Kingdom of Nepal
|Kingdom of Nepal
Territory of the Kingdom of Nepal in 2008
|Government||Absolute monarchy, constitutional monarchy|
|-||1768–1775||Prithvi Narayan Shah (first)|
|-||1950–1951; 2001–2008||Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (last)|
|-||Unification under Prithvi Narayan Shah||1768|
|-||Republic||28 May 2008|
|Currency||Nepalese mohar (1768–1932)
Nepalese rupee (1932–2008)
The Kingdom of Nepal (Nepali: नेपाल अधिराज्य) was formed in 1768 by the unification of Nepal. Founded by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkhali monarch, it existed for 240 years until the abolition of the Nepalese monarchy in 2008. During this period, Nepal was formally under the rule of the Shah dynasty, which exercised varying degrees of power during the kingdom's existence.
After a successful consolidation of its territory, despite a humiliating defeat to China after a failed invasion of Tibet in the 1790s, Nepal became threatened in the early-nineteenth century by British imperialism and the East India Company. Following the Gurkha War (1814–1816), the kingdom retained its independence in the Sugauli Treaty in exchange for territorial concessions equating to a third of the territory then under Nepalese rule, sometimes known as "Greater Nepal". Political instability following the war resulted in the political ascendancy of the Rana dynasty, who beginning with Jang Bahadur became the hereditary Prime Ministers of Nepal from 1843 to 1951, reducing the role of the Shah monarch to that of a figurehead.
The mid-twentieth century began an era of moves towards the democratisation of Nepal. The newly-independent India would play an important role in supporting King Tribhuhvan, whom the Rana leader Mohan Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana in 1950 had attempted to depose and replace with his infant grandson King Gyanendra, and in supporting a new government consisting largely of the Nepali Congress, effectively ending the rule of the Rana dynasty.
The 1990s saw the beginning of the Nepalese Civil War (1996–2006), a conflict fought between government forces and the insurgent forces of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist). The situation for the Nepalese monarchy was further destabilised by the 2001 Nepalese royal massacre, in which Crown Prince Dipendra reportedly shot and killed ten people, including his father King Birendra, and was himself mortally wounded by what was allegedly a self-inflicted gunshot.
As a result of the massacre, King Gyanendra returned to the throne. His imposition of direct rule in 2005 provoked a protest movement unifying the Maoist insurgency and pro-democracy activists. He was eventually forced to restore Nepal's House of Representatives, which in 2007 adopted an interim constitution greatly restricting the powers of the Nepalese monarchy. Following an election held the next year, the Nepalese Constituent Assembly formally abolished the kingdom in its first session on 28 May 2008, declaring in its place the establishment of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.
After decades of rivalry between the medieval kingdoms, Kingdom of Nepal was re-unified in the latter half of the 18th century, when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley and the creation of a single state, which he achieved in 1768.
The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom. Chauhan (1996) claims that it is a misconception that the Gorkhali took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal and that the region was given its name after the Gorkhali had established their control of these areas. In addition, he says that Gorkhali take their name from the legendary eighth-century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. A more detailed description of Chauhan's thesis is available under the first three sections in the entry on the Gorkha Kingdom.
It is true that the Parbate Brahmins and the ruling dynasty among the Gorkhali people trace their ancestry to the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmins of Northern India who entered modern Nepal from the west following Muslim advances. However, the actual historical process by which this migration took place and the history of the Gorkhalis' ultimate conquest of Nepal span a couple of centuries and are drastically different from what Chauhan proposes. More importantly, Chauhan's overall thesis claiming the existence of a Gurkha identity way before the Shahs came to the Nepali hills is not supported by historical evidence available in Nepal. First, in Nepal, the warrior people are not referred to as 'Gurkhas.' They are called 'Gorkhalis', meaning the 'inhabitants of Gorkha.' The Gorkhalis themselves have never called themselves 'Gorkhas' or 'Gurkhas' -- even today, they call themselves 'Gorkhali.' Their famed battle cry is 'Ayo Gorkhali', meaning 'the Gorkhali has come.' The appellation 'Gurkha' is most probably a British invention.
