Written by Paridhi Sinha.
In 1786, when King Prithvi Narain Shah had started his campaign for the reunification of Nepal, it was predicted that his blood would rule Nepal only for 11 generations. Fast forward to June 1, 2001, in the Narayanhity Royal Palace, Kathmandu, King Birendra Shah, the eleventh generation descendant of King Prithvi Narain Shah was having a dinner party with his family. Such dinner parties were a norm for the Nepalese royal family, but on this fateful night, something was different. After a while, the guards posted outside heard gunshots. As both the King and the crown prince were connoisseurs of guns, the guards wondered if they were simply having one of their demonstrations. And when the guards finally decided to check, it was too late. The King Birendra, along with his wife, two sons, daughters and some other members of his family had been shot fatally. After their death, King Birendra’s younger brother Gyanendra was crowned, who, owing to his rising unpopularity, was soon ousted and exiled from the country along with his family. Within the span of a few years, the monarchy was completely abolished in Nepal, and the tiny mountain nation became a democracy. The prophecy was fulfilled.
But what had led to this? Who had massacred the beloved royals of Nepal? For most of the Nepalis, this question is yet unanswered as they don’t accept the official story. The official story says that the drunk crown prince Dipendra, angry over an ongoing spat with his parents regarding his beloved, murdered his own family. Several conspiracy theories exist about the massacre, tracing their origins to the changing and contrasting statements released by Gyanendra Shah during the aftermath of the incident and the fact that not one member of his immediate family was even seriously wounded despite being present at the scene.
But who was this girl, this beloved, who was being touted as the cause of the demise of an entire royal line? Her name was Devyani Rana.
While studying in England, Prince Dipendra and Devyani Rana had the same guardian, and they met at his house for the first time. Young and alone in a foreign land, the two found solace in each other’s company. And pretty soon, they fell in love.
Dipendra Shah was the crown prince and future King of Nepal while Devyani Rana came from the highest-ranking noble family in the country. The Ranas, years ago, used to be the prime ministers to the King. Although there seemed to exist some ongoing, behind the scenes, power struggles between the Ranas and the Shahs (the royals), marriages between the two families were quite common. It seemed like a perfect love story with a happy ending, but when things are bound to go wrong, they go wrong.
Prince Dipendra’s mother Queen Aishwarya had already selected a suitable bride for her firstborn, a Shah bride who would have tilted the scales in favour of the Shahs. The blossoming love story hit a roadblock almost as soon as the palace came to know about it. The queen was adamant, and despite his very obvious love and affection for Devyani, Dipendra found little support from the rest of his family. The Royals stood at opposite ends.
Devyani and Dipendra would continue meeting up while the palace fumed in anger. Queen Aishwarya vehemently opposed the alliance with Devyani Rana. One of the reasons for this opposition was Devyani’s mother, Usha Raje, who was Indian. Usha Raje Scindia came from one of the richest and powerful royal houses of India. And despite no longer having the titles, Scindias of Gwalior were still rich and politically powerful. But what mattered to Queen Aishwarya was that Devyani Rana had a little too much Indian blood and that Indian blood was not noble enough for a future Queen. It is said that the King had even threatened to disown Prince Dipendra and to remove him from the line of succession, only further infuriating him.
After the massacre, for a few days, Dipendra was in a coma. The mystery surrounding the events that had unfolded that night brought the world’s attention to Nepal. While her beloved lay dying and people of her country turned towards her with accusing glares, Devyani Rana escaped to New Delhi. For days, she hid in the bungalow of her maternal uncle, the erstwhile head of Scindias and a powerful minister in the Indian government, while the media camped outside.
Three days after the massacre, on June 4, Dipendra breathed his last, bringing their doomed story to an end. What Devyani Rana must have gone through is difficult to imagine, the man who loved her was dead, and her whole life was in shambles. She couldn’t return to Nepal because she feared for her life. As if this was not enough, her uncle died in a plane crash only a few months later.
Slowly, as Nepal went through upheavals, she started building back her life. In 2004, she got a second degree from the London School of Economics. And six years after the tragedy, she married an Indian royal at her uncle’s villa in New Delhi. Working for the UN and after living in India for so many years, she has finally joined her father’s political party in Nepal. Maybe, she nourishes a hope to be a part of the government of the land of which she once dreamt to be the queen.