Rise of the Ranas

The highest places on earth, and sea level plains, all within 100 miles of each other...

The highest places on earth, and sea-level agricultural plains, all within 100 miles of each other.

“Everything about Nepal is a contradiction. It’s a tiny landlocked country of astounding topographical diversity. From the tallest mountains in the world, Nepal plummets to subtropical tiger jungles stretching at sea level along its southern border—all within a distance of 92 miles. It’s caught between the two giant webs of Asia: China and India. Although the United Nations and the international community recognize its independence, Nepal cannot reach the outside world without the expressed approval of its powerful neighbors. The reality is that, at every point on the compass, Nepal’s independence is compromised…

Even the time zone of Nepal seems like a contradiction. Although the country is located like a saddle strapped atop India, one has to set one’s watch fifteen minutes forward when crossing Nepal’s border. What may seem whimsical to some may strike others as emblematic of Nepal’s problem in the 21st century. Given the galloping pace of change, there has been little opportunity for Nepal to make gradual adjustments. In effect, Nepal has been forced to learn how to run before it knew how to crawl. As a result, every step appears anachronistic and out of sync with the leap of time.” –Yadab Prasad Bastola, A Brief History about Nepal

Where did we leave off? Ah yes, the Rana Family.


One of the Rana rulers

Before Prithvi Narayan Shah there were the Malla kings of the Kathmandu Valley. In 1768 Prithvi heralded the beginning of the Shah dynasty, but a series of incidents including resistance struggles against the British East India Company, a succession of weaker Shah rulers, and the Kot Massacre, finally led to the rise in power of the Ranas.

The Ranas (who claim an ancestral tie to the Rajasthani city of Udaipur) ruled Nepal from 1846 until 1953. Under the Rana’s the position of “king” still existed, but mainly as a ceremonial figurehead, and all state powers were given to the “prime minister” which became a hereditary position passed from one Rana generation to the next.


Sleeping Vishnu statue on the outskirts of Kathmandu. When I visited the statue I was told that it was found in a field by a farmer, and that since the king is an avatar of Vishnu, if he ever visited the statue in person the snakes would come alive (that Vishnu is sleeping on) and kill him

Let me take a brief moment to talk about Nepali kings, and why (perhaps) it was hard for the Ranas to totally get rid of them. It was believed that the king was an avatar (reincarnation) of the Hindu god Vishnu. In the avatar tradition of Hindu mythology, there are many different reincarnations of Vishnu, including the 10 main acknowledged avatars: Matsya (the fish), Kurma (the turtle), Varaha (the boar), Narasimha (the man-lion), Vamana (the dwarf Brahmin), Parashurama (the sage), Rama (the king), Krishna (how do I describe Krishna? The prankster/lover/warrior?), Buddha (the teacher), and the form that has yet to come, Kalki (the destroyer). Sometimes other possible avatars are incorporated into this mythology… In Nepal the kings were considered avatars and worshiped as such. There are various rituals during the festival season that involve the king, for example: taking tikka from the Royal Kumari during Indra Jatra to ensure the health and prosperty of the king and the country. I think kumaris are fascinating, so I’ll save discussion of them for another day.


Queen of Nepal with attendants, circa 1920

The Rana family ruled Nepal as their own personal fiefdom dragging the country into isolation from the rest of the world, freely using treasury funds for the betterment of the family, and looting the country’s natural resources causing rampant impoverishment in the countryside. In 1936 a movement against the Ranas began; it was quickly crushed but revolution was in the air.

21 responses to “Rise of the Ranas

  1. Thanks for educating me! I know nothing about Nepali history except for what I’ve read here.

  2. About Jung Bahadur Rana, the founder of the Rana dynasty

    He went to England in 1850, and saw the Industrial revolution and understood that England was unbeatable

    During this visit, he spent 1000 gold coins on a high class blonde UK courtesan called Kitty, for 1 day
    This is about $1 million in todays money

    He then declared war on China in 1856 and captured many areas of Tibet

    In the 1857 Indian Sepoy mutiny, Jung sent in 20000 Gurkha troops to help the british, for which, the grateful british returned some of the land siezed in 1814

    Next in 1859, he sent the british 10000 Gurkha troops to fight the chinese in the second opium war and his troops burnt the imperial palace in Beijing

  3. The Jallianwala massacre of 1919 wherein 2000 Indian civilian protestors were shot ( a-la-Tien An Men )

    The order was given by the british general Dwyer,
    However the actual shooters were Gurkha troops
    Because of their blind obediance, Gurkhas were used all over the British empire
    There was a Gurkha regiment in Hongkong
    And even now Singapore has a Gurkha Regiment
    and the king of Brunei has a Gurkha Regiment
    as the praetorian guard

