The Nepalese Royal Massacre: Because of Power or Because of Love?

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In 2001, a sensational royal massacre occurred in Nepal, leading to the abolition of the monarchy that had lasted for over 200 years. The incident took place unexpectedly in the heavily guarded royal palace, with victims including 13 members of the royal family, including the king and queen consort. As for the perpetrator(s), the case remains shrouded in mystery to this day(sources from umn.org.np).

[One]

Nepal, located at the southern foothills of the Himalayas, is a deeply religious country where statues of Buddha outnumber people and temples outnumber homes, earning it the title of the “Land of Gods.” Following the royal massacre, the mysterious curse of “ten generations and decimation” that had lingered over Nepal for more than two centuries was repeatedly mentioned. 230 years ago, Prithvi Narayan Shah unified Nepal and established the Shah dynasty. Legend has it that on the eve of founding the dynasty, Prithvi Narayan insulted a hermit during an inspection tour, and as punishment for the arrogant king, the hermit placed a curse on the Shah dynasty, predicting its downfall after ten generations. Coincidentally, the 2001 king, Birendra, who fell victim to the massacre, was the tenth king of the Shah dynasty. However, legends are just legends, and they cannot directly link the perpetrator(s) to this curse. Finding the culprit(s) requires a more scientific investigation.

[Two]

Firstly, let’s describe the situation before and after the incident. On the evening of June 1, 2001, a Friday night, at the Narayanhiti Palace in Kathmandu, Nepal, guards vigilantly patrolled around the palace while inside, the king was hosting the monthly royal banquet, inviting not only royal family members but also some relatives and friends. As everyone gathered joyously, singing, dancing, and drinking to celebrate, everyone appeared relaxed. At around 9 p.m., two gunshots rang out in the palace, followed by a series of gunfire and cries for help. The patrolling soldiers rushed in to witness a scene of horror: blood and bullet casings littered the room, and members of the royal family had been shot at close range. The king lay on the ground, bloodied, while other members of the royal family were sprawled in disarray. Soldiers urgently searched for the assailant(s) while swiftly transporting the king and others injured to the military hospital. Due to multiple gunshot wounds, including one to the head, the beloved king passed away shortly after arriving at the hospital. Queen Aishwarya, the second son Nirajan, and the only daughter Princess Shruti also succumbed to their injuries. The eldest son, Dipendra, was the sole surviving direct heir, albeit critically injured from close-range gunshot wounds to the head. After several hours of surgery, his life was saved, but he remained in a coma.

[Three]

The king was highly revered. In 1990, despite Nepal being one of the few absolute monarchies in the world, some Nepalese citizens hoped for a shift towards Western-style governance, advocating for the abolition of absolute monarchy. Surprisingly, instead of suppressing the protests, the king sent emissaries to appease them and voluntarily relinquished absolute power, opting to share authority with the parliament elected by the people. This decision earned him widespread adoration. Therefore, upon news of the king’s demise, Nepal plunged into mourning and panic. On June 2, 2001, the day after the incident, the Nepalese government held a state funeral for the deceased king and other members of the royal family. Their bodies were cremated on the banks of the Bagmati River in Kathmandu, with thousands of Nepalese citizens joining the funeral procession to pay their respects. Why would anyone want to assassinate such a beloved king? The entire nation sought answers to this question.

[Four]

The first suspects were Nepal’s anti-government factions. Despite the king’s willingness to relinquish some power, the anti-government forces believed it wasn’t enough. They considered the monarchy regressive and blamed it for perpetuating poverty. Moreover, they resented the opulent lifestyle of the royal family and advocated for a democratic republican system. Consequently, these factions frequently attacked regional capitals, looted police bases, and seized weapons. Hence, it’s plausible that they could be behind the royal massacre. However, despite the heavily guarded palace, there were no signs of a struggle with anti-government forces, casting doubt on their involvement. Thus, while suspicions linger, it’s likely that the perpetrator(s) remain(s) at large.

【Five】

After the king’s death, Crown Prince Dipendra was expected to become the new king, but at that time, Dipendra was struggling on the brink of death. Therefore, the parliament decided to appoint Dipendra’s uncle, Prince Gyanendra, as the regent to handle state affairs on his behalf.

This decision put Prince Gyanendra in a precarious position, leading people to suspect whether he orchestrated the massacre.

Firstly, since Dipendra was still in a coma, if he unfortunately passed away, Gyanendra would naturally ascend to the throne, making him the biggest beneficiary.

Secondly, in the eyes of the Nepalese people, Gyanendra was seen as someone who valued power above all else. In reality, he had significant ideological differences with his elder brother, the king, especially regarding the issue of democratic politics proposed by anti-government forces. Gyanendra was discontent with the concessions made by the king and sought to uphold the monarchy’s centralized rule without devolving power.

