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Area handbook for Nepal 


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Digitized by tine Internet Archive 
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U. S. Army 




May 1964 

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Prmting Office 
Washington, D.C. 204202— Price $1.25 

Prepared for the Department of the Army 


Special Operations Research Office 
The American University 
Washington, D. C. 20016 


George L. Harris 

Jackson A. Giddens 

Thomas E. Lux 

Frederica Muhlenberg 

Frances Chadwick Rintz 

Harvey H. Smith 

Research and writing were completed on 
March 31, 1964 



This book is one of a series of country handbooks designed for use by 
persons who have need for such background information. The emphasis 
is on objective description of contemporary national societies, focusing 
on basic social, economic and political institutions. Treatment is intended 
to be comprehensive rather than exhaustive. The studies are introduc- 
tory, and it is expected that the reader will have recourse to many other 
sources for more detailed information in areas of special interest. Ex- 
tensive bibliographies are included for this purpose. 

The authors have reached certain conclusions concerning the char- 
acter of the society today and the kinds and direction of change which 
appear possible or probable within the near future; interpretive judg- 
ments are their sole responsibility. The study is in no sense a plea for 
any special point of view, or a recommendation for any specific policy. 
Its contents represent the views of the Foreign Area Studies Division of 
the Special Operations Research Office, The American University, and 
should not be considered as having official or definitive Department of 
the Army approval either expressed or implied. 

The users of this work should consider it not as a final product, but as 
a basis for further research to fill gaps in the present study. The authors' 
conclusions are subject to modification in the light of new developments 
and information. Readers are accordingly urged to submit comments 
correcting errors of fact or interpretation, filling or indicating gaps of 
information and suggesting changes as may be appropriate. 

Comments should be addressed to: 

Deputy Chief of Staff for Military Operations 
Department of the Army 
Washington, D.C. 20310 


Nepal and its neighbors, Sikkim and Bhutan, emerged in the 1950's 
from the obscurity of nearly complete isolation from most of the rest of 
the world. King Mahendra, Nepal's determined and energetic sovereign, 
was seeking in 1964 to modernize and develop his country, and to estab- 
lish for it a place as an active but politically nonaligned participant in 
world affairs, able to maintain cordial relations with both of its large 
neighbors, India and China, while avoiding entanglement in the contest 
between them. Sikkim and Bhutan, whose foreign relations are con- 
ducted by India, remained relatively remote but not insulated from 
forces which are changing the traditional order in both. 

The three Himalayan countries attract attention for more compelling 
reasons than their mountain scenery and traditional cultures made 
exotic by unfamiliarity. They lie strategically between Communist- 
dominated Tibet and India on a frontier which twice in a decade has 
been disturbed by Communist aggression. Socially and politically, all 
have become involved in a process of internal change rendered difficult 
and potentially explosive because it was so long delayed in a changing 

(On April 5, 1964, shortly after completion of this Handbook, Bhutan's 
dynamic Prime Minister, Jigme Palden Dorji, was assassinated at 
Phunchholing on the frontier with West Bengal. The circumstances sur- 
rounding his death were not immediately clear nor was the motive of 
the slaying known. The Prime Minister had been a strong advocate of 
modernization and, with Indian assistance, had been instrumental in 
inducing his country to undertake its first five-year plan, launched 
in 1961.) 

The Sikkim and Bhutan sections of the Handbook were coordinated 
within the team and much of the research and writing were done by 
Frederica Muhlenberg. A visit to Nepal by the team economist, Frances 
C. Rintz, yielded both published and unpublished books and documents 
and some valuable first-hand information. 

The authors extensively consulted and freely borrowed from the 
three-volume monograph prepared under a Human Relations Area Files 
subcontract by a group of scholars at the University of California and 
issued in 1956 by HRAF as a working paper. The social background 
section of the University of California study was produced by Stanley 


Maron, Leo E. Rose, Juliane Heyman and Nikki R. Keddie; the political 
section by Leo E. Rose; and the economic section by Ravi S. Sharraa, 
John H. Cover and Nikki R. Keddie. 

Thanks are due to a number of specialists, both Nepalese and Ameri- 
can, for valuable comment and advice. The contribution of seven 
persons in particular is gratefully acknowledged. Their counsel closed 
many gaps in information and cleared up many questions of fact and 
interpretation. Responsibility for error is, of course, that of the authors. 
Douglas N. Forman was unfailingly helpful on many aspects of the 
study. Ferdinand E. Okada acted as anthropological and economic 
consultant and read and criticized most of the chapters in the book. 
Leo E. Rose, Director of the Himalayan Border Countries Project, Insti- 
tute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, and 
his colleagues generously made available their research facilities, loaned 
materials and advised on the political chapters. Margaret W. Fisher of 
the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 
also made many helpful suggestions. Hugh B. Wood, Professor of Edu- 
cation, School of Education, L^^niversity of Oregon, furnished valuable 
counsel and bibliographical data, contributed source materials, and 
opened to the authors his extensive personal library on Nepal. John T. 
Hitchcock, Department of Anthropology, University of California at 
Los Angeles, loaned source material and took time from a busy schedule 
to advise on anthropological matters. David E. Alter, Jr. provided a 
preliminary draft for Chapter 10. The helpfulness of Nepalese and 
American officials, in both Nepal and the United States, is also gratefully 

The appended glossary includes, in general, the names of frequently 
mentioned ethnic groups and only such terms as might be unfamiliar 
to the reader and which appear in more than one chapter. A few terms 
appear which, although mentioned in only one chapter, could not con- 
veniently be defined there. The transliteration of place names is that 
approved by the United States Board of Geographic Names. The most 
common usages were adopted for personal names and Nepalese words. 
Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged) was fol- 
lowed in the spelling of many Hindu and Buddhist religious terms. 







Chapter I. General Character of the Society 

2. Historical Setting 

Early History — Forging the Modem State of Nepal — 
Struggle for Domestic Supremacy — The Rana Period 
(1846-1951)— Revival of Royal Power (1951-59) 

3. Geography and Population 

Major Geographic Regions — Major Rivers — Climate — 
Soil, Minerals, Vegetation and Animal Life — People — 
Major Towns 

4. Ethnic Groups and Languages 

Languages — Ethnic Groups 

5. Family and Social Structure 

Kinship and Marriage — Politicoeconomic Stratification 

6. Health and Welfare 

Standards of Living — Health — Medical Practice — Wel- 

7. Education 

History — Educational System — Education and the 

8. Artistic and Intellectual Expression 

Intellectual and Literary Currents — Architecture — 
Sculpture, Painting and Handicrafts — Popular Music and 

9. Religion 

Hinduism — Buddhism — Shamanism — Other Religions 

10. Social Values 

Section Bibliography 


Chapter 11. Constitution and Government 

Constitution — The King — Policy and Executive Organs 
— Operative Agencies — The Panchayat System — Local 
Administration— Court System 


Chapter 12. Political Dynamics 171 

Recent Political Developments — Current Political 
Forces — Elections 

13. Foreign Relations 187 

Historical Background — Relations with Other Nations 
— Relations with Foreign Expeditions in Nepal — Mem- 
bership in International Organizations 

14. Public Information 207 

Channels of Communication — Government Information 
Activities — Foreign Information Activities 

15. Attitudes and Reactions 219 

The Monarchy — The Nation — The Government — Foreign 

Section Bibliography 229 


Chapter 16. Character and Structure of the Economy 235 

Historical Background — The Economy — 1963 — The 
Plans for Development 

17. Agriculture 253 

Agricultural Regions — Land Use — Land Tenure — Pro- 
ductive Activities — The Role of Government 

18. Labor 269 

Labor Force — Employment Patterns — Job Training — 
Forced Labor — Labor Relations and Organization 

19. Industry and Trade 277 

Fuel and Power — Transportation — Mining, Manufac- 
turing and Handicrafts — Foreign Trade — Domestic Trade 

20. Financial and Monetary System 289 

Currency — Financing Production and Trade — Financ- 
ing Government 

Section Bibliography 299 


Chapter 21. Public Order and Internal Security 315 

Public Order — Internal Security 

22. The Armed Forces 335 

Background — Gurkha — Strategic Considerations — Mili- 
tary Alliances — Relation to the National Economy — 
Missions — Organization — Training — Foreign Influence — 
Quality of Manpower — Recruitment Regulations — Morale 
Factors— Logistics— The Military and Civil Order 

Section Bibliography 359 



The Land— Histoo'— The People— Religion— The So- 

ciety — Social Development — The Economy — Politics 





The Land — History — Politics — Defense Matters — The 

People — Religion — The Society — The Economy — Social 














Figure Page 

1 Position of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan in South Asia xiv 

2 Landforms of Nepal 26 

3 Topography of Nepal 27 

4 River Sj'stems of Nepal 28 

5 Geographic Regions of Nepal, 1962 30 

6 General Distribution of Population in Nepal (1952-54 Census).. 41 

7 Distribution of Ethnic Groups in Nepal 48 

8 Structure of a Typical Nepalese Ministry 154 

9 Structure of the Panchayats and Class and Professional Organi- 

zations in Nepal 156 

10 District Panchaj'at Boundaries in Nepal 159 

11 Zonal Panchayat Boundaries in Nepal, 1962 160 

12 Power Developments and Transportation Facilities, 

Nepal, January 1963 240 

13 Forest Areas in Nepal 266 

14 Route of New Katmandu-Hitaura Ropeway in Nepal 279 

15 Organization of the Ministry' of Defense and the 

Royal Nepalese Army, 1963 346 

16 Shoulder Insignia of Rank, Royal Nepalese Army Officers 352 

17 Insignia of Rank, Noncommissioned Officers and Privates, 

Royal Nepalese Army 353 

18 Cap Insignia of Rank, Royal Nepalese Army Officers 354 

19 Physical Features of Sikkim 366 

20 Sikkim 381 

21 Bhutan 398 

22 Physical Features of Bhutan 400 



1 Areas, Population and Average Population Densities of 

Geographic Regions in Nepal, 1961 

2 Principal Ethnic Groups of Nepal, 1952-54 

3 Languages of Nepal by Percentage of the National 

Population, 1952-54 

4 Regional Distribution of Principal Ethnic and Linguistic 

Groups of Nepal, 1952-54 

5 Daily Newspapers in Nepal 

6 Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 

7 Nepal's Five- Year Plan, 1956-61 

8 Some Important Targets and Achievements of Nepal's 

Five-Year Plan 

9 Nepal's Three- Year Plan, 1962-65 

10 Land Use in Nepal 

11 New Large-Scale Irrigation Projects in Nepal, 1961 

12 Irrigation Projects Under Construction or Planned in Nepal, 1961 

13 Foreign Aid, Nepal, 1960-63 

14 Rank Structure in the Nepalese Army, 1963 

15 Nepalese Decorations and Medals, for Military Personnel 

and Others 






On February 18, 1964, the Kingdom of Nepal celebrated the thirteenth 
anniversary of the revival of the power of its monarchy, which since the 
mid-nineteenth century had been wielded in the royal name by a line 
of hereditary prime ministers, the Ranas. The event signified more than 
a transfer of political authority. It marked the end of 100 years of 
carefully guarded isolation from the outside world and the beginning 
of an effort to transform a multiethnic, economically undeveloped coun- 
try into a modern nation. 

For several thousand years of its history the political entity known 
as Nepal consisted of only the Katmandu Valley. The rest of the terri- 
tory now contained within the country's boundaries was occupied by a 
number of small, autonomous principalities. The state of Nepal in its 
larger, modern form did not come into being until the middle of the 
eighteenth century, when the ruler of the Kingdom of Gorkha, Prithvi 
Narayan Shah, subjugated the nearby Katmandu Valley, made it the 
center of his kingdom, and extended his authority by force of arms over 
the surrounding Himalayan areas. Prithvi Narayan's descendants con- 
tinued to rule Nepal until the middle of the nineteenth century, when the 
throne fell under the domination of an ambitious military commander. 
Jang Bahadur Rana. The monarchy was not abolished, but its absolute 
powers were exercised thereafter by the prime minister rather than the 
king. The despotic regime of the Ranas lasted until 1951 when, under 
the impact of revolutionary postwar changes in South Asia, the family 
autocracy was overthrown and the king was restored to preeminence. 
Since 1951 the monarchy has been the key element in national political 
life and its strength has continued to grow. 

By 1964 the country had assumed an active international role and 
had made modest progress toward domestic goals. Public education 
had expanded impressively ; a few small industrial enterprises had been 
established; some roads had been built; the legislative foundations of 
a land reform program had been laid; and trade, freed from feudal 
restraints, was flourishing. Asserting a policy of "modified neutralism" 
or of impartial cordiality to the principals in the cold war, Nepal had 
established diplomatic relations with more than 30 countries and was 
receiving economic and technical aid from both non-Communist and 
Communist states, including the United States, India, the People's Re- 
public of China and the Soviet Union. 

Probably more significant for the country's future than the advances 
that had been made were the means by which progress was to be con- 
tinued and hastened. At the end of 1960, King Mahendra, angered by 
the contention of political parties, which had proliferated after the over- 
throw of the Ranas, and impatient with restrictions of his authority, 
took personal control of the government. Rejecting parliamentary rule 
as unsuitable for Nepal, he announced the establishment of the pancha- 
yat system, a pyramidal structtife of assemblies and councils rising from 
the village through a series of indirectly elected higher bodies to the 
national level. Under royal tutelage and control, and panchayats are 
to draw the people into the national development program and involve 
them in the management of their own affairs. As the country's first 
uniform system of local administration the panchayats are to hasten 
the organic integration of the nation under the leadership of the King. 
In terminating the brief essay in parliamentary government, the monarch 
committed himself to a unitary political order which probably cannot 
be successfully imposed on Nepal's pluralistic society from above but 
will have to be painstakingly constructed from below. In early 1964 
it was too soon to gauge progress. 

Nepal compares roughly in size and population with the state of 
Illinois, but 97 percent of its approximately 10 million people live in 
small agricultural villages, many of them in remote mountain valleys 
accessible only by trail. The population of Katmandu, the capital and 
largest town, numbers no more than 125,000, and no other town has 
more than a third of that. The landscape varies from the rice paddies 
and grasslands and jungles of the Tarai plain on the Indian boundary 
to mountain heights, which 150 miles to the north on the border with 
Tibet soar about 25,000 feet. Climate ranges from the tropical heat 
of the lowlands to the arctic cold of the high altitudes and from an 
ample 70 to 80 inches of precipitation in the east to a third or fourth 
of that in parts of the west. In the mountainous northern three-fourths 
of the country, towering ridges separate the high valleys and the rivers 
isolate rather than connect the communities on their swift upper reaches. 

The variety of this geographical setting is matched by the ethnic 
diversity of its inhabitants. More than 30 languages and a multitude 
of local dialects are spoken, representing such distinct families as 
Indo-European, Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic. Other differences — 
cultural, religious and social — combine with those of language to pro- 
duce a comparable ethnic complexity. Considerably more than half of 
the population in western and southern Nepal reveals its more or less 
remote origin in the Indian subcontinent in its language, Hindu religion, 
social organization and north Indian physical traits. A different pattern 
prevails in the Tibetan linguistic and cultural connections, Lamaist 
Buddhism and Mongoloid physical type of the inhabitants of the moun- 
tain villages of the north and east. 

The historical background of this contrast is the penetration into 
Nepal from early times of people and influences from India on one side 
and Tibet on the other. The influences from both areas were multiple 
and tended to change over time. From India came ancient Hindu, early- 
Buddhist and later Hindu elements; from Tibet and beyond came vari- 
ous primitive tribal cultures, Lamaist Buddhism (an outgrowth of 
earlier contacts with an older form of Buddhism in India and Nepal), 
and assorted features of east Asian high degree of civilization. Change 
continued to take place in Nepal. Indian and Mongoloid physical types 
mixed; old ethnic identities were forgotten and new ones evolved; 
primitive shamanism was overlaid with Buddhism; Hinduism inter- 
penetrated and sometimes replaced Buddhism and was itself influenced 
by it; and the transplanted Hindu caste system lost something of its 
rigor and structural complexity. The pattern which emerged from this 
long process of change in the mountain enclave of Nepal was distinctive 
but manifold. Indentities continued to be, and largely remain, ethnic, 
regional and local. 

Nepal's economy is basically agrarian, most of the people gaining 
food and livelihood from the subsistence farming of small plots. Rice, 
wheat and barley are the most important products. Cultivable land is 
limited by the mountainous terrain, the climate and centuries of intensive 
exploitation. The country has few resources other than vast areas of 
forest and an almost untouched hydroelectric power potential. Indus- 
trial establishments are few in number and small in scale. The trans- 
portation system, although it includes air services and railroads, is lim- 
ited and unintegrated. The greater proportion of goods is carried by 
porters, and most people who travel do so on foot. 

The economy is heavily dependent on India as a market for its 
produce and as its supplier of such basic requirements as salt, kerosene, 
cotton cloth and other manufactured goods. India is also Nepal's out- 
standing source of financial aid and technical assistance for the develop- 
ment of the country. Dependency has other aspects as well. Indian 
currency, for instance, was legal tender throughout Nepal until 1960 
and still circulates widely within the country, although the use of 
Nepalese currency has been made mandatory. India also absorbs most of 
Nepal's major export — its excess manpower. 

Isolated by Rana policy from the changes taking place in the out- 
side world, the country remained economically undeveloped, although 
some improvements were introduced in the 1920's. Since 1951 an ex- 
penditure of about $80 million on economic development, most of it 
supplied by foreign governments and international organizations, has 
resulted mainly in the extension of the road system, the establishment of 
air services and other public works. The agrarian base of the economy 
has been little affected. The current Three-Year Plan (1962-65) empha- 

sizes development projects which will have the most immediate effect 
on increasing national income. The United States is financing aspects of 
the Plan concerned with improving the utilization of the nation's re- 
sources, and India is continuing to aid in the development of transporta- 
tion and the hydroelectric power potential. 

Expansion of the economy is heavily dependent on government ex- 
penditure since private investment from domestic sources is negligible. 
There has been some circulation of money for over a century, but the 
degree to which the nation is monetized is unknown. The banking sys- 
tem is rudimentary and is in the process of expansion. Most people 
subsist on the land and use the cash that comes into their hands for the 
essentials they cannot produce for themselves or acquire through re- 
ciprocal relationships with other caste or artisan groups. Although bank 
deposits are rising, most savings are still in jewelry or in private hoards 
and most credit is supplied by moneylenders. 

An effort to increase agricultural productivity, and hence the income 
of the majority, must overcome a variety of difficulties. Aside from the 
lack of domestic investment there are problems of soil improvement, 
erosion control, irrigation, drainage and prevention of plant and animal 
diseases. The scattered villages of farmers and animal breeders working 
in family units do not provide the organizational framework for agri- 
cultural activity much above the subsistence level. Equipment of all 
types is needed but even small machines and modern handtools pre- 
suppose the knowledge to use them, and the country suffers from a 
shortage of trained persons in all fields. Above all, divisive attitudes 
of the segments of this multiethnic society toward each other as well as 
many of their customs are deterrents to communication and acceptance 
of improved techniques. 

A fundamental problem in the evolution of a viable political system 
is the absence of any developed sense of national consciousness or identi- 
fication among the bulk of the population. Despite the passage of almost 
two centuries since Prithvi Narayan first brought the whole of Nepal 
under a single central authority, the social foundations and emotional 
bonds of national unity have yet to develop in anything more than a 
very rudimentary way, and the country renrains a cluster of isolated 
localities with little more in common than subordination to the same 
king and government. The perpetuation of strong local ties and loyalties 
was fostered by the policies of both the Gorkha kings and the Rana 
prime ministers. Although it was the former who first created the basis 
for a sense of national identity among the Nepalese, they also allowed 
many local rulers to remain in power and rule under the aegis of Kat- 
mandu, thereby facilitating the growth and semi-indei)endent states. 
When the Ranas came to i)ower they deliberately retarded the develop- 
ment of nationalist sentiment as a threat to their regime. 


The ability of the central government to combat particularism is 
hampered not only by local loyalties but also by the administrative 
problems. District offices of the central government in areas far from 
Katmandu are of necessity fairly autonomous; it sometimes takes as 
much as a month to communicate instruction to them from the center. 
The rajas (rulers) of the old autonomous vassal states strive to retain 
their hereditary privileges, various ethnic and regional groups resist 
any transfer of loyalty to the larger community, and attempts by the 
central government to extend full control to the country's frontiers have 
provoked separatist stirrings. 

King Mahendra in 1958 felt compelled to issue a decree calling on his 
people to refrain from using the term "Nepal" with reference to the 
Katmandu Valley only and appealing for a greater sense of national 
identity. The action was indicative of his concern with the problem of 
building national unity. If the task is an extraordinarily difficult one, 
the King approaches it with important assets. The most important of 
these is the symbolic value of the monarchy. It is the oldest and most 
firmly rooted political institution in the country. Even at its lowest 
ebb under the Ranas, the monarchy still retained sufficient prestige to 
prevent Jang Bahadur from deposing the King and accepting the crown 
himself when it was offered to him by a deputation of nobles. Regarded 
by many of the people as a reincarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu, the 
King is the personification of the state to the Nepalese and the recipient 
of their loyalty and respect. 

Another important factor in the effort to create a. more substantial 
sense of national consciousness is the new structure of government — 
the panchayat system — which went into full operation in April 1963 after 
several years of preparation. The panchayat structure with its four 
levels — local, district, zonal and national — is designed to bring every 
citizen of the country into participation in public affairs, directly at the 
local level and indirectly at higher ones. The class of professional organ- 
ization constitutes another feature of the panchayat system. They are 
six bodies organized according to occupational or social status, such as 
workers, students and women, which include the entire population in 
their membership and are intended to stimulate class and national 
consciousness and to mobilize the efforts of the people in the economic 
development of the country. King Mahendra has stated that through 
the panchayat system he seeks to create a "new, original and national 
philosophy," and calls upon the people for enthusiasm, patriotism and 
collective efforts in the achievement of national goals. 

Although the King now controls all major instruments of power and 
there are no significant challenges to that control in the present political 
context, the existence of many large groups which have not yet been 
integrated within the Nepalese polity constitutes a potential threat. 

In the long run the King's perpetuation of his dominant position rests 
to a very large extent on his success in unifying a heterogeneous society 
with sufficient speed to prevent the appearance of grievances which 
could provide the basis for the development and organization of rival 
centers of power. The King has so far preempted the initiative in reach- 
ing such groups, and he must maintain it to retain royal control. 

The task of welding a unified nation is greatly complicated by the 
pressures generated by the trans-Himalayan rivalry between India and 
China. When India gained its independence in 1947 and the British 
withdrew, the southward orientation of Nepalese foreign policy was 
continued much as it had been for more than a century before. The 
seizure of power by the Communists in China in 1950 and their subse- 
quent invasion and occupation of Tibet, however, radically altered 
the configuration of power on which Nepal's foreign policy was based. 
Caught between the two great contenders, India and Communist China, 
and concerned about its own defense and sovereignty, Nepal adopted 
the policy of modified neutralism. 

Whereas the primacy of British and subsequently Indian influence 
in Nepal was generally unquestioned before 1951, it later came to be 
increasingly challenged by China as it consolidated its position in Tibet. 
Although the postwar rise of Chinese power created conditions more 
nearly resembling a balance of power across the Himalayan fulcrum 
than had ever existed in the past and increased the flexibility and oppor- 
tunity of Nepal's foreign policy, it has also vastly increased the dangers. 
These reached their peak in the fall of 1962 when Chinese troops invaded 
India on both flanks of Nepal. The immediate crisis has receded, but 
the danger of the situation remains anH is likely to confront Nepal for 
many years to come. 


For all but the last several centuries there is an absence of reliable 
information on the history of the area now known as Nepal. Although 
there are ancient monuments, coins and other cultural artifacts and 
archaeological remains which have survived as objects of study, they 
are isolated pieces of evidence which are of little assistance in pene- 
trating the obscurity of the country's past and constructing a continu- 
ous narrative of the experience of its people from earliest times. Written 
materials date only from the fifth century A.D., and even though his- 
torical sources gradually increase in volume after that time, they fail 
to provide a basis for anything more than a vague and fragmentary 
description of the country's history. 

An accurate and detailed account of Nepalese history does not become 
possible until the latter part of the eighteenth century, when the nation 
became unified under the King of the Gorkhas. The great body of the 
country's history before that time consists of folklore and legend — 
handed down through the centuries — in which gods and demons mingle 
with authentic persons and myths and miracles merge with real events. 
About the sixteenth century these legendary accounts, sometimes ex- 
tending back to many centuries earlier, began to be committed to writing 
in documents known as vamsavalis. These are essentially genealogical 
chronicles of the kings and dynasties of Nepal, recounting the achieve- 
ments, real or imaginary, of its monarchs and glorifying their reigns. 
Despite the fact that what little verifiable data they contain have be- 
come heavily encrusted with the accumulated fantasies of centuries 
of storytellers, the vamsavalis are the single most important category 
of source material on most of the country's history and the only source 
for the period before the fifth century A.D. 

Corroboration for some of the details of the vamsavalis is found in 
the testimony of foreign writers. There are references to Nepal in the 
Buddhist literature of India and China, Vedic and Hindu religious and 
philosophical works — the Puranas, the Mahabharata, and Kautilya's 
Arthashastra — in the observations of travelers, pilgrims, and traders 
from China and India and in dynastic histories of China. Nevertheless, 
because of their inconsistencies, the clarification they provide is only 

Such information as is available on Nepalese history pertains almost 
exclusively to the Katmandu Valley; it deals very little, if at all, with 
all of that part of the Himalayan area which now forms the State of 
Nepal. The legendary dawn of Nepalese life opens with the story of 

the supernatural creation of the Valley, and from that time to the 
present it has been the focal point of the country's history. It has long 
been the largest population center, the site of a vigorous culture, a 
major trading entrepot and one of the strongest military and political 
areas in the central Himalayas. 

Lying athwart the main Himalayan routes, Nepal's development has 
been profoundly influenced by its relations with India, Tibet and, to a 
lesser extent, China. Indian culture manifested through centuries of 
war, trade, migration and religious pilgrimage has had the greatest 
unpact. However, Nepal has not been simply a passive receiver of the 
cultural radiations of others, but has played an important role in trans- 
mitting elements of the cultures of India, China and Tibet to each of the 
others. Although it has developed in the process a unique civilization 
of its own, the dominant theme of Nepalese history is the strong and 
enduring effects of its relations with other nations. 


According to the vamsavalis, the Katmandu Valley was once a lake, 
a contention supported by geological evidence. In the middle of this 
lake grew a lotus containing a jewel whose brilliance attracted a number 
of gods to the Valley. One of them, the deity Manjusri, is said to have 
opened a passage to drain the waters by striking the mountain range 
to the south of the Valley with a single blow of his sword. 

The origin and character of the earliest inhabitants of the Katmandu 
Valley are unknown. Whatever the aboriginal population, however, it 
was succeeded by a group of people known as the Kiratas who migrated 
to the Valley from northeastern India in three major waves ending in 
the seventh century B.C. Racially Indo-Mongoloid and speaking a 
Tibeto-Burman language, the Kiratas lived under a system of tribal 
government and appear to have remained undisturbed in the Valley for 
a period of 700 years. Gautama Buddha was born about 563 B.C. in 
Lumbini, which is now the Nepalese village of Rummin-dei (Lumbini) 
in the Tarai, and by the end of the Kirata period Buddhism had be- 
come the common faith of the people of the Valley, who in the course 
of time became the Newar. 

About the first century A.D., immigrants from India, the Lichavis, 
established themselves as the rulers of the Kiratas, and from then until 
the present time all the ruling dynasties of Nepal have been drawn 
from the plains of northern India. The Lichavis ruled the Valley with 
brief interruptions from the first to the ninth centuries, and during that 
period the Indian impact on Nepal was in one of its most extensive 
and significant phases. Powerful monarchs of India— initially the 
Kushans and after the fourth century, the Guptas — exercised consid- 
erable influence over Nepal without extinguishing its independence. The 


Guptas, for example, were responsible for the establishment of a mon- 
archical system of government in the Valley, replacing the "republican 
tribal democracy" which had existed up to that time. Another result 
of this relationship was the introduction of Hinduism into Nepal. It 
gained its initial foothold through the conversion of the ruling class 
about the fourth century and later received acceptance from many of 
the people. The growth of Hinduism did not result in the displacement 
of Buddhism, but led to the fusion of the two religions (see ch. 9, 

Throughout the latter part of the Lichavi period, Tibet was becoming 
increasingly powerful and, under the great king Srong btsan sgam po, 
it eventually came to dominate large areas of China, Central Asia and 
the Himalayas. For more than a hundred years, between the seventh 
and the ninth centuries, Tibet held Nepal in vassalage, and for several 
centuries the influence of Tibet rather than that of India was paramount 
in Nepal. At this time Buddhists were migrating northward out of India 
and Nepal mediated much of the transfer of Buddhist culture from 
India to Tibet; Mahayana Buddhism, the Guptan script, and Sanskrit 
literature, as well as Nepalese artistic and architectural forms, entered 
Tibet from Nepal with lasting effect. The seventh and eighth centuries 
also marked the beginning of fairly frequent contacts not only between 
Nepal and Tibet but also between Nepal and China. 

Near the end of the ninth century the Lichavis were replaced by the 
Thakuri dynasty, which held control of the Valley intermittently for 
the next several centuries. During the latter part of their reign the 
Valley was under repeated invasion not only from Indian states to the 
south but also from the mountain kingdoms to the west. 

In the thirteenth century yet another dynasty of Indian origin, the 
Malla, was established in Nepal. Under the Mallas, the New^ar culture 
of the Valley flourished, orthodox Hinduism was strengthened by the 
introduction of the caste system, and the power of Nepalese kings was 
extended far beyond its previous limits. The domain of the Mallas 
reached its greatest extent under Yaksha Malla in the middle of the 
fifteenth century. Upon his death, however, the kingdom was divided 
among his descendants and quickly fell into a state of anarchy. 


During the sixteenth century the territory now contained within the 
boundaries of Nepal was fragmented into scores of minor principalities 
which were gathered into four major groupings. In the east were the 
various tribal states of the Kiratas; in the Katmandu Valley were the 
three Newar kingdoms ruled by the Mallas; to the west of the Valley 
lay a group of petty lordships known as the Chaubisi Rajas; and on the 
far west was a similar set of states, the Baisi Rajas. Although many of 


the states of these four groupings nominally recognized the supremacy 
of several of the more powerful among them or, in the case of the Baisi 
and Chaubisi Rajas, of the Mogul emperor in Delhi, they were virtually 
independent and engaged in continual warfare. The absence of any 
political system embracing these states and the turbulence of their 
relations made possible the rise of the Gorkhas and, ultimately, the 
formation of the State of Nepal. 

In 1559, Drabya Shah, the younger son of the Raja of the Chaubisi 
Kingdom of Lamjung, brought Gorkha — a small, adjacent principality 
west of the Katmandu Valley — under his dominion and established the 
line of kings which later became the monarchs of Nepal. During the 
next two centuries the position of the dynasty was consolidated by 
Drabya Shah's successors, and the territory of the kingdom was ex- 
tended to include most of the area between the Marsyandi and the 
Trisuli Rivers. 

The main thrust of Gorkha expansion, however, did "not occur until 
the middle of the eighteenth century with the accession to the throne 
of the tenth in the Shah line, Prithvi Narayan (r. 1742-75). Extolled 
as a fierce and resourceful warrior king even among a people renowned 
for their martial qualities, Prithvi's overriding aim was the conquest 
of vast areas of the Himalayas and their incorporation into the terri- 
tories of the House of Gorkha. In the second year of his reign he em- 
barked upon a relentless campaign for the systematic subjugation of 
the surrounding kingdoms which lasted until his death and, continued 
by his successors, did not come to a complete halt until almost three- 
quarters of a century later. 

The first and most critical phase of this undertaking was the conquest 
of the Katmandu Valley, a task which required 25 years to accomplish. 
Katmandu was not taken until 1768, Patan and Bhadgaon fell the fol- 
lowing year, and by the end of 1769 the whole of the Valley was under 
the control of the Kingdom of Gorkha. jMoving his capital to Katmandu, 
Prithvi Narayan established a policy which strictly excluded Europeans 
from the country, reformed the systems of land tenure and taxation, 
and executed large numbers of people whom he felt might constitute a 
potential threat to his position as the first king of Nepal. Domestic 
affairs occupied his attention only briefly, however, and the Gorkha 
advance was soon resumed. Meeting only slight opposition^ Prithvi's 
armies subjugated the entire Kirata area to the east and by the time 
of his death in 1775 were in possession of territory as far east as Dar- 
jeeling (now a part of India). 

The conquests of the Gorkhas continued under the leadership of 
Prithvi Narayan's descendants, most notably his younger son, Bahadur 
Shah, who acted as regent for his nephew from 1786 to 1795. The 
Gorkhas turned west and overran the Chaubisi and Baisi Rajas and, 


even farther to the west, Kumaon and Garhwal. Most areas were brought 
by conquest under the direct control of Katmandu. However, to avoid 
conflict with a few particularly strong adversaries, treaties of subsidiary 
alliance were concluded which often granted them a large measure of 
autonomy. Thus, by the end of the eighteenth century the territory of 
the Kingdom of Nepal extended from the southern frontier of present- 
day Kashmir all along the arc of the Himalayas to the heart of Sikkim. 

While these conquests were being made in the west, Nepal became 
engaged in a quarrel wdth Tibet over a number of questions — primarily 
the circulation of Nepalese coinage in Tibet and the taxation of goods 
traveling between India and Tibet — which eventually involved Nepal 
in war with China. Nepalese invasions of Tibet in 1788 and 1791 chal- 
lenged the suzerainty which the Chinese Empire, then at the zenith of 
its power under the Manchu dynasty, had established over the domains 
of the Dalai Lama during the preceding century and a half. In 1791 
a Chinese ultimatum demanded the withdrawal of Nepalese troops. 
When it was rejected a Chinese army said to number 70,000 entered 
Tibet, put the Nepalese to flight and then — culminating a campaign 
regarded as even more extraordinary than Hannibal's crossing of the 
Alps — passed through the Himalayas and approached within a day's 
march of the Nepalese capital. Forced to terms in 1792, Nepal agreed 
to return territory earlier taken from Tibet and to send a tribute mission 
to Peking every 5 years, thereby assuming the nebulous tributary rela- 
tionship to the Manchu Emperor which China had already established 
over Tibet and such other countries as Siam, Korea and Burma. 

After this encounter with China, Nepal's expansionist energies, blocked 
in all other directions, turned toward the south. At the same time, how- 
ever, the British in India were moving northward. They had arrived 
in India in the late sixteenth century and by the latter part of the 
eighteenth century the territory under their control extended up through 
the area of what is now East Pakistan and the Indian provinces of 
Bihar and Bengal to the lower reaches of Nepal. During this period 
their primary interest in the Himalayas lay in exploiting the commer- 
cial potential of the mountain states and in acquiring trade routes 
through them into Tibet and thence, it was hoped, to China. Although 
the British had been hostile toward Prithvi Narayan, fearing that the 
extension of his power throughout the Himalayas would jeopardize 
their plans, by the time of the Sino-Nepalese war they were seeking to 
put their dealings with Nepal on a more amicable footing. However, 
treaties of 1792 and 1801 between Great Britain and Nepal providing 
for the establishment of diplomatic and commercial relations were sub- 
sequently nullified by the opposition of ruling circles in Nepal. By the 
beginning of the nineteenth century, therefore, relations between Nepal 
and Great Britain were distant and unsettled. 


After continued acquisitions by the British East India Company made 
its territories contiguous with the southern frontier of Nepal in 1801, 
Nepalese depredations on British possessions across the frontier caused 
relations between the two countries to deteriorate still further. Turmoil 
along the frontier continued for more than a decade and by 1814 it, 
along with the persistent refusal of Nepal to enter into trade and diplo- 
matic relations, had become intolerable to the British. When Nepal 
rejected a British proposal that a joint boundary commission be estab- 
lished to recommend a settlement for the disputed territories and ignored 
an ultimatum which followed. Great Britain sent troops to occupy the 
contested areas and declared war against Nepal in November 1814. 

The confrontation with British power decisively brought the course 
of Nepalese expansion to an end. Resisting until British troops menaced 
the Katmandu Valley, Nepal capitulated in 1816 and met Great Brit- 
ain's demands in a settlement known as the Treaty of Sagauli. The 
territorial provisions of the agreement greatly reduced the area of 
Nepal and established the general outline of its present boundaries. 
Nepal was stripped of all its conquests west of the Kali and east of the 
Mechi Rivers, as well as large portions of the Tarai. In addition, the 
treaty gave Great Britain several means of making its influence felt in 
Nepalese affairs; Nepal was not to employ any European or American, 
nor any British subject, without the consent of the British Government, 
which was also given the right to mediate any dispute arising between 
Nepal and Sikkim. Moreover, it was agreed that there would be an ex- 
change of diplomatic representatives between Great Britain and Nepal. 


After 1816 the militancy of the Nepalese expressed itself primarily 
in a fractional struggle for internal supremacy. The major contestants 
in this internal competition were two major families of the nobility, 
the Thapas and the Pandes. Their bitter animosities had resulted in 
conflict and bloodshed for generations, and their rivalry was directed 
toward possession of the prime-ministership, a position which had grown 
increasingly powerful since the days of Prithvi Narayan because of the 
incompetence or extreme youth of a succession of monarchs. 

However, the antagonism between the two families involved much 
more than simply the question of who was to hold the office of prime 
minister. It also concerned a major issue of foreign policy. The Thapas, 
responsible for concluding the peace with Great Britain in 1816, had 
become identified with a comparatively moderate and cautious, though 
not entirely pacific, foreign policy, while the Pandes were vehemently 
anti-British and sought a resumption of the wars of conquest to the 
south. To forestall a demand for more strenuous measures, the Thapa 
I)rime minister, Bhim Sen Thapa, who maintained the ascendancy of 


his family while holding office from 1804 to 1837, pursued a policy of 
slow, piecemeal encroachment on the south designed to sate the belli 
cosity of the Pandes and of the army without being excessively pro- 
vocative to Great Britain. 

Concern for the security of its frontier in northern India therefore 
caused Great Britain to take a large interest in Nepalese internal affairs 
and, through the British Resident in Katmandu, to intervene frequently 
in Nepalese politics. British recruitment of Gurkha troops also began 
at this time. Impressed with the martial qualities of the Gurkhas dur- 
ing the war of 1814-16, Great Britain hoped that by providing employ- 
ment for the otherwise idle troops the belligerence of Nepal's policy 
might be reduced and another serious conflict avoided. 

The internal struggle also came to involve the question of who was 
actually to wield the authority of the throne, enervated though it had 
became. A single monarch, Rajendra Bikram Shah, reigned from 1816 
to 1846 but because of his impotence, initially the result of his youth 
and later of his passivity, he seldom actually ruled. Consequently, there 
were continual machinations within the royal family to fill the vacuum 
around the throne. The conflicts which arose within the royal family 
became interlocked with the feud between the Thapas and the Pandes, 
and in the fluid tactical alliances which resulted the Pandes were usually 
found supporting the king or his legitimate heirs while the Thapas 
aligned themselves with other members of the royal family. Earlier it 
was the judicious disposition of the power of the throne which had pre- 
served a semblance of equilibrium between the Thapas and the Pandes 
and prevented either from dominating the king completely. When the 
influence of the royal family was dissipated by the widening of the 
rifts within it, however, these divisions were exploited by a collateral 
member of the Thapa family to eradicate all remaining vestiges of mon- 
archical power and establish himself as ruler of Nepal. 

The primacy of the Thapas came to an end in 1837 when Bhim Sen 
Thapa was toppled from power, and there followed a chaotic decade, 
punctuated frequently by assassinations, unrest and foreign difficulties, 
in which the internal struggle for supremacy moved toward a final reso- 
lution. It culminated in a bloody slaughter in 1846 when the younger 
wife of King Rajendra, Queen Lakshmi Devi, gathered the nobles and 
ministers of the court at the Kot (Royal Court of Assembly) to deter- 
mine who was responsible for the murder of her lover, a contender for 
the prime-ministership. Jang Bahadur, nephew of Bhim Sen Thapa and 
commander of a quarter of the armed forces, seized the opportunity to 
establish his own predominance. Troops under his command extermi- 
nated all those unable to escape the Kot, destroying virtually all of the 
Nepalese Government, and during the massacre he managed to have 
the queen appoint him prime minister and commander in chief of the 


army. Thereafter, with the full backing of the army, he expelled from 
the country all those from whom he could not expect complete loyalty, 
confiscated their lands, filled the government with members of his family 
and conferred on tiiem and on himself the honorific name "Rana." 
Forcing the king and queen into exile in India, he kept the heir appar- 
ent, Prince Surcndra, a prisoner in Katmandu to confer the legitimacy 
of the throne on his thorough and comprehensive control of the govern- 

THE RANA PERIOD (1846-1951) 

With Jang Bahadur's assumption of the prime-ministership, a pattern 
of rule and a system of politics were established which prevailed vir- 
tually without alteration until the end of the Rana era in 1951. Jang 
Bahadur's de facto control of all governmental affairs was given royal 
sanction in edicts of 1846 and 1856 which transferred to the prime min- 
ister, or maharaja, all the absolute powers previously vested in the 
king and provided the legal basis for the authority of the Rana maha- 
rajas. Moreover, the practice whereby the appointment of the prime 
minister lapsed each year and had to be renewed by the king was abol- 
ished and the position of prime minister was made a hereditary posses- 
sion of the Rana family. 

According to the rule laid down by Jang Bahadur to govern succession 
within the Rana family to the prime-ministership after his death, the 
position was to pass, not from eldest son to eldest son in lineal descent, 
but laterally to his brothers, from eldest to youngest. After the last of 
his brothers had died, the eldest member of the next generation was to 
become prime minister, and the succession was then to run through the 
entire generation of brothers and cousins — to the eldest in turn — ana 
in that manner through each following generation. Jang's purpose in 
instituting this procedure was to ensure that the prime-ministership 
would always be in the hands of a Rana of mature years. Having come 
to power i)artly as the result of the fact that the system of primogeniture 
governing succession within the royal family had often produced infant 
kings who were easily dominated by their prime ministers, he sought 
to prevent Rana control from ever becoming enfeebled in a similar fash- 
ion. In this he was entirely successful, although the system possessed 
inherent defects which were as grave as those he had tried to avoid. 

In addition to the sovereign authority conferred on the Ranas by the 
throne, the strength of their position was buttressed by numerous other 
means. Ranas were placed in high positions throughout the government, 
the importance and rank of their office depending on their place on the 
roll of succession. They were also strongly entrenched in the army, a 
major source of their support. Traditionally, the position of commander 
in chief of the army was held by the person who stood first in the line 


of succession to the prime-ministership, and all male members of the 
family were automatically accorded high military rank at the time of 
their birth. It also became customary for the Ranas to intermarry with 
the royal family. Moreover, the Ranas cultivated good relations with 
the British in India, and the continuing influence of Great Britain in 
Katmandu was a major factor in the continuance and stability of Rana 

The system of rule brought into being by Jang Bahadur was oligarchi- 
cal rather than dictatorial, however, for the extensive authority held 
by the prime minister was limited by the power which rested with other 
members of the Rana family. Few decisions of the maharaja could be 
sustained, nor could he hope to remain in office against the opposition 
of the most highly placed Ranas. Several prime ministers, felt to be 
either incapable or too progressive, were forced from office by combi- 
nations within the family. The most serious challenges to the control 
of the maharaja always came from other members of the family. 

The establishment of Rana control, therefore, did not fundamentally 
alter the nature of politics. Possession of the prime-ministership was 
still the crucial objective, power and initiative were possible for only 
a small number of individuals, and conspiracy and assassination re- 
mained common phenomena. Moreover, the royal family, despite the 
diminution of its influence and prestige, continued to be drawn into the 
familial intrigues of the Ranas by those who sought to exploit its latent 
authority. Thus, though the structural effect of Rana ascendancy was 
the preeminence of the prime minister over the king, its major political 
effect was the exclusion of all other groups from competition for and 
exercise of power and the monopolization by a single family. 

Nepalese history during the Rana period contains few developments 
of broad significance to the people as a whole and centers around the 
possession and transfer of the power of the prime minister, highlighted 
by several sanguinary aberrations from Jang Bahadur's rule of succes- 
sion. The basic objective of the Ranas was the perpetuation of their 
control by maintaining the status quo. In the realm of external affairs 
every effort was made to insulate Nepal from the broadening impact 
during the nineteenth century of the European powers on Asia, and 
the outlook of the Ranas heightened the isolation already imposed by 
location and topography. Prithvi Narayan's policy of excluding Euro- 
peans from Nepal was reaffirmed by Jang Bahadur, was continued by 
his successors, and was not relaxed until after the overthrow of the 
Ranas. Few Westerners other than those who came to staff the British 
mission in Katmandu were allowed to enter the country, and permis- 
sion for anyone to travel beyond the Katmandu Valley was rare, the 
only exception being the relative ease of access to the famous Nepalese 
hunting grounds in the Tarai. Internally, change was stifled to prevent 


the weakening of the foundations of Rana rule. Educational develop- 
ment was extremely slow, and the achievement of anything beyond 
literacy was a privilege restricted almost exclusively to the ruling circle. 
Although slavery and suttee (the traditional Hindu practice of immo- 
lation of the widow on her husband's funeral pyre) were made illegal 
early in the twentieth century, few other efforts were made in the field 
of social and legal reform to relax the severity of many of the country's 
laws and customs. The public works programs of the Ranas were at 
best only feeble attempts to ameliorate living conditions and were par- 
ticularly deficient in the fields of transportation and communications. 
Moreover, the nation's limited resources were largely appropriated by 
the Ranas for their own enrichment rather than for the public benefit. 

Relations with Great Britain 

The coming to power of the Ranas wrought a fundamental change 
in Nepal's relations with Great Britain. Immediately upon becoming 
prime minister, Jang Bahadur adopted a policy of maintaining intimate 
and cordial connections with the British in India, which was pursued 
without deviation by each of his successors. There was a wide area of 
mutual interest underlying the tacit entente which existed for over a 
century between the Rana maharajas and the British viceroys who gov- 
erned India. It was evident to the Ranas that the structure of their con- 
trol would be precarious in the face of British enmity and that, by the 
same token, the friendship and support of their powerful neighbor to 
the south could do much to fortify their position. Consequently, Nepal 
closely followed Great Britain's advice on major questions of internal 
policy and foreign affairs. The British, on the other hand, while inter- 
ested in the acquisition of trading routes through, and commercial 
advantages in, Nepal were primarily concerned with the security of their 
northern frontier with Nepal and welcomed and supported the mainte- 
nance there of a regime whose policies were designed to achieve a high 
degree of internal stability and reduce friction along the border to a 

The most important tangible expression of the intimacy of the two 
countries was their military connection. Nepalese tribesmen were 
recruited for service in Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian 
armies more or less surreptitiously after 1816, but in 1885 Great Britain 
received from Jang Bahadur's successor an official and general authoriza- 
tion to continue the enhstment of Nepalese. Moreover, units of the 
Nepalese Army were placed at the disposal of the British Government 
in almost every major and many of the minor military conflicts within 
or involving the British Empire from the time of the Indian Mutiny in 
1857 to World War II. In return for its aid in the Indian Mutiny, Great 
Britain retroceded to Nepal in 1860 the Tarai areas taken from it in 


1816. For its assistance in World War I, Great Britain granted Nepal 
a perpetual subvention of one million rupees annually and in 1923, in 
the second Treaty of Sagauli, formally recognized its internal and 
external independence. 

Relations with Tibet and China 

Nepal's relations with Tibet, which had been marked by continual 
friction since 1792, became inflamed shortly after the Ranas assumed 
control. The major sources of discord were the ill-treatment of the 
Nepalese tribute missions passing through Tibet en route to Peking and 
the abuse of Nepalese traders residing in Lhasa. These issues, combined 
with a desire in Nepal to repossess the territories north of the Kodari 
(Kuti) and Kyirong passes which it had been forced to return to Tibet 
in 1792, caused Nepal to declare war against Tibet in 1854. The war 
was fought to a stalemate and a settlement was reached in the Treaty 
of Thapathali of 1856. In the major political provisions of the agree- 
ment both parties reconfirmed their special relationship to the Chinese 
emperor, and Nepal agreed to come to the assistance of Tibet if it should 
ever be invaded by a foreign power. In addition, Tibet agreed to pay 
Nepal an annual tribute, to allow Nepalese traders to reside and trade 
freely at Lhasa, and to permit the duty-free entry of Nepalese goods. 

Despite the agreement, relations between Nepal and Tibet failed to 
improve appreciably during the rest of the century and were severely 
strained when Tibet was invaded by a British expeditionary force in 
the early twentieth century. Great Britain had been trying to estab- 
lish political and commercial relations with Tibet since 1774, but all of 
its efforts were frustrated by Tibetan opposition. The aggravations of 
this situation to Great Britain were increased when it began to fear that 
czarist Russia— one of its major diplomatic antagonists not only in 
Europe but in the Near East, Central Asia and the Far East as well- 
was attempting to bring the government at Lhasa under its influence 
as a means of threatening the British position in India. Although the 
danger of Russian interference in Tibet was later seen to be largely 
imaginary, a contingent of British troops under the command of Colonel 
Francis Younghusband was sent into Tibet in 1904 to secure Great 
Britain's predominance at Lhasa, settle a number of long-standing issues 
between Tibet and British India, and open trade and political rela- 
tions between the two countries. Although Nepal had agreed to assist 
Tibet in the event of invasion, the Nepalese Government recognized 
that compliance with the treaty would only earn the enmity of Great 
Britain and result in defeat. Therefore, Nepal withheld all aid from the 
Tibetans and continued its policy of giving full support to Great Britain, 
supplying the Younghusband expedition with several thousand pack 
animals and urging the Tibetan authorities to accede to British demands. 
The circumstances surrounding the dispatch of the expedition pro- 


vided a vivid demonstration of the pivotal importance of Tibet to the 
security of India, Nepal and the other Himalayan states. Although 
Tibet had become a dependency of the Chinese Empire in the eighteenth 
century, by the time British expansion reached the foothills of the 
Himalayas the effective influence of China in Tibet was beginning to 
ebb, and it soon disappeared altogether. Therefore, during the nineteenth 
century the existence on the Tibetan plateau of a weak and peaceful 
religious state which was largely independent of foreign control ensured 
that the security of India and the Himalayan countries would not be 
threatened from the north. The possibility of a Russian hegemony at 
Lhasa forced British policy to recognize this fundamental connection 
between Tibetan autonomy and the security of the Indian subcontinent. 
Since the time of the Younghusband expedition it has been axiomatic 
in Asian diplomacy that the destruction of Tibetan autonomy by a 
strong foreign power would probably result in attempts to expand its 
influence below the crest of the Himalayas which would endanger the 
peace of the mountain states and northern India. 

This was demonstrated several years later when China attempted 
to reassert its authority over Tibet and concurrently tried to revive its 
influence in Nepalese affairs. China's suzerainty over Nepal, which was 
at most only nominal, had largely evaporated by the time the Ranas 
came to power. The tribute missions which Nepal sent to China rested 
more on commercial motives than on any sense of obligation or com- 
pulsion, and they appear to have been the only form of regular diplo- 
matic intercourse between the two countries throughout the nineteenth 
century. From 1905 to 1911, however, the Chinese were pressing forward 
with a vigorous military campaign in Tibet to enforce their suzerainty 
there and made repeated asserj:ions that Nepal was still a vassal of 
China. The Chinese military and diplomatic campaigns against Tibet 
were only temporarily abated in 1911 when a revolution overthrew the 
Manchu dynasty. Although a republican form of government was estab- 
lished, its policy on Tibet was the same as that of its predecessor. In 
1912 the new government announced that Tibet was to be considered an 
integral part of the Republic of China and the military offensive was 
renewed. Tibet had declared its independence in 1911, however, and 
with the aid of Great Britain was able to hold off the Chinese armies on 
its eastern frontier. 

Similarly, with the fall of the Chinese emperor, Nepal considered 
any justification for the tribute missions as having ceased; the last 
was in 1908 — the one scheduled for 1912 was never sent. Thereafter, 
a succession of events — World War I, growing internal conflicts during 
the 1920's and 1930's, invasion by the Japanese, World War II and 
civil war — intervened to preoccupy China for the next half-century, 
and consequently the threat to the independence of Tibet and Nepal, and 
to the security of India, was removed. 


The Fall of the Ranas 

Conflict within the Rana clan rather than forces external to it was 
the decisive factor in the dissolution of Rana despotism. In establishing 
the procedure for the transfer of power, Jang Bahadur had foreseen 
neither the longevity nor the fecundity of his descendants. By the end of 
World War II there were literally scores of Ranas, yet only six had 
held the prime-ministership in the period between the time of Jang 
Bahadur's death and 1945; Rana Udip Singh, 1877-85; Bir Shamsher, 
1885-1901; Deva Shamsher, 1901; Chandra Shamsher, 1901-29; Bhim 
Shamsher, 1929-32; and Juddha Shamsher, 1932-45. The hardiness of 
the prime ministers along with the gradual enlargement of the number 
of Ranas on the roll of succession greatly reduced the possibility of 
achieving power for many of them, caused them to grow discontented 
and intensified familial feuds and conspiracies. The growing danger to 
the prime minister from these malcontents prompted Juddha Shamsher 
in 1934 to prohibit those of illegitimate birth from attaining the highest 
offices, a move which rendered large numbers of Ranas eligible only 
for lesser positions. After 1934, therefore, there came to be three 
"classes" of Ranas; those of Class "A" were of legitimate, "B" of 
legitimized, and "C" of illegitimate birth. The exclusion of Class "C" 
Ranas from the succession, while successful in its immediate objective, 
caused great bitterness, and they were later to serve as a powerful focus 
for other sources of gathering opposition to the regime. 

Another important factor in the overthrow of the Ranas was the 
influence of the nationalist movement in India. Indian nationalism 
was rapidly acquiring strength and momentum in the decade before 
World War II and was directed toward the achievement of independence 
from Great Britain. Many Nepalese living in India, cognizant that 
Great Britain's withdrawal would mean a weakening of Rana control 
in Nepal, associated themselves with the independence movement and 
took part in the "Quit India" campaign conducted by the Indian Na- 
tional Congress party during the war. They later provided a large part 
of the leadership and a nucleus of public support for the popular opposi- 
tion movement which developed against the Rana regime. The associa- 
tion with the Indian Congress also had important implications for the 
social and economic objectives subsequently adopted for implementation 
in Nepal. 

The monarchy also played a significant role in the activities of the 
groups which were coalescing in opposition to the Ranas. King Trib- 
huvan, whose reign began in 1911, was an early supporter of anti- 
Rana activities, lending them his covert encouragement and financial 
support. The Palace was implicated in a number of plots against the 
Ranas in the 1930's and 1940's and Tribhuvan ran serious personal risks 
to serve as a symbolic rallying point for the various opposition elements. 


The first organized efforts against the Ranas from outside the clan 
itself took place in the 1930's. Several groups were formed secretly 
in Nepal — among them the People's Party (Praja Parishad) in 1935 — 
by young men who sought the overthrow of the Ranas and the estab- 
lishment of democratic government, but both groups were discovered 
and suppressed before they became a threat to the regime. No organ- 
ized activity against the Ranas took place during the war, but after 
1945 political agitation resumed. A number of political parties came 
into being during the next several years, the most prominent of which 
was the Nepali National Congress, founded in India in 1946. The 
Congress opened its campaign against the Ranas with a satyagraha 
(passive, nonviolent resistance movement) in support of a strike in 
Biratnagar in 1947 which had been forcibly suppressed by the govern- 
ment. Obtaining a withdrawal of the satyagraha by agreeing to institute 
liberal reforms, the prime minister, Padma Shamsher (r. 1945-48), 
promptly established a reforms committee and early next year promul- 
gated the country's first constitution, the Government of Nepal Act, 
1948. Padma's conciliatory spirit, however, and the liberal tendencies 
exhibited by the 1948 Constitution alarmed a powerful group of the 
more conservative Ranas headed by Mohan Shamsher. After forcing 
Padma to resign, Mohan took over as prime minister, postponed promul- 
gation of the new constitution, and declared the Nepali National Con- 
gress illegal. 

India was deeply concerned with these developments in Nepal. Having 
become independent in 1947, India had adopted the principles of 
political democracy and a mixed socialist economy and sought to 
persuade the Ranas of the desirability of moving rapidly in a similar 
direction. In the Indian view such reform measures became all the 
more urgent and necessary in 1949 when the Communists came to power 
in China and their invasion of Tibet appeared imminent, with ominous 
implications for Nepal at such a critical juncture. India's interest in 
Nepal at this time was concisely stated by Nehru in early 1950: 

If [freedom] does not come, forces that will ultimately disrupt freedom 
itself will be created and encouraged. We have accordingly advised the 
Government of Nepal, in all earnestness, to bring themselves into line with 
democratic forces that are stirring in the world today. Not to do so is not 
only wrong but also unwise. . . . 

This argument was pressed on Mohan Shamsher during talks with 
Nehru in February 1950. Although it was evident that there remained 
a large area of disagreement between the two, the Ranas acquiesced 
in the establishment of a bicameral legislative body which was con- 
vened in the Nepalese capital in September 1950. 

A crisis was reached in the fall of 1950. Neither the scope nor the 
pace of the reforms reluctantly granted by the Ranas were sufficient 
for the major political parties. They instigated sporadic uprisings in 


various parts of the country during the summer of 1950, and in late 
September the government announced the discovery of a plot by the 
Nepali Congress to assassinate the prime minister and other high 
officials. The invasion of Tibet by Communist Chinese troops in October 
added to the tension. Shortly thereafter, on November 6, King Trib- 
huvan, allegedly implicated in the Nepali Congress conspiracy and 
fearful for his safety, took refuge in the Indian Embassy in Katmandu 
and two days later was flown to India where he was granted asylum. 
Simultaneously, a general rebellion erupted throughout the country 
under the loose coordination of the Nepali Congress. By the end of 
November, however, regular government troops succeeded in breaking 
the insurrection. In the meantime, Tribhuvan's 3-year-old grandson 
had been proclaimed king by Mohan Shamsher. 

The Rana victory was transitory, however, for the Indian Govern- 
ment continued to recognize Tribhuvan rather than his grandson as 
head of state and demanded not only that he be returned to the throne 
but also that constitutional reforms be made immediately to render 
the Nepalese Government more representative of the public will. 
Amenable to the latter proposal, Prime Minister Mohan refused to 
allow Tribhuvan to return. He was soon forced to capitulate, however. 
In the middle of December a second offensive was launched by rebel 
forces; government troops, previously loyal, began to desert to the 
other side; and 40 Ranas resigned from high civil and military posi- 
tions and another 100 demanded that India's conditions be met. The 
adamancy of India, the danger from China, the deterioration of the 
domestic situation and the staggering loss of support from large sec- 
tions of the Rana family compelled Mohan to meet India's terms. In 
January 1951 he agreed to an amnesty for insurgents, the restoration 
of King Tribhuvan, the formation of a constituent assembly, the inclu- 
sion of popular representatives in the Cabinet on the basis of parity with 
the Ranas, and the holding of elections by 1952. The following month 
the Rana political monopoly came to an end when King Tribhuvan 
returned to the throne and an interim Cabinet was formed which in- 
cluded five representatives of the people drawn from the Nepali Con- 
gress and five Ranas, with Mohan Shamsher as prime minister. 


Although King Tribhuvan had declared at the time of the formation 
of the new government that a parliamentary democratic system under 
a constitutional monarchy would be established, the creation of such 
a system was delayed for 8 years by the turmoil which followed the 
overthrow of the Ranas. In the period from 1951 to 1959 the chaos 
and fragmentation of the country made political stability — let alone 
the inauguration of democratic government — impossible and fostered 
the gradual reacquisition of supreme power by the King. For 8 years 


the power relinquished by the Ranas was held by a succession of interim 
governments appointed by the King, interspersed with brief intervals 
of direct rule by the monarch himself, and political parties became 
progressively enfeebled by internal dissensions. Chronic political in- 
stability was accompanied by frequent disturbances throughout the 
country which the government was often powerless to deal with. As 
the formation of a constituent assembly and the holding of elections 
were repeatedly postponed, politics became increasingly divorced from 
the objectives of the popular movement against the Ranas and disre- 
garded the insistent necessity of relieving the country's economic stag- 
nation. The great mass of the people, disillusioned when the hopes and 
expectations aroused by the overthrow of the Ranas were not fulfilled 
by the actual course of events, turned to the King as the only source 
of continuity and the major pivot of unity and strength. 

Between 1951 and 1955 there were three different Cabinet govern- 
ments and one period of direct rule by the King. The coalition Cabinet 
formed in early 1951 under Mohan Shamsher quickly proved unwork- 
able and was dissolved in November. It was succeeded by a Cabinet 
dominated by the Nepali Congress party in which M. P. Koirala held 
the prime-ministership but. due to conflicts within the Congress, it 
fell from power in August 1952. King Tribhuvan then ruled directly 
until May 1953, when he called a second time upon M. P. Koirala — 
who by then had split entirely with the Congress — to form a govern- 
ment from his newly formed National Democratic Party. Koirala's 
second regime was so weak, however, that in February 1954 he trans- 
formed it into a coalition government to strengthen its position. This 
precarious alliance, which included representatives of three other parties 
in the Cabinet, was immobilized by disagreements between the con- 
stituent parties and survived only until January 1955. 

With the disintegration of the coalition, Crown Prince Mahendra 
flew to Switzerland to consult with his ailing father — abroad for medical 
treatment — and returned in the middle of February vested with full 
royal powers to deal with the Cabinet crisis. He attempted to organize 
a new government but the effort failed, and he announced at the end 
of the month that he would rule directly for the time being. Two weeks 
later, on March 13, 1955, King Tribhuvan died while still in Europe and 
Mahendra ascended the throne. 

By the end of Tribhuvan 's reign the general situation in the country 
had deteriorated dangerously. Four years of freedom from Rana rule 
had brought none of the benefits expected, and in many respects the 
outlook was even more discouraging than it had been before 1951. The 
government's failure to implement promised economic reforms, the 
pettiness and corruption of many public officials, and the absence of 
law and order left the i)ublic disillusioned, frustrated and without con- 
fidence in the country's political leaders. The Nepalese rupee had 


dropped in value by almost half and inflation created severe hardship. 
The stagnation of the economy was made even worse by floods, drought 
and famine. The widespread discontent often erupted into extensive 
and sometimes unmanageable uprisings and disorders. There was rising 
Communist influence in the Tarai and the Katmandu Valley and, with 
the administrative system in a state of collapse, many of the more 
remote areas of the country were beyond the control of the central 
government. On three occasions it had been compelled to ask the Indian 
Government for the assistance of troops to suppress disturbances. 

These conditions were attributable in large part to the chaos which 
prevailed in the country's politics. After 1951 the popular movement 
against the Ranas lost its cohesion and momentum and dissolved into 
numerous factions and groups. Concerned only with the attainment of 
power for its own sake and preoccupied by internal conflicts which 
nullified their effectiveness, the rivalries between and within the various 
parties produced chronic instability and paralysis in the government. 

Because of the defaults of other potential centers of leadership, there- 
fore, the Crown became the strongest political force in the country 
during Tribhuvan's reign. Under King Mahendra, the monarchy was 
to become still more powerful. He conceived of the king's role as a 
much more active and forceful one than had his father, and immediately 
after the latter's death he began systematically to augment further 
the power of the throne. This earned him the hostility of most of the 
political parties, particularly the larger ones, who felt that the expan- 
sion of royal influence and the return to royal councils of Ranas and 
members of their regime jeopardized their chances of arriving at power 
through elections. The King was subsequently unable to remain aloof 
from political conflict and criticism, as had been possible for Tribhuvan. 
With Mahendra on the throne, royal actions began to be publicly chal- 
lenged, and many of the major issues of succeeding years were merely 
facets of the larger debate over definition of the limits of monarchical 

King Mahendra remained in direct control of the government until 
January 1956, when he invited Tanka Prasad Acharya to become prime 
minister and form a government. Initially composed of an equal number 
of royal nominees and members of Acharya's own party, the People's 
Party, the Cabinet was later expanded to include more supporters of 
the King. Acharya demanded their removal and, when the King refused 
to do so, submitted his resignation in July 1957. Mahendra soon called 
upon K. I. Singh, a colorful enfant terrible of Nepalese politics, to form 
a new Cabinet. The daring and ambitious Singh immediately set out to 
challenge Mahendra's position by attempting to acquire independent 
control of important sources of power. The threat was easily coun- 
tered, however, and in November Mahendra announced suddenly that 
he had accepted Singh's resignation. The King then ruled directly until 


elections were held in February 1959, although he was advised by a 
coalition Council of Ministers which was formed at the beginning of 

During the period from 1955 to 1959 one of the major political issues 
concerned the purpose and timing of elections. The compromise agree- 
ment of January 1951 between the King, the Ranas and the political 
leaders had stipulated that the formation of a constituent assembly 
was to be the purpose of the elections. This was reaffirmed in 1954 
by an amendment to the constitution, the Interim Government of Nepal 
Act of 1951. Although Mahendra had declared in July 1955 that gen- 
eral elections would be held in October 1957, he strongly opposed the 
formation of a constituent assembly. There could be no more funda- 
mental challenge to the monarch's claim to ultimate sovereign authority 
than the preparation of a new constitution by elected representatives 
of the people. Skeptical of the sincerity of the King's promise and 
eager to validate their claims of strength by success at the polls, the 
political parties — particularly the Nepali Congress and the 
Party of Nepal — continued to demand elections for a constituent assem- 
bly at the earliest possible date. 

The issue of elections developed greater intensity during Singh's brief 
regime, and it was finally resolved in the period of direct rule which 
followed. On October 6, 1957, two days before the scheduled date for 
elections, Mahendra announced that it would be impossible to hold 
them due to the failure of the Acharya government to make adequate 
preparations. Since the King had not rescheduled the elections, a 
coalition of the major parties responded by threatening to begin a 
civil disobedience movement on December 8, 1957, unless a new date 
for elections had been fixea by then. On December 17, after 10 days 
of demonstrations, Mahendra designated February 18, 1959, as the 
date on which elections would be held. Although the coalition had 
wanted them to be held within 6 months, it acquiesced in the King's 
action and suspended the movement. Mahendra later announced that 
he was appointing a commission to draft a new constitution which would 
provide that a legislative body rather than a constituent assembly was 
to be the purpose of the impending elections. Although it had always 
opposed such a move, the Nepali Congress accepted the King's decision 
without protest, as did the other parties, and the final obstacle to the 
holding of general elections was thereby removed. A year later, on 
February 12, 1959, King Mahendra promulgated the new constitution, 
and a week later Nepal's first general elections began. 



Nepal, a predominantly mountainous rectangle, 90 to 150 miles wide 
and about 500 miles long, has a total area of about 54,400 square miles. 
Landlocked, it is bounded by Tibet on the north, Sikkim on the east 
and India on the south and west (see fig. 1). Katmandu, the centrally 
situated capital and most important town, is some 500 miles east of New 
Delhi and approximately 1,900 miles south of Peiping. The nearest 
seaport is Calcutta, 400 miles to the southeast at the head of the Bay 
of Bengal. 

The boundaries generally follow prominent terrain features except 
in the southeast and south, where the border with India runs through 
the Tarai in the northern part of the Ganges River plain (also known 
as the Gangetic Plain). On the north, the frontier with Tibet — which 
in 1962-63 was surveyed and marked by a Nepalese and Chinese Com- 
munist joint boundary committee — extends for about 670 miles along 
the main Himalayan range. On the east the crest of a ridge jutting 
south from the peak of Kanchenjunga (28,208 feet) marks the 60-mile 
boundary with Sikkim. In the southeast and south the border is an 
extremely irregular line running for about 745 miles across flat plains 
dotted with swamps, jungles, cultivated plots and — especially in the 
west — a few densely wooded ridges. Demarcation stones along this 
section outline the frontiers with the three adjoining Indian states as 
follows: to the east. West Bengal (about 65 miles) and to the south, 
Bihar (350 miles) and Uttar Pradesh (330 miles). To the west the 
Kali River (called Sarda in India) flows for 125 miles between Nepal 
and the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. 

Nepal presents a wider range of physical diversity than probably any 
other country of comparable size. The complex mountain mass in the 
north contains some of the world's highest peaks — six are more than 
26,000 feet above sea level. To the south, no more than 100 miles from 
these barren, icy heights, the cultivated fields and steaming jungles 
of the northern rim of the Gangetic Plain are less than 600 feet above 
sea level (see figs. 2 and 3). 

Numerous streams and rivers flow generally southward out of the 
mountains, meander across the Tarai plain and finally joint the Ganges 
in northern India (see fig. 4). The presence of fertile alluvial soil at 
stream junctions and at other places in the valley bottoms is a major 
determinant in the settlement pattern, most of the largest population 
concentrations being along the rivers and their principal tributaries. 
Virtually the entire country is drained by three large river systems: 




Source: Adapted from Pradyumna P. Karan and William M. Jenkins, Nepal: A Cultural and 
Physical Geography, p. 19. 

Figure 2. Landfornis of Nepal. 

in the east, the Kosi, with its seven large tributaries, three of which 
rise in Tibet, north of the main Himalayan range; in the center, the 
Narayani (called the Gandak in India) ; and in the west, the Karnali 
(called the Girwa in the Western Tarai and the Gogra in India). 

The main factors affecting climate are the Himalayan massifs in the 
north and the moisture-carrying monsoons from the Indian Ocean to the 
south. Local variation is great, but in general rainfall is abundant on 
windward slopes and meager on leeward slopes and valleys. Seasonal 
changes in temperature decrease with increasing altitude until they 
virtually disappear at heights above 10,000 feet. Temperatures, mod- 


Source: Adapted from Pradyumna P. Karan ftnd William M. Jenkins, Nepal: A Cultural and 
Physical Geography, p. 18. 

Figure 3. Topography of Nepal. 

erate at an elevation of about 5,000 feet, reach extremes of heat and 
cold at lower and higher altitudes, respectively. 

Soils and vegetation are also diverse and may vary greatly within 
short distances mainly because of rapid changes in elevation. The 
largest areas of fertile soils are found in the Tarai and in the valleys 
and on the slopes of the foothills just to the north. Erosion is a serious 
problem almost everywhere, particularly on the steep slopes in the 
higher altitudes (see ch. 17, Agriculture). 

Nepal, according to the preliminary report of the 1961 census, has 
a total population of approximately 9.76 million. Population density 
varies widely from region to region. The barren uplands of the Hima- 



layas are almost uninhabited, while the fertile Katmandu Valley is 
one of the most densely populated places in the world. 

Most of the people live in rural settlements near water sources, and 
only six towns have more than 10,000 inhabitants. Despite difficult 
terrain and lack of transportation and communication facilities, there 
is a considerable amount of moving about in the country. Many groups 
seasonally shift from one elevation to another to take advantage of 
climatic conditions favorable to cultivation and pasturage; others, 
especially in the mountain districts, periodically go to India for tem- 
porary employment and to purchase supplies (see ch. 19, Trade and 
Industry) . 


The country can be divided into three main geographic regions: the 
Mountain Region, which constitutes almost three-fourths of the total 
area; the Katmandu Valley (sometimes called the Nepal Valley), a 
relatively small, disc-shaped area enclosed in the east-central part of 
the Mountain Region; and the Tarai Region, a narrow belt which ex- 
tends along the boundary with India in the northern part of the Ganges 
River plain (see fig. 5). Characteristics of terrain peculiar to each 
region are associated with sharp contrasts in soils, vegetation, climate, 
and even in the economic and social patterns of the people. 

The Mountain Region 

The Mountain Region is part of the Himalayan range. Its major 
heights in northeastern Nepal generally define the boundary with Tibet, 
while in the northwest they lie just to the south of the boundary. The 
gigantic peaks and deep gorges of the region provide much of the sub- 
ject matter of the myths and folklore of the various local ethnic groups. 
Even for Nepalese living in the Tarai flatlands, the mountains are a 
near presence, too large and spectacular ever to be entirely out of mind. 

The whole Mountain Region is marked by a series of parallel north- 
south ridges flanking deep, narrow, southward-sloping valleys. Extend- 
ing east-west across the southern edge of the Region are the subsidiary 
Mahabharat Lekh and the Siwalik Ranges, both much lower than the 
main Himalayan range. The rivers in the principal valleys rise some 
50 to 100 miles inside Tibet on the high plateau north of the boundary. 
These streams are older than the mountain mass through which they 
flow, having created their valleys by erosion as the mountain barrier 
lifted around them. Thus, the actual watershed is not generally the 
line of high peaks in the region itself, but the Tibetan plateau farther 
north. Drainage north of the main Himalayan range is into the Brah- 
maputra River in Tibet (where it is known as the Tsangpo) ; in the 
south, into the Ganges. The waters of both rivers virtually join in the 



















delta region northeast of Calcutta before emptying into the Bay of 
Bengal (fig. 1). 

The valleys, hills and slopes of the Mountain Region are densely 
populated wherever tillable soil can be found. Most communication 
routes are restricted to treacherous tracks feasible only for travel by 
foot. Precipitation in most places is sufficient to support dense forests 
at elevations up to about 13,000 feet. In settled areas, clearings have 
been made by cutting for timber or by burning to open up croplands. 
Large tracts of untouched timber remain in the more inaccessible areas. 

Based mainly on differences in physical features and climate, the 
region may be subdivided into three general areas by two lines, one 
running generally northward from Katmandu and the other, about 
150 miles to the west, extending northward from the foothills near the 
boundary with India. From east to west, these subdivisions are desig- 
nated the Eastern Mountains, the Western Mountains and the Far 
Western Mountains (see fig. 5). 

Eastern Mountains 

The Eastern Mountain area (10,114 square miles) has four of the 
six highest peaks in the world: Mount Everest (29,028 feet). Mount 
Lhotse (27,890 feet). Mount Makalu (27,824 feet) and Mount Cho 
Oyu (26,867 feet). All are situated on a 30-mile segment of the 
boundary with Tibet. Forming a massive, white, saw-toothed range, 
they are visible on clear days from points throughout eastern Nepal. 
Trails leading up the principal valleys cross the Tibetan frontier over 
four difficult but well-known passes: Khangla Deorali and Rakha La 
to the east of the peaks, and Nangpa La and Kodari (Kuti) to the west. 

Western Mountains 

The 11,076 square miles of the Western Mountain area present a 
jumble of ridges and deep valleys projecting at various angles from 
the main Himalayan range. Relatively heavy precipitation supports 
some of the lushest vegetation in the country. Two mountains dominate 
the area: Dhaulagiri (26,813 feet) and Annapurna (26,502 feet). Both 
are within 50 miles of the town of Pokhara, which is less than 5,000 
feet above sea level. The principal pass from this part of the region 
into Tibet is at Rasua Garhi, commonly called the Girange Dzong 
(Kyirong) Pass after the nearby Tibetan town about 50 miles north 
of Katmandu. Other passes to the west include the Gya La at Larkya, 
the Kore La at Mustang and the Yansang Bhanjyang above Tingjegaon. 

Far Western Mountains 

The Far Western Mountain area is the driest and most sparsely in- 
habited section of the Mountain Region. Its 18,879 square miles, com- 
prising almost 35 percent of the country's total area, contain less than 


20 percent of the country's population. The scattered settlements of 
subsistence farmers, animal herders or mountain porters are generally 
confined to the river valleys. The southward drainage pattern is inter- 
rupted in many places by east-west ranges around which the streams 
zigzag on their way to the Ganges. Three passes in this area lead into 
Tibet: the Namja La (above Mugu), the Takhu La and the Nara 
Lagna (on the Karnali River, west of Munchu), all at elevations of 
approximately 16,000 feet. 

The Katmandu Valley 

The Katmandu Valley, just south of the junction between the Eastern 
and Western Mountains, is a circular basin of only 218 square miles, 
said to be a dried-up lakebed. In it are the kingdom's three largest 
towns, including the capital, and it is generally regarded by Nepalese 
as the heart of the country. The valley floor, which is between 4,000 
and 5,000 feet above sea level, is protected from icy Tibetan winter 
winds by the Himalayan heights to the north. On the south it is shielded 
from the extreme effects of the summer monsoons by the encircling 
Mahabharat Lekh range and it is drained by the area's pi'incipal river, 
the Baghmati Nadi. With ample rainfall and virtually a year-round 
growing season, the intensively cultivated soil provides food for this 
densely populated area. 

The Tarai Region ' 

The Tarai Region, with a total area of 8,969 square miles, con- 
sists mainly of a narrow belt of fiat, alluvial land on the boundary 
with India. A northern extension of the Gangetic Plain, it varies be- 
tween 150 and 600 feet in altitudes and between 5 and 55 miles in 
width. On the northern edge of this fertile strip is the Siwalik Range, 
sometimes called the Churia Hills or Churia Range, which rises to 
heights of almost 5,000 feet. This range is paralleled some 20 miles 
to the north by the narrow Mahabharat Lekh, with elevations up to 
10,000 feet. The Tarai is crossed by numerous streams which, par- 
ticularly in the east, during the annual monsoon floods carry down 
tons of silt, sand, gravel and huge boulders from the mountains to 
the north. 

