Nepalese royal massacre
The Narayanhiti 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.
LocationTribhuvan Sadan, Narayanhiti Durbar, Kathmandu, Nepal
Date1 June 2001
(19 Jestha 2058 Nepal B.S.); June 1, 2001; 22 years ago (2001-06-01)
Around 21:00 (UTC+05:45)
TargetThe Nepalese royal family
Attack type
Regicide, familicide, mass shooting
Deaths10 (including the perpetrator)
PerpetratorCrown Prince Dipendra of Nepal[1]

The Nepalese royal massacre occurred on 1 June 2001 at the Narayanhiti Palace, the then-residence of the Nepalese monarchy. Nine members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, were killed in a mass shooting during a gathering of the royal family at the palace.[2] A government-appointed inquiry team named Crown Prince Dipendra as perpetrator of the massacre.[3] Dipendra slipped into a coma after shooting himself in the head.[4]

Dipendra was declared King of Nepal while comatose after the death of King Birendra. He died in hospital three days after the massacre without regaining consciousness. Birendra's brother Gyanendra then became king.[5]


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According to eyewitness reports and an official investigation carried out by a two-man committee made up of Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhyaya and Taranath Ranabhat, the speaker of the House of Representatives concluded:

On 1 June 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra opened fire at a house on the grounds of the Narayanhity 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 including his younger brother and sister before shooting himself in the head. Due to his wiping out of most of the line of succession, Dipendra became king while in a comatose state from the head wound.[4]

Dipendra's motive for the murders is unknown, there are various theories. Dipendra wanted to marry Devyani Rana, whom he had met in the United Kingdom. Some allege that, due to her mother's family being lower-class royal of India and her father's political alliances, the royal family objected. In fact, Devyani's Gwalior family were one of the wealthiest former royal families of India, and allegedly far wealthier than the Nepalese monarchs. The prospective bride's mother warned her daughter that marrying the Nepalese crown prince might mean a drop in her standard of living. Dipendra's prospective bride, chosen by the royal family, was from the main branch of the Nepalese Rana dynasty, the Chandra Shumsher line.[6]

Another theory states that there was a higher possibility of Indian influence if Dipendra would be married to Devyani, to which the palace objected. 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.[4] This is, in fact, unlikely. The crown prince responded to the 1990 uprising and return to an elected government with enthusiasm while a student at Eton College, where he was finishing his studies.[citation needed]

Much controversy surrounds the circumstances of the massacre, and even today, with the abolition of the monarchy following the 2006 revolution, many questions remain unresolved.[7] Questions that remain unsolved include: the apparent lack of security at the event; the absence of the Prince Gyanendra, Dipendra's uncle who succeeded him; Dipendra's self-inflicted head-wound located at his left temple, despite being right-handed; and the duration of the subsequent investigation, which lasted for only two weeks and did not involve any major forensic analysis, despite an offer by Scotland Yard to carry one out.[7]


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The following day, the members of the Royal Family were given a state funeral and were cremated in front of Pashupatinath Temple. Dipendra was proclaimed king while comatose but died on 4 June 2001.[10] Gyanendra was appointed regent for the three days, and then ascended the throne himself after the death of Dipendra.

When Dipendra was unconscious, Gyanendra maintained that the deaths were the result of an "accidental discharge of an automatic weapon" within the royal palace. Later, he 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.[11] A full investigation took place and Dipendra was found responsible for the killing.

A two-man committee comprising Chief Justice Keshav Prasad Upadhaya and Speaker of the House Taranath Ranabhat carried out a week-long investigation concerning the massacre.[12] The investigation concluded, after interviewing more than a hundred people including eyewitnesses and palace officials, guards, and staff, that Dipendra was the perpetrator of the shooting.[13] However, observers both inside Nepal and abroad disputed Dipendra's culpability in the incident.[14]

The massacre added to the political turmoil caused by the Maoist insurgency. Following the ascension of Gyanendra, the monarchy lost much of the approval of the Nepalese populace. Some say this massacre was the pivotal point that ended the monarchy in Nepal.