    Thousands of rich Indians live behind walled villas and they all keep a couple of Gurkhas as private security guards, since mobs and criminals fear their Khukris

    The Divine Status of the Nepal King is also felt in India
    As you know, only the priest can enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of the Temples
    However, the King of Nepal is allowed to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of many famous Indian temples

  4. The Bollywood Actress Manisha Koirala is the Grand daughter of the previous Nepal PM Koirala

    Most of the Nepal parties are led by brahmins, even the Maoists ( who claim to speak for marginalised tribals )

    Nepal Congress – Koirala ( brahmin )
    United Marxist Leninist – Madhav Nepal ( brahmin ), despite its name it is actually a democratic parliamentary socialist party

    Maoists – Prachanda , Bhattarai ( both brahmins )

    Indian parties have a symbiotic link with Nepal parties
    Nepal Congress was formed with help of Indian Congress
    The King was supported by BJP
    Nepal Maoists are supported by Indian communists and by western Liberation Theology NGOs

  5. In 1954, the puppet Shah King, Tribhuvan, escaped Rana captivity to India and asked for Indian help
    The Indian PM Nehru, deposed the Ranas and installed Tribhuvan as a constitutional monarch with Koirala of Nepal Congress as PM

    Per Indian sources, the grateful Tribhuvan asked to merge with India but was turned down by Nehru who did not want bad publicity
    The BJP was also strongly in favor of Nepal being independent as the worlds only Hindu Country

    Upto this point, Nepal history is similar to Japanese history with the Rana being the Shoguns and the emperor a puppet

    In 1960, Tribhuvan’s son Mahendra, deposed Koirala and made himself absolute ruler
    Koirala was exiled to India and Mahendra played the Pakistan and China card against India

    In 1974, Mahendras son Birendra took over
    Mahendras second son was Gyanendra

    Relations grew foul between Nepal and India and in 1987, when Nepal bought weapons from China, Indian PM, Rajiv Gandhi blockaded Nepal for 6 months and caused an economic collapse

    In 1989, the Nepal people took to the streets against Birendra
    who restored democracy and became a constitutional monarch
    However, Birendra retained control of the Army

  6. Meanwhile, several middle class Nepalese went to
    college in India , namely JNU in Delhi, and became brainwashed into communism by the communist college professors
    Among them were Prachanda and Bhattarai, both middle class brahmins
    They developed contacts and arms from Indian communists and Indian maoists

    In 1996, they started the maoist movement in Nepal by attacking remote villages

    This was against the democratic regime of Nepal

    King Birendra, who controlled the army, refused to let the govt use the Nepal army against the Maoists, because he hoped to return to power by playing the maoists against the elected democrats
    The maoists got stronger and stronger

  7. Meanwhile, Birendra’s son Dipendra, the crown prince wanted to marry Devyani Rana
    Sort of like Romeo and Juliet
    The Ranas being the hereditary enemies of the Shahs

    Also Devyani’s mother was a Scindia princess
    The Scindias were an Indian Maratha dynasty
    of recent backward caste origin
    In 1900, it was discovered that 70% of the Indian Maharajas were of recent backward caste origin
    This happened because the brahmins gave Maharaja title even to backward caste leaders, provided they successfully fought the muslims
    ( the brahmins provided a fake geneology of noble bloodline in exchange for money )

    The Scindias were 300 years ago, shepherds and peasants until they won wars against the muslims as part of the Hindu reconquista
    From 1780-1800, the Scindias kept the Mughal emperor as a puppet, Mahadaji Scindia, made himself the Grand Vizier of the Mughal Empire and jailed the Mughal emperor in his harem at Delhi with a small pension
    Sort of similar to what the Ranas did with the Shahs

    The Scindias were the effective rulers of most of India, until the Duke of Wellington defeated the Scindias in 1803 and captured Delhi

    The Shahs being from an ancient Rajput clan, did not want their son to marry Devyani for both belonging to an enemy family and also due to backward caste blood

    In 2001, after heavy arguments with his family,
    Dipendra picked up an AK-47 and shot his entire family and then shot himself

    The next in line was Gyanendra
    ( Birendra’s brother ) and even worse,
    Gyanedras son Paras had a very unsavory reputation as an alleged Mafioso

  8. July 2001, King Gyanendra had the army,
    the maoists had the countryside and the democratic parties had the cities
    Gyanendra tried for absolute power
    He arrested the democratic parties and finally unleashed the Nepal army against the maoists