Precipitation varies widely from east to west. In the east, heavy 
rainfall permits intensive cultivation of crops throughout the year, and 
uncultivated areas are covered with jungle vegetation or high grasses. 
In the west, relatively light and uncertain rainfall limits cultivation 
to small plots cleared from jungles, which line the streams. Malaria 
is endemic in the entire region, and the jungles, particularly those in 
the far western section are the habitat of a wide variety of tropical wild 


life, including several species of large game animals and poisonous 

Six subregions of the Tarai can be distinguished on the basis of 
topography and climate: the Eastern Tarai, the Eastern Inner Tarai, 
the Center Inner Tarai, the Western Tarai, the Midwestern Tarai 
(sometimes called the West Inner Tarai) and the Far Western Tarai 
(see fig. 5). 

Eastern Tarai 

The Eastern Tarai ranks next to the Katmandu Valley in the favor- 
able conditions it offers for human habitation. It is generally level 
and well drained; the soil is fertile; and the rainfall is ample and de- 
pendable. Moreover, it benefits commercially from road and rail 
connections with nearby population centers in India. 

Eastern Inner Tarai 

The Eastern Inner Tarai consists mainly of the narrow eastern sec- 
tion of the Mahabharat Lekh range. Steep slopes limit cultivation to 
scattered patches of grain on the hillsides. The region is well covered 
with dense but often inaccessible forests. The valleys are deep, narrow, 
wet and infested with malaria-carrying mosquitoes. The sparse popu- 
lation is virtually isolated from the rest of the country. 

Center Inner Tarai 

The Center Inner Tarai is a transition area between the Eastern 
Tarai and the Katmandu Valley to the north. The terrain consists 
mainly of severely eroded hill slopes and forested mountains. Alluvial 
soil is found in the river valleys. Despite oppressive humidity and a 
high incidence of malaria, some of the country's major agricultural 
development and settlement expansion projects are underway in this 

Western Tarai 

The Western Tarai is a narrow strip of flat, fertile land devoted to the 
production of vegetables and grains. The landscape is dotted with 
villages, many of which are connected by cart roads. Population density 
ranks after that of the Katmandu Valley and the Eastern Tarai. 

Midwestern Tarai 

The Midwestern Tarai is the only region where the southern ridges of 
the Siwalik Range extend across the boundary with India. The charac- 
teristic terrain is rounded hills covered with open forests. Monsoon rains 
have severely eroded most of the slopes, and the valley bottoms are 
generally strewn with boulders, driftwood and other debris carried down 
by the runoff. 


Far Western Tarai 

The Far Western Tarai is the driest region in the country, but it still 
has ample rainfall for vegetation growth. Some monsoon seasons are 
marked by torrential rains and deep mud, leaving water standing in vast 
swampy areas during the periods between rains. Forests have been de- 
nuded in some accessible places by cutting to meet the demand of nearby 
Indian markets for timber or by burning to clear land for farming. Popu- 
lation density is almost as low as that of the sparsely settled mountainous 
area to the north. 


Three separate river systems, each having its headwaters on the 
Tibetan plateau, drain almost all of Nepal (see fig. 4). The Kosi River 
drains the Eastern Mountains; the Narayani, the Western Mountains; 
and the Karnali, the Far Western Mountains. After plunging through 
deep gorges, the waters of these streams drop their heavy sediment and 
debris on the plains. Most rivers in the Tarai overflow their banks 
onto wide fioodplains during the rainy season. Many shift their courses 
during this period, and the receding waters leave vast stagnant pools 
in former sections of the streambeds. 

Besides providing fertile alluvial soil for cultivation, the heavy flow 
of water through a widespread network of narrow river channels pre- 
sents great possibilities for hydroelectric development. Meanwhile, the 
deep gorges are formidable obstacles to communications and contribute 
to the virtual isolation of many upstream settlements. 

The Kosi 

The Kosi River has seven major affluents. The principal one, the 
Arun, rises almost 100 miles inside the Tibetan plateau. Two other 
major tributaries, the Sun Kosi and the Tamur, flow generally eastward 
and westward, respectively, and join the Arun just north of the eastern 
section of the Mahabharat Lekh range, to form the southward-flowing 
Sapt Kosi. Its floodwaters move slowly across the Tarai within no 
deflned banks from June to September each year and leave very heavy 
deposits of alluvium. 

The Narayani 

The Narayani cuts through the Western Mountains, and the gorges 
of some of its tributaries are the deepest in the world. Northwest of 
Pokhara, the KaH Oandaki tributary, with its streambed at an elevation 
of 3,630 feet, flows between the region's highest peaks, Dhaulagiri and 
Annapurna, which are only 22 miles apart. Occasional sliallow basins 
at high altitudes with intervening rapid descents present great poten- 


tialities for hydroelectric exploitation. The lower Narayani is navigable 
for small steamers and timber barges in the winter season or when the 
river is not in flood stages. 

The Karnali 

The Karnali River is noted for its deep gorges, which are generally 
too wide to be crossed by locally built suspension bridges. Moreover; 
its current is too rapid in most places to be negotiated safely by the 
dugout canoes of the area. Thus, the river tends to isolate rather than 
link the settlements along its course and to hinder rather than facilitate 
travel to other parts of the country. 


Comprehensive information about the highly varied climate is lack- 
ing. The latitude of Nepal is about that of Florida, but great differ- 
ences in altitude within the relatively small area of the country and the 
monsoonal alternation of wet and dry seasons make for sharp climatic 
contrasts between neighboring localities. Within a space of 150 miles 
from north to south are approximated most of the world's climatic zones, 
from Arctic Tundras in the northern portions of the Eastern and Western 
Mountains and the high deserts in the extreme northwest to the tropical 
jungles in the lowlands along the Indian boundary. 

The complex arrangement of the mountain ridges, resulting in differ- 
ences in exposure to sunlight and to the moisture-laden monsoon winds, 
also produces significant climatic differences in adjacent areas. In gen- 
eral, however, annual temperatures decrease with increases in altitude, 
and annual rainfall decreases from east to west. Violent thunderstorms 
and destructive hailstorms are common, particularly in the foothills 
and in the mountain areas. Since elevations are highest in the north 
and progressively decline southward, the country can be divided from 
north to south into four climatic zones: the Mountains, the Foothills, 
the Katmandu Valley and the Tarai. 

The Mountains 

The Mountain zone includes the upper part of the Himalayan range, 
with altitudes varying from 10,000 to 29,000 feet. Winters are long 
and severe; summers are short and cool; and permanent frosts prevail. 
The snowline is between 12,000 and 14,000 feet and may be higher in 
dry regions. The tree line is at about the same altitude but is lower 
in the dry areas. Precipitation varies markedly from one place to 
another but reportedly averages about 20 inches annually. 


The Foothills 

Tlie Foothills zone includes the Mahabharat Lekh range and high- 
lying valleys up to 10,000 feet. Rainfall and temperature data are not 
available, but the climate may be classified as temperate, with warm, 
rainy summers and winters ranging from moderately cool to severe. 

Katmandu Valley 

The Katmandu Valley has a distinctive climate, which may be divided 
roughly into three seasons: rainy, hot and cold — the latter two being 
relatively dry. Rains usually begin in June and last through September, 
with the average annual fall approximating 60 inches. The cold season 
is from mid-October to mid-April, with temperatures in January, the 
coldest month, ranging between a daily average minimum of 36° F. 
and a maximum of 64° F. Snow and freezing temperatures are rare. 
In the hot months. May and June, the temperature seldom exceeds 
90° F. at noon. 

The Tarai 

The Tarai zone includes the plains area along the boundary with 
India and the lower hills up to about 4,000 feet. The climate is usually 
hot and humid, during the period of heaviest rainfall from June to mid- 
October. From mid-October through February the climate is moderately 
cool with scattered showers. In the dry season, from March through 
June, the vegetation turns brown under a scorching sun. About 80 
percent of the precipitation occurs between mid-June and mid-Sep- 
tember. Average summer temperatures range from approximately 80° F. 
in the east to 90° F. in the west, and winter temperature from 60° F. 
in the east to 55° F. in the west. 



The soils are diverse in composition and distribution. Scientific soil 
studies are lacking, but an analysis of samples from various parts of the 
country indicates, in general, a high iron content and a deficiency in 
humus, nitrogen and phosphate. 

The alluvial soils of the Tarai are quite fertile except for occasional 
pockets of infertile sand and gravel. Composed mainly of brown clays 
and loam permeated with limestone, they respond readily to fertilizer 
and, if provided with a dependable water supply, are well suited to in- 
tensive agriculture. 

In the Mahabharat Lekh and Siwalik ranges, soils are generally less 

fertile than those of the Tarai plains to the south. Brown or gray 
varieties appear in the conifer forests at the temperate higher altitudes, 
while shallow red and yellow soils prevail under the damp, subtropical 
vegetation at lower elevations. Among the southern base of these ranges 
a belt of sand, gravel and boulders deposited during the monsoon freshets 
averages about 8 miles in width. This belt, called the Bhabar, is of 
special importance because its soil supports a forest cover which collects 
the detritus washed down the mountain slopes, thus protecting the 
Tarai lowlands from an annual cover of infertile sand and gravel. In 
many places water from mountain streams disappears in this porous 
material and emerges again as springs in the Tarai. 

In the Mountain Region, the soils at lower elevations are thin and 
stony in most places. However, soils suitable for sustaining meadows 
and forests appear in the valley beds and on the more moderate slopes. 
At higher altitudes much of the surface consists of naked rock, and the 
scanty soils consist mainly of sandstone, clay and limestone formed 
from basic parent material. 

Soil erosion is widespread. Even in the cultivated plains of the Tarai, 
vast areas of croplands are lost or damaged annually by the monsoon 
floods. In eastern Nepal, particularly in the valleys of the Tamur, 
Arun and Sun Kosi Rivers, much forest land has been cleared for farm- 
ing. Although the major portion of the area is still covered by forests, 
they are being depleted by erosion, indiscriminate cutting or burning, 
and by excessive grazing. Erosion accelerates as they retreat. 


Deposits of various minerals, among them coal, cobalt, copper, gold, 
iron, lignite, limestone, marble and mica, have been found. Their dis- 
covery, however, has been largely accidental, and the area covered by 
systematic geological surveys is very small (see ch. 19, Industry and 

Coal outcroppings have been found along the Sapt Kosi River in 
Eastern Tarai and just north of the Midwestern Tarai near the base of 
the Mahabharat Lekh range. Cobalt deposits, some relatively large, are 
present in the Baglung-Gulmi area about 140 miles west of Katmandu 
and 50 miles north of the Indian border. Deposits also have been found 
in eastern Nepal near Dhankuta in the Tamur River valley. 

Copper ore has been mined on a small scale in an area some 60 miles 
west of Katmandu, near the confluence of the Kali Gandaki and Nara- 
yani Rivers. Deposits of undetermined importance have also been 
worked at several other sites, such as Sikpasor Khani {khani means 
mine in Nepali), Wapsa Khani and Jantra Khani, all some 50 to 80 
miles eastward from Nepal Valley, along the northern tributaries of the 
Sun Kosi River. 


Gold is present some 20 to 60 miles west of Katmandu in the gravels 
of streambeds in the Kali Gandaki and Trisuli River valleys. Alluvial 
deposits also have been found west of the Dhaulagiri massif, along the 
upper reaches of the Bheri River. Some geologists believe that the source 
lodes are near the Tibetan border, particularly near Mustang in the 
upper Kali Gandaki Valley. 

Iron ore deposits have been noted at various places in Katmandu 
Valley. Those southwest of Katmandu have been investigated by geol- 
ogists attached to the United States Agency for International Devel- 
opment Mission in Nepal, but the geological structure of the area 
indicates that quantities are small. Deposits have been noted also in 
the Western Mountains near Nuwakot, south of Pokhara; in the Rapti 
Valley about 45 miles southwest of Katmandu; and in the Sun Kosi 
Valley at Khotang, some 100 miles southeast of Katmandu. 

Findings of other commercially usable minerals have been made in 
widely separated areas. Small lead deposits have been found just south 
of Katmandu and lignite about 12 miles north of the city in the Bagh- 
mati Nadi Valley. Limestone is present in northwestern Nepal near 
Baglung in the Kali Gandaki Valley south of the Annapurna massif, 
near Jumla in the Karnali Valley west of the Dhaulagiri massif, and 
near Hitaura about 25 miles southwest of Katmandu. Marble forma- 
tions occur near Godavari on the southern edge of Katmandu Valley. 
Some mica deposits are found near the northern edge of the valley and 
in the upper reaches of the Dudh Kosi River, just southwest of Mount 


Forests cover more than a third of the country's total area. The 
deciduous trees which prevail in the moist Tarai are mixed with pines, 
firs and spruce at higher altitudes. On the heights of the extreme north, 
rhododendron bushes, stunted birches and junipers survive for short 
distances above the tree line, which is between 13,000 and 14,000 feet. 

The forests of the Tarai contain an abundance of locally useful or 
commercially valuable species of rattans, palms and bamboo (also 
found at elevations up to 11,000 feet). Other valuable trees include: 
the khair, a species of acacia, from which a resinous gum is extracted 
and chewed with betel nut; sissoo, valuable for furniture making; 
karma, also used for furniture making and for veneer; and semal, used 
for plywood, matches and paper pulp (see ch. 17, Agriculture). 

The Siwalik and Mahabharat Lekh ranges at altitudes of 1,000 to 
4,000 feet support forests composed mainly of sal trees, the wood of 
which resembles teak and is used for construction timber and railroad 
ties. The coarse sabai grass of the area is marketed in India as a con- 
stituent of paper pulp. Above 3,000 feet the sal trees give way to pines 


intermingled with some oaks; between 5,000 to 10,000 feet on the Mahab- 
harat Lekh range, walnuts, horse chestnuts, maples, wild cherry, birches, 
rhododendrons, larches, firs and some bamboos make their appearance. 
On moist, southern slopes of the Mountain Region, oaks tend to re- 
place the conifers, while on the shady, drier, northern slopes, both species 
are usually found. At altitudes of 7,000 to 11,000 feet, oaks are gen- 
erally mixed with maple, spruce, fir and bamboo. Fir, rhododendron 
and birch predominate between 11,000 and 12,000 feet, and in drier 
areas, as on the Dhaulagiri massif, juniper, oak and ash are found. 
Birch continue to appear up to the tree line, at 13,000 to 14,000 feet. 
In some areas just below the snowline, at 12,000 to 14,000 feet, various 
grasses often provide good grazing grounds in sheltered spots during 
the short summers. Above 12,000 feet the stunted vegetation becomes 
increasingly thin until finally only lichens and mosses clinging to bare 
rocks remain. 

Wild Life 

Nepal has a wide variety of wild animals and bird life. The jungles 
of the Tarai are known as one of the best big-game areas in the world, 
and in the winter months guests of the ruling family are on occasion 
entertained there in elaborate hunting camps. The list of game ani- 
mals includes tigers, leopards, panthers, black bears, elephants, rhinoc- 
eroses, buffaloes, wolves, hyenas, jackals and many species of deer. 
Reptiles, most numerous in the Tarai Region, include crocodiles and 
many species of snakes, including cobras and vipers. 


Demographic Data 

The population, according to the official preliminary census report 
of 1961, was 9,756,390. Accepting that figure and the total of 8,743,478 
reported in the 1952-54 census, the annual rate of growth over the 
7-year period, 1954-61, would have been about 1.9 percent. Actually 
no complete population count has ever been made in Nepal, and all 
population estimates must be taken as subject to an unknown degree of 
error. The preliminary report, however, represents the latest and best 
information available, and its figures are generally consistent with other 
recent estimates for various regions. 

The average population density as calculated from the 1961 census 
was about 180 per square mile (table 1). Comparative figures in 1961 
were 259 for Pakistan, 347 for India and 82 for Burma. The lowest 
density was in the Far Western Mountain Region, where it was estimated 
to be approximately 94 per square mile. The higliest density, given as 
2,163, was in the Katmandu Valley, where 3 of the country's 4 largest 


towns are situated. The density in the rural section of the valley is also 
high — about 1,150 per square mile. In general the heaviest concentra- 
tions outside the valley are found in areas endowed with fertile soil 
and adequate rainfall, as in the Eastern Tarai Region, where the average 
density reportedly is 434 per square mile. These advantages may be 
offset in some areas, however, by other unfavorable factors, as in the 
fertile but malarial and pest-ridden Center Inner Tarai Region. 

Table 1. Areas, Population and Average Population Densities of 
Geographic Regions in Nepal, 19S1 

Geographic region 



Average density 

Eastern Mountains 

Western Mountains 

Far Western Mountains. 

Katmandu Valley 

The Tarai: 


Eastern Inner 

Center Inner 



Far Western 

Total Tarai 

(zn square 








{per square 













Total . 




Source; Adapted from Nepal, Central Statistical Bureau, Preliminary Report — Population Census, 
1961. (Trans, by Royal Nepalese Embassy.) Katmandu: 1962, pp. 2-14. 

Since only about 10 percent of the total land area is cultivated, aver- 
age density for the country as a whole is less significant than average 
density per cultivated square mile, which is approximately 1,500 (see 
ch. 17, Agriculture). Extraordinarily high concentrations are crowded 
onto the slopes of many of the narrow, fertile stream valleys (see fig. 6). 

The 1961 census lists 147,715 more females than males in the total 
population, or 103 females for every 100 males. Statistics on age dis- 
tribution and birth and death rates are not available, but estimates 
based on the 1952-54 census indicate that about 39 percent of the total 
population is under the age of 15, and 59 percent is between the ages 
of 15 and 59. The 1952-54 census statistics also show the excess of 
females over males to be greatest in the Eastern ^Mountain Region, 
where reportedly there were 107 females for every 100 males, while in 
the Far Western Tarai statistics showed only 91 females for every 
100 males. It is explained in the 1952-54 census report that the reason 
for this disparity in the Eastern Mountains was that many men left 
the area for 6 months or more every year to seek employment or engage 


in trade. The imbalance in the Far Western Tarai, on the other hand, 
is attributed to the allegedly greater care given to male than to female 
infants in this region. 

20 40 60 80 

• 10 000 

% 25,000 

^ 50.000 

^P 100.000 

■ Each dot (•) represents 2,000 rural inhabitants 
^^^^^^^ Geographic region boundary 



Source: Adapted from Pradyunina P. Karan and William M. Jenkins, Nepal: A Cultural anc 
Physical Geography, p. 50. 

Figure 6. General Distribution of Population in Nepal by Geographic Areas 

(1952-54 Census). 

Settlement Patterns 

Almost all Nepalese live in villages or in small market towns. Accord- 
ing to the 1961 census there were only 264,038 urban dwellers, or less 
than 3 percent of the total population. Based on official estimates of 
approximately 29,120 villages in the country, average village size would 
be about 335 inhabitants. The size and types of rural settlements vary 


widely, however, since they are determined largely by the availability 
of space, configuration of the terrain and fertility of the soil. In the 
fertile Tarai plains, many villages have 500 or more houses, whereas 
on the precipitous slopes of the hills and on the rocky slopes of the 
mountains most settlements probably do not comprise more than 25 
dwellings (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages). 

Ethnic and local distinctiveness make it difficult to generalize, but at 
least three settlement types are present — compact, dispersed and clus- 
tered. Compact settlements predominate in the Tarai plains; dispersed 
settlements are found mainly in the mountain regions at elevations up 
to 9,000 or 10.000 feet; clustered settlements, consisting of a number of 
house clusters, are limited largely to the narrow valleys and gorges at 
elevations above 10,000 feet, along the boundary with Tibet. Some 
clustered types also appear in limited areas at lower altitudes. 


The compact villages of the Tarai lowlands, inhabited mostly by the 
Tharu and Indian ethnic groups, resemble those of neighboring India 
(see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages). The houses are usually 
rectangular, one story in height, and with rather steeply pitched, thatched 
gable roofs. The walls are of wattle (woven of twigs or coarse grass), 
but the dwellings of prosperous villagers may have tile roofs and walls 
of mud mixed with straw. 


In the mountains, house types vary considerably with local setting 
and ethnic group. The Limbu, who inhabit the area near the boundary 
with Sikkim, live in dispersed Settlements. Their houses regarded as 
the best in rural Nepal, are wooden, two-story structures, the ground 
floors being used for storerooms and the second floors for living quarters. 
Tlie gable roofs usually are of thatch, and thatch-covered verandas open 
ofT the living rooms. The walls are usually decorated with elaborate 
carvings and painted in bright colors. 

The Tamang villages, north and west of Katmandu Valley, are built 
in compact clusters usually situated in the central part of a terraced 
slope, convenient to the cultivated plots. The houses are usually of two 
stories, with wide-angled gables paralleling the terrace walls. 

The Gurung, on the south flank of Annapurna, at elevations around 
10,000 feet, live in loosely clustered villages composed of neatly con- 
structed rectangular houses of two stories. The walls are of dry stone; 
the gable roofs of slate. Farther south in the Pokhara area the Gurung 
villages are composed of elliptical or oval dwellings with neatly white- 
washed walls and conical roofs covered with thatch or slate. Some houses 
have roofed verandas on the south side. 

The Magar, on the western and southern flanks of the Dhaulagiri 

massif, also live in clustered villages. Their houses are extraordinarily 
large, with two stories and flat or hipped roofs. 

The Sherpa, in the high mountains west of Mount Everest, live in 
dispersed villages which contrast with the clustered settlements of most 
of the other groups farther west in the Tibetan border region. Sherpa 
houses are usually two-story structures with white, plastered walls and 
low, pitched, gable roofs covered with slate shingles or wooden planks. 
The ground floor is used to shelter farm tools, and the family lives 
above in one large room with the hearth in a corner. 

The Bhote villages, north of the Annapurna massif, are frequently 
situated on or near the alluvial fans of glacier-fed streams which pro- 
vide a dependable water supply for inigating the terraced cropland. 
Perched on shelves on sides of deep canyons, the villages typically 
consist of a tight cluster of tall stone and mortar houses. Adjacent 
dwellings frequently have a common wall, and the general effect of 
the village complex is that of a fortress. Families use the flat roofs 
to take advantage of sunlight during the day. 

In the extreme northwestern part of the country, villages consist 
of clusters of houses built of stone or wood slabs. The flat roofs are 
reached by outside ladders instead of stairs. 

The country's only towns are situated in the Katmandu Valley and 
in the Tarai. In the Katmandu Valley they were built originally as the 
capitals of local kingdoms. For security reasons they were surrounded 
by walls enclosing a group of tightly clustered houses, with centrally 
located pagodas. In the Tarai the larger towns developed from com- 
mercial centers at the termini of railroads or roads leading to the area 
from India. Most of them retain the appearance of overgrown villages 
centered around a marketplace, and perhaps a few government buildings 
and a business section. 


Notwithstanding the terrain and the fact that travel in much of the 
country is over narrow and precipitous trails, many Nepalese are on 
the move during the dry season. Some work as porters; others trek to 
markets to sell their produce or seek employment; and still others go on 
pilgrimages. Statistics are not available on interregional movement, 
hence estimates and conclusions on the subject are based on fragmentary 
observations and general impressions. 

In some areas of central Nepal the inhabitants of certain com- 
munities live in twin villages: one, usually in a valley bottom, is occu- 
pied in the winter and early summer months; the other, at a higher alti- 
tude, is used during the late summer and early fall by all or part of the 
villagers, who take their animals to the higher pastures. Some villagers 


may plant crojis on the south slope early in the season and then move 
over the ridge to their twin village on the north slope to plant another 
crop to be harvested later in the season (see ch. 17, Agriculture). 

Traders are constantly on the move between market towns in India 
and areas throughout the country. Others reportedly travel through 
the passes on the boundary with Tibet (see ch. 19, Industry and Trade). 
Many Magar living in areas south and west of the Dhaulagiri massif 
are said to migrate each winter to the Tarai, where they make bamboo 
mats, baskets and other articles to sell in market towns along the.Indian 

The British and Indian Armies continue to attract numerous Nepalese 
volunteers: these men, accepted onl}' from the mountain regions, 
account for a certain amount of the going and coming across the Indian 
frontier. Still others are attracted to India for long or short periods by 
employment opportunities. 

The 1961 census indicates that approximately 369,000 persons — 
almost 4 percent of the population — were away from home when the 
census was taken. Of this number, about 85 percent were reported to be 
outside the country. According to comparable statistics in the 1952-54 
census, almost 80 percent of those living abroad were in India; the 
remainder were mostly in Malaya and Burma. About two-thirds of the 
absentees were from the mountain regions; the smallest proportion of 
absentees were from the Tarai. 


Katmandu, centrally situated in the valley of the same name, is the 
historic capital of the kingdom. With a population of approximately 
122,500, comprising about 20,500 families, it is by far the largest town 
in the country. Its nucleus is the old place surrounded by numerous 
Buddhist shrines and by many elaborately constructed Hindu temples 
with ornate images of animals such as bulls and elephants. Contributing 
to its religious importance is Katmandu's position astride the Baghmati 
Nadi, a sacred stream. In the northeast section of town the Baghmati 
curves around a hill surmounted by a large Hindu temple which is 
regarded as the holiest in the land. 

Expansion has been mostly to the east along the 3-mile road leading 
to Gauchar Airport. The residential section on the east edge of town 
is known as Delhi Bazar. Adjacent to the old part of Katmandu is the 
newer business section. Its four- or five-story red brick buildings con- 
tain retail shops on the ground floors and living quarters above. Most of 
them are decorated with elaborately carved latticework on the balconies 
and around the windows. Just southeast of the old section is the Singha 


Durbar, once the chief palace of the Rana rulers and now a maze of 
government offices. To the north is a wide, tree-lined avenue called 
the King's Way, along which are several large palaces and a foreign 
embassy, most of them with their own gardens. This section includes 
the Royal Palace (Narayan Hiti), as well as the homes of a few wealthy 


Patan (Lalitpur in Sanskrit) is situated 3 miles southeast of the center 
of Katmandu. With a population of approximately 48,800, comprising 
about 8,500 families, it is the second largest urban center in Nepal. 
The main entrance into town is through a gate in the ancient wall, 
sections of which are still standing. Temples crowd its central square 
and no factories or modern business establishments alter its medieval 
appearance. A handicraft center, Patan is known especially for weav- 
ing and metalwork. Buildings are typically of four or five stories, with 
walls of red brick; windows and doors are trimmed with carved wood, 
usually painted black. Most of these structures stand wall to wall 
around square compounds, each about the size of a small city block. 
Several compounds may be connected by arched passages, the complex 
including a large temple. Each compound is usually occupied by a 
separate clan. Buildings in certain parts of the town are provided with 
individual wells, but in the poorer sections families obtain water from 
common wells or from pipe-fed tanks. The streets are of cobblestones, 
and most are too narrow for transport vehicles. 


Biratnagar, the most important industrial center in the country and 
the principal commercial town in the Eastern Tarai, is situated about 
G miles from Jogbani, an Indian railroad terminus on the Nepalese 
border. With a population of approximately 33,300, or about 6,670 
families, it ranks third in size in the country. The business area, known 
as the bazaar, is surrounded by residential sections, which are inter- 
spersed with retail shops and small industrial enterprises. The town's 
economy is sustained largely by trade with India. 


Bhadgaon (Bhaktapur in Sanskrit) is situated 8 miles east of Kat- 
mandu, with which it is connected by a 2-lane macadam road. Its 
population of approximately 33,000 — some 6,130 families — makes it 
the fourth largest town in Nepal. It is built around an open area called 
Durbar Square, which is in front of the historic royal palace of the 
Malla kings. Bhadgaon's ancient temples and shrines and its many 


religious festivals attract visitors from all over Nepal and northern 


Nepalganj is situated in Far Western Tarai about 4 miles from 
an Indian railroad branch line terminus on the Nepalese border. With 
a reported population of approximately 15,800, or about 3,300 families, 
it is the largest town in western Nepal. Its importance as a trading 
center is enhanced by road connections with Nepalese border villages to 
the west, by a trail leading northward to Tibet and by a nearby airfield. 


Birganj is a market town about 55 miles southwest of Katmandu, 
opposite the Indian border town of Raxaul, which is one of the terminal 
points of the narrow-gauge (30-inch) Royal Nepal Government Rail- 
way and is also served by a spur of the meter-gauge Indian North- 
Eastern Railway. The former runs northward about 30 miles to Amlekh- 
ganj, where cargo can be transferred to the ropeway leading to 

Birganj has a population of some 10,800, or about 1,800 families. 
The people dress in Indian fashion and Hindi is the common language. 
The town's importance will probably increase because a sugar factory 
is being built there with Soviet aid. The Tilawe Nadi irrigation dam, 
sponsored by United States aid, is underway about 10 miles to the 
north, and a road, paralleling the railroad to Amlekhganj, is also being 
reconstructed and improved with both United States and Indian aid. 
There is an airfield at Simra, near the railroad terminus. 



Settled in ancient times by peoples from India to the south and west 
and Tibet to the north and east, Nepal has been more or less con- 
tinuously subject to cultural influences from these two centers of 
civilization. It has in turn influenced them. Thus, Tibet received its 
script from Nepal in the Malla period. From Nepal also the pagoda 
style of architecture spread throughout the East. The country's popu- 
lation is ethnically complex, ranging in physical type and culture from 
the Indian to the Tibetan. Except for the sizable population of Indian 
birth or ancestry concentrated in the Tarai on the border with India 
and a few thousand refugees from Chinese-Communist-dominated Tibet, 
all of the varied ethnic groups into which the Nepalese are divided have 
evolved distinctive patterns of their own. 

The north Indian antecedents of a number of caste groups which 
make up nearly half of the total population are evident in their lan- 
guage, religion, social organization and physical appearance, but all 
of these features have been modified in the Nepalese environment. These 
groups — several castes of Brahmans, the high-ranking Thakuri and 
Chetri castes and an untouchable category — have been classified as 
Pahari (Parbate) from their historic north Indian connections, although 
the term has only a limited use in Nepal and the Pahari groups are 
known by their individual caste names. Nepali, the native tongue of 
the Pahari (and the official language of the country), is closely related 
to but by no means identical with Hindi. The Hinduism of the Pahari 
has been influenced both by Buddhism and by indigenous folk belief. 
The caste system of the Pahari is neither as elaborately graded nor as 
all. embracing in its sanctions as that of the Indians; and physically 
many of the Pahari show the results of intermixture with the Mongoloid 
peoples of the region. Similarly, the Bhote groups of the high Himalayas 
— among whom the mountaineering Sherpa have attracted the attention 
of the outside world — although clearly related physically and culturally 
to the Tibetans, have developed regional distinctions among themselves. 
"Bhote" is also a generic term, applied to persons of Tibetan culture 
and Mongoloid physical type. As used by the Pahari and the Newar it 
has a pejorative connotation and may be applied to any non-Hindu 
of Mongoloid appearance (see fig. 7). 

An extraordinarily complex terrain has contributed to the human 
complexity. The deeply cut valleys and high ridges of the Himalayan 
massif, in which the northern three-fourths of the country lies, have 
tended to divide the various ethnic populations themselves into many 



small, isolated and relatively self-sufficient communities. Travel is still 
largely over footpaths following the generally north to south meander- 
ings of the principal river systems. East and west movement, except 
in the lowlands of the Tarai, is made difficult by the prevailing direction 
of the mountain ridges. The regionalizing effect of the terrain is apparent 
in the predominantly Indian character of the Tarai, which is an exten- 
sion of the Gangetic Plain; in the clustering of Tibetan-related lan- 
guages and local cultures in the northern and eastern part of the country 
and of Indian-derived patterns in the west and south; and in the his- 
toric distinctiveness and relative isolation of the central valley enclave 
of Katmandu. Finally, the nature of the landscape has led to a vertical 
as well as a lateral sorting of the population, with most of the ethnic 
groups characteristically being found at particular altitudes. Sub- 
sistence pattern is evidently the determining factor, and the distribu- 
tion ranges from the Indians of the Tarai, who cultivate irrigated rice 
on the Gangetic Plain, to the Sherpa, whose dry fields and pastures are 
often at 10,000 feet and above. 

Historical origin and continued linguistic and cultural connections 
make it possible to classify most ethnic groups into two categories: 
Indo-Nepalese and Tibeto-Nepalese. The Indo-Nepalese category, 
which includes the Pahari, the Indians of the Tarai, the Newar and the 
Tharu, comprises perhaps 7.8 million persons, or nearly 80 percent of 
the total population. Of these four Indo-Nepalese groups, the Pahari 
was by far the largest, numbering more than 4 million in 1954, accord- 
ing to the last ethnic census data available. Although found throughout 
the country, the bulk of the Indo-Nepalese population is located in the 
Tarai and the Katmandu Valley. Most of the principal Tibeto-Nepalese 
groups — the Tamang, Rai, Limbu, Bhote and Sunwar — live in the north 
and east, although the Magar and Gurung are found in west-central 
Nepal. Only three, the Tamang, Magar and Rai, exceeded 200,000 
persons in 1954, whereas the Sunwar numbered about 17,000. It seems 
probable, however, that the peoples on the northern rim of the country — 
the Bhote, in particular — were underestimated in the 1952-54 census, 
no actual count having been made in that area. 

It is the Tibeto-Nepalese groups — particularly the Magar, Gurung 
and Rai — who have supplied the bulk of the famous Gurkha contingents 
to the British and Indian armies, although their ranks have been aug- 
mented from the Thakuri and Chetri castes of the Indo-Nepalese Pahari. 
Not an ethnic designation, the term "Gurkha" derives from the name 
of the former Kingdom of Gorkha, west of the Katmandu Valley (see 
ch. 2, Historical Setting; ch. 22, The Armed Forces). 

The royal house of Nepal is Thakuri, and the Chetri caste supplied 
the Rana line of hereditary prime ministers who ruled the country for 
a hundred years until 1951, when the royal authority was restored. 


Nearly half of the estimated 480,000 inhabitants of the Katmandu 
Valley in 1963 were Pahari, and a large proportion of the wealthiest, 
best educated and politically most influential persons in the country 
came from the highest castes of this group. Most of the other half of 
the population of the Katmandu Valley consisted of the Newar. Known 
today for their business acumen and handicraft skills, the Newar de- 
veloped a high degree of civilization in the Valley long before the 
Pahari conquest in the eighteenth century. They are interesting as a 
people of Mongoloid-North Indian ancestry, Tibetan-related speech, and 
mixed Buddhist-Hindu religious orientation, whose Hinduization over 
the centuries places them with the Pahari in the Indo-Nepalese category 
(see table 2). 

Table 2. Principal Ethnic Groups of Nepal, 1952-54 

Ethnic groups 

Pahari (also called Kha, Khasa, Khasiya, Khosh, Parbate, Parbatiya 

Indians of the Tarai (various caste groups of northern India) 

Tamang (also called Murmi, Lama, Dhamang) 



Magar (also called Mangar, Tshong) 

Rai (also called Jimdar, Kiranti, Kirat, Kirata)' 

Gurung (also called Tshong) 

Limbu (also called Yakthuniba, Subbha, Kirat, Kirata, Kiranti, 


Bhote (also called Bhotea, Bhotia, Bhotiya)^ 

Sunwar (also called Sunuwar) 

Other groups, including Rajbansi, Satar, Chepang, Danuwar, Majhi, 

Jhangar Kumkale, Darai, Jirel, Byansi, Raji and others^ 




Total . 


' The Rai, Limbu, Thami and Dhimal groups all speak languages classed as Kiranti. The smaller 
Thami and Dhimal groups have been added to the larger Rai and Limbu groups, respectively. 

- The Bhote groups include the well-known Sherpa and the smaller Thakali group. 

3 Although most of these groups are found primarily in the Tarai Regions, several of them 
(Danuwar, Majhi, Jirel, Byansi and Darai) live mainly or in considerable numbers in the mountain 
regions of eastern Nepal. The Darai and the Byansi, on the other hand, are found in the Western 
Mountain Region, probably in areas bordering on the Tarai. 

Source: Adapted from Nepal, Department of Statistics, Census of Population, Nepal, 1952/64 
A.D., table 10. 

Although many members of the Tibeto-Nepalese groups, especially 
among the Gurung, Magar and Rai, have adopted Hindu religious 
beliefs and practices, these peoples remain basically Buddhist. A sizable 
and growing percentage of the Tibeto-Nepalese groups reportedly can 
speak Nepali, and probably a majority of them have some knowledge 
of the language. Slowly and unevenly these peojiles are being drawn 
into a national framework of thought and activity by the development 
of public education, the extension of trade and the operation of the 


panchayat system. There are no signs, however, that basic ethnic iden- 
tities are disappearing, and all of these peoples preserve their Tibeto- 
Burman languages and dialects and their traditional culture. None, 
as a group at least, has adopted the Hindu caste system, although the 
dominant Pahari and Newar tend to regard the Tibeto-Nepalese groups 
as so many unitary castes and to rank them below themselves. 

Most of the languages spoken in the country belong either to the Indo- 
European family, represented in India by Hindi among others, or to 
the Tibeto-Burman family, of which Tibetan is a member. The speakers 
of the Nepalese languages of these two families, except for the Newar, 
fall into the Indo-Nepalese and the Tibeto-Nepalese ethnic categories, 
respectively. A third speech family, the Austro-Asiatic of India, is also 
thought to be represented by the languages of several Indo-Nepalese 
groups. Local isolation has produced marked dialect differences within 
particular languages and, within a given ethnic group, speech may vary 
widely from one area to another. 

Nepali, with a number of related Indian languages, had historical 
connections with Sanskrit. It is the mother tongue of the numerically 
and politically dominant Pahari and the official language of the nation. 
Its use by the Pahari makes it the first language of about half of the 
total population, and the estimated 13 percent in other groups through- 
out the country who had some knowledge of it in 1954 has undoubtedly 
increased. This trend will continue with the growth of the public school 
system, in which Nepali is the basic medium of instruction. Moreover, 
there appears to have been some tendency for non-Pahari communities 
in predominantly Pahari areas to abandon their own speech for Pahari, 
as appears to be the case with the Magar. The Newar of the Katmandu 
Valley, however, provide an example of a group which determinedly 
has preserved its own language though it has accepted Nepali for use 
in the community at large. It seems probable that a similar pattern will 
prevail among the other principal non-Pahari groups for the indefinite 


The census of 1952-54 listed 30 languages and dialects and 5 regional 
groups of local dialects. Of the total, however, about 20 languages were 
spoken by fewer than 1,000 persons each. Three great language fam- 
ilies are thought to be represented in the country: Indo-European, 
Tibeto-Burman and Austro-Asiatic. Little research has been done on 
the indigenous languages, however, and classification of many of them 
remains tentative (see table 3). 

The most widely spoken languages belong to the Indo-Aryan branch 
of the Indo-European family. They include Eastern Pahari, or Nepali, 
five regional groupings of local dialects found in the Tarai, and five 


languages spoken by the Indians of the Tarai: Hindi, Bengali, Urdu, 
Bhojpuri and Maithili. While all of these languages are related to each 
other, they are not all mutually inteUigible. The Tibeto-Burman lan- 
guages include Magar, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Sunwar, Tamang, Newari 
and a number of Bhote dialects, including Sherpa and Thakali. Dhimal, 
Hayu and Thami appear to be closely related to Limbu and Rai, but 
some authorities suggest connections with the Munda branch of the 
Austro-Asiatic family. Munda languages are spoken mainly in the 
tribal areas of the Indian States of Orissa, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. 
In Nepal, these languages are thought to include Chepang, Danuwar, 
Darai, Kumkale, Jirel and Jhangar, spoken mainly by small groups 
in the Tarai. 

Table 3. Languages of Nepal by Percentage of the National Population, 1952-54 






Maithili Pradesh dialects 2 . . . 


Eastern Tarai dialects 2 





Midwestern Tarai dialects 2 . . 




Morang Pradesh dialects ^ . . . 


Bhote (including Sherpa and 



Far Western Tarai dialects 2 . 

Rajbansi (Tajpori) 









Other languages, including 
Majhi, Dhimal, Jhangar, 
Kumkale, Thakali, Darai, 
Jirel, Byansi, Raji and 



1 Figures do not total because of rounding. 

^ The dialects were not further identified by the census, as the respondents merely identified their 
form of speech as "the local language," and hence the dialects were simply grouped by the region 
in which they were spoken. 

Source: Adapted from Nepal, Department of Statistics, Census of Population, Sepal, 1952/64 
A.D., table 11. 

The languages of the north and east belong predominantly to the 
Tibeto-Burman family. Aside from the speculative Munda connection, 
the Kiranti languages of eastern Nepal — Limbu, Rai, Dhimal, Thami 
and Hayu — which seem to be related to the Lepcha language of Sikkim, 
are generally considered to be Tibeto-Burman. Newari likewise is com- 
monly placed in the Tibeto-Burman family, but some authorities sug- 
gest that it may be derived from an early language of India which 
subsequently was influenced by both Tibeto-Burman and Indo-European 


The south and west are areas of Indo-European speech. A few Austro- 
Asiatic enclaves, with tentative connections with languages of this 
family in India, are present but the number of speakers is small. Nepali 
is the dominant language of the Western Mountain, the Eastern Moun- 
tain and the Eastern Inner Tarai Regions. Many people in the Kat- 
mandu Valley and in both of the Inner Tarai Regions also speak it. 
Only in the Tarai itself does it occupy a relatively minor position as a 
first language. In the Western Inner Tarai and Far Western Tarai 
Regions more than half of the people speak Tharuhati, the Hindi- 
influenced language of the Tharu. Newari is the native tongue of more 
than half of the population of the Katmandu Valley. In the Eastern 
and Midwestern Tarai Regions a number of Indian languages and 
dialects are spoken, none clearly overshadowing the others. 

The Pahari dialects, of which Nepali is one, fall into three main divi- 
sions, Eastern, Central and Western. Eastern Pahari, officially known 
as Nepali, is also called Parbatiya-bhasha (language of the mountain 
people), Khaskura (language of the Kha), or Gurkhali or Gorkhali 
(from the ancient Kingdom of Gorkha). Western Pahari is represented 
by a number of local dialects in Kashmir. Central Pahari is found in 
the Far Western Region of Nepal, but it centers in the mountain areas 
of Uttar Pradesh in India. Eastern Pahari differs from Central and 
Western Pahari mainly in having been more strongly influenced by 
Tibeto-Burman languages. Nepali, or Eastern Pahari, is reported to 
have three main subdialects, but detailed information about them is 

Although the principal languages are centered in particular regions, 
speakers of most of them may be encountered in various parts of the 
country, especially in the larger towns. Nepali, long before it acquired 
its status as the official national language, was employed as a lingua 
franca by members of the different speech communities in their dealings 
with each other, and the knowledge of it is spreading. There are indi- 
cations that in some ethnic communities it is actually displacing other 

Of the indigenous languages, only Pahari and Newari have developed 
a literature of their own, both using scripts derived from Sanskrit. 
The Limbu have a script, which they reportedly are trying to revive 
after a long period of disuse. A Limbu chronicle and other works in 
this script are said to have been destroyed during the Pahari conquest, 
and none have since come to light. Most of the people in the north are 
adherents of Buddhism of the Tibetan type, and many have some knowl- 
edge of the Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan. 


A number of small Pahari kingdoms, or principalities, appear to have 


been established in the valleys of western Nepal before the third cen- 
tury. Much earlier, however, a Tibeto-Burman-spcaking people, the 
Kirata, had settled in the Katmandu Valley. Their origin and history 
are unclear. According to one hypothesis, they were displaced in the 
Katmandu Valley in the sixth century by another Tibeto-Burman-speak- 
ing group, the Newar. Some authorities place the arrival of the Newar — 
whose origins are no less problematical than those of the Kirata — 
centuries later. In any event the early inhabitants of the Valley came 
to be called Newar. By the beginning of the Christian era the Newar, 
who had adopted Buddhism, had developed an advanced civilization. 
Thereafter, political i)ower passed to a succession of Indian rulers who 
progressively Hinduized the Valley. The Newar adopted the caste sys- 
tem of their conquerors, but they retained their language and preserved 
their cultural identity in a synthesis of Hinduism and their earlier 
Buddhist belief. In the course of this development the Katmandu Valley 
was more or less continuously in contact with the centers of Indian 
civilzation to the south, but a period of vassalage to Tibet exposed it to 
cultural influences from that quarter as well (see ch. 2, Historical 
Setting) . 

Outside the Katmandu Valley the complex Nepalese terrain was 
contributing to the ethnic complexity of a slowly growing population 
of varied origins. The Tarai, as a part of the Gangetic Plain, presented 
no obstacles to the entry of Indians seeking new land, and it became 
virtually a cultural extension of India. To the west, the advancing 
Pahari gradually established themselves in the lower and more fertile 
valleys, leaving the high, northern fringe to scattered groups of Tibeto- 
Burman-speaking Bhote peoples. Finally penetrating central Nepal, 
some of the Pahari were drawn into the comparatively urban complex 
of Katmandu. In the central region they also met and mingled or fought 
with groups whose Tibeto-Burman speech and Mongoloid physical type 
suggest ancient connections with the peoples of the Asian mountain 
lands to the north and east. These peoples predominated in the east and 
north and, in contrast to the Hindu-Indian affiliations of the Pahari, 
their closest connections were with the cultures of Tibet and the sub- 
Himalayan areas to the east. The basic pattern of ethnic distribution 
which emerged from this history of migration, conquest and settlement — 
an Indo-Nepalese west and south and a Tibeto-Nepalese north and east 
— still persists, although it is increasingly being complicated by con- 
tinued movement and mingling of the population (see table 4). 


The larger Indo-Nepalese groups — the Pahari, the Newar and the 
Indians of the Tarai — are organized into hereditary castes. Associated 
with particular occupations and ordered in a hierarchy of ritual purity 



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and social prestige, they range from the priestly Brahmans and the 
warrior Kshatriyas at the top to the untouchables at the bottom. Caste 
obligations and privileges and the regulations designed to protect high 
caste individuals from ritual defilement by contact with members of the 
lower castcis are based on the Vedic dhariyiashastras and other Hindu 
religious texts. Until 1963 this body of customary rules was sanctioned 
by the legal code (Mulki Ain) of the kingdom. In that year, however, 
a new code came into effect which prohibited all legal discrimination on 
the basis of caste, abolished the laws sanctioning untouchability, and 
permitted intercaste marriages. These provisions, which were drafted 
at the behest of the King, were aimed, not at the abolition of the caste 
system by fiat, but at the promotion of social harmony by making all 
Nepalese subjects equal before the law. 

Caste in Nepal has been neither as universal in its extension nor as 
comprehensive in its sanction as in India, where it originated. Un- 
doubtedly, many of the attitudes, values and patterned relationships 
implicit in the caste system will persist in large segments of the popu- 
lation. Caste, however, can be expected in the course of time to lose 
its traditional mandatory force in the regulation of group and personal 

Caste membership is acquired by birth and in theory cannot be 
changed. People ideally marry only within their caste, but men may 
marry women of lower caste, provided the difference is not great. These 
marriages usually are not conducted with full religious ceremonies, and 
the offspring of such unions generally have lower status than the father. 

In the Hindu system in India, castes {jati in Hindi; jatiya in Nepali) 
are grouped into five broad categories. Four of these categories in 
descending order of rank are the ritually clean vama (in Sanskrit, 
literally color or sort) of Brahmans, or priests; Kshatriya, or nobles; 
Vaishya, or merchants and farmers; and Shudra, or artisans and laborers. 
The fifth category comprises the ritually unclean achut, or untouch- 
ables. The four vama and the untouchable group are divided into 
thousands of castes and subcastes. In contrast to these five categories, 
however, which are represented throughout the subcontinent, the castes 
are essentially regional groups of persons whose shared indentity is based 
not only on ritual status, occupational specialization and caste name, 
but often on a claim of descent from a remote common ancestor. Castes 
tend to fragment into local subcastes in which marriage within the group 
adds the uniting force of actual kin ties. 

The castes within each of the four vama tend to be ranked among 
themselves on a scale of ritual purity. Such ranking appears to vary 
locally, and a given caste may have higher or lower status in different 
places relative to others in its vama. Such refinements of grading 
develop in the interaction of the castes in a particular area, and they 


reflect social, economic and political differences in the circumstances 
of the castes of the same varna in different localities. 

The untouchables have traditionally engaged in occupations asso- 
ciated with filth, blood and death. Ranked below all the other castes, 
they are considered to be outside the varna system and are sometimes 
called "outcastes." They are organized into ranked castes, but from 
the viewpoint of the members of the four clean varna, they are all 

In Nepal the traditional Hindu scheme of four varna and an un- 
touchable category is fully realized only among the Newar and the 
Indians of the Tarai. By contrast, only the two highest varna — Brah- 
man and Kshatriya — and the untouchables 'are present among the 
Pahari. Moreover, the social practices surrounding untouchability are 
generally milder than has been traditional in India — especially in South 
India, where in some localities untouchables have been forbidden to 
come within a certain distance of high-caste persons. 

Since castes do not function independently but only in relation to 
other castes in a scheme of ritual and occupational interdependence, 
the castes in each local area constitute a more or less autonomous sys- 
tem. A rural Pahari community, for example, may include various castes 
of Brahmans, Kshatriya and untouchables. Depending upon their caste, 
the Brahmans appear both as priests and landlords and as peasant 
farmers. The Kshatriya castes include landlords, landowning farmers 
and tenant cultivators. Blacksmithing, carpentry, barbering, farm labor, 
scavenging and other tasks traditionally regarded as menial or defiling 
are performed by the various untouchable castes. 


The Pahari, or Parbate (literally, "people of the mountains"), are 
predominantly North Indian in physical type with some increment or 
Mongoloid traits derived from mixture with such groups as the Magar 
and Gurung. They are divided into the high "clean" or "twice-born" 
castes (Khasiya) and the low "unclean" or "polluting" castes (Dom). 
The Khasiya castes comprise the Brahman or Kshatriya varna. The 
term "Khasiya" or "Kha," however, often refers restrictively to the 
high castes of the hills, most of whom are of the Kshatriya varna. 
The Brahmans have three castes: Upadhyaya, Kumai and Jaisi; the 
Kshatriya have four: Thakur, Chetri, Khatri and Hamal. The Jaisi 
are peasant farmers and, unlike the Upadhyaya and Kumai Brahmans, 
perform only limited priestly functions; some engage in astrology and 
fortunetelling. The untouchable Dom group includes such occupa- 
tional castes as Sarkhi (leatherworkers), Kami (metalworkers), Damai 
(tailors and musicians), Hurkiya (drummers), Kusule (sweepers and 
musicians) and Sunar (goldsmiths) . The Nepalese Pahari received 


influxes of high-caste refugees from India during the Moslem invasions of 
North India (eleventh through sixteenth centuries), and following the 
conquest of the Newar kingdoms of the Katmandu Valley were in close 
contact with the important urban centers of North India. It is highly 
probable, tiiercfore, that the traditions of the Pahari living in and around 
Katmandu Valley are more comparable to the customs of Indians living 
on the Gangetic Plain than are those of their rural counterparts in 
western Nepal. 

The majority of the Pahari belong to the Khasiya category. High- 
caste status in itself does not bring wealth, and most of the Khasiya 
are small landowning farmers, growing rice, barley, wheat and corn, 
and raising a few animals. The members of the smaller but still sizable, 
Dom group support themselves by handicraft skills, menial services and 
farm labor on the iioldings of high-caste farmers. All the castes needed 
to carry out the work of the rural community are not usually present 
in a single village but are apt to be distributed in a number of adjacent 
villages, which become linked by ties of economic, ritual and social 
interdependence. Such ties tend to be reinforced by the fact that men 
must normally seek brides from outside their village, since their own 
local caste group is apt to consist of no more than a few closely related 
families. Brahmans may take Kshatriya wives and there is some inter- 
marriage across ethnic lines, but the normal pattern is to marry within 
one's caste and ethnic group. 

The Pahari household ideally consists of a man, his wife, their un- 
married children and married sons with their wives and children. The 
adult males of this group own property in common, although the father 
exercises authority and control over it and over the earnings of all 
members of the family. This extended family household usually breaks 
up upon the death of the father, since the eldest brother cannot compel 
younger brothers to remain if they wish to claim their share of the 
estate and set up on their own. Brothers sometimes continue to reside 
together under the leadership and authority of the eldest. In the next 
generation, however, the family household is dissolved and the joint 
estate is usually divided among the grandsons of the original head of 
the family, who then establish their own households. 

Women of all castes make an important economic contribution to their 
families through their activities in agriculture and animal husbandry 
as well as through their duties in the home, and, in general, their status 
is somewhat higiier than that traditionally accorded women in Hindu 
India. At marriage the family of the bridegroom bears the expenses of 
the wedding and formerly gave, and in some areas still gives, an agreed- 
upon sum in to the family of the bride. The bride's family, how- 
ever, is expected to use the money it receives to pay for entertaining 
the wedding guests. 


In contrast, the Hindu Indian custom is for the bride's family to 
provide a dowry for the daughter and pay the wedding expenses, and 
many wealthy Indian Pahari families have adopted this practice. In 
and around Katmandu the practice of giving a bride-price appears to 
have been abandoned. A dowry, on the other hand, is usually not de- 
manded from the bride's family, although it generally pays for the 
expenses of the wedding. In western Nepal the traditional Pahari cus- 
tom of paying a bride-price probably persists, as it does among the 
Pahari in the neighboring mountain areas of India. Divorce, authorized 
by the new Mulki Ain, formerly had no legal sanction. Separated 
women, as well as widows, however, did form new unions. Among the 
rural Pahari, the widow who remarried ideally married her dead hus- 
band's younger brother. 

The "untouchable" Dom castes engage in a range of handicraft and 
service activities which in most of India would be occupations of the 
Shudra as well as of the untouchable castes. Among the Pahari the 
term "achut" (untouchable), which the high castes use to refer to the 
Dom, means that the high-caste person may not accept food or water 
from the untouchable and that members of the Dom group must not 
touch utensils and dishes of the high castes or cross the threshold of 
their houses. 

There are a number of other restrictions on the Dom which serve to 
continually remind them of their ritual impurity and low status, but 
some status distinctions existing among the Dom are recognized by the 
high castes. A Kami or a Damai, for example, is considered to be less 
defiling than a Sarki of a Pore. On the whole, there is a great deal of 
friendly, informal social intercourse in the villages between high-caste 
persons and the artisans of the Dom group. The demand for the services 
of the artisan generally extends beyond his own village, and he is likely 
to practice skills which theoretically belong to different castes. Each 
artisan or service caste member usually has a series of high-caste farm- 
ing families for whom he works, receiving in payment a fixed proportion 
of the harvest, the exact amount varying with the size of the house- 
hold or landholding of the farmer and the type of service performed, 
such as mending plows, butchering animals, playing drums at festivals, 
tailoring or cleaning. The arrangement is supposed to be a permanent 
one, but in practice there is a good deal of shifting from one high-caste 
patron to another. Dom families seldom own farmland, although they 
usually have the use of some land as tenants to supplement their small 
earnings from their traditional occupations. 


The Newar, who make up about half the population of the Katmandu 
Valley, have lived there for perhaps more than 15 centuries. Whatever 


their ultimate antecedents, which remain problematical, many of them 
are markedly Mongoloid in physical type, and they retain a language 
belonging to the Tibeto-Burman family. Although many Newar are 
farmers, their villages, with masonry dwellings of several stories, have 
a distinctly urban flavor. Their concentration in the Valley, their rela- 
tively high educational level and, since the fall of the Ranas, their 
economic prosperity are enabling them to play an important role in 
the civil and political life of the country. For example, the members of 
the Palace Secretariat since 1951 have been Newar. 

Long and intimate contact with Indian civilization, both directly 
in the Indo-Gangetic Plain and as mediated through the now dominant 
Pahari, has assimilated them to the Indo-Nepalese category without, 
however, destroying their cultural distinctiveness. At an early date they 
accepted Indian Buddhism and, somewhat later, Hinduism, the caste 
system and Hindu political ideas and organization. Fusing these Indian- 
derived features with elements of their own, they developed a high 
civilization with a distinctive literature, style of architecture, religion 
and decorative art. 

The Newar castes, Buddhist as well as Hindu, are no less pollution- 
conscious than the Pahari and the Indians. Caste endogamy, however, 
which has been one of the main methods of maintaining status in India, 
is not strictly observed in Nepal by either the Newar or the Pahari. 
The strictest rules governing the relations between members of different 
castes are those pertaining to comraensality. Boiled rice and dal (a sauce 
made of lentils), in particular, must not be accepted from a person of 
lower caste. Other rules furthef restrict social intercourse between the 
castes, but they tend to be treated more casually. 

Newar caste structure resembles more closely that of north India 
than that of the Pahari, in that all four varna (Brahman, Kshatriya, 
Vaishya and Shudra) and untouchables are represented. There are about 
70 Newar, Hindu and Buddhist castes. About 30 of these are reported 
to be untouchables. Most castes have specific religious duties and func- 
tions in the festivals as well as traditional occupational specializations. 
The division into Hindu and Buddhist castes has not been regarded by 
the Newar as a serious cleavage, since both groups share the same basic 
values and social practices and are in close accord in their underlying 
religious philosophy. Many Newar, in fact, participate in many of the 
observances of both religions. 

The two highest Buddhist castes, the Gubhaju and Bare, which cor- 
respond to the Brahman castes of the Hindu section, are composed of 
the lineages and families descended from Buddhist monks who some 
centuries ago, under Hindu influence and pressure, dropped the rule of 
celibacy. The married monastics continued living in religious com- 
munities and their descendants are now divided into a number of partly 


Active descent groups, each living in a cluster of buildings grouped 
around a central courtyard, from which they continue to carry out their 
traditional religious functions for the Buddhist section of the community. 
A subgroup of the Bare, the Sakya, traditionally engaged in the produc- 
tion of sacred objects and the building and repair of temples, are en- 
joying prosperity by producing art objects for the tourist trade. 

Apparently there are no Kshatriya castes in the Buddhist section, 
although the Shresta, or Sheshyo, may have held this status at the time 
when Newar kings ruled the Katmandu Valley. Since the Gurkha con- 
quest, however, the Shresta have been generally considered to belong 
to the Vaishya varna. Although most Shresta think of themselves as 
Hindus and employ Brahman family priests, there is a sizable group 
of Buddhist Shresta living in Katmandu as well as smaller groups in 
other parts of the Valley. Buddhist Shresta who have become wealthy 
have tended to turn from Buddhist to Brahman priests, although this 
tendency is perhaps being affected by the recent resurgence of Newar 
interest in Buddhism reported by some observers. Also in the Vaishya 
varna is the Uda, or Urha, caste — which has traditionally engaged in 
trade with Tibet, maintaining a small colony in Lhasa and adopting 
Tibetan religion and customs — and a number of artisan castes — carpen- 
ters, bakers, coppersmiths, stonemasons and tilemakers. 

At the bottom of the ritually clean category is the Shudra varna. It 
comprises the rural caste of agriculturalists (Jyapu) and a number of 
artisan groups, such as lime quarriers, cloth dyers, oil pressers, black- 
smiths, painters and barbers. Of these artisan castes the barbers have 
the highest rank and enjoy certain ritual privileges which the others do 
not have. Below all these are the untouchable occupational castes of 
butchers, leatherworkers, fishermen, sweepers, charcoalers, drum makers, 
musicians and washermen. 

The highest caste of the Hindu section, the Deo Brahmans, were the 
family priests of the Malla kings, who reigned in the Valley before the 
Gurkha conquest. Below them are the Jha Brahmans, who have less 
important religious functions and do not act as family priests. Tradi- 
tionally, at least, neither caste married Nepali-speaking Pahari Brah- 

Below the Brahman varna is a large caste of heterogenous origins, 
the Shresta, which is divided not only into Hindu and Buddhist sections 
but also into subgroups of different status. These subgroups do not 
appear to constitute actual subcastes since they intermarry and accept 
food from each other. Although most Shresta, both Hindu and Buddhist, 
are commonly held to be Vaishya, some Hindu Shresta clan groups — 
Malla, Pradhan and Rajbandari — are universally recognized as Ksha- 
triya. These three clans are often considered to constitute a distinct 
caste, although they continue to eat with and marry other Shresta of 


somewhat lower status. Conversely, the lowest Shresta subgroups will 
sometimes accejit husbands, as well as wives, from the Jyapu and other 
pastes of the Shudra varjui. The only untouchable caste that might be 
considered Hindu rather than Buddhist is that of the tailor-musicians 

A considerable number of Newar have settled outside the Katmandu 
Valley. Some of these enclaves have abandoned Newari for Nepali, 
given up the caste system, ceased to observe many Newar customs and, 
retaining their Newar identity, have intermarried with other ethnic 
groups. On the other hand, where the Newar outside the Valley form 
compact communities in administrative and trading centers, they re- 
tain their traditional culture and social organizations, and they marry 
only within their own group. 


The largest of a number of little-known ethnic groups in the Nepalese 
Tarai is the Tharu, who are also found in the Tarai region of Uttar 
Pradesh, west of Nepal. Those in Nepal w^ere enumerated at more than 
300,000 in the census of 1952-54. Two groups, the Bhoksa in the west 
and the Mechi in the east, appear to belong to this ethnic group. Their 
cultural patterns in the last century were said to resemble those of tribal 
groups in the Bihar State of India. The little information available on 
the Tharu in Nepal today suggests that, like those in Uttar Pradesh, 
they have been increasingly subject to Hindu influences. 

The Tharu apparently have largely abandoned their earlier pattern 
of shifting cultivation for wet-rice agriculture with the result that most 
of their scattered villages have become permanent settlements. Each 
house in a village is usually set apart from the others by its surrounding 
fields. Villagers are united by close ties of kinship and each settlement 
is a tightly knit social unit of cooperation and mutual obligation. 

The village has a council which arbitrates disputes and a headman 
who collects taxes and rents, paying them either directly to a govern- 
ment tax office or to a tax concessionaire who may have a government 
contract to collect taxes in more than one village. The headman usually 
has a messenger to assist him, who also acts as a sort of town crier. Most 
villages also have a shaman who propitiates and exorcises evil spirits, 
sacrifices to the gods (who include Hindu deities and Moslem saints 
as well as indigenous gods) and prescribes herbal and magical remedies 
for the sick (see ch. 9, Religion). 

Originally, the Tharu were organized into endogamous units {kuri) , 
which were divided into two groups of unequal status. In recent years, 
however, in India and presumably in Nepal the higher status group 
has begun claiming royal descent from Rajput, or Thakur, ancestors, 
who allegedly intermarried with the Tharu after their flight from the 


Moslem conquerors of northern India. The group of lower status has 
not attempted to claim royal descent and its members call themselves 
simply "Thakur" rather than "Rana (royal) Thakur." Neither group 
should be confused with the Pahari Thakuri caste. While the superior 
group, the Rana Thakur, has become a single endogamous unit, the 
lower group has retained its separate endogamous kuri. 

Indians of the Tarai 

Little detailed information on the Indian-derived majority of the 
inhabitants of the Nepalese Tarai is available. Although most of this 
group are Nepalese nationals, they are culturally and linguistically part 
of the larger jiopulation of the adjacent north Indian plain of which the 
region is a geographic extension. Indeed, many villages straddle the 
international boundary, and, with the difficulty of communications with 
the interior of Nepal, the Tarai continues to be socially and economi- 
cally oriented to the neighboring areas of the Indian states of West 
Bengal, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. 

Most of the country's small Moslem population is concentrated in 
the Eastern and Midwestern Tarai. The few Buddhists in the area are 
found mainly in the east. The castes of the Nepalese Tarai are those 
familiar in adjacent parts of India, and significantly few of them are 
i:)resent elsewhere in Nepal. 


Along the northern edges of the Tarai, the Gangetic Plain gives way 
to the foothills of the Himalayas, the Siwalik Range and the Mahab- 
harat Lekh. Various small ethnic groups inhabit the dense, malaria- 
infested monsoon jungles of the area. They include such groups as the 
Darai, Rajbansi, Chepang, Ksunda, Kumba, Majhi, Raji, Satar, Jirel 
and Byansi. These peoples who formerly lived as small bands of hunters 
and gatherers have not been studied in this century, and it is not known 
how many remain. Some, such as the Rajbansi, who are also found in 
the Darjeeling District of West Bengal and in Sikkim, are said to be 
related to peoples in Assam. Probably many of these groups in the 
Tarai practice slash-and-burn agriculture, shifting their settlements 
periodically when the fertility of the land is exhausted. Presumably, 
many of them speak Austro-Asiatic languages, particularly those be- 
longing to the Munda branch of that family. Some, however, such as 
the Byansi, speak Tibeto-Burman languages. They have long been sub- 
ject to the influence of the predominantly Hindu culture of the Tarai, 
and this process can be expected to continue. 


The Tibeto-Nepalese category includes both indigenous and recently 
arrived i)eoi)les. The Tamang, Magar, Rai, Gurung, Sunwar and Limbu 


have occupied the valleys of eastern and central Nepal for centuries; 
some of the Bhote, or Bhotiya (from the Tibetan name for Tibet), in 
the high Himalayas on the country's northern border have come from 
Tibet in modern times. In 1961 the whole category may have numbered 
about 2 million — roughly 20 percent of the total population. The Tibeto- 
Nepalese groups range in size from the Tamang, with an estimated 
500,000 persons, to the Sunwar, with perhaps no more than 20,000. Al- 
though the various groups are concentrated in particular areas, indi- 
viduals and small comnmnities of most of them are found in many parts 
of the country. They are predominantly subsistence farmers and stock- 
laisers, and those in the high altitudes of the north live a seminomadic 
existence, seasonally pasturing their herds at higher and lower eleva- 

There has been some ethnically based political sentiment among them, 
as in the case of the long semiautonomous Kiranti (Rai and Limbu) in 
the east. The linguistic and cultural similarities among the various 
Tibeto-Nepalese groups are too general, however, to give the whole 
category any real sense of common ethnic identity. They speak a num- 
ber of related but mutually unintelligible languages, many of which are 
complicated by dialect divisions. The majority adhere to a Tibetan- 
derived Buddhism but many have been Hinduized by contact with the 
Indo-Nepalese, and a locally varied shamanism, which persists along- 
side their more formal religious beliefs, further reduces the force of 
religion as a unifying bond. All of these groups, even in their areas of 
greatest concentration, are scattered in numerous self-sufficient rural 
communities in which the strongest ties are those of kinship and locality. 

Many of the Tibeto-Nepalese groups, such as the Gurung, Tamang, 
Sunwar, Rai and Limbu, retain vestiges of a social division of the 
Tibetan type into aristocrats and commoners. Formerly, the aristoc- 
racy did not intermarry with commoners and constituted a landowning 
elite of officials and priests. The aristocrats generally retained their 
local preeminence for some time after the Gurkha conquest in the 
eighteenth century, frecjuently becoming unofficial agents of the new 
dynasty as tax collectors and custodians of public order. The Tibeto- 
Nepalese aristocracies still enjoy a favored economic position, but their 
hereditary privileges have increasingly been challenged by commoners 
returning from service in Gurkha regiments with pensions and savings 
which have enabled them to acquire land and influence in their com- 


The Tamang are divided into named patrilineal exogamous clans, 
some of which consider themselves to be related by descent from a re- 
mote common ancestor. Intermarriage between these brother-clans is 


not permitted on the ground that it would be incestuous. There is also 
a status division between clans which have married only into other 
Tamang and Sherpa clans and those which have intermarried with 
Newar, Gurung and Magar. The two divisions of the Tamang normally 
do not intermarry. 

The Tamang live in villages composed of several hamlets, the inhabi- 
tants of each of which apparently belong to a separate lineage. In areas 
where the Tamang are the predominant ethnic group, each clan has 
rights over certain areas of untaxed land which is owned in common 
(kipat) by clan members. Depending upon the size of the village, there 
may be more than one muhni (headman, or tax collector) whose office 
rotates among the householders of the clan owning the kipat in the 
village. The muhni is responsible not only for collecting land taxes but 
for controlling the village forest and for arbitrating disputes. 

In addition to the muhni, each village has a dhami, or priest, who 
normally belongs to the clan of the village founder and who conducts 
the seasonal agricultural rites and offers sacrifices to the deities and 
spirits. In a village containing several clans, each clan may have a 
dhami to conduct rites in honor of its ancestors and often to act as 
shaman to contact the gods and spirits. The larger villages in predomi- 
nantly Tamang areas also have Buddhist temples (ghyang) , which are 
similar to the Sherpa and Tibetan gompa. Occasionally, there are small 
monasteries of celibate monks and perhaps a few nuns. 

In areas where the are in the minority and particularly in the hills 
surrounding the Katmandu Valley, the Tamang 'have become tenant 
farmers, day laborers and porters, carrying trade goods. In these areas 
of mixed population, where the Tamang live among Pahari and Newar 
castes, they are gradually assuming the character of a caste of low 
economic and ritual status, although they appear to retain their Buddhist 


The Magar are most numerous in the mountains of central Nepal 
but they are also found in other parts of the country, particularly the 
east. Some of the more northern Magar, though retaining their Magar 
identity and regarding themselves as superior to their Tibetan neigh- 
bors, have adopted Tibetan speech and dress. In this, and in their 
adherence to Lamaist Buddhism, they contrast with the Magar farther 
south who have been subject to strong Hindu influences. These Magar 
communities, long in contact with the Indo-Nepalese, have accepted 
Hindu religious beliefs and i^ractices in varying degree and been drawn 
into the caste system. Nepali has become the first language of many. 

Ties of kinship and marriage connect neighboring Magar villages, and 
clan membership acts to extend the sense of group identity beyond the 


village coininunity. As in earlier times, the patrilineal Magar clans 
are a})parently divided into high and low status groups. Some Magar, 
however, claim that the clans are all of equivalent status. Marriage 
between members of the same clan does not seem to be prohibited so 
long as the couple is not of the same lineage. The landowning unit 
appears to be the nuclear or the extended family. There are some land- 
less families, however, who support themselves by sharecropping and 
day labor. Others engage in craft skills, mining and, in the north, the 
salt trade and pastoralism. 


The largest Tibeto-Nepalese group in eastern Nepal is the Rai, and 
Rai are also found farther east in India, Sikkim and Bhutan. In Nepal 
the group contains two major divisions, the Khambu and Yakha, both 
of which are organized into patrilineal clans and lineages. Linguisti- 
cally, the Rai are commonly grouped with the Limbu, Thami and Dhimal 
as speakers of Kiranti dialects. 

Much of the little known about the Rai relates to those who have 
emigrated from Nepal to work in the tea gardens around Darjeeling in 
India. These people have adopted various Hindu social and religious 
elements as superior to their own. These borrowings, however, seem to 
have augmented rather than to have replaced their native customs. 
Among the Rai generally, whether Buddhist or Hindu, shamanism and 
the cult of lineage ancestors persist as an important form of religious 


The Gurung are organized into patrilineal, exogamous clans, divided 
into two groups of differing status — Charjat and Solahjat. Each of 
these two divisions, in theory, although no longer in fact, is endogamous 
and the group of lower status, the Solahjat, frequently intermarries 
with other ethnic groups as well as with the Charjat. The Charjat 
clans apparently are descended from a privileged class in early Gurung 
society, which comj^rised the royal lineage, high officials and hereditary 
priests. Until recently the largest landowners and the most important 
village officials were members of Charjat clans. Service in the Gurkha 
regiments as commissioned and nocommissioned officers has given many 
men of lower status Solahjat clans the means to acquire large landhold- 
ings and membership in the village councils. However, most village 
headmen still come from the Charjat clans, and Charjat continue to 
own most of the valuable irrigated riceland. Many of the Gurung de- 
pend more on animal husbandry than on agriculture for their subsistence, 
grazing their cattle on the communally owned mountain meadows in 
the summer and feeding them in winter in fields at lower elevations. 


Although a considerable portion of the Gurung are Lamaist Buddhists, 
many have adopted Hinduism. Probably shamanism persists among all 
of them. Gurung villages, .especially in the north, are reported to have 
women's clubs or dance houses, in which on suitable occasions the young 
people hold all-night parties, singing, dancing, smoking, eating, drinking 
and courting. It is probable that these clubs have been abandoned in 
the more Hinduized Gurung villages. The dance house institution is 
present among the Bhote, from whom it may have been borrowed, since 
the northernmost Gurung speak Bhote dialects as well as Gurung and 
closely resemble the Bhote in their pastoral way of life and religious 


The Sunwar patrilineal exogamous clans reportedly are divided into 
two groups of unequal status. The group of lower status, as among the 
Tamang, is said to be descended from marriages of Sunwar men with 
women of other ethnic groups. The higher status group presumably has 
married only into the other Sunwar clans. Further information is lack- 
ing, but the Sunwar apparently maintain close relations with the Gurung 
and Magar and share many of their social patterns. 


Relatively little has been reported about the Limbu. They speak a 
Kiranti language, as do the Rai, whom they also resemble in their organi- 
zation into exogamous patrilineal clans. Their villages lie to the east 
of the Rai toward the boundary with Sikkim and India, and reportedly 
there is some intermarriage between them and the Lepcha who have . 
come into the area from Sikkim. Intermarriage with the more Hindu- 
ized Rai is also common. The Limbu village is said generally to com- 
prise several lineages. Land seems to be held in common by extended 
kin groups under the kipat system, with individual families having use 
rights. In theory such holdings cannot be alienated, but they can be 
mortgaged, and it appears that among the Limbu this has led to the 
effective concentration of much of the land in the hands of a few head- 
men. The Limbu are said to maintain Buddhist lamaseries. Shamanism 
is also practiced, and the role of shaman is hereditary in certain lineages. 


Information about the Bhote groups, except for the Sherpa and the 
Thakali, is scanty. All apparently show the common Tibeto-Nepalese 
hereditary social dichotomy into high and low status divisions. Among 
the Sherpa, at least, the higher division is more numerous. The inferior 
division in all groups seems to be associated with tasks regarded as 
ritually dangerous or morally reprehensible, such as slaughtering ani- 


mals or disposing of the dead. In marriages between Bhote of different 
groups, the partners are expected to be of equivalent status. 

The patrilineal and exogamous clans of the Sherpa are not localized 
but are widely distributed over the Sherpa area. Neither a residential 
nor an economic unit, the clan is important as a device for regulating 
marriage, and it has some ceremonial functions, as when fellow clans- 
men in the same village pool their resources for a feast when they have 
brought their animals down to the main villages from the high pastures 
at the end of summer. 

The socially and ritually integrated community among the Sherpa 
is the main village with its Buddhist temple {gompa). Each family 
has its principal house here, but most also own smaller dwellings at 
higher and lower altitudes. During much of the year various members 
of any particular household are likely to be away from the main vil- 
lage, cultivating valley fields during the short growing period and tend- 
ing their herds at higher or lower pastures depending on the season. 
Households vary in composition from those consisting simply of the 
nuclear family to polygamous units based on marriages between a man 
and several women or a woman and several men (usually brothers). 
As sons marry, they usually receive a share of the family's property in 
land and animals and set up new households. The youngest son or, in 
the absence of a son, the youngest daughter inherits the residual estate 
and supports the aged parents. 

Differences in wealth among Sherpa villagers are considerable but, 
more than among the agricultural populations at lower altitudes, pres- 
tige depends not merely on wealth but on its conspicuous and socially 
meritorious expenditure. A rich man is expected to make donations to 
the goynpa, give alms to lamas or nuns, hire lamas to recite religious 
texts at funeral services, purification ceremonies and memorial rites for 
ancestors, build temples, stupas, prayer walls and provide feasts for 
fellow villagers and lamas. All this tends to redistribute the wealth 
acquired through trade and animal husbandry and prevent any perma- 
nent monopolization of resources and concentration of wealth. 

The small Thakali population, situated on the upper reaches of the 
Kali Gandaki River — south of Mustang, on one of the major trade 
routes between India and Tibet — has long been deeply involved in 
wholesale trade between the two countries and has thus been exposed 
to considerable Indian influence. The shrine Muktinath in their area 
is a sacred place for both major religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, 
although it seems originally to have been a Buddhist shrine. The 
Thakali are reported to have four named patrilineal exogamous clans. 
Four lineages of one of these clans living in the main town of Tukucha 
are said to monopolize the long-distance wholesale trade ; the remainder 


of the group engages mainly in farming and to a lesser degree in animal 

A tendency among the Thakali in the younger generation to turn 
away from the traditional Bhote culture and lamaist religion has been 
accentuated by the Indian education of a few and by influences from 
the Katmandu Valley. For many who have adopted it, Hinduism seems 
to mean little more than acceptance of the caste system, and, although 
Buddhist temples are allowed to fall into decay, Hindu temples are 
seldom built to replace them. The older people, who largely remain 
lamaist Buddhists, are said to lack the knowledge and training to defend 
their faith against either the indifference or the criticism of the young. 


