A portrait of Nepal’s doom-laden royal dynasty from its staggering expansion in the 18th century to the massacre in June 2001, a sequence of events worthy of a Greek tragedy.
Nepal, a fabulous country of sublime natural beauty, has a history inextricably mixed with kingship. There have been kings in its mountain valleys for millennia. Buddha Siddharta was born a Nepalese prince and the current dynasty traces its ancestry to the Rajput princes from Rajasthan. Nepal is the last Hindu kingdom in the world, in which the same traditions of kingship are practised now as in Vedic times. Kings are gods, and history, kingship and myth are culturally woven together. The current Shah dynasty created modern Nepal and was the complete focus of national identity. It was, then, a tragedy of Shakespearean proportions when the heir to the throne, frustrated by his mother in his desire to marry a girl from a rival clan, slaughtered as many of the royal family as he could find in the palace. In a few bloody minutes Crown Prince Diprendra committed matricide, patricide, fratricide and suicide and ensured for hmself a place in history’s pantheon of deranged monarchs. Amazingly, this is not the first time the Nepalese royals have been involved in palace massacres. The story of the Shah dynasty is studded with sanguinary episodes, of intrigues, fratricide, poisoning and the disposal of ‘unwanted’ relativres that would put the Borgias to shame. The fact that the monarchy has divine status means that its trials and turmoils are instantly shared by the entire country. If the monarchy is in crisis, Nepal is too. Mixing brand new reportage with an unrivalled historical and culturla appreciation of the country, Jonthan Gregson demonstrates how one small mountain kingdom, as wreathed in antiquity as it is in high mountain clouds, has been the setting for a classic revenger’s tragedy.