially opposed the relationship due to family ties and the view that Supriya would be incompetent as a queen, as to which expressions by the Queen were heard by an aide,[14] nevertheless favored Supriya over Devyani Rana, since if Supriya became Queen, the Shah dynasty would not have to share its power with the Ranas, entailing formation of an unwanted political alliance.[15]


On 1 June 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity Royal Palace, the residence of the Nepalese monarchy, where a party was being held. He shot and killed his father, King Birendra, his mother, Queen Aishwarya, and seven other members of the royal family before shooting himself in the head. Due to his wiping out of most of the line of succession, he was crowned king while in a comatose state from the head wound.[16]

His motive for the murders is unknown, but there are various theories. Dipendra desired to marry Devyani Rana, whom he had met in England, but due to her mother's family being lower-class royals of India and her father's political alliances Dipendra's parents objected; he was told that he would have to give up his claim to the throne in order to marry her.[16] Other theories allege that Dipendra was unhappy with the country's shift from an absolute to a constitutional monarchy, and that too much power had been given away following the 1990 People's Movement.[16]

Much controversy surrounds the circumstances of the massacre, and even today, with the monarchy abolished, many questions remain within Nepal about its cause.[17] Sources of the yet unanswered questions include details such as the apparent lack of security at the event; the absence of Prince Gyanendra, Dipendra's uncle who succeeded him, from the party; the fact that, despite being right-handed, Dipendra's self-inflicted head-wound was located at his left temple, and that two bullets were found to be lodged in the temple instead of one; and finally that the subsequent investigation lasted for only two weeks and did not involve any major forensic analysis.[17] This investigation was done after Scotland Yard had actually offered to carry a forensic investigation out.

Ceremonial responseEdit

On 11 June 2001, a Hindu katto ceremony was held to exorcise or banish the spirit of the dead King from Nepal. A brahmin Durga Prasad Sapkota, dressed as Birendra to symbolise the late King, rode an elephant out of Kathmandu and into symbolic exile, taking many of the King’s belongings with him.[18] Dipendra's residence was also eventually razed to the ground.

Conspiracy theoriesEdit

[19] King Birendra and his son Dipendra were very popular and well respected by the Nepalese population. Subsequently, Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, the chairman of the Nepalese Maoist Party, in a public gathering claimed that the massacre was planned by the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) or the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).[20] Promoters of these ideas allege Gyanendra had a hand in the massacre so that he could assume the throne himself. His ascension to the throne would only be possible if both of his nephews Dipendra and Nirajan were eliminated. Moreover, Gyanendra and especially his son Prince Paras were very unpopular with the public. On the day of the massacre he was in Pokhara whilst other royals were attending a dinner function. His wife Komal, Paras and daughter Prerana were in the room at the royal palace during the massacre. While the entire families of Birendra and Dipendra were killed, nobody in Gyanendra's family died: his son escaped with slight injuries,[21] and his wife sustained a life-threatening bullet wound but survived.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Dipendra was innocent: witness". The Indian Express. 24 Jul 2008. 
  2. ^ a b c d Rahul Bedi; Alex Spillius (8 June 2001). "Massacre witness blames Crown Prince". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 28 May 2008. 
  3. ^ " King Birendra tried to shoot Dipendra". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  4. ^ "Nepal survivors blame prince". BBC News. 7 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  5. ^ Dkagencies
  6. ^ "Dipendra kicked his father after he shot him - Nepali Times". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  7. ^ "Nepal mourns slain king". BBC News. 2 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  8. ^ "Nepal journalists charged with treason". BBC News. 27 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  9. ^ "Nepal massacre inquiry begins, at long last". CNN. 8 June 2001. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. 
  10. ^ "Prince blamed for Nepal massacre". BBC News. 14 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  11. ^ "Prince Shot the whole family dead for a girl". BBC News. 2 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  12. ^ "Five thousand at Nepalese Royal wedding". BBC News. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  13. ^ "Intermarriage on two Royal Clans". BBC News. 23 February 2007. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "Dipendra's troubled childhood - Nepali Times". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Princess Of 'Doom' - Jun 18,2001". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  16. ^ a b c Mullins, Lisa (1 Jun 2011). "Why Nepal's Crown Prince Went on a Killing Spree". PRI. Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  17. ^ a b Bearak, Barry (8 Jun 2001). "A Witness To Massacre In Nepal Tells Gory Details". New York Times. Retrieved 17 October 2017. 
  18. ^ ABC News. "Nepal Banishes Soul of Dead King". ABC News. Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  19. ^ "Nepalese diaspora fears for future". BBC News. 4 June 2001. 
  20. ^ "Apathy, date quirk make Nepal forget royal massacre". The Times of India. 1 Jun 2011. 
  21. ^ "Nepal's errant crown prince". BBC News. 5 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 
  22. ^ "Nepal queen leaves hospital". BBC News. 27 June 2001. Retrieved 31 May 2009. 


  • Garzilli, Enrica, "A Sanskrit Letter Written by Sylvain Lévi in 1923 to Hemarāja Śarmā Along With Some Hitherto Unknown Biographical Notes (Cultural Nationalism and Internationalism in the First Half of the 21st Cent.: Famous Indologists Write to the Raj Guru of Nepal – no. 1)", in Commemorative Volume for 30 Years of the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project. Journal of the Nepal Research Centre, XII (2001), Kathmandu, ed. by A. Wezler in collaboration with H. Haffner, A. Michaels, B. Kölver, M. R. Pant and D. Jackson, pp. 115–149.
  • Garzilli, Enrica, "Strage a palazzo, movimento dei Maoisti e crisi di governabilità in Nepal", in Asia Major 2002, pp. 143-160.
  • Garzilli, Enrica, "A Sanskrit Letter Written by Sylvain Lévy in 1925 to Hemarāja Śarmā along with Some Hitherto Unknown Biographical Notes (Cultural Nationalism and Internationalism in the First Half of the 20th Century – Famous Indologists write to the Raj Guru of Nepal – No. 2)", in History of Indological Studies. Papers of the 12th World Sanskrit Conference Vol. 11.2, ed. by K. Karttunen, P. Koskikallio and A. Parpola, Motilal Banarsidass and University of Helsinki, Delhi 2015, pp. 17-53.

External linksEdit