The etymology of the geographical name 'Gorkha' is indeed related to the Hindu mendicant-saint Gorakhnath. In the village of Gorkha is situated a temple dedicated to Gorakhnath as well as another dedicated to Gorakhkali, a corresponding female deity. The Nepali geographical encyclopedia 'Mechi-dekhi Mahakali' ('From Mechi to Mahakali') published in 2031 Bikram Era (1974-75 AD) by the authoritarian Panchayat government to mark the coronation of King Birendra Shah agrees with the association of the name of the place with the saint but does not add any further detail. The facts regarding when the temples were built and the place named after the saint are lost in the sweeping winds of time. We may guess that these developments took place in the early part of the second millennium of the Common Era following the rise of the Nath sect. In fact, the pilgrimage circuit of the sect across the northern Indian sub-continent also spans a major part of present-day Nepal including Kathmandu Valley. The Newars of Medieval Nepal have a couple of important temples and festivals dedicated to the major Nath teachers. Immediately before the rule of Gorkha by the Shahs, Gorkha was inhabited by both Aryan and Mongoloid ethnic groups and ruled by the Khadkas, who were probably of Khas origin. Dravya Shah defeated the Khadkas in 1559 AD and commenced Shah rule over the principality. Prithvi Narayan Shah belonged to the ninth generation of the Shahs in Gorkha. He took the reins of power in 1742 AD.
After the death of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Shah dynasty began to expand their kingdom into what is present day North India. Between 1788 and 1791, Nepal invaded Tibet and robbed Tashilhunpo Monastery of Shigatse. Tibet sought Chinese help and the Qianlong Emperor of the Chinese Qing Dynasty appointed Fuk'anggan commander-in-chief of the Tibetan campaign. Heavy damages were inflicted on both sides and the Chinese army pushed the Gurkhas back to the inner hills close to the Nepali capital. However, a comprehensive defeat of the Gorkhali army could not be achieved. After a series of successful battles, the Chinese army suffered a major setback when they tried to cross a monsoon-flooded Betrawati, close to the Gorkhali palace in Nuwakot. A stalemate ensued, and with their resources low and a looming uncertainty regarding how long they would be able to hold on in addition to the need to continue their expansion drive on the western frontier, the Gorkhalis signed a treaty in Chinese terms that required, among other obligations, Nepal to send tributes to the Chinese emperor every five years.
After 1800, and particularly following the defeat of the Gorkhalis by the British in the war of 1814-16, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved incapable of maintaining firm political control over Nepal. A period of internal turmoil followed until Jung Bahadur Rana, a scion of Kunwar nobility, consolidated power following the Kot massacre of 1846.
Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company - over the princely states bordering Nepal and India - eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), in which Nepal suffered a complete rout. The Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, ceding large parts of the Nepali territories of Terrai and Sikkim, (nearly one third of the country), to the British, in exchange for Nepalese autonomy. As the territories were not restored to Nepal by the British when freedom was granted to the people of British India, these have become a part of the Republic of India, although the people of Sikkim decided in a public referendum in 1975 to merge the kingdom in India and become a state in the Republic of India.
Rana dynasty rule
mujifamily led to a period of instability after the war. In 1846, Queen Rajendralakshmi plotted to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader of Indian Rajput ancestry who was presenting a threat to her power. The plot was uncovered and the queen had several hundred princes and chieftains executed after an armed clash between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen. This came to be known as the Kot Massacre. However, Bahadur emerged victorious eventually and founded the Rana dynasty; the monarch was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary, held by a Rana.
The Rana regime, a tightly centralized autocracy, pursued a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences. This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence during the British colonial era, but it also impeded the country's economic development and modernisation. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and later in both World Wars.