The foreign community in 1963 consisted of perhaps a few thousand 
persons in the diplomatic and aid missions of various countries and 
specialized agencies of the United Nations and the small staffs of a few 
mission-supported schools and hospitals. The group included an un- 
known but sizable number of Indian advisers and technicians. Likewise 
unknown, but reportedly between 60 and 70 Chinese Communist engi- 
neers are directing the construction of the road running southwest from 
Kodari on the Tibetan border toward the Katmandu Valley. There 
has also been a growing number of tourists, mountaineers and scientific 
investigators from other countries. 

Until 1951, Nepal was closed to foreigners, except for the few who 
came by official invitation. There was, however, little possibility of 
controlling the entry of Indians and Tibetans into areas outside the 
Katmandu Valley. No data are available on the total number of alien 
Indians and Tibetans permanently residing in Nepal. Of the Indians, 
several thousand are said to be members of the Marwari caste engaged 
in trade and moneylending in the larger towns. About 7,000 refugees 
from Communist-controlled Tibet were living in small, scattered settle- 
ments, mainly along the northern border east of the Jumla area (see 
ch. 21, Public Order and Internal Security). 



Politically united in the late eighteenth century, Nepal remains 
socially diverse. Little, except the frequently remote authority of the 
royal government and limited trade relationships, exists to relate the 
various areas of the country and the numerous ethnic groups to each 
other. Even within a particular ethnic group an active sense of collec- 
tive identity hardly goes beyond the cluster of neighboring villages and, 
at most, as in the case of the Kiranti in the east, may extend throughout 
a region. Differences in economic circumstances provide a scale against 
which it is possible to classify the population into a small group of 
wealthy, a middling and also small group of the moderately prosperous, 
and the numerically predominant poor. On none of these levels, how- 
ever, would there be much, if any, sense of common interest or shared 
goals across ethnic or caste lines. 

The caste system, historically introduced from Hindu India by migra- 
tion and conquest, structures the social life of nearly 80 percent of the 
country's population, largely living in the south and west, and in the 
Katmandu Valley. By contrast, Buddhism and cultures of a sub-Tibetan 
type prevail in the north and east. These two patterns represent sig- 
nificantly different ways of life — one compartmentalized by caste, the 
other relatively uncomplicated by hereditary ranking, except in some 
groups by a simple division between aristocrats and commoners. Each 
dispensation, however, contains groups as different in language and 
tradition as the Hindu Pahari and Newa.'' or the Buddhist Bhote and 

Within the plural structure of the society, certain uniformities narrow 
the distance between one group and another. Thus, Hinduism and 
Buddhism provide common denominators of religious belief and prac- 
tice in different regions, and the mingling of the two — as among the 
Newar — has produced a distinctive synthesis. Nepali, the official na- 
tional language, is the first tongue of more than half of the population 
and a spreading second language among the remainder. The caste 
system, in which a sizable majority of the people are involved, fragmen- 
tizes the community into hereditary compartments of ritual and social 
status, but it is also associated with a shared body of religious belief and 
a normative set of premises about human relationships. Moreover, 
the numerically and politically dominant Hindu elements have tended 
to assign a place in the hierarchy of caste even to non-Hindu groups, 
many of whose members have been strongly Hinduized. Still another 
factor softening the sharpness of ethnic contrast is the similarity of 


family and community life throughout most of the country. Details 
differ, but in the agricultural villages — in which 97 percent of the 
population lives — the more or less extended family marks the perimeter 
of the strongest loyalty of the individual, and, for most, the widest field 
of social action is the local community. 

The emergence of an integrated structure of society implies, not the 
disappearance of ethnic difference, but the growth of social interaction 
and interdependence among the numerous ethnic and local groups into 
which the people are divided. Progress in this direction, until 1951 
inhibited by the defensively traditionalist policy of the Ranas, con- 
tinues to be complicated by caste and hindered by the Himalayan ter- 
rain, poor communications and an undeveloped economy. Change 
inevitably will be slow, but it is being accelerated by two dynamic 
factors: government action and influences from the outside world. The 
effect of both is to enlarge the areas of shared thought and experience 
in Nepalese life. 

The commitment of the government to the creation of a genuinely 
national society is stated exphcitly in the Constitution: 

It shall be the objective of the State to promote public welfare through the 
establishment of a just social system by bringing about, with a broad-based 
national outlook, the unification and assimilation of the interests of various 
classes and professions and by bringing about a uniformity in national life. 

The government effort, although slow, is broad in. scope, comprehending 
a wide range of political, economic and social measures. Thus, the 
panchayat system of government councils, established in 1960, was 
introduced to provide both a uniform apparatus of national and local 
administration and a training vehicle for popular participation in gov- 
ernment. The economic development envisaged in the Five-Year Plan 
and the Three-Year Plan is aimed not only at increasing the national 
income and raising the general standard of living but at ending regional 
and local economic isolation and creating an integrated national econ- 
omy. The expanding public school system is spreading the use of the 
official national language and inculcating a body of national ideals 
in the younger generation. Associated with this domestic activity has 
been the opening of the country to foreign influences which, in the form 
of material aid, scientific knowledge and social ideas, are tending to 
erode the traditional particularisms and contributing to the growth of 
national and international orientations. 

Nepalese society, meanwhile, continues to be a complex of ethnic 
communities and caste groups rather than a unitary structure. Numerous 
similarities of culture and circumstance exist, but their translation 
into a conscious sense of social relationship and national identity has 
only begun. 



The vast majority of the people live in small villages, bazaar settle- 
ments and market towns. Villages vary in size and composition. Some 
are no more than hamlets of five or six houses; others are sizable com- 
munities made up of a number of neighboring hamlets. The hamlet, 
as among the Bhote, may contain only a few closely related families 
comprising a single small lineage or part of a lineage, or, as among 
the Tamang, it may comprise a much larger lineage group. The Pahari 
village generally includes a number of castes, each of which in small 
communities may be represented by only a few closely related families. 
In more populous places the caste groups are larger and may occupy 
different neighborhoods or separate hamlets. 

In these small communities, whether organized on caste lines or not, 
the strongest social tie is that of kinship. The individual confronts 
the community primarily as a member and representative of a kinship 
group. Traditionally, and largely still, he inherits not only his social 
status but his prospects. Individual choice in such matters as marriage, 
place of residence and occupation is restricted by customary rules or 
subject to family decision. Kinship obligations not only govern per- 
sonal behavior, but the family — ideally in an extended form — is the basic 
economic unit, and local political authority is likely to reside with the 
heads of the senior lineages. Modern influences and the action of the 
national government in the realms of social legislation, public services 
and economic development are tending to reduce the size and im- 
portance of kin groups larger than the nuclear family. There also appear 
to be signs that the force of family controls on the individual is begin- 
ning to weaken. 

All groups appear to trace descent through the male line. Beyond 
the nuclear family, consisting of father, mother and children, the actual 
size and cohesiveness of the kin units formed on this basis vary from 
one ethnic group to another. Thus, the clans of some of the Tibeto- 
Nepalese are huge aggregations of families regarded as related through 
a remote common ancestor. Among the Indo-Nepalese, although clans 
exist, effective kin ties do not generally extend beyond the lineage, a 
smaller and more immediately related group of families. In all elements 
of the population the circle of actually interacting kinsmen tends to 
be largest among the wealthy and those with hereditary claims to 
high status. 

The household, depending on ethnic group and economic circum- 
stances, may consist of no more than a husband, wife and unmarried 
children, or it may be a much larger establishment. Among the Bhote 
it is sometimes polyandrous, consisting of a woman, two or more hus- 
bands — usually brothers — and their offspring. In other groups, how- 
ever, it ideally consists of a man and wife or wives, their unmarried 


children and their married sons with their wives and children. The group 
may also include, on a temporary or permanent basis, a few other more 
distant relatives. In most groups a daughter at marriage normally leaves 
the parental household and goes to live in that of her husband. Re- 
portedly, among the Pahari, Limbu and Bhote, a family with a daughter, 
but no son, may bring a son-in-law into its household in order to keep 
an able-bodied male in the group and in the expectation that there 
will be a grandson to inherit. An alternative is to adopt a son. 

Detailed information is lacking, but inheritance of property appears 
to be patrilineal in all groups. In the Hindu majority all sons of the 
deceased inherit equally, although the youngest son may be treated 
preferentially. In the absence of sons, brothers and more distant patri- 
lineal kinsmen inherit. Unmarried daughters are said to be included 
with sons as direct heirs in some Tibeto-Nepalese groups. Among the 
Bhote, women apparently enjoy inheritance rights only slightly inferior 
to those of men. 

The constituent nuclear families in a large household have their own 
room or rooms in the common dwelling or a detached unit in a cluster 
of dwellings. They may share a single kitchen or hearth, or each may 
have its own. The head of this extended family is in most groups 
theoretically the eldest male. In practice, it appears that personal 
qualities often outweigh the consideration of age and that a man who 
is more vigorous and able than his elders may take control. Family 
property is held in common and all members able to work are expected 
to contribute to the maintenance of the group. The head of the house- 
hold exercises stewardship over the joint property and he generally 
makes the final decisions on expenditures and other actions affecting 
the group. Domestic affairs are supervised by the senior woman of the 
family. Typically, those under her charge are her daughters-in-law, 
although they may be younger sisters-in-law or younger co-wives in 
polygynous households. Her authority is apt to be most strongly felt 
in houses with only one hearth, and friction among women is evidently 
a common cause of the breakup of such households. 

The nuclear family, which tends to rely on its own resources, has 
greater independence in the management of its affairs than it would have 
in an extended family household. In principle at least the rights and 
interests of the nuclear family are nowhere completely submerged in 
any larger group. A son, upon marriage, for example, may ask for his 
share of the family estate and establish his own household. 

The lineage, larger than the extended family, is not a residential 
unit. Its member families, which recognize a common male ancestor 
no more than a few generations removed, generally live in the same 
community and may make up the entire population of a hamlet, but they 
may also be settled in different places. Lineage leadership theoretically 


devolves upon the senior male or males of the group, although personal 
qualities, wealth and achievement are no doubt important factors in 
the assumption of the leadership role. Traditionally, among the Pahari 
and apparently the Newar, the line of succession is from the lineage 
head through his brothers in descending order of age to the eldest of his 
own or his brothers' sons. Lineage functions apparently range from 
little more than occasional ceremonial observances, as among some of 
the Indo-Nepalese, to the holding and management of communal land 
in various Tibeto-Nepalese groups. 

Among most groups, lineages are united into clans, each of which 
looks back to a remote and often hypothetical common male ancestor. 
The kinship tie, traceably close within the lineage, is more tenuous 
within the much larger clan group. The principal and often the only 
function of the clan, especially among the Pahari, where it is seldom, 
if ever, a localized group, is the regulation of marriage through the gen- 
eral prohibition of unions between members of the same clan. The 
number of clans in different ethnic groups varies. The approximately 
274,000 Magar enumerated in the 1952-54 census, for example, were 
said to have 7 clans, while over 20 were reported for the Gurung with 
about 100,000 fewer persons. The clan represents the largest unit in 
the country organized on the basis of kinship. The term "tribe" has 
sometimes been applied to whole ethnic groups, but it implies a greater 
extension of kinship ties and degree of political integration than seems 
to exist in any of them. 

The commonest form of marriage in all groups is monogamy, but both 
polygyny and polyandry are also practiced. Polygyny (marriage in 
which a man has more than one wife at the same time) , probably present 
in some degree in all groups, is most frequent among the Hindus. Poly- 
andry (marriage in which a woman has more than one husband at a 
time) seems to be limited to the Bhote. Available information about 
the new legal code (Mulki Ain) promulgated in 1963 includes no refer- 
ence to polyandry, but the code is reported to permit a man who has one 
wife to take a second only if the first is incurably ill or for 10 years has 
been unable to bear children. Other provisions prohibit child marriage, 
allow intercaste marriages, grant the right of divorce (previously for- 
bidden to Hindus) and sanction the remarriage of widows. 

In most groups, marriage — especially a first marriage — has tradi- 
tionally been an event in which it is taken for granted that parental 
wishes and family interests overshadow the personal preferences of the 
bride and bridegroom. Arranged marriages and the employment of inter- 
mediaries in the negotiations are common, especially among the Indo- 
Nepalese. Some Tibeto-Nepalese, on the other hand, leave considerably 
wider latitude to their children in the selection of marriage partners — 
a circumstance which may be related to the comparative economic inde- 
pendence and social initiative enjoyed by women in these groups. 


Marriage among Lamaist Buddhists appears to be regarded as a 
secular contract which can be terminated at the discretion of either 
spouse. Rehgious observances associated with weddings center on a 
reading of certain Buddhist texts and, among the Bhote, the bride is not 
present during the reading. Hindu groups recognize both secular (lyaite) 
and sacramental {byaite) unions. Ideally, the sacramental form is 
employed for women of the clean castes who have not been married 

The Pahari sacramental wedding ordinarily takes place out of doors 
in a temporary pavilion. The ceremony, conducted by a Brahman 
priest, includes the ritual dipping of water and the circumambulation of 
a sacred fire by the bridal pair. A caste mark is placed on the bride's 
forehead and the part in her hair is sprinkled with vermilion. She re- 
ceives gifts of clothing and jewelry from the bridegroom and bathes his 
feet in token of submission to him. The ceremony is preceded by a feast 
given by the bride's family and followed the next day by one given by 
the family of the bridegroom. 

The sacramental marriage established by the byaite ceremony is held 
to be indissoluble, and in theory, even the death of the husband does 
not free the woman to remarry. In practice, widows of marriageable 
age do remarry and sacramental unions are broken by divorce or deser- 
tion. A woman who has been previously married, however, may enter 
into only a secular or lyaite marriage. Secular marriages are also com- 
mon among those too poor to afford the expense of sacramental nuptials 
and among low-caste families who are denied the services of Brahman 
priests. Secular unions, which are established with little or no cere- 
mony, are recognized as legitimate but carry none of the prestige of the 
sacramental form. Most marriages between Pahari men and women of 
other ethnic groups are said to be secular. 

The traditional marriage ceremonies of high-caste Newar are ex- 
tremely elaborate. Girls at about 6 or 7 years of age are "married" 
to the bel fruit or wood apple, which is then thrown into a sacred stream. 
Having in this way symbolically become a married women, it appears 
that later, following the divorce or death of an actual husband, the 
girl may remarry without any loss of status. When the girl has reached 
marriageable age, her family may be approached by an intermediary 
on behalf of a family with a son. If the girl's family is willing to con- 
sider the match, protracted and delicate negotiations about property 
settlements follow. Certain ritually prescribed gifts must be sent at in- 
tervals to the bride and her family by the family of the bridegroom. 
The latter also gives a feast at which the bride receives a dowry of 
household goods from her kinsmen. A ceremony is held on that occasion 
transferring responsibility for her to the family of her future husband. 
Returning again in procession to the bridegroom's house, the bride is 


formally welcomed by her mother-in-law. Touching her forehead to 
the bridegroom's foot, the bride signifies her submission to him, and 
the couple is considered man and wife. The ceremonies, however, con- 
tinue for several days of feasting during which the new wife ritually 
receives the right to worship at the shrine of her husband's family. 

The old legal code forbade intermarriage between persons belonging 
to ritually clean castes and untouchables. Certain restrictions also ap- 
plied to marriage between members of different clean castes, but high- 
caste men were not prohibited from establishing secular unions with 
women of the lower clean castes or of ethnic groups not regarded by 
Hindus as in the untouchable category. A woman, on the other hand, 
was forbidden by the code to marry below her caste even if the man's 
caste were ritually clean. An approved exception was in the case of 
marriages between women of the Thakuri royal family and Rana men. 

Penalties were provided for violation of the law, but the strongest 
deterrent was no doubt the pressure of custom and opinion. The mar- 
riage of a Pahari Brahman girl to a Thakuri man evoked no strong 
criticism, but a liaison between her and a man of low caste brought 
severe sanctions unless the family was able to hush the matter up. 
The girl could expect to be expelled from her caste and cut off from 
family and friends. She and any children of the union could hope for no 
higher caste status than that of her husband. 

High-caste Pahari men with more than one wife frequently take 
their additional spouses from other ethnic groups. These secular mar- 
riages do not ordinarily establish any active social connections be- 
tween the families of the man and the woman. The children of such 
marriages, depending on the father's caste, are either of his caste or a 
somewhat lower one. For example, the offspring of a Pahari Brahman 
and a woman of another ethnic group (or of the Pahari Chetri caste) 
are assigned to the Khatri caste. Children of Brahman and Thakuri 
marriages are Hamal. The offspring of a Chetri man and a non-Pahari 
woman, however, are considered to be Chetri, although they have some- 
what lower status within the caste than children whose parents are both 
Chetri, provided that the mother has not been married previously. 

In addition to caste considerations, a variety of prohibitions, pre- 
scriptions and formal preferences influence the choice of marriage part- 
ners in different groups. The Magar, for example, favor marriage with 
a mother's brother's daughter, whereas the Gurung and Tamang approve 
of marriage with the daughter of either a mother's brother or a father's 
sister. Among the Rai and a number of other groups, a widow is ex- 
pected to marry one of her dead husband's younger brothers and a 
widower to marry one of his late wife's younger sisters. Other tradi- 
tional rules, explicit or implicit, prescribe behavior toward relatives by 
marriage. Parents-in-law are to be treated with formal respect. In some 


groups, certain affinal kinsmen must be avoided or treated distantly, 
but it is appropriate to banter With certain others. Among the Rai, for 
example, a man and his wife's older sister and a woman and her hus- 
band's older brother are expected to avoid one another; a man and his 
wife's younger sister and a woman and her husband's younger brother, 
on the other hand, have license to exchange broad jokes and personal 

Polyandry, a feature of Tibetan traditional culture, in Nepal appears 
to be restricted to the Bhote, although it probably was at one time prac- 
ticed by some other Tibeto-Nepalese groups. The custom has been 
reported for the Pahari of Kumaon and Kashmir, but it is deplored 
by the Nepalese Pahari and other Hindus generally. Its incidence 
among the Bhote is not known, but in one village only 4 out of 38 house- 
holds were polyandrous; the dominant pattern is monogamous. 

Polyandry, as jiracticed by the Sherpa and other Bhote groups, is 
most commonly of the fraternal type — the marriage of one woman to 
several brothers simultaneously. The husbands more rarely may be an 
uncle and his nephews or a father and his sons by a different wife. A 
group of brothers in a polyandrous household normally takes additional 
wives only if the first wife is barren or considerably older than the 
younger brothers. Observers disagree as to whether one husband occu- 
pies a special position in the marriage, although the difference in age 
alone could be expected to lend authority to the eldest. The children 
of a polyandrous marriage are said to consider all of their mother's 
husbands to be their fathers and to inherit from all of them as a group 
without regard for actual biological parentage. Should the family be 
dissolved, paternity may be decided by drawing lots, by order of birth 
or by decision of the mother. 

Caste and Ethnic Ranking 

The Pahari residing in the Katmandu Valley, from whom the ruling 
elite has long been drawn, tend to view the caste structure as a single 
pyramid in which the Pahari Brahman castes have the highest ritual 
status. The Newar, on the other hand, see it as two parallel systems in 
which their own priestly castes, both Hindu and Buddhist, are equal 
in ritual purity to the Pahari Brahmans. Both Pahari and Newar view 
the other ethnic groups as so many unitary castes. A Pahari view of 
the pyramid of caste ranking from highest to lowest might be as follows: 

Pahari Brahmans 

Upadhyaya and Kumai 

Newar Brahmans 

Deo and Jha 


Newar Buddhist priestly castes (Banras) 

Gubhaju and Bare 
Pahari Kshatriya 




Newar Kshatriya 

Malla, Pradhan, Rajbandari and possibly others 

Magar and Gurung 

Some Newar castes (most Shresta, who are traders with Tibet, 
stonemasons, tilemakers, bakers, carpenters and others) 

Newar agricultural castes and such groups as painters, dyers, 
cowherds, oil-pressers, barbers, truck-gardeners and others 

Limbu and Rai 
Untouchables (achut) 


Bhote and other Mongoloid groups 

Tharu and other Tarai groups considered "primitive" 

Large number of Newar and Pahari unclean castes 

A somewhat different conception of the caste hierarchy was reflected 
in interviews with recruits to Gurkha regiments in the 1920's. At the 
top were the Pahari Brahmans, followed by the Thakuri, Chetri, Gurung, 
Magar, Newar, Limbu, Rai, Sunwar, Tamang, Tharu and finally the 
unclean castes, including the Bhote. A similar investigation today 
would probably reveal some rise in the status of one Bhote group, the 
Sherpa, whose prestige has been enhanced by its role in mountaineering 

The question of caste hardly arises for the many Tibeto-Nepalese 
communities. The members of these communities, when not unaware 
of the status assigned them by the Hindu sector, are likely to be indif- 
ferent to it. Insofar as they accept caste-based notions of social rank, 
the Tibeto-Nepalese tend not only to see themselves at a higher level 
than do the Hindu Pahari and Newar but to differ as to ranking among 
themselves. Thus, it is doubtful that the reported Rai assumption of 
superiority to the Magar and Gurung is accepted by the latter. More- 
over, the status of a particular group is apt to vary from place to place 
depending on its relative size, wealth and local power. 

Even among the caste-structured Indo-Nepalese communities of the 
Katmandu Valley and the Tarai, firm consensus as to relative position 
on the scale of caste exists only for the higher and lower extremes. Inter- 


mediate castes may, within limits, rise or fall locally in relation to other 

Basically, the preservation of caste status, prerogatives and obliga- 
tions implies the existence of a closed community organized from top 
to bottom on caste lines. Noncaste groups, unless they can be effectively 
ignored, must either be assimilated to the system or accommodated to. 
Europeans and Americans, for example, technically are ritually unclean 
and so may not share water or food with high-caste persons or enter 
their houses. In fact, most high-caste Hindus in regular contact with 
Europeans and Americans accept them on terms of social equality and 
to one degree or another adjust or ignore the ritual barriers between 
them. Again, in communities consisting of a Hindu minority and a 
numerically and economically dominant casteless ethnic group, the 
Hindu not only cannot deal with his casteless neighbors purely in terms 
of caste but he finds himself treated simply as a member of another 
ethnic group. 

Caste status, in any event, does not necessarily correspond to socio- 
economic level. Many persons of high caste are extremely poor peasants 
with little access to channels of wealth, modern education and political 
influence. Although some Brahmans are well-to-do landholders or civil 
servants, many are simple farmers. Moreover, the Thakuri, with lower 
ritual status than the Brahmans, has a higher social position, as it is 
the caste of the royal family and the group from which many members 
of the ruling elite have come. On the other hand, a low-caste status 
short of untouchability does not always imply a correspondingly low 
socioeconomic level. The Newar oil-presser caste of the Shudra varna, 
for example, includes a number of prosperous lineages, some of whose 
members occupy high civil service posts, and the caste now claims to 
be at the top of the Shudra varna. Members of Newar agricultural 
castes who have given up their traditional occupation tend to drop the 
caste name and claim higher status. The Newar, moreover, permit a 
certain degree of individual social mobility through the mechanism of 
intercaste marriage. A prosperous Jyapu farmer, for example, can 
arrange a marriage for his son with the daughter of a poor member 
of one of the lower subdivisions of the Shresta caste. Both the husband 
and the children of such a marriage are raised to the status of the mother. 
In later generations, further marriages can result in a rise of the fam- 
ily's status to a level of equality with the highest subdivisions of the 
Shresta caste. 

Ritual purity involves many factors and permits the drawing of fine 
distinctions, even between members of the same caste, which do not 
affect the status of the caste as a whole in relation to other castes. 
Among members of the Chetri caste, for example, persons of unmixed 
Chetri ancestry are recognized as having jharra (pure) status in con- 


trast to the somewhat less pure descendants of marriages between 
Chetri and members of other ritually acceptable castes or ethnic groups. 
Although jharra and non-jharra may not eat together, the distinction 
has not led to subdivision of the caste, and non-jharra families in time 
also may become jharra by marrying their sons to girls of jharra status. 
Jharra status is a source of pride, however, and it is most common, not 
among wealthy Chetri families in the Katmandu Valley but among 
Chetri peasants in the hills. 

An attempt to systematize jharra status distinctions and link them 
with rights of succession to high public office was made in the 1930's 
by the dominant branch of the Rana lineage, which controlled the then 
hereditary prime ministership of the country. The lineage was divided 
into three classes, "A," "B" and "C" — terms devised by European ob- 
servers but adopted by the Ranas. The Class "A" Ranas were the 
children of Rana fathers sacramentally married to Chetri women of 
jharra status or to Thakuri women. Class "B" Ranas were the offspring 
of Rana men and Chetri widows or divorcees. The children of Ranas 
and women of other ethnic groups constituted Class "C" Ranas. Only 
Class "A" Ranas — and later, only those whose mothers were of the 
royal clan of Shah of the Thakuri caste — could succeed to the prime 
ministership. As most Rana men of any importance had several sub- 
sidiary wives and concubines, the number of Class "C" Ranas was 
quite large. The effect of the new system was to alienate many of the 
members of this group which had formerly identified themselves with 
the Rana leaders. 


Nepalese society, seen in terms of differences in wealth and access 
to political power within a national framework, can be divided into a 
small ruhng elite, an intermediate group of government functionaries, 
landholders and merchants, and a peasant base comprising . the vast 
majority of the population. Except for the elite, these are descriptive 
categories rather than integrated social entities. The economic circum- 
stances of the farmer, for example, are much the same throughout 
Nepal; culturally, however, the numerically predominant peasant pop- 
ulation comprises not one but many small societies. The much smaller 
intermediate stratum is only somewhat less diverse. Its relative eco- 
nomic and educational advantages and its occupational activities, how- 
ever, have broadened its concerns beyond the purely local sphere and 
introduced among its members elements of shared interest. The smallest 
and least diverse of the three categories is the ruling elite. 

During the Rana period the highest circle of the elite consisted of the 
Thakuri royal family and the Chetri lineages, from which came the 
country's hereditary prime ministers. This elite, concentrated in the 


capital city, was Pahari and urban and, like the government which it 
controlled, its connections with the rural and ethnically varied popu- 
lation outside the Katmandu Valley were tenuous. King Tribhuvan's 
restoration to power took from the Ranas the hereditary right to rule 
in his name. The old Rana families, although they no longer monopolize 
the key positions in the government, retain their wealth and social 
prestige and are well represented in the command of the military estab- 

The altered political position of the Ranas and the King's need for 
men to support and carry out his program have opened the circle of the 
elite to new elements. The Pahari predominate, but the Newar, for- 
merly relegated to a kind of client status, are also represented. The 
members of the new Pahari elite, like those of the older one, are of 
high-caste, well-to-do families. Unlike the older group, most are from 
outside the Katmandu Valley — mainly from the Tarai. Most, if not 
all, acquired their early political ideas as students in India during the 
independence movement there, took part in the opposition to Rana 
rule, and gained experience in the partisan politics of the 1950's. Their 
prestige owes more to high office — which they hold at the King's favor 
— than to hereditary claim. 

Outside the capital the top of the social ladder is also occupied by 
new and old groups. The new group, however, consists of the higher 
ranking functionaries of the central government; the old, of the tra- 
ditional local elites. The members of the new group, appointed by the 
King and representing his authority, generally lack ties in the local 
community and their efforts to exercise authority often encounter in- 
difference and sometimes hostility. Moreover, some members of the 
old elite have been given appointments as royal functionaries in their 
areas and a number of rajas of principalities in western Nepal have 
been confirmed in their titles and authority during their lifetime. Else- 
where, the scarcity of trained persons to fill important civil service posts 
frequently leaves local affairs to the traditional leadership. 

The intermediate stratum has both urban and rural segments. In 
the towns and cities it contains mainly the larger merchants, school- 
teachers, technicians, policemen, government clerks and other function- 
aries not involved in official policy formulation and decision making. 
In the countryside it includes the small landowning farmers with sur- 
pluses to sell, Gurkha military pensioners, and persons engaged in trade 
on a moderate scale. Land, jewelry, small hoards of gold or silver and, 
among the Bhote, livestock are the main forms of wealth. Among 
Buddhist groups traditional leveling mechanisms have worked against 
the development of great disparities of wealth. The Sherpa, for ex- 
ample, tend to value wealth less for its possession than for its distribu- 
tion in the form of charity to monks and expenditures for village festi- 


vals and other merit-making activities, such as the building of temples, 
prayer walls and stupas. Outlays for weddings and funerals and other 
family-centered observances have a similar but less pronounced effect 
among the rural Pahari. 

The lowest stratum, comprising the vast majority of the population, 
includes members of all ethnic groups and castes, townsmen and vil- 
lagers, tenant farmers, landless agricultural laborers, artisans, peddlers, 
porters and day laborers. One of the few channels for social advance- 
ment for persons in this category in some ethnic groups is military 
service as mercenaries in the Gurkha contingents of the British and 
Indian Armies. For most, expectations through life have been deter- 
mined by birth. The group is benefiting only slowly and unevenly from 
the social and economic programs of the government. The benefits, 
however, are reflected not only in the improved circumstances of some 
members of the category but in the rising expectations of many more, 
and these expectations are encouraged by the stated goals of the gov- 
ernment. These developments point to the emergence, however distant, 
of a more egalitarian, achievement-oriented social order (see ch. 11, 
Constitution and Government). 



The mode of life of the majority of the people reflects the isolation 
and poverty of rural areas and the concentration of the nation's small 
wealth in the hands of a few. Most families are poor and many are 
deeply in debt. Serious deprivation is apparent in the bad diet and 
inadequate housing of most of the people and in the general unavail- 
ability, particularly in the countryside, of modern medical care, edu- 
cation and other social services. Floods, droughts, famine and land- 
slides periodically strike various localities. The few rich live com- 
paratively well, but share with the rest of the people such problems as 
the lack of an abundant and pure water supply and the prevalence of 
a great variety of virulent diseases. 

Despite these conditions there is optimism about the future in many 
villages where private citizens or groups of citizens are trying to raise 
the level of health and welfare and to fill deficiencies in public services. 
In some predominantly Gurkha areas, for example, returning soldiers 
have taken the initiative in organizing and financing schools and small 
dispensaries. Elsewhere, local authorities have formed committees to 
provide a public water supply or have seen to the improvement of trails, 
roads and bridges. Development schemes introduced and maintained 
by the central government are also bringing about long-term improve- 
ments on a nationwide scale, but their effectiveness is often attenuated 
by the shortage of funds or by administrative problems caused by trans- 
portation difficulties and the lack of modern communications. 


The country is economically undeveloped, and its limited wealth is 
unevenly distributed among the population. The few sizable estates 
belong to a handful of leading families in Katmandu, whose incomes 
derive principally from land and foreign investments and whose stand- 
ard of living is substantially higher than that of the rest of the people. 
Smaller but still appreciable differences in living standards are apparent 
in different parts of the country, and even within a small village there 
may be a great disparity between the resources of one or two affluent 
families and those of their less fortunate fellow villagers. The problem 
of poverty is most acute in the west, especially in the Piuthan district 
about 145 miles west of Katmandu, which is said to be the most desti- 
tute and backward district in the kingdom. The east includes relatively 
prosperous sections such as the predominantly Sherpa Okhaldhunga 
district, south of Mount Everest. 


Peasant cultivators, who comprise the overwhehiiing majority of the 
popuhition, live typically in simple, sparsely furnished dwellings of 
mud, wattle or stone. They produce all or nearly all their own food, 
which is none too plentiful, even during the best harvest, but must 
barter for or buy other needed commodities such as salt, cloth and 
kerosense. Most farms are too small to produce a sizable, salable sur- 
plus, so that the average cash income among families of this group is 
the equivalent of from $5 to $10 per year. 

Many farmers are deeply in debt. Interest rates are high and loans 
are frequently carried over extended periods of time. The usual sources 
of credit are Brahman moneylenders, mostly former civil servants who 
built up their personal wealth while in office, and the relatively large 
landowners of the village, in whose hands money and land were becom- 
ing increasingly concentrated before the initiation of the land reform 
program in 1955. 


Diet and Nutrition 

The common diet is high in carbohydrates and low in protein and 
vitamins. Nutritional deficiencies are manifested in all parts of the 
country in low resistance to disease and in the prevalence of beriberi 
and goiter. Shortages of food develop in particular sections from time 
to time because of droughts, floods or marketing and transport difficulties. 

Rice is the staple food wherever it can be grown; elsewhere, depend- 
ence is on potatoes, corn, millet or barley. One of these foods is the 
basis of the main meal of the day, eaten in late morning. If income 
permits, a similar meal is eaten in the early evening. It is customary to 
drink tea in the morning and at other times during the day. 

Rice is ordinarily accompanied by dal, a sauce made of lentils cooked 
with salt and saffron, and sometimes a few onions fried in ghee (clari- 
fied butter). A rough kind of bread is made from millet; other cereals 
are made into porridge. Onions, beans, radishes and a variety of addi- 
tional vegetables and fruits are consumed when available. 

Milk, cheese and ghee represent a regular and important part of the 
diet, but meat, fish, game, poultry and eggs are relished luxuries. Not 
all such foods are considered suitable for consumption by all ethnic and 
social groups, however. In addition to abiding by the proscription 
against the killing of cattle or eating of its fiesh as do Hindu of all 
castes, those of the highest and most orthodox castes may also refuse 
to eat chicken or ducks. On the other hand, all will usually eat wild 
game, including pigeons, deer, wild boar and goat meat. Most Newar 
eat buffalo meat, but the highest castes among them do not. 


Water Supply 

The four major rivers and their tributaries drain nearly the entire 
country, but public water supply systems making use of these resources 
have yet to be developed. Consequently, there are intermittent or 
chronic scarcities of water in both urban and rural areas. Low pressure 
often causes stoppages in pij^ed water systems. Even in places where 
wells, springs and rivers furnish an adequate supply, the water is gen- 
erally contaminated and dangerous to drink without boiling. Develop- 
ment and purification of the water supi)ly should, in the opinion of 
many Nepalese, have priority over programs to improve sanitation, 
medical care and agricultural methods. 

In early 1963 both the central government and local authorities were 
at work on irrigation and drinking water projects with Indian financial 
support. Part of the funds were to be spent for imiirovcment of the 
water supply at Katmandu, where engineers hoped to increase the daily 
available supply from 10 to 25 gallons per person. 


Poor health conditions in the early 1960's were evident in the high 
rate of infant mortality, the short life expectancy, the prevalence of 
disease and the large number of persons suffering from physical handi- 
caps of various kinds. It was estimated that as many as two out of 
every three children failed to survive infancy and that life expectancy 
averages between 25 and 30 years. 

The most prevalent of the more serious diseases are malaria and 
tuberculosis. Malaria is most common in the central part of the Tarai, 
but it also occurs over the entire southern portion of the country from 
the Indian border northward to the lower slopes of the high Himalayan 
range. Over 1.2 million persons in the eastern part of the country alone 
are said to have the disease. The incidence of tuberculosis is high 
throughout the country, especially in urban areas. 

Other diseases of major importance are smallpox and cholera — which 
occur in epidemic form and are greatly feared — typhoid, syphilis, lep- 
rosy, filariasis (a parasitical infestation), trachoma and, in the moun- 
tain regions, goiter. Dysentery and other intestinal diseases are so 
commonplace that they arc thought of as normal rather than as patho- 
logical conditions. The incidence of asthma seems to be relatively high. 
Alcoholism is a i)roblem among returned Gurkha soldiers, a number of 
whom reportedly drink heavily out of boredom in their retirement. 

Popular Medicine 

Popular medicine derives from a large body of commonly held as- 
sumptions about magical and supernatural causes of illness. Sickness 


and death are thought to be caused by ghosts, demons and evil spirits 
or to result from the evil eye, planetary influences or the displeasure 
of ancestors. A variety of precautions against these dangers is taken, 
including the wearing of charms, the avoidance of certain foods or 
sights during pregnancy, and the propitiation of ghosts and gods with 
sacrificial gifts. 

When illness strikes or an epidemic threatens, the counsel of one of a 
variety of types of medical practitioners is sought. Among the Rai of 
the Eastern Mountain Region, it is the custom, for example, to consult 
a bijuwa (a shaman whose treatment consists mainly of the recitation 
of sacred literature in the presence of the patient). If planetary influ- 
ences are suspected, the family may seek the services of a more costly 
and usually less available jotishi (Brahman astrologer), who deter- 
mines which planet has been offended and as a result is causing the 
illness, as well as the type and size of offering required to placate the 
planet and restore the patient to health. 

Beliefs of this sort are widespread, especially in rural areas, where 
they are taken most seriously. But word of the wonders of modern 
medicine and its effectiveness against diseases hitherto accepted as in- 
curable has spread to the remotest parts of the country, and its benefits 
are greatly valued, if not frequently experienced or scientifically under- 

Also practiced generally throughout the country is the Ayurvedic sys- 
tem of medicine, which evolved among the Hindus about 2,000 years 
ago. It was originally based on the Ayur-Veda (the Veda of Long Life) , 
but a vast literature has since accumulated around this original text. 
According to Ayurvedic theory the body, like the universe, consists of 
three forces — phlegm, bile and wind — and physical and spiritual well- 
being rests on maintaining the proper balance among these three internal 
forces. Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia is based on roots, herbs and plants. 
Nepal is reported to have about 140 Ayurvedic physicians, popularly 
called vaid, 34 Ayurvedic dispensaries and a national college of Ayur- 
vedic medicine in Katmandu. Ayurvedic medicine is subject to some 
administrative control by the Nepalese Government. 

Modern Health Services 

Government activities in the field of medicine and public health are 
largely the responsibility of the Department of Health in the Ministry 
of Health, Irrigation and Power. The Department's principal functions 
are the administration of existing government hospitals and rural health 
centers and the construction and development of additional facilities 
of this type; supervision of the training of nurses and other health 
personnel; promotion of improved sanitation; collection of vital statis- 
tics; promotion of health education; and direction of a malaria eradica- 


tion project in cooperation witli the World Health Organization (WHO). 
The Department also conducts smallpox and cholera projects, which by 
1963 had vaccinated more than a cjuarter of a million persons. The 
Department is headed by a director and deputy director. Both of these 
officials are doctors, but the Department suffers from a lack of trained 
medical and paramedical personnel. 

The Department is responsible for the support and administration 
of about 40 hospitals, which range in capacity from 7 to 168 beds. 
Among them are 36 general hospitals (of which 4 have 50 or more beds), 
a tuberculosis sanitarium, 2 leprosariums, and a maternity hospital and 
child welfare center. Also under the jurisdiction of the Department are 
93 district health centers— small clinics with less than 10 beds, under 
the care of partially trained technicians. 

Other medical facilities are maintained under private auspices. One 
such institution is the small hospital in Pokhara, in the Western Moun- 
tain Region, maintained by the District Soldiers Board, a charitable 
committee composed chiefly of Indian army pensioners. Another is 
the 100-bed Shanta Bhawan Hospital in Katmandu. Staffed by 6 
physicians and 35 graduate nurses, it has a network of affiliated clinics 
and a nurses' training school. It is the main project of the United Med- 
ical Mission, a Protestant organization founded in 1954 by several 
American physicians. It has also established two other hospitals, several 
dispensaries and a leprosarium, and extended its activities into the fields 
of education and village development. Other medical facilities are run 
by the British-sponsored Nepal Evangelistic Band in Pokhara and 
American Seventh Day Adventists in Banepa. 

Hospitals are in general crowded, ill-equipped and understaffed. Only 
the largest have X-ray machinery and other modern equipment. Fur- 
nishings are minimal. Beds in some institutions are of simple wooden 
construction, without mattresses or linens. In the leading government 
hospital in Katmandu, electric current is undependable, so refrigeration 
is intermittently lacking. Until a decade ago nursing care was provided 
only by male attendants, called compounders, who acted as orderlies, 
or by relatives of the patient who often moved into the hospital them- 
selves, further increasing congestion. Hundreds of ailing persons, some 
coming from distant places, are turned away each month by Katmandu 
hospitals because they do not have facilities to care for them. 

The government has been taking steps to improve existing hospitals 
and health centers and establish new ones. Its efforts have been directed 
especially at remedying the long-standing imbalance in the distribution 
of medical facilities which has favored the Katmandu Valley and a few 
towns. Since 1956, when the Five-Year Plan (1956-61) was launched, 
93 local health centers have been opened in outlying areas which previ- 


ously were without modern medical care, and 4 new hospitals have been 

The United States is assisting in a complete renovation of Bir Hos- 
pital in Katmandu, which is the country's oldest hospital and its 
largest, with 168 beds. With the completion of scheduled improvements, 
including construction of new rooms for patients and residential medical 
quarters, renovation of existing buildings, and purchase of such basic 
equipment as X-ray machinery, sterilization facilities, incubators and 
hot-water heaters, patient care can be greatly improved. 

A model hospital on the outskirts of Katmandu was built and turned 
over to the Nepalese Government by the Soviet Union in 1963. Com- 
pletely modern, it is well equipped and has facilities for 30 adults and 20 
children. The staff is composed of 9 physicians (of whom 6 are Rus- 
sians), 6 graduate nurses (1 a Russian) and other specialists. Another 
Soviet-built hospital in Nepalganj was opened in April 1963. 

Despite progress, there was still dire need of additional facilities. 
As of late 1962, Nepal had only one hospital bed for about every 11,000 
inhabitants. Modern medical care remained available for the most 
part chiefly to the inhabitants of Katmandu Valley and a few large 
towns. There were no public hospitals at all in three areas — IMahakali 
and Karnali in western Nepal and Gandaki in the north-central region — 
and 10 of 75 administrative districts lacked even a local health center. 

Moreover, with only 128 Western-trained physicians, or a ratio of 
about 1 to 73,000 inhabitants, the country had the lowest proportion 
of doctors to its population of any Asian nation. Twenty-six were 
foreigners, principally Russian, British and American. Most of the 
physicians were found in the larger centers where the best hospitals 
were located, so that villagers, who made up about 75 percent of the 
population, rarely had the benefit of their services. Information was 
not available on the comparative number of physicians in government 
employment and private practice. 

Nepal has no medical school nor is any contemplated in the near 
future because of the cost. Most medical students are educated in Indian 
universities. As of late 1963, none of the country's more than 30 small 
colleges offered a full premedical course, but educators were strongly 
urging that the lack be remedied. There are two nurses' training schools, 
both in Katmandu. One is associated with the United Mission Hospital. 
The other, established by the WHO, is the larger of the two and is run 
by the Nepalese Department of Health. It offers a 3i/2-year course, 
divided between academic and practical work, and leads to an examina- 
tion for a registered nurse degree. By mid-1962 it had 24 graduates, 
who were serving along with about 15 Western-trained nurses in various 
clinics and hospitals throughout the country. 


In addition to the nurses' training school, the government also oper- 
ates an institution for auxiliary health workers in which students are 
prepared to become pharmacists, sanitarians and laboratory and clinic 
assistants. Established in Katmandu in 1955, it is partially supported 
by the United States Government and the WHO. The training period 
is 2 years. Graduates are assigned to a district health center where they 
perform such tasks as giving injections, setting fractures, doing minor 
surgery and supervising well-digging and latrine-building. 


Before 1951 the responsibility of providing for the sick and destitute 
fell almost exclusively on friends and families — the government remain- 
ing aloof from such need. The overthrow of the Ranas in 1951 marked 
a major change in public welfare policy, with the authorities under- 
taking a series of reforms and improvement programs intended to allevi- 
ate most of the social ills. Thus, a program of village development was 
initiated in 1952 (see ch. 11, Constitution and Government). Admin- 
istered since 1963 through the panchayat system, the aim of the pro- 
gram is to stimulate and support economic growth at the local level and 
to encourage local initiative in undertaking public projects in the fields 
of education, agriculture and health and sanitation. Evolved under the 
temporary guidance of the United States Operations Mission (USOM), 
the program as of mid- 1963 was administered through 55 village develop- 
ment centers, serving 6,800 villages with a combined population of about 
2.25 million persons. Similar but smaller programs are operated in the 
Katmandu Valley by the Indian Aid Mission to Nepal and in the Gurkha 
District by the United Medical Mission to Nepal. 

By July 1962, total expenditure for village development amounted 
to NR26.3 million (for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) out 
of a total of NR73.81 million spent for public works and services under 
the Five- Year Plan. The funds had gone into the construction of roads, 
bridges and dams, the establishment of village schools and libraries, 
and the digging of wells and latrines. Over 800 development officers, 
social education organizers, youth program officers and other workers 
had been trained in two rural institutes and the Home Science School, 
partially supported by the Ford Foundation. With an additional allot- 
ment of NRIO million to be expended under the Three- Year Plan 
(1962-65), further progress in development work is anticipated. 

A small-scale but vital relief operation for Tibetan refugees who fled 
to Nepal after the Chinese Communist invasion of Tibet in 1950 is 
being conducted by the International Red Cross. The refugees, said 
to number between 10,000 and 20,000 persons of varying regional, social 
and occupational backgrounds, live mainly in the area around Mustang, 


on the Tibetan border about 130 miles northwest of Katmandu. Thou- 
sands of others have settled in Bhutan, Sikkim and widely separated 
areas of India. Most of the refugees in Nepal are farmers, stockbreeders, 
traders and their families, and monks, but the groups reportedly also 
include several thousand armed Kharapa (former members of the Dalai 
Lama's army) from Kham province in Tibet. The International Red 
Cross has spent nearly a million dollars on emergency relief and help 
for the refugees in temporary settlements and camps, pending the ar- 
rangement of a plan for permanent rehabilitation. 



Lacking a uniform national education system, the country has six 
different types of schools in operation: English schools, which offer 
primary and secondary education along traditional British lines; na- 
tional schools, which offer 5 years of free primary education and use 
the Nepali language; vernacular schools, which provide secular instruc- 
tion of widely varying caliber and content; Buddhist and Sanskrit 
schools, which are largely devoted to religious training; and basic (Gand- 
hian) schools, which stress training in handicrafts. About one-third 
of these institutions are entirely supported and controlled by the cen- 
tral government. Of the remainder some receive grants-in-aid and are 
subject to nominal state control, but most are independently financed 
and administered. 

The privileged access of members of the higher castes and wealthier 
economic strata to education was for centuries a distinguishing feature 
of Nepalese society. In the modern period the Ranas kept education 
the exclusive prerogative of the ruling elite; the remainder of the popu- 
lation remained largely illiterate. At the time of the overthrow of the 
Ranas in 1951, the level of education among the people as a whole was 
extremely low. Literacy among males was less than 10 percent; among 
women, less than 1 percent; and only 1 child in 100 attended school. 

The next decade, however, was an era of rapid educational expansion. 
School enrollments, facilities, teaching materials and budget allocations 
rose to unprecedented levels as a result both of private initiative and 
an intensive government education campaign, strongly supported by the 
United States, India and various international agencies. By 1961 pri- 
mary schooling was being extended to 1 child in 7, secondary schooling 
to about 1 in 50. Fourteen new colleges had been founded; the country's 
first university had been organized; and 2,163 students were enrolled 
in higher education institutions outside Nepal. Between 1953-54 and 
1959-60 there was a 37-fold increase in funds for education and a 43- 
fold increase in enrollments. 

Among villagers respect for education as an avenue to power and 
economic success is growing, and demand for opportunity is becoming 
more insistent. Many, however, continue to regard education not as a 
universal right but as the privilege of a chosen few. Educational plan- 
ners and policymakers themselves have displayed some ambivalence, 
for although most have proclaimed their eagerness to establish a system 
of universay primary instruction, many have demonstrated in practice 


an inclination to sacrifice that goal in the interest of higher education 
for the few. 

Debate among educational leaders has not been confined to the issue 
of whether the education of a trained elite should take precedence over 
universal primary schooling. There has also been lively discussion about 
the kind of curriculum which should be offered. Western education in 
the British tradition has dominated the field since it was introduced 
by the first Rana ruler who, with many of his countrymen, saw in it 
the secret of Britain's power. The English schools, which produced 
most of the national leaders of the twentieth century, continue to out- 
number others, especially at the secondary level. At the same time 
traditional, religiously oriented instruction, such as is offered in classes 
in Buddhist gompa (temples) and Sanskrit schools, continues to have 
the support of some segments of Nepalese society, as does basic educa- 
tion, a version of the Gandhian, craft-oriented system adopted in India. 
Some local authorities, however, favor vernacular schools, in which 
pupils are given rudimentary instruction in reading and writing in the 
local dialect. 

The establishment of a system of national schools in the mid-1950's 
represented still another approach to the matter of educational content. 
Arguing that the existing systems failed to reflect the cultural unique- 
ness and the economic needs of the people, its supporters developed a 
new curriculum, broader than that of the vernacular schools and stress- 
ing the study of the Nepali language. 

Academic standards in the schools, while uneven, are generally low. 
The large percentage of students who fail the examinations given at 
the end of secondary school, after 2 years of college and after 4 years 
of college is an indication that many are inadequately prepared. Not 
only are many teachers without professional training, but there is a 
scarcity of textbooks in all fields. 


Buddhist and Brahmanic Scholarship (To 1846) 

Buddhism and Brahmanic Hinduism, with their emphasis on medi- 
tation and metaphysical speculation, dominated education until the 
beginning of the Rana period in 1846. Of the two traditions Buddhism 
was at first paramount, and by the mid-seventh century its monasteries 
had produced a number of scholars eminent in such fields as medicine, 
geography, astronomy and literature. After the tenth century the num- 
ber of Buddhist monasteries declined, except in the northern region 
along the Tibetan border, and they were gradually supplanted by Hindu 
temples as the principal centers of higher learning in Nepal. Instruction 
was to a large extent tutorial, and, ideally, the system brought teacher 


and student together as master and follower in a long-term relation- 
ship (see ch. 8, Artistic and Intellectual Expression; ch. 9, Religion). 

Apart from monastic education, which was never extended to the 
mass of the i)eople, little was available in the way of formal instruction. 
A few schools were oj^erated by Christian missionaries until their ex- 
pulsion in 1768, and private tutors were sometimes employed. Later, 
guild training provided some education for the children of particular 
occupation groups. 

The training of most Nepalese children consisted of an informal ap- 
prenticeship in the work performed by adult members of the community. 
It began in the family with simple tasks at the age of 4 or 5 and pro- 
gressed to adult tasks at 10 or 11. 

Education for the Elite (1846-1950) 

During the 104 years of their rule, the Ranas remained opposed to 
any form of public schooling for the people. Nevertheless, they and 
other members of the ruling elite provided formal instruction for their 
own children to prepare them to take their place in the governmental 

Of primary imjiortance to future development was the decision made 
by the founder of the Rana regime, Sir Jang Bahadur Rana, to give 
his children an English education rather than religiously oriented train- 
ing in the traditional manner. He was apparently motivated both by 
his admiration and respect for Western technological achievements and 
by a desire to please the British, who were increasingly strengthening 
their position in India. In 1854, Jang Bahadur engaged an English 
tutor, who held classes for his children in the Rana palace. His suc- 
cessor opened these classes to all Rana children and formally organized 
them as Durbar High School. Other than a few Sanskrit institutions 
in Katmandu and some village literacy classes, there were no other 
schools in the country in the late nineteenth century. 

A brief shift in government educational policy came in 1901 when 
Prime Minister Deva Shamsher Rana took office and called for sweep- 
ing educational reforms. He proposed the establishment of a system of 
universal public primary education, with Nepali as the language of 
instruction, and to open Durbar High School to children who were not 
members of the Rana clan. Shamsher's policies were so unpopular with 
those around him that he was deposed within a few months. His re- 
forms did not entirely disappear, however. A few Nepali-language pri- 
mary schools in the Katmandu Valley, the hill regions and the Tarai 
remained open, and the practice of admitting a few middle- and low- 
caste children to Durbar High School was continued. 

Before World War II several new English middle and high schools 
were founded in Patau, Biratnagar and elsewhere, and a girls' high 


school was opened in Katmandu. In the villages popular respect for 
learning was increasing largely as a result of the influence of returning 
Gurkha soldiers, many of whom learned to read and write in the British 
service. Some retired Gurkha began giving rudimentary education to 
the children in their villages. 

In the early twentieth century education beyond the high school level 
could still be obtained only outside the country. Because such facilities 
were not available in the country, less than a dozen Nepalese received 
higher academic or technical training during the period. Of these, most 
attended either Patna University or Banaras Hindu University in India, 
although a few went as far away as Japan. Some who studied at these 
institutions in the years just before World War I were influenced by 
the opposition of Indian students to British rule. Seeing in this a po- 
tential threat to Rana supremacy, Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher 
Rana in 1918 established a college for Nepalese students in Katmandu. 
Known as Tri-Chandra College, it offered a 2-year -course in history, 
mathematics, logic and languages. In 1924, with an enrollment of 30, 
it became a full 4-year institution. 

After World War II, more or less forced to do so by the example 
of growing educational facilities in China and India, the Ranas made 
a modest effort to provide more schools. Their principal gesture was the 
establishment of a number of basic schools modeled on those in India. 
Just before the revolution in 1951 the country had 310 primary and 
middle schools, 11 high schools, 2 colleges, 1 normal school and 1 special 
technical school. 

Revolution and Reform (1951-63) 

The approach of national leaders to education in the postrevolutionary 
period differed radically from that of their Rana predecessors. The In- 
terim Government Act of 1951 proclaimed the secularity of the schools 
and promised a new climate in which freedom of speech, of the press 
and of assembly would prevail. It also resulted in the establishment 
of a separate Ministry of Education. The introduction of free and com- 
pulsory education is a major objective of social policy in the Consti- 
tution of 1962 (see ch. 11, Constitution and Government). 

The expansion of education begun in the final years before the Rana 
overthrow swiftly picked up momentum. By 1954, 927 new primary 
and middle schools had been opened, increasing capacity at this level 
more than seven-fold and bringing total enrollment to 59,000 in com- 
parison with 8,495 in 1951. Secondary and higher education facilities 
also multiplied rapidly. By 1954 there were 83 high schools with 12,700 
students and 14 colleges with 915 students, as compared with 11 high 
schools with 1,600 students and 2 colleges with 250 students in 1951. 

To improve standards and to develop a uniform program the Minis- 


try of Education in early 1954 appointed the National Education Plan- 
ning Commission, which made an exhaustive study and submitted 
recommendations to the Minister the following year. The Commissioner 
provided a master plan for educational development. The most impor- 
tant goals defined therein were: that within 25 years primary education 
was to be universal; that within 10 years secondary, academic or tech- 
nical education should be extended to about 20 percent of all youth 
and some type of higher education to about 5 percent of all young per- 
sons; that within 10 years Nepal should have a national university; 
and that within 25 years all adults desiring to become literate should 
have the opportunity to do so. The first phase was to be put in operation 
during the period of the Five-Year Plan (1956-61). 

This was to be accomplished through private initiative, increases in 
the education budget, and the aid of foreign and international agencies, 
of which the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Or- 
ganization (UNESCO), the United States and India were to be the 
principal contributors. The official provision for education — which did 
not necessarily, and actually seldom did, represent the amount spent — 
multiplied more than 30 times between 1950-51 and 1960-61, when it 
was NR71,870,000 (for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary). 

By the early 1960's educational facilities had greatly increased and 
schools were being established even in such remote places as Sallyana 
in the western portion of the lower Himalayas and Kanchanpur in the 
western Tarai. Primary school enrollment rose from 26,186 in 1954 to 
182,533 in 1961, and it was unofficially estimated that about 15.8 per- 
cent of children aged 6 to 10 were in school. In the same period, stu- 
dents in secondary schools increased from 17,700 to 21,115, and the 
number of high schools had risen from 83 ^o 156. Attendance at normal 
schools an.d special technical schools was about 2,173, and 5,143 stu- 
dents were enrolled in college. 

All schools except the relatively few entirely supported by the cen- 
tral government charged tuition and admitted pupils selectively. Costs 
to the student varied with the institution in the higher grades. The 
fees charged by private and government-aided schools were regulated 
by the government and ranged from NR0.32 a month in the first and 
second grades to NR3.50 in the upper grades. Small as these sums were, 
they were prohibitive or burdensome for the average family; and the 
cost of board and room for students who could not live at home was 
completely beyond the means of the great majority. A few scholarship 
students were admitted free. Colleges, technical schools and the uni- 
versity also derived part of their support from student fees. 

The United States has been providing financial and advisory assist- 
ance to Nepal since 1954. The Cooperative Services Program in Edu- 
cation, operated under joint United States Operations Mission (USOM) 


and Nepalese auspices, was maintained until 1958, when it was taken 
over by the Nepalese Ministry of Education. Other United States 
assistance so far has been concentrated in the field of primary school- 
ing, teacher training and adult education. 


Responsibility for education is vested largely in the Ministry of Edu- 
cation, which in mid-1963 was headed by Kirti Nidhi Bista, who was 
also Minister of Transport and Minister of Communications. Other 
ministries and agencies operate programs of an educational nature on 
their own (see cIi. 6, Health and AVelfare). Responsible to the Minister 
of Education are a secretary, two under secretaries and numerous other 
lesser administrative officials who staff the various departments. 

The principal functions of the ^Ministry are: the supervision of edu- 
cational administration and finance; the selection, assignment, promo- 
tion and dismissal of teachers and staff of national schools; the inspec- 
tion of all such schools through its 7 zonal inspectorate offices and 32 
subinspectorate offices; and the exercise and control of the syllabus used 
in government and government-aided schools. The Ministry is repre- 
sented on the national examination board. Private schools are autono- 
mous, but those desiring government aid may invite the Ministry of 
Education to inspect them. 

Primary and Secondary Education 

The English schools offer both primary and secondary education. The 
combined elementary and secondary course covers a 10-year period, 
divided into the primary school grades, 1 through 5; middle school 
grades, 6 and 7; and high school grades, 8 through 10. The cycle ends 
in the examination for the school leaving certificate (SLC). 

In the English schools rote learning and strict discipline are empha- 
sized. The English language is taught from the second or third grade 
and is generally the medium of instruction in some classes at the sec- 
ondary level. The curriculum also includes arithmetic, science, civics 
and history or geography. Agriculture, accounting, drawing and paint- 
ing are offered as optional subjects. History is not a required course 
at the secondary level, and the student may elect geography in its place. 
The course covers three broad topics: Indian, British and Nepalese 
history, with emphasis given to the first two. The sections on Nepal 
deal primarily with developments since 1768. 

The reform of the secondary curriculum in the English schools has 
been the subject of much discussion and debate. It has been proposed 
by educational planners that the established classical course of study 


in the high schools be replaced with a multipurpose curriculum which 
would provide youth with the vocational skills needed by the nation. 
Although efforts in this direction have been impeded by the traditional 
aristocratic disdain for manual lal)or, some progress had been made by 
the early 1960's. The multipurpose curriculum recommended in 1957 
by the National Education Planning Commission had been introduced 
at the sixth and seventh grade levels at one school in Pokhara, and 
plans were well underway for the conversion of five traditional sec- 
ondary schools to multipurpose high schools. 

The national primary schools offer a 5-year program which includes 
reading and writing, arithmetic, social studies and health and nature 
study as principal subjects. In addition, some attention is given to arts 
and crafts and physical activities and games. Nepali is the official 
medium of instruction, but teaching in the local dialect for the first 3 
years is permitted. 

The range of studies in other schools is considerably narrower and 
in some cases focuses on a single discipline. The gompa emphasize 
memorization of Buddhist texts, and some music and instruction in 
religious painting is given. The Sanskrit schools, which are not for- 
mally divided by grade but offer secondary as well as primary edu- 
cation, stress the reading and commiting to memory of Sanskrit texts 
and have only recently begun to give some instruction in science and 
arithmetic. Like the gompa they provide a classical education leading 
to government employment or the priesthood. In the vernacular schools, 
children are given rudimentary instruction in reading and writing in 
their own dialect. Basic schools concentrate on handicrafts and agri- 
culture, offering little of value to the urban student. 

The number of children enrolled in the first grade of primary school 
is substantially greater than at any other level, and registration pro- 
gressively diminishes in the higher grades. Primary school students 
make up about 90 percent of total school enrollment, and of this group 
about half are in the first two grades. Attendance is irregular; the rate 
of failure is high; and many children repeat grades. In 1961 two-thirds 
of the students wdio took the examination for the school leaving certifi- 
cate given at the end of secondary school failed to make the passing 
grade of 30 per cent. 

The high rate of failure is attributable in large part to the lack of 
trained teachers, the shortage of suitable textbooks (particularly in 
Nepali) and the general inadequacy of school facilities and equipment. 
Other problems are the incongruence of curriculum in relation to what 
is expected of the student in examination, the multiplicity of languages 
in the country and the bad health conditions. The scarcity of textbooks 
is being gradually alleviated, however. The country now has several 
modern printing presses, and the Bureau of Publications in the Ministry 


of Education has been established to produce textbooks and other litera- 
ture for primary and secondary school children. 

Higher Education 

In 1961 there were 33 institutions of higher education, including 29 
liberal arts colleges, three professional schools — in law, commerce and 
education — and one university. The oldest schools are Tri-Chandra 
College in Katmandu, founded in 1918, and the Sanskrit College in 
Katmandu, founded in 1948. The rest were estabhshed after 1951. Col- 
lectively they provide for over 5,000 pupils with faculty and staff num- 
bering some 400. Some are open to both sexes. Three degrees are 
offered: intermediate arts (I.A.), bachelor of arts (B.A.) and master of 
arts (M.A.). 

Tribhuvan University in Katmandu, chartered in 1959, as yet has 
no higher technical or professional schools and only nominal research 
facilities. It is governed by the Senate (of which the King and the 
Minister of Education are ex officio members) and a syndicate and 
includes faculties of arts, science, law, commerce and Sanskrit and 

In its less than 4 years of operation, Tribhuvan University has been 
beset by a number of administrative problems and has experienced a 
series of disrupting crises. In March 1963, for example, acting on an 
allegation that there had been a leakage of questions in the examination 
for the I.A. degree, the authorities canceled the examination. A number 
of students affected by the ruling interrupted the examinations being 
held for other degree candidates, tore up their papers and forced them 
to leave the hall. 

Language problems are another area of difficulty. Although Nepali 
is officially the language of instruction at the University, English, which 
many students in the Sanskrit College do not know, has most often 
been employed in the classrooms. Instruction in Hindi was dropped in 

Despite the expansion of higher education facilities in Nepal, many 
students continue to seek further education abroad. Of 2,163 persons 
(exclusive of military personnel) who had studied in foreign colleges 
up to 1961, 1,401 had received instruction in India, 225 in the United 
States, 100 in Malaya, 61 in the Soviet Union, 62 in the United King- 
dom, and the remainder in other countries. The most popular fields 
of study were engineering, health, liberal arts and agriculture, in that 
order of importance. 


Special Education 


The Five-Year Plan provided for expansion of facilities for technical 
training on the lower and intermediate levels within the country and 
for sending students abroad for further study. Although progress was 
slower than anticipated, by 1961 nearly 4,000 persons had received 
specialized training at some 24 institutions. Among the most important 
of these were the Nurses Training School and the Health Assistance 
School in Katmandu, the rural institutes, and the Cottage Industries 
Training Centers, of which the main one was in the capital. 

Adult Education 

Adult education, much of it conducted on the radio, focuses mainly 
on teaching people to read and write. In the course of instruction, which 
is conducted in Nepali, students also acquire basic information on diet, 
baby care and health from reading materials prepared by the Bureau 
of Adult Education. 

Teachers and Teacher Training 

In mid- 1961, Nepal had 6,832 primary school teachers^ about half of 
whom had had no formal training. Secondary school teachers numbered 
less than 1,600. Untrained teachers, employed because of the shortage 
of fully qualified persons, in some schools made up as much as 50 percent 
of the faculty. An important component of the teaching community 
consists of retired Gurkha soldiers, who operate a number of local 
schools, including such an outstanding institution as the Pokhara Sol- 
diers Board High School. Also important are American Peace Corps 
volunteers, who have been in Nepal since late 1962. 

Teacher training institutions are of three types: the Normal School, 
established in Katmandu in 1954, mobile normal school teams, which 
move from one administrative unit to another providing a 10-month 
course in each area, and the College of Education in Katmandu, which 
trains secondary school teachers and upper-level administrators. This 
institution, now part of Tribhuvan University, offers a 4-year course 
for high school graduates, and a 1-year course for graduate students 
seeking additional professional training. 

The organization of mobile teaching units was necessitated by the 
reluctance of teachers trained in Katmandu to leave the Valley. Teach- 
ers in government schools, who are recruited on the basis of competi- 
tive examinations, enjoy better pay, retirement benefits and greater 
prestige than other teachers. Indian teachers are hired by many schools 
in the Tarai, and Indian professors have been recruited in the past for 
service in Nepalese colleges and the University. The teacher frequently 


has to supplement his income with other work in order to provide his 
family with even a modest living. 


The traditional monopoly of educational opportunity by members of 
the wealthier class and higher caste groups is gradually disappearing. 
The national schools are free and open to all, and their enrollments are 
rapidly increasing. Nevertheless, private and government-aided schools 
charge tuition fees as high as NR35 per month in the upper grades, 
and most of their students are children of landlords, businessmen and 
government leaders. Students from upper-caste groups and wealthy 
families are generally far more able to continue their education beyond 
the primary level than others. 

The long-standing prejudice against the education of women is grad- 
ually breaking down. School attendance among girls- has risen sharply 
during the past decade, female students composing 37 percent of the 
total enrollment in primary grades in 1961 as compared wdth only 4.1 
percent in 1954. Over 200 Nepalese women are college graduates. 

Perhaps the principal determinant of access to education is place of 
residence. School facilities are most heavily concentrated in the Kat- 
mandu Valley area around Pokhara in central Nepal and in part of the 
Tarai. Since only a few primary schools have residential accommoda- 
tions, relatively few — even of the children whose families might afford 
it — can go away to school. 



In the 1950's and early 1960's the arts were reviving after more than 
five centuries during which little of lasting significance was done. A new 
interest in writing, given impetus by the relaxation of the strict censor- 
ship which existed under the Ranas, brought some promising develop- 
ments in literature. A number of poets were experimenting with new 
styles, and a few intellectuals were producing works on history, eco- 
nomics and social problems. Respect for learning is traditional, but 
interest in the humanities and fine arts was being subordinated to 
scientific and technical studies. Traditional scholarship, as represented 
in the study of sacred scriptures, was almost extinct except in Buddhist 
monastaries in the Mountain Region. Music and dance were favorite 
means of recreation and self-expression among villagers, and a few 
Nepalese popular singers had become favorites on Indian radio. How- 
ever, contemporary development of architecture, painting and sculpture 
was extremely weak, and the standard of handicrafts was low. 

By contrast, great achievements in the arts had been recorded in 
Nepal in two illustrious eras in the past. The seventh century and the 
eleventh to the fourteenth centuries were periods of great cultural 
vitality, when the style and standards of Nepalese sculpture, painting 
and, particularly, architecture were admired and imitated widely in 
southern and eastern Asia. 

The contributions of Nepal to world culture in these periods were 
made almost entirely by the Newar in the Katmandu Valley, which was 
and continues to be the center of art and learning in the country. Vir- 
tually without exception, the source of inspiration for these Newari 
artisans was religious — a blend of Buddhist and Brahmatic traditions 
which had entered the Valley over the centuries in alternate waves from 
India and Tibet. Of the two traditions, the Brahmanic was the more 


In the area of formal thought the paramount influence of Buddhist 
and Brahmanic tradition until the mid-nineteenth century was reflected 
in the preoccupation with philosophy and religion to the practical exclu- 
sion of all else. The learned devoted themselves to meditation in search 
of release from worldly concerns, and scholarship centered on commen- 
taries on sacred texts, mostly in Sanskrit. Original thought and critical 
inquiry were alien to the intellectual climate. 


The Katmandu Valley was a great center of learning at two periods 
in its history: first, under Amsuvarman (A.D. 620-640), when Budd- 
hist influence was predominant; and later, during the period of Brah- 
manic ascendancy, culminating in the reign of Jayasthiti Malla in the 
late fourteenth century. In the artistic and intellectual ferment of both 
eras the religious scholar, the imaginative architect and the talented 
sculptor enjoyed high prestige. 

In secular and scientific knowledge, ideas and values from the out- 
side world have slowly penetrated Nepalese society despite the efforts 
of the Ranas for more than a century to insulate the country from them. 
They have gained currency not only among the educated elite in govern- 
ment, business and the professions in the Katmandu Valley, but in some 
degree have touched the people of hill villages. They have been carried 
there by Gurkha mercenaries returning from service with British and 
Indian forces outside the country. Since the fall of the Rana regime 
in 1951, the spread of Western-generated ideas has gained momentum. 
Customs and traditional beliefs, however, continue to offer more than 
nominal competition to the new forces impinging on Nepalese intellec- 
tual life, particularly outside the valley enclave of Katmandu. 

Some prose and poetry continue to be written in Sanskrit, which for 
centuries was the language of the literate few. Since 1951, however, 
Nepali and English have been the principal literary languages. Recent 
publications include articles and full-length works on economics, his- 
tory, international relations and social problems, as well as poetry, short 
stories and collections of folk tales. Outstanding among contemporary 
scholars are Balchandra Sharma, President of the Royal Nepal Acad- 
emy, an honorary society for leading artists and scholars; and Dilli R. 
Regmi, an eminent historian. 

A number of young poets show considerable promise, but none as yet 
has achieved the stature of the men who initiated the development of 
modern Nepalese literature. Bhanubhakta Acharya (1812-68) is known 
as the father of Nepalese poetry. His most famous work is the 
Ramayan, an epic poem telling the story of Rama, the incarnation in 
human form of the Hindu God, Vishnu. It was the first major work 
in the Nepali language. Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1903-59) was a lin- 
guist, essayist and, above all, poet, whose most popular work is the 
romantic tragedy, Muna Mudan. 

Two contemporary literary figures, the poet, Lekth Nath Poudyal, and 
the dramatist, poet and essayist, Balkrishna Sama, have been giving 
the Nepali language a new richness, experimenting with fresh forms and 
styles. Poudyal, now honored as poet laureate, in the 1930's made his 
work the vehicle for carefully disguised political criticism of the Ranas. 
Sama is known for his pioneering work in modern poetic forms and more 
importantly for his dramas. Nationalist themes characterize much of the 


work of the younger generation of writers, some of whom studied in 
India, where they were exposed to liberal and leftist political influences. 
As of mid-1963 the government, under the auspices of King Mahendra, 
was taking a number of steps to foster literary and intellectual develop- 
ment. Public funds were being used to finance the translation of foreign 
language texts, to support literary organizations and to subsidize a 
number of promising young writers. A number of foreign scholars had 
been invited to Nepal to teach and write, and delegations of Nepalese 
writers had been sent abroad. King Mahendra, who is deeply interested 
in the arts, has encouraged the restoration of historic monuments and 
has awarded medals to a number of leading scholars and writers. A 
strong effort is being made to develop education at all levels, and a large 
proportion of the national income is devoted to it. 


In architecture the country has made a distinguished contribution to 
world culture. In the Katmandu Valley some 2,500 temples and shrines 
display the skill and highly developed aesthetic sense of a succession 
of Newar artisans. Many of the more imposing are the multiple-storied 
pagodas, which may have originated in this area and spread to India, 
China, Indochina and Japan. 

At the same time that some Newar architects were endowing the 
Katmandu Valley with great monuments and temples, others were exer- 
cising their skills elsewhere in Asia. Particularly important in influencing 
stylistic developments in China and Tibet was Arniko, a Newar youth 
called to the court of Kublai Khan in the thirteenth century A.D. He 
is celebrated for his statues in copper and brass, portraits painted on 
silk, and for a golden temple he built in Tibet. 

Virtually all the principal religious structures in Nepal are in the 
Katmandu Valley, except those at Muktinath, a pilgrimage site some 
40 miles northwest of Pokhara, and Rummin-dei (Lumbini), birthplace 
of Buddha, about 8 miles south of Bethari in the Bhairawa District. 
A stupa (monument containing sacred relics) built at Patan in 250 B.C. 
by Emperor Asoka is the oldest structure in the country. Turret-shaped 
and surrounded by smaller stupas, it is ornamented with symbolic fig- 
ures of the meditating Buddha. 

Better known are the stupas at Swayambhunath, a Buddhist shrine 
high on a hill overlooking Katmandu from the west, and the Baudd- 
hanath shrine, 4 miles northeast of the city. Both consist of a main 
stupa composed of a hemisphere topped by a tower decorated on the 
four sides of its base with huge pairs of blue eyes depicting the omni- 
science of the Buddha. They are surrounded by many smaller buildings 
and sacred images. 


Other great temples in Katmandu include PHshupatinath (on the 
banks of the Baghmati Nadi), the largest and most sacred Hindu shrine 
in the country, and Nyatpola (in Bhadgaon), distinguished by the 
five pairs of figures derived from Hindu mythology which guard its 
entrance steps. Built in the early eighteenth century by Bhupatindra 
Malla, a great patron of the arts, it is in the classic pagoda style, a 
square entablature of brick rising in a series of successively smaller 
stories to a considerable height. Each story is capped by an overhanging 
tile or copper gilt roof; the supporting columns are overlaid with whole 
pantheons of intricately carved, garishly painted deities portrayed in 
ritually erotic postures. Door frames and window cornices are similarly 
decorated with deities, foliage and arabesque designs. 

Another building completed under Bhupatindra Malla is the old 
royal palace at Bhadgaon, an imposing structure of great historical 
interest. The original building is of typically Nepalese brick and wood 
construction and is set off by a gate which is an example of the best 
of the goldsmith's art. The Ranas introduced the European neoclassical 
style of architecture and used it for many public buildings despite the 
disharmony between its massive marble and concrete forms and the 
indigenous traditional ones. 


In art and handicrafts, as in architecture, the Newar stand out. They 
have traditionally excelled in woodcarving, copper, bronze and brass 
work and metal statuary and have been proficient painters. Newar 
artists and artisans took their inspiration from India, in turn saw their 
own work followed to a large extent in Tibet. The earliest known 
Nepalese paintings — a series of illuminated manuscripts of the eleventh 
century — conform closely to the canons developed in the great monas- 
teries of northern India under the Pala dynasty (approximately A.D. 
750 to 1150). Similarly, in sculpture, the style of the earliest surviving 
metal effigies (approximately fifteenth century A.D.) suggests that of 
the twelfth century Pala images and of works of other Indian schools. 
Even as late as the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries, the influence 
of Pala concepts and forms was still apparent in Nepalese sculpture, 
as evidenced in the elegance and graceful modeling of the multitude of 
bronzes still surviving from this period. 

Sculpture underwent its golden age in the Katmandu Valley from the 
tenth to the sixteenth century. Newar artisans of that era made use 
of the balance of form and spontaneity of Indian models, adding, how- 
ever, a feeling of rhythm that was exclusively their own. Among sculp- 
tures of that period which survive are images of Dinpankar Buddha 
in the Katmandu Museum and of Nateswar (the god of dancing) near 
the temple of Pashupatinath. Several pieces of sculpture in stone by 


unknown masters, believed to have been produced much earlier, still 
survive. Among the more notable is the famous image of the recumbent 
Vishnu, the original of which lies in a temple in the village of Buda 
Nilkantha near Katmandu. Some authorities date it from the sixth 

Painting in the premodern period was seen as having its creative 
source in spiritual contemplation, and artists were interested in neither 
attempting to imitate nature nor portraying secular life. The painter 
was expected to convert his own spiritual experiences and visions into 
symbolic forms and colors with the aim of conveying his enlightenment 
to others. The best extant examples of their work are ancient illumi- 
nated manuscripts and scroll paintings executed in powerful and con- 
trasting colors. 

Related to the great achievements in sculpture and painting was the 
development of handicrafts and small industries. Crafts flourished in 
Nepal from earliest times, the physical isolation of most villages re- 
quiring that each community make what it needed. Pottery making, 
papermaking, wood carving, and the casting of hard metals were per- 
fected in the Katmandu Valley by Newar artisans, whose aesthetic sense 
found expression in utilitarian as well as ornamental objects. Outside 
the Valley, other ethnic groups and occupational castes were associated 
with particular specialties. The Gurung and Limbu, for example, were 
noted for their woolen textiles. The cane and bamboo products of the 
Western Tarai area were particularly renowned. 

Since the sixteenth century, painting, sculpture and crafts of all types 
underwent a steady decline, and in tiiis sphere the modern period has 
not yet produced anything approaching the achievements of the past. 
In the twentieth century, owing to the importation of cheap manufac- 
tured goods from abroad, craftsmen have experienced little demand for 
their work, and what they have produced has often been of poor quality. 
In recent years, however, the government has supported the revival of 
certain traditional crafts with the Cottage Industries Program, under 
which young people are trained in such crafts as weaving, jewelry mak- 
ing and metalwork (see ch. 18, Labor). 