On 12 June 2001, a Hindu katto ceremony was held to exorcise or banish the spirit of the dead king from Nepal. A Hindu priest, 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 monarch's belongings with him.[15]

Dipendra's residence was eventually razed.[citation needed]

Conspiracy theories

King Birendra and his son Dipendra were very popular and well-respected by the Nepalese population.[16] On the day of the massacre, Gyanendra was in Pokhara whilst other royals were attending the dinner function. His wife Komal, their son Paras, and their 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,[17] and his wife sustained a life-threatening bullet wound but survived. This gave rise to conspiracy theories.[18]

Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), the chairman of the Nepalese Maoist Party, in a public gathering claimed that the massacre was planned by the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) or the American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Since the massacre, some eyewitness statements have been released such as, "multiple people with the mask of the Crown Prince Dipendra were present in the room at one point." The bodies of some of the Royal Family members were found elsewhere in the palace and not the dining hall, whereas Dipendra was cited as one of the first ones to have been shot. There is a book titled "Raktakunda" based on interviews of two palace maids which details these theories.[19] Promoters of these ideas alleged Gyanendra had a hand in the massacre so that he could assume the throne himself. His ascent to the throne would have been possible only if both of his nephews, Dipendra and Nirajan, were removed from the line of succession. Moreover, Gyanendra and his son Prince Paras were very unpopular. One of the eyewitness of the royal massacre, Lal Bahadur Magar, claims that Paras is the main man behind the whole massacre. Magar was one of the bodyguards of Crown Prince Dipendra at that time.[20]

Claims such as: that the perpetrator was not Dipendra but an individual who wore a mask to disguise himself as Dipendra; that Paras broke and threw away Dipendra's ventilator in hospital; that 900 were killed in the palace that night and the purpose of the curfews was to allow the disposal of their bodies; that the public water supply and milk had been poisoned in Kathmandu, etc., have circulated in Nepalese media. Conspiracy theories have also blamed Ketaki Chester, Upendra Devkota, or the Nepalese army for the massacre. However, no reliable evidence have been found for these claims.[21]

In popular culture


See also


  1. ^ Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev at the Encyclopædia Britannica.
  2. ^ "Death, Love and Conspiracy: The Nepalese Royal Massacre of 2001 (Durbar Hatyakanda)". Association for Diplomatic Studies & Training. Retrieved 3 May 2022.
  3. ^ "Bodyguards fired over Nepal royal massacre". The Irish Times. 3 July 2001. Archived from the original on 25 April 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Mullins, Lisa (1 June 2011). "Why Nepal's Crown Prince Went on a Killing Spree". PRI. Archived from the original on 12 February 2020. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  5. ^ "Dipendra was innocent: witness". The Indian Express. 24 July 2008. Archived from the original on 30 September 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Marriage was motive for Nepalese royal massace". New Straits Times. 17 June 2001.
  7. ^ a b Bearak, Barry (8 June 2001). "A Witness To Massacre in Nepal Tells Gory Details". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  8. ^ "Kumar Khadga Bikram Shah : man behind the persona". Dkagencies. Archived from the original on 12 October 2017. Retrieved 21 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Dipendra kicked his father after he shot him - Nepali Times". Archived from the original on 2 July 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  10. ^ "Nepal mourns slain king". BBC News. 2 June 2001. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  11. ^ "Nepal journalists charged with treason". BBC News. 27 June 2001. Archived from the original on 6 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  12. ^ "Nepal massacre inquiry begins, at long last". CNN. 8 June 2001. Archived from the original on 11 December 2008.
  13. ^ "Prince blamed for Nepal massacre". BBC News. 14 June 2001. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  14. ^ "Prince Shot the whole family dead for a girl". BBC News. 2 June 2001. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  15. ^ ABC News. "Nepal Banishes Soul of Dead King". ABC News. Archived from the original on 8 June 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  16. ^ "Nepalese diaspora fears for future". BBC News. 4 June 2001. Archived from the original on 22 March 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  17. ^ "Nepal's errant crown prince". BBC News. 5 June 2001. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  18. ^ "Nepal queen leaves hospital". BBC News. 27 June 2001. Archived from the original on 7 January 2009. Retrieved 31 May 2009.
  19. ^ "Apathy, date quirk make Nepal forget royal massacre". The Times of India. 1 June 2011. Archived from the original on 13 May 2013. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  20. ^ "Gyanendra, Paras involved in 2001 royal massacre: Report". The Economic Times. 25 December 2009.
  21. ^ Hutt, Michael (2016). "The Royal Palace Massacre, Conspiracy Theories and Nepali Street Literature". Cambridge University Press: 39–55. doi:10.1017/9781316771389.003. ISBN 9781107172234.
  22. ^ Murder most royal. 6 January, 2002.
  23. ^ Murder Most Royal at the British Film Institute.
  24. ^ Murder Most Royal. BBC Genome.
  25. ^ "Stupid Movie". Archived from the original on 10 February 2010.
  26. ^ Padukone, Chaitanya (9 January 2007). "Pracchi's tragic take". DNA India.
  27. ^ "Fact and Fiction - The Culture and Politics of Kyrat". 18 December 2014.

Post–Cold War conflicts in Asia