On this day June 1, 2001

Crown Prince Dipendra of Nepal killed King Birendra and several members of the Shah royal family in a shooting spree at the Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu.

Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah

Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah

As a result of the shooting, ten people died and five were wounded. The dead included King Birendra of Nepal and Queen Aiswarya, Dipendra’s father and mother. Prince Dipendra became de facto King of Nepal upon his father’s death and died whilst in a coma three days later.

Dipendra had been drinking heavily and had “misbehaved” with a guest, which resulted in his father, King Birendra, telling his son to leave the party.

The drunken Dipendra was taken to his room by his brother Prince Nirajan and cousin Prince Paras.

One hour later, Dipendra returned to the party armed with an MP5K and an M16 and fired a single shot into the ceiling before turning the gun on his father, King Birendra. Seconds later, Dipendra shot one of his aunts. He then shot his uncle Dhirendra in the chest at point-blank range when he tried to stop Dipendra. During the shooting, Prince Paras suffered slight injuries and managed to save at least three royals, including two children, by pulling a sofa over them.

During the attack, Dipendra darted in and out of the room firing shots each time. His mother, Queen Aiswarya, who came into the room when the first shots were fired, left quickly, looking for help.

Dipendra’s mother Aishwarya and his brother Nirajan confronted him in the garden of the palace, where they were both shot dead. Dipendra then proceeded to a small bridge over a stream running through the palace, where he shot himself.

Some people in Nepal suspected that Gyanendra was responsible for the royal palace massacre on June 1, 2001, and that he had blamed Dipendra so that he could assume the throne himself. Gyanendra, not as popular in the country as his brother Birendra, had been third in line to the throne before the massacre. He was out of town (in Pokhara) during the massacre and was the closest surviving relative of the king. Gyanendra’s wife and son were in the room at the royal palace during the massacre. While his son escaped with slight injuries, his wife was injured during the incident.

Feeding the rumor is the allegation that Dipendra was mortally wounded by a gunshot to the left side of the head, while Dipendra was right-handed. Some believe that this casts doubt on whether the injury was self-inflicted.

Despite the fact that two survivors have publicly confirmed that Dipendra was doing the shooting, as was documented in a BBC documentary, many Nepali people still consider it a mystery. Recently, a book was published in Nepal named Raktakunda recounting the massacre.

It looks at the incident through the eyes of one of the surviving witnesses, Queen Mother Ratna’s personal maid, identified in the book as Shanta. The book, which the author says is a “historical novel”, posits that two men masked as Crown Prince Dipendra fired the shots that led to the massacre. Shanta’s husband, Trilochan Acharya, also a royal palace employee, was killed along with 10 royal family members, including the entire family of King Birendra. In addition to details of the royal massacre, Shanta alleged many other cover-ups by the royal family, including a claim that then-King Mahendra committed suicide.

Dipendra was proclaimed King while in a coma, but he died on June 4, 2001, after a three-day reign. Gyanendra was then appointed regent.

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