Some jewelry work continues to be done. The most valued metals 
are gold and copper, which is considered sacred. Women ornament them- 
selves with bracelets, necklaces, earrings and sometimes noserings. Amu- 
lets, bells, household containers and boxes of various types are also 
made of metal, often ornamented with conch shells, lotuses, wheels and 
other Buddhist symbols. Other craftsmen work in wood and ivory. 
Brocade is also made, and the purses carried by Newar are typically 
made of this material. 



Singing is a favorite pastime among villagers, for whom it affords 
both a means of emotional expression and an opportunity to display wit 
and imagination through the spontaneous comi)osition of lyrics. People 
sing both for recreation and to relieve monotony and fatigue in their 
daily work. Song is almost invariably an accompaniment to such tasks 
as turning handmills, walking to the woods to gather fagots, and carry- 
ing loads along the trail. Communal singing is a standard part of the 
rice-planting process. Men preparing the soil and women transplanting 
the seedling work in accordance with the strong rhythmic pattern of the 
music, each sex vying with the other in improvising verse after verse 
sung to a traditional tune. 

Leisure and formal occasions call for special songs, types of instru- 
mental music and often dancing. One such occasion is the Saturday 
night gathering of soldiers in the garrison, where the group sits around 
a lamp, while a soloist sings and dances to the beating of a drum, hand- 
clapping and choral responses by the audience. 

Although the subjects vary, folk songs are usually concerned with 
the beauty of Nepal's natural setting, the joy of the harvest, love and 
separation and, particularly, valor and gallantry in battle. The heroic 
exploits of Gurkha soldiers in distant theaters of war have inspired 
countless lyrics, carried from place to place by minstrels who accom- 
pany themselves on a sarangi (small stringed instrument). The gaine 
(ministrel) reminds the recruit leaving home: 

And why should you fear the foe? 

A son of Nepal knows no death 

Nurtured as he is in waters cool. 

He knows not how to retreat a single step 

Ever forward he marches on in the face of the enemy. 

Most villagers are eager to hear popular songs from abroad as well as 
their own, and transistor radios are usually left turned to popular music 
programs. Gurkha soldiers returning from Malaya, Indonesia, Hong 
Kong and other distant points are sought out in the expectation that 
they will know the latest tunes. 

Drums, cymbals and tambourines are the most common musical in- 
struments. Among the drums are the madal, a narrow-barreled drum 
with beating surfaces at each end pitched to different keys, and the 
disc-shaped damju, which is held in the left hand and hit with the right. 
One of the few wind instruments is the narasingha, a ser|^entine-shaped 
copper trumpet. Strict social conventions govern the production and 
playing of this and other locally made instruments, which in many 
instances are made by a low caste or untouchable group but may be 
played only by members of a high caste. Instruments of Indian deriva- 


tion are used in connection with the religious chants and epic songs of 
Nepalese classical music, which is based on the scale pattern of the 
Indian raga (mode-fixed patterns) on which individual melodies, each 
associated with a particular mood, are based. Western band instru- 
ments of somewhat antiquated design have been in use by the Nepalese 
military for more than half a century. 

Dancing is an activity generally limited to males. Forms of dance 
range from the stylized classical masked dances, based on subject matter 
taken from the Puranas (ancient Hindu epics) to the spontaneous grass- 
gatherer's dance popular among the Magar and Gurung. The latter is 
a vigorous communal dance involving much turning, twisting and leap- 
ing by the participants. Considerable uniformity in respect to dance 
costumes and basic movements is apparent in forms from region to 
region, but the tempo of most of the dances of the Tarai is said to be 
quicker than those of the Mountain Regions, where energy must be 



According to the 1952-54 national census, 89 percent of the popula- 
tion was Hindu, 9 percent Buddhist and the remaining 2 percent Mos- 
lem; fewer than 1,000 persons were Christian or of other religions. 
The figures tend to be misleading, however. No actual count was made 
along the northern border in the Himalayas where the Buddhists are 
most numerous, and the census estimates for this group are undoubtedly- 
low. There is much intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs, and 
many of the persons regarded as Hindus in the census could with as 
much justification be called Buddhists. Neither is an exclusive faith, 
and many Nepalese regard the country as being about equally divided 
between Hindus and Buddhists. 

Hindus and Buddhists tend to be concentrated in the areas where 
Indian and Tibetan cultural influence, respectively, has been dominant. 
The Katmandu Valley, where a variant, non-Tibetan form of Buddhism 
has been preserved by some of the Newar, is an exception. There, Bud- 
dhism has survived largely by becoming, in regard to philosophical bases 
and many of its ritual practices, reabsorbed into Hinduism as a variant 
sect. In the twentieth century, however, orthodox Buddhism has been 
introduced into the Valley. 

Both Hinduism and Buddhism have assimilated many elements of 
shamanism, an indigenous folk religion based on a belief in supernatural 
beings, often personifications of natural phenomena, and on the ability 
of certain persons, called shamans, to communicate with them. In Tibet, 
by a reverse process, shamanism took over most of the beliefs and prac- 
tices of Buddhism and reorganized itself as Bon. Gradually displaced 
by Buddhism in most of Tibet, Bon has survived in some northern areas 
of Nepal, and in Sikkim and Bhutan. Shamanism continues to be prac- 
ticed to some degree by nearly all Nepalese ethnic groups. 

There have been no overt religious conflicts between adherents of the 
two dominant Nepalese religions. The caste system, upon which tradi- 
tional Indo-Nepalese society was based, is closely associated with Hin- 
duism, which spread to communities of the Buddhist Tibeto-Nepalese 
ethnic groups living among the Pahari and Newar. 

The Tibeto-Nepalese groups most influenced by Hinduism are the 
Magar, Sunwar and Rai. Hundu influence has been less strong among 
the Gurung and Limbu, who continue to employ Buddhist monks in 
their important religious ceremonies. Although the two largest clans 
of the Magar — the Rana and Thapa — also clan names in the Pahari 


Chetri caste — are relatively orthodox in their practice of Hinduism, 
most of the other clans, particularly those living closer to the Bhote 
groups in the north, remain Lamaist Buddhists. 


The origins of Hinduism go back to the meeting of pastoral Aryan 
tribes spilling over the Hindu Kush from Central Asia with the urban 
civilization of the Indus Valley and with the tribal cultures of various 
hunting and gathering peoples in the area. Unlike other world religions, 
it has no single founder. In about 1200 B.C. a body of religious texts. 
collectively called the Vedas, were compiled, and these — elaborated 
throughout the centuries by the Brahman priestly castes — form the 
theological rationale for the religion. 

Basic Beliefs 

Hindus have always felt that the absolute (the totality of existence, 
including God, man and universe) is too vast to be contained within 
a single set of beliefs. Their highly diverse and complex religion em- 
braces a wide variety of metaphysical systems or viewpoints (darshana) , 
some mutually contradictory. From the darshana, an individual may 
select one which is congenial to him or conduct his worship simply on 
the level of morality and observances. Religious practices also differ 
somewhat from group to group, and the average Hindu does not need 
any systematic formal creed in order to practice his religion. He need 
only comply with the customs of his family and social group. 

Some of the sacred Vedic texts are regarded as revealed sacred knowl- 
edge of divine origin (srute) . The rest {smriti) are based on tradition 
handed down from ancient sages and holy men. Certain Vedic beliefs 
are common to all Hindus. 

One basic concept is that of dharma — natural law and the social and 
religious obligations it imposes. It holds that every person should play 
his proper role in society as determined by his dharma. The system 
of caste, though not essential to philosophical Hinduism, has become 
an integral part of its social expression. Under this system, each person 
is born into a particular caste whose traditional occupation — although 
members do not necessarily practice this occupation — is graded accord- 
ing to the degree of purity or impurity inherent in it. Grouping of the 
castes into five broad categories — the four varna: Brahmans, Ksha- 
triya, Vaishya, Shudra; and the untouchables (achut) — permits draw- 
ing broad distinctions of ritual purity (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and 
Languages) . 

Other fundamental ideas common to nearly all Hindus concern the 
nature and destiny of the soul and the basic forces of the universe. 


The souls of men are seen as separated portions of an all-embracing 
world soul; man's ultimate goal is reunion with this absolute. 

Karma (universal justice) is the belief that the consequence of every 
good or bad action must be fully realized. Another basic concept is that 
of samsara, the transmigration of souls; rebirth is required by karma 
in order that the consequences of action be fulfilled. Thus the role 
an individual must play throughout his life is fixed by his good and 
evil actions in his previous existences. It is only when tl-e individual 
soul sees beyond the veil of illusion {maya) — the force leading to belief 
in the appearances of things — that it is able to realize its identity with 
that impersonal, transcendental reality {brahman) and escape from 
the otherwise endless cycle of rebirth to be absorbed into brahman. 
This release is known as moksha. 

Veneration for the cow has come to be intimately associated with 
orthodox Hinduism of all sects. Since the cow is regarded as the symbol 
of motherhood and fruitfulness, the killing of a cow, even accidentally, 
is regarded as one of the most serious of religious transgressions. 


Hinduism is polytheistic, but in the most important and widely held 
darshana, the Vedanta (End of the Veda), the gods are considered to 
be merely manifestations or aspects of a single underlying divinity. 
The three major Hindu gods are Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, personifica- 
tions of creative, preservative and destructive forces, respectively. Al- 
most all Hindus are followers of Vishnu or Shiva or of one of their 
avatars, or incarnations; followers of Vishnu are called Vaishnavites 
(Vaisnavas), and followers of Shiva, Shaivites (Shaivas). 

The majority of Indian Hindus (except those of northern India and 
Nepal) are Vaishnavites. Vishnu has ten incarnations in animal and 
human forms — fish, crocodile, boar, man-lion, dwarf, Rama-with-an-ax, 
the Rama of the Ramayana, Krishna, and Buddha and, finally, Kalki, 
or the "incarnation to come." Some Hindus identify Christ with this 
tenth avatar of Vishnu. The devotional bhakti movement, in which a 
total love and devotion for a personal God suffices for salvation, is 
prominent in Vaishnavism. 

The Hinduism of Nepal is basically Shaivite, although Krishna as 
well as Shiva is worshiped. Shiva is a more complex divinity than 
Vishnu. He personifies the awesome and frightening aspects of faith, 
such as the struggle against demons and evil, the potential dangers of 
knowledge, and the fact of death and deterioration. But taken as the 
supreme being, Shiva also has creative and benevolent aspects. He often 
appears under male and female guises. 

Seen as a mother-goddess, Shiva has two aspects, one beneficent 


as the goddesses Uma and Parvati; the other aspect, more often stern 
and terrible, as the goddesses Durga, Kali and Bhairavi. The name of 
the last goddess, Bhairavi, is often loosely used to mean any local com- 
munity's guardian demoness and is considered a manifestation of Kali 
the Destroyer, the reminder of mortality, famine and pestilence. 

The guardian demons, the Bhairab, are considered to be manifesta- 
tions of Shiva in his destructive aspect. These male and female demonic 
deities are propitiated by the villagers under their charge who look 
to them for protection from all evil chances. They might be regarded 
as reformed demons who use their power against the forces of evil, 
rather than against the people. 

In his own guise, perhaps Shiva's most venerated forms are Pashupati, 
who is the Lord of Animals, and Nataraja (the Dancing King), who 
symbolizes the creative as well as the destructive forces in the universe, 
which is the product of Shiva's sport. The universe is seen as cyclical, 
undergoing phases of formation, dissolution and formation anew from 
chaos. Creation and destruction are seen as two sides of the same coin. 
Thus, Shiva and his manifestations have both aspects. There are also 
gods associated with Shiva, such as Karttikeya, the warrior, and Ga- 
nesha, the gentle, elephant-headed "master of the troupe of Shiva," who 
removes great obstacles and is a god of wealth. Ganesha and Karttikeya 
are Shiva's sons by his wife, Parvati. 


In the Shaivite Hinduism of Nepal, great emphasis is placed on wor- 
ship of the goddess, who is regarded as active in the affairs of the 
world, while the god is regarded as standing more aloof. This emphasis 
on female deities derives from Tantrism, whose roots lie in the ancient 
popular cults of the mother-goddess and of the linga (phallic fertility 
symbol) of pre-Hindu northern India, particularly Bengal. Tantric 
influence has always been strong in Nepal. 

Tantrism began as a movement in the sixth or seventh century A.D. 
with the compilation of a group of Sanskrit texts often collectively 
called Tantra (literally, "weavings"). These are divided according to 
subject matter into four groups — jnana, or knowledge; yoga (literally 
"union"), or discipline; kriya, or ritual; and carya, or conduct — which 
set forth the philosophy, the regimen of meditation, ceremonial and 
magical practices, and the code of morality, of the movement. 

The Tantric yoga is based on the belief that the answer to all religious 
questions and mysteries can be found within the human body. It affirms 
that there are solar and lunar currents within the nervous system which, 
when properly united, make it possible to open the psychic centers 
{cakra) of the body, thus setting free psychic powers which can be used 


to facilitate union with the absolute, which becomes identified with the 
world and the cycle of rebirth. 

Tantrism was originally conceived as a philosophy and spiritual dis- 
cipline leading to salvation or liberation which could be followed by 
persons of any or no religious faith, but it soon became differentiated 
along sectarian lines, according to whether the believers were Vaish- 
navites, Shaivites, or simply Tantrists, as well as along religious lines, 
Hindu and Buddhist. Both Hindu and Buddhist Tantrists accept 84 
traditional great Yogis as rishi (sage or saint), who are credited with 
the teaching and spread of the movement and who are believed to have 
acquired supernormal powers during the course of their strivings for 
imion with the absolute. In some cases, they have acquired the status 
of divinities. In Nepal, for example, Machendra is regarded by Hindus 
as the supernatural being who was the guru (teacher) or spiritual guide 
of Gorakhnath, the patron saint of the old Pahari Kingdom of Gorkha 
and hence of modern Nepal. The Buddhists consider" Machendra a rein- 
carnation of Avalokiteshvara, one of the Buddhist deities. 

In Hindu Tantrism, the solitary formless transcendental reality 
{brahman) is revealed as personified female (Shakti) and male (Shakta) 
philosophical principles which are present in all things — gods, spirits, 
men and material objects. Whereas Shaivism emphasizes the creative 
and destructive power of the god, Tantric Hinduism stresses the activity 
of the goddess, relegating the god to a passive role. The goddess is 
normally the consort of Shiva in one or another of her aspects — Durga, 
Kali, Parvati, Uma, Devi, Ambika, Bhavani, Mahamaya or Lalita. 

While most Tantric Hindus differ little in religious observances from 
Shaivite Hindus — except for the emphasis on worship of the goddess, 
the use of animal sacrifice and their reliance on certain scriptural texts 
— a few belong to a more esoteric type of Tantrism called vamachara 
or "left-hand" Tantrism as opposed to the exoteric dakhinachara or 
"right-hand" Tantrism. It is not known how many "left-hand" Tan- 
trists there are since their religious doctrines require secrecy of worship 
and make ritualistic sexual intercourse the primary means of achieving 
liberation for the initiated. 

Formal Observances and Practices 

Hinduism has priests but no ecclesiastical organization; temples but 
no church. The only authority is supplied by the Vedic scriptures. Its 
priests, drawn from the many Brahman castes {jati] , act as chaplains 
to families of castes of the first three varna. Besides the priests, some 
persons, who may belong to any caste, withdraw from the world and 
devote their lives to religion; known as sanmjasi, they may be inde- 
pendent or may belong to a religious order. 


The central act of formal religious behavior is public worship {pxija), 
which consists largely of welcoming the god as an honored guest to the 
company of its worshippers. The image of the deity is bathed, dressed, 
incensed, worshiped with fire, fed, bedecked with flowers and carried in 
procession from the temple amid singing of hymns and sacred dancing. 
For many, perhaps most, of the participants, the idol is the actual god 
or goddess; for others it is only a symbol of the deity it represents. 

The temple which enshrines the image may be a simple village shrine 
or a large complex of buildings, such as Pashupatinath (the temple of 
Shiva, Lord of Animals), in the Katmandu Valley, with an elaborate 
cycle of religious activities. Whatever its size, the temple is dedicated 
to a particular deity and is served by a permanent staff of priests and 

Worship can be conducted without an idol. Often an icon is substi- 
tuted, or some attribute of the deity — such as the wheel (chakra) of 
Vishnu or the linga (phallic symbol) or trident of Shiva — is used to 
represent the deity. Some sects of Hinduism, such as Tantrism. use 
more or less complex geometrical patterns {mandala) as well as pictures 
to symbolize the deities. 

Individuals may prepare themselves for either public or private wor- 
ship with such practices as ceremonial ablutions, fasting, abstinences 
and other food restrictions, assuming certain postures and gestures of 
the fingers, breath control and others. Possession by the god is often 
an important part of worship. Prayer consists of the repeated, silent 
recitation of a sacred formula {mantra). Often many of the syllables 
of the mantra have no meaning. This type of prayer is regarded as an 
aid to concentration and meditation, as well as a means of bringing 
about the desired result of protection, expiation or fulfillment of a vow. 

Meditation and the study of the sacred srute and smriti texts are also 
acts of worship. The only more or less obligatory religious practices 
are those performed in the home: thrice-daily prayers and offerings to 
the gods, saints and ancestors. Most people, however, considerably 
abbreviate these activities. More elaborate periodic ceremonies are 
held for ancestors back to great-grandparents on both the paternal and 
maternal sides of the family in order to obtain their protection and 
assistance and to placate their anger for offenses committed against 

There are a number of sacramental rites conducted in the home by 
the family chaplain {purohit) . They deal with birth, initiation (into 
the life of the "twice-born" castes), marriage and death. The life-cycle 
ceremonies marking the high points of an individual's passage from 
birth to death are observed almost universally in more or less elaborate 
form. As a general rule, the tendency among the high castes is to 
simplify and shorten these ceremonies. Among the lower castes, how- 


ever, elaboration of the rituals and the procurement of a Brahman to 
officiate at domestic ceremonies are regarded as marks of prestige and 
advancement in caste status. 

There are also a large number of agricultural and commemorative 
rites and festivals. Some of the more important Hindu festivals (jatra) 
are: Dussera, the 9- or 10-day feast of Durga in early October; Diwali, 
the Festival of Lights, dedicated to Lakshmi, held in late October; and 
Holi, usually held in March, the Spring Festival in honor of Krishna. 
Machendra-jatra, a festival peculiar in Nepal and celebrated by Budd- 
hists as well as Hindus, is held in early June to ensure the monsoon 

Pilgrimage is another important religious activity. The shrines of 
the Katmandu Valley, such as Pashupatinath and even the Buddhist 
Swayambhunath, and shrines outside the Valley such as Gorakhnath 
and Muktinath, are well-known places of Hindu iiilgrimage. A pil- 
grimage is often the result of a vow taken to obtain some definite goal 
or simply to obtain merit in the eyes of the god to whom the vow was 
made. A vow may also be made to abstain from or to perform various 
sorts of activities for a definite period of time. 

Popular Hinduism 

Although many high-caste families throughout Nepal tend to con- 
form to the Hinduism of the Brahman priests and the religious texts, 
a majority of the people, particularly among the lower castes, are much 
less orthodox in the gods they worship. The ordinary villager knows 
relatively little about the concept of the divine unity underlying all 
things, including the gods. This philosophical notion is reflected in 
popular religion chiefly in belief in an impersonal force that controls 

Each village tends to have its own patron deities. In some cases, 
connections between these deities and the great deities of the Hindu 
pantheon can be traced, but the village deities are more often personifi- 
cations of natural phenomena. Much importance is given to shamanism 
and to the role of goddesses. While gods are usually responsible for 
guarding village land and resources, goddesses protect the collective 
health of the group, especially in respect to epidemics. Both are given 
public worship under the ministry of the Brahman village priests of 
the village shrines. 

In addition to village deities, there are other divinities — usually an- 
cestral spirits, but sometimes one or another of the great gods of Hin- 
duism — whose worship tends to be handed down within families of 
lineages as their particular responsibility in order to preserve the health 
and well-being of the family. The majority of the gods and spirits are 


worshiped out of fear of their power and wrath rather than out of 

These beings are very much a part of daily life. They are perceived 
as bringing difficulty and misfortune in letribution for neglect of the 
worship due them or for offenses committed against them. Crop fail- 
ures, accidents, disease, barrenness, persistent family quarrels, even the 
time, place and manner of death are attributed to their actions. Re- 
ligion is seen more as a means of placating and propitiating powerful 
supernatural beings of uncertain temper than as being concerned with 
offering thanks and devotion to deities of lovable and beneficent guise. 
There seems to be no feeling that it is necessary to worship a god who 
does not cause trouble. 


Buddhism has its origin in the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, a 
prince of the Kshatriya varna, who was born in what is now the Nepal- 
ese Tarai about 563 B.C. His father was the ruler of a minor Indian 
principality, but Gautama renounced worldly life at the age of 29 and 
spent the next 6 years in meditation. At the end of this time he attained 
enlightenment; thereafter, known as the Buddha, or the "Enlightened 
One," he devoted the remainder of his life to preaching his doctrine. 

The Buddha accepted or reinterpreted the basic concepts of Hindu- 
ism, such as karma, samsara, dharma and moksha, but generally re- 
fused to commit himself on specific metaphysical theories, saying they 
were essentially irrelevant to his teachings and could only distract at- 
tention from them. He was specifically interested in restoring a con- 
cern with morality to religious life, which had become stifled in ritual 
details, external observances and legalisms. 

Buddha^s Teachings 

The Four Noble Truths summarize the Buddha's analysis of the 
human situation and the solution he found for the problems of life. 
The first truth is that life, lived in a world of unceasing change, is in- 
herently imperfect and sorrowful and that misery is not merely a result 
of occasional frustration of desire or of misfortune, but is a quality 
permeating all experience. The second truth is that the cause of sorrow 
is desire, the emotional involvement with existence which leads from 
rebirth to rebirth through the operation of karma. The third truth is 
that the sorrow can be ended by eliminating desire. The fourth truth 
sets forth the Eightfold Path leading to elimination of desire, rebirth 
and sorrow and to the attainment of nirvana. It enjoins right or perfect 
understanding, aspiration, speech, action, livelihood, effort, thought and 


Nirvana, the goal of the path, is the extinction of desire, hate and the 
illusion of selfhood. Nirvana is essentially a state of mystical union 
with the absolute or World Soul, but it is not an individual soul which 
attains it. For the Buddhist, there are no immortal particular souls; 
there is only the World Soul, in which all beings, both animate and 
inanimate, are participants. Thus, enlightenment is the realization of 
the identity of the self with the absolute. Similarly, it is not a par- 
ticular identity or ego which undergoes rebirth, but a growing bundle 
of karmic merits and demerits which constitute a character rather than 
a personality. 


After Buddha's death (about 483 B.C.), Buddhism was institutional- 
ized in the monastic order of his disciples; his teachings were initially 
transmitted orally by them. Various versions of the basic texts of the 
religion, the Tripitaka (Three Baskets), were written down by the early 
Buddhist monks between the third century B.C. and the seventh cen- 
tury A.D., but except for the Pali-language texts of Theravada Bud- 
dhism, most have not survived in their entirety. Subsequent centuries 
brought a large body of commentaries and additions to the basic texts. 

The doctrines of Buddha underwent much recasting and transforma- 
tion in the centuries following his death, and eventually these changes 
resulted in the formation of a new school known as the Mahayana 
(Greater Vehicle) as differentiated from the Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle) 
— a somewhat derogatory name given by Mahayana Buddhists to the 
earlier form. Both existed side by side in India for several centuries, 
with Mahayana gradually gaining greater favor and then being dis- 
placed, in the eighth century, by a third school. This, much influenced 
by Tantrism, was taught in certain Indian monasteries and carried by 
Buddhist missionaries to Nepal, where it became deeply entrenched. 
It is known as the Thunderbolt or Diamond Career (Vajrayana). 


Hinayana, the earliest form of Buddhism, offered liberation from 
rebirth only to those who renounced the world for a life of monastic 
discipline. For those who could not or would not adopt such a life, it 
counseled morality and nonviolence. It did not attempt to replace 
earlier religious beliefs but, instead, supplemented them, by showing that 
man's spiritual destiny was not dependent upon the whims of powerful 
supernatural beings but was under his own control for better or worse. 

The only surviving form of Hinayana is the Theravada Buddhism of 
Ceylon and Southeast Asia. It continues to emphasize the central im- 
portance of individual effort and total self-reliance in the search for 
nirvana. Its full realization in practice requires the individual to re- 


nounce the world and resolutely set out on a course of self-discipline 
and self-mastery for the attainment of nirvana, without regard to the 
actions of others. The man who has followed his solitary path to nir- 
vana is called an arhat. His example may inspire others, but, having 
escaped the cycle of rebirth, he can give those in it no direct help. 


Mahayana, the branch of Buddhism that developed from Hinayana 
about the beginning of the Christian era, offered a different spiritual 
ideal based more on the example of Buddha than on his specific state- 
ments. It emphasized the fundamental oneness of all beings, from which 
it follows that the liberation from rebirth {samsara) of any particular 
being is incomplete until all beings have achieved this liberation, just 
as a man cannot be said to be in perfect health until all parts of his 
body are in perfect health. 

Mahayana also developed the doctrine of the cosmic Buddha (Adi- 
Buddha), corresponding to the absolute or World Soul of the Hindus. 
In this doctrine the historical Buddha becomes only one of the incarna- 
tions of the transcendental or cosmic Buddha, which is regarded as 
manifesting itself in all periods and in innumerable worlds for the sal- 
vation of all sentient beings. 

The Mahayana concept of the Bodhisattva (a being destined for 
Buddhahood) follows logically from this doctrine. A Bodhisattva is an 
individual being who, having attained the goal of self-purification and 
emancipation, refuses to enter nirvana out of compassion for those 
beings who have not attained an equal stage of spiritual growth. Recog- 
nizing his essential identity with them, his happiness is incomplete until 
they are able to share it. 


In Vajrayana, an offshoot of Mahayana Buddhism, Buddhist and 
Hindu philosophical thought became very similar. Vajrayana contrasts 
with Mahayana in its emphasis on Tantric religious symbolism and 
on Tantrism as an advanced, esoteric discipline for the attainment of 
nirvana. They do not differ, however, in basic beliefs. 

Vajrayana adds to the Buddhas and the principal Bodhisattvas of 
Mahayana five female divinities (shakti or tara) , who are popularly 
regarded as the consorts of the five principal Buddhas ; the Bodhisattvas 
are thought of as their sons. The images of each of the five "families" 
are distinguished by a particular color: blue, yellow, white, red or green. 
Thus, the blue Akshobhya Buddha is "married" to the blue Lochana 
Tara and their "son" is the blue Vajrapani Bodhisattva, the Thunder- 
bolt-bearer. The red Amitabha Buddha is grouped with Pandara Tara 
and Padmapani (or Avalokiteshvara) Bodhisattva, who was incarnated 


as Siddhartha Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism. All the 
deities of this pantheon are merely aspects, or emanations, of the ulti- 
mate Adi-Buddha, the Body of Essence (Dharmakaya) in which all 
things are participations. 

Vajrayana, as a separate branch of Buddhism, appears to persist to- 
day only among the Newar of the Katmandu Valley. Its practices are 
distinct from those of other Buddhists in the country, who are pri- 
marily adherents to the Tibetan Buddhism which developed as a variant 
of Vajrayana. 

Kewar monasteries were originally communities of celibate monks. 
During centuries of Hinduization they became dwelling places (baha) 
for various patrilineal lineages of the Gubhaju and Bare castes whose 
ancestry goes back to the early monks who ceased to be celibate and 
founded families. The baha buildings generally enclose a central court- 
yard and contain one or more shrines. Although each baha is autono- 
mous in many respects, one lineage in each of the major towns supplies 
its senior man to act as head of the entire caste group in the town and, 
in annual consultation with the heads of each baha, to discuss and judge 
disputes that have arisen within the caste. 

Gubhaju and Bare were originally higher and lower monastic ranks, 
respectively, and their relative status has been preserved in that of the 
contemporary castes. A reminder of the earlier monastic life of the 
baha remains in what was formerly the rite of ordination as a monk of 
the Bare grade. All boys, Gubhaju as well as Bare, must undergo this 
ritual. For 4 days afterward, the boj^s are sent out to collect alms in 
the manner of mendicant monks. Gubhaju boys subsequently advance 
to a higher ritual status in a ceremony called the Coronation of the 
Learned One. In it they are given the insignia of a priest, a headdress, 
a prayer bell and a brass vajra, the thunderbolt symbol of power. This 
ceremony qualifies them to direct public worship and to conduct private 
religious rites as chaplains for client families. 

The Bare man is not authorized to perform such functions, although, 
like any man from a clean caste, he can renounce the world and be- 
come a celibate monk, wearing the yellow robe and conducting services 
for the worship of Buddha and the deities borrowed from Hinduism. 
He cannot, however, conduct the important Hindu-derived sacramental 
rites of the life-cycle ceremonies dealing with birth, caste-initiation, 
marriage and death. Celibate monasticism has reappeared among the 
Newar relatively recently and probably reflects the influence of Buddhist 
monastic pilgrims from other countries during the past century. 

An optional third ritual for adolescent boys of both Bare and Gubhaju 
castes is the "giving of the sacred formulae," at which the candidates 
are instructed in certain magical formulas (mantra) and become en- 
titled to participate in Tantric observances. The ceremony, which in- 


eludes a 10-day feast, is very expensive, and families will often share 
the cost of a single joint ceremony for their sons. 

Tibetan Buddhism 

Buddhism appears to have received official recognition as the state 
religion of Tibet in the second quarter of the seventh century, when a 
Tibetan king, Srong-bstan Sgam-po, is said to have married two Bud- 
dhist wives, one Chinese and one Nepalese (Newar), and to have been 
converted to Buddhism by them. Srong bstan sgam po's minister, Samb- 
hota, brought the Vajrayana Buddhist scriptures and is credited with 
inventing the Tibetan alphabet so that the Sanskrit texts could be 

About A.D. 747, the monk Padmasambhava and his disciples were 
invited to Tibet from their monastery in Bihar to convert the Tibetans 
from their shamanistic beliefs. He and his disciples taught Tantric 
(Vajrayana) Buddhism and established the Nyingmapa Order of 
Monks. This order of monks survived the persecution instituted by 
the followers of Bon, the indigenous shamanistic religion, in the tenth 

In the eleventh and twelfth centuries other monastic orders were 
founded, some heavily influenced by Bon theories and practices. These 
and the earlier Nyingmapa, came to be called "Red Hats" from the 
color of their headgear and to distinguish them from the monks of the 
Gelugpa Order (founded in the fourteenth century), who were known 
as the "Yellow Hats." 

The Gelugpa Order soon became the most important and powerful 
order of Tibetan Buddhism, supplying both the Dalai and Panchen 
Lamas. It is, however, the Tantric unreformed and semireformed ("Red 
Hat") orders, particularly the Kagyutpa, which predominate in the 
Buddhism of Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan. In general the Tibetans fol- 
low the Hinayana rules of monastic discipline (Vinaya) and dogmatic 
psychology (Abhidhamma), the Mahayana philosophy and spiritual 
goals, and the Vajrayana symbolism and esoteric forms of meditation. 

The typical Buddhist monastery (gompa) in Tibet is a complex of 
connected structures built around a courtyard in a way which often 
suggests a fortress or a castle. Containing a temple or temples, chapels, 
classrooms, meeting halls, dormitories and a kitchen, a gompa may 
house several thousand persons. Drepung, in Lhasa, one of the largest 
in Tibet, is said at one time to have had nearly 8,000 ordained monks 
and lay clergy — but most are considerably smaller. 

The appearance and organization of monasteries in Nepal vary from 
one Buddhist group to another, but by comparison with the Tibetan 
model they tend to be small and, as religious communities, less insti- 


tutionally integrated. Thus, among the Sherpa the monastery is char- 
acteristically a collection of dormitory huts around a temple, each hut 
accommodating one or two persons. The monks prepare their food in 
a common kitchen and gather in the temple for religious services. 

The monastery usually bears only those expenses connected with re- 
ligious observances — such as the purchase of tea, beer and the butter 
for lamps — and the monk must provide his own food, clothing and other 
needs. Most of them are dependent upon the alms of laymen. Fre- 
quently, a wealthy layman undertakes to support a monk or nun in 
order to obtain both religious merit and social prestige. When a man 
becomes a monk, he is usually given his inheritance in money which he 
can then lend out at interest in order co pay for his expenses. Laymen 
also provide alms and donations in cash and kind for monks who con- 
duct private religious services for them at marriages, funerals and other 
times of family crisis. 

Although the larger and more prosperous Tamang communities have 
temples, residential monasteries are relatively rare. The monks who 
live in them are celibate. Outside such monastic communities, however, 
local temples are served by married religious functionaries who support 
themselves largely by farming and animal husbandry. There is a ten- 
dency for such clerical families to intermarry and to raise their sons 
in the religious vocation. Any family able to afford the expense, how- 
ever, can. send a son to a learned monk for training for a clerical career. 


Shamanism, widespread in Asia, is the belief in the ability of certain 
persons — shamans — to communicate with and make known the wishes 
and intentions of a wide variety of supernatural beings. Common 
throughout Nepal, in some areas it overshadows both orthodox Hindu- 
ism and Buddhism in popular belief and practice. Indeed, all Nepalese 
ethnic groups, Hindu as well as Buddhist, have shamans {jhankri in 

Shamanism is a means of dealing with the practical problems of daily 
life, especially misfortune and illness. Hinduism and Buddhism, on the 
other hand, as formal doctrines focus more on the nature of existence 
and the meaning and goals of life. The average villager, little concerned 
with the abstract and preoccupied with mundane wants and needs, sees 
little or no conflict in adhering to shamanistic beliefs and practices as 
well as the two major religions, and one of the strengths of shamanism 
among the people is its close association with health and healing. A 
large number of illnesses are ascribed to the action of supernatural 
beings. Only the shaman can determine which being is the cause in 
particular cases. He may prescribe herbal remedies as well as rituals 
designed to placate the offended spirit, but often he merely diagnoses 


the cause of the illness and leaves the treatment to local practitioners 
of folk medicine. Public worship, or puja, is often an important element 
in the treatment. 

Gods and spirits wishing to communicate their desires to villagers 
do so through the shaman by temporarily entering his person. Among 
Tibeto-Nepalese groups, the spirits that possess the shaman and whom 
he propitiates usually are not those of the Buddhist pantheon, but may 
be indigenous, pre-Buddhist mountain gods, spirits of diseases, ancestral 
spirits or even local deities borrowed from popular Hinduism. In addi- 
tion to the Buddhist lamas, the Tamang village usually has one or 
more dhami, or shamans, who conduct seasonal agricultural rites, pro- 
pitiate the gods and spirits with animal sacrifices, and honor the ances- 
tral spirits of a clan. The dhami usually inherits his office. The /e- 
dangma of the Limbu and the bijuwa of the Rai appear to play similar 
roles. The Tharu shaman, if he is willing to accept the responsibility, 
may offer periodic sacrifices to the goddess Bhawani and her sisters to 
keep the village free of evil and malicious spirits in addition to his 
work with the individual patients made ill by them. 

Bon is the product of the impact of Buddhism on Tibetan shamanism, 
which, in order to maintain its position, systematically reorganized itself 
among Buddhist lines. It accepted karma and nirvana and many other 
concepts, elaborated a pantheon and established monasteries like those 
of the Buddhists. It rewrote the Buddhist scriptures and attributed 
them to a mythical founder, Shem-rab. These scriptures, totaling 300 
volumes, were divided into two collections called, like those of the 
Tibetan Buddhists, the Kanjur and Tanjur. 

Despite its efforts to survive and its own influence on Tibetan Bud- 
dhism, Bon has vanished from many parts of Tibet, being found mainly 
in the border regions. It also has a limited distribution in Sikkim, Bhu- 
tan and northern Nepal. Some writers suggest that much that appears 
to be Tibetan Buddhism in Nepal is actually Bon. 


The 1952-54 national census indicated that approximately 209,000 
Moslems lived in Nepal. Of these, over 200,000 were concentrated in 
the Eastern, Midwestern and Farwestern Tarai. Small communities of 
Moslems are, however, found in other parts of the country, and some 
of these had been established long enough to acquire agricultural land. 
As in India, Nepalese Moslems are involved with the caste system. 

The 1952-54 census indicated that^fewer than 1,000 persons were 
Christians or of unknown religious affiliation. The exclusion of for- 
eigners, first instituted by Prithvi Nara^an Shah (r., 1742-75) and re- 
tained by all succeeding governments until 1951, was directed principally 


at Westerners and at missionaries in particular. Missionaries, as such, 
still continue to be denied entry, and the Constitution explicitly forbids 
any effort to convert persons from one religion to another. The govern- 
ment, however, does permit various Christian churches to operate schools 
and staff medical missions, and one Christian church has been built in 
Katmandu to serve the foreign community and the small number of 
Nepalese Christians. 



Social values vary from group to group in the multiethnic society 
of Nepal. The Buddhist farmer and stockbreeder of the high Hima- 
layas and the ricegrowing Hindu ])easant of the Tarai differ not only in 
language, customs and environmental circumstance but in their concep- 
tion of the nature of reality and in what they regard as normal and 
abnormal, desirable and undesirable in human affairs. Even within a 
single ethnic group, differences in respect to urban and rural residence, 
economic status and education carry with them diverse ways of thinking 
and feeling, and such differences have been sharpened in the local and 
regional isolation created by mountainous terrain and poor communi- 

Uniformities and elements of integration, however, are not absent. 
Most Nepalese, for example, are subsistence farmers, and through their 
cultural differences run the common denominators of village life and 
the agricultural round. The political ferment of the 1950's and the 
continuing impact of a central government under a monarch determined 
to rule directly and vigorously have produced the beginnings of a public 
sense of national identity and shared goals. Only a minority as yet 
enjoy the advantages of formal education, but an expanding public 
school system is gradually disseminating basic elements of knowledge 
and common attitudes throughout the country. Hinduism and Buddhism 
are sharply contrasting religious dispensations, but in Nepal they have 
largely submerged an old substratum of highly varied shamanist belief. 
Moreover, certain shared concepts in the two religions reveal both their 
common Indian origin and their extensive mutual borrowing and inter- 

Most broadly, Nepalese social values can be seen in terms of one 
major contrast and a number of shared orientations. The contrast is 
between the values associated with Hinduism and Indian-derived cul- 
ture patterns and those associated with Buddhism and Tibetan cultural 
connections. The shared orientations are reflected in certain values 
characteristic of the Hindus or the Buddhists, or common to both. Such 
an approach reveals little of the actual variation of values in Nepal's 
pluralistic social setting. It does suggest something of the range of 
variation and indicate some general value orientations. 

The contrasts between Nepalese Hinduism and Buddhism tend to be 
softened by the ways in which each has been influenced by the other. 
The Buddhists, in particular, have accommodated to the numerically 
and politically dominant Hindus, assimilating Hindu deities to the 


Buddhist pantheon and adjusting in various ways to the caste system. 
Both religions accept the notion of a cycle of reincarnation or rebirth 
in higher or lower forms depending on merit gained or lost in earlier 
existences and, for those who have acquired sufficient merit, ultimate 
release from rebirth and union with the infinite. For Hindus and Bud- 
dhists alike, charity, honesty, moderation and abstention from taking 
life are prime merits. The two sectors differ significantly, however, in 
the way in which each has translated these and other general ideals into 
a pattern of individual feeling and conduct and group relations. 

The Hindu caste system stratifies the community on a scale of ritual 
l)urity. Theoretically, each caste is a hermetically sealed compart- 
ment, shut out from those above whom it would pollute, and shutting 
out those below who would pollute it. The system in India, and espe- 
cially in Nepal, has fallen short of this logical rigor, but it has had 
definite consequences in the realm of social values. Thus, the Hindu pre- 
occupation with trespass against a multitude of ritual boundaries has 
tended to overshadow moral principles with legalistic rules. The stand- 
ard of right and wrong is not universal but relative to status, and the 
same act may be good or bad, depending upon the caste of the person 
involved. Concern is with the social rather than the personal effects of 
conduct. Ritual pollution, for example, is contagious, the violator of 
caste rules transmitting his impurity to all who come in contact with 
him. The family finds protection by subordinating its members to the 
family head and, in effect, alienating their individual ethical compe- 
tence to him. 

Within limits, caste boundaries are, in fact, overlooked in the daily 
intercourse of all but the most orthodox, and there are other rungs on 
the status ladder than those of caste. In tendency, however, the system 
blocks upward movement in the community with hereditary impedi- 
ments, while leaving open the way to the loss of status through ritual 
pollution. The outcome in terms of value orientation and temperament 
has been a defensive concern for status, an indifference to the affairs 
of those outside one's immediate circle, an impersonal quality in dealing 
with others, and a pervasive pessimism. In the Hindu tradition, the 
only real escape from caste is in renunciation of the world for the 
ascetic life of the holy mendicant isannyasi). This alternative, how- 
ever, involving, as it does, withdrawal from the responsibilities of family 
and caste elicits only ambivalent approval. 

The Buddhists are ethnically even more varied than are the 
much more numerous Hindus. Some, like certain Bhote groups in the 
North do not differ in culture from Tibetans across the adjacent 
frontier. Others — especially the Buddhist section of the Newar — have 
developed highly distinctive patterns of their own. Through all this 
variation Buddhism in part conditions and in part corresponds with 


a value complex which, in contrast to that of the Hindus, owes more 
to Tibet than to India. The Buddhist communities — again with the 
exception of the Newar — are not organized on caste lines, and the ab- 
sence of this elaborate and rigid compartmentalization of society has 
favored the acceptance of certain basic Buddhist principles. In place 
of the exclusiveness of caste, for example, there is the universalistic 
Buddhist belief in the brotherhood of man and a concept of right and 
wrong which is independent of social status. An act is judged to be 
good or bad without regard to the social position of the one who commits 
it. Hospitality, kindness, and respect for others are held to be meri- 
torious in all circumstances, and the estranging idea of ritual pollution 
is absent. 

Moral worth for the Buddhists tends to be an attribute of the indi- 
vidual rather than of the group, and responsibility to be personal rather 
than collective. Value focus shifts accordingly. Buddhists and Hindus 
alike accord considerable importance to the efficacy of prayer and 
ritual acts in the acquisition of merit, and both formally acknowledge 
largely the same cardinal virtues. However, whereas the most funda- 
mental obligations of the Hindu are dictated by caste status and family 
affiliation, the Buddhist is expected to be guided by universal principles 
applicable in the relations of all men, irrespective of birth. The contrast 
is between Hindu particularism, collective responsibility, concern with 
group status and emphasis on enforcement of roles, on the one hand, 
and on Buddhist universalism, individual responsibility, concern with 
personal relationships, and emphasis on internalized sanctions, on the 
other. In terms of emotional texture of community life, the difference 
in these two value configurations seems to be reflected among the 
Buddhists in less formality and tension, in an emphasis on restraint 
over assertiveness, in a more sanguine and cheerful outlook and in a 
greater readiness to form new friendships. 

A central point of value in literally all groups is knowledge. Formal 
knowledge, traditionally associated in Nepal with Hindu and Buddhist 
scriptures, has acquired for the Nepalese a sacred quality. Not only 
was the pursuit of knowledge virtuous, but its possession brought power. 
These two attributes still strongly adhere to knowledge — secular as 
well as religious — but with an apparent difference of emphasis in the 
Hindu and Buddhist sectors of the society. 

The Buddhist disposition is to treat knowledge as virtue. The sanc- 
tity of the Lamaist monk is enhanced by learning, and, although there 
are many poorly educated monks, the ability to read and recite the 
sutras is a prestigious mark of the religious vocation. The end of knowl- 
edge is seen to be virtue and spiritual enlightenment, and, while it is held 
that knowledge is not the only or even sufficient path to these, means 
and end have in effect come to be identified. Something of this attitude 


carries over into the respect in which modern learning is held and 
accompanies the practical motives in the eagerness of parents to obtain 
an education for their children. 

Knowledge for similar reasons has a connotation of virtue among 
Hindus, but for them it has no less clearly an attribute of power. This 
perception of knowledge no doubt owes something of Tantric influence, 
which in Nepal has penetrated both Hinduism and Buddhism. In its 
more esoteric forms, Tantrism claims a body of occult knowledge 
capable of releasing great cosmic and psychic forces. Knowledge as 
power, however, would seem more importantly to result from caste- 
defined Brahman domination of orthodox religious learning and of the 
high castes' general monopoly of the secular and religious knowledge 
needed to rule. Knowledge, in effect, became not merely a benefit of 
birth and wealth but a hereditary asset, vital to the preservation of 
high status, like ritual purity itself, and not to be shared with those 
below or with potential competitors lest the advantage be lost. This 
attitude was reflected in the antipathy of the Ranas to the development 
of popular education. The policy changed with the fall of the Ranas, 
and public schools have increased rapidly. The old attitudes, however, 
have not altogether disappeared, and the evaluation of knowledge as 
power still carries with it the tendency to hoard it as alienable treasure. 

Hierarchy and authority stand out in the pattern of Xepalese social 
life. The caste system carries the hierarchical principle to an extreme, 
and only in modern times has an absolutist tradition of public authority 
encountered an opposing concept of popular and private right. The 
hierarchical and authoritarian emphasis is greatest in the Hindu sector 
of the society, but in lesser degree it is also present among some Buddhist 
groups in an hereditary division of the Tibetan type between aristocrats 
and commoners and in the penetration of Hindu influence. 

The hierarchical ordering of all the most important relationships in 
the Hindu community has given special importance to formal attitudes 
and types of social behavior calculated to recognize and preserve a 
wide range of status difference. The appropriate postures in the deal- 
ings of superiors and inferiors are dignity and distance on the part of 
those above, and respect and submissiveness on the part of those below. 
This pattern finds expression within the family circle itself, all members 
of which are expected to subordinate themselves to the final authority 
of the male head and to be governed in their relations with each other 
by an order of precedence which ranks males above females, age above 
youth and lineal above affinal kinsmen. 

The formalization of individual and group relationships within the 
restrictive hereditary structure of caste has made for certain conflicts 
between the real and the ideal. In the traditional ideal, the individual 
accepts without complaint or envy the place to which he has been born. 


Actually, a frustrated preoccupation with status appears to be general. 
It has evidently been sharpened by the fact that the nature of the caste 
system tends to restrict opportunities for advancement to competition 
for relative position among one's peers. The less privileged constantly 
seek ways of advancement, and, although they have little hope of being 
assimilated into groups above them, they adopt their ways as far as 
possible to display superiority over their fellows. Wealth is no doubt 
desired for the security and comfort it can bring, but a central motive 
appears to be elevation of social position. Even the semblance of wealth 
is prized, and people will entertain lavishly and mark family occasions 
with expensive ceremonies at the cost of mounting debts. 

Unquestioning obedience to authority is also a qualified ideal not 
only because of the impingement of modern influences but because of 
an apparent traditional factor. The characteristic relationship between 
persons of high and low caste has been that of patron and client. Service 
and obedience were expected of the client, but the patronage he received 
came less as a right or a reciprocal favor than as an alms-like bounty. 
The pattern gave little reinforcement to the motive of loyalty between 
superior and subordinate, and such relationships have tended to be 
unstable. The result has been that while the principle of authority has 
been strongly upheld, there has been little compunction about ignoring 
or avoiding its commands. 

A warrior tradition has given value to courage and strength among 
the Nepalese, especially the hill peoples. The kingdom was won by the 
military prowess of the Thakuri and Chetri castes of Gorkha, and the 
more or less Hinduized ethnic groups of central and eastern Nepal 
subsequently created a legend in the ranks of the Gurkha battalions 
in the service of Great Britain and India. The high Himalayas have 
also provided the setting for a hardy mountaineering tradition. The 
"Tiger" Sherpa is a man with the distinction of having served as a 
porter at elevations above 24,000 feet. Not only men, but women, take 
pride in their ability to carry heavy loads over steep and often danger- 
ous mountain trails. 

Contact with the outside world and a planned program of domestic 
development are beginning to affect the traditional scheme of values. 
Such changes as are observable are most apparent in the few urban 
centers, and notably the Katmandu Valley, but there are indications 
that new material expectations, social wants and political goals are 
penetrating the rural areas as well. The impact of change is differential 
also in that it is felt first by men and young people. Frequently, the 
old and new concepts come into conflict within the same household, the 
older women clinging to tradition, while the young people and men, 
whose contacts reach outside the household, begin to accept newer ways. 

Western influence entering Nepal through motion pictures, radio, 
printed matter and Nepalese who have traveled abroad and resident 


foreigners is affecting traditional concepts of family and caste. More 
and more frequently sons are setting up their own households before 
the death of their father, and even though brothers may continue to 
live in their father's house, they are less apt than formerly to pool their 
earnings in the joint family purse. Western notions of courtship and 
marriage are beginning to comi-)ete with the traditional concept of 
family-arranged matches. 

Caste rules are also loosening, and the penalties for intercaste mar- 
riage have been abolished and discrimination before the law on the 
basis of caste banned. As family and caste traditions are challenged, 
the existing forms of status become less satisfying. Recognition of the 
material abundance of other countries can be expected to give a new 
significance to wealth and to stimulate the desire for economic advance- 
ment and for the knowledge and the social and political institutions 
with which to achieve it. 



Section I. Social 


Among the sources consulted in the preparation of this section, the 
following are recommended as additional reading on the basis of quality 
and general availability. 

Acharya, Baburam. "A History of Nepali Education," Navin Siksha, 
I, 1957, No. 4, 5-12; I, No. 5, 5-14; I, No. 8, 8-12. 

"The Arts of Nepal." (Thomas 0. Ballinger Collection.) Presented by 
the Museum of Art, University of Oregon, July 2-September 8, 1963 

Ballinger, Thomas 0., and Bajracharya, Purna Harsha. "Nepalese 
Musical Instruments," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology , XVI, 
Winter 1960, 398-416. 

Barnouw, Victor. "Eastern Nepalese Marriage Customs and Kinship 
Organization," Southwest Journal of Anthropology, XI, Spring 1955, 

. "Some Eastern Nepalese Customs. The Early Years," South- 
western Journal of Anthropology , XII, Autumn 1956, 257-272. 

Barrett, Douglas. "The Buddhist Art of Tibet and Nepal," Oriental 
Art, III, Autumn 1957, 90-95. 

Basham, A. L. The Wonder That Was India. New York: Grove Press, 

Berreman, Gerald D. Behind Many Masks. Ithaca: Cornell University 
Press, 1962. 

. "Caste and Economy in the Himalayas," Economic Develop- 
ment and Cultural Change, X, 1961-1962, 386-394. 

. "Cultural Variability and Drift in the Himalayan Hills," 

American Anthropologist, LXIV, February 1962, 774-794. 
. Hindus of the Himalayas. Berkeley: University of California 

Press, 1963. 
. "Pahari Polyandry," American Anthropologist, LXIV, Febru- 

ary 1962, 60-75. 

Burtt, E. A. The Teachings of the Compassionate Buddha. New York: 
Mentor, 1955. 

Dumont, Louis. "World Renunciation in Indian Religions," Contribu- 
tions to Indian Sociology, IV, April 1960, 33-62. 


Fiii-er-Haimendorf, Christoph von. "Caste in the Multi-Ethnic Society 
of Nepal," Contributions to Indian Sociology, IV, April 1960, 12-32. 

. "The Economy of the Sherpas of Khunibu," Die Wiener Schule 

der Volkerkunde: Festschrift anldsslich des 25-Jdhrigen Bestandes 
des Institutes fUr Volkerkunde (University of Vienna), 1956, 261-280. 
'Elements of Newar Social Structure," Journal of the Royal 

Anthropological Institute, LXXXVI, Pt. 2, July-December 1956, 15- 
. "Ethnographic Note on the Tamangs of Nepal," Eastern An- 

thropologist, IX, March-August 1956, 166-177. 

"Moral Concepts in Three Himalayan Societies," Indian An- 

thropology, 1962, 279-309. 

"Status Differences in a High Hindu Caste of Nepal," Eastern 

Anthropologist, XII, June-August 1959, 223-233. 
Gard, Richard A. Buddhism. New York: Washington Square Press, 

Getty, Alice. The Gods of Northern Buddhism. Oxford: Clarendon 

Press, 1914. 
Glasenapp, Helmuth von. Non-Christian Religions: A to Z. New York: 

Grossett and Dunlap, 1963. 
Hagen, Toni. Nepal. New York: Rand McNally, 1960. 
Hagen, Toni, Wahlen, F. T., and Corti, W. R. Nepal: The Kingdom in 

the Himalayas. Berne: Kummerly and Frey, 1961. 
Hermanns, Father Matthias. The Indo-Tibetans. Bombay: Fernandez, 


Hitchcock, John T. "A Nepalese Hill Village and Indian Employment," 
Asian Survey, I, November 1961, 15-20. 

Hsu, F. L. K. Clan, Caste and Club. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 1963. 

Humphreys, Christmas. Buddhism. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1962. 

Jain, Girilal. India Meets China in Nepal. New York: Asia Publishing 
House, 1959. 

Kaplan, Abraham. The New World of Philosophy. New York: Random 
House, 1961. 

Karan, Pradyumna P. and Jenkins, William M., Jr. The Himalayan 
Kingdoms: Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 

. Nepal: A Cultural and Physical Geography. Lexington: Uni- 
versity of Kentucky Press, 1960. 

Kawakita, Jiro. "Settlement Pattern, Territorial Organization and 
Ecology of the Ethnic Groups and Intensive Survey of a Tibetan 
Community," Japanese Journal of Ethnology, XI, Pt. 2, Nos. 3 and 4, 
1956, 34-134. 


Kihara, H. (ed.). Peoples of Nepal Himalaya: Scientific Results of the 
Japanese Expeditions to N^pal Himalaya 1952-1953. 3 vols, Kyoto: 
Kyoto University, Fauna and Flora Research Society, 1955, 1956, 

Kramrisch, Stella. "The Art of Nepal and Tibet," Philadelphia Museum 
of Art Bulletin, Spring 1960, 23-38. 

Landon, Percival. Nepal. London: Constable, 1928. 

Levi, Sylvain. Le Nepal: Etude Historique d'un Royaume Hindon. 3 
vols. Paris: Leroux, 1905. 

Levi, Werner. "Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Sur- 
vey, XXI, December 17, 1952, 185-191. 

. "Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, 

XXII, January 14, 1953, 5-10. 

'Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, 

XXIV, January 14, 1955, 5-9. 

"India's Himalayan Border," Contemporary Review, CLXXX- 

VIII, July 1955, 42, 43. 

"Nepal in World Politics," Pacific Affairs, XXX, September 

1957, 236-248. 
. "Political Progress in Nepal," World Today, XII, June 1956, 


-. "Political Rivalries in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, XXIII, 

July 1954, 102-107. 
. "Politics in Nepal," Eastern World, VIII, November 1954, 


'Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, XXV, March 1956, 


Masters, John. Bugles and a Tiger. New York: Viking Press, 1956. 

Nakane, Chie. "Sikkim ni okeru fukugo shakai (Lepcha, Bhutia, 
Nepalee) no kenyu" (A Study of Plural Societies in Sikkim), Japan- 
ese Journal of Ethnology, XXII, Nos. 1-2, 1958. 

Nepal. Laws, Statutes, etc. "Constitution of Nepal," Nepal Gazette, 
XII, December 16, 1962. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 

Nepal. Ministry of Economic Affairs. National Planning Council. The 
Economic Affairs Report, I, January 1963, 51-66. 

Nepal. Ministry of Education. Nepal, Monograph on Nepalese Cul- 
ture. Katmandu: Ministry of Education (with assistance from the 
United Nations Economic, Social and Cultural Organization), 1962. 

Northey, W. Brook. The Land of the Gurkhas: Or the Himalayan King- 
dom of Nepal. Cambridge: Heffer and Sons, 1937. 


Northey, W. Brook, and Morris, C. J. The Gurkhas. London: Lane, 

Okada, Ferdinand E. "Background Notes on the Nepalese People," 

(Orientation Paper No. 6). Katmandu: U.S. Agency for International 

Development, Mission to Nepal, July 7, 1961 (mimeo.). 
. "Facts About Nepal." (Orientation Paper No. 8.) Katmandu: 

U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to Nepal, 1962 

. "The Gurkhas." (Orientation Paper No. 11.) Katmandu: U.S. 

Agency for International Development, Mission to Nepal, January 
31, 1963 (mimeo.). 
. "The Newars of Nepal," Natural History, LXVI, April 1957, 


-. "Ritual Brotherhood: A Cohesive Factor in Nepalese Society," 

Southwestern Journal of Anthropology , XIII, Fall 1957, 212-222. 

Pandey, Sardar Rudra Raj, et al. (eds.j. Education in Nepal: Report 
of the Nepal National Education Planning Commission. Katmandu: 
Bureau of Publications, College of Education, 1956. 

Pignede, Bernard. "Clan Organization and Hierarchy Among the 
Gurungs," Contributions to Indian Sociology, VI, 1962, 102-119. 

Regmi, Mahesh Chandra. "Land Tenure and Taxation in Nepal." 
Katmandu: 1962. (Unpublished typewritten manuscript.) 

Renou, Louis. Hinduism. New York: Washington Square Press, 1963. 

. The Nature of Hinduism. New York: Walker, 1962. 

Richardson, Hugh E. A Short History of Tibet. New York: Dutton, 

Rose, Leo E. Nepal: Government and Politics. (Subcontractor's Mono- 
graph HRAF-36 California-5, Human Relations Area Files, South 
Asia Project.) Berkeley: University of California, 1956. 

Sangharakshita, Bhikshu. "Tibetan Buddhism," Illustrated Weekly 
of India, LXXX, May 24, 1959, 20, 21. 

Sanwal, B. D. "The People of Eastern Nepal," Eastern Anthropologist, 
I, December-February 1947-1948, 1-7. 

Shen, Tsung-Lien, and Liu, Shen-Chi. Tibet and the Tibetans. Stan- 
ford: Stanford University Press, 1953. 

Singh, Gopal. "The Ethnic Groups of Nepal," United Asia, IV, 1960, 

Sne, K. M. Hinduism. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1963. 

Snellgrove, David L. Buddhist Himalaya. Oxford: Cassirer, 1957. 

. Himalayan Pilgrimage. Oxford: Cassirer, 1961. 

Srivastava, S. K. The Tharus: A Study in Culture Dynamics. Agra: 
University of Agra Press, 1958. 


Tucci, Giuseppe. Nepal. The Discovery of the Malls. (Trans., Lovett 
Edwards.) New York: Button, 1960. 

Tuker, Francis. Gorkha: The Story of the Gurkhas of Nepal. London: 
Constable, 1957. 

Upraity, Trailokya Nath. Financing Elementary Education in Nepal. 
Doctoral dissertation. Oregon: American-Nepal Education Founda- 
tion, 1962. 

Wood, Hugh B. Educational Statistics for Nepal. Oregon: American- 
Nepal Education Foundation, 1962. 

Wood, Hugh B., et al. Six Years of Educational Progress in Nepal. Kat- 
mandu: College of Education, Bureau of Publications, 1959. 

Wood, Hugh B., and Knall, Bruno. "Educational Planning in Nepal 
and Its Economic Implications." (Draft Report of the UNESCO 
Commission to Nepal.) Katmandu: May 1962 (mimeo.). 

The World's Great Religions, I. (Special Family Edition 1963.) New 
York: Life Editorial Staf!, Time Inc., 1957. 

Wright, Daniel (ed.). History of Nepal. Cambridge: Cambridge Uni- 
versity Press, 1877. 


Acharya, Baburam. "Teaching of History at High School Levels in 
Nepal," Navin Siksha, I, No. 10, 1958, 13-18. 

Adam, Leonard. "Social Organization and Customary Law of Nepalese 
Tribes," American Anthropologist, XXXVIII, October-December 
1936, 533-547. 

The Asia Who's Who. Hong Kong: Pan Asia Newspaper Alliance, 1958. 

Bajracharya, Purna Harsha. "Newar Marriage Customs and Festivals," 
Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, XV, Winter 1959, 418-428. 

Baral, Isvar, and Mozumbar, Shri Deba (eds.). Nepal Trade and Infor- 
mation Directory 1960-1961. New Delhi: Nepal Trading Corpora- 
tion, 1960. 

Bell, Charles. The People of Tibet. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1928. 

. Tibet: Past and Present. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1924. 

Berreman, Gerald D. "Himalayan Rope Sliding and Village Hindu- 
ism," Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, XVII, Winter 1961, 

"Bir Hospital Infectious Disease Unit Inaugurated," Motherland, Feb- 
ruary 21, 1963, 1. 

Bureau of Research. College of Education. 1957 Evaluation of College 
of Education Nepal Condensed Report. Katmandu: Bureau of Re- 
search, College of Education, 1957. 


Cammann, Schuyler. Trade Through the Himalayas: The Early British 

Attempts to Open Tibet. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1951. 
Chandramohan, A. T. "Indian Aid," Far Eastern Economic Review, 

XXXVI, May 17, 1962, 316, 317. 
Chittadhar, Kavi Keshari. Chittadhar Hriday's Pagoda. (Trans., Vai- 

kunth Prasad Lacoul.) Katmandu: Harsha Ratna Tuladhar, 1958. 
Dusenberry, Harold L. "Six Years of Village Development in Nepal." 

Katmandu: Government of Nepal, Village Development Department, 

October 15, 1958 (mimeo.). 
Elliot, J. H. Guide to Nepal. Calcutta: Newman, 1959. 
Erickson, Walfred. "Libraries in Nepal," Wilson Library Bulletin, 

XXXV, February 1961, 446-452. 
Gilliard, E. Thomas. "Coronation in Katmandu," National Geographic, 

CXII, July 1957, 139-152. 
Guseva, N. R. "The Population of Nepal," Sovetskaya Etnografiya, 

V, 1958, 91-106. 
Hamilton (formerly Buchanan), Francis. An Account of the Kingdom 

of Nepal. Edinburgh: Constable, 1819. 
Himsworth, Eric. "A Report on the Fiscal System of Nepal." (In co- 
operation with the United Nations Technical Assistance Bureau.) 

Katmandu: June 1959 (mimeo.). 
Hitchcock, John T. "Some Effects of Recent Change in Rural Nepal," 

Human Organization, XXII, Spring 1963, 75-82. 
Hodgson, Brian H. Essays on the Language, Literature and Religion of 

Nepal and Tibet. London: Tribner, 1874. 
Hunter, William Wilson. Life of Brian Houghton Hodgson: British 

Resident at the Court of Nepal. London: Murray, 1896. 

Joint Section of Education and Cultivation (ed.). Nepal. New York: 
Board of Missions of the Methodist Church, 1959. 

Kabir, Humayun. Education in New India. New York: Harper, 1955. 

Kane, Robert S. "Pleasures and Places — Nepal," Atlantic, CCV, June 
1960, 155-159. 

Karki, Yama Bahadur. A Survey of Some Problems of Ethnology in 
Nepal. Eugene: University of Oregon Press, 1957. 

"Kerosene Short," Motherland, February 23, 1963, 1. 

Kitagawa, Joseph M. "Buddhism and Asian Politics," Asian Survey, 
II, July 1962, 1-11. 

Lall, Kesar. Lore and Legend of Nepal. Katmandu: Jagat Lall, 1961. 

Leesob, Francis. "The Tharus of Nepal," Statesman, February 28, 1954. 

Maron, Stanley, Rose, Leo E., Heyman, Juliane, and Keddie, Nikki R. 
A Survey of Nepal Society. (Subcontractor's Monograph HRAF-47 


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(The following periodicals were used in the preparation of this sec- 
tion: Asian Recorder, from January 1, 1956 to March 31, 1964; Com- 
moner, from January 1, 1956 to March 31, 1964; Hindustan Times, from 
January 1, 1956 to March 31, 1964; Keesing's Contemporary Archives, 
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to December 31, 1959.) 




The monarchy has traditionally been the central feature in constitu- 
tional theory, and its actual position and power in the governmental 
process usually have been faithful reflections of its formal authority. 
Even during the Rana period when the king was under the domina- 
tion of his prime minister, he remained the exclusive object of the 
allegiance of the people and the sole source of legitimate power; all 
actions of the government continued to be taken in his name. With the 
disintegration of the Rana system of rule in 1951 the monarchy was 
restored to practical as well as theoretical supremacy. It has remained 
paramount since that time, even though the constitutional order and 
the governmental system have undergone three successive transforma- 
tions: a period of interim party governments under royal tutelage from 
1951 to 1959; a period of parliamentary democracy in 1959-60; and a 
period of panchayat rule which began in 1963. 

King Mahendra's avowed purpose in creating the new panchayat sys- 
tem was the democratization of government by decentralizing the ad- 
ministration and by bringing the mass of the people into participation 
in economic development and public affairs. This liberalization of the 
context of government and politics is to take place through a series of 
class organizations and deliberative bodies arranged on four tiers — village 
and town, district, zone and national — whose membership at the lowest 
level includes the whole citizenry. It appears, however, that another and 
more fundamental objective of the King is to employ the panchayat 
system as a vehicle for broadening and strengthening the position of the 
monarchy. To a degree these objectives are mutually exclusive, and in 
their pursuit King Mahendra confronts the dilemma of how to allow the 
panchayats sufficient autonomy to develop into viable institutions with- 
out generating forces which might eventually erode monarchical 

The imperatives of dealing with this problem are largely responsible 
for the present outlines of governmental structure, particularly the 
structure of territorial administration. The King is in thorough con- 
trol of the apparatus of the central government. Subordinate to it is 
a traditional administrative system which has been in existence for 
over half a century and which contains the essential machinery for 
maintaining royal power throughout the country. With the introduc- 
tion of the panchayat system, a new administrative structure under 


a degree of popular control was created alongside the first. It was im- 
mediately vested with limited administrative responsibilities for eco- 
nomic development and the scope of its authority was to be expanded 
as conditions w^arranted. Although the functions of the panchayats 
and their administrative arms overlap those of the traditional adminis- 
trative system at many points, either implicitly or overtly, it is probable 
that the older system will remain in operation for quite some time despite 
its conflicts with the new one. It is doubtful that the King will be will- 
ing to extend larger powers to the panchayats until their political impact 
on the country, and particularly their effect on monarchical influence, 
can be determined with greater certainty. In the meantime, he will 
probably tolerate the conflicts and disorganization within the govern- 
ment which this duality will engender in order to retain the authority 
of the traditional administrative system. 

King Mahendra has not yet allowed any significant amount of his 
power or authority to pass to the new institutions of the panchayat sys- 
tem, and the immediate effect of its introduction and the eventual direc- 
tion of its development are still ambiguous. It could eventually result 
in a freer climate of government. It may, however, rechannel old polit- 
ical forces in new directions and trigger new ones which could threaten 
the King or lead to the destruction of the system itself. Or, it might 
remain simply an appurtenance to the present structure of royal control. 


The constitutions, of which there have been four, have as their most 
prominent feature the definition of a strong central authority — the prime 
minister in the constitution prepared under the Ranas in 1948, and the 
king in the organic laws of 1951, 1959 and 1962. An accompanying 
characteristic has been the attempt on the part of monarchs and prime 
ministers to reconcile their desire to perpetuate the concentration of 
power in their hands with the demands of political leaders and groups 
for greater participation in the governmental process. 
■ Each of the four constitutions represents a different response of the 
rulers to the problem of dealing with such pressures without surrender- 
ing the substance of their power. Constitutions since the end of the 
Rana period have thus been in the nature of periodic balance sheets 
in the rivalries between the king and the limited number of people 
involved in the country's political life. 

Since 1951 the monarchy has been extremely successful in maintain- 
ing possession of the basic elements of power by relinquishing some of 
the forms but none of the essence of its authority. The constitutions 
appear to have lacked any widespread knowledge, interest or support 
from the general public. The panchayat system created in 1962 by the 
most recent constitution was reportedly accorded an unenthusiastic 


popular reception. However, mass support for the new constitutional 
system may be generated through its provisions for the participation 
of all citizens in local assemblies. 


The constitutional foundation of Rana rule was contained in royal 
edicts of 1846 and 1856 which transferred to the prime minister all the 
powers of absolute monarchy and put the office of prime minister under 
the exclusive control of the Rana family. The system thus established 
remained intact for over a century before growing opposition to the 
Ranas caused Prime Minister Padma Shamsher to initiate certain liberal 
reforms through the promulgation of the country's first formal constitu- 
tion, the Government of Nepal Act of 1948. The Constitution of 1948, 
known as the Rana Constitution, provided for establishment of a 
bicameral legislative body. The entire membership of one house and 
a majority of the other was to be selected by the prime minister, who 
could reject any measure which the legislature might pass. There was 
to be a Cabinet of at least five men, of whom at least two were to be 
chosen from among the few elected members of the legislature. 

The Act also specified that a panchayat system of local self-govern- 
ment was to be inaugurated in the villages, towns and districts. More- 
over, it enumerated certain "fundamental rights and duties" which in- 
cluded, among others, freedom of speech, the press, assembly and wor- 
ship; equality before the law; free elementary education for all; and 
equal and universal suffrage. Despite the appearance of reform the 
alterations made in the Rana system by the Constitution were slight and 
its essential features were preserved without change. However, it was 
regarded as a dangerous precedent by the more conservative Ranas, who 
forced Padma to resign and suspend promulgation of the Constitution. 
It was later put into effect in September 1950, but remained in force only 
until February 1951, when the Rana monopoly was broken and the 
creation of a new constitutional system began. 

In April 1951, 2 months after the capitulation of the Ranas, King 
Tribhuvan promulgated a new constitution which ratified the end of 
the authority of the prime minister and the entire system which sur- 
rounded him and asserted the resumption of supreme executive, legis- 
lative and judicial power by the king. The Constitution of 1951, entitled 
the "Interim Government of Nepal Act of 1951," outlined the form of 
an interim government which was "to create conditions, as early as 
possible, for holding elections for the Constituent Assembly which will 
frame a Constitution for Nepal." The king was to exercise his executive 
power through, and be aided and advised by, a Council of Ministers 
which he would appoint and which would serve at his pleasure. 

The King was also to appoint an Advisory Assembly to sit until the 


Constituent Assembly was elected. Its members were to be selected 
from among the prominent citizens of the country in order "to obtain 
a greater participation of the representatives of the people in the admin- 
istration." The king retained "sovereign and plenary" legislative powers, 
however, and the Advisory Assembly was authorized only to discuss 
matters, with certain important exceptions, and to recommend measures 
to the king for enactment into law. The king could reject any bill ap- 
proved by the Assembly and, although the Constitution stated that a 
measure had to be discussed and voted on by the Assembly before 
promulgation by the king as law, it also allowed the king discretionary 
authority to override the Assembly's disapproval of a bill. 

The Constitution also established a supreme court, made the king 
supreme commander of the armed forces, and contained a section on 
"Directive Principles of State Policy" which reiterated and enlarged 
upon the fundamental rights included in the Rana Constitution and 
added numerous social and economic objectives of the government. 

Although the Constitution of 1951 was expected at the time to remain 
in effect only temporarily pending the election of a Constituent Assem- 
bly and the preparation of a permanent organic law, it remained in 
operation for 9 years. The most significant aspect of the document 
which superseded it, the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal of 1959, 
was that it was granted by the king rather than drawn up by elected 
representatives of the people as had been specified in the Constitution 
of 1951. Although it formally brought into being a democratically 
elected parliamentary system under a constitutional monarchy, the man- 
ner in which the new constitution was enacted indicated clearly that the 
king retained ultimate sovereignty, even though this was not explicitly 
stated in the document itself. 

The Constitution of 1959 provided that the executive power was 
vested in the king and that he was to be advised and assisted in its by a Council of State and a Council of Ministers (Cabinet). 
The Council of State was to consist of officers of Parliament, ministers 
ex officio, former ministers, and royal appointees and was to advise the 
monarch on legislation and to handle the details of regency and suc- 
cession in the event of his death or disability. The general direction and 
control of the government was entrusted to the Council of Ministers. 
It was to be headed by a prime minister who was required to command 
a majority in the lower house of Parliament, to which the Council was 
collectively responsible. 

The Constitution of 1959 provided that the king was to be an integral 
part of the legislative arm of the government; Parliament was defined 
as consisting of the king; a House of Representatives, consisting of 
109 popularly elected members; and a Senate, composed of 36 members 
of whom half were elected by the House and half were nominated by 


the king. All bills approved by the two houses required the assent of the 
king to become law. 

The Constitution granted the king wide latitude for nullifying the 
operation of the parliamentary system which it introduced. He could 
suspend the operation of the Cabinet and exercise its functions himself 
upon determination that no person could command a majority in the 
House as prime minister. In the event of a "breakdown" of the parlia- 
mentary system or of any one of a number of emergency conditions, 
he could suspend either or both houses of Parliament, assume their 
powers, and suspend the Constitution in whole or part. At the end of 
1960, King Mahendra invoked these emergency powers to dissolve the 
Koirala government, and in effect the constitutional system which pre- 
vailed before 1959 was returned to operation. 

Constitution of 1962 

The Constitution of Nepal of 1962 was granted by King Mahendra on 
December 16, 1962, and contained a stronger and more explicit state- 
ment of royal authority than any previous constitution. It also estab- 
lished a new structure of government — the four-level panchaijat system. 

The section of the Constitution on "Fundamental Rights and Duties" 
stated that the principal duties of a citizen were "to be faithful to the 
nation and loyal to the state," and "to enjoy his rights with due respect 
for all and without encroaching upon the rights of others." All citizens 
were guaranteed equal protection of the law, and in the application of 
the law and appointment to public service there was to be no discrimina- 
tion on the grounds of religion, race, caste or tribe. No person was to 
be deprived of life, liberty or property except in accordance with the law. 

The right to hold property and to move and reside in any part of the 
country was granted, as were freedoms of speech, assembly and religion, 
although the conversion of one person to a different religion by another 
was forbidden. Ex post facto laws, double jeopardy, and self-incrimina- 
tion were prohibited. All persons arrested for any offense were to be 
informed of the grounds therefor as soon as possible and were not to 
be denied the right to consult and be defended by a "legal practitioner." 
No citizen was to be expelled from the country, and traffic in human 
beings, slavery and forced labor were forbidden. However, laws could 
be enacted to "restrict or control" the exercise of these fundamental 
rights if required by the public interest for any one of a long list of 
possible reasons. 

The "Principles and Objectives of Social Policy" of the Constitution 
stated that the objective of the state was: 

To promote public welfare through the establishment and preservation of 
a just social system by bringing about, with a broadbased national outlook, the 
unification and assimilation of the interests of various classes and professions 
and by bringing about a uniformity in national life. 


Although a citizen could not force their implementation by litigation, 
the government committed itself to the adoption of policies which would, 
in the words of the Constitution : 

. . . provide equal facilities and opportunities to all citizens for the develop- 
ment of individual personality and for economic betterment; 
provide necessary and adequate means of livelihood to its citizens; 
ensure such ownership and control of material property in society as will result 
in the collective welfare through an equitable distribution of wealth and will, 
at the same time, provide a proper protection and encouragement to private 
enterprise in the appropriate spheres of industries and commerce; 
ensure that the tender years of children as also the health and strength of 
laboring classes — male and female— will not be misused; 

ensure psychological and economic security to orphans, infants, the aged and 
women in the family way; 

do away with such civil practices as polygamy, child marriage and untouch- 
ability; and, 
introduce, as soon as possible, free and compulsory primarj^ education. 


In accord with the Constitution of 1962, the monarchy is the sole 
source of authority and all other governmental institutions are dependent 
upon it for whatever power they possess. The Constitution — bestowed 
by the king — states that: 

The Sovereignty of Nepal is vested in His Majesty and the executive, legis- 
lative and judicial powers emanate from him. Keeping in view the highest 
traditions of the Shah dynasty and the welfare and desires of the people. His 
Majesty shall exercise these powers through bodies provided by this Consti- 
tution and the other laws for the time being in force. 

The king selects, summons and presides over the Council of State. 
He appoints the chairman and other members of the Council of Minis- 
ters, which is responsible only to him and not to the legislature. He is 
Supreme Commander of the armed forces. He summons and prorogues 
the National Panchayat and appoints its presiding officer and 15 percent 
of its membership. Bills relating to fiscal and military affairs may not 
be introduced in the National Panchayat without the king's permission, 
and his assent to a bill is required before it becomes law. Only the king 
has the power to amend the Constitution, but his action must be ap- 
proved by at least two-thirds of a Special Committee formed from the 
Council of State and the National Panchayat to review proposed con- 
stitutional amendments. He may regulate and amend rules for suc- 
cession to the throne at his own discretion. 

The king may grant pardons, reprieves and respites and remit, sus- 
pend or commute the sentence of any court. His actions are not subject 
to judicial review. All powers not specifically conferred elsewhere by 
the Constitution continue to be vested in the king. 

n he finds that "a grave emergency exists whereby the security of the 
country or any part thereof is threatened by war, external aggression 


or internal disturbance," the king may proclaim a state of emergency, 
suspend all or part of the Constitution, and assume powers lodged in 
any other part of the government. There is no time limit specified by 
the Constitution for which such emergency powers may be held. 

