| Updated at: 0810 PST, Thursday, October 14, 2010|
POKHARA: A Nepalese teenager whose tiny stature has made him a celebrity in his homeland entered the record books as the world's shortest man on Thursday as he celebrated his 18th birthday.
Khagendra Thapa Magar, who stands just 25.8 inches (65.5 centimetres) tall and weighs 5.5 kilos (12 pounds), takes over from 24-year-old Edward "Nino" Hernandez from Colombia, who is almost two inches taller.
A team of adjudicators from the Guinness World Records met Magar this week and conducted exhaustive checks on his claim to the record in the picturesque Himalayan town of Pokhara in central Nepal, near the village where he grew up.
"An 18-year-old from Nepal has today been named the new world's shortest man by Guinness World Records adjudicators who flew to the country to measure him," the London-based organisation said in a statement.
"At two feet 1.8 inches, Khagendra Thapa Magar has been officially recognised as the shortest man in the world, snatching the title from 24-year-old Edward 'Nino' Hernandez from Colombia who has held the title for just five weeks."
Magar, the son of a fruit seller from rural Nepal, who dreams of marrying and travelling the world in his wife's handbag, will receive his official Guinness World Records certificate in a short ceremony on Thursday.
He has met the prime minister on several occasions, been named a tourism ambassador and hit headlines across the world when he travelled to New York and London last month on a publicity drive.
His family had previously laid claim to the record for Nagar, but the teenager needed to reach his 18th birthday before being officially recognised as the smallest man.
In Pokhara, a lakeside town popular with tourists, shouts of recognition greeted the teenager wherever he went this week, and Magar's father said his son was enjoying the attention.
"Khagendra may be small, but his size has earned him a big name," Rup Bahadur Thapa Magar said.
"People are always so nice to him. They come up and ask to have their photograph taken with him. It makes us feel that he is loved, and he likes it too. Khagendra is a true blessing from God."
Magar senior, who runs a fruit shop in the family's village in central Nepal, said he did not know what caused his son to stop growing.
But reports say that the teenager suffers from primordial dwarfism, a condition that typically reduces life expectancy to as little as 20 years.
"He was so tiny when he was born that he could fit in the palm of your hand, and it was very hard to bathe him because he was so small," said his father.
"Sometimes it made us sad when he was growing up because we thought he would never be able to do normal things like ride a bike or drive a car, but now he is so popular, and that has made us happy."
Magar rarely speaks himself, but in a rare conversation with journalists in Pokhara this week, the teenager said he wanted a remote-controlled car for his birthday -- and that he would rely on his future wife for transport.
"I'm hoping to marry in two years' time, when I am 20," he said. "I'll sit in my wife's handbag and travel the world with her."
Last month Magar travelled to New York as part of a publicity trip organised by Ripley's Believe It or Not curiosity museum, where he posed alongside a life-sized figure of the tallest man in history -- the 8-foot-11-inch American Robert Wadlow.
He also travelled to Italy earlier this year where he met He Pingping of China, who was the world's shortest man until his death in March. The pair appeared together in a television show.
Guinness World Records says the shortest man ever is thought to be Gul Mohammed from India, who was said to have measured just 22.5 inches, although this was never independently verified.
As his big day approached, Magar's father said the family intended to mark the day by sharing a birthday cake with relatives and the dozens of journalists who have gathered in Pokhara.
"It will be the biggest and happiest day of our lives," he said. "We are simple people and this is a huge responsibility for us, but it also makes us very happy. We are glad that we are able to make Nepal proud."