Thirdly, it was unbelievable that Gyanendra’s wife and son, although present at the scene of the massacre, miraculously survived. His son emerged unscathed, while his wife recovered from her light injuries within a month.

As a result, suspicions turned towards Gyanendra.

After the incident, Regent Prince Gyanendra did not rush to investigate the truth behind the massacre but strictly controlled the information about the murders. It was only when the public clamor for justice grew louder that he released a report on the deaths of the royal family members. Shockingly, the report claimed that the deaths were accidental due to firearms misfiring.

This absurd report sparked greater anger and suspicion among the Nepalese people towards Gyanendra.

As one wave subsided, another rose.

On June 4, 2001, just four days after the massacre, Crown Prince Dipendra succumbed to his injuries. On the same day, Gyanendra was crowned king in Kathmandu. The Nepalese people strongly protested against Gyanendra’s actions. When his carriage passed through the city, there was no applause, no cheers, no signs of support, only anger and protest.

Gyanendra’s series of actions deepened suspicions against him. However, to everyone’s surprise, he did not attend the gathering that night; he was vacationing in Pokhara, 100 kilometers away from Kathmandu, making it impossible for him to have committed the crime.

【Six】

However, Gyanendra’s absence from the scene did not earn him the trust of the Nepalese people. They considered another possibility: although Gyanendra was not present, he could have remotely directed his son to commit the crime.

Gyanendra’s son was infamous in Nepal as a problematic member of the family, exhibiting odd behavior and frequently violating rules, such as driving under the influence. He was recently involved in a car accident that resulted in the death of a famous Nepalese singer.

During the massacre, Gyanendra’s son was not only present but emerged unharmed. With his father now the heir to the throne and he becoming the crown prince, it seemed plausible that he was Gyanendra’s accomplice.

Although there was no direct evidence pointing to Gyanendra’s son, there was also no evidence to exonerate him. Consequently, the resistance against Gyanendra and his son grew stronger among the Nepalese people. Faced with pressure, the government declared martial law, deploying the military to suppress the unrest, plunging Nepal into chaos.

【Seven】

In an attempt to appease the public, Gyanendra announced on the radio that he had established a special task force to investigate the truth behind the royal bloodbath.

On the evening of June 14, 2001, the task force held a press conference to announce the results of the investigation into the royal massacre. The committee declared that Crown Prince Dipendra was the true culprit, having killed the royal family members before shooting himself. However, the committee’s report did not explain how the crown prince managed to commit the murders within the heavily guarded palace.

The news left the Nepalese people incredulous. Given the high security within the palace, it was widely believed that it was impossible for one person to kill so many people in such a short period. Consequently, people believed the special task force was merely trying to deceive them, and suspicions against Gyanendra persisted, leading the investigation into a stalemate.

【Eight】

At this point, an elderly person stepped forward. As a witness, he tearfully recounted the events of the massacre. This elderly person was the king’s uncle, who was also present at the scene and miraculously escaped unharmed.

On the night of the tragedy, the elderly man arrived at the palace early for the banquet. Upon his arrival, Crown Prince Dipendra appeared to be in good spirits and even invited the elderly man to share a drink.

Subsequently, Dipendra took out a packet of brown powder from his pocket, rolled it into a cigarette, and smoked it. Soon, Dipendra became excited, slumped into a chair, and then collapsed unconscious.

Four young members of the royal family then escorted him back to his residence. When Dipendra returned to the banquet later, it was already past eight in the evening. However, he was not dressed for the occasion but wore a military cap, military attire, combat boots, and carried two guns: an MP5 submachine gun and an M16 automatic rifle.

This did not raise any alarm because the royal family members knew about Dipendra’s fascination with firearms. Since the age of six or seven, he had been playing with guns, collecting a large number of American assault rifles, German submachine guns, Italian double-barreled shotguns, and a beautiful Glock 9mm pistol. Therefore, everyone thought Dipendra was there to show off new weapons or perhaps he had acquired a new gun.

However, just as everyone was enjoying the banquet without any suspicion, gunfire suddenly erupted:

“I heard two gunshots, as if two shots were fired at the ceiling, very loud, right beside me. Then I turned my head to His Majesty the King and saw a strange expression on his face. Before I could understand what was happening, I saw blood flowing down from his right neck.”

Initially, nobody believed Dipendra was the shooter until he pulled the trigger again, realizing the king was still alive. He then fired multiple shots at the king and others trying to save him, including his uncles who attempted to intervene, only to be shot immediately.