Palace Secretariat 

The immediate aides and assistants to the king are contained in the 
Palace Secretariat. In the prevailing system of government — where 
royal initiative is the activating force — the personal staff of the monarch 
is of central importance as an instrument of control^ a source of influence 
and a channel of access to him. Staffed with many officials who formerly 
served the Ranas and with representatives of other conservative ele- 
ments, the Palace Secretariat includes four principal assistants to the 
king, each assisted by a staff: the Principal Secretary, the Principal 
Military Secretary, the Principal Private Secretary and the Principal 
Personal Secretary. 

In addition to the Principal Secretaries, the Palace Secretariat con- 
tains: the Household Treasury; the Royal Guard, a force of several 
thousand men in whose loyalty King Mahendra places full confidence; 
a press office; a public relations office; and the Special Complaints De- 
partment, which is headed by a justice of the Supreme Court and re- 
ceives grievances and petitions to the king from the citizenry. 


Council of Ministers 

The major executory organ of the government is the Council of 
Ministers, or Cabinet. Although membership in the National Panchayat 
is required by the Constitution for appointment to the Cabinet, ministers 
are selected by the king at his own discretion and they are responsible 
to him. The nature and distribution of ministerial functions are deter- 
mined by the king. He apparently uses the Cabinet as a mechanism 
for implementing government programs and not as a forum for con- 
sideration of major policy, except in its operational aspects. Ministers 
are the executive agents of the king, holding office at his pleasure, and 
lack the political standing — either individually or collectively — to 
possess much influence in anything other than an administrative sense. 

As of June 1963 the Cabinet consisted of 7 ministers, who were in 
charge of 11 ministries. One minister held 3 portfolios; several others 
held 2. A twelfth ministry, that of Defense, was not supervised from 
the Cabinet but was under the direct control of King Mahendra. There 
is no prime minister in the formal sense of the term and the Cabinet 
is headed by a Chairman. Tulsi Giri, formerly a rising leader of the 
Nepali Congress party, served as Chairman of the Council of Ministers 


froiu early 1961 until the end of 1963, when the position was vacated 
by his resignation as Foreign Minister, supposedly on grounds of ill 
health. Kirti Nidhi Bista, Minister of Education and of Public Works, 
Communications and Transport, was named Foreign Minister as well, 
but the vacancy in the chairmanship was not filled until late in February 
when Giri was restored to the chairmanship without explanation. 

Council of State 

The only clearly defined functions of the Council of State (Raj Sabha) 
are to deal with matters of succession or regency if the king should die or 
become disabled and to advise the monarch when he requests its views. 
Press reports from Katmandu in the middle of 1963 indicated that the 
Council of State might possess a larger, "policy-framing" role in addi- 
tion to these responsibilities outlined in the Constitution. If that proves 
to be the case, the Cabinet would be subordinate to the Council, although 
not directly so, to the extent that the former simply implemented policies 
decided upon by the Council. However, it is still unclear whether the 
Council now has or will assume such influence. The resignation of K. I. 
Singh from the chairmanship of the Standing Committee of the Council 
of State in the early summer of 1963 may have been motivated as much 
by covert rivalry between the Council and the Cabinet as by more 
obviously political considerations. 

The Constitution designates some 15 to 20 ex officio members of the 
Council of State — certain Cabinet members, the Commander in Chief 
of the Royal Nepalese Army, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, 
the Chairman of the National Panchayat and other high officials of 
the government. The king is authorized to appoint additional members 
and, as constituted by King Mahendra in April 1963, the Council con- 
tained about 70 persons. Royal appointees consisted mainly of immedi- 
ate and collateral members of the royal family; former prime ministers, 
ministers and other high officials; the central chairmen of all the class 
and professional organizations; key figures in the Palace Secretariat; 
a number of generals (some of them retired); well-known, longtime 
politicians; and social and cultural leaders. 

Except when convened upon the death or illness of the monarch, the 
full membership of the Council of State meets only when summoned by 
the king. However, there is a Permanent (Standing) Committee of the 
Council, numbering from 7 to 15 members, which is empowered to exer- 
cise any of the functions of its parent body. The king acts as chairman 
of the full Council ; the chairmanship of the Standing Committee rotates 
alphabetically, changing each meeting. 

National Guidance Council 

With the formation of the National Guidance Council in August 1963, 
the structure of the panchayat system was completed. The initial task 


of bringing into existence the panchayats and the class and professional 
organizations was given to a newly created Ministry of National Guid- 
ance in early 1961. After the National Panchayat was convened in 
April 1963, the Ministry was abolished and its functions were re- 
l)ortedly transferred to the Ministry of Panchayat. It appears, however, 
that a body at a higher level and with a larger scope than a ministry 
was found necessary to supervise the manifold activities of the various 
elements of the panchayat system, and thus the interdepartmental 
Council was formed. 

According to a statement by King Mahendra in April 1963, the pur- 
pose of the National Guidance Council is to "maintain harmony and 
coordination among the different class organizations and to engage and 
activise the enthusiasm and high spirit of the people in the development 
of the country." Later reports suggested that the concerns of the Coun- 
cil would be more general; it was to "watch and deliberate on national 
developments and see that the administration is guided along its proper 
course." Therefore, it appears that although the National Guidance 
Council will devote its attention primarily to coordinating the activi- 
ties of the various levels of the panchayat system and regulating their 
relationships with the central government, it will also deal with the 
full range of national policy. Because of its preeminent position in the 
administrative hierarchy of the new political structure and its implicit 
policy responsibilities, the National Guidance Council is potentially 
a strong rival of the Cabinet. 

The Council was to contain about 30 members, among them the 
Chairman of the National Panchayat, the 4 senior members of the 
Cabinet, a representative of each of the 14 zones and the 6 class and 
professional organizations, and 6 otlier persons with national standing. 
The king was to preside at its meetings. 


Although the ministries, a central secretariat and various quasi- 
public bodies and independent agencies of less than ministerial rank are 
nominally under the immediate direction of a Cabinet drawn from the 
membership of the National Panchayat, they are in fact under the firm 
and comprehensive control of the king. Initiative within the govern- 
ment is highly centralized in the Royal Palace, and government minis- 
ters seem to have very little autonomy in the operation of their minis- 

The distribution of authority among the ministries and the powers 
and functions of other elements and levels of the government are granted, 
defined, amended and revoked by the king. He exercises his control in 
a highly personal manner, however, and the implementation of programs 
is dependent on his support. The king's influence is not exerted con- 


tinuously and evenly, and therefore the functions, responsibilities and 
relationships of the various operative agencies are often unclear and 
poorly coordinated. 

These agencies have undergone numerous reforms and reorganiza- 
tions since the fall of the Ranas in 1951, but their effectiveness as in- 
struments for the implementation of policies and programs formulated 
at a higher level was still very limited at the beginning of 1964. The 
effort to transform a traditional, military bureaucracy designed to 
repress change into a modern, civilian system able to stimulate and 
control it has taken place during a period marked by governmental 
instability and political turbulence, and the effort has suffered accord- 

Frequent changes of government have led to chaos and the partisan- 
ship in the administration, paralyzed the conduct and inhibited the 
continuity of government programs, and produced an inheritance of dis- 
affected and incapable public servants for succeeding governments. 
Although the Public Service Commission was created in 1951 to regu- 
late appointment and promotion in the Civil Service on a merit basis, 
its efforts were often nullified by political favoritism and it has not yet 
become a potent force for the improvement of the public service. The 
corruption of public officials has also been a serious problem. Although 
corruption is known to exist and, to a degree, tolerated as a natural 
state of affairs by the people, its prevalence has impeded the growth of 
popular confidence in the government. 


Government reorganizations since 1951 have caused the number of 
ministries to fluctuate from 7 to 17. At the beginning of 1964 there were 
12. The Ministry of Defense is not supervised by a minister but is 
under the direct control of King Mahendra, a fact indicative of the 
important role of the armed forces in the present regime and in keeping 
with the traditional reliance on it by Nepalese rulers. Also a major 
factor in the structure of monarchical control is the Ministry of Home 
Affairs which has under it the territorial administration (zonal com- 
missioners and district governors) and the police, as well as the Anti- 
Corruption Department. 

Closely allied to the work of the Ministry of Home Affairs are the 
functions of the Ministry of Panchayat Affairs, and as of the beginning 
of 1964 the coordination of their related activities was facilitated by 
vesting in a single minister the responsibility for both ministries. The 
Ministry of Panchayat Affairs includes the Departments for: Panchayat 
Organization, which deals with administrative and structural problems 
at all levels of the new system ; Panchayat Development, which coordi- 
nates and supervises economic development projects undertaken through 


the panchayats; and Cooperatives, which advises panchayats on the 
formation and operations, of producers' and consumers' cooperatives. 

The location of Radio Nepal and the Department of Publicity and 
Broadcasting in the Panchayat Ministry — to which they were trans- 
ferred from the Home Ministry in 1962 — affirms that the panchayat 
system is the principal channel for communication between the govern- 
ment and the people and suggests the utility of the system as a vehicle 
for political control. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is prestigious but somewhat less in- 
fluential than the Home and Defense Ministries, and the customary 
possession of this i)ortfolio by the king's first minister reflects its im- 
portance to royal policy. 

Other ministries are: Economic Planning; Law and Justice; Finance; 
Forests, Food and Agriculture; Health, Irrigation and Electricity; Ed- 
ucation; Public Works, Communications and Transport; and Industry 
and Commerce. 

Each ministry is under the control of a minister and an assistant 
minister appointed by the king. The highest ranking permanent official 
of a ministry is the secretary, who is a civil servant, as are his imme- 
diate subordinates, the joint secretaries and the under secretaries. In 
some instances a joint secretary serves as the permanent chief of a 
ministry rather than a secretary, and there is usually only one in each 
ministry. Although the secretary is responsible for the routine adminis- 
tration of the ministry, his major function, along with the joint and 
under secretaries and their attendant personnel, is to advise the minis- 
ter on policy questions and on the general administration of the minis- 
try. They perform essentially a staff function. The actual implementa- 
tion of government programs and projects is the responsibility of the 
executive and technical departments of the ministries, such as the De- 
partments of Museums and of Primary and Secondary Education in 
the Ministry of Education; the Departments of Mint and of Customs 
and Excise of the Ministry of Finance. The executive departments are 
headed by directors and assistant directors (see fig. 8). 

Central Secretariat 

Operations and programs of the ministries are coordinated by the 
Central Secretariat. Composed of the permanent secretaries of all the 
ministries, the Central Secretariat is headed by the Chief Secretary to 
the Government, who has general responsibility for supervising every 
aspect of government administration. He also serves as Secretary to 
the Council of Ministers. 

Nonministerial Bodies 

The Constitution provides for several quasi-independent government 
agencies of less than cabinet rank. The Public Service Commission is 



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;tfr 1 




5TER 1" 













Figure S. Structure of a Typical Nepalcse Mirdslry. 

to be consulted on i)rinciples and policies to be followed in government 
personnel administration and on the suitability of individual candidates 
for appointment and promotion in the civil service. However, the king 
possesses the authority to determine which positions shall be governed 
by civil service rules. The limited influence of the Public Service Com- 


mission has further diminished since the removal of the parliamentary 
government in 1960, and the conditions of government service have 
become almost v/holly dependent on the wishes of the king. 

The Auditor General audits the accounts of all branches of the gov- 
ernment, including public corporations, and is authorized to inspect 
all records pertaining to that function. The Attorney General advises 
the king and the government on constitutional and legal questions. In 
addition to these offices created bj^ the Constitution, there are two de- 
partments which operate apart from the direct control of any of the 
ministries. The Department of Inspection and Supervision has no func- 
tions of its own and serves as a reservoir of reserve personnel who are 
assigned temporarily to other elements of the government for special 
tasks as the need arises. There is also a Department of Public Admin- 
istration, headed by the Chairman -of the Council of Ministers, which 
presumably is concerned with management and organization matters 
throughout the government. 

Public Corporations 

Certain other activities of the government are conducted through the 
form of public corporations. There were eight such bodies in the middle 
of 1963: the Nepal Rastra Bank; the Royal Nepal Airlines Corpora- 
tion; the Timber Corporation of Nepal; the Nepal Industrial Develop- 
ment Corporation (NIDC) ; the Nepal Electric Corporation; the Nepal 
Bank Ltd.; the National News Agency; and Nepal Trading Ltd. The 
relationship of the National News Agency to the government is prob- 
ably typical of all the other public corporations. The government holds 
60 percent of its stock, appoints four of the seven members of its gov- 
erning board, and has "almost absolute control" over it. The public 
corporations are a relatively new feature of the governmental structure, 
and there have been reports of official concern that they have not yet 
begun to function properly and that coordination between them and 
the ministries has been poor. 


The panchayat structure is a complex system of hierarchically ar- 
ranged assemblies and councils which rests on a base of village assem- 
blies comprising the entire adult population, rises through a series of 
indirectly elected higher bodies, and culminates in a national delibera- 
tive body empowered to recommend legislation to the king. It is or- 
ganized in four levels — village and town, district, zone, and national, 
and at each level except the national there are a pair of deliberate 
bodies — an assembly and a council. Another component of the system, 
which follows the same organizational pattern, is the class and profes- 
sional organizations (see fig. 9). The broad aim of the system, as ex- 




Figure 9. Structure of the Panchayats and Class and Professional 
Organizations in Nepal. 

pressed by King Mahendra, is to embody Nepal's profession of adher- 
ence to democratic principles within a political and governmental 
framework consonant with the pattern of traditional institutions. The 
King contends that the panchayat system, while exhibiting many of the 
characteristics of the governmental structures of other countries — 
India, Pakistan, Yugoslavia, Indonesia and Egypt — is a genuinely 
Nepalese political form with deep roots in the nation's history and 
culture and is well suited to its contemporary needs and conditions. 
The panchayat system is to foster the growth of democracy from the 
bottom up, rather than by attempting to impose it from above as in 
the past, by enlisting the active cooperation and participation of the 
entire people in administration and economic development. Similarly, 
as the panchayats mature, the authority of the central government is 
to be decentralized by the dispersal of administrative powers through- 
out all levels of the system. 


Panchayat Structure 
Local Panchayats 

At the lowest level of the panchayat system are the assemblies and 
councils of the villages and towns. For the purposes of the system, the 
country's 28,770 villages have been grouped into 3,524 units called 
villages (gaun) . Each of these village units, with an average popula- 
tion of about 2,000, has a village assembly {gaun sabha) which is com- 
posed of all citizens over 21 years of age who reside within the village 
limits. Each assembly meets twice a year; the winter meeting reviews 
the village budget and the summer meeting is concerned with develop- 
ment programs. 

The assembly also elects the village council {gaun panchayat) . The 
village is divided into nine wards and each elects one member to this 
executive committee. Elections for village panchayats were held 
throughout the winter of 1961-62. Carried out originally by a show of 
hands, they are to be conducted by secret ballot in the future. Pan- 
chayat members (pancha) serve 6-year terms and elect their own chief 
{pradhan pancha) and deputy chief [up-pradhan pancha) . The pan- 
chayat meets twice a month and is organized into functional subcom- 
mittees. The village development worker {gaun sevak) ^ appointed by 
the central government, acts as secretary to the assembly and the 

Localities with a population of more than 10,000 are organized as 
towns {nagar) in the panchayat system. There were 14 such localities 
which held elections for town panchayats in the summer of 1962. 
Although the structure and functions of the town council's {nagar 
panchayats) are similar to those of the villages, there are important 
differences in the size and composition of their membership and in the 
scope of their responsibilities. A town which meets the minimum popu- 
lation requirement has a panchayat of 9 members; larger towns have 
proportionately larger panchayats up to a maximum membership of 
33. The central government may also appoint members of town pancha- 
yats, although the number so selected may not exceed 25 percent of the 
regularly elected membership. Each town is divided into a number of 
wards equal to the elected membership of its panchayat. The officers 
and electoral procedures of the town panchayats are the same as those 
of the villages. 

The local panchayats constitute the first uniform system of local 
self-government actually to come into operation throughout the whole 
country. They are the key units in the panchayat structure and carry 
on a variety of activities. They are authorized to levy taxes. They 
may act as arbitral and judicial bodies with original jurisdiction over 
certain civil and criminal cases, although there were conflicting reports 
over whether they had begun to exercise this function by the end of 
1963. The organic law for the panchayats, the Village Panchayat Act 


of 1962, provides that a court is to consist of the deputy chief, pre- 
siding, and two other pnnchayat members, one from the ward of the 
pUiintiff and the other from that of the defendant. The panchayats 
also maintain land and other records, compile statistics, and, through 
local develoi)ment boards and centers, engage in development and public 
works activities in the general fields of agriculture, education, animal 
husbandry, transportation and public health. The panchayats are to 
draft local development plans and submit them to the central govern- 
ment through the higher levels of panchayat organization, where they 
are to be reviewed and coordinated at each stage. In addition, the local 
panchayats are to serve as entry points into the governmental structure 
for, and as a channel for conveyance to a higher level of the views of 
the general citizenry. 

District Panchayats 

There are 75 districts, or development blocks ijilla), and the number 
of town and village panchayats in each district ranges from as few as 2 
to as many as 126 (see fig. 10). The next step above the local panchayat 
is the district assembly, and its membership is selected by the village 
and town panchayats within the district. Each village panchayat elects 
one of its members, and each town panchayat elects a number equiva- 
lent to one-third of its elected membership to the district assembly. Like 
the village and town assemblies, the district assembly holds two meet- 
ings a year — one in the winter on the district budget and another in the 
summer on development matters. 

The district assembly elects from its members the district panchayat, 
which includes a chief and deputy chief, who serve 2-year terms, and 
nine other members, who serve 6-year terms and of whom a third vacate 
their seats every 2 years. Elections to constitute district panchayats 
were held in early 1963. Persons elected to a district panchayat auto- 
matically relinquish their seats in the local panchayat, as do all those 
at every other stage of the system who are elected to a higher panchayat 
from a lower, and the vacancies so created are filled by by-elections. 
The district panchayats have broad powers for supervising and co- 
ordinating the development programs of the villages and themselves 
carry out development projects through the district development boards 
and centers. 

Zonal Panchayats 

There are 14 zonal (anchal) assemblies (see fig. 11). Each is com- 
posed of all the members of the district panchayats within the zone. 
The zonal assembly also includes representatives of the class and pro- 
fessional organizations who, presumably, are also members of the zonal 
executive committees of the groups they represent. They are associate 
members of the zonal assembly, however, and may not vote, but other- 
wise they may participate fully in its meetings. The central govern- 
ment appoints the secretary to the zonal assembly. 



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Each zonal assembly elects a zonal panchayat, and such elections 
were conducted in the early spring of 1963. Its size, officers and terms 
of office are identical to those of the district panchayat, but its member- 
ship includes the Zonal Commissioner as a nonvoting associate member 
and it must include a representative of every district withm the zone. 
The secretary to the zonal panchayat is also appointed by the central 
government. The formal responsibilities of the zonal panchayat include: 
the implementation of zonal development plans forwarded to it by the 
central government; the formulation and execution of programs of its 
own ; and the planning, supervision and coordination of district develop- 
ment schemes within its jurisdiction. However, it seems that these 
administrative and supervisory duties are a secondary function of the 
zonal panchayat and that its primary concerns are to be national rather 
than local. It is apparently regarded as simply another stage on the way 
to the National Panchayat whose basic purpose is to serve as a sub- 
sidiary forum to identify, discuss and focus the attention of the zonal 
population on national problems and issues in order to facilitate the 
deliberations of the National Panchayat. 

Each zonal assembly also elects a portion of the membership of the 
National Panchayat. The actual number elected by each varies accord- 
ing to the population of the zone, but the zonal assembly must elect at 
least one representative from each of its constituent districts to the 
National Panchayat. In the cases where a zonal assembly elects more 
members of the National Panchayat than it has districts, the additional 
members are to be chosen from the more populous districts within the 
zone. The number of districts within a zone varies from 4 to 8; the 
numerical representation of zones within the National Panchayat varies 
from 4 to 11. 

National Panchayat 

The highest level of the panchayat system is the National Panchayat 
(Rashtriya Panchayat). Its primary function is to act as an arena for 
debate of national questions and as a platform for the expression of 
public interests and opinions as they have been channeled to it through 
the lower levels of the panchayats and the class and professional organ- 
izations. It also has limited legislative functions which are dependent 
for their exercise on the acquiescence of the king. 

There are 125 members in the National Panchayat. The zonal assem- 
blies elect 90 members, the class and professional organizations elect 
19, and the king is authorized to appoint up to 15 percent of the total 
elected membership, or 16, and in 1963 the National Panchayat con- 
tained the maximum number of royal appointees. To qualify for mem- 
bership a person must be a citizen and at least 25 years of age. Members 
elected by the zonal assemblies serve 6-year terms and all others serve 
for 4 years. Of the former, one-third are to be elected every 2 years. 


The principal officers of the National Panchayat are the Chairman — 
who is appointed by the king on the recommendation of the member- 
ship, serves a 2-year term, and presides over its meetings — and the 
Vice-Chairman — who is elected by the membership and also serves a 
2-year term. To advise the Chairman and Vice-Chairman on matters 
of procedure and agenda, there is a Steering Committee of 21 members. 
Its ex officio members are the Chairman and Vice-Chairman, the Min- 
isters for Law, Finance, Home, and Panchayat Affairs. The remainder 
of its membership is elected by the National Panchayat. Functional 
or legislative committees of the legislature, which were formed in April 
1963, include a Public Accounts Committee, a Guidance Committee, 
and an Estimates Committee. The National Panchayat is summoned 
by the king and may be prorogued either by him or by a resolution 
of the membership. The Constitution specifies that not more than 6 
months shall elapse between the end of one session and the beginning 
of another. The first session of the National Panchayat met in April 

1963 and lasted a month; the second was to convene in late January 

1964 and was expected to sit an equal length of time. 

The Constitution guarantees members of the National Panchayat 
against arrest, detention or prosecution for any statement or vote in the 
legislature. In addition, members are to be immune from arrest while the 
National Panchayat is in session and during the period between the 
notification summoning a session and the time it actually convenes. 
However, this immunity shall not apply in criminal cases nor when 
an arrest is made under laws providing for preventive detention. The 
"regularity" of any of its actions shall be determined only by the 
National Panchayat and is not to be challenged in any court. The 
National Panchayat has the power to determine when any of its privi- 
leges have been encroached upon and when such encroachments constitute 
contempt of the National Panchayat. In such cases, it has the power to 
issue summonses and warrants of arrest and may order the imprisonment 
of any person found in contempt for a period not exceeding, the dura- 
tion of its current session. 

Members of the National Panchayat are to enjoy "full freedom of 
speech," but discussion of the conduct of the king or other members of 
the royal family, of the action of any judge in the discharge of his 
duty, or of any case sub judice in any Nepalese court is prohibited. The 
king may address and send messages to the National Panchayat and, 
in the latter case, may compel it to debate the matters so presented 
and to submit its views to him. Similarly, the legislature may submit 
an address to the king. All proceedings of the National Panchayat 
and its committees are to be conducted in secrecy, but summary reports 
of every meeting may be published for the general information of the 
public. One-third of the membership must be present to constitute a 
quorum, and all decisions of the National Panchayat are to be taken 


by a majority of those present and voting. Unless otherwise provided 
for by the Constitution, the legislature may formulate the rules by 
which it will conduct its own business. 

Any bill approved by the National Panchayat requires the assents of 
the king to become law. Although the king's concurrence was also neces- 
sary for a bill to become law under the parliamentary system, it was 
expected to be automatically forthcoming once legislation had been 
passed in the legislature. In the panchayat system, however, royal 
consent to a bill is no longer a pro forma act, and the king is an integral 
and crucial part of the legislative process. The National Panchayat 
may, in addition to its almost unrestricted powers of debate, consider 
legislation on any subject. However, the consent of the king must be 
obtained through the appropriate minister or assistant minister for the 
introduction of any bill dealing with public loans or the Army, involving 
the imposition or collection of taxes or an increase in tax rates, or relating 
to the appropriation or spending of government funds or to any increase 
in amounts to be spent or appropriated. When the National Panchayat 
is not in session, the king may issue ordinances which are to have the 
full effect of legislation. Such ordinances must be introduced in the 
National Panchayat within 7 days after a session resumes, and if they 
fail to receive approval within 45 days from that time they auto- 
matically become null and void. 

Panchayat Administrative Structure 

A major purpose in creating the panchayat system was to decen- 
tralize administrative responsibility for economic development and social 
reform. Consequently, accompanying the establishment of panchayats 
at each level has been the formation of a parallel administrative struc- 
ture whose primary unit is at the local level. In the new system, village 
and town panchayats have development boards which direct the imple- 
mentation of development, welfare and public works programs through 
panchayat development centers. Headed by panchayat development 
officers, the development centers are the operating arms of the panchayats 
for the execution of projects which are locally originated and also for 
those which are local phases of the national development plan. They 
contain the personnel — panchayat development workers — with the spe- 
cial and technical skills required for the actual carrying out of such 
projects. The activities of the development centers are jointly financed 
by the appropriate panchayat unit and by the central government. The 
development officers and workers are appointed by the central govern- 
ment and are responsible to the Panchayat Development Department 
of the Ministry of Panchayat. 

The administrative organization of the local panchayats is repeated 
at the district and zonal levels. At the higher levels of the structure, 
the supervisory functions of the administrative units grow proportion- 


ately larger, and its operating responsibilities are reduced accordingly. 
The chief field officer in the panchayat administrative system is the 
zonal commissioner. Appointed by the central government and responsi- 
ble to the Ministry of Home AfTairs, he supervises and coordinates 
development activities at lower levels. At the national level the admin- 
istrative functions of the panchayats are under the direction of several 
government ministries rather than the National Panchayat which, unlike 
other panchayats, seems to have no administrative or supervisory powers 
over subordinate levels of the system. 

In addition to their primary responsibility for economic development 
it is King Mahendra's intention eventually to grant village and district 
panchayats general administrative authority ''to the maximum extent 
possible." It is not known what the King regards as the limits of possi- 
bility. However, this deconcentration of power was to take place grad- 
ually as the strength of the panchayat system grew, and at the begin- 
ning of 1964 there did not appear to have been any significant extension 
of administrative autonomy at any level of the structure. If anything, 
the lines of central control seem to have been tightened and multiplied. 
Moreover, the structure of the new administrative system was still in 
a rudimentary stage; its activities were limited; and its functions were 
ill-defined. Its internal relationships and the external relationships be- 
tween the new structure as a whole and the older administrative system 
— and, to a lesser extent, the central government — had not been clearly 
defined. In addition, during 1963 the panchayat administrative struc- 
ture had not begun the implementation of the nationally formulated 
development scheme, and its development activities had not gone be- 
yond the execution of locally devised public works projects. In response 
to demands from panchayats and administrators at the lower levels for 
definition of their powers and relationships, the government announced 
during 1963 that the authority of zonal commissioners and district 
development officers would be clarified and expanded. 

Class and Professional Organizations 

There are six class and professional organizations: Nepal Peasants' 
Organization; Nepal Workers' Organization; Nepal Women's Organi- 
zation; Nepal Youth Organization; Nepal Ex-servicemen's Organiza- 
tion; and Nepal Graduates' Organization. These organizations are 
arranged into village and town, district, zonal, and national bodies and 
their major i)urposes are to articulate and promote the interests of the 
basic social and economic groups and to stimulate and organize the 
participation of their members in development programs. They are 
also to endeavor to create among their constituents a spirit of enthusi- 
asm and cooperation for the panchayat system and the goals of national 
unity and reconstruction. Although King Mahendra has forcefully 
stated that they are to abstain strictly from all activities of a political 


nature, the class and professional organizations possess many of the 
structural and functional characteristics of government-sponsored po- 
litical parties. They have a complex organization which parallels that 
of the panchayats. Their membership includes the entire population 
of the country. They have been granted organizational monopolies in 
their respective spheres of activity; all other organizations and asso- 
ciations — except those which cannot be subsumed under any of the six 
categories and have been placed under the supervision of an appropriate 
ministry — have either been integrated under the control of the class 
and professional organizations or have been abolished. Moreover, the 
class and professional organizations appear to be under closer govern- 
ment control and supervision tlian arc the panchayats. 

Of the functions of the class and professional organizations, the most 
clearly governmental is their election of a portion of the membership 
of the National Panchayat. The Graduates', Peasants' and Youth 
Organizations elect four members each, the Women's Organization 
elects three and the Workers' and Ex-servicemen's Organizations elect 
two each. 

The basic constituencies of the class and professional organizations 
are identical with those of the village and town panchayats. All mem- 
bers of each organization within the panchayat take part in the selec- 
tion, by direct election, of the primary unit of the class and professional 
organizations — the village and town committees. Each village and town 
committee of each class and professional organization selects one of its 
members to serve on the next higher echelon, the district council. The 
district council in turn elects from its own membership a five-member 
district executive committee. It was originally planned that the process 
of indirect election would stop at the district executive committee and 
that subsequent levels of each organization would be chosen by the 
central government. It now appears, however, that the indirect elec- 
toral procedure has been extended to the highest level of the class and 
professional organizations. Thus, each district executive committee 
chooses one member to a zonal council, and the zonal council selects an 
executive committee from among its own membership. The zonal com- 
mittees elect the national, or central, bodies of the class and professional 
organizations. The central sessions usually number from 100 to 500 
and they elect both the central executive committee and the delegates 
to the National Panchayat. The delegates of the Graduates' and Ex- 
servicemen's Organizations to the National Panchayat, however, are 
elected by the direct vote of their total membership rather than by their 
central sessions. 


There is, in addition to the inchoate administrative structure which 
follows the organizational lines of the panchayats, another, older sys- 


tern of administration which came into existence under the Ranas and 
remained in operation after their fall from power. At the beginning 
of 1964 it appeared that this traditional administrative structure con- 
tinued to exist without major modifications despite the introduction 
of the panchayat system. Although presumably the traditional system 
will be allowed to atrophy as the growing strength of the panchayats 
enables them to assume larger responsibilities, the traditional system 
still constituted the primary channel for the exercise of central authority 
throughout the country. 

Although its structure has remained largely intact, the traditional 
system has undergone numerous reforms and reorganizations. During 
the Rana period, the purposes of local administration were limited to 
the collection of revenue and the maintenance of law and order. With 
its termination, the guiding philosophy of the ends of the state which 
had retarded the growth of the country for so long was radically altered, 
economic development and social reform replaced oppression and ex- 
ploitation as the ofScial goals of domestic policy, and the nature and 
purposes of local administration were altered accordingly. Renovation 
of the traditional administrative structure has not been accomplished 
in an orderly fashion, however. Recent innovations have been poorly 
planned and haphazardly executed, and implicit and overt conflicts of 
function, authority and responsibility pervade the whole system. The 
establishment of the panchayat administrative structure without any 
clear definition of its duties, except in a general way, has contributed 
to this disorganization. Since none of the internal units of the tradi- 
tional system corresponds to the various levels of the panchayat sys- 
tem, the simultaneous operation of the two has been a source of con- 
siderable confusion and conflict within the government, particularly at 
the lower levels, where administrators and panchayat members have 
pressed the central government for clarification of their powers and 

In the traditional system the basic unit of administration was the 
district (ilaka) . The number of districts varied from time to time with 
the rearrangement of boundaries; until very recently there were 32 
districts, and at the end of 1963 there were 38. At one time there were 
subdivisions of the districts called jilla, which apparently have long 
since become inactive and passed out of the administrative structure. 
There were about 50 of these jilla, and one or more were found in each 
district. Although they appear to have lost any administrative signifi- 
cance, their names are still used by the population as geographic refer- 
ences. A subdivision of the jilla which seems to be still in operation, 
mainly for the collection of rents and taxes, was the county (thum, or 
paraganna in the Tarai) , of which there were 491. At the bottom of the 
administrative hierarchy were the villages [gaun) and the few towns 


[nagar). There would usually be hundreds of villages in a single dis- 

The district was the most important of the administrative units, and 
the principal administrative oflficer of the central government at the 
district level was the governor ibada hakim). The governor became 
the chief administrative position during the middle of the Rana period 
and was continued after the overthrow of the Ranas in 1951. Appointed 
by the prime minister before 1951 and by the i^;ing thereafter, he was 
usually a retired police or army officer of high rank and was always 
either a member of the Rana family or of one of their client families. 
Although most of the district governors were replaced after 1951, the 
powers of the office were left essentially the same. Because of the 
vagueness with which his duties were defined and the difficulty of com- 
municating with the government in Katmandu, however, the governor 
was in complete charge of all civil affairs in his district. His authority 
and discretion were often so great as to constitute a form of autono- 
mous rule, even though the central government retained the power to 
dismiss him. In 1963 it was reported in the Nepalese press that the gov- 
ernment intended to abolish the office of district governor and to absorb 
incumbents of the position into the development program. It appeared 
that the implementation of this policy had not yet started at the begin- 
ning of 1964. 

There were usually four district offices under the supervision of the 
governor and, in most cases, they were under the direction of deputies 
{subbha) . The office of civil administration igoswara) was concerned 
with the full range of district affairs and, in addition, issued licenses 
and permits, conducted api)eals from the district court, occasionally 
carried out minor public works projects, and administered the militia. 
The land revenue office [mal adda) collected land taxes, acted as the 
local disbursing agent for the central government, and kept such frag- 
mentary land records as there were. The police headquarters (thana), 
headed by a superintendent whose rank was roughly equivalent to a 
lieutenant colonel in the Army, had under its direction a constabulary 
force stationed in villages and at strategic points which maintained 
law and order, investigated and reported on crimes and other incidents 
and manned the district prison. The fourth office included the district 
judiciary [adalat, or amini in the Tarai), which was empowered to try 
all cases except those falling under the jurisdiction of courts-martial. 

The only exception to this arrangement v/as the system of adminis- 
tration which prevailed in the Katmandu Valley, which was under the 
overall supervision of a valley commissioner rather than a governor. 
The Valley was divided into three sections — Katmandu, Patan and 
Bhadgaon — and each was under the control of a magistrate. 

At the village level, the ultimate point of contact between the mass 


of the people and the rulers in Katmandu was the representative of 
the central government known as a headman (variously styled mukhiya, 
talukdar, jimidar, zimiwal, patwari or subbha) . The collection of rents 
and taxes appears to have been his major function, all others being car- 
ried out from the district headquarters under the direction of the gov- 
ernor. Administrative functions of the villages and their relationships 
with the district headquarters seem to have varied considerably from 
region to region, however. The position of headman was hereditary 
and when a vacancy occurred it was usually filled by government ap- 
pointment, although there were instances when it was filled by auction 
or by election by village landowners. The headman received a percent- 
age of the taxes he collected, and each man in his village was required 
to render 1 day's free labor to him. 

The lines of authority and responsibility between the central govern- 
ment and district and village officials were vague and unclear. The 
major relationship between the central government and local adminis- 
tration was that between the district governor and the Ministry of 
Home Affairs, to which he was theoretically responsible. The Home 
Ministry did not have exclusive charge of local affairs, however; the 
district judiciary was responsible to the Supieme Court, the land reve- 
nue office to the Ministry of Finance, and other officials were respon- 
sible to other ministries. When the system functioned as intended, local 
officials were subject to the sometimes conflicting demands of the district 
governor and the authorities in Katmandu. As a practical matter, how- 
ever, the power of the district governor appears to have been sufficient 
to enable his wishes to prevail. 


Of the many governmental changes which have taken place since 
the fall of the Ranas in 1951, among the most striking have been the 
growing autonomy of the courts and the gradual liberalization of many 
basic legal principles. The court system was formerly but one of many 
instruments used by the prime minister to maintain the authoritarian 
rule of the Rana family, and the concepts of law which it applied were 
arbitrary, punitive and oppressive. When the king was restored to 
primacy he initially attempted to keep the judiciary subordinate to his 
wishes. Since 1955, however, despite a long tradition of government 
which intermixes administrative and judicial functions, it has been 
allowed to become a relatively independent branch of the government. 
Moreover, reforms in the legal system have rendered both substantive 
and procedural law progressively more systematic. 

In 1963, King Mahendra stated that his objective was the establish- 
ment of "a perfect rule of law"' in which the people would receive justice 
"smoothly, expeditiously, and without (.liscrimination." Despite major 


improvements since 1951, the judicial system still suffers from a num- 
ber of serious weaknesses which impede the realization of these ideals. 
The independence and integrity of the judiciary are repeatedly ques- 
tioned .n the press; the intervention of political figures and government 
officials in the judicial process appears to be a frequent occurrence, and 
caste and economic status appear to be important determinants of the 
availability of justice. The jurisdiction of courts, never clear, has been 
complicated further by the introduction of the panchayat system. Al- 
though they had not begun to exercise them by the end of 1963, pan- 
chayats at the local level possess judicial functions, but the extent of 
their jurisdiction as against older courts is not yet clear. Moreover, it 
is still uncertain to what extent these and higher level panchayats will 
assume judicial authority, and therefore the fundamental role of the 
judiciary and its position within the government will i)robably be sub- 
ject to increasing study and discussion. In addition to these political 
and constitutional issues, the burden of litigation probably will increase 
as the rate of economic and social reform accelerates and will necessi- 
tate concomitant changes and refinements in the judicial system and 
process (see ch. 21, Public Order and Internal Security). 



At the beginning of 1964, King Mahendra was the supreme arbiter 
of the nation's pohtics, and the power of the monarchy was greater than 
it had been for over a century and a half. The revolution of 1951 ended 
the subordination of the monarchy to the Rana prime ministers, and 
under King Tribhuvan its authority gradually revived in the absence 
of any other source of stability and leadership. After King Mahendra's 
ascension to the throne in 1955 the scope of royal influence continued 
to expand and reached its widest extent in 1960 when he abolished a 
short-lived parliamentary regime and took personal control of the gov- 
ernment. The system of royal control has remained in effect since that 
time, although a new form of governments— the panchayat system — 
was established during 1962-63. 

The panchayat system is designed to strengthen the position of the 
King by gradually giving the people a larger voice in the determination 
of the nation's affairs and involving them more closely in the conduct 
and administration of economic development programs. The King is so 
closely identified with the scheme as its author that its failure would 
be a serious blow to his leadership and prestige. The eventual compati- 
bility of the panchayat system with the continuation of royal predomi- 
nance depends to a large degree on the King's ability to guide and con- 
trol the system in its initial stages, and he appears to have been suc- 
cessful in doing so during its first year of operation. 

Since the end of parliamentary government in 1960, parties have been 
banned and political activity has been prohibited. There are, there- 
fore, few formal political groups of any consequence which can be 
identified. The only significant opposition to the King at the beginning 
of 1964 came from the Nepali Congress party, the country's major 
political party and the vehicle of popular action against the Ranas in 
1951. It has been forced to operate from headquarters in exile in India, 
where it has served as a nucleus around which other opposition to King 
Mahendra has congregated. B. P. Koirala, its leader and the Prime 
Minister during the parliamentary period, although in prison in Nepal 
since 1960, is the only person whose influence and popularity could con- 
stitute a threat to the King for the immediate future. 

Other parties, their weakness demonstrated by the striking electoral 
victory of the Nepali Congress in 1959, have either accepted and op- 
erated within the royal panchayat syston on a supposedly nonpartisan 
basis or have merged with the exiled Congress party, creating a rough 
polarization in the country's politics over the issue of monarchical rule. 


The Communist Party, divided on the tactical question of whether to 
seek the direct and immediate overthrow of the monarchical system or 
to work within it, is split into two factions — a radical wing operating 
in India and a moderate one which exists more or less sub rosa in Nepal. 
Neither possessed much strength at the beginning of 1964. 

King Mahendra has set up class and professional organizations — 
status and occupational groups which include the entire population in 
their membership — within the structure of the panchayat system to 
assure the articulation of and harmony between the various social and 
economic interests of the country. Although these organizations have 
been instructed by the King to abstain from political activity, it ap- 
pears that a major purpose implicit in their formation was to serve as 
substitutes for the prohibited political parties. 


The Rise of Royal Power, 1951-59 

At the time of the revolution of 1951, opposition to the Ranas con- 
sisted of three major groups — the king and his sui^porters, disgruntled 
members of the Rana family, and a popular movement headed by the 
Nepali Congress — which sought the elimination of the Rana oligarchy 
and the establishment of a parliamentary democratic system under a 
constitutional monarchy. When this combination succeeded in ousting 
the Ranas with the aid of the Indian Government, the importance of 
the role of the king and the disaffected Ranas was generally overlooked, 
and the event was regarded as essentially a victory for the popular 
forces of liberal nationalism. After the Ranas had been deprived of 
power, however, the Nepali Congress was disrupted by internal con- 
flicts, and other components of the popular movement dissolved into 
scores of antagonistic political parties and groups which contested for 
control of the newly abandoned instruments of power. The struggles 
of these many groups immobilized the reform movement and created 
popular unrest and frustration which often erupted into violence (see 
ch. 2, Historical Setting). 

In the years that followed, the monarchy gradually emerged as the 
only political force capable of providing at least a minimum of unity 
and stability to the country, and it became apparent that the reestab- 
lishment of royal authority was of greater significance than the popular 
revolution. With the support of Ranas and former members of their 
regime who gravitated around the throne, the king acquired control 
of the major sources of power. 

Parliamentary Government, 1959-60 

The Nepali Congress won a decisive victory in the general elections 
of 1959, capturing 74 of the 109 seats in Parliament — almost four times 


as many as any other party. Many observers had expected that no 
one party would win a majority in Parhament and therefore feared that 
the elections would weaken and divide the country still further. The 
elections demonstrated, however, that the Congress, as it had claimed 
all along, had a strong and nationwide appeal. 

After the elections King Mahendra asked the Nepali Congress to 
form a government, and a Cabinet with B. P. Koirala as Prime Minister 
took office in May. With the opening of the new Parliament 2 months 
later, the Koirala government began to take the first steps toward what 
it described as the "establishment of a socialist Nepal through parlia- 
mentary democracy." Placed in office by a following impatient for re- 
form and frustrated by government delays, the Congress laid great 
emphasis on the elimination of the country's "feudal economy" and on 
large efforts for economic — particularly agricultural — development. It 
proposed the nationalization of basic industries and the institution of 
progressive taxes on land, urban housing, salaries, profits and foreign 
investments. In October 1959 the Congress majority in Parliament 
passed the Bii'ta Abolition Act, a measure which radically altered exist- 
ing legislation regarding the system of land tenure and had important 
social and political implications. Concurrently, the Koirala govern- 
ment undertook extensive reforms and personnel changes in the admin- 
istrative structure to enable it to implement its programs more effec- 
tively (see ch. 17, Agriculture). 

The Koirala government was soon confronted with serious opposition 
from many quarters. Its social and economic policies were opposed by 
powerful conservative elements and regarded as precipitous by the 
King. On the other hand, it was blamed in the countryside for delay in 
carrying out its program, and there were sporadic outbursts of violence. 
A section of the Congress led by the Prime Minister's half brother, 
M. P. Koirala, split away and went over to the opposition. The exten- 
sive administrative changes made within the government were resented 
in the bureaucracy, particularly among conservative former servants of 
the Ranas who had gradually returned to positions of influence. Talk 
that the prime minister intended to reorganize the Army also caused 
distrust of his government on the part of high-ranking officers. 

The position of the Koirala government was seriously damaged by 
the impact of Sino-Indian relations on Nepal's foreign policy during 
1959. The Tibetan rebellion in March, the flight of the Dalai Lama to 
India, and the deployment of enormous numbers of Chinese troops in 
Tibet to suppress the uprising created a volatile situation along Nepal's 
northern frontier, and its dangers were increased in August when the 
Sino-Indian border dispute first flared into the public view. As long 
as India and China remained on relatively good terms, Nepal's neu- 
tralist foreign policy, if uneasy, was at least tenable. With the sudden 
rise of tension between the country's two huge neighbors, however, a 


neutralist stance became much more difficult to maintain. The Nepali 
Congress had been strongly nationalist and anti-Communist on matters 
of foreign affairs, and its resi^onse to these develoi)ments was an attempt 
to improve relations with India. Internal jwlitical tensions would in 
any case have been aggravated by the crisis, and the reaction of the 
Koirala government laid it open to attack from the many sources of 
anti-Indian feeling in the country, as well as those which favored closer 
tics with China. 

During 1960 the government encountered increasing difficulties, al- 
though the situation did not appear to be critical. On December 5, 
however. King Mahendra abruptly dismissed the Koirala ministry, dis- 
solved Parliament, suspended many sections of the Constitution, de- 
clared a state of emergency, and announced that he was assuming per- 
sonal control of the government. Within 3 weeks the King had banned 
all political parties and political activity, formed a Council of Ministers 
to aid him in ruling, and declared that, the parliamentary system hav- 
ing proved itself a failure, Nepal would in the future "build democracy 
layer by layer from the bottom upwards" through a panchayat system. 

A number of reasons were cited by King Mahendra for his removal 
of the Koirala government. He charged it with misusing authority, 
multiplying corruption, weakening the administrative machinery, fail- 
ing to maintain law and order, encouraging antinational elements, bring- 
ing into being "an atmosphere detrimental to the vital interests of 
national unity," and instituting economic steps which created "insta- 
bility and insecurity among the people." At the time, opposition to the 
land reform schemes of the Nepali Congress was credited as being the 
major reason for King Mahendra's action, but this now seems unlikely 
as he subsequently continued them with little alteration. 

There appear to have been three basic motives for the royal coup 
d'etat. One was the King's distaste for the role of constitutional mon- 
arch in which he was compelled to remain in the background while the 
Prime Minister and his party held the center of the stage. The passivity 
imposed upon him by the Constitution conflicted both with his char- 
acter and temperament and with his conception of the monarchy as an 
active political force. Another reason was his intense dislike of political 
parties and party governments, which he has repeatedly stated have 
had a divisive and debilitating influence on the nation. His aversion 
to the Nepali Congress was strengthened by his suspicion that it con- 
templated the eventual elimination of the monarchy and by the knowl- 
edge that it was the only group with sufficient i)opular support to chal- 
lenge his position. Finally, the marked drift of Ncpalese foreign jiolicy 
away from India and toward China after 1960 makes it clear that dis- 
agreement with Koirala 's foreign policy was another major cause of 
the King's action. 


Direct Rule, 1961-63 

After taking direct control of the government, King Mahendra im- 
prisoned most members of the Koirala administration, almost all other 
leading politicians in the country, and many party workers. He also 
purged the administration of all Nepali Congress appointees down to 
the district level. Rigid controls were placed on the press, and numer- 
ous petty officials, even government pensioners, were empowered by 
royal decree to arrest anyone engaging in activities against the gov- 
ernment. With the notable exception of B. P. Koirala and several others, 
the imprisoned political leaders were released in a matter of days, but 
the rigorous prohibition of political activity left them with the choice 
of silence or fiiglit. Alanj^ members of the Nepali Congress went into 
exile in India to form centers of resistance to King Mahendra's govern- 
ment. Other politicians, feeling they would have nothing to gain from 
the restoration of a system in which the Congress would predominate, 
accepted the King's action without protest. 

Beginnings of the Panchayat System 

In the year after the dismissal of the parliamentary government, King 
Mahendra directed liis attention toward the establishment of the pan- 
chayat system. The Ministry of National Guidance was formed as the 
principal agency for supervising the establishment of the panchayats. 
Administration Rectification Committees, or tour commissions, were 
created in each of the 14 zones to eradicate opposition to the govern- 
ment, deal with local grievances, and assist subsidiary levels of gov- 
ernment in forming panchayats. Elections to paiichayats at various 
levels began in early 1962, and on December 16, 1962, a new constitu- 
tion was promulgated by the King. With the convening on April 14, 
1963 of the National Panchayat, Nepal's experiment with- the new 
political system was launched. 

The panchayat system provided a framework of popular participation 
in government under royal tutelage, and the King relinquished little 
of his authority to the new institutions. The national legislature, for 
example, was little more than an advisory body, whose views he could 
accept or ignore as he pleased. Moreover, he maintained a variety of 
controls over the political scene. Parties and other political associations 
continued to be banned. He had discretionary authority to determine 
the limits of acceptable criticism of the government in public utterances 
and communications media. The laws providing for preventive deten- 
tion and prohibition of political activity were sufficiently broad and 
vague to inhibit action which the government might define as objec- 


The King 

The monarchy is the center of poHtical life. The King is the most 
powerful political force and the most significant political institution in 
the country. He is the symbol of national unity, the source of all im- 
portant government policy, and the major defender of tradition as well 
as the principal agent for change. The strength of the monarchy has 
been and remains under constant challenge from those who seek to 
diminish his authority by the establishment of governmental institu- 
tions less subject to his will. Disagreement over the legitimate bounds 
of royal power and its position in the evolving political system has been 
the most basic, enduring and pervasive political issue. 

The King's power ultimately rests on his ability to attract and retain 
the support of the key elements in a scattered, locally isolated, multi- 
ethnic population. He enjoys the advantage of the prestige of a role 
traditionally held to have supernatural attributes and of being the most 
widely known national political figure. He is confronted with a dilemma, 
however, in incompatibilities of interest among some of his most impor- 
tant potential or actual supporters. The peasantry, for example, since the 
fall of the Ranas has received promises of social and economic better- 
ment from a succession of political leaders and from the King himself. 
That there was dissatisfaction in the villages with the conditions to 
which such pledges were addressed was apparent in the peasant dis- 
orders and rent strikes in the 1950's in areas where the incidence of 
landlessness and tenacy was high. It was also apparent that the promise 
of reform whetted the appetite for it. On the other hand, much of the 
King's support comes from elements who are endowed with high heredi- 
tary status, land holdings or commercial wealth and who suspect or 
oppose reforms of which they see themselves as the underwriters rather 
than the beneficiaries. 

The incompatibility of these interests confronts the King with a par- 
ticularly difficult political problem in determining the rate at which 
reform and development are to progress. He is the focus of popular ex- 
pectations for action which will compensate for over a decade of delay 
in carrying out economic reforms, and there is a degree of urgency re- 
quired in meeting these demands which he cannot ignore without risking 
serious discontent. He must act with sufficient speed to prevent the 
eruption of a potentially explosive problem which would deprive him 
of any control in its solution, yet he must not move so swiftly as to 
provoke serious reactions from conservative groups close to the throne. 

As of early 1964, King Mahendra had been able to deal with these 
opposing pressures without markedly diminishing his support from 
either group. A limited but increasing number of the peasantry recog- 
nized that he was virtually the only figure able to bring about the de- 


sired improvement in economic conditions. Similarly, the privileged 
elements, realizing that some change is unavoidable and that they would 
be even more directly threatened under any other regime, also con- 
tinued to look to the King to protect their basic interests. 

The King's power is also dependent to a very large extent on his con- 
trol of the armed forces. He appears to be in firm possession of the 
allegiance of the Army and has been highly successful in inoculating it 
against the infection of political rivalries by cultivating and rewarding 
reliability as the primary military virtue. Consequently the Army, 
while a potential force of major importance, is a passive one. It has 
not exhibited any political initiative of its own, and it has exerted 
no political influence independently uf the King's direction (see ch. 22, 
The Armed Forces). 

Certain areas of the bureaucracy, principally the Palace Secretariat 
and the Central Secretariat, are also important sources of royal power. 
The Palace Secretariat, rather than the Cabinet, is the actual center 
of government, and both it and the Central Secretariat are filled with 
former officials of the Ranas, whose loss of influence during the parlia- 
mentary period demonstrated to them how closely their fortunes were 
linked to the continued predominance of the King. In making govern- 
ment appointments. King Mahendra has generally adhered to the tradi- 
tional patterns by which various categories of offices were reserved for 
particular caste or ethnic groups. Brahmans dominate the judiciary, 
and the civil service and the staff of the Palace Secretariat are drawn 
largely from the Newar community of Katmandu. 

Political Parties 

Although political parties and activities of a political nature were 
prohibited during the period of direct rule from 1960 to 1963 and con- 
tinue to be outlawed under the panchayat system (by the Associations 
and Organizations (control) Act of April 12, 1963), parties and their 
leaders still have an important, if secondary role. Moreover, King 
Mahendra is reported to have stated that the ban on parties would 
remain in effect "no longer than necessary," and it is speculated that 
they may be reinstated by 1967. Should they be allowed to reappear, 
it would probably be under terms of close royal surveillance. 

With few exceptions, political parties have consisted of groups of 
people united by a leader and the desire to enjoy the fruits of power 
and political office rather than by any dedication to common principles 
and the achievement of shared objectives. Personalities have been 
decisive; ideological concerns, negligible. Regional or economic inter- 
ests, occupation, caste and ethnic affiliation have not been particularly 
important as central organizing principles for political parties, and a 


wide variety of backgrounds is represented among the adherents of 
almost all of them. 

Since the only constant objective of most of the parties — reportedly 
there were at one time 69 — has been to win control of government office, 
they have been characteristically fluid in their membership and incon- 
stant in their loyalties. Fragmentation and recombination according 
to the circumstances of uhe moment have been the outstanding aspects 
of their behavior. Alliances of convenience between them have been 
frequent expedients and have been brought about more often by mutual 
antagonism than by agreement of positive aims. This circumstance 
has made the parties particularly prone to manipulation by the King, 
and, with the exception of the Nepali Congress, they have had neither 
the organizational strength nor the public support which would enable 
them to resist him. Recognition of their weakness and of the King's 
control of all political rewards caused most party leaders to conclude 
at one time or another that it was more profitable to cooperate with him 
than to risk the loss of everything by persisting in opposition. 

Nepali Congress 

The major challenge to the power of the throne in early 1964 came 
from the Nepali Congress, which, as the nation's leading political party, 
stood to benefit most from the liberalization of politics and government 
which it advocated. The Congress, however, suffered from critical dis- 
abilities which prevented its acting as an effective opposition to the 
King. It was forced by the ban on political parties to operation from 
headquarters in exile in India, and its leader^ B. P. Koirala, remained 
in prison. 

A month after the royal coup the remnants of the Nepali Congress, 
including almost 40 members of Parliament, met at Patna, India, under 
the leadership of Subarna Shamsher and passed a resolution declaring 
that "what the King enjoys in Nepal is not original sovereignty but 
one derived from the people," and that "any attempt to convert it into 
an original sovereignty must mean rebellion against the real sover- 
eignty that still resides with the people and their elected Parliament." 
It demanded that King Mahendra release all political prisoners, with- 
draw the ban on political parties, restore fundamental rights, and recon- 
vene the Parliament. 

In the months that followed, the Congress served as the nucleus around 
which other opposition groups clustered. Elements of numerous lesser 
political parties joined the Congress in early 1961, and the radical faction 
of the Communist Party headed by Pushpa Lai, which sought the 
violent overthrow of the monarchy, approached the Congress on the 
subject of alliance. The Communists' offer, however, was rejected. 
The most important addition to the strength of the exiles occurred in 


January 1962 when Bharat Shamsher, leader of the Gorkha Parishad 
(the party which had won the second largest number of seats in the 1959 
elections), joined the Nepali Congress, bringing to it important sources 
of funds and a party organization which still survives in Nepal. 

In the fall of 1961 the exiles began to make raids across the Indian 
border into Nepal, attacking police posts, arsenals, tax and other gov- 
ernment offices, and organizing uprisings among the people in the hills 
and the Tarai. The campaign reached its height in February 1962 with 
an attempt on the life of the King and continued without abatement for 
most of the rest of the year. Although the raids severely tested the 
Nepalese Army and police, their purpose appears to have been the rela- 
tively limited one of keeping pressure on the King for a compromise 
political settlement. In this they were unsuccessful, however, and their 
tactics may even have worked to the advantage of King Mahendra 
who, in charging India with complicity in the raids, was able to stigma- 
tize the exiles as foreign agents and to mobilize support for his regime 
by appeal to nationalist, anti-Indian sentiment. 

In October 1962, following the Chinese Communist invasion of India, 
Subarna Shamsher announced that the campaign against the King 
would be suspended. This move was taken to remove a serious point 
of friction between India and Nepal at a critical time and to eleminate 
any pretext for Chinese intervention in Nepal. At the beginning of 1964 
the activities of the exiles against the royal government were still 

The headquarters of the party-in-exile was under the direction of the 
able and widely respected Subarna Shamsher, but the neutralization 
of so popular a leader as Koirala has been a serious blow. In addition, 
much of its middle-grade leadership was lured away by King Mahendra 
and drawn into the government in early 1961. Although the organiza- 
tion of the Congress in the countryside survived the coup without 
serious damage, party workers are not inclined to risk the penalties of 
violating the laws against political activity. 

A number of factors work strongly for the survival of the Congress. 
Primary among these is that it continues to be widely regarded in Nepal 
as the "party of the revolution" — the group with which the overthrow 
of the Ranas is most closely associated and which it therefore most 
closely identified in the public mind with the interests and welfare of 
the country. The Congress has also demonstrated a capacity to sur- 
vive adversity. Although deprived of power from 1952 to 1958, it was 
gradually able to close its internal divisions, extend its organization, 
and maintain the loyalty of its members. The Congress possesses 
greater organizational strength than any other party, and, although 
largely dormant inside Nepal, it is still in existence. Moreover, its 
leadership, although weakened by defection and fettered by imprison- 


ment and exile, remains strong. It is also the only party with a durable 
program and a clear commitment to a body of principles. 

These considerations notwithstanding, it is unlikely that the Congress 
can wrest concessions from the King in the present circumstances, and 
the raids of 1962, if anything, hardened the monarch's postion. The 
prospects of a negotiated settlement are uncertain. Several unsuccessful 
efforts to come to agreement have been made since 1962. 

The most important single impediment to any detente between the King 
and the Congress-in-exile is the disposition of political prisoners, par- 
ticularly B. P. Koirala. Koirala is the only Nepalese figure whose stature 
is even remotely comparable to that of King, and he is his only serious 
rival for paramount leadership. The King, however, appears even less 
inclined now than he was in 1959-60 to share his power voluntarily. 
Nevertheless, internal development, particularly the evolution of the 
panchayat system, and also the course of the Sino-Indian rivalry will 
have a significant bearing on future relations between King Mahendra 
and the Congress. 

Communist Party 

The proscription of political parties in 1960 affected the Communist 
Party less severely than any other. The experience it acquired in oper- 
ating underground while outlawed from 1952 to 1956 enabled it to make 
the transition to covert activity more smoothly than other groups. 
Moreover, little effort was made to detain Communist leaders, and in 
the months following the coup the Party was allowed to operate with 
a perceptibly greater amount of freedom than any other. It was unable 
to exploit the opportunity thus presented because of internal dissensions 
over fundamental questions of party policy which ultimately led to its 
division into two separate factions. One wing of the party, led by 
Keshar Jang Raimajhi, held that under prevailing conditions the Party 
should accept and support the monarchy and the present system and 
work within it for the achievement of party objectives. The other fac- 
tion, headed by Pushpa Lai and Tulsilal Amatya, advocated the over- 
throw, by violence if necessary, of the "feudalistic" regime of the King 
and the alliance of the party in exile with the Nepali Congress. The 
split became final in May 1962 wli^n the radical faction under Pushpa 
Lai met in Banaras, India, expelled the moderate members, and set up 
a separate party structure. The moderate faction reciprocated in Sep- 
tember 1962 when, meeting in Katmandu, it expelled the radicals. 

Superficially, this split in the Nepalese Communist Party seems to 
reflect the current crisis of ideology within the Communist world. Dis- 
agreement over whether the international orientation of Nepalese Com- 
munists should be toward Peiping or Moscow is not the ])rimary cause 
of the Party's disunity. Although the ideological strife between China 


and the Soviet Union has affected the Nepalese Communist Party, the 
origins of the rift in the party are essentially domestic. Moreover, the 
conflict between China and India and their rivalry for preeminence in 
Asia, particularly in the Himalayan area, ib of much greater concern 
to Nepal's Communists than is China's controversy with the Soviet 
Union. On this issue, both the Raimajhi and the Pushpa Lai groups 
have been firmly and consistently anti-Indian. 

Class and Professional Organizations 

Within the structure of the panchayat system are six classes and 
professional organizations which cover the categories of workers, peas- 
ants, women, children and students, ex-servicemen, and college grad- 
uates. These groups are organized in identical hierarchies which corre- 
spond to the organization of the panchayats themselves, with units at 
the village, district, zonal and national levels. At the village level 
every citizen is to be a member of at least one of these groups, which- 
ever is most appropriate to his status or occupation, and is entitled to 
vote for its executive body. Indirect elections are to choose the members 
of the plenary and executive bodies at the higher levels, and the 
national executive bodies are each to select members of the National 
Panchayat (see ch. 11, Constitution and Government). 

An important implied purpose of the class and professional organ- 
izations is to serve as substitutes for the prohibited political parties. 
According to the government, although the social and occupational 
groups comprised by the class and professional organizations were the 
foundation of the nation's political parties, the parties, in the pursuit 
of their own objectives, distorted and manipulated rather than advanced 
their interests. Officials of the Ministry of National Guidance — the 
agency charged with the general supervision of panchayat development 
from 1961 to 1963 — have stated that by stripping away the parties and 
providing a formal organizational structure for these groups, they 
may now work more directly and effectively on behalf of their common 
interests and concerns. They are to be the primary channels for the 
articulation of group interests, the coordination of individual endeavor 
with class and national objectives, the stimulation and expression of 
"class consciousness," and the participation of each group in the imple- 
mentation of the development program. 

The class and professional organizations have also been warned 
repeatedly against engaging in any kind of political activity. They are 
not permitted to contest panchayat elections, and their members may 
not do so as representatives of the organizations but only as individuals. 
The Minister of National Guidance has declared that even at such time 
as the ban on political parties is lifted, their members will not be allowed 
to run for the elective offices of the class and professional organizations, 


in order to keep the "stream of democracy . . . unsullied and undefiled.'' 
It is difficult, however, to perceive how the class and professional organ- 
izations can accomplish their stated task without becoming involved 
in activities of a fundamentally political nature and without in effect 
playing the role of political parties. Moreover, the internal impulses 
which may be expected to propel them in this direction could probably 
be curbed only by such extensive governmental restraints that they 
would become instruments of control rather than means of public ex- 

Potential Opposition 

There are several elements in the society which, at the very least, 
have been unenthusiastic over the continuance of royal control and the 
establishment of the panchayat system. These elements, which are 
identified with neither the Nepali Congress nor the Communist Party, 
as yet show nothing more than a general sense of dissatisfaction with the 
state of affairs and have not taken any organized form. As a result, they 
elude precise identification and description. 

Political leaders prominent in the 1950's who had expected some 
improvement in their fortunes following the expulsion of the Nepali 
Congress government have been disappointed with their relatively un- 
important role in the panchayat system and have made cautious but 
largely unsuccessful efforts to expand their influence. Former Prime 
Minister Tanka Prasad Acharya, leader of the small Praja Parishad 
(People's Party), which made a very poor showing in the 1959 elec- 
tions, has been the most active in these endeavors, seeking, along with 
members of other parties, the King's permission to form a "country-wide 
non-political organization on a democratic basis." Unsuccessful, he 
later attacked the government for suppressing all parties for the faults 
of only the Nepali Congress and demanded that the ban on other parties 
be lifted. The leaders of the moderate faction of the Communist Party 
have adopted a similar approach, calling for the formation of a united 
front movement. 

By the summer of 1963 the disgruntlement of this group had begun 
to take somewhat more tangible shape. Shortly after the National 
Panchayat was convened, complaints began to be voiced by certain of its 
members that the absence of parties created a "political vacuum" in 
Nepal which should be filled by the formation of a "National Front" 

More substantial action was initiated by K. I. Singh, who resigned as 
chairman of the Council of State in April 1963 and announced that he 
would instigate a civil disobedience movement against the government. 
It was later reported that he was to be joined by Acharya, Dilli Raman 
Regmi, a former foreign minister and leader of the Nepali National 


Congress party — another small party which had failed to attract a sig- 
nificant following in the 1959 election — and by Surya Prasad Upadhyaya, 
one of the leaders of the Nepali Congress, in the establishment of a 
group called Deliverance from Crisis (Sankat Mochan). In their deal- 
ings with the King they have argued that the prime ministership ought 
to be held by someone who commands a majority in the National 
Panchayat, which implies the return of one of the preconditions for a 
party system. They have also demanded the release of political prisoners 
and the restoration of fundamental rights. They were reported to be 
concerned over the "lack of appreciation of the leadership of . . . former 

Young people, particularly Western-educated intellectuals, constitute 
no immediate source of opposition to King Mahendra, but they have 
been notably apathetic and cynical toward his regime and the panchayat 
system. The King has exerted himself to win acceptance, but if their 
feeling of alienation should persist and if unemployment of the educated 
— now minimal — continues, they could become an important focus of 
opposition to the present regime. 


There have been only two elections of broad, national significance: 
the general elections of 1959 and the elections to local assemblies in 
1962. Although there had been elections before 1959, they were not 
nationwide but were for a few municipal governments or, in the areas 
where local elections were customary, for village councils. Since 1959 
all elections have taken place within the framework of the panchayat 
system, and by the beginning of 1964 one round of elections had been 
held at each of the four levels of the structure. 

General Elections of 1959 

The general elections of 1959 were regulated by the Constitution of 
1959 and the People's Representation Act of 1958 and were conducted 
under the supervision of the Electoral Commission. There were 109 
single-member districts, and candidates were permitted to stand for 
Parliament simultaneously in more than one constituency. Any citizen 
over 25 years of age could become a candidate, and any citizen over 21 
years of age who was not disqualified by insanity, conviction for trea- 
son, other crimes, or other grounds, was entitled to vote. Out of a total 
population of almost 10 million, somewhat over 4 million were eligible to 
vote in 1959. 

The task of carrying out the elections was complicated by a shortage 
of personnel, by the need to educate the people beforehand in the me- 
chanics and significance of voting, and by difficulties of transportation 
and communications. Even with the assistance of communications units, 


loaned by the Indian and British Armies, it was 3 months before the elec- 
tions were completed. 

Political campaigning began in the fall of 1958 and consisted of rallies, 
processions and the distribution of propaganda leaflets. To be recog- 
nized by the Electoral Commission a party had to run candidates in at 
least 21 districts; 11 parties were recognized, but by election time one 
had decided to boycott it and another had failed to produce the required 
number of candidates. Of the remaining 9 parties, only 1 — the Nepali 
Congress — had the financial resources and organizational scope to cam- 
paign on a nationwide scale, and it had a candidate in every district. 
Only 3 other parties contested seats in more than half the districts. 
There were 864 candidates, 339 of whom ran as independents and the 
remainder were affiliated with one of the 9 parties. Approximately 1.8 
million people voted — 45 percent of the electorate — in an orderly and 
well-conducted election. 

A conspicuous feature of the elections was the elimination of many 
of the small parties and the emergence of only 4 major ones. The Nepali 
Congress took 74 of the 109 seats with 37 percent of the popular vote; 
the Gorkha Parishad, 19 seats with 17 percent of the popular vote; the 
United Democratic Party, 5 seats and 10 percent of the vote; and the 
Communist Party of Nepal, 4 seats and 7 percent of the vote. These 4 
parties controlled 102 (93 percent) of the 109 seats. A corollary of the 
poor showing of the smaller parties was the almost total failure of the 
large number of candidates who ran as independents; of 339, only 4 
were elected to office. 

Also noteworthy was the extent to which much of the political lead- 
ership of the preceding 9 years was repudiated by the voters. Both 
former prime ministers who stood for office, K. I. Singh and K. P. 
Acharya, were defeated, and the third, M. P. Koirala, did not run. Other 
losing candidates were D. R. Regmi, president of the Nepali National 
Congress and a former foreign minister, and the two top leaders of the 
Communist Party, Pushpa Lai and Keshar Jang Raimajhi. 

Panchayat Elections 

By the beginning of 1964 there had been four sets of elections under 
the panchayat system. Village elections — for slates of candidates nom- 
inated by the central government — were held during the winter of 
1961-62, and town elections during the summer. Elections at the dis- 
trict level were held at the beginning of 1963 and were followed imme- 
diately by elections at the zonal and then at the national level. Special 
legislation governs elections at each stage of the system. 

Direct elections take place only at the local level — villages and towns 
— in the panchayat system; all higher bodies are formed by indirect 
election, each being selected by and from the one subordinate to it. It 


seems, however, that village and town elections had little effect on the 
traditional structure of local authority and that, though most people 
look part in them, interest was not high and was less so at the higher 
levels where electoral procedures were indirect. 



After centuries of isolation Nepal has evolved a foreign policy which 
may be described as a modified neutralism. This policy has been con- 
sistently applied in the cold war between the Communist and non- 
Communist powers. Its effectiveness has been threatened but not im- 
paired from time to time, particularly during periods of tension between 
neighboring India and Communist China. As of the beginning of 1964, 
relations with the Indian Government were cordial, and authorities 
in each country, apparently recognizing the mutual advantages derived 
from close cooperation in defense and economic matters, seemed deter- 
mined to continue them in the same pattern. Relations with Communist 
China were also cordial, and high officials in both countries have re- 
peatedly asserted that all the outstanding problems between them have 
been amicably solved. 

In public pronouncements regarding foreign policy and foreign rela- 
tions, Nepalese leaders stress the themes of independence, national 
honor, nonalignment and nonentanglement in the cold war. The po- 
litically informed sector of the population is proud of the country's 
aloofness which, it believes, has enabled Nepal to retain its independence 
over the centuries. This traditionally neutralist attitude was easily 
preserved during the long period of isolation which ended when the 
British withdrew from India. Until then contacts with foreigners were 
either prohibited or discouraged, and, at that time, official relations 
with foreign countries were limited to those with Tibet, the United 
States, France and Great Britain, including the British Government in 
India. After the withdrawal of British power, the Nepalese Govern- 
ment, seeking to protect its independence, abandoned its isolationist 
policy, established close relations with India, started discussions with 
diplomatic representatives of other countries and, most important, 
applied for membership in the United Nations. 

By the end of 1963, Nepal had established relations with more than 
30 countries, including at least six Communist states. The official 
representatives from most of these countries were concerned largely 
with trade and economic development programs. Meanwhile, strict 
adherence to the policy of modified neutralism had been seriously 
threatened by two major Chinese Communist operations: the invasion 
of Tibet in 1950 and aggression against the Indian frontier in 1962. 
Throughout this period, Nepal, maintaining a strictly neutralist atti- 
tude in the Peiping-New Delhi clashes, has even strengthened its ties 
with India while not weakening those with Communist China. The 


success achieved in the field of foreign relations is evidenced by the 
offer and acceptance of aid from countries such as India, Communist 
China, the Soviet Union, the United States, Israel and Pakistan — 
countries with widely divergent interests and viewpoints. 


For centuries Nepal has faced the problems of a small, weak country 
situated in a mountainous area surrounded by two i)owcrful neighbors. 
From its beginning as a unified state under the reign of Prithvi Narayan 
Shah (r. 1742-75) until the end of the Rana period in 1951, the rulers 
coped with this precarious situation by adopting general policies of 
isolationism and of neutralism. Also, to retain their independent status, 
they attempted to balance Chinese against British power in the Hima- 
layan region. The isolationist policy, adhered to with British approval 
and cooperation, virtually excluded Europeans from the country. Con- 
tacts with foreign governments and peoples were held to a minimum 
(see ch. 2, Historical Setting). 

From 1790 until 1912 the country's only direct diplomatic relations 
were with Great Britain, Tibet and China. Relations with China ended 
in 1912 with the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty. Thereafter, until 
the British withdrew from the area in 1947, direct relations were main- 
tained only with them and with the autonomous Tibetan Government. 
Contacts with other countries were conducted indirectly through the 
Government of British India. Since the British withdrawal, Nepal has 
conducted its foreign relations independently. 

Until the 1920's, when the government began to allow some moun- 
taineering teams to enter the country, foreign visitors were limited to 
those permitted — usually at the request of the British representative in 
Katmandu — to hunt tigers in the Tarai or to tour the cultural centers 
in the Katmandu Valley. Even the British representative in Katmandu 
had few contacts other than those with government officials. Western 
visitors were kept under strict surveillance and could meet Nepalese 
only after obtaining special permission. Foreigners were not allowed 
to use most travel routes, and Katmandu could be reached only over the 
most difficult trail leading into the town from the Tarai. When the 
trade routes leading across the country between India and Tibet were 
closed to Europeans, the British opened a new one from India to Tibet 
through Sikkim and the Chumbi Valley. The Nepalese apparently 
were willing to sacrifice certain economic advantages obtained from the 
Indo-Tibetan trade for the small degree of military security which 
might result from the policy of isolation. 

The attempt to balance Chinese against British power proved less 
successful. As long as the Chinese Government was dominant in the 
area the Nepalese seemed to favor its suzerainty over Tibet. In fact, 


Nepal's tributary relationship with China, established in the Sino- 
Nepalese Treaty of 1792, was maintained long after China ceased to 
have the power to enforce it. This nebulous relationship, however, 
seemed to have advantages that more than offset its disadvantages, par- 
ticularly since China refrained from interfering with Nepalese domestic 

By 1850, when the power of Great Britain was increasing in the area 
at the time that the power of a China torn by internal strife was de- 
creasing, Nepal's independence could be assured only with the con- 
currence of British authorities in India. As a part of Great Britain's 
"bufTer state" system, Nepal served as a safeguard against encroach- 
ments by any power on northern India. The British policy was to 
refrain from incorporating the buffer states into the Empire, and to 
allow them virtual autonomy over their domestic affairs in exchange 
for British guidance in their foreign relations. Moreover, the British 
were aware that an attempt to rule Nepal could be a costly venture 
because of the country's rugged terrain and the superb fighting qualities 
of the Nepalese soldier (see ch. 2, Historical Setting; and ch. 22, The 
Armed Forces). 

In 1947 the British withdrawal and an increasing Chinese Com- 
munist threat in Tibet forced Nepalese leaders to make a radical re- 
orientation in their attitude toward foreign relations. The isolation 
policy was discarded and the balance-of-power principle was expanded 
to include diplomatic relationship with all countries that sought Nepal's 
friendship. From 1947 to 1950 the Rana government's foreign policy 
seemed to have two objectives: to develop relations with friendly coun- 
tries as one means of protecting Nepal's independence and to establish 
relations with the new Indian Government similar to those previously 
maintained with the British in India. 

The threat to the country's security imposed by the Chinese Com- 
munist invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the overthrow of the Rana regime 
in 1951 were major factors in a further modification of Nepalese foreign 
policy. Since King Tribhuvan and his supporters were obligated to 
India for their rise to power, they understandably had pi'o-Indian senti- 
ments and looked to India for guidance (see ch. 2, Historical Setting). 
Nepal's foreign policy, as enunciated by King Tribhuvan and his suc- 
cessor. King Mahendra, has been based on the Indian "neutralist" 
model, with stress placed on its independent outlook and nonalignment 
with any of the world's power blocs so as to be free from foreign pres- 
sures and influence. The term "neutralist" is usually avoided lest it 
might imi)ly a return to the old isolationist policy — a reversion, how- 
ever, which is vigorously denied by assertions that Nepal, a landlocked 
country, must promote its international relations in various fields. 
Statements regarding nonalignment with world power groups appar- 
ently refer only to Western and Communist blocs, as the country in 


1955 sent representatives to the first Bandung conference held by a 
group of states usually called the Afro-Asian bloc. 

In general, the Rana regime's policy in the late 1940's of seeking 
friendly relations with other countries has been maintained and even 
expanded, but for a somewhat different reason. The Rana government 
apparently desired foreign relationships in part, at least, to seek sup- 
port abroad that could serve as a counter to a possibly unfriendly gov- 
ernment in India. The principal objective under the restored monarchy 
seems to be to obtain assistance of various types to aid in economic 
and social development without incurring politicarl obligations. 


Great Britain 

Nepalese relations with Great Britain began in the eighteenth cen- 
tury after the East India Company extended its activities into the 
Himalayan region. The first recorded official contact was in 1766, when 
the Newar king of Katmandu applied to the British for military assist- 
ance against the Gurkha invaders who were enveloping the Katmandu 
Valley. Later, when the victorious Gurkha advanced eastward and 
southward, they were in continued contact and conflict with the East 
India Company. In a commercial treaty signed in 1792, at the time of 
the Chinese invasion, the Nepalese Government agreed to give special 
trade rights to agents of the East India Company, but Nepal's request 
for British military aid against the invading Chinese was rejected. A 
British officer was sent to Katmandu to serve as a mediator between 
the opposing forces and to negotiate further trade concessions from 
Nepal. The British continued to press for expanded commercial rela- 
tions and the right to maintain a permanent diplomatic agent (Resident) 
in Katmandu (see ch. 2, Historical Setting, and ch. 22, The Armed 
Forces) . 

Relations with Great Britain reached a critical stage in 1800, when 
the Nepalese king, the victim of a successful coup, fled to India. The 
British granted him refuge, loaned him funds and seemingly made 
preparations to help him regain the throne. The coup government, ap- 
prehensive over the turn of events, in October 1801 agreed to sign a 
new treaty which reaffirmed the commercial treaty of 1792 and per- 
mitted the British to establish a Residency in the capital. The coup 
government was itself overthrown in 1802 and the new government, 
opposing the treaty of 1801, resented the presence of the British Resi- 
dent so openly that he returned to India in 1803, whereupon the British 
Viceroy of India repudiated the treaty of 1801. 

