People of Nepal loved Late King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev for his devotion to making Nepal better. After the death of his father, King Mahendra, King Birendra acceded to the throne on 17th of Magh, 2028 B.S. (31 January 1972 AD). However, the official coronation ceremony of King Birendra took place on the 12th of Falgun, 2031 B.S. (24 February,1975 AD). The court astrologers had to select a date for the coronation ceremony and the timing was not auspicious for two more years for conducting such an important ceremony, hence the Royal Coronation was delayed.
The royal family sent invites to VIPs from all over the world for this historical celebration.
Prince Charles of Britain with his granduncle Lord Mountbatten, Japanese Crown Prince Akihito, the Presidents of Sri Lanka and Pakistan William Gopallawa and Fazal Elahi Chaudry respectively and the Vice President of India Gopal Swarup Pathak attended this historical ceremony. The first lady of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos also became a part of the ceremony along with her 40 delegates. Presidential Counsel Philip Buchen and Senator Charles Percy of Illinois and Carol C. Laise, former ambassador to Nepal, represented the US delegation for the Royal Coronation.
A Purification Ritual of the King and Queen
Various priests smeared different types of clays on different body parts of the King. For instance, clay from an anthill was applied to his ears to heighten his senses. Likewise, mud from Lord Vishnu’s temple was given to his mouth to bless him with wisdom. Mud from a horse’s stable was placed on his feet to bless him with speed. Mud was collected from a prostitute’s house to bless him with virility. Mud from the summit of a mountain, river confluences, wheels of a chariot, Lord Indra’s flagpole etc. were collected and applied to the king’s body.
Then, people representing four castes in Hinduism – a priest (Brahmin), a warrior (Kshatriya), a merchant (Vaishya) and a labourer (Shudra) anointed the king with ritual items to purify him. The Brahmin anointed the king with clarified butter (ghee) from a golden urn, the Kshatriya anointed the king with milk from a silver vessel, the Vaishya anointed the king with curd from a copper chalice and the Shudra anointed the king with honey from an earthen pot.
Later, the king bathed in water from seven seas and eight rivers, perfumed with various oils and exotic powders to get ready for the coronation. And throughout this purification, other helping priests chanted scriptures from Veda saying, “We invest you with the strength and valour of Lord Indra, the King of Heaven, to ensure victory, with the splendour of the Sun to scorch your foes, with the cooling power of the Moon to give peace and plenty to your people. May your people ever love you.”
The Rajyabhishek (The Royal Coronation)
The Royal Coronation took place at the beautiful Malla Palace, the Hanuman Dhoka Palace also known as Kathmandu Durbar Square or Basantapur exactly at 08:37 Hrs of 12th of Falgun, 2031 B.S. The Hanuman Dhoka Palace built by the Malla Kings in the 16th century was magnificently decorated to host the Royal Coronation for the Shah King.
The Raj Guru (Royal Priest) held the Shreepech, the royal crown high on his hands so that all the attendees could get a glimpse of it, before crowning King Birendra. The grandeur Shreepech of Nepalese Monarch is embellished with 3,000 precious stones, including 723 diamonds, 2,372 pearls, 47 emeralds and16 rubies and the feather on it is of the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave the Royal Crown such a majestic look. Queen Aishwarya was then crowned with a beautiful coronet.
An important part of Hindu ritual is to recite hymns and prayers so during his coronation King Birendra in his soft voice recited hymns in Sanskrit saying, “O priest, I shall remain alert and active for the sake of my country. I shall be my peoples’ beloved, like the raindrops.”
The coronation ceremony was not only a celebration for people of the royal family but it was a celebratory event for the entire country. Nepal Distilleries Pvt. Ltd. launched the Khukri Coronation Rum as a celebratory ode to the new King of sovereign Nepal. The company packaged its rum in Khukuri shaped bottles. Khukuri is a national emblem/weapon of Nepal.
King Birendra had developed good diplomatic relations with various countries. In 1970 AD, the German government, as a wedding gift to King Birendra, announced to restore the disappearing buildings and preserve the heritage of Bhaktapur and called the project “Bhaktapur Development Project (BDP)”. Later on, on the occasion of Birendra’s coronation ceremony, the Germans made additional grants to the BDP.
Royal Procession After Rajyabhisekh
After the crowning ceremony, King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya made the customary procession ritual. First, they walked in a short yet splendid procession to the Ganesh temple right outside the Kathmandu Durbar Square. The royal couple then mounted an elephant called Prem Prasad who was exquisitely adorned in scarlet and golden cloth. Many other equally decorated elephants following Prem Prasad added glory to the royal procession.
The most innocent moment during the ceremony was when the 3-year-old Crown Prince Dipendra saluted his newly crowned parents.
While the atmosphere of the Royal coronation was splendorous and beautiful, some believed that a bad omen had occurred too because one of the many elephants that were specially brought in from Terai for the coronation had died.
