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Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (वीरेन्द्र वीर विक्रम शाह) (28 December 1945 – 1 June 2001) was a King of Nepal. The son of King Mahendra, whom he succeeded in 1972 he reigned until his death in the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre. He is the most internationally well-known Nepalese king in modern history.

Early life

Late King Birendra was born at the Narayanhity Royal Palacemarker in Kathmandumarker as the eldest son of the then Crown Prince Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and his wife Crown Princess Indra Rajya Laxmi.

Late King Birendra was the first Nepalese monarch to receive a formal education. He spent eight years studying at St Joseph's College a Jesuit school in Darjeelingmarker, Indiamarker. On 13 March 1955 his grandfather King Tribhuvan died and his father succeeded to the Nepalese throne. With his father's ascension Birendra became the Crown Prince of Nepal.

In 1959 Late King Birendra enrolled at Eton Collegemarker in the United Kingdommarker. After studying at Eton until 1964 he returned to Nepal where he began to explore the country by travelling incognito to remote parts of the country where he lived on whatever was available in the villages and monasteries. He later completed his education by spending some time at the University of Tokyomarker before studying political theory at Harvard Universitymarker from 1967 to 1968. Late King Birendra enjoyed to travel in his youth and went on trips to Canadamarker, Latin America, Africa and a number of Asian countries. He was also an art collector and supporter of Nepalese crafts people and artists. He also learnt to fly helicopters.

Birendra was married to Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Devi Rana from the Rana familymarker on 27 February 1970. The wedding which was billed as one of the most lavish Hindu nuptial ceremonies in history cost $9.5 million to stage. Birendra and Aishwaraya had three children.


Birendra succeeded to the throne on 31 January 1972 on the death of his father. On his ascension he was effectively an absolute monarch as he inherited a country where political parties were banned and he ruled through a system of local and regional councils known as panchayats. Birendra resented the absolute monarch tag maintaining that he presided over a democracy in which representatives to the assembly were indirectly elected and saying that his poor and backward country could not afford a democracy based on party politics and that it needed firm and decisive government. His first trips abroad as king were to Indiamarker in October 1973 and Chinamarker two months later as he believed that Nepal, sandwiched between the two Asian powers, should have good relations with both.

In an attempt to maintain the panchayat system of government prominent leaders of the Nepali Congress Party were arrested. Because of the growing pro democracy movement Birendra announced that a referendum to decide between a non-party and a multi-party system would be held. The referendum was held in May 1980 with the non-party system winning by a margin of 55% to 45%. During the 1980s the restraints that had been imposed on political organisations were starting to ease and liberal student-led groups were starting to appear demanding constitutional change in Nepal. He was made a British Field Marshal in 1980.

In 1990 a series of strikes and pro-democracy riots broke out in Nepal. Because of the rioting Birendra agreed to become a constitutional monarch. He appointed an independent Constitution Recommendation Commission to represent the main opposition factions and to prepare a new constitution to accommodate their demands for political reform. The commission presented him with the draft of the proposed constitution on 10 September 1990. The new constitution would make Birendra head of state of a constitutional monarchy with a system of multiparty democracy. The draft constitution was approved by the Prime Minister K.P. Bhattarai and his cabinet and so on 9 November 1990 Birendra promulgated the new constitution transforming Nepal into a constitutional monarchy.

However, the quarrels between various political parties and numerous social problems led to the Nepalese Civil War, a conflict between Maoist rebels and government forces, which lasted from 1996 until 2006.


Nepalmarker's stability was threatened even more when Birendra and most of his family (including Queen Aiswarya) were massacred at a royal dinner on 1 June 2001. However published reports from eyewitnesses and the results of an investigation carried by a two man committee made up of the Chief of the Supreme Court Keshav Prasad Upadhaya and the speaker of the House of Representatives Taranath Ranabhat, confirmed his eldest son and heir, Dipendra, was the gunman. There is some speculation that Gyanendra was behind a conspiracy. The motive given for Dipendra's actions were a clash with his mother over his wish to marry Devyani Rana. Dipendra also had a history of alcohol and illegal drugs abuse and had also suffered from depression in the past. Dipendra was proclaimed king but died a few days later of self inflicted gunshot wounds. Birendra's brother, Gyanendra, then became King.


  1. Death of a dynasty
  2. Nepal massacre inquiry begins, at long last
  3. Prince blamed for Nepal massacre
  4. Madness of psychiatry

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