During the next decade, relations with the British became increas- 
ingly strained because of bitter disputes over sovereign powers in cer- 
tain Tarai areas. Open warfare started in 1814, but when British forces 


approached Katmandu the Nepalese admitted defeat and, in 1816, 
signed the first Treaty of Sagauli. The Treaty allowed the British to 
establish a Residency in the capital. It also reduced Nepal's territory 
to approximately its present boundaries, and gave the British some 
control over Nepalese foreign contacts (see ch. 2, Historical Setting). 

Since the arrival of their second Resident in 1816, the British have 
had continuous official representation in Katmandu. British recruit- 
ment of Gurkha volunteers began during this period, but frictions be- 
tween the Governments of Nepal and of British India occasionally 
threatened to develop into open warfare. The Nepalese, apparently 
resenting their loss of Tarai lands, repeatedly made forays into various 
disputed districts and tried to develop an anti-British sentiment among 
some of the Indian princes. 

When the Rana family came to power in 1846 they adopted a new 
foreign policy, the basic principle of which was the maintenance of 
good relations with the Government of British India. Threats of war 
between the two countries receded. Although Nepal's offer of military 
assistance to the British in 1848, during the Second Sikh War, was de- 
clined, similar offers were readily accepted in later years, particularly 
to help suppress the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and again during World 
War I and World War II (see ch. 22, The Armed Forces). 

Friendly relations generally prevailed during the period of Rana rule 
(1846-1951), as attested by numerous treaties and agreements. Nepal 
was allowed virtually complete autonomy in internal affairs in ex- 
change for British leadership in foreign relations. In 1852 a treaty 
provided for the apprehension and extradition of fugitive criminals — 
a problem, particularly in the case of political refugees, which had been 
plaguing both governments for some time. In 1855 another treaty guar- 
anteed that British subjects attached to the Residency in Katmandu 
would be tried only by the British Resident for violations of Nepalese 
law. In 1860 still another treaty restored to Nepal a tract of Tarai 
territory on the Oudh frontier which had been ceded to Britain in 1816. 

A prolonged period of tranquillity in Nepalese-British relations was 
interrupted in 1885 by the assassination of Prime Minister Rana Udip 
Singh. This created a crisis which aroused bitter quarrels within the 
Rana family over the line of succession. In accordance with their tra- 
ditional practice, the British recognized the successful contender and 
his new government once they were securely in power. In return, the 
new prime minister legalized British recruitment of Gurkha for the 
British Indian Army. Thenceforth, all Rana prime ministers sought 
unofficial British confirmation before assuming the powers of their office. 

Except for a similar crisis in 1901 the friendly relations, unmarred 
by serious problems, brought certain military and commercial advan- 
tages to Great Britain and generous monetary rewards to Nepal. In 


1919 the Government of British India granted an annual subsidy of 
NRl million (for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) to the 
Government of Nepal. This was in addition to the large sums entering 
the Nepalese economy by way of pensions, allotments, and remittances 
of various sorts from soldiers or ex-soldiers in the British Gurkha forces 
(see ch. 22, The Armed Forces). 

In 1920 the post of Resident was raised to British Envoy to the Court 
of Nepal, thus elevating Nepal from the category of an Indian princely 
state, in which the British Resident was the ultimate authority. In 
furtherance of the concept that relations between the two countries 
were, theoretically at least, between two independent states, in 1925 
both governments ratified the second Treaty of Sagauli. This treaty, 
besides confirming the 1815 first Treaty of Sagauli and all subsequent 
existing treaties, reasserted the internal and external independence of 
both governments. Despite these expressions, relationships between the 
two powers remained virtually unchanged until India's independence 
in 1947. 

During the rebellion of 1950-51 the British attitude toward the strug- 
gle tended to follow Indian leadership as soon as the Rana government 
lost control of the country. Since 1951, Nepal's official discussions with 
Great Britain seem to be centered on Gurkha affairs (see ch. 22, The 
Armed Forces). Relations continue to be good, with diplomatic repre- 
sentation being maintained at ambassadorial level. The King and Queen 
of Nepal went to London on a state visit in October 1960, and this was 
followed, in February 1961, by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II of Eng- 
land to Katmandu. 


For 3 years after India achieved independence, Nepalese-Indian 
relations continued to be based on the 1925 Treaty of Sagauli signed 
with the Government of British India. Since 1950 relations have been 
based on two treaties — the Treaty of Peace and Friendship and the 
Treaty of Trade and Commerce — both negotiated that year between 
representatives of the Rana government and the Republic of India. 
Under the Treaty of Peace and Friendship, ratified in July, each gov- 
ernment agreed to acknowledge and respect the sovereignty, territorial 
integrity and independence of the other; to continue diplomatic rela- 
tions with the other; and, on matters pertaining to industrial and eco- 
nomic development, to grant rights equal to those of its own citizens 
to the nationals of the other residing in its territory. Furthermore, 
agreements on all subjects dealt with in this treaty were to supersede 
those on similar matters dealt with in previous treaties between Nepal 
and the Government of British India. In the Treaty of Trade and Com- 
merce, ratified in October, India recognized Nepal's right to import 


and export commodities through Indian territory and ports. Customs 
were not to be levied on commodities while in transit through India. 
Both treaties reflected India's desire for a friendly and stable govern- 
ment in Nepal. 

During the revolt against the Rana regime in 1950-51, India advised 
both sides in the conflict and played a leading role in negotiating the 
terms of peace. The Rana representatives finally accepted India's pro- 
posed reorganization of Nepal's political structure and agreed to restore 
King Tribhuvan to the throne and to recognize him as the King of Nepal. 
The King approved the proposals immediately. The Nepali Congress 
party leaders, after considerable persuasion by the Indian Government 
and some further negotiations with the Rana regime, finally acceded 
to the compromise plan. 

Since 1951, India's policy apparently is to assist Nepal in establish- 
ing a stable, popular government that will develop a sound political, 
administrative and social system, capable of withstanding internal and 
external subversive forces. This policy seems to be acceptable to the 
Nepalese ruling powers, despite repeated accusations by political op- 
position groups that it involves undue Indian interference with both 
internal and external affairs. 

Besides benefiting from the advice of a military mission since 1952, 
Nepalese authorities repeatedly have requested and received military 
aid from India to help suppress bandit gangs and armed political dis- 
senters. Railroad and highway transport facilities in northern India 
have been made available, on occasions, to move Nepalese troops from 
one area to another in the country by an Indian route (see ch. 21, Pub- 
lic Order and Internal Security; and ch. 22, The Armed Forces). 

Close relationships between the two countries are further attested 
to by the presence since 1952 of a mission to administer India's Eco- 
nomic and Technical Aid Program. Apart from the mission administra- 
tors are numerous technicians, specialists and advisers to assist Nepalese 
ministries and other agencies charged with executing the Program (see 
ch. 16, Character and Structure of the Economy). 

Nepalese authorities, on the whole, have a high regard for Indian 
advice. Government leaders, when confronted with serious problems, 
frequently visit New Delhi to seek counsel from the Indian Government 
and apparently, on occasions, to obtain approval or support for pro- 
posed policies or plans. A possible exception to this practice occurred 
in 1960, when the King dismissed his Cabinet, banned all political ac- 
tivities and assumed direct control of the government, reportedly with- 
out consulting Indian authorities. Prime Minister Nehru seemed to be 
surprised and expressed disapproval of the action, stating that it was 
a "setback to democracy." Even representatives from dissident groups 
of all types have obtained advice from sympathizers in India, either 


in or out of government service. Indian authorities have functioned 
as intermediaries between various pohtical groups, sometimes exerting 
a moderating influence on the parties involved, particularly when their 
activities seemed to endanger governmental stability. Almost all of 
India's efforts in this respect have brought vociferous accusations of 
"interference," "domination" and "a threat to Nepal's sovereignty." 
Anti-Indian sentiment has been aroused on occasions and, in several 
instances, has been manifested by demonstrations. For example, when 
an Indian parliamentary delegation visited Katmandu in May 1954 on 
a goodwill mission it was agreed by hostile crowds who threw garbage 
at the delegates and stones at the Ambassador's car. Nepalese officials 
contended that the demonstration was promoted by unemployed poli- 
ticians who, in their frustration, blamed India for their plight. 

Relations with the Indian Government began to be somewhat strained 
in 1961 after the flight of dismissed politicians to that country where 
they organized a strong opposition movement, and by the end of 1961 
they were supporting armed raids across the border into Nepal. As the 
tempo of activities intensified, Nepalese officials became resentful to- 
ward India for giving asylum to the exiles and providing them with 
bases and material support for operations against Nepal. 

The increase in strained relations was marked by an anti-Indian 
demonstration on January 26, 1962, in front of the Indian Embassy at 
Katmandu. On April 17, Nepal's Ministry of National Guidance issued 
a 60-page pamphlet charging that rebels operating from Indian bases 
were conducting raids into Nepalese territory. The King, after threat- 
ening to take the question of India's encouragement of the raids to the 
United Nations, sent his Minister of Foreign Affairs, Rishikesh Shah, 
to New Delhi early in September 1962 for talks with Prime Minister 
Nehru, Minister of Defense Krishna Menon and other Cabinet minis- 
ters. He also appealed to the Indian Government to stop giving sup- 
port to the armed opposition movement. 

After this protest the tempo of antigovernment operations subsided. 
This was due in part to Indian pressure on the emigre Nepalese politi- 
cal leaders to desist from actions against the Nepalese Government that 
threatened to demoralize Nepal's internal security forces. More im- 
portant, however, was a decision of the emigre leaders themselves to 
cease their militant activities in face of a mounting Chinese Communist 
threat in the Himalayan region (see ch. 12, Political Dynamics; ch. 21, 
Public Order and Internal Security). 

By the beginning of 1963 relations with India showed significant im- 
jjrovement as manifested by frequent exchanges of visits by high gov- 
ernment officials. In addition, the threat imposed by the Chinese Com- 
munist aggressions against the Indian northern frontier seemed to draw 
the two countries together. King Mahendra and Minister of Foreign 


Affairs Tulsi Giri, while on an official visit to India late in January 
1963, asserted to the press that Indo-Nepalese relations were very good 
and were rapidly improving. In February the Indian Minister of Home 
Affairs, on a 4-day goodwill visit to Katmandu, stressed the close co- 
operation of the two countries in defense arrangements and in joint 
economic undertakings. Prime Minister Nehru, at the King's invitation, 
visited Nepal in April, primarily to observe the satisfactory progress 
being made on numerous Indian aid program projects. In August the 
King and Queen made a 3-day state visit to India; in return, in No- 
vember, India's President visited Nepal at the invitation of the King. 

India, seeking to maintain its prestige and influence with the leaders 
in the Nepalese Government, tends to be highly sensitive regarding 
their relations with other countries, particularly those with Communist 
China and Pakistan. A potentially serious irritant in Indo-Nepalese 
relations is the favorable publicity accorded in Nepal to the Chinese 
Communists because of their work on the Katmandu-Kodari road, not 
scheduled to be completed before 1966. Moreover, some Indian officials 
contend that the road will facilitate the influx of Chinese Communist 
agents and propaganda. 

China and Tibet 

The country's first recorded official relations with China and Tibet 
occurred about the middle of the seventh century A.D., when it was 
visited by Tibetan King, Srong-btsan Sgam-po, who then dominated 
large areas in China and in the Himalayan region. After the eighth 
century, missions reportedly were exchanged with China during periods 
when strong imperialist rulers exercised some sort of lordship over 
Nepal. This relationship would lapse, however, sometimes for several 
centuries, when China's rule was weakened by internal dissension or by 
the threat of foreign invasion (see ch. 2, Historical Setting). 

During the eighteenth century, when the Gurkha kings were expand- 
ing their power throughout the area now known as Nepal, they ven- 
tured into Tibet and, in 1790, captured Zhikatse (Shigatse) on the 
Brahmaputra River, 250 miles northeast of Katmandu. The Tibetans 
appealed to their Chinese overlords for aid, and in 1791 the Manchu 
Emperor responded with a large military force which ejected the Nepal- 
ese, invaded Nepal and threatened to occupy the Katmandu Valley. 
The Chinese, with overextended supply lines, welcomed the Nepalese 
plea for peace. The ensuing, vaguely worded Sino-Nepalese Treaty of 
1792 provided for tribute-bearing missions from Nepal and Tibet to 
China every 5 years "in token of their filial love." Furthermore, it 
stipulated that China henceforth should be regarded as "father to both 
Nepal and Tibet." 

The Nepalese, Chinese and British all gave different interpretations 


to the Treaty, particularly to the degree of Chinese sovereign rights in 
Nepal. When the Rana family came to power, their maiiarajas tended 
to reject China's claim of overlordship, contending that the vassal 
status of Nepal was an unwarranted fiction and a damaging reflection 
on the country's honor and independence. The Chinese, nevertheless, 
held the view that they had the right to intervene in Nepalese affairs, 
if they so desired. In practice, however, they adhered to a policy of 
noninterference. The primary desire of China seemed to be the receipt 
of the quinquennial tribute, and in the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-16 
the Chinese even refused to respond to the Nepalese request for mili- 
tary assistance. Thus China, by default, surrendered its dominant 
position in Nepal to the growing British influence there. Moreover, the 
Nepalese seemed content to retain the tributary relationship as an 
expedient for balancing China against Great Britain and thus retaining 
an independent status. The presence of Chinese power in Tibet, main- 
taining a vigilance over the situation in Nepal and still claiming cer- 
tain rights over the country, undoubtedly helped prevent its absorption 
into the British Empire in India during the nineteenth century. 

After the Sino-Nepalese Treaty of 1792, relations with Tibet were 
seldom friendly. Nepal complained that its quinquennial mission to 
China did not receive the protection to which it was entitled in Tibet. 
Also, the Nepalese maintained that their traders, merchants and pil- 
grims were treated unfairly by Tibetan authorities. Furthermore, the 
Treaty gave to Tibet some territory in the main border passes that 
formerly was controlled by Nepal. 

In 1854, Nepal saw an opportunity to redress its grievances while 
China was preoccupied with internal dissensions and Great Britain 
was fighting Russia in the Crimean War. A large Nepalese army in- 
vaded Tibet but was unable to win a decisive victory. Tibetan peace 
overtures were welcomed, and, in March 1856, the Treaty of Thapathali 
was signed, with the Chinese mediating the agreement. Under the 
Treaty both governments pledged to "regard the Emperor of China 
with respect." Nepal agreed to assist Tibet against invasion by any 
foreign i)ower. Tibet, besides agreeing to pay NR10,000 annually to 
Nepal and granting complete freedom of trade to Nepalese subjects, 
conceded extraterritorial rights to Nepalese living in Lhasa and gave 
Nepal the right to maintain a representative in Lhasa (see ch. 2, His- 
torical Setting). 

Relations between Nepal and China and Tibet continued without 
critical incidents until 1904, when the British sent an armed expedi- 
tion into Tibet. At that time China was undergoing serious internal 
strife and was unable to challenge the expansion of British influence in 
the area. Nepal, despite its obligation under the Treaty of Thapathali 
of 1856 to assist Tibet if it were attacked by a foreign power, rejected 
Tibet's request for aid, because it did not wish to risk its good relations 


with Great Britain. In fact, Nepal supplied the British expedition with 
yaks and porters. Meanwhile, Nepal had stopped paying quinquennial 
tribute to China in 1908. 

By 1910, apprehensive of British activity in Tibet, China reasserted 
its claim to sovereign rights in Tibet and feudatory powers in Nepal. 
This claim was rejected by Nepalese Maharaja Chandra Shamsher who, 
in 1912, warned the Chinese representative at Lhasa that Nepal would 
help Tibet attain an independent status by all means approved by the 
British Government in India. Nepal broke relations with China when 
the Tibetans, taking advantage of the Chinese Revolution of 1911-12, 
drove the Chinese out of their country. The break continued until 
1955, when relations were reestablished with the Chinese Communist 

In 1950, when the Chinese Communists invaded Tibet, Nepal's rela- 
tions with that country began to undergo drastic changes. Although 
the annual Tibetan tribute mission appeared regularly in Nepal as late 
as 1953, the Peiping regime had started to ignore the provisions of the 
1856 treaty by curtailing the privileges and rights it accorded to Nepal- 
ese traders, by imposing restrictions on Nepalese pilgrims and by stop- 
ping the Tibetan tributary missions. There was a mounting pressure 
by the Chinese Communists to "regularize" relations between the two 
countries to conform to Tibet's new status in the People's Republic of 

The first step was the establishment of diplomatic relations with 
Communist China; negotiations to this end started in 1954. After a 
delay caused by the change of government in Nepal in February 1955, 
an agreement was signed on August 1 to exchange diplomatic repre- 
sentatives. According to the agreement, relations between the two 
countries are based on five principles: mutual respect for each other's 
territorial integrity and sovereignty; noninterference in each other's 
internal affairs; equality and mutual benefit; peaceful coexistence; and 
nonaggression. The Nepalese Ambassador to India was also to serve 
as Ambassador to Communist China, and the Chinese Communist Am- 
bassador to India was to serve as Ambassador to Nepal. On August 3, 
the Chinese Communist Ambassador presented his credentials to the 
King. It was not until July 1960 that the two countries established 
resident ambassadors in their respective capitals. 

In 1956 Treaty concerning Tibet, replacing the Thapathali Treaty 
of 1856, was signed on September 20, 1956. Under the 1956 Treaty, 
Nepal recognized Chinese Communist sovereignty over Tibet and agreed 
to surrender all privileges and rights granted by the old treaty, includ- 
ing the NR 10,000 annual tribute from Tibet. The new treaty also en- 
titled the Chinese Communists to open a consulate general in Katmandu 
and three trading agencies at suitable points in the interior of Nepal. 


In 1962, Nepal withdrew its ambassador from Tibet, substituted a 
consul general instead, and retained four trade agents, one each at 
Lhasa, Nyalam Dzong (Kuti), Girang Dzong (Kyirong) and Zhikatse 

The establishment of diplomatic relations with Communist China 
and the agreement on Tibet opened the way for further conferences, 
joint declarations and agreements in a wide variety of fields. First, 
agreements regarding the location and demarcation of the Nepal- 
Tibetan boundary were signed between March 11 and 24, 1960, by 
Prime Minister Bishweshar Prasad Koirala and Premier Chou En-lai 
at Peiping. Within a month the same officials concluded a Treaty of 
Peace and Friendship, which they signed on April 28 at Katmandu. 
The anniversary date of this treaty has been used by the Chinese Com- 
munist Ambassador in Katmandu as the occasion for propaganda and 
for a reception attended by the King and Queen and high government 

A treaty publicized as the Sino-Nepalese Boundary Treaty was 
signed on October 5, 1961 at Peiping by King Mahendra and Lui Shao- 
chi, Chairman of the People's Republic of China. The Treaty provided 
for the Sino-Nepal Joint Boundary Commission to agree upon questions 
regarding alignment, location and maintenance of the 79 demarcation 
markers. Its findings were attached to the original treaty in a protocol 
signed at Peiping on January 20, 1963, by the foreign ministers, Chen 
Yi and Tulsi Giri. The wide publicity given to the event stressed the 
"achievements. of friendly discussions on the basis of mutual respect 
between independent nations having different political and social sys- 

On October 15, 1961, the foreign ministers of the two countries signed 
an agreement at Peiping to construct a motor road linking Katmandu 
with Tibet. This agreement and the Chinese Communist assistance 
in road construction are cited by authorities in both countries as an- 
other example of cooperation on projects that promote friendship 
between the two countries. Additional favorable publicity was given 
to the project on January 14, 1963, when both foreign ministers signed 
a protocol to the original agreement in Peiping (see ch. 19, Industry 
and Trade). 

After the major Chinese Communist aggression against India, begin- 
ning on October 20, 1962, Nepal, apparently seeking to avoid involve- 
ment in the struggle, reasserted its neutrality. A Nepalese warning 
that the country would not submit to aggression from any state ap- 
parently was directed at the Chinese Communists as an attack from 
any other source appeared very unlikely. Meanwhile, Nepal's continued 
support of Communist China's application for membership in the United 
Nations helped to maintain friendly relations on a mutual basis. 


Spokesmen of both countries emphasize the importance of the fre- 
quent interchange of official visits as a contribution to understanding 
between the two peoples. At the invitation of the Peiping regime the 
chairman of the National Panchayat, heading a sizable delegation from 
that body, made a 2-week tour of Communist China beginning Oc- 
tober 24, 1963. Early in January 1964 a Chinese Communist film ex- 
hibition opened at Katmandu. A potential source of irritation in rela- 
tions was relieved on January 13, 1964, when the Chinese Communists 
reportedly agreed to release from Tibetan banks the funds they had been 
holding in the accounts of some 200 Nepalese traders who, because of 
Peiping's stringent economic controls, had decided to return to Nepal. 

The United States 

Relations with the United States, in general, have been friendly and 
marked by frequent exchanges of official visits. Initial contacts were 
made in 1945 when some technical experts attached to the United States 
Foreign Economic Administration office at New Delhi were invited to 
Nepal for informal discussions regarding the country's economic de- 
velopment and the possibility of establishing direct trade relations 
with the United States. Meanwhile, the Nepalese Minister at London 
came to the United States. His visit was followed in July 1946 by a 
Nepalese goodwill mission headed by General Baber Shamsher, then 
Minister of Defense in the Rana government. In November the United 
States Charge d'Affaires at New Delhi visited Nepal and decorated 
Maharaja Padma Shamsher in recognition of the services rendered by 
Gurkha soldiers to the Allied cause in AVorld Wrr II. Finally, an Ameri- 
can delegation went to Katmandu in April 1947 to formulate an agree- 
ment which could serve as the basis for initiating commercial relations 
between the two countries. 

This preliminary document, signed on April 25 by the ranking dele- 
gate and Maharaja Padma Shamsher, provided for further consulta- 
tions to arrange the details for exchanging diplomatic and consular 
representatives. The two parties agreed that: initially, representation 
was to be at legation level, with the Nepalese Ambassador to London 
to serve also as Minister to the United States, and the United States 
Ambassador to New Delhi to serve concurrently as Minister to Nepal; 
each country was to guarantee a minimum standard of treatment for 
the nationals of one country visiting or residing in the other; future 
commercial relations between the two countries were to be conducted 
according to the most-favored-nation clause (see Glossary). Diplo- 
matic exchanges did not occur until about a year later when, in March 
1948, the Nepalese Ambassador to London, General Kaiser Shamsher, 
presented his credentials to President Harry S. Truman, and in May 
the American Ambassador to New Delhi, Henry F. Grady, presented 
his credentials to King Tribhuvan. 


Relations became somewhat complicated in 1950 by the Chinese 
Communist invasion of Tibet and in 1951 by the overthrow of the Rana 
regime. During these disturbances, the United States manifested pri- 
mary interest in the establishment of a strong and stable government 
capable of successfully resisting the expansion of Chinese Communist 
influence and power from Tibet. The victorious Nepali Congress party 
took a critical attitude toward Nepal's agreements with the United 
States, even making accusations, of its intention to build air bases and 
military cantonments in western Nepal. Nevertheless, the United 
States, generally following India's lead, quickly recognized the Nepali 
Congress-Rana coalition government in 1951. 

Nepal's diplomatic ties with the United States were strengthened and 
its international prestige enhanced in August 1951 when the two govern- 
ments agreed to raise the status of their respective diplomatic repre- 
sentations to the rank of embassy. It was, however, August 1959 when 
each country established a resident embassy in the capital of the other 

Meanwhile, the first agreement on American economic aid was signed 
on January 23, 1951, with representatives of the Rana regime. The 
new government, which came to power only a month later, indicated its 
desire for increased assistance. The aid program started slowly because 
basic plans had to be drawn up and decisions made on allocation of 
funds and effort. Since 1951, however, numerous agreements have been 
signed on a wide variety of economic projects, and by 1958 commit- 
ments totaled approximately $10.5 million. A major portion of the funds 
and effort have been expended on eradicating malaria, making geo- 
logical surveys, promoting village development and cottage industry 
projects, constructing roads, improving agricultural practices, estab- 
lishing an education program and providing scholarships for Nepalese 
to study in the United States (see ch. 6, Health and Welfare; ch. 7, 
Education; and ch. 19, Industry and Trade). 

The Nepalese Government, on the whole, has supported the United 
States aid program and has cooperated with its administration by the 
United States Operations Mission. Nevertheless, the Mission's presence 
has at times aroused considerable criticism from certain Nepalese po- 
litical elements. Some of the adverse comments, apparently from leftist 
sources, pertain to allegations that the Mission is engaged in espionage 
activities and that, despite the reported Indian approval of the eco- 
nomic aid projects, the United States is trying to lure Nepal away from 
India into close association with the "Western power bloc." 

The Soviet Union 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, after informal discussions with 
Soviet officials, announced on July 20, 1956, that diplomatic relations 


would be established with the Soviet Union at the embassy level. The 
Soviet Ambassador in New Delhi, accredited concurrently to Nepal, 
presented his credentials to the King on February 6, 1958. Relations 
were strengthened in the summer of 1958 during an official 3-week visit 
by the King and Queen to the Soviet Union. A joint communique issued 
by the King and Premier Nikita 8. Khrushchev asserted that: relations 
between the countries would be based on the "five principles of non- 
interference and cooperation"; Nepal had accepted the Soviet Union's 
offer of economic aid; and President Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov 
had accepted the King's invitation to visit Nepal. 

The Soviet Technical Mission arrived at Katmandu in February 
1959 to initiate negotiations for an economic and technical aid agree- 
ment, including a Soviet grant of 30 million rubles, which was signed 
on April 24, 1959. In another document signed at the same time the 
Soviets agreed to assist in constructing a hospital at Katmandu and to 
provide medical personnel to operate it. It was also announced that the 
two governments had agreed to establish resident embassies at Moscow 
and at Katmandu (see ch. 6, Health and Welfare; and ch. 19, Industry 
and Trade). 

Administration of the aid agreements was facilitated in October 1959 
when the resident embassy opened at Katmandu. Diplomatic relations 
apparently have continued to be cordial and cooperative, marked by 
the exchange of state visits, the negotiation of new agreements and the 
renewal of old ones. Soviet President Voroshilov visited Katmandu 
from February 3 to 5, 1960. Also, at Katmandu, a 2-year cultural 
agreement was signed on May 17, 1961, and renewed early in 1964 in 
Moscow. On October 23, 1963, Tulsi Giri, then Prime Minister and 
Minister of Foreign Affairs, made a state visit to Moscow at the invi- 
tation of the Soviet Government. 


Relations with Pakistan have strengthened significantly since 1955, 
when Nepal — like India — was critical of Pakistan's arms pact with the 
United States and its participation in the Southeast Asia Treaty Or- 
ganization, and particularly since August 1957, when Kunwar Indrajit 
Singh, then Nepal's Prime Minister, supported India in the Kashmir dis- 
pute. He reportedly stated that the Nepalese Government had pro- 
posed an agreement with Pakistan to evacuate Nepalese nationals from 
that country as soon as possible in return for reciprocal treatment of 
Pakistanis in Nepal. Information regarding the outcome is lacking. 

At that time, official contact between the two countries apparently 
was through their respective representatives in New Delhi. The first 
high-level relationship began on September 10, 1961, when the King 
and Queen arrived in Karachi for a 6-day state visit. This was returned 


May 9-12, 1963, by President Alohammed Ayub Khan, the first Pakis- 
tani head of government to visit Nepal. On this occasion the President 
conferred upon King Mahendra the honorary rank of Field Marshal in 
the Pakistan Army. 

Meanwhile, the Pakistan High Commissioner to New Delhi was 
appointed to serve concurrently as Ambassador to Nepal. By Septem- 
ber 1, 1963, a charge d'affaires was resident in Katmandu, but he served 
under the Pakistan High Commissioner to New Delhi, who retained 
his title as Ambassador to Nepal. 

The King's visit to Pakistan in the autumn of 1961 apparently eased 
the way for at least two agreements signed on October 19, 1962. Each 
agreement contained a clause calling for reciprocal most-favored-nation 
treatment. Another agreement, signed on January 29, 1963, provided 
Nepal with free trade transit facilities through the East Pakistan port 
of Chittagong. This arrangement somewhat reduces Nepal's dependence 
on India for import privileges, particularly since the establishment of 
an air link with East Pakistan later in the year. Possibly in reaction 
to this situation, India has liberalized the procedures governing Nepal's 
imports which pass through Indian territory, including the trade over 
ground routes between Pakistan and Nepal (see ch. 19, Industry and 

Other Countries 

Diplomatic relations have been established or are being arranged 
with a number of other foreign powers. Envoys were exchanged with 
France in 1949 when the French Ambassador in New Delhi w-as desig- 
nated as Ambassador to Nepal and the Nepalese Ambassador in Lon- 
don was also accredited to France. In 1962, Nepal was represented in 
Paris by a resident "special attache." By early 1964 diplomatic rela- 
tions had been arranged with six other European countries: Switzerland, 
Belgium, West Germany, Italy, Yugoslavia and Hungary. The accept- 
ance of Nepalese students in Czechoslovakia and Poland attests to 
friendly contacts with these eastern European states. 

Among the ]\Iiddle East countries, Nepal has relations with Lebanon 
at the embassy level. Ties with Israel are friendly even without the 
formal exchange of envoys, as attested to by agreement on a program 
of mutual cooperation and assistance concluded in August 1960 at Tel 
Aviv by Bishweshar Prasad Koirala, then Prime Minister. The agree- 
ment provided for the dispatch of Israeli technicians to Nepal and the 
acceptance of Nepalese students in certain Israeli schools. These ar- 
rangements were reaffirmed in September 1963 during a state visit of 
the King and Queen to Israel. 

In Asian countries, Nepal has an Ambassador in Rangoon (Burma) 
and a liaison officer in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and the Ambassador 


to India was concurrently accredited to Ceylon in March 1964. Dip- 
lomatic relations with Japan have been through the Japanese Ambas- 
sador to New Delhi, who in September 1963 held talks with Nepalese 
officials regarding the possibilities of expanding Japan's economic as- 
sistance to Nepal. The two countries reportedly plan to exchange resi- 
dential ambassadors sometime in 1964. 


Relations with certain governments have been complicated at times 
by numerous foreign-sponsored mountaineering and scientific expedi- 
tions operating from bases in Nepal. For example, in 1954 the govern- 
ment granted permission for such enterprises sponsored by groups from 
Great Britain, the United States, Switzerland, New Zealand, Japan and 
Argentina. Since 1954 groups from India, France, the Netherlands and 
West Germany have been added to the list of expeditions that have at 
one time or another operated from Nepalese bases. 

The Nepalese Government's attitude toward the expeditions has 
been generally friendly and cooperative. Because of the sensitive 
Tibetan border situation, however, they constitute a potential problem 
in foreign relations, as their activities in some instances have come 
under suspicion, not only by Communist China but by certain elements 
in Nepal and India, as a front for espionage functions. In order to 
counter these suspicions, the government in 1955 adopted a series of 
restrictive regulations, the principal provisions of which provided that: 
each expedition must be accompanied by a government-appointed 
Nepalese liaison officer who is to be paid, fed and equipped by expedi- 
tion sources; each expedition must give a detailed account of the area 
and routes over which it intends to operate and then limit its activities 
strictly to the areas specified by the government; after completion of 
its work each expedition must submit a full report of its activities to 
the Nepalese Government; and the firearms allowed to the expedition 
must be used only for self-protection, as the shooting of wild animals 
in the mountains — particularly in Buddhist areas — is strictly forbidden. 
Furthermore, the government announced in February 1957 that the 
sponsors of mountaineering expeditions to Mount Everest or to the 
seven other highest peaks must pay a royalty of NR3,000 to the Nepal- 
ese Government. Royalties for expeditions to lower peaks varied from 
NR1,000 to NR2,000, depending on the height. Also, the families of 
Nepalese liaison officers or porters killed while in the expedition's service, 
must be paid death benefits amounting to NR3,000 and NR 1,600, 

The Chinese Communist press asserted in April 1960 that two Chinese 
and one Soviet climber had reached the summit of Mount Everest from 
the northern slope, which never before had been scaled by man. This 


caused lively political discussions in Nepal and the opposition party 
denounced the ascent as a "violation of Nepal's territorial integrity, as 
Nepal has always said the summit belongs to Nepal." The boundary 
treaty, signed on October 5, 1961, reportedly shows the demarcation 
line running across the summit, apparently to the satisfaction of both 
countries. Communist China does not insist on joint approval of any 
expedition on Mount Everest and seems to have conceded to Nepal its 
sovereign right to permit access to the summit. Thus, the issue appar- 
ently has been settled, temporarily at least. 

The Nepalese Government has stated that permits will be granted to 
expeditions only after assurance that they are above suspicion and that 
their objectives coincide with their claims. Moreover, the government's 
policy is to prohibit expeditions from entering into critical border areas 
that might bring on disputes with Communist China. 


Nepal initiated efforts to obtain admission to the United Nations in 
February 1949. The first application, made by the Rana government's 
Minister of Foreign Affairs in a letter to the Secretary General of the 
General Assembly, came up for consideration in the Security Council 
along with those of several other countries. It soon was a major issue 
of dispute between the Western powers and the Communist bloc. The 
Soviet Union contended that the United Nations should approve or 
disapprove the applications of all the countries, which included Albania, 
Bulgaria, Hungary, Outer Mongolia and Romania, in addition to Nepal. 
The United States argued that each country should be voted on sepa- 
rately. After repeated annual discussions a compromise was reached, 
and Nepal's application finally was approved on December 14, 1955. 

Meanwhile Nepal had been admitted to a number of the specialized 
agencies which are under United Nations jurisdiction. Thus the coun- 
try, before its actual admission to United Nations membership, was 
receiving a certain degree of economic assistance and technical advice 
from United Nations sources in its development projects. For example, 
Nepal was admitted to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 
in November 1951 ; to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and 
Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in May 1952; to the World Health 
Organization (WHO) in May 1953; and to the Economic Council for 
Asia and the Far East (ECAFE) in April 1954. In September 1961 it 
became a member of the International Bank for Reconstruction and 
Development (IBRD) and of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). 
Nepal is also a member of the Universal Postal Union (UPU), the 
International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and of the Interna- 
tional Red Cross. 

In accordance with the policy of extending its contacts with other 


countries, Nepal participated for the first time as a full member of the 
Colombo Plan Consultative Committee in March 1952. It also was a 
member of the Bandung conference of Asian-African countries in 1955, 
when its representatives reportedly sided with the neutralist Asian 
group consisting of India, Burma, Indonesia, Cambodia and Laos. 
King Mahendra attended the summit conference of nonaligned nations 
held September 1-6, 1961, at Belgrade. 



Efforts of the government to maintain lines of communication with 
the people are hampered by the dispersion of the population in widely 
scattered, often isolated, communities and by the lack of interest among 
most rural inhabitants in happenings in Katmandu. The generally 
low level of education— fewer than 5 percent of the Nepalese were 
literate in 1960 — is a further impediment. To reach the people the 
government has had to rely almost exclusively on radio and personal 
contact. Word-of-mouth communication is of paramount importance 
in all parts of the country except the Katmandu Valley where the edu- 
cated elite is concentrated, and even there it is not unimportant. 

Considerable progress has been made in the development of domestic 
news media, which were almost nonexistent before 1951. About a dozen 
small newspapers are published and circulated in the Katmandu Valley, 
and a radio broadcasting station which can be heard in most of the 
country has been established. A few books are published each year. 
Indian newspapers, radio and films, however, continue to attract a 
wider public in Nepal than do the country's own emerging news media. 

The government makes extensive use of the leading newspaper and 
the radio station, both of which it owns, to mobilize popular support 
for direct rule by the King and to foster popular attitudes favorable 
to the success of the panchaijat system, using the King as the central, 
unifying symbol. Government information specialists devote special 
attention to the younger generation from which the country's future 
leaders will come. 


Mass communications media remained almost totally undeveloped 
before the overthrow of the Ranas in 1951. At that time the press con- 
sisted of a single newspaper, Gorkhapatra, which was circulated only 
in the Katmandu Valley, primarily among a small group of literate 
persons, and the Nepal Gazette, the official record of laws, regulations 
and decrees. Both were published by the government. The country had 
no radio broadcasting station; contact with administrative centers in 
outlying areas was maintained in the Tarai by wireless; in the moun- 
tains by courier. 

The lack of public opinion media during this period reflected the 
apparent conviction of the ruling elite that it could most readily per- 
petuate its control by insulating Nepal from the outside world and by 


fostering existing internal social divisions. During slightly more than 
a century in power, the Ranas restricted travel into and out of the 
country, made no effort to develop popular education, and permitted 
the establishment of only those lines of communication which were 
absolutely essential to the functioning of the government in Katmandu 
and its administration in the interior. 

In the atmosphere of reform which followed the popular revolt of 
1951, there was an upsurge of journalistic activity and the new govern- 
ment took steps to strengthen its lines of communication with the peo- 
ple. A number of privately published daily and weekly newspapers, 
scholarly journals and popular magazines appeared. Many of these 
publications were filled with patriotic sentiments, praising the royal 
family and other leaders and expressing high hopes for the nation's 
future. A small political party press emerged, including Xepal Pukar, 
the Nepali Congress party newspaper, which had been founded by 
Nepalese exiles in India in the late 1940's, and the Rashtrabani, pub- 
lished by the Gorkha Parishad (Gurkha Party), an opposition group 
established in 1951 under Rana leadership in an effort to regain power. 
The government established a radio broadcasting station in the Kat- 
mandu Valley, operating with the transmitter originally used by the 
rebels in their action against the Rana forces. It also created the De- 
partment of Publicity and Broadcasting in the Ministry of Home 

The Press 

By 1963 the country had about a dozen small daily newspapers, all 
published in Katmandu. Their combined circulation of some 12,000 
copies was almost entirely confined to the Katmandu Valley. Circu- 
lation elsewhere was limited, not only by illiteracy, but by lack of trans- 
port facilities, a distrust of the written word, traditional among tlie 
rural people, and a general lack of interest in affairs in Katmandu, to 
which the press devoted the major share of news coverage. 

Most of the newspapers were published in Nepali ; one was in Newari, 
the indigenous language of the Valley ; one was in Hindi ; and two were 
in English (see table 5). In addition to the daily publications there 
was a total of about 40 newspapers and periodicals. The editors, writers 
and correspondents of these publications, almost all of whom are with- 
out formal journalistic training, tend to come mainly from the Newar 
and Pahari Brahman communities. 

Although much changed from the time it served primarily as a ve- 
hicle for the glorification of the Rana family, Gorkhapatra continues 
to be published by the government and it occupies a commanding posi- 
tion in the Nepalese press. It is the most widely circulated newspaper 
(about 5,000 daily) and is sent to all government posts. Its news cov- 



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erage tends to deal mainly with official matters, coming primarily from 
the bulletin of the government-controlled news agency, which was estab- 
lished in 1962, and from reports supplied by the Department of Pub- 
licity and Information (in the Ministry of Panchayat Affairs) and by 
other ministries. It carries all government announcements, public serv- 
ice notices and news of government contracts. It is generally eight 
pages in length and, like other Nepalese newspapers, is printed on rough 
newsprint and uses few photographs, because of poor printing facilities 
and lack of technically trained personnel. Cartoons and sketches, com- 
mon in the Western press, are absent. 

Other than Gorkhapatra, newspapers of the decade after the Rana 
overthrow were nearly all published by politically motivated persons — 
generally with private financial backing — who sought to advance them- 
selves by supporting an established or aspiring public figure. Personal 
bias ran through editorials, commentaries and news columns, and ob- 
jective reporting was the exception rather than the rule. Editors were 
not always consistent in their loyalties, sometimes making rapid shifts 
of allegiance when it appeared expedient to do so. As a result a paper 
might carry a vigorous denunciation of a leading political personality 
which it had shortly before supported. 

As the press acquired a degree of maturity, reporting became some- 
what more objective. After the removal of the B. P. Koirala adminis- 
tration from power in 1960, King Mahendra required newspapers to 
obtain official clearance for all reports of political activity in Nepal. 
Later in 1962 it was ruled that the collection and distribution of news 
about and within the country was to be the exclusive right of a national 
news agency, Rashtriya Sambad Samiti (RSS). 

The government monopoly on domestic news does not extend to 
treatment of international events and issues. The Samiksha (Analysis) 
is, for example, a Communist weekly, while Swatantra Samachar (In- 
dependent News) is pro-Indian and strongly anti-Communist. 

Despite the gradual development of a domestic press sine 3 l^"!, most 
Nepalese newspaper readers continue to rely on foreign puoiications, 
which have a far superior coverage of world news and are readily avail- 
able in Katmandu bookshops and reading rooms. Many Indian morning 
newspapers are flown into the city by midday. An array of Hindi- 
language publications, some aimed primarily at Nepalese audiences, 
are read as well as several English-language newspapers, in particular 
the Statesman, from Calcutta, the Times of India, from Bombay, and 
the Hindustan Times, from Delhi. News, film and women's magazines 
in English are also popular, including the Pacific editions of Time, Life 
and Newsweek. China Today, a Chinese Communist magazine designed 
to have popular appeal, is published in India in Hindi, English and 
Nepali. The Chinese Communists also publish some material in Nepali 


in Nepal. Soviet as well as Chinese Communist literature in English and 
Nepali is given away or sold through booksellers and subscription 
agents. It ranges from general interest periodicals to scholarly journals. 


Book publishing is done on only a small scale. The Royal Nepal 
Academy, a government-sponsored society devoted to artistic and 
intellectual development and one of the few domestic publishers, has 
put out only about three dozen books. Most works by Nepali authors 
are printed in India, usually in Banaras, where costs are lowest. 

Nepali-language books constitute the great part of the stock of local 
bookshops, but works in Hindi, Newari or English also appear on the 
shelves. Among the English-language imports generally available are 
paperback novels, mystery stories and a few hardback editions of fairly 
recent titles. 

Radio and Television 

Radio broadcasting is controlled exclusively by the government, the 
country's single broadcasting station. Radio Nepal, being under the 
direct supervision of the Department of Broadcasting in the Ministry 
of Panchayat Affairs. The station operates on mediumwave and short- 
wave. It has two transmitters, one of 5,000 watts — a gift of the 
Australian Government and installed in 1959 — and another of 250 watts. 
With the installation of the 5,000-watt transmitter, the station's broad- 
casts could be heard over a wide range of territory in Nepal and in part 
of India. 

The country's acute shortage of electric power is an operational 
handicap. It apparently did not, however, figure in the government's 
decision in late 1963 to abandon plans for an additional broadcasting 
station, which would have included television, since the Swiss firm which 
was to run it on a commercial basis was to have provided its own gen- 
erator. Reportedly, the Nepalese Government and the Swiss firm were 
unable to arrive at a mutually satisfactory agreement. 

The Department of Broadcasting is staffed by about 20 persons, 
mainly career civil servants. Although a few are trained specialists, 
most of the principal officers of the Department have made trips abroad 
to observe broadcasting facilities and techniques in the United States, 
the Soviet Union and other countries. 

The number of radio receivers in proportion to the population is 
small but has been increasing rapidly, and servicemen on duty with 
British and Indian Gxirkha units frequently bring back small transistor 
sets to their native villages. Because evasion of the law requiring regis- 
tration of receivers in order to avoid paying the annual tax imposed 


on them is common, the precise number of families owning radios is not 
known. It is likely that the 16,000 receivers listed with the Katmandu 
magistrate as of early 1963 represented considerably fewer than the 
number actually in use. Moreover, the size of the listening audience 
greatly exceeds that suggested by this figure because listeners gather 
not only in private homes, but in tea houses and at public listening 
centers, of which there are more than 25 in all, located in the larger 


Privately owned theaters are found in some of the larger towns in- 
cluding, in addition to Katmandu, Nepalganj in the Far Western Tarai 
and Biratnagar, Birganj, Janakpur and Dharan Bazar in the Eastern 
Tarai. Filmgoing is a popular form of recreation, and commercial show- 
ings are generally well attended. 

Free outdoor film showings are offered by the government and foreign 
information services in outlying village areas. The popular response 
to such showings, at which many persons in the audience are seeing 
a film for the first time, is almost invariably enthusiastic. Private show- 
ings for members of the diplomatic corps and the Nepalese elite are 
also held occasionally at various embassies in Katmandu. 

The Nepalese Government makes a few documentary films, but all 
other motion pictures are imported. India is the principal supplier, and 
popular Indian films, with dialogue in Hindi which is readily under- 
stood by filmgoing persons, often enjoy runs of 2 to 3 months. Films 
produced in Western countries are seen occasionally, but they are shown 
without subtitles and usually run for only 2 or 3 days. Films produced 
in the Soviet Union or in Communist China are also shown. 

Word of Mouth 

In a country whose population is largely illiterate and is to a great 
extent dispersed in isolated settlements scattered over rugged, moun- 
tainous terrain, word-of-mouth communication is of paramount im- 
portance in the dissemination of information. The circulation of news- 
papers, periodicals and other printed matter is confined almost entirely 
to the Katmandu Valley. Elsewhere, news is spread either by radio or 
by individuals moving from place to place. 

Even though mass communications media are little developed, stories 
and reports travel far and fast. Information is passed on from one 
person to another, moving out in ever-widening circles from a central 
point of origin. Traders, holy men, beggars, porters and postmen figure 
importantly in this process, taking gossip from village to village through- 
out the countryside. So, too, do farmers and their wives, who go to cen- 
trally located bazaars to sell their produce. Even more important is 


the seasonal movement of considerable numbers of persons; for example, 
the thousands who make a yearly pilgrimage from the Tarai to Pashu- 
patinath in Katmandu; the many secondary school and university stu- 
dents who leave their villages for educational centers each year; and 
the retired soldiers who annually report to distant camps to collect 
their pensions. 

In all the larger towns there are public gathering places, such as wells 
and tea shops, where people exchange gossip, as they do in the evening 
in the houses of friends. Even in Katmandu, where daily newspapers 
are available and news of local interest can readily be heard on the 
radio, many congregate after government offices have closed for the 
day in a section of one of the main streets to greet friends and collect 
reports of the day's happenings from them. 

Information spread by word of mouth is subject to individual in- 
terpretation and consequently may undergo considerable distortion or 
exaggeration in the process. It appears, however, that even the literate 
Nepalese villager tends to give more credence to information he has 
received by word of mouth than to that which has come to him in print. 
The word of village elders or government officials posted in the village 
is generally accepted as truth. This pattern of behavior appears to be 
true even in large towns with a heavy concentration of educated per- 
sons, who share a tendency to believe in reports originating from sources 
close to the palace or government officials, rather than in what is pub- 


The responsibility for government information activities rests pri- 
marily with the Department of Publicity and Information in the Min- 
istry of Panchayat Affairs, formerly the Department of Publicity and 
Broadcasting in the Ministry of Home Affairs. The Department's main 
functions are to publish and distribute informational materials on gov- 
ernment policies and programs and to prepare photographs and films 
of public figures and ceremonies. Two other agencies of the Ministry 
of Panchayat Affairs, the Department of Broadcasting and the Depart- 
ment of Village Development also engage in information activities. In 
addition, other ministries conduct modest publicity programs in con- 
nection with their education, health or agricultural projects, using 
radio, posters, slides, fairs and exhibitions to convey their messages. 

Information to Domestic Audiences 

The domestic information activities of the government are consid- 
erably more extensive than those of the elected administration which 
was dismissed from office in December 1960. Heavy emphasis is given 
to the role of the King in national life. Speeches and public statements 


of the King are printed and sent to schools and administrative centers; 
photographs of him taken in connection with development projects are 
distributed; and both his domestic tours and foreign travels receive 
wide publicity. In the priority given to this theme, the apparently 
overriding aim has been to explain and solidify popular approval of 
the royal assumption of power. 

Besides this primary objective, officials seem to regard two additional 
considerations as important in their information activities. One is to 
win support for the policies and programs of the government through 
explanation and persuasion. The other is to imbue the widely varied 
ethnic communities which make up the country's population with a 
feeling of loyalty to Nepal as a national entity. Government literature 
and radio broadcasts focus attention on such subjects as the panchayat 
system, the East- West Highway and Nepalese achievements in the arts, 
with the reigning monarch brought into the picture as a unifying symbol 
wherever appropriate. 

In its relationship with the press the government has followed two 
approaches. It takes restrictive action by exercising strict censorship, 
and it takes positive action by providing subsidies and furnishing news 
and photographs through the RSS. Since early 1961, journals failing 
to cooperate with the government or indulging in severe criticism of its 
programs or its leaders have been subject to suspension. Official clear- 
ance has been required for the publication of political material. Bans 
have occurred with considerable regularity. 

The RSS, in which the government owns the controlling share of 
stock, has a monopoly on the collection and distribution of news about 
and within Nepal. No other Nepalese individual or organization or 
foreign agency may engage in this activity. Foreign agencies, how- 
ever, are permitted to collect and dispatch news bulletins out of the 
country. RSS has a tie-in with the French news agency Agence France 

Radio Nepal is on the air at three intervals each day for a combined 
total of a few hours, most of which are devoted to light entertainment. 
This consists mainly of popular Indian music, although recently the 
station has been attempting to promote interest in Nepalese singers 
and folk songs by featuring them from time to time. In addition, there 
are daily newscasts in Nepali, Newari, Hindi and English which attract 
many more listeners than other programs. The remainder of the time 
is devoted to taped speeches by King Mahendra, commentaries on de- 
velopment achievements, and informational programs on such topics 
as health, agriculture and education, for which international agencies 
and foreign embassies supply some of the material. Like other govern- 
ment media the station makes extensive use of the theme of the throne 
as the focal point of national life, and brief excerpts of His Majesty's 


speeches are frequently heard in the intervals between scheduled pro- 

Other information activities include the distribution of posters and 
newssheets to be pasted on the walls of public buildings; the publication 
of collections of King Mahendra's messages and addresses; the produc- 
tion and showing of newsreels and documentary films; and the main- 
tenance of information centers in several of the larger towns. Pre- 
sumably the government also makes use of opportunities available to 
it through its control of the educational system and its influence in the 
new social and professional organizations and to a lesser degree through 
the panchayats themselves. The Nepal Peasants' Organization, for ex- 
ample, has its own newspaper, Karin, which is devoted primarily to 
news and opinion originating at the village level. 

Information to Audiences Abroad 

Nepal engages in few information activities directe(^ at foreign audi- 
ences. Other than the distribution of informational materials through 
its embassies abroad, its only project of any significance is a brief radio 
broadcast once each week addressed to Nepalese abroad. Following 
the royal assumption of power, denunciation of Indian policies and 
practices was fully widespread in the government-regulated press, but 
this diminished considerably after the autumn of 1962. 


Since the revolt of 1950-51, Nepal, situated between powerful neigh- 
bors to the north and south, has been subjected to increasing amounts 
of propaganda, in particular from Communist China — following the 
conclusion of a trade and friendship agreement with that country in 
1956 — and, more recently, from the Soviet bloc. By far the greatest 
amount of informational material, however, originates in India, a cir- 
cumstance deriving from Nepal's geographical and historical relation- 
ship with that country. Most of the Indian newspapers, films and 
books circulating in Nepal are commercially produced and are not 
part of official Indian information efforts, but they have an important 
impact on Indo-Nepalese relations. 

The Indian governmental effort centers on economic and technical 
assistance and cultural exchange. India maintains a series of cultural 
centers in Katmandu and other large towns, most of which include 
reading rooms stocked with Indian newspapers, magazines and books. 
Indian teams show documentary films from time to time around the 
country and arrange exhibitions of scholarly and literacy interest. As 
in the past, many Nepalese students are enrolled in Indian universities 
and secondary schools, and a number of Indian educators are now 
teaching at Tribhuvan University and other Nepalese schools. Broad- 


casts emanating from All-India Radio are probably the most widely 
heard of all foreign broadcasts reaching Nepal. The station broadcasts 
a half-hour program each morning to Nepal in Nepali. 

The United States operates one of the principal foreign information 
programs in the country, its estimated expenditures doubling between 
1961 and 1963. Directed primarily at the growing educated minority, 
its activities, conducted through the United States Information Service 
(USIS), include maintaining a circulating library of nearly 10,000 
volumes and more than 100 periodicals; supplying news and features to 
the local press; furnishing news and special features to Radio Nepal; 
and arranging exhibits of cultural and scholarly interest. The agency 
also publishes an English-language periodical, the Free World, which 
contains pictures and text dealing mainly with developments in Asia. 
Film showing is also an important part of the program, as are such 
special activities as sponsoring tours of groups of American folk singers 
and other artists. English-language Voice of America broadcasts, 
which can be heard only on high-powered shortwave sets, reportedly 
have attracted little interest among listeners. 

Communist China, stressing the themes of friendship and peaceful 
intentions toward Nepal and seeking to engender Nepalese fear of India 
as a menace to its independence, depends primarily on the exchange of 
cultural missions, invitations to delegations to visit Peiping and the 
indirect impact of technical and economic assistance to carry its prop- 
aganda messages. This effort is supplemented by radio broadcasting, 
film showings, exhibits and the dissemination of books and other printed 
materials in Nepali and English. The Nepal-China Friendship Asso- 
ciation is also active. Visits of heads of states have been exchanged be- 
tween the two countries. Premier Chou En-lai visited Nepal in 1957 
and in 1960, and in 1961 King Mahendra visited Peiping. 

Radio Peking makes general use of anti-Western and anti-Indian 
themes, its attacks on India having become increasingly virulent in 
1962. Broadcasts continued to accuse the West of warmongering and 
economic exploitation of undeveloped countries. Strong objection was 
taken to United States military aid to India, and the United States 
Peace Corps was labeled subversive. 

A step-up in the flow of materials emanating from Soviet-bloc coun- 
tries in 1960 was followed in 1961 by the signing of a cultural exchange 
agreement with the Soviet Union. Since then, relatively frequent visits 
of artists, educators and newspapermen to the Soviet Union have taken 
place, later reciprocated by visits of Soviet cultural delegations to 
Nepal. Radio Moscow and Radio Nepal exchanged taped recordings 
of cultural programs and recorded music. A Soviet film exhibition was 
held in Nepalese theaters in early 1963, and the centenary of a famed 
Soviet artist was made the occasion for elaborate ceremonies by the 


Nepal-Soviet Friendship Association. Between 1956 and 1962 more 
than 150 Nepalese students were trained in Soviet-bloc countries. The 
Soviet Union maintains a library in Katmandu, which is about the 
same size as that of the USIS and is well patronized, and the Soviet 
Embassy publishes and distributes a daily newspaper in Nepali. 

Communist literature distributed in Nepal in 1962 included nearly 
70,000 brochures and leaflets in Hindi and 367,000 copies of 32 Soviet 
books translated into Hindi. Although printed materials were the 
principal propaganda medium, Soviet-bloc radio broadcasts to the area 
increased by 21 hours a week in 1962. At the close of 1962 the Soviet 
Union and Communist China combined were broadcasting a total of 
611/4 hours in English and 331/4 hours in Hindi to Southeast Asia, 
Australia and New Zealand. 

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), Radio Australia and 
Radio Ceylon can be heard in Nepal and, although their programs are 
not beamed directly at the country, many Nepalese listen to them. The 
British library is welcomed by the reading public in Katmandu. Pakis- 
tan opened an information center in early 1963 and the Japanese have 
sponsored a number of film showings. 



Most of the people of Nepal have only a very limited political con- 
sciousness. Because of the multiple fragmentations of the country 
which insulate its many diverse components from one another and from 
other nations, the people are largely uninterested in and unaware of 
anything beyond the limits of their villages or districts. They are 
ignorant of and indifferent to politics. There are few events, personali- 
ties or issues which have penetrated this strong parochialism sufficiently 
to generate attitudes which focus on the same concepts in all parts of 
the country. This pattern is so widespread that it outweighs the im- 
portance of any other politically relevant attitude. 

In this situation the Katmandu Valley stands in sharp contrast. It 
is the only area of real political awareness in the whole country, and 
it has thereby acquired an influence in government and politics far out 
of proportion to its size and population. The nation's politics are domi- 
nated by the narrowly based and fluctuating opinions of the Valley, 
and the few attitudes prevalent in the rest of the country simply pro- 
vide the background. 

In addition to the differences in political consciousness between the 
Katmandu Valley and the rest of the country, the cultural diversity 
of the population creates significant differences in the perceptions which 
various regional and ethnic groups have of the same idea. The degree 
to which several groups may be aware of the monarchy, for instance, 
may be the same, but they each may have a different conception of its 
meaning. Information on such variations is not available except in a 
very few instances, and, consequently, it is the characteristics of the 
differences in attitudes rather than their substantive content which 
assume greater importance. 

Even in areas where the general level of political awareness is low, 
there will be categories of individuals whose education, experience, offi- 
cial position, or social or economic status distinguish them and make 
them agents for broadening the fund of common attitudes. School- 
teachers, development workers, certain other officials of the central 
government and Gurkhas returned from abroad will be found in almost 
every village and act as opinion leaders and channels for information 
from the outside. Foreigners entering the country to aid in economic 
development have had a similar effect. 

Moreover, there are a number of factors which are in operation to 
change prevailing attitudes or generate new ones. The monarchy is 


the one political concept most widely shared by the people, and King 
Alahendra is making vigorous efforts to broaden and strengthen its 
popular support. One of the primary means by which this is being done 
is through the panchayat system which, as the first uniform system of 
local government to operate on a national scale, may be expected to 
have an important influence on attitudes toward the government if it 
remains in operation for a sufficient length of time. The same is true 
of the class and professional organizations. 


The monarchy is the most widely known and highly esteemed politi- 
cal institution in the country, and the idea of monarchy has always 
held a dominant place in the population's limited cluster of political 
attitudes. Nevertheless, at the most only a vague perception of it exists. 
The concept first took root among the people of the area now known as 
Nepal more than a millennium before a political entity bearing that 
name came into being in its modern form in the late eighteenth cen- 
tury. It retained its vitality despite the occurrence of periods when a 
monarchical type of government did not operate. Even the century- 
long domination of the monarchy by the Ranas failed to displace it 
from its central position in popular sentiment, and a resurgence of mass 
support for the king was a major factor in the overthrow of the Ranas 
in 1951. The present royal line, the Shah dynasty, was first enthroned 
in the Kingdom of Gorkha in the middle of the sixteenth century, and 
the present king is thus heir to a dynastic tradition of more than four 
centuries, as well as a monarchical tradition more than three times as 

The stature of the king is heightened by the fact that he is regarded 
by many of the people as an incarnation of the Hindu god Vishnu. A 
majority of the population is Hindu, and by the Constitution of 1962 
Nepal was officially proclaimed a Hindu state. As a result of centuries 
of intermingling of Buddhism and Hinduism, many of the Buddhist 
minority also worship gods of the Hindu pantheon ; at least some would 
also probably acknowledge the divinity of the king to some extent. It 
would appear that in some areas of the country there is even a greater 
awareness of the religious significance of the king than of his political 

To the great mass of the people the king is a transcendent figure in 
distant Katmandu, and he is not directly connected in their minds with 
the manifestations of the state's authority which they experience at the 
hands of local officials. The uncritical acceptance with which they re- 
gard him is not tempered by any political awareness which might give 
rise to qualification or modification of their basic commitment to the 
monarchy. It is this general respect for the monarchy among the people 


which provides a strong foundation for royal power and allows a wide 
freedom of action in its exercise. In recent years King Mahendra ap- 
pears to have had some degree of success in augmenting the scope and 
intensity of this feeling — through the panchayat system, by occasional 
royal tours in the hinterland, and by emphasis in communications media 
on the values of the monarchy. By taking an active role in politics the 
King runs the risk that such attempts to reinforce these links between 
the people and the throne may ultimately work to his disadvantage. 
There is little evidence of any such development among the rural people, 
who look to the monarchy as a benevolent influence and identify it 
with the protection and advancement of their basic interests. 

The attitude of urban and educated groups toward the monarchy, 
unlike that of the peasantry, has undergone a marked but not funda- 
mental alteration as the result of King Mahendra's vigorous efforts to 
extend the influence of the crown. Increasingly, disappointed by his 
reluctance to reestablish a representative form of government, many 
in this category have come to view the monarchy with a pronounced 
detachment and skepticism. Although no criticism of the King is pub- 
licly voiced and is impossible in the present circumstances, government 
ministers have been the proxy targets for what have obviously been 
indirect attacks on the King and his policies by these groups. They 
have sought to limit its power, however, rather than to abolish it alto- 

The only group on record in favor of eliminating the monarchy is the 
radical faction of the Communist Party. The extent to which this policy 
is shared by the Party rank and file or by other elements of the society 
which may tend toward radical action is impossible to determine. The 
Nepali Congress party is widely believed to desire the abolition of the 
monarchy, but it has not formally made such a measure part of its 
program. With these possible exceptions, however, the vast mass of the 
people, even those disenchanted with the status quo, would probably 
oppose the total abolition of the monarchy and would tolerate nothing 
more than the containment of its power within constitutional limits. 


Any sense of nationhood which exists among the people is very weak. 
They have little feeling of being bound together in loyalty and affection 
for the same political unit. History provides the basic symbols for a 
national feeling, but the people of the country do not yet share a com- 
mon set of meanings for those symbols. They have no feeling of par- 
ticipating in the creation of a common future. The faint amount of 
national awareness which does exist between the disparate elements 
of the society is based primarily on the links between the people and 
the monarchy; religious affinities and a linguistic bond have provided 
secondary connections. 


Four categories of attitudes toward the nation can be distinguished 
according to the degree of intensity with which its existence is felt. 
Some people are totally unaware that there is any such thing as the 
nation of Nepal. Many others are vaguely conscious that there is some- 
thing called Nepal, but to them the term refers to the Katmandu Valley 
rather than the larger political entity. They do not feel connected or 
identified with it in any way, and the idea of nationhood is an abstrac- 
tion which they do not comprehend and to which they are indifferent. 
Still others have a greater awareness of the nation, but only because 
of their resistance to its claims on their loyalty. They usually possess 
a highly developed sense of identity with some tribal or ethnic group 
and regard the nation as a foreign threat to their traditional autonomy 
Finally, there are those few — for the most part well-educated and living 
in urban areas — who have not only a definite feeling of being part 
of a national community but who also have provided a seedbed for the 
growth of Nepalese nationalism. 

Nationalist sentiment, as distinct from simply an awareness of the 
nation, exists almost exclusively in the Katmandu Valley and perhaps 
a few of the larger towns. It is mainly a negative reflex and contains 
few elements of positive national feeling. Its major source and most 
frequent form of expression is antagonism toward India. India's deep 
involvement in almost every significant aspect of Nepalese life, though 
not without its recognized benefits, has created a profound mistrust 
and resentment of virtually every action bearing on Nepal that it takes. 
Anti-Indian attitudes, sometimes encouraged by political leaders, have 
occasionally erupted in spasms of nationalist feeling. These hostile 
outbursts generally occur when the realities of Indo-Nepalese relations 
come into conflict with Nepal's newly acquired and jealously held ideas 
of independence and sovereignty. Opportunities for friction are numer- 
ous and are likely to persist for some time. 

The growth of national consciousness is impeded by a number of fac- 
tors. The country's mountainous terrain divides it into innumerable 
isolated localities, and its rudimentary transportation and communica- 
tions facilities provide very weak connections between them. The tenu- 
ousness of these ligaments of national unity is accentuated by the 
diversity, complexity and insularity of the many groups composing the 
population. Moreover, deficiencies in the system of territorial admin- 
istration have rendered the central government incapable of welding 
a more unified nation, and the lack of universal public education until 
recently has deprived the country of an important stimulus to national 

In the absence of effective overriding ties with the nation, the paro- 
chial loyalties of region, ethnic group, clan, caste and village predomi- 
nate. Sectional feeling prevails in various parts of the country, and 
there is separatist sentiment in the Tarai and among the Kiranti in the 


eastern hills. Regional feeling is also pronounced in the northern bor- 
der area. All areas manifest a generalized animosity toward the Kat- 
mandu Valley, whose inhabitants, especially the Newar, have what is 
regarded as a disproportionately large voice in the operations of the 
government. This attitude is reciprocated by the people of the Valley, 
who view those beyond it as crude and ignorant. 

Such attitudes are intensified by the influence of adjacent nations. 
Although not encouraged by the Indian Government, separatism in the 
Tarai is inevitably stimulated by that region's close interaction with 
the Indo-Gangetic Plain, of which it is a geographical and cultural ex- 
tension. In the north the connections which Tibeto-Nepalese groups 
maintain with Tibet constitute an external orientation which militates 
against their integration within the Nepalese polity. The increasing 
sensitivity of the Sino-Nepalese border in recent years has created con- 
cern that this situation will complicate the central government's task 
of winning the full allegiance of the people of this area. 

In addition to the regional divisions in the nation there are others 
created by the existence of many tribal and ethnic groups. The fissures 
between them are widened by the disdain with which they regard one 
another. Each views the others through a set of unfavorable stereo- 
types tinctured with suspicion, contempt and hostility. 


Attitudes toward the government follow very closely those toward 
the king and the nation in many respects. Most people have no con- 
ception of the central government other than what is conveyed to them 
about it through the person of the king. Even this diminishes rapidly 
the greater the distance from Katmandu or other urban areas. In re- 
mote parts of the country and those possessing a tradition of special 
status the central authority emanating from the capital is regarded as 
slightly alien and is tolerated with some reluctance. 

The image which most people have of the ideal government is one m 
which it is a benevolent and paternal dispenser of favors, and it is pri- 
marily against this standard that the effectiveness of the government 
is judged. For most of the people the resulting attitudes toward the 
government are limited in range to those they have acquired through 
contact with local officials and field representatives of the central gov- 
ernment, whose connection with higher levels does not seem to be 
recognized. The public servants who are likely to be most familiar to 
the people are the headmen (who may also be tax collectors), the de- 
velopment workers, the schoolteachers, the police, the judiciary and, 
to a lesser extent, the Army and the customs officials. The authority 
of these officials is nominally accepted, but it is apt to be regarded as 
something to be avoided whenever possible. This is the result of a long 


history of both authoritarian rule and local autonomy, but a different 
response to the government may be developing in the wake of its grow- 
ing benevolence and the institution of the panchayat system. Personnel 
representing the new orientation of government — teachers, develop- 
ment workers, and medical technicians — are generally more warmly 
regarded than those engaged in the more long-standing functions of the 
administration — tax collectors, police and judiciary— which have never 
been particularly popular roles. 


The images of foreign nations for most of the people are determined 
primarily by the nature and extent of their relations with foreigners 
who have entered the country in increasing numbers during the last 
decade and whose individual qualities are taken as reflecting those 
of the nations they represent. Villagers generally seem to be well 
disposed toward foreigners. Fear of reprisal for disregarding the 
Rana policy of avoiding foreign contacts once made the people cir- 
cumspect with strangers, but reports of recent Western observers indi- 
cate that this is no longer the case. Apparently, little remains of this 
tendency but an aloofness in certain areas. The far more usual re- 
sponse to foreigners seems to be a quick interest and friendliness and, 
within the limits imposed by the ritual requirements of caste and 
religion, acceptance. 


Anti-Indian feeling to one degree or another is present in all groups 
throughout the country and cuts across the main lines of internal 
division — caste, tribe, region, educational levels, political sympathy 
and economic status. The Indian role in all important facets of Ne- 
palese life is so large and obtrusive that it multiplies the sources of 
friction between the two countries. 

The Nepalese are highly sensitive to even the appearance of Indian 
influence in their political and governmental affairs. During the early 
post-Rana years India was so deeply involved in Nepalese politics that 
Indian officials attended Cabinet meetings, and the Indian prime min- 
ister mediated major disputes within the government. Such inter- 
vention no longer takes place, but India's strong and enduring interest 
in Nepalese affairs, sharpened by the crisis in its relations with China, 
promises to perpetuate a major cause of friction. Moreover, many 
Nepalese seem to feel that India is casual and arrogant in dealing with 
Nepal and does not attach sufficient importance to its desire to be 
treated as a sovereign and independent state. 

The Nepalese also resent their economic dependence on India, the 
primary source of trade and investment and the largest contributor to 


economic development programs. Some even feel that India's sole 
economic aim in Nepal is the selfish exploitation of its resources. There 
is also antagonism over the widespread circulation of Indian films and 
publications, which many denounce as a manifestation of "cultural 
imporialism." A related reaction comes from non-Hindu or only super- 
ficially Hindu groups who rebel against the extensive Brahmanization 
of Nepalese life which has resulted from the operation of Indian influ- 
ence over a long period of time. 

Antipathy toward India on the grounds of its political, economic 
and cultural impact on Nepal is most prevalent among the educated 
and politically conscious and active groups in urban areas. People 
generally, however, seem to feel that they are patronized by the Indians 
who come to Nepal and that they are looked upon by them as backward 
inhabitants of some minor province of India. Other common com- 
plaints are that Nepalese are cheated by Indian traders and ill-used 
by Indian employers. 

This anti-Indian feeling conflicts with the belief of a fairly large 
body of informed people that the best interests of Nepal depend on 
the maintenance of good relations with India. Castigation of the opposi- 
tion or the government as pro-Indian is a basic political tactic, and 
the emotions aroused in this way have often made it extremely difficult 
for a political figure or government official to publicly advocate a pro- 
Indian policy. Therefore, any Nepalese government whose orientation 
is toward India usually encounters a strong undercurrent of feeling 
against its policy and finds it necessary to cater to popular feeling 
by verbal and symbolic actions which are somewhat contradictory 
to the actual course of such a policy. The considerations which argue 
for the maintenance of friendly relations with India are sufficiently 
compelling that even a politician who shares and exploits anti-Indian 
sentiment while in opposition will, once in power, find himself forced to 
adopt a softer tone. 


The feeling against India has sometimes worked to the advantage 
of Communist China. Although Nepal's foreign policy moves in the 
early 1960's brought it into much closer relations with the Peiping 
regime, this did not reflect pro-Chinese or pro-Communist feeling in 
anything other than a very superficial sense. The shift in Nepal's 
policy was largely a reaction against India and can hardly be taken 
as indicative of the basic attitude toward the Chinese. Most of the 
people, even the relatively well informed, are largely ignorant of China 
and the nature of the Communist regime. There is only a limited knowl- 
edge of China among the remainder, and they are inclined to be much 
less skeptical and critical of it than they are of India. To some degree 


they tend to identify with it as a fellow Asian country and look to it as 
a means of countering what they regard as the excessive influence of 
India. They are inclined to overlook or minimize the possible danger 
from Communist China. Although aware of the delicacy of their posi- 
tion between the two major powers of Asia, the Nepalese appear to have 
no particular fear of China despite the fact that Tibetan refugees enter- 
ing the country have provided some of the people — mainly Bhote 
groups along the northern frontier — with firsthand information on the 
brutality of the Communists in Tibet. 

In general, Nepalese know more about Tibet than about China proper. 
Trades and various Bhote groups traditionally have maintained con- 
nections across the Tibetan border. The Hindu majority, however, 
tends to view the Tibetans in much the same way as they do the 
Bhote — as ignorant and primitive tribesmen. 

United States 

There are only a few, loosely held and ambiguous ideas about the 
United States. Because of its distance from Nepal, the people who 
are at all aware of its existence are inclined to regard it as a rela- 
tively disinterested power in the context of Himalayan politics. It is 
viewed as a rich and benevolent nation to which Nepal can turn to pro- 
vide a makeweight in its dealings with India and China. The Nepalese 
are vaguely uneasy over the seeming lack of political motives for the 
extent of United States involvement in Nepal, and a few tend to ex- 
plain this by the theory that it is acting as an agent of Indian interests. 
Most people, however, seem to believe that the containment of com- 
munism is the principal Ame^can objective in Asia and feel that it 
provides the primary incentive for its concern with Nepal. 

A fairly large number of Nepalese have had some form of contact 
with Americans, mainly with tourists or those composing the official 
mission. The general stereotype which has arisen from this acquaintance 
depicts them as good-hearted, generous and friendly but basically 
simple people of somewhat limited perception. Accompanying this has 
been a disposition to accept unflattering judgments of the United States 
and a reluctance to believe anything which conflicts with their uncom- 
plimentary but amiable opinion of Americans. According to all reports, 
volunteers of the United States Peace Corps have already had a 
measurable effect in improving the image of the United States. 

Great Britain 

Since its withdrawal from India in 1947, Great Britain's connec- 
tions with Nepal ha /e consisted of its recruitment of Gurkha troops 
and the provision of a limited amount of economic aid. The Nepalese 
retain a highly favorable impression of Great Britain from an earlier 


day, however, and feel that it is a power to whom they will always 
be able to turn for help in any critical situation. Awareness of and 
admiration for Great Britain are sustained by Gurkha veterans who 
have returned from service with the British Army and have become 
important figures and leaders of opinion in their villages because of 
status acquired through such service. Pensions to these men and re- 
mittances from those abroad are an important factor in the economy 
and enhance the favorable image of Great Britain. Apparently no 
stigma is attached to Great Britain in the public mind for the part 
it played in perpetuating the Rana regime, or for its role as a major 
colonial power. The Nepalese word for Englishman — angrezi — is com- 
monly applied to all Westerners. 

The Soviet Union 

There is little information on Nepalese attitudes toward the Soviet 
Union. The prevalent stereotype is a favorable one, and, as in the 
case of Communist China, an uncritically generous interpretation is 
apt to be made of Soviet actions. There appears to be little knowl- 
edge of or concern over the Soviet Union's role as the leader of the 
Communist world and its activities. 



Section II. Political 

Among the sources consulted in the preparation of this section, the 
following are recommended as additional reading on the basis of quality 
and general availability. 

Alexandrowicz, C. H. "India's Himalayan Dependencies," Yearbook oj 
World Affairs 1956. New York: Praeger, 1956, 128-143. 

Armstrong, Hamilton Fish. "Where India Faces China," Foreign Affairs, 
XXXVII, July 1959, 617-625. 

Chakravarti, P. C. India's China Policy. Bloomington: University of 
Indiana Press, 1962. 

Chopra, Maharaj K. "The Himalayan Border War: An Indian Military 
View," Military Review, XLIII, May 1963, 8-16. 

Dai, Shen-yu. "Peking, Katmandu and New Delhi," China Quarterly, 
October-December 1963, 86-98. 

Fisher, Margaret W., Rose, Leo E., and Huttenback, Robert A. Hima- 
layan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ludakh. New York: 
Praeger, 1963. 

Jagdish (pseud.). "Democracy Through Panchayats in Nepal," All- 
India Congress Committee Economic Review, XIV, May 15, 1963, 

Jain, Girilal. India Meets China in Nepal. New York: Asia Publishing 
House, 1959. 

Karan, Pradyumna P., and Jenkins, William M., Jr. The Himalayan 
Kingdoms: Bhutan, Sikkini and Nepal. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 

Lamp, Pitney Beatrice. India: A World in Transition. New York: 
Praeger, 1963. 

Levi, Werner. "Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, 

XXI, December 17, 1952, 185-191. 

. "Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, 

XXII, January 14, 1953, 5-10. 
-. "Government and Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, 

XXIV, January 14, 1955, 5-9. 

'India's Himalayan Border," Contemporary Review, 

CLXXXVIII, July 1955, 42, 43. 


Levi, Werner, "Nepal in World Politics," Pacific Affairs, XXX, Sep- 
tember 1957, 236-248. 

. "Political Progress in Nepal," World Today, XII, June 1956, 


. "Political Rivalries in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, XXIII, 

July 1954, 102-107. 
. "Politics in Nepal," Eastern World, VIII, November 1954, 

. "Politics in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, XXV, March 1956, 


Mahendra, His Majesty King. "Policy of Nonalinement," Vital Speeches 

of the Day, XXVI, July 1, 1960, 563, 564. 
Moorthy, K. Krishna. "Worsening Nepal-India Row," Far Eastern 

Economic Review, XXXVIII, November 1, 1962, 285-290. 
Nehru, Jawaharlal. "Changing India," Foreign Affairs, XLI, April 1963, 

Palmer, Norman D. "Trans-Himalayan Confrontation," Orbis, Winter 

Patterson, George N. Peking Versus Delhi. New York: Praeger, 1964. 

. "Recent Chinese Policies in Tibet and Towards the Himalayan 

Border States," China Quarterly, No. 12, October-December 1962, 

Richardson, Hugh E. A Short History of Tibet. New York: Button, 

Rose, Leo E. "Conflict in the Himalayas," Military Review, XLIII, 

February 1963, 3-15. 
. "The Himalayan Border States: 'Buffers' in Transition," Asian 

Survey, III, February 1963, 116-122. 

-. Nepal: Government and Politics. (Subcontractor's Monograph 

HRAF-36 California-5, Human Relations Area Files, South Asia 
Project.) Berkeley: University of California, 1956. 

. "Nepal: The Quiet Monarchy," Asian Survey, IV, February 

1964, 723-728. 