The coronation ceremony of King Birendra was one of the most lavish and historical ceremonies of all time for the Shah Kings of Nepal. When King Mahendra’s coronation took place on 20th of Baishak, 2013 B.S. (2 May, 1956 AD), Nepal had diplomatic relations with 4 countries only, therefore King Mahendra’s Coronation was quite sedate in comparison to King Birendra’s. And when King Gyanendra, brother of King Birendra ascended the throne on 22nd of Jestha, 2058 B.S. (4 June, 2001 AD) after the unimaginable 2001 Royal Massacre, the ceremony was sedated too because of the nationwide mournings.
King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was born on 14 Poush, 2001 B.S. (28 December, 1945 AD) at Narayanhiti Royal Palace which is now known as the Narayanhiti Palace Museum. He was the king of Nepal from 17 Magh 2028 B.S. (31 January 1972 AD) until his death in the royal massacre on 19 Jestha, 2058 B.S. (1 June 2001 AD). He was the only Hindu king in the world during his times.
He was the first formally educated king of Nepal. He did his schooling in Darjeeling, India and pursued his higher education at Eton University in England, Tokyo University in Japan and Harvard University in Boston, USA.
He became the king of Nepal after his father His Majesty King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev died unexpectedly in 2028 B.S. (1972 AD). King Birendra was the eldest son to Crown Princess Indra Rajya Lakshmi Devi, the first wife of King Mahendra. Crown Princess Indra Rajya Lakshmi Devi died on 19 Bhadra, 2007 B.S. (4th of September 1950 AD). After the death of Princess Indra, Mahendra married Indra’s younger sister, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Shah. King Birendra had two younger brothers, King Gyanendra who succeeded him after the royal massacre and Prince Dhirendra. He also had three sisters, Princess Shanti, Princess Sharada and Princess Shobha.
King Birendra married Aishwarya Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah while he was still a crown prince on 16 Falgun,2026 B.S. (27 February 1970 AD). She was the eldest daughter of Kendra Shumshere Jung Bahadur Rana, a Lieutenant General of the Nepalese Army. Aishwarya was fondly known as Bada Maharani meaning Queen after she was crowned in 2031 B.S. Together, the couple had three children, King Dipendra, Princess Shruti and Prince Niranjan.
The 10th king of the Shah Dynasty, King Birendra was known for his calm nature and kind-heartedness. Nepalese worship him and all Shah Kings as a reincarnation of Lord Vishnu. He was devoted towards his country and citizens that is why on his coronation day, King Birendra announced that the government should make primary education free and available for every child in Nepal. He was strongly focused on keeping Nepal independent and thus he didn’t give in to any pressures of India, China and the Soviet Union who wanted to acquire Nepal back then.
Tourism in the country flourished during his reign. He was never comfortable being an absolute monarch. Thus, in 1990 AD, after the pro-democracy movement, King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya agreed to the new constitution that paved the way for multiparty democracy in Nepal while they continued their reign as constitutional monarchs.
Nepalese still believe that if he was alive, Nepal would have taken an absolute glorious turn in development. The life of King Birendra came to a very tragic end during the infamous royal massacre that happened in 2058 B.S.
The night of 19 Jestha, 2058 B.S. (1 June 2001 AD) was supposed to be a normal night for both the Royal family and the people of Nepal. Yet, it is remembered as one of the darkest nights in the history of Nepal where King Birendra and 9 Royal family members died. The massacre not only killed King Birendra but also took away with him the dreams and aspirations he had had for the country.
It is said that Crown Prince Dipendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was having conflicts with his parents regarding his love interest. He loved Devyani Rana, daughter of Pashupati Shumsher Rana, who he met at Eton University. Rumours have it that Queen Aishwarya was not happy with Dipendra’s choice and she suggested he marry a distant relative from the Shah family. Apparently, his parents also threatened to disinherit Dipendra if he chose to continue his relationship with Devyani.
A heartbroken Dipendra was under the influence of drugs and alcohol when he ambushed a royal family gathering. He fired the guns and killed his 9 family members; his father, mother, brother Niranjan, sister Shruti and uncle Dhirendra and aunts. He then gunned himself down too.
After the death of his father, Dipendra while still in a coma was declared the 11th Shah King. He was technically the shortest living King because he died after 3 days of the announcement. After his death, his uncle, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was crowned as the 12th Shah king of the country.
The royal massacre came as a shock to the entire world and many theories were built over how the massacre must have taken place. Some claimed that Dipendra was not happy with his father’s decision of leading a constitutional monarchy since that meant less power for the ruling Monarchs. Many questioned King Gyanendra‘s absence at the royal dinner hosted that night and why none of his family members was affected during the massacre. The immediate succession of King Gyanendra raised many eyebrows. There were also rumours that Maoist groups or other countries might have planned the royal massacre to wipe out the monarchy from Nepal.
There is no exact explanation yet on how and why the royal massacre took place. The only thing that is known is that the death of King Birendra gave rise to political turmoil in the country and stunted its growth.
King Birendra still lives in the hearts of Nepalese and is often heard saying, “Had King Birendra been alive today, our country would have reached a massive scale of development!”
Reference Photos from the collection from NepalStuff and pinterest