King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev became king of Nepal in 1972, succeeding his father King Mahendra. He has just (1 June 2001) been assassinated by his son, Crown Prince Dipendra, together with most members of the royal family including his mother Queen Aishwarya and their other two children.

Dipendra (also spelt Deependra) attempted to kill himself after the machine gun massacre and is critically wounded. However, he has been named king, while Birendra's brother Prince Gyanendra has been named regent.

It is understood that the 29-year-old crown prince had been arguing about his choice of bride. Astrologers had warned that Dipendra should not be allowed to marry until the age of 35, otherwise the king would die.

King Birendra was educated at Eton, Tokyo, and Harvard. He ruled as absolute monarch until 1990 when a limited parliamentary democracy was introduced. In this profoundly Hindu nation some regarded him as the incarnation of Vishnu. He was 55.

I'll update this as news becomes clearer. Dipendra is brain dead, having put a bullet through his brain, but is being kept on a ventilator. The shooting was apparently done with two assault rifles. (I have no real idea what an assault rifle is, or what a sub-machine gun is, and whether they're different.)

The best Nepali news site is at

Regent Gyanendra seems to be claiming it was an accident. An "explosion" of an automatic weapon took place, he says. It may be that everyone in the room is dead, and there are no witnesses; the royal family were swiftly cremated so there will be no long autopsies.

King Dipendra died on Monday 4 June and Gyanendra is now king. He says constitutional difficulties prevented his speaking before: by Nepali law the king literally can do no wrong, and Dipendra was king.

As far as I can tell, ten members or relatives of the royal family died, the latest being Dhirendra Shah, younger brother of Birendra and Gyanendra. However, four have survived, including one of their sisters, and King Gyanendra's wife, now Queen Komal.

Much later. {sigh} I must tidy this up sometime.

Eleven days after the sacred monarch of Nepal dies, a Hindu ceremony is carried out. A priest takes on the sins of the late king and is ceremonially exiled. He dresses up as the king, eats a meal that is unclean, having been contaminated with animal fat, and mounts an elephant laden with the king's possessions (including in this case real things like television sets). He then rides off into exile, never to return to Nepal. This happened twice, once for Birendra and then two days later for Dipendra.

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