. "Nepal's Experiment with 'Traditional' Democracy," Pacific 

Affairs, XXXVI, Spring 1963, 16-31. 
. "Sino-Indian Rivalry and the Himalayan Border States," Orbis, 

V, July 1961, 198-215. 

Schoenfeld, Benjamin N. "Nepal's New Constitution," Pacific Affairs, 

XXXII, December 1959, 392-401. 
Tucker, Francis. Gorkha: The Story of the Gurkhas of Nepal. London: 

Constable, 1957. 


U.S. Department of State. Office of Media Services. Bureau of Public 
Affairs. Background: The Subcontinent of South Asia: Afghanistan, 
Ceylon, Indian, Nepal, Pakistan. (Department of State Publication 
No. 7410, Near and Middle Eastern Series 69.) Washington: GPO, 
November 1962. 


Arjel, Devnedra Raj. Panchayat: A Socio -Economic Necessity. Kat- 
mandu: Press Secretariat, Royal Palace, 1962. 

"Atlantic Report on Nepal," Atlantic, CCXI, March 1963, 24-31. 

Bahadur, Prakash. Hostile Expeditions and International Law. Kat- 
mandu: Department of Publicity and Broadcasting, Ministry of 
National Guidance, 1962. 

Bajpai, Girja Shankar. "Nepal and Indo-Nepalese Relations," Indian 
Yearbook of International Affairs, Madras: University of Madras, 
1954, 3-8. 

China. Chinese People's Institute of Foreign Affairs. New Develop- 
ments in Friendly Relations Between China and Nepal. Peking: 
Foreign Language Press, 1960. 

Congressional Briefing Book: Nepal. Washington:, March 15, 

"Cultural Ties with U.S.S.R.," Far Eastern Economic Review, I, July 
12, 1962, 56. 

Feer, M. C. "India's Himalayan Frontier: Conditions in Nepal," Far 
Eastern Survey, XXII, October 1963, 140. 

Field, A. R. "Himalayan Salt— A Political Barometer," Modem Re- 
view, CV, June 1959, 460^65. 

Fifield, Russell H. "New States in the Indian Realm," American Journal 
of International Law, XL VI, July 1952, 450-463. 

Fisher, Margaret W., and Bondurant, Joan V. "The Significance of 
Nepal in Sino-Indian Relations," Indian Press Digests, Monograph 
No. 1, Berkeley: University of California, February 1956, 143-163. 

Gilliard, E. Thomas. "Coronation in Katmandu," National Geographic, 
CXII, July 1957, 139-152. 

Gupta, Anirudha. "Politics and Parties in Nepal 1950-1960: A Study 
of Post-Rana Political Developments and Party Politics." Unpub- 
lished Doctoral thesis, Indian School of International Studies, New 
Delhi: 1963. 

Gyawali, S. P. Friendship on Trial. Katmandu: Department of Pub- 
licity and Broadcasting, Ministry of National Guidance, n.d. 

Hagen, Toni. "Afoot in Roadless Nepal," National Geographic, CXVII, 
March 1960, 360^05. 


Hagen, Toni. Nepal. New York: Rand McNally, 1960. 

Hagen, Toni, Wahlen, F. T., and Corti, W. R. Nepal: The Kingdom in 
the Himalayas. Berne: Kummerly and Frey, 1961. 

India. Embassy in Nepal. Cooperation and Progress. Gangtok: Gov- 
ernment of India Press, 1961. 

Johansen, 0. Lund (ed.). World Radio/TV Handbook: Broadcasting 
Television 1961. Copenhagen: Johansen, 1960. 

Joshi, Bhuwan Lai. "Consensus in Nepali Public Life." 1963 
(ditto) . 

Kihara, H. (ed.). Peoples of Nepal Himalaya: Scientific Results of the 
Japanese Expeditions to Nepal Himalaya 1952-1953. 3 vols. Kyoto: 
Kyoto University, Fauna and Flora Research Society, 1955, 1956, 

Kuhn, Delia, and Kuhn, Ferdinand. Borderlands. New York: Knopf, 

Mahendra, His Majesty King. Calls for Peace. Katmandu: Department 
of Publicity and Broadcasting, Ministry of National Guidance, 1961. 

. Nepal-India Friendship. Katmandu. Department of Publicity, 

Ministry of National Guidance, 1962. 
. Statement of Principles. Katmandu: Department of Publicity 

and Broadcasting, Ministry of National Guidance, 1962. 

Mihaly, Eugene B. "Developments in Nepal," World Today, XIX, 
October 1963, 431-438. 

Moorthy, K. Krishna. "The Sino-Indian Impasse," Far Eastern Eco- 
nomic Review, XXX, December 1, 1960, 496-501. 

Mulhotra, Ram Chand. "Central Government Administration in Nepal." 1956 (mimeo.). 

The National Panchayat. Katmandu: Department of Publicity and 
Broadcasting, Ministry of Home, n.d. 

Nepal. The Bush Report on the Administrative Reorganization of the 
Government of Nepal., 1952. 

. Interim Government of Nepal Act, 1951 (as amended to 1954) . 


Nepal. Administrative Reorganization Commission. Report on Reor- 
ganization of District Administration in Nepal. Katmandu:, 

Nepal. Embassy in Washington. "The Panchayat System of Govern- 
ment in Nepal." 1963. (Unpublished typewritten manuscript.) 

Nepal. Laws, Statutes, etc. "Constitution of Nepal, 1962," Nepal 
Gazette, XII, December 16, 1962. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, 
No. 167/63.) 


Nepal. Ministry of Law and Parliamentary Affairs. The Constitution 
of the Kingdom of Nepal. 1959. 

Nepal. Press Secretariat, Royal Palace. "Summary of the Salient 
Featm-es of the Constitution of Nepal." 1963 (mimeo.). 

Nepal and U.S. Operations Mission/Katmandu. Government Adminis- 
tration Miscellaneous Notes., n.d. 

"Nepal's Birthpangs of Democracy," Eastern World, XII, January 1958, 

"New Chance for Nepal," Economist, CLXXIV, March 19, 1955, 1001- 

Okada, Ferdinand E. "Notes on Local Administration in Nepal." 
(Orientation Paper No. 12.) Katmandu: U.S. Agency for Interna- 
tional Development, March 12, 1963 (mimeo.). 

Organization Chart of His Majesty's Government of Nepal. January 4, 

Organization Chart of His Majesty's Government of Nepal. June 7, 

Y. G. K. Panchayat: A Dynamic Concept. Katmandu: Press Secre- 
tariat, Royal Palace, 1962. 

Panchayat Democracy for National Prosperity. Katmandu: Press Sec- 
retariat, Royal Palace, 1962. 

Pant, Rama Devi. "First General Elections in Nepal," Economic 
Weekly, XI, February 21, 1959, 285-290. 

. "First General Elections in Nepal," Economic Weekly, XI, 

February 28, 1959, 311. 

. "First General Elections in Nepal," Economic Weekly, XI, 

April 4, 1959, 483-485. 
Patterson, George N. "Recent Chinese Policies in Tibet and Towards 

the Himalayan Border States," China Quarterly, No. 12, October- 
December 1962, 191-202. 
Poudyal, Anant. The New Order in Nepal. Katmandu: Department of 

Publicity and Broadcasting, Ministry of National Guidance, n.d. 
Pringsheim, Klans H. "China, India and Their Himalayan Border 

(1961-1963)," Asian Survey, III, October 1963, 474-495. 
Red'ko, I. B. "Recent Events in Nepal: The Soviet View," Central 

Asian Review, IX, No. 4, 1961, 390-401. 
Richardson, Hugh. "Recent Developments in Tibet," Asian Review, 

LV, October 1959, 243-258. 
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Publicity and Broadcasting, Ministry of National Guidance [1961]. 
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Countries Project, Center for South Asia Studies. Berkeley: Institute 

for International Studies, University of California, 


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Times Magazine, May 27, 1956, 14, 15. 

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perialism," Current Scene: Developments in Mainland China, II, 
April 15, 1963, 1-22. 

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Press Secretariat, Royal Palace, n.d. 

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International Affairs, XXXVIII, October 1962, 472-484. 

Shepherd Gordon. "Where India Meets Red China High in the Hima- 
layas," Reporter, XIX, September 4, 1958, 29-31. 

Thapa, Vishwa Bandhu. National Guidance: Its Origin and Functions. 
Katmandu: Department of Publicity and Broadcasting, Ministry of 
National Guidance, n.d. 

Tucci, Giuseppe. Nepal. The Discovery of the Malla. (Trans., Lovett 
Edwards.) New York: Dutton, 1960. 

"Uneasy Nepal," Eastern World, XVI, March 1962, 16-22. 

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(The following periodicals were also used in the preparation of this 
section: Asian Recorder, from January 23, 1956 through March 1964; 
Commoner, from January 1, 1956 through March 1964; Deadline Data 
on World Affairs, Nepal, Domestic, from November 1, 1950 through 
January 15, 1964; Keesings Contemporary Archives, from January 1, 
1955 through January 15, 1964; Motherland, from January 1, 1956 
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March 1964; Regmi Research Project Reports, from January 1, 1956 
through March 1964; and Times of India, from February 10, 1963 
through January 15, 1964. 




Consisting for the most part of rugged mountains, where land use is 
limited by high altitudes, steep slopes and deep gorges, Nepal has a poor 
agricultural economy in an embryonic state of development. It has an 
enormous and almost untouched hydroelectric power potential and large 
timber resources. There is as yet, however, little indication of any other 
substantial natural wealth. The undeveloped state of the economy can 
only in part be attributed to topography and lack of resources. A major 
contributing factor has been its years of isolation, particularly within the 
100 years prior to 1951, from the massive social and economic changes 
which were taking place in the outside world and were reflected in the 
Indian subcontinent (see ch. 2, Historical Setting) . 

Landlocked and lacking essential requirements, such as salt, it is 
heavily dependent on its neighbors, especially India. Industry is negligi- 
ble and transportation rudimentary. Agriculture generally is character- 
ized by small holdings, production for family use and traditional 
service relationships. The most profitable export is manpower — mainly 
the famous modern mercenary, the Gurkha soldier. Most of the 9.7 mil- 
lion people live at a bare subsistence level, and even those who are not 
primarily farmers or herdsmen produce most of the food they consume. 
Although money has long been in use, cash income is only a supplement 
to all but a small number of wealthy landowners, moneylenders and 

In the 12 years since the overthrow of the Rana regime, some small 
changes have occurred in the structure of the economy, but most have 
been peripheral to its agricultural base. The end of Rana-enforced 
seclusion widened the opportunities for trade, which Nepalese throughout 
the country were quick to seize. The opening of the first motorable road 
between India and the interior, in this instance, Katmandu Valley, and 
the development of air transport further accelerated the tempo of com- 
mercial activity. Industry has shown no such expansion, since the 
people have demonstrated little disposition to invest in such undertakings 
and have had little experience in business except as traders. The Five- 
Year Plan (1956-61) and the Three-Year Plan (1962-65) have accom- 
plished far less than was hoped but have resulted in some gains. The 
Plans have, however, provided the government with experience in the 
basic requirements of efficient planning. The failure to reach Plan goals 
has pointed up the need to develop the government's fiscal system, to 


reform the tax structure and to stimulate the participation of the entire 
public in the development program. 


Until 1951, Nepal was a closed state, and the Rana policy of seclusion 
was strictly enforced by the British while they ruled India. Behind the 
barrier of the Mahabharat Lekh range, the country was in effect a 
medieval fiefdom held in the service of the Ranas. In addition to the 
land revenues which were the prerogative of the ruling Ranas, members 
of the family held monopolies of customs collection and trade and mining 
concessions. For almost a hundred years the Ranas poured this income 
into ostentatious luxury or hoarded it in gold and jewels or, in the 
twentieth century, in foreign investments. 

More enlightened policies came in the 1920's under the incumbent 
Rana, Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher, who abolished slavery and 
opened the door to technological advance. His policies were continued 
by his brother, Juddha Shamsher, who succeeded him as prime minister. 
He established the country's first commercial bank, invested in industry 
himself, and encouraged his relatives to follow his example. He built 
roads in the Katmandu Valley and one from Birganj on the Indian border 
to Bhimphedi at the foot of the hills. He purchased the ropeway used 
by the British in the Third Afghan War (1919) and installed it to lift 
goods over the hills from Dharsing to Katmandu Valley. Notwithstand- 
ing these expenditures for public purposes, it is estimated that the Rana 
family fortunes continued to increase by the equivalent of $60 million 
yearly. With the end of Rana control in 1951, the great Rana palaces 
and Chandra Shamsher's improvements were the only remaining material 
legacy to the nation of the accumulated wealth of a century. 

However, there were ameliorating factors. For over a hundred years, 
thousands of peasants from among the Magar, Rai and Limbu, located in 
the hills to the east and west of Katmandu Valley, had been in regular, 
well-paid employment in the British Indian Army. As a result, the 
equivalent of some $1.3 million annually found its way back into the 
hills in the form of individual savings and pensions which the Ranas 
could not touch. In addition, Rana administration was not uniform 
throughout the country. Certain groups, the Sherpa, for instance, were 
left to manage their affairs in customary ways so long as they paid a 
yearly sum to the Maharaja (the ruling Rana). Other enclaves were 
semiautonomous vassal states whose petty rajas either paid an annual 
assessment or in some cases received an annual subsidy from the 
Maharaja for performance of a service to the state, such as guarding a 
pass. Even where the district governor {bada hakim) of the Maharaja 
administered the district, it is likely that to the people the hand of the 
local landlord and moneylender appeared to weigh far more heavily than 
that of the Rana in Katmandu. 


Migration also acted as a check valve for economic pressure, it being 
common for one or more sons in peasant families to go to India in search 
of employment or business opportunity or to seek land elsewhere in 
Nepal. Many who left the country returned with their savings, but others 
settled permanently in India or as far away as Burma. It has been 
estimated by a Nepalese economist that for decades a third of Nepal's 
young men have been leaving the country each year to seek opportunity 

In 1951 demands for social reform and development of the economy 
came not from the peasantry but from the articulate portion of the 
public in the urban center of Katmandu and from the politicians. They 
flooded the new government with suggestions and recommendations for 
adoption of the latest ideas from abroad, and offers of grants, loans and 
technical assistance were received from the United Nations, India, 
Switzerland, the United States, the Soviet Union, the People's Republic 
of China and many other nations and organizations. 

The government found itself faced with a dearth of basic information 
on the country and a serious shortage of trained personnel, which made 
the solution of economic problems almost impossible. There had been 
no geographical or geological survey, no collection of meteorological or 
hydrological data and no population census. A committee set up in 1951 
to take steps to abolish tax-free [birta] land tenure and the Land 
Reforms Committee set up in 1952 made no progress because among 
other things land records were lacking. Under the Ranas there had been 
no government budget and there were no suitable records of government 
revenues and expenditures. The first task of the foreign experts was to 
establish the means for essential data collection, but a further obstruc- 
tion appeared in the lack of Nepalese with the necessary technical 

Popular discontent mounted as a series of party governments failed 
to solve the country's economic problems. Tenants were being terrorized 
by powerful landlords who were engaging in extortion, mass evictions and 
exaction of forced labor. Then in December 1955 the King assumed per- 
sonal direction of the affairs of state. Determined to accelerate the pace 
of social reform and economic development despite the lack of basic 
data and trained technicians, he promulgated the Land Reforms Act, 
which abolished forced labor, limited the exactions of landlords and 
provided for security of tenure. Other measures included: establishment 
of a central bank to increase the circulation of Nepalese currency and to 
control foreign exchange ; nationalization of the forests and provision of 
measures for forest protection; promulgation of the Nepal Mines Act, 
whereby concessions would be granted by the government for the ex- 
ploitation of mineral resources ; and formation of development boards for 
the implementation of development projects. 

In 1956 the King announced the Five- Year Plan, to expire in 1961. 


Described as "a flexible but definite program for setting the wheels of 
progress in motion," it was essentially a collection of government projects 
unavoidably based on rough calculations. In order to build the "demo- 
cratic welfare state" envisaged by the King and in the interest of more 
effective administration, the country was divided into 14 zones and 75 
development blocks. In the Tarai, each block contained roughly a popu- 
lation of 65,000 and an area of 300 square miles; in the hills, each 
contained a population of 45,000 and an area of 200 square miles. An 
integral part of the program was the Village Development Scheme, which 
was given highest priority in the Five-Year Plan (see ch. 17, Agriculture) . 

Notwithstanding the King's efforts, little was accomplished in the next 
5 years, during which party government was revived. The Birta Aboli- 
tion Act, which had been discussed since 1951, was passed by Parliament 
in 1959, but this Act, like similar measures in previous years, remained 
largely a dead letter in the absence of administrative machinery to 
enforce it. A number of foreign aid projects had gotten underway but 
were forced to proceed with little contribution from the government as a 
result of the bureaucracy's inability to act. Communications within 
ministries and policy coordination between ministries remained poor or 
nonexistent, and in the districts the force of central government direc- 
tives tended to fade with distance from the capital. 

In December 1960 the King, stating that he was disgusted with the 
government's paralysis and the manipulations of the politicians, im- 
prisoned the members of the Cabinet, dissolved Parliament and once 
again took over direct rule. He promulgated a number of laws widening 
the tax base, increasing taxes and strengthening the monetary system. 
He established the National Planning Council to assess and report on 
accomplishments under the Five-Year Plan and to prepare the Three- 
Year Plan. His most important innovation was the system of a "four 
tier" panchayat democracy designed to enlist wide public participation 
in the development of the country. 

The panchayat system, conceived as a nationwide organization which 
included all adult citizens, was to be based on the directly elected village 
panchayat (council) and extended through the indirectly elected district 
and the zonal panchayat to culminate in the National Panchayat. Its 
stated economic aim was the replacement of the feudal system by a self- 
sustaining developed economy. The village panchayat was directed to 
study the needs of the village and ways and means for promoting eco- 
nomic and social development, and the village and the district panchayat 
were both given a wide but undefined power to deal with affairs of 
administration and development. The zonal panchayats appear to have 
been assigned no economic function. 

Elections, begun in 1961, to village, district and zonal panchayats and 
to the National Panchayat were completed by the spring of 1963, and 


the National Panchayat was inaugurated by the King on April 14, 1963. 
In an early session it revalidated the economic and social reform laws 
promulgated by the King and by the defunct Parliament. Over the sum- 
mer and into the fall, members of the government held seminars with 
panchayat members at all levels of the system, instructing them in 
the application of the new social and economic legal codes and the 
duties of the panchayats in promoting the development of the country. 

Between 1951 and the end of 1962, eight countries and various organi- 
zations had contributed the equivalent of $82.5 million to the develop- 
ment of the country, mostly in grants. Airports, roads, power plants, 
schools, hospitals and training centers had been built. The United States 
had financed the reclamation of the Rapti Valley in the Tarai to provide 
new land for Nepal's landless. India was building a number of multi- 
purpose dams which would provide power and extend the area of irrigated 
land. Experts had been provided to carry out surveys and to advise on 
all aspects of the economy, on economic planning and on finance and 
government administration. Some 4,000 Nepalese had been sent abroad 
for technical, vocational and professional training and several hundred 
had been trained in Nepal in institutions established by the various 
foreign aid missions (see fig. 12 and table 6). 


The national income of Nepal has been roughly estimated at about 
the equivalent of $400 million. As the occupational section of the 1961 
Census of Population has not been tabulated, the census of 1952-54 
remains the sole indicator of the probable degree to which each sector 
of the economy contributes to the total. 

On the basis of the 1952-54 figures and the absence of major changes 
in the economy, it is probable that in 1963 over 93 percent of the popula- 
tion earn a living from the land — from farming, forestry and animal 
husbandry. Their production contributes the largest share to the national 
income and provides the country's major exports. The actual value of 
this contribution, however, cannot be assessed, for most production is 
for family consumption and much of the surplus leaves the country 
through private channels. Owing to soil erosion, to the lack of irrigation 
facilities, fertilizers and pest controls, as well as the inequitable land 
tenure system and the peasant's unfamiliarity with modern farming 
methods, productivity is low and agriculture's contribution is much less 
than its potential. A few of those who earn a living from the land are 
well-to-do landlords whose ownership derives from a privileged position 
in the past. Most are tenants or owners of small plots, and many of the 
latter between seasons engage in nonagriculural pursuits, such as trad- 
ing, construction, porterage, pottery and basket making and other 



Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 





Conducted marketing surveys in Dharan, Dhankuta, 
Bhojpur; and orange marketing survey in Dharan Bazar 
and a jute marketing survey in Morang, Jhapa and 

Established a workshop for the maintenance and repair of 

farm implements. 
Carried out Rapti Valley development scheme. Estab- 
lished farms at Singha Durbar (Katmandu), Parwani- 
pur, Rapti, Biratnagar, Bhairawa and Dhankuta, where 
crop experiments are conducted. 
Established 7 zonal and district agricultural extension 

Established vegetable and fruit farms at Balaju, Kakana, 
Godavari and Singha Durbar (Katmandu); research 
stations at Kirtipur, Dhankuta and Pokhara; orchard 
nurseries at Rapti, Parwanipur, Godavari, Biratnagar 
and Singha Durbar (Katmandu) ; and a trial orchard at 
Imported Sindhi cattle for livestock improvement. Estab- 
lished a pig farm at Jiri and one at Singha Durbar 
(Katmandu) ; cattle farms at Rapti and Singha Durbar 
(Katmandu) ; a buffalo farm at Jiri; and a sheep farm in 
Established Parwanipur Central Hatchery for hatching 
chicks; and fish hatcheries at Godavari, Pokhara and 
Established a School of Agriculture at Katmandu. 
Established a soils laboratory ay Katmandu and financed 

soil analysis. 
Financed construction of grain warehouses at Hitaura, 

Amlekhganj, Bharatpur and Biratnagar. 
Financed the demarcation of forest boundaries (a total of 
408 miles completed) and the construction of 78 miles of 
fire protection lines. Established a tree nursery and 
financed the planting of 774 acres with new trees. 
Financed the construction of buildings for forest guards 
and foresters. 
Established the Mahendra National Park at Chitawan as a 

wild animal protection center. 
Established the Godavari Botanical Garden for the study 

of medicinal plants. 
Surveyed medicinal and other useful plants found in Nepal: 
Gosakunda and Kalinchawk areas in Baghmati and 
Sagarmatha, Chisapani, Rapti and Bardia. 
Established 4 herb farms at Shivapuri, Manichur, Daman 
and Dharan for experimental work. 


Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 — Continued 




Financed the collection of statistical data on the export 
of herbs and drugs from Katmandu Valley, Dharan, 
Rajbiraj and the establishment of herb centers in 
Katmandu and Hitaura. 

Commerce and Industry 

Trained about 130 prisoners in the Katmandu jail in 
weaving and hosiery and garment making. 

Established emporiums for the sale of Nepalese curios at 
Katmandu, Dharan Bazar and Pokhara. 

Established and financed the National Industrial Develop- 
ment Corporation. 

Financed the construction of the Bureau of Mines Building 
in Katmandu and provided laboratory equipment. 

Financed construction of an explosives magazine at 
Godavari and general mineral surveys. 

Established a training program for geologists and metal- 


Provided primary education to 131,614 adults in 75 
development blocks. 

Financed the establishment of 4,164 new schools; the 
addition of another grade to 320 schools; and training 
for 175 teachers in primary schools. Established 5 
multipurpose schools, and an educational materials 
center for the printing of books. 

Financed the establishment of normal school training 
centers at Baghmati Anchal (Katmandu), Ham, Bhai- 
rawa, Doti, Dharan Bazar, Birganj, Piuthan, Nepal- 
ganj, Pokhara, Rajbiraj, Dolakha, and a College of 

Financed construction of buildings for colleges at Nepal- 
ganj, Rajbiraj and Biratnagar; established Tribhuvan 
University in Katmandu; and acquired land for con- 
struction of a permanent building. 


Trained 758 accountants. 

Financed the mapping of about 1.18 million acres and the 
registration of 426,347 acres in Jhapa, Morang, Saptari, 
Parsa, Bara, Rautahat, Bhairawa, Pokhara, Bhaktapur 
and Lalitpur districts. 

Financed the construction of custom houses at Bhairawa, 
Biratnagar and Bhadrapur, and of guest houses for use 
of customs inspectors at Nepalganj and Birganj. 

Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to /^6S— Continued 




Economic Affairs 

Financed the collection of population census data and 
publication of a preliminary report; and the collection of 
agricultural census data, of export and import statistics, 
and pilot survey of family budgets. 


Financed the construction of a medical building at Bir 
Hospital and the renovation of its infectious disease unit; 
supplied it with gas; X-ray and other equipment; and 
constructed 2 additional hospitals outside Katmandu. 

Established a nurses' training school which graduated 24 
nurses; and the Health Assistants School which trained 
66 health assistants by the end of 1962 and sent them 
out to the districts. 

Initiated a malaria eradication project for Nepal. 

Irrigation and Water Supply 

Financed the construction of weirs at Gokarna, Pashupati 
and Arya Ghat; a 23-mile-long canal at Gokarna; and a 
2-mile-long canal at Arya Ghat. 

Financed detailed surveys of the Baghmati, Babai, Sun 
Kosi and Banaganga Rivers. 

Financed the procurement of pipe and construction works 
for clean drinking water at Bandipur; the procurement 
of pipe for replacement of water mains at Katmandu; 
and the establishment of a tube well at Tahachal. 


Financed the construction of a central workshop for the 
Katmandu electricity authority, the procurement of 
equipment for conversion of the 60-cycle current in 
Katmandu Valley to 50-cycle current. 

Financed a hydrographical survey of all the rivers and the 
establishment of 6 gauging stations in Katmandu Valley 
and 1 each on the Kulikhani and Narayani Rivers. 

Financed a survey of the power potential of the Kali River. 

Provided local funds in support of the United Nations 
Special Fund team surveying the Karnali River. 

Procured land for 4 electrical substations in Katmandu, 
Thimi, Patan and Chabahil. 


Financed the establishment of 3,476 panchayats at the 
village level, 14 city panchayats, 75 district panchayats, 
14 zonal panchayats and the National Panchayat. 
Established 55 village development centers covering 
6,800 villages encompassing 2.25 million people; trained 


Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 — Continued 






14 panchayat development officers, 21 panchayat training 
officers and 90 panchayat members trained by the 
Panchayat Training Organization in Banepa, Lalitpur 
and Trisuli. 
Established 626 cooperative societies. 


Donated 3 DC-3's to the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation. 
Financed the improvement of existing roads in Katmandu 

Valley, construction of a 50-mile road from Hitaura to 

Narayangarh, and a 30-mile road from Birganj to 

Erected the Katmandu-Hitaura Ropeway (28 miles), 

which was completed in 1963. 
Financed the construction of the Jhapa airport and a public 

works warehouse at Nepalganj. 

Telecomm unications 

Installed a 1,000-line telephone exchange in Katmandu 
and 4 telephone nets at Biratnagar, Jaleswar, Pokhara 
and Katmandu; trained 93 technicians and 43 operators. 

Constructed a radio network with 57 stations throughout 
the country. 

Trained radio operators and technicians. 

Conducted surveys of cottage industries at the Cottage 
Industries Center and Home Science Training Center, 
both in Katmandu; arranged for the exchange of 
Nepalese and American farm youths; established the 
Rural Higher Institute at Katmandu; and supplied 2 
advisers on economic planning and development. 


With the United States, established vegetable and fruit 
farms at Balaju, Kakana, Godavari and Singha Durbar 
(Katmandu); research stations at Kirtipur, Dhankuta 
and Pokhara; orchard nurseries at Rapti, Parwanipur, 
Godavari, Biratnagar and Singha Durbar (Katmandu); 
and a trial orchard at Dhunbesi. 

Opened 11 veterinary hospitals and vaccinated 200,000 

Financed the collections of data on scientific forest manage- 
ment in Mechi and Kanchanpur; and the establishment 
of the Nepal Forestry Institute, which has trained 48 
rangers and 79 foresters. 


Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 — Continued 



INDIA— Continued 



Commerce and Industry 

Established the Patau Industrial Estate. 


Financed training the staff for the Maternity Hospital 

and Child Welfare Center. 
Constructed 15 drinking water projects at Birganj, 

Amlekhganj, Katn\andu Valley and Dhulikhel. 


Fenced Pokhara airfield. 

Started construction of the Katmandu-Trisuli Road. 

Established the Engineering School, which graduated 50 
by the end of 1962. 

Constructed and maintained the Tribhuvan Rajpath. 

Constructed and improved Gauchar Airport and other 
airstrips at Dhangarhi, Nepalganj, Dang, Bhairawa, 
Pokhara, Barakpur, Birganj, Janakpur and Biratnagar. 

Gave a DC-3 to King Mahendra. 

Power and Irrigation 

Had under construction the Trisuli Dam and multipurpose 
projects on the Kosi and Gandak Rivers as well as 11 
small irrigation projects. 

Established a metal workshop at Balaju Industrial Estate. 

At Jiri and Janipur, built a medical station consisting of a 
dispensary, a 20-bed hospital building, a nursing home 
and staff quarters, and a school for 100 children. 

EstabUshed dairies and cheese factories with financial aid 
from New Zealand: the Central Dairy and the Hima- 
laya Cheese Sales Center in Katmandu and 3 cheese 
plants, Sagarmatha, Kosi and Baghmati. 

Built a suspension bridge with United States aid. 


Established a plant in Katmandu for the generation and 

distribution of power, consisting of 3 generators of 250 

kilowatts each. 


Built a 30-mile road from Dharan Bazar to Biratnagar. 


Delivered a printing press for Gorkhapatra (a newspaper). 

Provided a botanical expert. 

Supplied road-building equipment, a water pipeline from 
Sundarijal to Katmandu, an X-ray machine for the 
chest clinic, and a new 5-ldlowatt transmitter for Radio 


Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 — Continued 









Modernized an old cholera hospital. 

Established a cheese plant and dairy farm; and a 

farm at Pokhara. 
Donated 500 pounds of grain seed. 


Supplied 2 helicopters and 1 Ilyushin-14, and built the 50- 

bed Kanti Hospital. 
Completed a survey of the East- West Highway. 
A hydroelectric project at Panaoti and a sugar mill at 

Birganj are being constructed. 

Provided IR160 million for Nepalese development pro- 
grams — of this, an amount equal to $4.2 million was 
delivered by 1962. 

Promised the equivalent of about $10 million for con- 
struction of the Katmandu-Lhasa highway. 

Donated a biplane. 

Conducted an agricultural survey; estabhshed a joint 
Nepal Government-Israeli construction company. 

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 

Provided technical advisers for agricultural, dairying and 
irrigation surveys. 

International Labor Organization (ILO) 

Furnished a manpower adviser and a vocational training 
instructor at the Craftsmen Training Center in 

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural 
Organization (UNESCO) 

Provided 2 consultants for an education survey. 

United Nations Special Fund 

Conducted a survey of the Karnali River for a hydroelectric 

United Nations Technical Assistance Board {TAB) 

Provided 10 technical advisers — 3 in public administration 
and 7 as operations experts (managers for the Nepal 
Bank Ltd., the Raghupati Jute Mills and the Royal 
Nepal Airlines Corporation; supervisors for the Basic 
Surveys Department, the Electricity Department, and 
the Forest Department; and 1 legal adviser. 


Table 6. Foreign Aid Projects Completed in Nepal to 1963 — Continued 





World Health Organization (WHO) 

Furnished 18 technical advisers for a malaria eradication 
project, graduate nurse and health assistants' training, 
and to the Ministry of Health, Education and Electric- 
ity; a public health laboratory; smallpox control in 
Pantan, Katmandu and Bhaktapur, and tuberculosis 

Sources: Adapted from Nepal, Ministry of Economic Affairs, National Planning Council, The 
Economic Affairs Report, I, 1963; India, Embassy in Nepal, Cooperation for Progress, 
1961; U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to Nepal, Economic Sec- 
tion, Program Office, External Assistance to Nepal, August 21, 1962; Narendra Sharma, 
"Foreign Aid," Far Eastern Economic Review, XXXVII, September 20, 1962, pp. 526, 
527; and U.S. Agency for International Development, Nepal— Country Assistance Pro- 
gram, 1962. 

Compared to agriculture, the contribution of other economic activities 
to national income is extremely low. Only 2 percent of the population 
was engaged in manufacturing and cottage industry in 1952-54, and 
subsequently this sector's share may well have declined. With the 
failure of a number of enterprises since 1952, only a few medium-sized 
factories are still in operation and cottage industry has shown no signs 
of growth, although both types of production have been heavily sub- 
sidized by the government and by foreign aid. 

Employing about 5 percent of the population in 1952-54, commerce 
and services, including personal, government and military service, prob- 
ably have increased their contribution to the national income more than 
any other sector. Commerce in particular has shown great expansion. 
Imports have steadily increased in quantity and variety. Many new 
shops have been established in the hill towns and at important trail 
intersections. It has been estimated that 2 million Nepalese are on the 
move for trading and other purposes for at least 2 months every year, 
adding in great measure to the flow of goods and services. In addition, 
the civil service has vastly increased in numbers, and the foreign aid 
missions and the projects they have financed have provided employment 
— largely in road and dam construction — to thousands, most of them 
in the Katmandu Valley and the Tarai. It is in commerce and services 
that new opportunities for making money have opened up for Nepalese 
other than those traditionally privileged. 

The structure of the economy appears to differ little between regions, 
with the exception of the Katmandu Valley, which shows distinctive 
features. The Tarai is much like the rest of the country except that 
there are a few manufacturing plants which employ a few thousand. 
In the 1952-54 census only 65 percent of the population of the Katmandu 


Valley was engaged in agriculture, 6 percent in industry and handicrafts 
and 29 percent in commerce and services. As of 1963, although agricul- 
tural production has increased as a result of the introduction of new 
crops in demand by the large colony of foreigners, it is likely that handi- 
crafts, commerce and services are contributing a far higher share to 
national income than ever before. In addition to the employment oppor- 
tunities offered by the civil service, foreign aid missions and projects, 
tourism has come to employ the services of many, and the goldsmiths 
and silversmiths of Patau and the craftsmen of other towns in the 
Katmandu Valley have extended the markets for their products as far 
afield as Bombay and Calcutta. 

Although a start has been made in developing the country, the central 
problems remain. The most serious one is the absence of roads linking 
the various parts of the country, a situation which will be solved only 
by difficult feats of engineering and years of labor. Indian and American 
experts are trying to raise agricultural productivity, but real improve- 
ment, outside of the Katmandu Valley and the Tarai, is dependent on 
development of transport and marketing facilities. The land tenure 
system has been legally reformed, and there is widespread hope that 
through the panchayat system the reforms will become effective. 
Although progress has been slow, it shows signs of accelerating with 
growing local initiative. Gurkha pensioners, for instance, are reported 
to be investing in suspension bridges and local irrigation works, which 
they are building with local labor. But due to the country's lack of 
financial resources and the extensive infrastructure to be built, the 
major costs of development will necessarily have to be met by foreign 
aid for some time to come. 


The Five- Year Plan was launched in October 1956 and terminated 
in 1961 (see table 7) . Its stated purpose was to increase production and 
employment and to raise the standard of living and economic well-being 
throughout the country. As stated in the official announcement, its scope 
was broad, envisaging: 

a simultaneous advance on many fronts: agriculture, forestry, mining industry 
and commerce; education and health; co-ordinated village development and 
other multi-purpose projects; transport by roads, ropeways, railways and air- 
ways; postal, telegraph and telephone communications; surveys, research and 
many types of technical training; and the improvement and modernization of 
governmental institutions to render them more efficient in performing their sole 
function of service to the nation. 

High priority was given to the training of personnel at all levels, 
improvements in the government administration, reform of the tax 
system, introduction of a nationwide village development program, 


initiation of agricultural extension activities, collection of statistics, and 
expansion of basic services contributing to all aspects of economic 

Table 7. Nepal's Five-Year Plan 1956-61 
(in millions of Nepalese rupees)* 


Type of development 

Sources of foreign aid 



Village development 



United States, India 

Agriculture and forestry 



United States, India, United King- 
dom, People's Republic of China, 
Switzerland, New Zealand, Food 
and Agriculture Organization, 
World Meteorological Organiza- 

Transport, communications 



United States, India, United King- 

and public works 

dom, Soviet Union, Australia 




India, United Kingdom, Soviet 


Industry, mines and tourism . . 



United States, India, United King- 
dom, Soviet Union, People's 
Republic of China, International 
Labor Organization, United Na- 
tions Technical Assistance Board, 
Ford Foundation 




United States, India, Australia, 

World Health Organization 

Irrigation and drinking water . 



United States, India, Switzerland 




United States, India, United Na- 

tions Economic, Social and Cul- 

tural Organization, International 

Labor Organization, Ford Foun- 


Surveys, research and 



United States, Food and Agricul- 


ture Organization, United Na- 
tions Technical Assistance Board, 
World Meteorological Organiza- 




* US$1 equals NR7.6. 

Source: Adapted from Nepal Rastra Bank, Report of the Board of Directors to His Majesty's 
Government for the Fiscal Years 1957-3S, 1958-59, 1959-60 and 1960-61, p. 3. 

During the 5-year period, the authors of the Five-Year Plan estimated 
that domestic revenue would provide a surplus of NR95 million (for 
value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) to be applied to development 
projects and that foreign aid would provide NR235 million. However, 
the government's financial resources proved inadequate to meet even 


regular budgetary outlays let alone development projects, and, although 
expenditures on the Plan were only NR214.3 million, the government 
received foreign aid totaling NR382.8 million during the Plan period. 

The Plan got underway slowly and not until the last 2 years of the 
period did average expenditures reach NR77 million. Implementation 
of the Plan varied from sector to sector, and even within sectors efforts 
were unequal from year to year. Agriculture and forests utilized the 
smallest portion of the planned allocation. Education was the only 
sector for which actual spending exceeded the amount allotted in the 
Plan. Most targets were, however, not attained (see table 8). The 
government statement summarizing the achievements of the Five-Year 
Plan described them as: 

. . . inconsiderable — in the sense that the development efforts were much too 
small as compared to our national needs; inconsistent — in the sense that much 
of the development activity undertaken was not relevant to present national 
priorities and objectives; and financially insecure — in the sense that it progres- 
sively became more and more dependent on foreign assistance. 

Table 8. Some Important Targets and Achievements of Nepal's Five-Year Plan 

Type of development 




Village development centers 

Grain and animal development centers . 

Cottage industry centers 

Cheese factories 





Primary schools 

Middle and high schools 



Increase in hospital beds 

Health centers 

Cooperative societies 

Post offices 

Telephone lines 

.. .do.... 


































Source: Adapted from Nepal Rastra Bank, Report of the Board of Directors to His Majesty's 
Government for the Fiscal I'ears 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60 and 1960-61, p. 3. 

The Three-Year Plan, starting in 1962, primarily incorporated proj- 
ects carried over from the Five-Year Plan, with a few minor exceptions 
(see table 9). Emphasis was placed on development works which would 
make the most effective contribution earliest to national income and to 
government revenues. The highest priority was given to improvement 
in government organization and management, including training in all 


Table 9. Nepal's Three-Year Plan, 1962-65 
(in millions of Nepalese rupees)* 


Sources of foreign aid 



Government organization, 



United States, Ford Foundation 

surveys, statistics, publicity 

and public administration 


Transport, communications 



United States, India, Soviet Union 

and power 

United Kingdom, People's Re- 
public of China, Japan, Israel 

Agriculture, forests and 



United States, India, New Zealand, 


Switzerland, Israel 

Industries and tourism 



United States, India, Soviet Union, 
People's Republic of China, 
International Labor Organiza- 
tion, Ford Foundation 




United States, India, Federal Re- 

public of Germany 

Drinking water supply 






United States, India, World Health 


Sports and recreation 





* US$1 equals NR7.6. 

Source: Adapted from U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to Nepal, Program 

Office, Economic Section, Projectwise Breakdown of the Sources of Financial Resources 

of the Development Budget FY 1962-63, July 31, 1962. 

fields of public administration and to surveys and the collection of 
statistics. This category was followed by the expansion and improve- 
ment of transport, communications and power facilities; agricultural 
development ; the development of industries on a selective basis ; and the 
consolidation and expansion of social services on a selective basis. Social 
services (health, education and some village development programs) 
were accorded the lowest priority, since it was felt that new expenditure 
on other sectors of the economy might make a better contribution to 
the nation's development. Total expenditure under the Plan was esti- 
mated at NR670 million, of which foreign financial assistance was 
expected to supply NR500 million. Main donors were: the United 
States, NR210 million; India, NR140 million; the Soviet Union, NR80 
million; the People's Republic of China, NR40 million; the United 
Kingdom, NR15 million; and the United Nations, NRIO million. In 
the second year of the Three- Year Plan, programs were being expedited, 
and it was expected that a number of important projects would be 
completed by the end of the Plan period. 




The economy is predominantly agricultural and pastoral. These 
activities provide more than 90 percent of the population with a liveli- 
hood and contribute an estimated 85 to 90 percent of the annual gross 
national product. Rice and other food grains are the most important 
crops and are grown throughout the country up to the limit of cultiva- 
tion. Animal husbandry is extensive, particularly in the Mountain 
Region, but custom and religious beliefs have operated to restrict the 
use of livestock and livestock products. 

Fishing and gathering are usually supplementary to agricultural pur- 
suits rather than full-time occupations. Utilization of forest resources, 
except in the Tarai where they are commercially exploited, is confined 
to the cutting of timber for building construction and the collection of 
fuel and animal fodder. Although most production is for family use, 
the products of the land provide the main exports. 

Food consumption per person is low, and increased food production 
to meet the needs of the growing population is essential to maintain 
economic and political stability. Sometimes famine is a real threat in 
many areas while food surpluses are produced in other parts of the 
country. The means of transport, however, are so inadequate that food 
cannot be distributed where it is needed. Even though land available 
for farming and pasture is severely limited by climate and topography, 
foreign experts have concluded that with better transport and methods 
of production it could support the population adequately. 

Agricultural practices are still primitive and attempts to increase 
yields are hampered by the shortage of fertilizers and lack of irrigation 
facilities. Erosion of cropland is a grave problem and plant diseases and 
drought often take a heavy toll of crops. Agriculture is hindered further 
by a land tenancy system which in many parts of Nepal provides little 
incentive for farmers to make permanent improvements in their land 
and results in extensive farmer indebtedness. 

The system of land tenure has presented the government with prob- 
lems which so far have proved insoluble. Tenancy and absentee land- 
lordism are widespread. Until promulgation of land reform legislation 
by the present government, tenants had no protection against arbitrary 
eviction nor was there a limit to the rents they were called upon to pay. 
Government action appears to have reversed a trend toward ever greater 
concentration of land ownership and a consequent increase in tenancy 
but, on the whole, implementation of its reform legislation has bogged 


down in the absence of an effective administrative machinery to carry 
it out. Government efforts to determine individual land rights have been 
hindered by an almost total lack of land records and a cadastral survey 
proceeds slowly. 

The government has recognized that economic development calls for 
a revolution in agriculture. In the Five- Year Plan (1956-61) and the 
Three-Year Plan (1962-65) emphasis has been on increasing the area of 
irrigated land and on improvements in agriculture, animal husbandry 
and forestry. Numerous training institutions and training programs 
have been established, most of them with technical assistance from 
abroad. Gradually a cadre of technicians is being developed and the 
results of research are being applied in the rural areas. 

In order to introduce more productive practices in the countryside, a 
village development program was initiated with high hopes for its effec- 
tiveness in raising farm incomes. This program has now become an 
integral part of the panchayat system which the King devised in order 
to afford the rural populace the opportunity to participate in local 
development. The United States, India and Switzerland have rendered 
extensive financial aid and technical assistance in all of these programs. 


The country can be divided into three distinct agricultural regions on 
the basis of altitude, which varies from less than 200 feet above sea level 
in the Tarai to over 26,000 feet in the Himalayan massif to the north. 
Within less than 100 miles all the climatic zones are approximated: 
tropical and subtropical up to 4,000 feet above sea level, temperate from 
4,000 to 10,000 feet and alpine from 10,000 feet and up, with permanent 
glaciation at the higher altitudes. Eighty percent of the rainfall occurs 
during the monsoon season, which lasts from June through September; 
it is heavier in the eastern than in the western part of the country (see 
ch. 3, Geography and Population). 

The Tarai 

The Tarai, a continuation of the low, alluvial Gangetic Plain of 
northern India, stretches along the southern border. The land is level 
and the soil is generally fertile. The area, cut by many rivers and 
streams, represents about one-fifth of the area of the country, but it 
contains about two-thirds of the arable land. Rice, corn, wheat, millet, 
potatoes and oilseeds are the main crops. The Tarai also has excellent 
forests which are being depleted rapidly through overcutting and poor 
enforcement of conservation techniques. The Tarai is better developed 
and more accessible than the rest of the country, but in certain areas a 
high incidence of a very virulent strain of malaria has been an obstacle 
to economic development. Much has been done to eradicate this scourge 


but the problem is still grave (see ch. 3, Geography and Population; 
ch. 6, Health and Welfare) . 

The Mountains 

The mountains between the Mahabarat Lekh range north of the Tarai 
and the Tibetan border cover about 65 percent of the country's total 
area. They are characterized by steep slopes and poor soils. Pasture 
and forest cling to the sides of the mountains. Overcutting has left 
timber stands of commercial value in only a few isolated, almost inac- 
cessible, areas. Farming is far more varied than in the Tarai. Crops are 
grown on narrow, bench-type terraces built on the side of the mountain 
slopes up to an elevation of 13,000 feet and on valley floors. The low 
mud walls that enclose the terraces also retain the water from the mon- 
soon rains and prevent it from flowing away too fast. A large percentage 
of the terraced fields are irrigated by small canals taken off from streams 
higher up. On the very high slopes, above 13,000 feet, lie alpine pastures 
which support a partially nomadic population during the short summer. 
In the eastern part of the mountains the very narrow valleys lend them- 
selves to animal husbandry in the upper reaches and to subsistence crop 
production in the lower. The western region is dry, but extensive farm- 
ing and livestock raising are carried on (see ch. 3, Geography and 

Katmandu Valley 

The Katmandu Valley, with an average elevation of 4,500 feet, is 
geographically part of the Mountain Region but warrants separate 
consideration. It covers about 230 square miles of rich soil watered by 
the Baghmati Nadi River. The Valley is densely populated and almost 
every foot not occupied by structures or roads and paths is intensively 
cultivated. A wide variety of grains, vegetables and fruits are produced. 
With irrigation, as many as three crops a year can be grown (see ch. 3, 
Geography and Population). 


Only rough estimates of the land use pattern are available. These 
show that over a third of the land area lies under perpetual snow or 
consists of alpine meadows, settlement sites and river beds. Less than 
a third is covered by forests. Only about one-fourth of the land area is 
under cultivation and reclaimable wasteland is limited. As the popula- 
tion increased, as much land as possible was brought under cultivation 
and, except in the Tarai, has about reached the limits imposed by climate 
and topography. Although patches of cultivated land occur in the west 
and north, agriculture is largely confined to the Tarai and to the major 
river valleys of the central and eastern part of the country (see table 10) . 


Table 10. Land Use in Nepal 
(in thousands of acres) 




Land under crops 

Alpine meadows, settlement sites, river beds, etc. 

Under perpetual snow 

Reclaimable wasteland 

Total area 



* 8,640,000 acres are state owned. 

Source: Adapted from Ferdinand Okada, "Facts About Nepal," January 1963. 

In the Tarai, farms average between 5 and 10 acres and are even 
larger in the Western Tarai, varying from 7.5 to 15 acres. In the hills, 
where agricultural conditions are less favorable than in the Tarai, the 
cultivated area in an average farm has been estimated at 1.5 acres. In 
the densely populated Katmandu Valley the average size of a farm 
appears to be 1 to 1.5 acres operated by a family unit of 7 members. 
A survey carried out in the Valley by a United Nations expert in 1953-54 
showed that only 22 out of 268 farms had a surplus production. 

It is estimated that only 20 percent of the land under cultivation 
produces two or more crops annually. The remaining acreage could be 
utilized more effectively if irrigation facilities were available and if the 
growing of winter crops could be introduced more widely. Vast areas in 
the Tarai in particular are left fallow because of the long dry season 
which averages 8 months. In many places in the Tarai recurrent floods 
have caused severe erosion and sedimentation damage ; in the mountains 
erosion is a continual threat to the cultivable fields as a result of the 
steep gradients on the deforested slopes. 


Experts are agreed that a greater increase in agricultural production 
can be achieved by irrigation than by any other means and it has been 
estimated that seven of the major rivers have the capacity to irrigate 
over 5 million acres. Yet in 1963 only about 100,000 acres were irrigated 
by canals and an unestimated number of acres by private irrigation 
works constructed by the farmers themselves. 

The most common type of irrigation is accomplished by tapping water 
from a river with a simply constructed dam and conveying it to the 
fields through canals. The dams, built of hand-laid stones, are generally 
from 3 to 5 feet high and extend across the width of the river. In general 
there is no provision for distribution of the water supply, and fields near 


the water source receive an adequate supply, while distant fields may or 
may not be well served. 

In 1951 the entire irrigation works in the country consisted of the 
Chandra, the Jagadish and the Juddha Canals, irrigating about 40,000 
acres in the Tarai. The Chandra, built in 1928, had its headworks on 
the Trijuga River, a tributary of the Kosi, and irrigated about 33,000 
acres. The Jagadish, built in 1942, irrigated 2,000 acres, and the Juddha 
Canal, built in 1946, provided water to about 5,000 acres. 

During the Five- Year Plan period (1956-61) a number of projects 
were undertaken and 11 were completed, adding about 60,000 acres to 
the area under irrigation (see table 11). Of this newly irrigated acreage, 

Table 11. New Large-Scale Irrigation Projects in Nepal, 1961 

Name of project 


Irrigated area 
(in acres) 

Tilawe Nadi 


Bara, Parsa, Rautahat 

Bara, Parsa, Rautahat 

Katmandu Valley 












Tika Bhairav 

Lower Vijaypur 



Mahadev Khola 

Bara, Parsa, Rautahat 

Katmandu Valley 


Katmandu Valley 


Katmandu Valley 

Phewa Tal 

Pokhara . . . '. 


Ashe Khola 

Baglung (West No. 4) 

Chautara (East No. 1) 



58 percent was in the central Tarai, 25 percent in Katmandu Valley, 
13 percent in Pokhara Valley and the rest in small, isolated projects 
in other parts of the country. Almost all of these projects were financed 
by aid from the United States and India. Additional projects underway 
or planned should increase the land under irrigation by over 300,000 
acres (see table 12). This estimate does not include the land which will 
be irrigated by the Kosi and Gandak multipurpose projects being con- 
structed by India in Nepal for the benefit of both countries. In addition 
to the generation of electricity and flood control, the Kosi project is 
expected to provide irrigation for over 200,000 acres in the southeastern 
Tarai, and the Gandak should irrigate over 140,000 acres in the Western 
and central Tarai. 

Local irrigation works, such as tanks, wells and small drains and chan- 
nels constructed by the farmers themselves, play a greater role than 
major works in the development of irrigation in Nepal. They are esti- 
mated to supply water to about 1 million acres. From 1952 to 1960 about 


Table 12. Irrigation Projects Under Construction or Planned in Nepal. 1961 



Irrigated area 
(in acres) 

Under construction 

Palhi Majhkhand 






100 000 


Rautahat. . . 




Mahotari . 






Saptari ... 

1 00 000 


Chisapani Garhi 





Sarlahi . 

Kotkhu Godavari 

Katmandu Vallej' 

3,700 wells were dug under village development programs, bringing about 
55,500 acres of land under irrigation. In addition, the construction of 
small drains and channels extended irrigation facilities to another 90,000 
acres, mostly in the Eastern Tarai. Such works are not dependable in 
many places and frequently fail to ensure an adequate and regular 
supply of water. 


The scanty soils on the steep mountainsides are subject to constant 
erosion, which is widespread and severe. Heavy cloudbursts frequently 
cause landslides and avalanches of boulders in the mountains. At times 
a side of a mountain will slide into the valley carrying the terraced fields 
with it. Erosion has been accelerated by overgrazing and the expansion 
of the cultivated area at the expense of the forest cover. Throughout the 
country the vast forest growth is in places being destroyed by cattle. 
Poor range, increasing livestock numbers and the lengthy dry season are 
responsible mainly for the practice of using the leaves of trees for fodder. 
This usually includes the cutting of whole branches, which weakens and 
destroys the trees, thus contributing to deforestation and subsequent soil 
erosion. Although there are regulations for protection of the forests, these 
are not enforced and an afforestation program has not yet gotten 


The land tenure system inherited from the old regime was complex 
and diverse in character. It differed not only from district to district 
but from holding to holding in the fields of a village. Lack of uniformity 
appears, in the main, to have derived from historical factors, notably 
that in the process of establishing the Kingdom the usages and customs 


of the congeries of petty principalities into which the country had been 
divided M^ere continued more or less unchanged. Unless a direct political 
clash were involved, the conquering dynasty tended to follow the line of 
least resistance and to refrain from making changes in existing institu- 
tions. Within this framework, however, many exceptions to the general 
rules were made at the whim of subsequent rulers. The present govern- 
ment has taken various measures designed to bring uniformity of land 
tenure out of the chaos it inherited. 

Under Nepalese law, all land belongs to the state, and land taxes are 
the rents assessed by the government. This is the basic structure of land 
tenure and is known as raikar. Numerous variations, however, occur. 
Although the state never sells land, in the past in a number of ways and 
under a variety of conditions it divested itself of the right to collect the 
land tax on portions of land in favor of private individuals {birta) or 
institutions (guthi) . Also at the time the Shah dynasty (1742-75) was 
uniting Nepal politically, it granted royal charters bestowing special 
privileges with regard to payment of land tax to some 15 vassal states 
{rajya) and to certain ethnic groups (kipat) . 

Holders of raikar land can neither sell nor give it away ; they can only 
sell their tenancy rights. They are, in effect, tenants holding the land 
on lease from the government to which they owe rent, that is, tax. They 
can be evicted for nonpayment of rent but for no other cause, and 
tenancy rights are inheritable. The rent charged by the government is 
roughly one-sixth of the j)roduce, although in the hills it is often one-half. 
At the village level, taxes are collected by nonofficial agents, known as 
talukdar in the hills and zamindar in the Tarai; these posts are inherit- 
able. They receive a 5-percent commission on all collections. In addition 
to a commission, the zamindar is also, allotted land by the state for his 
own personal use. Talukdar and zamindar have been notorious for mis- 
managing land records and exacting unpaid labor and illicit levies from 
the people. Under the Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act of April 
1963, such offices will be abolished and taxes will be payable to the Gram 
Panchayat (Village Council) for deposit with the Mai Adda (Revenue 

There is wide variation in the terms and conditions that are attached 
by the state to hirta grants of land. Provisions in many hirta grants 
imposed restrictions on transferability or inheritability and sometimes 
entailed performance of specific functions. Most hirta holdings in effect 
at the time the Ranas were overthrown, however, were grants in per- 
petuity of revenue from certain designated lands to Rana families and 
their retainers. Birta grants were estimated to cover 10 percent of the 
total land in the Tarai, 50 percent of the land in Katmandu Valley and 
25 percent of the land in the hills. Some hirta grants were over 100,000 
acres; one was for nearly a million acres. A hirta grant was considered 
to imply transfer of ownership from the government, and taxation, if 


any, was nominal. Under the Birta Abolition Act of 1959, however, all 
birta holdings were converted to raikar and hence ownership reverted 
to the state. The registration of such holdings for tax purposes required 
by the Act had still not been completed at the end of 1963. 

Guthi tenure applies to any land assigned by rulers or donated by 
individuals for the endowment of schools, orphanages, temples and other 
religious and charitable institutions or purposes. It cannot be confis- 
cated nor can it revert to any other type of tenure. Guthi land is not 
taxed. Although much of the guthi land assigned under the Ranas and 
earlier is managed by the government, many guthi were donated by indi- 
viduals on condition that they or their descendants would look after its 
management. This system is the more common. 

The rajya system of tenure applied to the land of 15 vassal states 
scattered over the western hill Districts of Salyan, Doti, Jumla, Syangja, 
Gulmi, Baglung and Piuthan. Hereditary rulers of these states held 
royal charters which limited the central government's collection of the 
land tax within their boundaries. In order to proniote uniformity of 
tenure, this system was abolished by the Rajya Abolition Act of 1961 
and all lands were converted to raikar. 

Kipat is essentially a form of communal tenure and relates to the 
lands of certain ethnic groups. The most prominent of these groups are 
the Limbu of Dhankuta and Ham Districts and the Tamang in eastern 
Nepal. Kipat land owned by other small groups is found in Palpa, Ach- 
ham and Dailekh. No tax is assessed against such lands by the govern- 
ment but an ownership fee is collected by a tribal official known as the 
subbha, whose powers and functions vary from one area to another. 
Kipat land cannot be alienated from the ethnic group but it can be 
sublet to others. Kipat tenure can be traced back to the 1770's when the 
country was incorporated into Prithvi Narayan Shah's rapidly expand- 
ing empire. Rather than outright conquest the areas were brought under 
the general suzerainty of the Gurkha dynasty through negotiated set- 
tlement between Prithvi Narayan Shah and local chieftains. Despite 
the present government's policy of achieving uniformity of tenure based 
on the raikar pattern, it has found it inexpedient to make any changes 
in the kipat system. 

Most farmers do not own the land they till but are tenants at will. 
Estimates of the amount of land cultivated by tenants run as high as 80 
percent ; the lowest estimate is 65 percent. Tenancy is likely to be more 
widespread in the Tarai, where several holdings of 1,000 to 10,000 acres 
have been reported, than in the hills and the Katmandu Valley. Leases 
are not written and are normally for short terms. The practice is to 
renew leases and frequently the tenancy agreement continues throughout 
the lifetime of the tenant, but there are no standard terms of tenancy. 
Rents may be paid in cash or in kind and the agreement frequently 
includes provision for the tenant to work at some time for the landlord. 


The rising pressure of population on the limited amount of cultivable 
land has resulted in increased demands for farms, and rents are high. 
Rents vary from two-thirds of the produce in Mahottari District, which 
is the second most densely populated area, to one-third in Kailali and 
Kanchanpur, which are among the most sparsely populated. Even in the 
hills, there are many cases in which the best land in the village brings 
rent amounting to two-thirds of the crop. Since there is great competition 
for land it is in the interest of the landlord to evict tenants as frequently 
as it is possible to increase the rent. 

The Lands Act of 1957 sought to remedy the twin evils of insecure 
tenancy rights and unregulated rents. It fixed either one-half of the 
gross produce or the usual rent, whichever was lower, as the maximum 
amount payable by the tenant. Landlords w^ere prohibited from receiving 
additional payments for social and religious ceremonies and from charg- 
ing interest payments higher than 10 percent. Forced labor was abolished. 
Tenancy rights were secured to any tenant who cultivated a holding for 
1 year. Eviction of a tenant was prohibited as long as he regularly paid 
the rent and only by process of law could eviction be affected. The Act 
further stipulated that tenancy rights should be inheritable but not 
transferable without the consent of the owner. An amendment enacted 
in 1959 made such rights salable even without the consent of the owner. 
The effect of the law has been nullified largely by the reluctance of most 
landlords to provide peasants with receipts for rent payments. 

In 1956 the government, realizing the need to maintain accurate 
records of agricultural lands and cultivators in order to facilitate land 
reform, passed the Lands and Cultivators' Records Compilation Act. 
This Act provided for the compilation of records of the various rights 
and interests in the land, the total rent or land tax payable thereon, and 
such other details as would be requested by official order from time to 
time. For this purpose the governor {bada hakim) in each district was 
directed to form three-member village councils consisting of repre- 
sentatives of the landowners and cultivators and one member nominated 
by the government. Such councils have been appointed in Chitwan, 
Palpa and Thapa Districts and tribunals have been formed to settle dis- 
putes, but no further action has been taken. 

In order to cany out land reform the need for a scientific land survey 
has become obvious to the government. Accordingly, in 1956 a cadastral 
survey was begun. By the end of 1962, 1.7 million acres had been sur- 
veyed. The survey of Kailali, Kanchanpur and part of Surkhet District 
has been completed. Operations had been started but not completed in 
Katmandu Valley, Makbanpur, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Morang, Jhapa, 
Saptari, Nebalpur, Syangja and Pokhara. The achievement fell far short 
of the target. Birta holdings had to be converted into raikar before 
being entered in the land records and birta holders did not come forward 


for this purpose nor would talukdari and zainindari produce their 
records. Although the cadastral survey has been completed for over a 
million acres, particulars of land rights have been recorded for only 
336,467 acres. 


Farming, animal husbandry, fishing and gathering are the major 
productive activities. Lumbering, handicapped by lack of transporta- 
tion facilities, is largely confined to the Tarai. Most farming is of the 
subsistence type although in some areas a surplus over family needs is 
sold in market towns. Industrial crops, grown in the Eastern Tarai, sup- 
ply a few factories. Water buffalo, yak, cattle, sheep and goats are 
numerous. Oxen, water buffalo, yak and a few donkeys, ponies and ele- 
phants are used for draft. Fishing and gathering are ordinarily part-time 
activities but they often supply important supplements to the diet and 
cash income. 

Farming and animal husbandry are usually joint undertakings in 
which the members of a family or larger kin group work together to 
produce a livelihood. Men, women and children are assigned tasks in 
accordance with custom. The men may be away from home for long 
periods, so women play a particularly important role in both farming and 
stock raising. 


Farming is carried on in much the same way as it has been for cen- 
turies. Some modern equipment is in use on the larger farms in the 
Tarai, but modern practices have not been widely adopted. Field work 
is done with crude hand tools. Only in parts of the Tarai and in the 
hills is the plow used, drawn by oxen or water buft'alo. The land is 
intensively cultivated where water is sufficient and on the bench-type 
terraces which cover the slopes of the hills to the top. Animal manure, 
oilcake and some crop residues are used as fertilizers but are insuf- 
ficient in quantity and unsatisfactory in quality. 

Rice is the most important subsistence crop, occupying 55 percent of 
the land under cultivation. Twenty percent is planted in corn and millet 
and 10 percent in wheat. Smaller proportions of the arable land are 
devoted to the production of potatoes, oilseeds, tobacco, jute, sugarcane, 
buckwheat and vegetables. 

Rice is grown from the southern border up to altitudes of 5,000 and 
6,000 feet above sea level. Where irrigation facilities are available, 
two rice crops a year are grown, even in the mountains. Because of the 
great demand, rice is planted at too-high altitudes and on poor, unirri- 
gated soils where other crops, such as corn and potatoes, would produce 
more food. Rice is grown in water and, although some land is irrigated, 


the majority of rice growers are dependent on rains during the monsoon. 
Even the monsoon frequently does not supply sufficient water for the 
entire rice-growing season so that yields are generally low in areas 
without irrigation. 

The preparation of the fields for rice planting begins about a month 
before the monsoon. In the Tarai and the hills, the farmer breaks the 
land — which has become hard and dry during the winter — with a wooden 
nail plow. Large, hard clods are left which the women powder with a 
long-handled wooden mallet. When the rains come and the fields are 
flooded, the farmer puddles the soil with a team of oxen or buffalo draw- 
ing a wooden harrow. In Katmandu Valley, where animal-drawn equip- 
ment is not used, the farmer turns the ground with a broad, heavy 
mattock called a kodak, which he also uses to puddle. After puddling, 
the rice shoots, previously started in seed beds, are transplated by the 
women with ritual and prayers for a good harvest. Weeds are pulled by 
hand, a family chore. At harvest, the rice stalks are cut with sickles and 
threshed with flails. The grain is stored in bins and the straw is care- 
fully preserved for use as cattle feed in the winter. 

Corn has the widest distribution of any crop. It is grown from the 
Tarai up to the plant production limit at 13,000 feet but is most impor- 
tant throughout the mountains. It is usually planted on drier lands 
which are not suitable for rice farming. In some areas, however, where 
premonsoon showers bring sufficient rain, corn may be grown in the rice 
fields and harvested just before the'rice must be planted. Millet is the 
second most important crop in the hills and is grown primarily because 
it does well under drought conditions. Frequently, it is grown in combi- 
nation with corn. 

Wheat and barley are more important than rice to the people of the 
higher altitudes. Wheat is an important winter crop but its cultivation 
is largely concentrated in Katmandu Valley and the Tarai. Poor prepa- 
ration of fields, lack of fertilizers, inadequate irrigation and prevalence 
of plant diseases are responsible for the low yield. It is believed that, 
since 80 percent of the cropland remains idle during winter months, the 
total wheat crop could be greatly increased by planting winter wheat. 
Barley is grown up to 11,500 feet and on the poorest and driest soils. 
Other than among the Bhote, in the north, people have not developed a 
taste for it; otherwise it could be a more important crop. 

Potato growing has been adapted to almost every soil and altitude. 
Potatoes grow up to 14,000 feet and occasionally even higher. At present 
the tubers are small but if diseases could be controlled it is believed 
that more food could be produced by growing potatoes than by any 
other crop. Although yields are reduced at high altitudes, even there 
potatoes are considered more productive than any other crop. 

The most important oil crop is mustard, raised principally in the 
south and west. Yields are low and methods of oil extraction are crude 


and inefficient. Since oil is in great demand, efforts are being made to 
improve processing techniques and to introduce better varieties. 

Beans and other legumes are grown almost everywhere in the country 
except at high altitudes. Most arc preserved by drying. Soybeans in 
particular give high yields of good quality at all altitudes from 4,000 
feet to the limit of plant production. 

A wide variety of fruits and vegetables is grown. Every farmer grows 
a few fruit trees suitable to the climate. Mangoes, bananas, peaches, 
oranges, plums, guavas and jackfruit are among the fruits found. Only 
in Katmandu Valley are fruits and vegetables grown commercially but 
acreage is small. There are also a few well-kept orchards which are 
owned by members of the Rana and royal families and by government 

The production of commercial crops is limited to the southwestern 
Tarai. Jute supplies the raw material for the two jute mills at Biratnagar 
and is exported to India. Sugarcane is cultivated on small farms which 
supply the Morang Sugar Mills, also located at Biratnagar. The sugar- 
cane grown at lower altitudes in the mountains is made into a coarse 
sugar or molasses at home. 

Animal Husbandry 

The number of livestock is estimated to be 7 million, of which 30 
percent are cows and bulls, 26 percent oxen, 17 percent buffalo, 25 per- 
cent sheep and goats and 2 percent hogs. There is no estimate of the 
number of yaks, horses, donkeys and tame elephants. Chickens and 
ducks are so numerous as to be counted in the millions. 

Only cattle, buffalo, yaks, sheep, goats and poultry are considered 
to be of economic significance. They produce a limited amount of milk, 
ghee (clarified butter), meat, hides, eggs and wool. The buffalo is the 
source of most of the milk, cheese and ghee produced in the country. 
Its milk yield is relatively high — 800 to 1,000 pounds during a 10-month 
lactation period — and the butter fat content is good. Other than the 
buffalo, productivity of livestock is low; hens, for instance, average 
only 25 to 30 eggs annually. 

Cattle are raised for manure and to supply oxen for draft. They are 
sacred, are not killed and their meat is not eaten by Hindus. Although 
the killing of poultry and livestock other than cattle is not forbidden 
on religious grounds, their meat is not considered suitable for people of 
the highest caste, but it may be eaten by others. Hides are exported to 
India for processing. Sheep and goats are raised for wool and hair and 
for animal sacrifice. Among the Bhote, they are also used for meat. 
Most of the wool and hair is used by the household to produce blankets, 
rugs and heavy clothing; some is exported. Above 7,000 feet, the yak is 
the all-purpose animal supplying milk, meat, hides, hair and draft. 


Most cattle and buffalo are kept by farmers with small holdings, the 
farm household's livestock usually consisting of 3 to 5 cows or buffalo. 
In the hills there may be 6 to 10 sheep or goats in addition. The animals 
are usually herded along the roads and trails or on common grazing 
grounds by day and confined in or near the farmhouse at night. To the 
farmer, keeping livestock is only loosely linked with farming and is 
regarded as a secondary occupation. In the high mountains, however, 
from 7,000 to 17,000 feet, where there are many herds of cattle, sheep, 
yaks and cattle-yak crossbreeds, herding becomes the primary means 
of earning a livelihood. The owners and herdsmen of these animals live 
a seminomadic life. In December, January and February the animals 
graze at the lower elevations. As the weather becomes warmer in the 
spring, the animals range upward as the forage grows, until in July 
and August some are grazing at 17,000 feet. Horses are bred in the 
Jumla area for sale in India. 

Pastureland has never been surveyed but is estimated at 4 to 4.5 
million acres. Only the pastures of the high Himalayas, which are 
difficult of access, are known to be good. In the hills, between 3,000 and 
10,000 feet, animals graze mostly in the forests and on slopes too steep 
for farming; in the Tarai, in woodland and on lands too poor to be 
farmed. Vegetation is plentiful only during the monsoon when it rains. 
As fodder crops are seldom grown, during the rest of the year animals 
go hungry and seem to exist on crop residue, weeds and grasses. This 
defective nutrition has caused a pronounced debility of the livestock 
which, combined with numerous animal diseases, has contributed to 
their low productivity. 


The forests, covering about one-third of the country and irregularly 
distributed, represent an important economic resource even though in 
accessible areas they have been subjected to destructive practices for 
a number of years (see fig. 13). The largest area is a compactly wooded 
tract of about 16,700 square miles stretching across the northern Tarai, 
the Bhabar and Siwalik Range (Churia Hills) and the Mahabharat 
Lekh range. The Himalayan forests to the north, estimated to cover 
800 square miles, do not form compact woodlands but cover the heights 
and valleys up to 13,000 to 14,000 feet. Almost all the forests are 
government owned. 

Commercial exploitation has been confined to the southern forest belt; 
although the Himalayan forests are rich in timber, they are inaccessible 
without roads or ropeways. Lumber is the major product, particularly 
sal, a hardwood used for construction timber and railroad ties, sissoo, 
used for making furniture, and semal, a soft wood used for making 
plywood, matches and paper pulp. Most of the lumber, which is proc- 
essed in a few sawmills in the Tarai, is exported to India. The coarse 


sabai grass, the ground cover, is also harvested and sold to India for the 
manufacture of paper pulp. In addition to supplying a major export, 
the forests provide construction materials and fuel for domestic use. 
It is estimated that at least 750,000 cord feet are used annually in 
building construction and in the production of farm implements. Wood 
is the principal fuel, and the amount of timber cut each year for this 
purpose cannot be estimated, but it is known to be very great. 


'."{r^'M-l Forested area 

Figure 13. Forest Areas in Nepal. 

The heavy demands on some forests in the Tarai have resulted in 
alarming deforestation which has been aggravated by poor land-manage- 
ment practices. Livestock owners burn the grass cover before the mon- 
soon in order to produce tender shoots for the livestock. Forest burning 
also occurs in parts of the Kosi River basin and in the pine forests of the 
Kali and Karnali valleys in the west, areas where shifting agriculture 
is practiced. Overcutting by Indian contractors has ruined the Tarai 
forests; and the Mahabharat Lekh forests are dwindling, leaving only 
the Bhabar forests as the country's main accessible productive resource. 

The effective utilization of forest resources requires scientific man- 
agement which can be achieved if the national forest policy announced 
in 1959 is implemented, especially with regard to forest conservation 
and afforestation. The authority of the Forest Service also needs to be 
extended to all phases of timber production including methods of exploi- 
tation. In support of forest development, India and the United States 
have been providing technical assistance during the last few years, but 
beginning with 1964 they are expanding their activities to include com- 
plete surveys of the southern forest belt. 


Fishing is an important part-time activity, particularly in the lakes 
and the lower reaches of the rivers. The upper reaches of many streams, 


however, appear to have been overfished and need to be stocked. Witn 
United States aid and technical assistance, fish farms have been estab- 
hshed at Godavari and Janakpur and breeding and distribution centers 
at Parawanipur, Biratnagar, Bhairawa and Bokhara. Various fishponds 
in Katmandu Valley have been cleaned and stocked. More possibilities 
remain, however, for increasing fish production. 


Throughout the country the gathering of a variety of edible roots, 
indigenous fruits, nuts and wild honey adds to the limited diet. Many 
medicinal herbs — aconite, pyrethrum, belladonna, ipecac and licorice, 
among others — grow wild and it has long been the practice for the people 
in the mountains to collect them for sale in the market towns of 
northern India. 


In addition to institutional reforms in the land tenancy system designed 
to give farmers an incentive to increase output, the government has 
engaged in many activities which are expected to contribute significantly 
to agricultural production. These include research in agriculture, horti- 
culture, animal breeding, forestry and fisheries and the establishment 
of institutions and programs which provide technical education in all 
aspects of agricultural production, dairy farming, water conservation 
and forestry development. The government hopes to encourage the 
adoption of new techniques and improved technical knowledge in the 
countryside by means of the Village Development Service. After 10 
years of semi-independent operation in a few development blocks, in 
1963 it became part of the panchayat system, which has been assigned 
a major role in rural development. Government activities have been 
financed almost entirely by foreign aid and carried out with technical 
assistance from abroad, mainly from the United States and India. 

Education and Research 

The first agricultural training institute in the country was established 
in 1952, a joint venture of a United States aid mission and the Nepalese 
Department of Agriculture. Set up in Katmandu, the institute's train- 
ing program was designed to prepare multipurpose workers through 
whom various assistance projects could be channeled to the villages. The 
course consisted of a 1-year term, and instruction included field and 
crop culture, entomology, plant pathology, livestock diseases, improved 
farm tools, irrigation, extension methods, health and sanitation, literacy 
and social service. In 1953 a second institute was opened in Birganj, 
and in 1956 a training course in home science for women was added to 
the curriculum of the institute in Katmandu. No facilities were avail- 


able for the training of agricultural specialists, however, until 1957 
when the United States established and equipped the School of Agri- 
culture. To provide subprofessional personnel, intermediate between 
the two training programs, India founded and staffed the Rural Institute 
at Katmandu in 1959. India also established the Forest Institute at 
Hitaura for the training of forest rangers. 

Numerous Nepalese have also received on-the-job training at the 
research laboratories and experimental farms equipped by the United 
States and India. United States aid has provided laboratories for soil 
analysis, plant production studies, seed testing and the study of medi- 
cinal plants. It has also assisted in developing six field experiment sta- 
tions which include on the same premises three horticultural research 
centers and four livestock improvement farms. India has established 
a veterinary research laboratory in Katmandu and dispensaries in other 
parts of Nepal as well as fruit and vegetable research stations, research 
substations, and trial orchards and nurseries. 

Village Development 

The Village Development Scheme, initiated in 1952, was the first 
joint program undertaken by the government of Nepal and a United 
States aid mission. It was designed to develop a nationwide service 
for the introduction into the villages of technical assistance programs 
which would increase the food supply and reduce illiteracy and disease. 
Since administrators and technicians for such a service were few, the 
institutes at Katmandu and Birganj, for training village workers and 
village work supervisors, were started. After completion of the course, 
village development workers were posted at 6 development centers — 
Biratnagar, Pokhara, Hitaura, Butwal, Katmandu and Ham — to work 
in villages in the area. Each village development worker served 3,000 
villagers. He lived with the farmer, giving him advice, encouragement 
and technical assistance. Through the village development center the 
worker could call upon the services of specialists in health, agronomy 
and animal husbandry. Activities of the village development workers 
included: encouraging the use of fertilizers and of better seeds; in- 
stalling hand pumps to provide safe drinking water; building roads; 
organizing youth clubs; fighting malaria; demonstrating improved farm 
implements; constructing irrigation canals; improving livestock; en- 
couraging the building of schools and libraries; improving village sani- 
tation; and immunizing against such diseases as cholera, typhoid and 
smallpox. By 1963, when village development workers were assigned 
as secretaries to the Gram Panchayats (Village Councils), which had 
been granted authority to initiate and support small-scale development 
activities, there were only about 1,000 of them, far less than the 4,200 
needed. The United States is continuing to provide financial aid and 
technical assistance in support of this project. 



In early 1964 the country had an estimated 6 million persons between 
the ages of 11 and 60, nearly all of whom were economically active at 
least part of the year. Many below that age, some as young as 5 or 6, 
also worked. Possibly 90 percent of the economically active group were 
farmers and their families, who wrested a generally meager livelihood 
from crop raising and animal husbandry, supplemented by earnings from 
the sale of craft articles and other items and occasional jobs undertaken 
by members of the family when they could be spared from work in the 
fields or with the herds. These subsidiary activities often required travel 
over long distances and sometimes absence from home for extended 

Nonagricultural sectors of the economy other than trade were little 
developed and offered few employment opportunities. Manufacturing 
was limited to a small number of factories concentrated chiefly in 
Birganj and Biratnagar in the Eastern Tarai, most of whose employees 
came from villages in the surrounding area, both in Nepal and across the 
border in India. The technical, managerial and professional class 
included only a few thousand persons. 