    At this time, India was ruled by BJP which was anti-c0mmie and sent in lots of arms to Gyanendra

    In 2004, BJP lost power and a coalition of Congress and Indian commies came to power in India

    Gyanendra did not kiss the butt of the Indian Congress leaders who took a dislike to him

    The congress to keep the Indian commies happy,
    secretly invited the maoists and democratic parties for talks in Delhi,
    Under Indian pressure, the democratic parties did a United Front with the maoists and did a joint campaign against the Monarchy

    The Indian congress regime cut off arms to Gyanendra and there were mass protests and finally Gyanendra abdicated and the Nepal army agreed to obey the civilian regime

  9. Koirala became acting PM
    The maoist army was confined to UN and NGO supervised camps
    As part of the deal with the maoists, it was agreed that the maoist army would be integrated with the regular Nepal army

    It sort of looked like the Kerensky period of the Russian revolution

    The maoists hoped to infiltrate their men into the Nepal army and take over from within

    Then elections for the constituent assembly was held and to the horror of the Indian govt and Nepal Army, the maoists won 35% of the seats

    Prachanda became PM and began to demand that his 30000 maoist soldiers in the camps be integrated into the 100K Nepal army

    The Nepal Army General dragged his feet and then he got fired by Prachanda

    At this time, to all the TV stations of Nepal, Indian agents released a video showing Prachanda boasting in a private meeting with the maoists that he only really had 7000 maoist soldiers but he was able to fool the UN and NGOs to admitting 30000 maoists soldiers
    and while if 7k maoists were integrated into the Nepal Army, they would be too weak, with 30k infiltrated, he would do a coup soon and take absolute power

    When this TV video was released, the Nepal president ( mostly a figurehead ) took the side of the Nepal Army General and dismissed Prachanda

    Madhav Nepal, of the UML ( socialist democrat )
    became PM as part of a 22 party coalition formed with Indian backing
    and Prachanda took to street protests and that is where things stand today

  10. Hahaha I remember once someone (not Nepalese) told me that Manisha Koirala was a Nepalese princess!

    Do you know anything about Muslim communities in Nepal? I know there are some, but don’t know much about it, really.

    I read in the paper the other day that a Nepalese gov’t official called Karima Begam slapped a civil servant…did you see that story? Anyway, I don’t know who she is, but I thought she might be Muslim because of her name. I was surprised that with such a relatively small Muslim population that there would be in a high gov’t position.

  11. Until Gyanendra was deposed, Nepal was an official Hindu Kingdom
    governed by ancient Brahminical rules

    Nepal had laws against muslims similar to dhimmi laws in islamic countries

    These laws were written by Brahmins who had fled muslim rule in North India and they made sure of payback

    Meaning, a muslim could not kill a cow or marry a Hindu or convert a Hindu to islam and many other similar disabilities and could not practise Sharia laws

    wiki on Nepal laws

    Muluki Ain imposes the caste system in Nepal in order to incorporate people of different origin and bring them under one umbrella of the caste system.

    Untouchable are the categories of varnas system in ancient Manu’s Code but some people such as Muslims and foreigners as well fall into these categories

    • Woah, Shyamsunder… thats quite the historical outline. I hope to write more in the next few weeks about the history… so stay tuned (although you definitely know reams and reams more than me! :))

  12. Thanks for the info Shyamsunder. Do you know who the Muslims of Nepal are? Do they speak Nepali amongst themselves and are they indigenous, or perhaps their communities came from India some time ago? I believe I recall reading that some Nepalese Muslims speak a special dialect of Urdu (meaning they would have moved there from and Urdu speaking region in India) but I wasn’t sure.

    A friend of mine told me that there isn’t any communal tension with Muslims in Nepal, but she did say that some mosques or Muslim neighborhoods were targeted with violence after those poor Nepalese laborers were murdered in Iraq.

    I also noticed that there are a lot of Hindu Nepalese named Bahadur, which struck me as odd because it is an Urdu term (Also Shamsher is Urdu!) so the name sounds Muslim to me, but I can tell by their surnames that they are Hindus. But now I see that the founding ruler of the Ranas had that name, I guess that’s why, they must be named after him? Jang is an Urdu title, too meaning kind of like lord (the same word for battle/war).

    • I don’t know much about the Muslims in Nepal although I know that there are communities, and I remember hearing of some (Hindu) friends who celebrated some Muslim festivals with neighbors when they were kids. I think you are right in that the tensions that exist in India do not translate over to the Nepali context, at least not that I have heard of, but I’m not 100% sure.

      I’ll see what I can find out about that.