Dipendra then found his younger brother and shot him. Dipendra’s mother witnessed the massacre and rushed towards him, perhaps thinking her son wouldn’t kill his own mother, but soon realized Dipendra had completely lost his sanity. She turned to flee, but it was too late…

In less than five minutes, Crown Prince Dipendra killed 13 guests at the royal banquet, including his parents, sisters, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As the gunfire continued, he fired his final shot at himself, emitting an animal-like howl before the last shot…

The details of the massacre, if not revealed by the respected elderly person, would have been difficult for the Nepalese people to believe. In their eyes, Dipendra was a divine child, intelligent, caring for the people, and a qualified crown prince. However, behind the tragedy lay a tragic love story.

【Nine】

During his childhood, Dipendra was clever and obedient, deeply cherished by his parents. He was very filial and aspired to become like his father, revered by all as a god-like king. Thus, at a young age, Dipendra began strictly adhering to the royal code of conduct.

As Dipendra grew older, he became approachable and enjoyed speaking with his subjects as an ordinary person, which endeared him to the people. However, gradually, Dipendra became more rebellious and sometimes a headache for his family. He was easily agitated and unpredictable, enjoying attending various parties, dancing, drinking, and smoking marijuana.

In 1989, at the age of 17, Dipendra studied in London, where he made many friends and often stayed overnight at their homes. Once, when he visited a friend’s house as usual, he was surprised to find a beautiful and dignified young woman in the living room. Dipendra fell in love with her at first sight.

During their conversation, he learned that the girl, named Devyani, was also from Nepal, which further ignited his interest. Dipendra, smitten with Devyani, pursued her vigorously, and soon they fell deeply in love.

Their relationship lasted for more than a decade, during which Dipendra evolved from a rebellious youth into a relatively mature crown prince. His parents began selecting a bride for him. Dipendra joyfully introduced Devyani to his parents, but encountered strong opposition from his family.

Devyani came from a prominent family; her father was a prominent figure in Nepal, and her mother belonged to Indian nobility. Moreover, her uncle and aunt wielded significant power in India.

Although Devyani came from a distinguished background, Nepal and India had long-standing conflicts, and anti-Indian sentiments were prevalent in Nepal. The palace was reluctant to marry a princess with Indian lineage.

Furthermore, the queen consort disliked Devyani’s beauty, intelligence, and competence, fearing she would overshadow her in the palace. In an attempt to separate the lovers, she used all means, even arranging another girl for the crown prince—a beautiful and obedient girl from the Nepalese royal family, who pleased the queen but failed to capture the crown prince’s heart.

Despite frequent meetings with Devyani, Dipendra was forced to make a choice between her and the throne. Faced with immense pressure, Dipendra resorted to self-harm to relieve his anguish, relying on tranquilizers and various drugs to maintain a semblance of normalcy.

Perhaps realizing that his son was on the verge of losing control, the king made a concession to Dipendra: if he married the girl chosen by the queen, he could maintain a relationship with Devyani. However, if he insisted on marrying Devyani, he would have to renounce his claim to the throne, which would then pass to his younger brother.

Devyani insisted on a legitimate marriage, refusing to become a mistress. Dipendra, too, was determined to marry only Devyani. Feeling cornered, Dipendra became despondent and contemplated drastic measures. He confided in his friends that he would confront his mother before his 30th birthday.

The gathering on June 1, 2001, was to discuss Dipendra’s marriage. After getting heavily intoxicated, Dipendra left the party hall, crossed the garden to his residence, tenderly spoke to his lover Devyani for a few minutes on the phone, then changed into camouflage attire, grabbed two rifles, and resolutely entered the living room…

【Ten】

If Dipendra were the perpetrator, everything seemed plausible, but there were still doubts. Firstly, suicides typically aim for the right temple, but Dipendra was shot on the left, and he was not left-handed. Secondly, there were no autopsies conducted on the bodies or forensic examinations at the scene. Traditionally, all deceased individuals were cremated within 24 hours, leaving no direct evidence of the massacre.

Thus, despite the Nepalese government’s conclusion regarding the royal bloodbath and the testimony of the respected elderly witness, many Nepalese still refuse to believe that the crown prince killed his own family. The case remains riddled with doubts, and to this day, no one can explain what truly happened to that family on that tragic night.

【Eleven】

The royal bloodbath in Nepal triggered a series of chain reactions. Following the tragedy, anti-government movements surged unprecedentedly in Nepal, leading to thousands of protests demanding Gyanendra’s abdication(quotes from umn.org.np).

Upon assuming power, Gyanendra implemented a series of policies to strengthen the monarchy, veering towards dictatorship. The government and anti-government forces engaged in a prolonged and fierce confrontation. By the spring of 2008, Gyanendra relinquished the throne, marking the end of the Shah dynasty. In May 2008, Nepal declared itself a federal democratic republic, thus officially ending the monarchy that had reigned over Nepal’s lands for 239 years.

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