- In December 1923 Britain and Nepal formally signed a "treaty of perpetual peace and friendship" superseding the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 and upgrading the British resident in Kathmandu to an envoy.
- Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.
Popular dissatisfaction against the family rule of the Ranas had started emerging from among the few educated people, who had studied in various Indian schools and colleges, and also from within the Ranas, many of whom were marginalised within the ruling Rana hierarchy. Many of these Nepalese in exile had actively taken part in the Indian Independence struggle and wanted to liberate Nepal as well from the internal autocratic Rana occupation. The political parties such as The Prajaparishad and Nepali Congress were already formed in exile by leaders such as B.P. Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Subarna Sumsher Rana, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Girija Prasad Koirala and many other patriotic-minded Nepalis who urged the military and popular political movement in Nepal to overthrow the autocratic Rana Regime. Among the prominent martyrs to die for the cause, executed at the hands of the Ranas, were Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Shukraraj Shastri, Gangalal Shrestha and Dasharath Chand. This turmoil culminated in King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi Narayan Shah, fleeing from his "palace prison" in 1950, to newly independent India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana administration. This eventually ended in the return of the Shah family to power and the appointment of a non-Rana as prime minister. A period of quasi-constitutional rule followed, during which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling political parties, governed the country. During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution for Nepal that would establish a representative form of government, based on a British model.
In early 1959, Tribhuvan's son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held. The Nepali Congress Party, a moderate socialist group, gained a substantial victory in the election. Its leader, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, formed a government and served as prime minister. After years of power wrangling between the kings (Tribhuvan and Mahendra) and the government, Mahendra dissolved the democratic experiment in 1960.
King Mahendra's new constitution
Declaring the contemporary parliament a failure, King Mahendra in 1962 dismissed the Koirala government, declared that a "partyless" panchayat system would govern Nepal, and promulgated another new constitution on December 16, 1962.
Subsequently, the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and hundreds of democratic activists were arrested. In fact, this trend of arrest of political activists and democratic supporters continued for the entire 30 year period of partyless Panchayati System under King Mahendra and then his son, King Birendra.
The new constitution established a "partyless" system of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered to be a democratic form of government, closer to Nepalese traditions. As a pyramidal structure, progressing from village assemblies to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the panchayat system constitutionalised the absolute power of the monarchy and kept the King as head of state with sole authority over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) and the Parliament. One-state-one-language became the national policy, and all other languages suffered at the cost of the official language, "Nepali", which was the king's language.
King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27 year-old son, King Birendra, in 1972. Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities in 1979, King Birendra called for a national referendum to decide on the nature of Nepal's government: either the continuation of the panchayat system with democratic reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system. The referendum was held in May 1980, and the panchayat system won a narrow victory. The king carried out the promised reforms, including selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat.
1990 People's Movement
People in rural areas had expected that their interests would be better represented after the adoption of parliamentary democracy in 1990. The Nepali Congress with support of "Alliance of leftist parties" decided to launch a decisive agitational movement, Jana Andolan, which forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections in nearly 50 years. The Nepali Congress won 110 of the 205 seats and formed the first elected government in 32 years.
In 1992, in a situation of economic crisis and chaos, with spiralling prices as a result of implementation of changes in policy of the new Congress government, the radical left stepped up their political agitation. A Joint People's Agitation Committee was set up by the various groups. A general strike was called for April 6.
Violent incidents began to occur on the evening before of the strike. The Joint People's Agitation Committee had called for a 30-minute 'lights out' in the capital, and violence erupted outside Bir Hospital when activists tried to enforce the 'lights out'. At dawn on April 6, clashes between strike activists and police, outside a police station in Pulchok (Patan), left two activists dead.
Later in the day, a mass rally of the Agitation Committee at Tundikhel in the capital Kathmandu was attacked by police forces. As a result, riots broke out and the Nepal Telecommunications building was set on fire; police opened fire at the crowd, killing several persons. The Human Rights Organisation of Nepal estimated that 14 persons, including several onlookers, had been killed in police firing.