  13. Hi Lucky Fatima,
    I just realised that you are a white girl and not a desi, who would know the answers from early childhood

    Regarding Manisha Koirala
    She is a Brahmin
    By caste rules, a Brahmin can be a Royal Advisor or Minister, but never a king
    So she could never be a princess
    but she was the Prime Ministers grand daughter

    The caste of Indian Bollywood actresses is as follows
    Brahmin – Manisha Koirala, Madhuri Dixit, Sushmita Sen, Rani Mukherji, Deepika Padukone, Aditi Govitrikar
    Punjabi Khatri Merchant – Priyanka Chopra
    Kannadiga Bunt Merchant – Aishwarya Rai, Shilpa Shetty

    Regarding Muslims and Nepal
    This is a long and toxic answer and I do know the answer, but I am afraid of hurting the feelings

    But here is a small sample
    In 712 AD, The Ummayad Caliphate invaded India and conquered Sindh province
    At that time a Hindu Saint, Gorakhnath
    gave high caste status to anyone, even of lower castes willing to fight the jihadi muslim invaders
    His followers led by Prince Bappa Rawal, stopped the jihadi arab invaders at the borders of Rajasthan
    The followers of Gorakhnath are called Gorkhas
    ( the major nepali ethnic group )
    Gorkha is derived from the Sanskrit word
    Go-Raksha or Protector of Cows
    referring to the fact that Hindus are non-beef eaters and Muslims are beef-eaters
    The muslims could conquer large parts of India, but never Nepal

    Muslim sultans who went to wars with infidels called themselves Ghazis or killers of Infidels
    While Hindu kings who went to war with muslims called themselves Protector of Cows

    So for over 1000 years, the Gorkhas have been at war with muslims
    and except for a few imported muslim artisans, Nepal was an unwelcome place for muslims

    In addition there is the brahminical rules, which I referred to in my earlier post

    There are 50000 Nepali Gurkhas in the Indian army and these are governed by a treaty between India and Nepal
    Per this treaty, due to clauses inserted by Nepal,
    Nepali Gurkhas can be used against muslim, communist and christian countries, but never against Hindu or Buddhist countries
    Nepali Gurkhas can be used to fire upon Communist, Muslim or Christian mobs, but never on Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist mobs
    Nepali Gurkhas can be used to fight Muslim, Communist or Christian terrorists and separatists, but never against Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh or Jain terrorists and so on and so forth

    And if you want to know more about this topic, I suggest that you use google extensively

  14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/1386585.stm

    Has a picture of Devyani Rana
    She is very beautiful and she recently got married to an Indian Maharajah


  15. Okay. I was just asking about modern Nepalese Muslims and how they came to be in Nepal, whether they were indigenous converted communities or transplants from elsewhere, or perhaps a mix. I am very fully aware of the history of Muslims in South Asia.

    Anyway, I did google yesterday, and found this very non-toxic article article pointing to the origin of Nepalese Muslims to be waves of various immigrant communities, some called by rulers for exchange of expertise, some coming from the Terai region to escape the British, etc.


    So it seems they are not indigenous …with the exception of the Terai communities (who may have settled there from elsewhere anyhow).

  16. “”Ayo Gorkhali!!”

    That’s the battle-cry of the Nepalese Gorkha soldiers, so brave that the Brits coined the French term ‘Sang-froid’ (it apparently means ‘Calmness under fire’) into English military lexicon in their honor.

    Another interesting take on how Nepal (inadvertantly contributed in the war against jihad).

    In the spring of 1993,the jihad in India’s Kashmir valley decidedly took a turn for the worse when afghan veterans, freed from fighting the soviets and wasting away in pakistan, joined the fray. Their boldness, suicidal attacks, hideous torture of captured Indian troops and no-surrender policy was getting too hot for most Indian regiments in the valley to handle. The valley was slowly slipping from under India’s grasp.

    Then the Army HQ in a meeting in New Delhi decided to pitch India’s best against the jihadi worst. The XI mountain corps was withdrawn from the India-China border and the Gorkha regiment was deployed in Kashmir. Throughout the summer and autumn of 1993, the battle raged intensely. It was the ferocity of the Afghan versus the sang-froid of the Gorkha.

    To cut a long story short, by the time the snows came in, the Gorkhas had prevailed and the Afghans realised they’d met more than their match.”

    • Hi Shyamsunder, please write to me at asheshksharma@gmail.com would be interesting have few chat about a particular era in Nepali history. I have also done some extensive research but it would be great to have your guidance. As clearly i can see you have an indepth knowledge on most of incidences. look forward to your email.

  17. Located your blog via bing the other day and absolutely love it. Continue the great work.

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