Pushpa Kamal Dahal was born in to a poor farming family in the mountainous Kaski district of central Nepal. At age 11 he moved with his family to Chitwan district, where a school teacher indoctrinated him in communism. In 1975 he graduated from the Institute of Agriculture & Animal Science in Rampur, Chitwan district.
In 1980 Prachanda (a nom de guerre meaning “fierce”) was tasked with leading the All Nepal National Free Students’ Union (Revolutionary), which was affiliated with the radical Communist Party of Nepal (Masal), or CPN (Masal [meaning “flame” in Nepalese]).
In 1983 he was elected to the central committee of the CPN (Masal), which soon split in to the CPN (Masal) & the CPN (Fourth Convention). In 1985 the CPN (Masal) divided again, into the CPN (Masal) & the CPN (Mashal [“flame” in Sanskrit]). Prachanda joined the latter, becoming a member of the politburo and rising to the position of general secretary in 1989.
Several leftist parties merged in 1990 to form the CPN (Unity Centre), with Prachanda as a general secretary, but in 1994 it also split in two. In March 1995 Prachanda renamed his branch to reflect its Maoist leanings—the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The CPN (Maoist) launched its insurgent campaign to abolish the monarchy with an attack on several police stations on February 13, 1996.