When promised land reforms failed to appear, people in some districts started to organize to enact their own land reform and to gain some power over their lives in the face of usurious landlords. However, this movement was repressed by the Nepali government, in Operation Romeo and Operation Kilo Sera II, which took the lives of many of the leading activists of the struggle. As a result, many witnesses to this repression became radicalised.
Nepalese Civil War
In February 1996, one of the Maoist parties started a bid to replace the parliamentary monarchy with a people's new democratic republic, through a Maoist revolutionary strategy known as the people's war, which led to the Nepalese Civil War. Led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as "Prachanda"), the insurgency began in five districts in Nepal: Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha, and Sindhuli. The Maoists declared the existence of a provisional "people's government" at the district level in several locations.
On June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra went on a shooting-spree, assassinating 9 members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, before shooting himself. Due to his survival he temporarily became king before dying of his wounds, after which Prince Gyanendra (Birendra's brother) inherited the throne, according to tradition. The massacre shattered the aura of mythology that still surrounded the Royal Family, exposing their far too human intrigues. Meanwhile, the Maoist rebellion escalated, and in October 2001 the king temporarily deposed the government and took complete control of it. A week later he reappointed another government, but the country was still very unstable because of the civil war with the Maoists, the various clamouring political factions, the king's attempts to take more control of the government, and worries about the competence of Gyanendra's son and heir, Prince Paras.
Suspension of responsible government
In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy began to wane. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and took to exercising his executive powers without ministerial advice, declaring a "state of emergency" to quash the Maoist movement. Politicians were placed under house arrest, phone and internet lines were cut, and freedom of the press was severely curtailed.
2006 democracy movement in Nepal
The king's new regime made little progress in his stated aim to suppress the insurgents. Municipal elections in February 2006 were described by the European Union as "a backward step for democracy", as the major parties boycotted the election and some candidates were forced to run for office by the army. In April 2006 strikes and street protests in Kathmandu forced the king to reinstate the parliament. A seven-party coalition resumed control of the government and stripped the king of most of his powers. As of 15 January 2007 Nepal was governed by an unicameral legislature under an interim constitution.
Abolition of the monarchy
The Nepalese Constituent Assembly came to fruition on December 24, 2007 when it was announced that the monarchy would be abolished in 2008 after the Constituent Assembly elections; and on May 28, 2008, Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic.
- History of Nepal
- List of monarchs of Nepal
- Line of succession to the former Nepalese throne
- Nepalese royal massacre
- Kingdom of Mustang
- Religious Intelligence - News - Nepal moves to become a secular republic
- Whelpton, John (2005). A History of Nepal. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80470-1, 9780521804707 Check
- 'Mechi-dekhi Mahakali, Vol. 3, Paschimanchal Bikas Kshetra' p. 70
- Sharma, Devi Prasad, 'Adhunik Nepal-ko Itihas (1742-1961 AD).' Ratna Pustak Bhandar. Kathmandu. 1995.
- Stiller, L.F.,"The Rise of the House of Gorkha." Patna Jesuit Society. Patna. 1975.
- Tucci, Giuseppe. (1952). Journey to Mustang, 1952. Trans. by Diana Fussell. 1st Italian edition, 1953; 1st English edition, 1977. 2nd edition revised, 2003, p. 22. Bibliotheca Himalayica. ISBN 99933-0-378-X (South Asia); 974-524-024-9 (Outside of South Asia).
- The organisers of the Committee were the Samyukta Janamorcha Nepal, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unity Centre), Communist Party of Nepal (Masal), the Nepal Communist League and the Communist Party of Nepal (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist).
- Hoftun, Martin, William Raeper and John Whelpton. People, politics and ideology: Democracy and Social Change in Nepal. Kathmandu: Mandala Book Point, 1999. p. 189
- "Nepalese monarchy to be abolished". BBC. 24 December 2007. Retrieved 25 December 2007.