The basic unit of production in the often isolated villages of the 
countryside is the household and, for some tasks, groups of related 
households. In these family-oriented small communities, working rela- 
tionships are governed by kin ties and strong feelings of mutual obliga- 
tion among relatives. Typically, the rural household produces most of 
what it consumes and, since tenancy is widespread, any surplus is likely 
to go into land rent. Kinsmen, neighbors and friends commonly assist 
one another on a reciprocal basis in such activities as herding cattle, 
\ lowing, spinning and building sheds and houses. 

Since the fall of the Rana regime in 1951, the government has taken 
a number of steps to improve conditions in the rural areas. Under the 
Five-Year Plan (1956-61) public primary and secondary schools were 
started in many localities where they had been lacking. Advanced 
training centers for technicians in forestry, agriculture and public health 
were also set up, in many cases with foreign aid. But an acute scarcity 
of capital, a critical shortage of power and transport facilities and the 
weight of traditional methods and attitudes continued to hinder eco- 
nomic growth and the effort to lessen the pressure of an expanding 
population on a difficult environment. 



Age and Sex Distribution 

During the planting and harvesting seasons, it is usual in the rural 
areas for everyone except the aged and the very young to work in the 
fields or to tend livestock. Children over 10 years of age are con- 
sidered old enough to do adults' works, and the average child of 5 or 6 is 
expected to begin to help with household chores and other light tasks. 

Certain kinds of work are done exclusively by men ; others exclusively 
by women; and some are shared by both sexes, the pattern varying from 
one locality or ethnic community to another. On the farms specific 
tasks are assigned to women, others to men. Spinning and weaving are 
primarily women's work, but in the off season, men may participate in 
this activity too. On the other hand, men, almost exclusively, tend the 


It is almost impossible to estimate the number of wage earners in the 
labor force as compared with independent farmers and family workers. 
On the basis of the 1952-54 census, however, it appears that the majority 
of both men and women fall into the self-employed or family worker 
category. Presumably the number of wage earners in nonagricultural 
occupations increases at slack periods in the agricultural cycle when 
many farm people seek temporary employment as construction workers, 
porters or domestic servants. 

Aptitudes and Skills 

The rural people are highly proficient in the techniques of an agri- 
culture evolved in the course of centuries of coping with the special con- 
ditions of the country's environment. The Sherpa, for example, cross- 
breed yaks and oxen to produce a hybrid which is particularly well 
adapted to the harsh climate and poor pasturage of the high valleys and 
slopes. The carefully terraced fields, with simple but efficient irrigation 
systems, found throughout much of the rugged interior, attest to farming 
skills. So does the ability of cultivators in the Katmandu Valley to get 
out four crops a year, despite the proscription against the use of animals 
for draft within sight of temples, of which there are hundreds in that 

Certain castes are also known for their mastery of particular handi- 
crafts. Notable among them are the Newari metalworkers and wood 
carvers, whose art has been flourishing in the Katmandu Valley for 
centuries. Leatherworkers, tailors, ironworkers and goldsmiths form an 
important component of the work force. 




Most villagers, though primarily farmers and herdsmen, combine other 
work with their agricultural pursuits. In some villages, for example, a 
few men engage at least part time in carpentry, tanning, housebuilding 
or stone carving; others in tailoring or bootmaking. Women spin and 
weave wool, yak hair and other fibers, and make clothing for their 
families. Village-made fabric, carpets and articles of clothing, such as 
shawls and aprons, are carried to town markets — sometimes over long 
distances — to be offered for sale along with clarified butter (ghee) , hides 
and medicinal herbs and drugs which women and children of the moun- 
tain region gather in the woods. 

In October and November, when the end of the monsoon rains facili- 
tates travel, many persons, both men and women, take temporary work 
carrying goods from one town to another. Farmers ordinarily only do 
this when their crops are in and there is no work to be done in the fields. 
The continuing development of air transport is reducing this source 
of cash income in the countryside, but human bearers will remain impor- 
tant in the movement of freight for a long time to come. Another com- 
mon part-time occupation is road construction. 

Only two regular occupational groups other than farmers appear to 
play an important role in rural economic life — Brahman priests and 
those castes traditionally associated with particular crafts. Metalwork- 
ers, tailors and blacksmiths live partly by their trade, but generally 
some member of the family cultivates a small plot of land on which 
food for the household is raised. 

Farmers use few tools, and the average family requires help with cer- 
tain field tasks which must be accomplished in a short period of time. 
The need is met by the kinsmen. In some Sherpa communities, for 
example, it is customary to arrange informal work groups, consisting 
usually of five or six young persons from related households, whose 
main function is to pull the heavy plows as a team, working each other's 
fields on a reciprocal basis. Another arrangement is for a man who owns 
both livestock and land to tend someone else's cattle with his own in 
return for a fixed amount of work in his fields. 

Kinsmen and neighbors, in addition to exchanging labor, may perform 
services for each other for payment in goods or cash. Cash payment is 
becoming more common, and a few relatively well-to-do farmers are 
accustomed to hiring help. 

Agricultural labor is much in demand for short periods when crops 
are being planted and harvested but, except in areas where more than 
one crop can be grown each year, there are months of relative idleness 
for much of the work force. The result is low productivity, substantial 


underemployment, low average farm income and widespread in- 

Poverty drives many villagers, especially those in the mountains, 
temporarily to towns in the Tarai, the Katmandu Valley or India in 
search of ways to supplement their meager income. Some movement of 
this kind goes on throughout the year, but the peaks are generally 
reached with an exodus from the farms in late fall and a return to them 
in early spring. The migrants include men of all ages and some young 
women, moving singly or in groups. Individuals usually go in search 
of work; groups generally set out to sell or exchange loads of farm 
produce, herbs, medicinal roots or handicraft articles. Many travel as 
far as India or to the Katmandu Valley, hoping to find employment as 
porters or domestics. Others — mainly men from the mountain regions- 
enlist in Gurkha units of the Indian and British Armies. In 1963 an 
estimated 50,000 Nepalese were serving in the Gurkha brigades of the 
two armies. The arrangement helped to reduce the pressure of population 
on the land and provided a major source of cash income for many 
rural households for whom pensions of retired or deceased veterans or 
the remittances sent home by the servicemen frequently made the dif- 
ference between solvency and indebtedness. 

" Many village women and girls go to distant towns in search of work as 
household servants. A few set up and operate small overnight shelters 
along tracks in well-traveled parts of the country or trek to India with 
small loads of produce to sell. In autumn and early summer in the high 
Himalayas, Sherpa traders make their way over the difficult passes to 
Tibet with rice which they exchange for salt, subsequently using the salt 
to buy rice in the lower regions of Nepal (see ch. 19, Industry and 
Trade) . 

The Towns 

Most of the self-employed persons in the towns are traders, small 
businessmen or artisans. A few operate workshops or mills, where they 
engage in such pursuits as oilcrushing, rice pounding and the manufac- 
ture of furniture and household equipment, usually with only one or two 
persons assisting them. 

The largest employer in the country is the government. Offices of the 
various ministries and agencies in Katmandu, as well as such publicly 
owned corporations as the Nepal Rastra Bank and Nepal Trading Ltd., 
have large staffs of officials and clerical assistants. Still other govern- 
ment functionaries staff the district and local administrative offices. The 
prestige of government employment and the lack of alternative job 
possibilities combine to produce a huge surplus of candidates for all civil 
service positions in Katmandu. Teaching posts and other government 
jobs in outlying areas, however, often go begging, because few persons 


qualified to fill them are willing to forego the attractions and relative 
comforts of the capital city, particularly without special pay allowances. 

The country's small industrial labor force is largely illiterate and 
unskilled. A 1963 report states that major modern industrial plants, in- 
cluding two jute processing mills, two match factories, a cigarette factory 
and a sugar plant, had a combined work force of only about 5,000 per- 
sons; several thousand additional workers were employed in smaller 
factories. The largest single employer of industrial labor was the 
Biratnagar Jute Mills, with some 3,000 persons on its payroll. There are 
no employment offices. The network of family connections is such that 
the villager coming to town in search of work almost invariably has some 
relative there to whom he can turn for help in finding a job. If this 
method fails, he will then apply directly to possible employers. 

In late 1963 a law was passed which, although it did not set a minimum 
wage, called for the payment of "reasonable" rates to all workers. The 
prevailing hourly wage for unskilled labor at that time was about 
NR2.00 (for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) a day, and was 
slightly higher in the Katmandu Valley. Workers on a large hydro- 
electric project who were being paid at that rate reportedly were having 
difficulty maintaining themselves. A pound of potatoes and a pint of rice 
cost them half a day's earnings, and they had to provide their own 


Opportunities to acquire specialized training have increased rapidly 
since the end of the Rana period. In 1961 the country had 24 special 
technical schools with an enrollment of about 1,500 persons as com- 
pared with only two schools with a handful of students in 1951. Included 
among these schools were training institutions for persons in nursing, 
business management, accountancy, public health, forestry, agriculture, 
cottage industries, telecommunications and other fields. Most of the 
schools were established with foreign aid. The United States Agency for 
International Development and the Peace Corps are active in this field. 

The Three-Year Plan (1962-65) gives high priority to apprentice 
training and the development of intermediate-level skills within Nepal 
itself. It calls for the instruction of 7,000 persons in various specialized 
fields exclusive of cottage industries, including nearly 600 agricultural 
and more than 450 forestry experts. 


One of the few social reforms under the Ranas was the freeing of the 
slaves in 1924 by Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana (1901-29). 
The release of some 52,000 persons held in slavery was arranged at a 


reported cost to the government equivalent to $1.4 million; an addi- 
tional 23,000 slaves were given their freedom without any demand for 
compensation by their owners. Some 40 years after the issuance of this 
decree, slavery had entirely disappeared, although the relationship of 
a number of ex-slaves and their descendants to their former masters still 
was characterized by a considerable degree of economic dependence and 
strong feelings of loyalty. 


Welfare and Regulatory Laws 

The Factories and Factory Workers Acts of 1959 and 1963 and their 
amendments provide legal protection and certain benefits to the na- 
tion's industrial workers, although they do not apply to workers in other 
sectors of the economy. The laws prescribe: a 10-hour day and a 54- 
hour week; 10 paid holidays a year; up to 15 days' sick leave a year at 
half pay; 1 day's paid vacation for very 20 days worked after the first 
year of service; premiums for overtime and holiday work; and acci- 
dent compensation. There are, however, no specific stipulations about 
pensions, provident funds or maternity benefits. Among the other impor- 
tant features of the 1963 act are provisions for regular inspection by the 
government of places of work in respect to matters of the health and 
welfare workers, and for the appointment of labor welfare officers in 
factories with more than 250 workers and for assistant welfare officers 
in those with over 2,500 workers. 

The principal functions of the welfare officers are to raise workers' 
living standards, to encourage them to form self-regulating committees, 
to maintain contact with outside labor organizations, to inculcate in the 
workers a sense of responsibility to their employers, and to prevent 
workers from organizing strikes by illegal means. More importantly, 
they are expected to act as liaison between management and workers and 
to formulate labor policy after study and consultation and to submit it 
to the Palace Secretariat or the ministries concerned. 

Except for the omission of retirement benefits, the provisions in these 
laws prescribed most of the benefits to which labor might realistically 
aspire. In practice, however, many of the provisions were never put into 

Organized Labor 

The fewer than half a dozen unions which existed in the country before 
1963 had only a small membership and were essentially political in 
character. The strongest of them were a transport workers' union and 
an organization of jute mill workers. What little political influence these 
unions might have had was almost entirely eliminated when in Decem- 


ber 1960 King Mahendra dissolved the Parliament and most of the 
political leaders fled the country. 

A new labor organization which will elect two representatives to the 
National Panchayat was formed by the government in April 1963. 
Known as the Nepal Labor Organization, it has an estimated strength of 
at least 14,000 workers and is structured with local and plant unions at 
the lowest level, succeeded progressively by district and regional organi- 
zations and a national one. The government appoints 2 of its 3 principal 
officers who, with 7 other persons, compose its 10-member executive 



The development of industry and the expansion of trade are major 
goals of the Nepalese Government, but progress is hampered by lack of 
electric power and transportation facilities. The country's many rivers 
are a great potential resource of hydroelectric power, and a development 
program — largely financed by India — is underway, though still far from 
completion. India has expressed an interest in buying power when a sur- 
plus is produced. In a generation it may become one of Nepal's most 
important exports. 

Mountainous terrain and the necessity for depending on tracks and 
human carriers for most transport have imposed a pattern of local and 
regional isolation on much of the country. The two short railroads and 
most of the few motor roads are in the Katmandu Valley and the Tarai. 
The road to Katmandu Valley is the only motor road linking the Tarai 
and India with the interior. Elsewhere, journeys into the interior must 
be made on foot, and all goods must be carried on men's backs, because 
most tracks are too steep for pack animals. From Katmandu Valley the 
easiest way to reach most interior points is by going back to India and 
then up into the hills from the Tarai. Internal air transport has been 
developed, but only Katmandu has an all-weather airstrip. External 
air transport connects the country with India and Pakistan. 

The lack of facilities to transport goods to markets limits the scope of 
mining and manufacturing. Mines are few and small and productivity 
is low. Manufacturing is confined to a few plants producing consumer 
goods — easy to carry and in great demand, such as matches and ciga- 
rettes — and to processing local agricultural products, mainly for export. 
With the exception of textiles, kerosene and such luxuries as flashlights, 
soap and cosmetics, all of which are imported, most consumer goods are 
made by artisans in the bazaar towns or scattered through the villages. 

Foreign trade is almost entirely with India, which is easily accessible 
from the Tarai. A diminishing amount is with Tibet. Nepal's exports 
are mainly agricultural products; imports consist largely of manufac- 
tured goods and petroleum products from India and salt from Tibet. 
Domestic trade is on the whole local in character and for the most part 
appears to follow the north-south routes from India to the passes in 
Tibet. Katmandu, on one of these routes, is the largest market center, 
serving the greatest concentration of consumers in the country. 


The scarcity of fuel and power is not likely to be alleviated in the 
near future. Wood, coal and petroleum products provide the main 


sources, although some small rice mills are run by water power. The 
use of charcoal seems to be confined to the Magar smelterers in the hills. 
Wood, generally used in households and in handicraft establishments, 
is becoming increasingly expensive as the forests recede from the con- 
sumption centers. Increasing the supply of wood depends on forest 
conservation, the extension of roads and tracks into the more inaccessible 
regions, and the replacement of porters with transport facilities which 
can carry heavier loads. Although coal has been discovered, it is not 
mined commercially and no petroleum sources have yet been found. 
Thus, both coal and petroleum products are imported from India ; except 
in the Tarai, shortages are chronic and prices high as a result of trans- 
port difficulties. 

Even though the hydroelectric power potential from Nepal's rivers is 
considered one of the greatest in the world, it has been little exploited. 
In mid-1963 three hydroelecteric power plants were in operation. Two, 
with a combined capacity of 1,350 kilowatts, were installed by the Ranas 
in Katmandu Valley, one in the late 1930's and the other in the early 
1940's. Another, with a capacity of less than 800 kilowatts, was built in 
the 1940's in Biratnagar. Most of the country's total capacity of less 
than 8,000 kilowatts was produced in diesel and thermal plants built with 
foreign aid funds at Katmandu and Biratnager in the late 1950's. Even 
in these two cities, however, the supply of electric power was grossly in- 
adequate to meet requirements for street lighting, operation of the tele- 
phone system and domestic consumption, much less permit the develop- 
ment of industry. 

Recognizing the importance of plentiful, inexpensive power to the 
development of the country, the government, in the Five-Year Plan 
(1956-61), inaugurated an ambitious program — made possible by foreign 
aid — to utilize Nepal's hydroelectric resources. Progress has been slower 
than anticipated, but in mid-1963 a number of projects were underway. 

The Kosi River project in Biratnagar District, being constructed by 
the Indian Government, was scheduled for completion in 1964. It was 
expected to generate 1.8 million kilowatts, of which Nepal was to get 
10,000 kilowatts without cost, which would ease the power shortage in 
Biratnagar and the rest of eastern Nepal. India was also building a dam 
on the Trisuli River, 50 miles northwest of Katmandu. Power from this 
project, expected to be completed in 1965, was estimated at 10,000 kilo- 
watts, to be used in Katmandu Valley, the Rapti Valley and Birganj. 
According to a Swiss survey, to the northeast of Katmandu, at Panaoti 
village on the Kosi River, the Soviet Union was constructing a dam 
which expected to generate 2,400 kilowatts and was scheduled for com- 
pletion in 1964-65. The Trisuli and Panaoti projects were planned to 
meet Katmandu's immediate requirements. 

At Thadokhola a hydroelectric plant was being constructed with 

British aid. It was expected to be completed by 1964 and will supply 
power to the United States-built Katmandu-Hitaura ropeway (a cable- 
way built on towers, similar to a ski lift, which will carry 25 tons of 
cargo per hour in steel bins attached to the cables) (see fig. 14) . A num- 
ber of other power projects remained in the planning stages. The most 
ambitious was the Karnali River project in southwest Nepal, which had 
been surveyed by the United Nations Special Fund and would provide, 
when completed in 10 to 15 years, vast quantities of hydroelectric power 
for export to India. 

Dumri Banjungi 


HakhateyV"^ // *Kirtipur 


. ^. Bhimphedi 


Source: Adapted from United States Operations Mission to Nepal, Glimpses of Progress in 
Nepal— 1952-1961. Katmandu, USIS, 1961, p. 90. 

Figure 14- Route of New Katmandu-Hitaura Ropeway in Nepal. 


In mid-1963 modern transportation facilities were still limited (see 
fig. 12). There were about 500 miles of motorable roads, all in the 
Tarai and the Katmandu Valley. About half were surfaced; the 
remainder could be used only in good weather. The Tribhuvan Raj path, 
completed by Indian army engineers in 1956, connected Katmandu 
Valley with the Tarai and the Indian border. It was used by between 
23 and 50 motor vehicles (buses, trucks, jeeps and passenger cars) per 
day, depending on the weather. About 130,000 passengers have been 
carried over the Raj path per year; no estimates have been made regard- 
ing freight. 


Two railroads were in operation in the Tarai — a 29-mile line connect- 
ing Amlekhganj with Raxaul in India and a 22-mile line from Jaynagar, 
also in India, to Janakpur. The track, at present rarely used, extends 
about 18 miles further on to Bijalpura. Both are narrow gauge (2 feet, 
6 inches) and cannot be connected with the railroad system of northern 
India. They carry about 240,000 passengers per year. Freight declined 
from over 46,000 tons in 1958 to about 23,000 tons in 1962 as a result 
of an increase in truck transport. 

A 14-mile ropeway, with a capacity of 5 tons per hour, built in 1927 
and owned by the government, still carried much of the freight from 
Dharsing in the foothills to Katmandu Valley during the monsoon. In 
1951 it carried almost 570,000 tons, operating all year round; but in 
1961 it was in operation for only 6 months and carried about 80,000 

Air transport, since other types are impeded by the physical features 
of the country, has grown rapidly. There were, in mid-1963, 10 fair- 
weather airports, of which 5 were in fairly regular service, in addition 
to Gauchar Airport at Katmandu which could accommodate DC-3's 
almost all year round. The government-owned Royal Nepal Airlines 
Corporation linked Katmandu with interior towns and with cities in 
India and Pakistan. In mid-1963 its fleet consisted of 4 DC-3's and 2 
MI-4 (Russian) helicopters. In addition, the Communist Chinese have 
given the King a single-engine biplane capable of carrying 10 or 12 
passengers and the Soviet Union, an Ilyushin-14, which is similar to a 
Dakota. No estimates were available on total passengers and freight 
carried, but in 1961, on its major internal routes connecting Pokhara, 
Bhairawa, Simra and Biratnagar with Katmandu, it carried over 37,000 
passengers and almost 230 tons of freight. Indian Airlines Corporation 
also provided service with Indian cities, and Pakistan International 
Airlines with Dacca, in East Pakistan, 

Most traffic, however, is over the tracks which run from the passes 
on the Tibetan border in the north to a number of towns on the Indian 
border in the south. There are about six such major routes as well as 
numerous paths which lead into them from villages within the water- 
sheds or which lead away from them to avoid frontier and customs posts. 
The tracks are very old and are usually wide enough for loaded porters 
in single file to pass each other. Many thousands of miles are paved 
with smoothed rocks, and thousands of steps have been built up and 
down the steep gradients. The tracks, however, have not been kept in 
repair, and in many places landslides and heavy rains have destroyed 
pavement and steps. In some places suspension bridges have been swept 
away and not replaced. Dangerous makeshifts have been substituted. 

On only a few tracks, such as the Palpa-Pokhara-Dana route to 
Mustang and the Nepalganj-Dailekh route to Jumla, is it possible to 


use pony, donkey and mule caravans. Most transport is by porters who 
carry about 80 pounds per man in a basket balanced on the back by a 
headband across the forehead. At the higher altitudes, at Jurala and 
Dana for instance, loads are transferred from porters to yaks. 

Only the mountain people appear to seek employment as porters. The 
Sherpa are famous for porterage at high altitudes in association with 
mountaineering expeditions. Porterage is a seasonal occupation. Both 
men and women act as porters, but they are also farmers and herdsmen 
and unless well paid will not carry loads when the fields and herds 
require their attention. In addition, during the monsoon, travel may 
become impossible in many parts of the country. In mid-1963 porters 
were earning from NR5 (for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) 
to a maximum of NRIO and NR12 per day and might refuse to carry 
loads farther than 3 to 5 days' journey from home. 


Mining, particularly of iron, copper and silver, was in the past a 
major industry, and abandoned mines are found throughout the country. 
Miners worked only those minerals which could be used locally and 
confined their efforts mainly to deposits close to the surface. Some metal 
mines were still in operation in mid-1963. Methods were in general the 
same as they had been for centuries. Smelting and refining were carried 
on near the mines, and the bars were sold to local blacksmiths and 
coppersmiths to make farm tools and household utensils. 

Those mines which have been visited by Western metallurgists and 
geologists are reportedly owned by business men and traders from the 
area. Miners and smelterers are Magar and also describe themselves as 
kami (a Newar caste name for smiths and metalworkers), but informa- 
tion is lacking as to whether they are a caste among the Magar or have 
simply adopted the Newari name for metalworker. Mining and smelting 
are full-time occupations for both men and women. They are paid by 
receiving a percentage of the smelted metal as wages. The total number 
of persons employed in mining and smelting is unknown. 

Investigation by foreign geologists under various foreign aid programs 
has resulted in location of a few new deposits which were being worked 
in mid-1963 — mica and lignite in Katmandu Valley and limestone near 
Hitaura. Annual production is small — about 5,000 tons of lignite, about 
8 tons of copper and some 240,000 cubic feet of limestone. The Bureau 
of Mines, with a new, modern, fully equipped laboratory, has been set 
up with United States aid, and geological surveying is continuing. 

Mining and handicrafts are traditional industries in Nepal, but the 
first factory — the Biratnagar Jute Mills — was opened only in 1936. It 
was almost entirely financed by Radha Krishna Chamaria of Calcutta, 
who was also in charge of management. Its success led to the establish- 


ment of some 35 other industrial enterprises for the processing of sugar, 
rice and dal (lentil-based sauce used on rice) and the production of 
consumer goods, such as matches, cigarettes and cotton textiles. Most 
of these firms were financed by members of the Rana families, although 
many were managed by Indians. The firms showed some profit during 
World War II, but by mid- 1963 only a few were still in operation — two 
jute mills including the pioneering firm, a sugar mill, two match fac- 
tories, three cigarette factories and a sawmill. A match and a cigarette 
factory were located at Birganj, the sawmill at Hitaura, a cigarette 
factory at Katmandu, one at Pokhara and the others at Biratnagar. 

The jute mills' annual output has averaged about 10,000 tons, most 
of it exported to India. The match factories have been producing about 
130,000 gross of boxes and the cigarette factories about 24,000 tons 
annually, which has not been sufficient to supply domestic demand. 
The sugar mill averaged almost 3.5 milhon pounds per year over a recent 
8-year period, exporting a third to India. No other production figures 
are available. 

About 6,000 persons are employed in the factories; over 3,000 work at 
the Biratnagar Jute Mills, which is the largest single employer of labor 
in Nepal. The weavers at this factory are Pakistanis, and the rest of 
the employees, including the unskilled, are largely Indians. It has been 
alleged that most of the wage earners in factories in the Tarai are 
Indian, but this is denied by representatives of United States and United 
Nations aid missions. No complete study has been made concerning 
national or ethnic origin of factory employees, but it has been reported 
that some of the hill people are found among the workers. 

The factories are all joint stock enterprises. The government, through 
its Nepal Industrial Development Corporation (NIDC), holds all the 
stock in the Hitaura sawmill and a majority of stock in the Raghupati 
Jute Mills, not by choice but because it has not been possible to induce 
anyone to purchase the shares. The Chamaria family of Calcutta still 
owns 50 percent of the stock in the Biratnagar Jute Mills and 40 percent 
of the stock in the Morang Sugar Mills. The remainder of the stock is 
owned by Nepalese. Nepalese also own and operate the cigarette and 
match factories. 

The numerous failures among industrial enterprises over the last 15 
years have been attributed to such factors as the restrictive effect of 
inadequate transport on the movement of raw materials and on the 
growth of markets for industrial produce, the absence of suitable credit 
and banking institutions and the inadequacies of public administration 
and services, such as water and power. 

In its efforts to promote industrialization the government has sought 
to expand transport, water and power facilities, and in 1959 it estab- 
lished the NIDC, which offers industry financial and technical assist- 


ance. In addition to granting loans or purchasing stock, NIDC prepares 
studies of land, buildings, utilities, machinery and equipment and sup- 
plies working capital required for the profitable operation of industrial 
establishments. It also analyzes markets, including problems of sales, 
distribution, advertising and promotion. Most of the existing factories 
have received financial and technical assistance from NIDC, and several 
new establishments, largely for food processing, are in prospect. 

NIDC, with United States aid, has also established an "industrial 
estate" in the suburbs of Katmandu, which provides space and other 
facilities, such as power, water and maintenance to privately owned 
small-scale industries. In mid-1963 the "estate" contained a manufac- 
turing unit which produced tools for farmers and artisans and a wood- 
working unit which made furniture and other wooden products from 
government timber. The government has accepted aid from the Soviet 
Union for the construction of a sugar factory at Janakpur and a ciga- 
rette factory at Birganj, and from Communist China, a cement factory 
to be built at Hitaura and a paper factory, at Nepalganj. 

Although factories in the modern sense are few, over 700 small indus- 
trial establishments known as cottage industries were registered with the 
government in 1962. They are of two categories. One is the factory type 
of small industry in which a few hired workers are employed, and the 
owner divides his time between management and production. Rice, flour 
and vegetable oil mills represent by far the bulk in this category, fol- 
lowed by enterprises producing furniture and woodwork, marble and 
ceramic goods and by service workshops. The second category is the 
traditional or artisan type of establishment which generally uses only 
manual labor (except for some mills which use water wheels) , and it is 
mainly a family enterprise. The artisan combines the functions of 
worker, manager and salesman. These traditional enterprises are 
engaged in oil crushing, rice pounding, pottery making, hand spinning 
and weaving, blacksmithing, metalwork (curios and cutlery) and bam- 
boo and straw work. Among the Newari, each of the traditional crafts 
is practiced almost exclusively by a particular caste, and a number of 
families of the same caste may constitute the production unit (see ch. 5, 
Family and Social Structure). 

Artisans and craftsmen produce most of the pottery and other house- 
hold utensils, furniture, tools and equipment in general use. They also 
build and repair houses and temples and make bricks and tile. The 
handmade-paper industry, which flourished at one time, is still carried 
on in villages at 8,000 to 10,000 feet, where suitable grass and vegetation 
are abundant. The product is invariably of rough quality but is very 
durable. Ropes, mats, fishnets and head ropes made from the fibers of 
plants and baskets made from bamboo are very common craft products 
in the hills and the Tarai. Woolen spinning and weaving is a subsidiary 


occupation among the Sherpa, Tamang and Gurung. They make rugs, 
carpets, mufflers and blankets, which they sell in the bazaar towns or 
rural markets. In the Katmandu Valley, Patan is the center for metal- 
working and Thimi and Bhadgaon, for pottery making. The goldsmiths 
and silversmiths of Patan, in addition to their traditional wares, have 
begun producing quantities of cheap metal and wooden knicknacks for 
the tourist trade. 

In the rural areas artisans have only a limited local market, and no 
more than one or two practicing the same craft are likely to be found 
in a village or group of villages. The number of craftsmen and artisans 
is unknown and no estimates have been made of their contribution to 
the economy. 


The foreign trade of Nepal is almost entirely with its neighbors — 
India on the south and Tibet on the north. Overseas trade has been 
growing, largely the result of shipments from countries supplying foreign 
aid. About 95 percent of foreign trade is with India, which borders on 
the Tarai, where most of Nepal's exports are produced and where access 
to Indian railheads is made easy by the Royal Nepal Government 
Railway and a few motor roads. Trade with Tibet, which can be 
reached only by tracks leading across a few high passes, is negligible in 
comparison. Overseas trade is conducted through the ports of India, 
principally Calcutta (see ch. 3, Geography and Population). 

Until 1950 trade with India was governed by a treaty signed with the 
British in 1923 which provided that no duty be levied on Nepalese 
imports. It was replaced in 1950 by the Treaty of Trade and Commerce 
between Nepal and India. The new treaty recognized the unrestricted 
right of Nepal to commercial transit of all goods and manufactures 
through the territory and ports of India but required Nepal to apply 
Indian tariffs. The Nepalese Government objected that this was not in 
Nepal's best interests since Indian tariffs are protectionist in character 
and when the treaty was renegotiated in 1960, all restrictions on Nepalese 
trade were removed. India, however, specified that, considering the 
revenue requirements of the Nepalese Government, Nepal could continue 
to levy import and export duties on goods imported from or exported 
to India. As in the 1950 treaty, India agreed to provide transit facilities 
to Nepal and freedom from customs duties for goods in transit. A ware- 
house has been made available in the port of Calcutta, where all goods 
in transit may be stored. 

Nepal's commerce with Tibet has existed since ancient times. Until 
1956, formal trade relations were based on the treaty of peace concluded 
in 1856, at the end of the second war between the two countries (see 
ch. 2, Historical Setting) . It provided for the establishment of a Nepal- 


ese trading post at Lhasa, which was permitted to deal freely in all kinds 
of merchandise. Tibet also agreed not to levy taxes on goods imported 
by the Nepalese merchants or require them to pay any fees. A hundred 
years later, after successfully invading Tibet, the People's Republic of 
China signed a treaty with Nepal which permitted the nationals of both 
countries to trade with, travel in and make pilgrimage to those places 
in each country as agreed upon by the two governments. Provision also 
was made for the establishment of an equal number of trade agencies 
of one government within the territory of the other at specified locations. 
Nepal, in addition to the agency at Lhasa, established trading posts at 
Girang Dzong (Kyirong), Nyalam Dzong (Kuti) and Zhikatse (Shi- 
gatse). In 1961, China offered to construct a highway between Kat- 
mandu and Tibet which would make possible an expansion of their 
commercial relations. Despite the treaties, however, there are indica- 
tions that Nepalese merchants are being squeezed out of Tibet by the 
Chinese state trading corporation and by the imposition of currency 
restrictions (see ch. 13, Foreign Relations). 

In October 1962 a trade agreement was signed with Pakistan, followed 
by a transit agreement in January 1963. India subsequently granted to 
Nepal the same rights of transit for goods to and from Pakistan that 
applied to overseas shipments into Indian ports. The agreements, hailed 
as a great advance in Nepal's program for diversification of trade, have 
so far shown negligible results. 

The principal exports to India are rice, wheat, jute, forest products, 
oilseeds and ghee (clarified butter). Principal imports from India are 
salt, cotton textiles, metal products, kerosene, gasoline, diesel oil and 
lubricants. Rice is the main export to Tibet; salt and wool, the principal 
imports. Export of small quantities of jute and tea to overseas countries 
has developed since the late 1950's as a result of Nepal's attempts to 
diversify its foreign trade. Machinery and transport and telecommuni- 
cations equipment are the main imports from overseas countries. Official 
figures, known to be underestimates, show a rise in imports to NR287.5 
million and in exports to NR130.8 million in 1959-60. No estimates have 
been compiled for subsequent years and no information on quantities 
shipped or received is available. 

It is generally recognized that there is a considerable volume, esti- 
mated to be between 20 and 50 percent, of exports and imports which 
are not recorded. This arises from the difficulty of establishing compre- 
hensive customs control on all frontiers, particularly where such frontiers 
are not clearly marked and are crossed by a multiplicity of tracks. In 
the absence of reliable statistics it is not possible to estimate balance of 
trade, much less balance of payments. It is known, however, that credits 
and cash payments have been rising since 1956 as a result of disburse- 
ment of foreign aid funds and an increase in the number of tourists. 


other important invisibles are the remittances sent to their families by 
Nepalese working abroad or by Gurkha soldiers on duty in the armies 
of India and the United Kingdom and pensions paid by these govern- 
ments to retired Gurkha soldiers in Nepal. The Ministry of Finance 
has estimated that NRIO million flows into Nepal annually as pensions 
to British ex-servicemen alone and that pensions from the Indian Army 
total an even greater sum. 


Throughout the country domestic trade and foreign trade are closely 
interwoven. Most families produce their own food, and Nepalese crafts- 
men can supply the simple farm implements and household utensils in 
demand by the average consumer, but pharmaceuticals, cotton cloth, 
kerosene, salt and luxuries such as flashlights and cosmetics must be 
brought into the country. In Katmandu Valley and the Tarai, both 
Nepalese products and imports flow through the usual commercial chan- 
nels of wholesale and retail trade. In the hills, however, special trading 
patterns have developed, most notably the exchange of Tibetan salt for 
Nepalese rice, which has been organized by the Sherpa of Khumbu in 
the eastern Himalayas and the Thakali of the Mustang area in the west. 

Katmandu Valley has the largest concentration of consumers in the 
country, who are served largely by the shops and markets of Katmandu. 
The old part of the city is a large bazaar where tiny shops at the street 
level of four- to five-story houses line miles of winding alleyways. Some 
shops specialize in one type of traditional merchandise, such as brass- 
work or kukri (a Gurkha knife) or embroidered caps or baskets. A 
number sell grains and spices. Others have a melange of goods for sale. 
In open squares among the alleys are vegetable and fruit markets where 
members of farm families sell their produce. At the edge of the bazaar 
is the wide, modern New Road lined with larger shops which sell 
Nepalese curios to tourists and imported shoes, textiles, pharmaceuti- 
cals, canned goods, hardware and general merchandise. Most retailers 
in the bazaar are Newar. The merchants who deal in imports are likely 
to be wholesalers, with connections in India, as well as retailers. They 
are usually Marwari, an Indian people who specialize in commerce. 

The Tarai and northern India have long been a trading area where 
Nepalese have been accustomed to sell their products to Indian traders 
and to buy necessities in the bazaars of the market towns on either side 
of the border. Here all the commodities available on the Indian market 
are for sale. Generally the hill people bring their products to these 
towns once a year and having sold them return to their homes with the 
necessities they have purchased with the proceeds of their sales. Each 
town in the Tarai serves an area from 50 to 70 miles into the interior. 


In the hills there are towns such as Pokhara and Baglung along the 
north-south routes to the frontiers which are market centers for both the 
long-distance trade and for villages in the vicinity. Although the num- 
ber of shops is smaller than in Katmandu, the variety of goods offered 
is greater. Many items are on sale which are not obtainable in the 
capital. The Sherpa towns of Jalbire near the Kuti Pass and Namche 
Bazar near the Nangpa La supply commodities in demand by the 
Tibetans, such as gaudy textiles and food grains. 

In certain parts of the country, fairs are held at times of rehgious 
festivals. They may last from 2 to 40 days. Many people wait for such 
fairs to purchase most of their necessities. In other parts of the country, 
markets organized locally are held once or twice a week, and rice, ghee, 
mustard oil and curd are sold or bartered for cloth, salt and kerosene 
brought to the market by traders. 

The most important long-distance trade is in Tibetan salt. In the 
east the Sherpa of Khumbu near Mount Everest have exploited both 
their geographical situation between Tibet and the lower regions of 
Nepal and their ability to transport goods across high altitude country 
in developing the Tibetan trade. Salt is needed both for home consump- 
tion and for resale, and the shifting of the exchange rate between salt 
and grain along the north-south route from the nearest Tibetan market 
to the source of the grain supply illustrates the character of Sherpa 
trade. A Western scholar has noted: 

Sherpas can exchange rice at Tingri Dzong in Tibet at a rate of 4 measures 
of rice for 9 measures of salt. At the border, where they are sometimes met 
by Tibetan traders, the rate is 4 measures of rice for 7 measures of salt. As 
no rice grows in Khumbu this commodity must be purchased in the lower 
regions of Nepal and there the Sherpas pay for the rice in salt. Thus a Sherpa 
buying 10 measures of salt in Tibet has to pay only 4 measures of rice and on 
re-selling the salt in Dingla obtains in exchange 30 measures of rice. The 
gross profit is thus 26 measures of rice but the transaction involves one trip 
to Tibet of at least 10 days' duration and a trip to Dingla and back, taking 
another 8 to 10 days. 

Trade with Tibet is confined to two seasons: autumn (October and 
November) and early summer (May and the first part of June). From 
late November until May such passes as the Nangpa La are snowbound, 
and during the monsoon the journey is too difficult for men and animals 
with loads. 

In central Nepal the Thakali who live along the Mustang route to 
Tibet, the easiest line of communication with India, almost all engage 
in transportation and commerce. Tukucha is the main town and trading 
center. Here the Thakali trade Nepalese wheat, barley and rice for 
Tibetan salt. Caravans of yaks, cattle and mules transport the salt to 
Nepal via the Gya La and the Larkya La, and mules and ponies are 
used to carry it to the lowlands. From the lowlands, rice, dyestuffs and 


other goods are transported in the same way to Tibet by the same route. 
A large fair is held in Larkya during August and is open for a month. 
Many people flock to the fair from Tibet and the western districts of 
Nepal. Traders go twice to Tibet between April and September and 
twice to the Tarai between October and the following April. The richer 
traders pay one visit to some large center as Delhi or Calcutta. 




The monetary system and public finance in the past were organized 
to serve the needs of the Rana regime. Coinage was struck in the Rana 
Maharaja's mint and, although he exercised his hereditary office in the 
King's name, government revenues were, in effect, the Maharaja's 
property. The reassertion of royal power in 1951 ended Rana domina- 
tion, but more than a decade later the fiscal system showed only slight 
changes. A central bank w^as created in 1956 and the one commercial 
bank has expanded its operations. The powers of government to control 
or create credit are still severely limited. Deposit banking is little 
known; the level of savings is low; and there is no capital market. 
Most of the development program has been financed with foreign aid. 
The extent to which the country outside of Katmandu Valley and the 
Tarai is monetized cannot be estimated, but it is generally recognized 
that the use of money is becoming more widespread 

Government budgets have been published each year since 1951 but 
often bear little relationship to actual expenditures and revenues. A 
closer approximation of expenditures is being achieved in recent bud- 
gets, but actual revenues, which are almost wholly derived from land 
taxes and customs duties, remain difficult to estimate. Expenditures 
have been increasing as the responsibilities of government have widened. 
The growing deficits have been met partly by issuing currency and 
drawing on reserves but primarily by foreign aid. In order to raise 
more revenue the government has taken steps which include the devel- 
opment of a uniform system of land taxation, the extension of the tax 
base and the introduction of improved methods of collection. Taxes in 
general are still low and fall most heavily on the rural population, but 
various new taxes have been decreed to increase the share paid by town 
dwellers. In mid- 1963 the government was groping toward more efficient 
methods of mobilizing the country's financial resources. 


Both Nepalese and Indian currencies are in circulation. Both were 
legal tender throughout the country until April 1960, when the govern- 
ment declared the Indian rupee no longer legal currency in the Kat- 
mandu Valley, although no restrictions were placed on its use in the 
rest of the country. At the same time it was made illegal to refuse to 
accept Nepalese currency anywhere in the country except in the dis- 
tricts bordering on Sikkim and India. Indian currency is used almost 
exclusively in the Tarai and in the border districts of the extreme east 


and west. There are no reliable data on the total value of currency 
circulating in the country nor of the total amount held by Nepalese 
nationals at home or abroad. In July 1961 the Nepal Rastra Bank 
estimated the total at NR 152.2 million and between IR150 million and 
IR200 million (for value of the rupee, see Glossary). 

Wide fluctuations in the rate of exchange between the two currencies 
in the three decades before 1960 led to a loss of confidence in Nepalese 
currency. To stabilize the exchange rate the government in April 1960 
offered unlimited convertibility of the Nepalese rupee at the rate of 
Nrvl60 to IRIOO and declared that government revenues were to be 
paid thereafter in Nepalese currency. Since then a stable exchange rate 
between the two currencies has been maintained, and the Nepalese rupee 
is coming into increasingly wider use. Consideration is being given to 
steps which would lead to the establishment of Nepalese currency as 
the sole medium of exchange in the country. 

Since 1960 exchange rates for other than Indian currency have been 
established by bilateral negotiations with a few governments — the 
United States, the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Burma, Japan and 
West Germany. The rate of exchange of the United States dollar is 
NR7.6, giving the rupee a value of about 13 cents. Nepal became a 
member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter- 
national Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) in 1961, 
and the government hopes that a par value for the Nepalese rupee will 
soon be established. 

Coinage in Nepal dates from the fifth century, and the current names 
for coins, from the fifteenth. The value of coins was the equal of their 
silver content until 1948 when it was reduced to a third of a coin's 
value. In 1953 silver coinage was abandoned and replaced by token 
metal coinage. Paper currency notes were first issued in 1945. The 
minting of coins, formerly a prerogative of the Maharaja, was trans- 
ferred after the overthrow of the Ranas to the Ministry of Finance and 
for a time at least was an important source of profit for the government. 
The issuance of paper currency was transferred from the Ministry of 
Finance to the Nepal Rastra Bank on its establishment in 1956. 

Nepalese currency uses the decimal system, 100 paisa equaling one 
rupee. Coins arc minted in denominations of 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 25 and 
50 paisa, and paper money is issued in 1,5, 10 and 100 rupee notes. 


Modern methods of financing production and trade were not intro- 
duced into Nepal until the 1950's. The village moneylender was the 
source of credit, advancing money against gold and silver ornaments 
and immovable property. Most of the people, whether engaged in 
farming, trade, handicrafts or porter service, converted their small sav- 


ings into ornaments, trinkets or jewels which could be worn by the 
women. Tradesmen acted as their own bankers, frequently with the 
aid of jobbers, wholesalers or manufacturers' representatives located in 
communities of northern India. Many became currency exchange oper- 
ators and moneylenders. The Ranas, who derived their income from 
forest and mining concessions, tariffs and land taxes, bought and sold 
foreign currencies and kept their surpluses in jewels or in foreign 

Agricultural production has been financed almost entirely by farmers 
from their private resources and, since these are usually limited, this 
is one of the principal factors underlying the low level of return on 
the utilization of land and labor. The amount of institutional agri- 
cultural credit available is meager, and the service charges of the village 
moneylender, who provides most of it, are high. 

The modernization and expansion of industrial production, including 
small, so-called cottage industries, although originally based on private 
investment, have been financed largely by the government with foreign 
aid (see ch. 19, Industry and Trade). Most traders, merchants and 
artisans finance their operations from their own resources, even though 
the Nepal Bank, Ltd., the only commercial bank, has increasingly 
offered facilities to merchants engaged in trade with India. Banking 
habits have improved but bank branches are still few. Furthermore, 
difficult terrain combined with lack of communications make mobiliza- 
tion of domestic financial resources a serious problem. 


Nepal has two banking institutions — the Nepal Rastra (central) 
Bank, established in 1956, and the Nepal Bank, Ltd., founded in 1937, 
both located in Katmandu. 

The functions of the Nepal Rastra Bank include "regulating the issue 
of paper money, securing country-wide circulation of Nepalese cur- 
rency, and achieving .stability in its exchange rate" as well as mobilizing 
capital for economic development, stimulating trade and industry and 
developing the banking system. It acts as banker for the government, 
some foreign embassies and a few private customers but does not accept 
deposits from or advance loans to the public. 

The Nepal Rastra Bank started functioning with a capital of NRIO 
million fully subscribed by the government. As of mid-1963 it had 27 
branches and suboffices in addition to the headquarters office. Most of 
the branches are in the Tarai. In spite of transport and communica- 
tions difficulties, the bank expects to open offices in more of the hill 
towns as trained personnel become available. 

The Nepal Bank, Ltd., is a semiprivate, semigovernment organiza- 
tion. The government appoints three directors; the shareholders another 


three; and the government designates one of the six as director general. 
The bank is managed by a United Nations expert. When the bank was 
estabUshed, its business was strictly confined to advancing loans against 
gold, silver, jewelry and immovable property and, according to the 
annual report of 1962, such loans still accounted for 17 percent of total 
loans and advances. A steady expansion into other aspects of banking 
has, however, taken place over the years. The bank is now primarily 
engaged in financing the import and export trade with India. It rarely 
helps in agricultural or industrial development. It has operated at a 
profit almost from the beginning and, with a paid-up capital of NR2.5 
million, its reserves have grown to more than NR6.6 million. 

In 1962 the Nepal Bank, Ltd., had 26 branches — 5 in the hill towns; 
the remainder in the Tarai. The deposits to cash ratio of 3 to 1 has 
steadily risen — an indication of the growth of the banking habit. 
Demand, time and savings deposits have more than quadrupled in the 
last decade, and in 1962 total deposits were the equivalent of about 
$10 million. 


Despite the growth of the banking system, the lack of cheap long- 
term credit continues to hamper the expansion of the economy. The 
government has taken various steps to fill the gap. In 1959 it estab- 
lished the Nepal Industrial Development Corporation (NIDC), which 
offers medium- and long-term financial assistance to existing and new 
industries. Capital was provided by a loan of $1 million in Indian rupees, 
extended by the United States Government, and a $400,000 loan in 
dollars from the United States Development Loan Fund (DLF). Those 
who receive loans or financial assistance from the Corporation are 
required to contribute not less than 50 percent of the total cost of the 
project. Loans are advanced against the security of land, buildings, 
machinery and equipment for not less than 5 years and may extend up to 
15 years. Rates of interest are 6^/2 percent per year for loans in Nepalese 
and Indian currencies and 7i/^ percent for loans in United States money. 
By the end of 1961, approved loans amounted to over NR9 million of 
which NR4 million was for the establishment of new industries and the 
rest for the expansion and modernization of existing ones. 

The Cooperative Department, created in 1954, is carrying out credit 
operations in all the 14 zones and 75 districts into which the country 
has been divided for development purposes. By the end of 1962 there 
were 457 cooperatives, with a membership of 13,467, and the govern- 
ment had loaned them over NR2 million. The government charges the 
cooperatives 2 percent per year, and it advances funds to its members 
at 10 percent. 

For over 20 years the government has been engaged in promoting 
cottage and village industries, but not until 1956 was provision made 


for extending credit on reasonable terms, and only in 1962 were regu- 
lations governing loans codified. The official Cottage, Rural and Small 
Industries Loan and Investment Rules define a cottage industry as 
any industrial enterprise having an investment of NR50,000. Provision 
was made for establishment of the Loan and Investment Fund for such 
enterprises and interest on loans was to be G^^ percent. 

Government action over the last decade has resulted in only meager 
expansion of credit facilities. Regulations prohibit the Nepal Bank, Ltd., 
from lending funds for more than a year, and the Agricultural Credit 
Fund, established by the Nepal Rastra Bank in 1959-60, has gone 
unused pending policy decisions on the channeling of loans. Thus, in 
mid- 1963 the moneylender was still the main source of credit. 


Most investment is by government from public funds. Private cor- 
porate investment amounts to no more than NR40 million. The rope- 
way, the electricity department, the railroad and the airline are owned 
outright by the government, and most of the expansion in industry 
and public works is government-financed. 

In 1958 the government announced an industrial policy, stating that 
private enterprise should play a major role in industrial development 
and reserved only the manufacture of armaments and explosives and 
management of public utilities for the government. Repatriation of 
profit and capital was guaranteed, double taxation was prescribed and 
provision was made for foreign interests to register firms in Nepal and 
to control them for an agreed period. Tax relief, tariff concessions, 
cheap power, land and timber, and maximum government purchases of 
local manufactures were also offered. In this connection, much interest 
attaches to the Rana fortunes, estimated to be as much as $280 million, 
most of it in India or in other places outside the country. The govern- 
ment has made unsuccessful eff"orts to convince the Rana family of the 
advantages of investing some of their funds in Nepal's economic devel- 

In the meantime, private investment funds are in short supply. It is 
probable that income from land, the major source of the country's 
wealth, has accumulated in the hands of a small number of landholders 
who are more interested in enlarging their properties and in money- 
lending than in other types of investment. 


Since the overthrow of the Ranas, an expanding governmental system 
and various national development programs have been financed pri- 
marily by domestic taxes and foreign aid. Aid has been received from a 
number of countries. United Nations agencies and private foundations. 


The tax system and budgetary procedures are in the process of moderni 
zation and reform. Steps have been taken to increase revenue and to 
improve fiscal administration. Progress has been slow but it is ex- 
pected to accelerate as accurately compiled fiscal data become avail- 
able and sufficient numbers of Nepalese are trained in accounting and 
auditing and in the operation of land revenue offices and customs posts. 

Fiscal Administration 

The fiscal system has been slowly evolving since 1951. From the 
Rana regime the government inherited land tax collection offices {inal 
adda) , a few customs offices and the Audit Department of the Maharaja 
(Kumari Chowk), which was responsible for identifying and recovering 
any expenditures made by civil servants without authorization or by 
mistake. Records of revenue and expenditure were scattered and frag- 
mentary and provided no indication of the country's financial resources 
or of the costs of government operations. 

Under the new regime major fiscal responsibility was vested in the 
Ministry of Finance, which has increasingly modernized its structure 
and procedures. As of April 1963 it consisted of two Secretariats, one 
dealing with revenue and the other with financial control. Under the 
Secretariat for Revenue were the Departments of Taxation, Customs 
and Excise, and Land Revenue. The Department of Taxation was re- 
sponsible for carrying out tax studies and making recommendations 
regarding new taxes and improved methods of collection. The Depart- 
ment of Customs and Excise administered the collection of customs and 
excise duties; the Land Revenue Department supervised the collection 
of the land tax. The Secretariat of the Financial Controller was re- 
sponsible for compiling the budget and for authorizing expenditures, 
and within its framework were the Accounting Department and the 

National Budgets 

Published budgets were not inaugurated until the overthrow of the 
Ranas, and they have been regarded as statements of intentions rather 
than as provisions for a definite framework of public revenue and ex- 
penditure. Figures generally have been unreliable. Beginning in 1958, 
however, more accurate compilations of expenditures and revenues were 
prepared at government request from official sources by a United Na- 
tions expert. These studies indicate that actual revenues and expendi- 
tures have been lower than estimated and that government deficits have 
been less than reported. 

Regular budget expenditure increased to NR 103.5 million in 1961-62. 
The estimated budget for 1962-63 is NR140.9 million. By far the largest 
expenditure between 30 and 39 percent — has been on government ad- 
ministration, a natural result of the widening field of government ac- 


tivity since Rana times when administration was confined almost en- 
tirely to the maintenance of law and order and the collection of the 
land tax. The largest portion of administrative expenditure has been 
allocated to district government, the land offices and the judiciary. 
Military expenditure, averaging about 20 percent of the budget, is the 
next largest category. Expenditure on social services, including health 
and education, has generally been under 10 percent. Of lesser impor- 
tance are expenditures in support of the Royal Household, the Trading 
Departments (such as the railroad) and public works. 

Revenue is estimated to have risen to NR91 million in 1961-62 and 
to reach NR103 million in 1962-63. More than 75 percent has been 
received from land taxes, customs and forest concessions. Another im- 
portant source is the excise duty on Indian goods, imported by Nepal, 
collected at Nepal's request and made over to Nepalese Government 
account on evidence that the goods have reached their destination in 
Nepal. Revenue from land taxes increased to NR28.2 million in 1961- 
62, averaging 30 percent of the total. Its relative position as a source of 
revenue has, however, been declining in favor of customs duties, which 
contributed 25.5 percent in 1952-53, rising to NR39 million (over 40 
percent) in 1961-62. The increasing proportion of revenue from cus- 
toms may be attributed largely to the growth of the trade in imports. 
The contribution of forest concessions averages about 10 percent of total 
revenue. Other sources of revenue include various taxes, fees and fines, 
and the receipts of the so-called Trading Departments, which operate 
the ropeway, the railroad, the airline and the electricity service. Until 
1959-60 the issuance of coins by the Mint was entered as revenue and 
in some years made an important contribution to the total. Deficits 
have been met by the issue of currency and the use of reserve funds, not 
by government borrowing. 

Tax Structure 

Taxes are both direct and indirect. The most important direct tax is 
that on land. The land tax system is not uniform throughout the country 
but varies depending on when and where it was introduced. For tax 
purposes the land unit in the Katmandu Valley and the hills is the 
ropani (Vs of an acre) ; in the Tarai, where holdings are larger, it is the 
bigha (1.67 acres). In general the tax is highest on paddy land and 
lowest on unirrigated land in the hills. In 1963 land tax in the hill dis- 
tricts was assessed at the rate of NR2.44 per ropani of paddy land and 
NR0.94 per ropani of dry land. In the Tarai the rate was set at NR15 
per bigha. On tribal lands the land tax takes the form of a tax on 
house roofs at the rate of NR4 to NR13 per roof. Guthi land, set aside to 
provide income for endowments of shrines, resthouses, schools and 
orphanages, requires no tax. The government has extended the land tax 
to other tax-free holdings {birta land) inherited from the Rana period 


ami is carrying out a cadastral survey in order to develop a uniform 
system of land taxation. 

Other direct taxes include the urban property tax, the business profits 
tax, the salaries tax and the foreign investment tax. Assessments are low 
and little revenue is derived from them. An urban property tax was im- 
posed in 1959-60, but in mid-1963 the method of assessment was still 
being debated. The business profits tax has presented problems, since 
business houses do not keep books or will not make them available to 
the authorities. The salaries tax has been collected from on civil servants 
but has not yet been extended to the small number of other salaried 
persons. The foreign investment tax has yielded little, since the govern- 
ment reportedly has had almost no success in getting people to declare 
their foreign holdings. The airport embarkation tax of NR5 and the 
hotel tax of 10 percent of the total bill apply mainly to foreigners. 

Customs duty is the most important indirect tax and is imposed on 
almost all commodities or goods exported and imported. Books, periodi- 
cals, plants and flowers are exempt. Import duties are generally lowest 
on foodstuffs and necessities and highest on luxuries, varying from 5 
paisa (for value of the paisa, see Glossary) per maund (82 pounds) of 
fruit and 10 paisa per maund of food grains to 150 percent of the value 
of liquor and beer shipments. Duties on exports vary from 3 paisa per 
dozen bananas and 4 paisa per yard of cotton textiles to NR1,500 per 
maund of raw ivory. Other indirect taxes include excise duties on 
matches, cigarettes, sugar, candy, liquor and cloth. There are also reg- 
istration fees for deeds, gifts, mortgages and inheritance. 

Development and Foreign Aid 

Economic and social development, a main objective of the govern- 
ment since 1951, has been almost entirely financed by foreign aid. The 
principal donors have been the United States, India, the People's Repub- 
lic of China and the Soviet Union. The Colombo Plan countries, various 
United Nations agencies and Switzerland have contributed smaller 
amounts (see table 13). Assistance has been allotted to specific develop- 
ment projects and received in cash, commodities, training facilities and 
technical services (see ch. 16, Character and Structure of the Economy). 

In the early 1950's, Nepal's own annual contribution almost equaled 
foreign aid, but by 1958-59 it provided only about 29 percent of the 
development budget. In 1960-61, Nepal contributed about 12 percent, 
and in 1961-62, about 6 percent. Two development plans have been 
initiated: the Five-Year Plan, which began in 1956 and terminated in 
1961, and the Three- Year Plan, which was started in 1962 and is to end 
in 1965. 

The Five-Year Plan is considered to have been a qualified success. 
Of an announced target of NR330 million only NR214.4 million was 


Table 13. Foreign Aid, Nepal W51-S3'' 
(in thousands of Nepalese rupees) - 

Country or Organization 





United States 


People's Republic of China 

Ford Foundation 

Soviet Union 

United Kingdom 

New Zealand 



World Health Organization 

West Germany 

Technical Assistance Board 

International Labor Organization 




























, 10.253 









^ The fiscal year is from July 15 through July 14. 

2 For value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary. 

^ The amount shown for India for 1962—63 does not include finances for projects which are handled 
directly by the Indian Aid Mission to Nepal and do not pass through the government's budget. 
Including all such projects, which are not undertaken by the government, the total amount of aid 
would come to about NR50 million. 

Source: Adapted from Y. P. Pant, "Development Finance in Nepal," Eastern Economist, XXXIX, 
September 7, 1962, p. 432. 

spent. Some progress was made in roadbuilding, aviation and local 
social and public works development. Health and education in particular 
benefited. After dissolution of the National Assembly, the National 
Planning Council, with the King as chairman, developed the Three-Year 
Plan. It envisaged the expenditure of NR670 million over the 1962-65 
period. Priority was given to the development of transport, communica- 
tions, power, irrigation and agricultural extension work. Foreign aid was 
expected to provide NR5(X) million and the government at least NRIOO 
million by "increasing taxes, mobilizing domestic savings and making 
public undertakings profitable." 

As of mid-1963, even though foreign aid had been oversubscribed, 
targets were not being met but it was expected that the Three-Year 
Plan would be more successful than its predecessor. The King expressed 
confidence that the panchayat system, adopted throughout the country, 
would enlist the people in the execution of the plan and speed up the 
tempo of development. 



Section III. Economic 

Among the sources consulted in the preparation of this section, the 
following are recommended as additional reading on the basis of quality 
and general availability. 
Fiirer-Haimendorf, Christoph von. "Caste in the Multi-Ethnic Society 

of Nepal," Contributions to Indian Sociology, IV, April 1960, 12-32. 
. The Economy of the Sherpas of Khumbu. London: University 

of London Press, 1954. 
. "Elements of Newar Social Structure," Journal of the Royal 

Anthropological Institute, LXXXVI, Pt. 2, July-December 1956, 

Hagen, Toni, Wahlen, F. T., and Corti, W. R. Nepal: The Kingdom in 

the Himalayas. Berne: Kummerly and Frey, 1961. 
Hermanns, Father Matthias. The Indo-Tibetans. Bombay: Fernandes, 

Jain, Girilal. India Meets China in Nepal. New York: Asia Publishing 

House, 1959. 
Karan, Pradyumna P. Nepal: A Cultural and Physical Geography. 

Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1960. 
Karan, Pradyumna P., and Jenkins, William M., Jr. The Himalayan 

Kingdoms: Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 

Kihara, H. (ed.). Peoples of Nepal Himalaya: Scientific Results of 

the Japanese Expeditions to Nepal Himalaya 1952-1953. 3 vols. 

Kyoto: Kyoto University, Fauna and Flora Research Society, 1955, 

1956, 1957. 
Luba, J. F. "Survey of Government Accounting and Auditing in Nepal." 

Katmandu: August 1960 (mimeo.). 
Nepal. Draft Five Year Plan— A Synopsis. Katmandu: n. pub., 1956. 
Nepal. Administrative Reorganization Commission. "Report on Re- 
organization of District Administration in Nepal." Katmandu: 1957 

Nepal. Ministry of Economic Affairs. National Planning Council. The 

Economic Affairs Report, I, January 1963. 
Nepal. National Planning Council. Three Year Plan 1962-65. Kat- 
mandu : Education Press, 1962. 


Nepal Rastra Bank. Aimual Report of the Board of Directors to His 
Majesty's Government. (For the period ending July 15, 1957.) Kat- 
mandu: NRB, April 30, 1958. 

. Report of the Board of Directors to His Majesty's Government 

for the Fiscal Years 1957-58, 1958-59, 1959-60 and 1960-61. Kat- 
mandu: NRB, 1962. 

Okada, Ferdinand E. "Facts About Nepal." (Orientation Paper No. 8.) 
Katmandu: U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to 
Nepal, 1962 (mimeo.). 

. "Foreign Aid to Nepal." (Orientation Paper No. 5.) Katmandu: 

U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to Nepal, August 
1961 (mimeo.). 

Pant, Y. P. "Chinese Aid to Nepal," Far Eastern Economic Review, 

XXIV, October 26, 1961, 239-241. 

. "Nepal's Trade with India," Far Eastern Economic Review, 

XXV, March 16, 1962, 617-619. 

Regmi, Mahesh Chandra. "Industrial Potential of Nepal." Katmandu: 
1957 (typewritten). 

. "Recent Land Reform Programs in Nepal," Asian Survey, I, 

September 1961, 32-37. 

"Royal Nepal Airline Corporation," Far Eastern Economic Review, XL, 
May 2, 1963, 271-273. 

Shrestha, Badri Prasad. An Introduction to Nepalese Economy. Kat- 
mandu: Nepal Press, 1962. 

"Spreading Wings," Far Eastern Economic Review, XXIII, June 2, 
1960, 1120, 1121. 

"Treaty with India," Far Eastern Economic Review. XXIX, September 
22, 1960, 671-673. 

Tuker, Francis. Gorkha — The Story of the Gurkhas of Nepal. London: 
Constable, 1957. 

U.S. Agency for International Development. Report on Power Develop- 
ment Project — Nepal. New York : Scharff and Leerburger, 1962. 

U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of International Labor Affairs. Bu- 
reau of Labor Statistics. Directory of Labor Organizations: Asia and 
Australasia, II. Washington: GPO, 1963. 

Wood, Hugh B., and Knall, Bruno. "Educational Planning in Nepal and 
Its Economic Implications." (Draft Report of the UNESCO Com- 
mission to Nepal.) Katmandu: May 1962 (mimeo.). 



Acharya, Baburam. Land System in Nepal. (Trans, by Regmi Research 
Project, No. 136.) Katmandu: 1957 (unpublished typewritten 
manuscript) . 

"Acquisition of Guthi Lands," Gorkhapatra, August 9, 1963. (Trans, by 
Regmi Research Project, No. 894/63, Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, 
August 9, 1963.) 

"Agrarian Act in Nepal," International Financial News Survey^ XV, 
June 28, 1963, 226. 

"Agricultural Credit," Nepali, April 26, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi Re- 
search Project, No. 451/63, Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, April 
27, 1963.) 

"Agricultural Development in Nepal," Nepali, September 13, 1963. 
(Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 1028/63, Nepal Press Report, 
Katmandu, September 14, 1963.) 

"Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act, 1963," Dainik Nepal, May 19, 
1963. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 555/63, Nepal Press 
Report, Katmandu, May 20, 1963.) 

"Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act, 1963," Nay a Samaj, May 18, 
1963. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 546/63, Nepal Press 
Report, Katmandu, May 18-19, 1963.) 

"Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act, 1963," Nepal Samachar, May 
16, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 546/63, Nepal Press 
Report, Katmandu, May 18-19, 1963.) 

"Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act, 1963," Samaya, May 17, 1963. 
(Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 546/63, Nepal Press Report, 
Katmandu, May 18-19, 1963.) 

"Agricultural (New Arrangements) Act, 1963 Promulgated," Rashtriya 
Samhad Samiti, May 16, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, 
No. 528/63.) 

"Agriculture and U.S. Aid," Dainik Nepal, April 22, 1963. (Trans, by 
Regmi Research Project, No. 429/63) Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, 
April 23, 1963. 

"Agriculture Minister Explains Importance of Agricultural (New Ar- 
rangements) Act," Gorkhapatra, September 3, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi 
Research Project, No. 978/63, Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, Sep- 
tember 3, 1963.) 

Alexander, Ramy, and Bhattarai, Tara Dev. "Report on Small and Vil- 
lage Industries." Katmandu: n. pub., n.d. (mimeo.). 

Arjel, Devnedra Raj. Panchayat: A So do -Economic Necessity. Kat- 
mandu: Press Secretariat, Royal Palace, 1962. 


Aryal, Rameshwar Prasad. "Purva 1 Number (East No. 1)," Gork- 

hapatra, LXIV, May 30, 1963, 3, 4. (Trans, by Regmi Research Proj- 
ect, No. 594/63.) 
Asian Annual, 1955: The Eastern World Handbook. London: Eastern 

World, 1955. 
"The Atlantic Report on Nepal," Atlantic, CCXI, March 1963, 24-31. 
"A-jsterity Linked with Economy," Commoner, August 14, 1961, 1. 
Barma, Badrinarayan. "Mahakali Anchal" (Mahakali Zone), Gork- 

hapatra, October 3, 1963. (Condensed by Regmi Research Project, 

No. 1139/63.) 
Bhargava, G. S. "Rupee Export Restrictions," Hindustan Times, March 

25, 1963, 8. 
Bhatt, V. R. "Nepal is Hesitating to Sign Test-Ban Treaty," Hindustan 

Times Weekly, August 18, 1963, 8. 
"Birta Abolition," Gorkhapatra, August 9, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi Re- 
search Project, No. 894/63, Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, August 

9, 1963.) 
"Birta Abolition," Gorkhapatra, August 16, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi 

Research Project, No. 926/63, Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, August 

17-18, 1963.) 
Bowers, George V. Agricultural Development in Nepal. Washington: 

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, 1953. 
"Budget in Surplus," Far Eastern Economic Review, XXVIII, June 2, 

1960, 1111-1115. 
"Cadastral Survey to be Completed in Seven Years," Gorkhapatra, 

August 14, 1963. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 909/63, 

Nepal Press Report, Katmandu, August 14, 1963.) 
"Carriers Thrown off the Ropeway," Nepal Samachar, February 5, 1963. 

(Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 127/63, Nepal Press Report, 

Katmandu, February 5-6, 1963.) 
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Yearbook of Human Rights, 1953. New York: United Nations, 1955. 

Yearbook of Human Rights, 1957. New York: United Nations, 1957. 

Yearbook of Labor Statistics. Geneva: International Labour Office, 

(The following periodicals were used in the preparation of this 
section: Motherland, from February 1 to August 20, 1963; Commoner, 
from February 1 to August 20, 1963; Times of India, from February 
10 to August 1, 1963; Hindustan Times, from March 10 to October 
15, 1963; Regmi Research Project Reports (Katmandu), from Janu- 
ary 1, 1957 to August 20, 1963; Asian Recorder, from January 23, 
1960 to July 29, 1963.) 





The revolt of 1950, which ended 104 years of Rana autocracy and 
restored the authority of the King, created a pattern of dissidence which 
has not disappeared. Various groups with political ambitions or local 
grievances have not hesitated to resort to terror and violence. More- 
over, a growing number of educated young Nepalese, unable to find 
employment appropriate to their training, offer possible opportunities 
for exploitation by Communists or subversive groups. The densely pop- 
ulated and socially complex Katmandu Valley and parts of the Tarai 
especially have been subject to political disturbances, but communica- 
tions and transport difficulties have helped to limit their spread. These 
same factors, however, have also favored the activities of subversive 
elements in areas remote from the capital. 

Ethnic diversity is attended by relatively little friction, and a tra- 
ditional respect for authority reinforced by the controls of caste and 
family tend to keep the incidence of serious crimes low. Judging by 
reports in the Nepalese press, the most frequent crimes are: theft, moti- 
vated by economic hardship; assault, arising from quarrels; and gang 
robbery (commonly called dacoityt, which in many cases appears to be 
instigated by political dissidents. Punishments are not regarded as ex- 
cessive by the general community and, on the whole, conform to those 
imposed in other South Asian countries. The death penalty has been 
abolished, except for treason. 

A new legal code (Mulki Ain), effective on August 17, 1963, decreed 
everyone theoretically equal in the eyes of the law, thus ending legal 
discrimination based on caste, creed and sex. The code concedes the 
right to divorce and permits intercaste marriages involving conversions 
(see ch. 5, Family and Social Structure). The adoption of the code by 
the King's own initiative, ending centuries of feudal practices, placed 
the Communist leaders in a quandry; if they supported it they risked 
being called puppets of the regime, and if they denounced it they might 
be accused of favoring a return to the old order. Meanwhile, at the lower 
administrative levels, the judiciary and law enforcement responsibilities 
were in a state of transition from the system of district governors {bada 
hakim) to the village and district panchayat (see ch. 11, Constitution 
and Government). Hence, the authorities expect some time to elapse 
before old customs can be discarded and the new code put into practice 
throughout the land. 


Since 1951 the police and the judical systems have been undergoing 
reorganization to make them uniformly effective throughout the coun- 
try, a task which has been made extremely difficult by political insta- 
bility and lack of communications facilities. The process has been 
closely observed and significantly influenced by India, which has a vital 
interest in the maintenance of order in Nepal. There appears to be rela- 
tively little corruption among the police. They expect and receive pref- 
erential treatment without arousing resentment, apparently because the 
popular attitude toward authority is still strongly rooted in the feudal 


Until the middle of the nineteenth century, police and judicial func- 
tions in many areas were in the hands of local princes (rajas), who were 
virtually autonomous rulers of their people. Where the central govern- 
ment ruled outside the capital, authority was delegated to the local 
governors, later known as bada hakim, who in turn depended on village 
headmen and village councils to maintain order in their respective com- 
munities. The scope and intensity of police and judicial activities varied 
largely with local leaders and customs. Justice generally was arbitrary 
and punishments harsh. Caste and standing with the authorities greatly 
influenced court judgments and police attitudes. For certain crimes the 
plaintiff could summarily execute the offender. Torture by fire, water 
or mutilation was not abolished until 1851, after Prime Minister Sir 
Jang Bahadur Rana had visited England and observed judicial prac- 
tices there. In 1853 he published the first codified legal text, which, with 
amendments, still serves as the basic law of the land. 

The country's laws, civil and criminal, are based on the ancient Hindu 
scriptural laws (shastra) embodying a social code and standards of be- 
havior. These include provisions which exempt Brahmans and women 
from capital punishment. 


Police functions in the outlying districts, because of the relative iso- 
lation of most communities, are generally limited to the maintenance 
of order by small detachments of the Civil Police Force supplemented 
by a few locally recruited policemen. Efforts by the central government 
to enlarge its authority over local affairs are generally regarded by the 
mountain peoples as encroachments on their traditional independence. 
Hence, old practices tend to persist in the hinterland despite changes in 
government and government policy at Katmandu. 

Under the Rana 

The Rana did not establish a nationwide police system, although 
Prime Minister (Maharaja) Chandra Shamsher Rana, who ruled from 


1901 to 1929, partly modernized the police forces in Katmandu, other 
large towns, and some sections of the Tarai. In the capital, at least, 
applicants were admitted to the force only after completing a training 
course and passing an examination. Meanwhile, areas not easily acces- 
sible from Katmandu continued to be without regularly organized police 
forces. Villages were expected to police themselves. The militia and 
some army units stationed in the districts also exercised police powers, 
although their primary function was to guard the frontiers and protect 
the people from large forces of bandits, generally called dacoits, that 
were common, particularly in the Tarai border area. 

Under the Monarchy 

One result of the revolt of 1950-51 was the creation during this period 
of the Raksha Dal as the militant arm of the Nepali Congress party. 
This paramilitary body of some 5,000 men, most of whom were insur- 
rectionists, was taken over by the new government in February 1951 
and given police functions as a counterforce to the army, which had 
supported the Ranas during the rebellion. By the beginning of 1952, 
approximately 23,500 men were engaged in police functions. They were 
divided into 5 distinct organizations: the Civil Police, 2,000; the Raksha 
Dal, 5,000; the Katmandu police force (Randal), 500; the militia, 
15,000; and military detachments assigned to police duties, 1,000. As 
a step toward attaining a centralized police system, the government, in 
May 1952, attempted to merge the Randal into the Raksha Dal, but 
most of the Randal opposed the merger and some 200 resigned rather 
than accept their new status. In theory, the Minister of Home Affairs 
had authority over all police forces in the country; actually he had little 
control over the militia and the military units on police duties. 

A series of events between 1952 and 1954 revealed the need for basic 
reforms in the police system. In January 1952 many members of the 
Raksha Dal, generally regarded as dependable government supporters, 
defected and participated in the uprising led by Kunwar Indrajit Singh 
in protest against the presence of Ranas in the Cabinet (see ch. 12, 
Political Dynamics). About a year later the entire police system was 
badly shaken by the allegation that a number of top police officials were 
plotting to overthrow the government. More than 80 police officials 
were arrested, the Inspector General of Police resigned, and the Deputy 
Inspector General was suspended. 

Meanwhile, complaints that the police forces were ineffective came 
from many districts and from various political party leaders. In June 
1953 troops had to be rushed from Katmandu to various sections of the 
Tarai to aid the police in quelling disturbances among the farmers 
carrying on a campaign launched by the Nepali Congress party against 
the payment of rent (see ch. 12, Political Dynamics). 

In 1952 the government acted to modernize the police system and 


improve its effectiveness. Assistance from India was requested and an 
Indian police official was sent to Katmandu to help with the reorgani- 
zation. Some Nepalese policemen were sent to the Indian police training 
school at Moradabad, near New Delhi, for training to supplement the 
instruction given at the Nepalese police training school which had been 
set up on the Indian model in July 1951 at Bhimphedi, 15 miles south- 
west of Katmandu. In May 1954 the Minister of Home Affairs, Tanka 
Prasad Acharya, announced a plan for sweeping changes in the police 
system. Under the plan the five groups then performing police functions 
were to be replaced by a single group under the control of the central 
government. The police force was to be reduced in size but improved 
in efficiency. The militia was to be disbanded and reorganized as a 
"road army" to aid in the road construction program. Military detach- 
ments doing police duties were to be returned to military functions. The 
Civil Police, Raksha Dal and Randal forces were to be merged into a 
single force of about 6,500 men and officers. The new force was to receive 
increased pay and allowances. 

The Minister's plans were obstructed, however, by intra-Cabinet dis- 
putes in the Matrika Prasad Koirala government (see ch. 12, Political 
Dynamics). Nevertheless, King Mahendra, on October 13, 1955, prom- 
ulgated the Nepal Police Act, the provisions of which followed the gen- 
eral outline of the original plan. Besides defining police duties and 
functions, the Act effected a general reduction in the size of the police 
force and a complete reorganization of its administrative structure. 

In accordance with the Act the country is for police purposes divided 
into three zones (frequently called ranges by English-speaking Nepal- 
ese) : eastern, central and western, with headquarters at Biratnagar 
(Eastern Tarai), Katmandu (Katmandu Valley) and Nepalganj (Far 
Western Tarai), respectively. Each zonal headquarters, under a deputy 
inspector general of police, is responsible for several subsections com- 
posed of 4 or 5 police districts operating under a superintendent of police. 
A district superintendent is in charge of the police stations in his area. 
Each station normally is supervised by a head constable. He is in charge 
of several constables who perform the basic police functions — crime in- 
vestigations and arrests. Each constable customarily is responsible for 
3 or 4 villages. As of 1963, the system includes: 21 police district in- 
spectors (1 at each police district headquarters) ; guards for 32 bada 
hakim offices and for 43 tax collection (revenue) ofl5ces; and personnel 
for 291 outposts. The Central Police Headquarters, under the Inspector 
General of the Nepal Police Force in the Ministry of Home Affairs, is 
provided with: a criminal investigation division, equipped with photo- 
graphic and fingerprinting equipment; intelligence, counterespionage, 
motor transport and radio sections; a traffic police company; a central 
training center; and a band. 



The judicial system under the Rana, despite some reform measures, 
remained traditional in character. The code introduced by the first 
Rana Prime Minister, Sir Jang Bahadur Rana (in office from 1846 to 
1877), combined ancient Hindu sanctions with rules of behavior which 
had evolved over the centuries among the Newari in the Katmandu 
Valley. Under this vague instrument, magistrates and justices had wide 
latitude in deciding cases according to their own interpretations. There 
was a motive for caution, however, in the provision that if a higher 
court reversed the decision of a lower court, the magistrate of the lower 
court was liable to fine, corporal punishment or even execution. Court 
procedures varied greatly. The accuser was placed in jail along with 
the accused. Writs of habeas corpus were not issued. Prisoners often 
waited many months before trial, and the onus of proof of innocence 
rested on the accused, who was tried without a jury. Under the rules, 
no man could be convicted of a criminal charge without a confession, 
but confessions were commonly extracted by torture. 

The Rana courts had both executive and judicial powers, and the 
Prime Minister himself was the supreme judicial authority. He could 
call any case from any court and dispose of it as he saw fit; his decision 
was final. 

The court of appeal (bharadari) sat in two groups. Each group con- 
sisted of eight or more judges presided over by one of the near relatives 
of the Maharaja. The bharadari court was assisted by four administra- 
tive sections, each headed by an official {hakim), whose principal duty 
was to prepare and present the cases before one of the two groups of 

Appeals from the bharadari court to the Maharaja were first reviewed 
by a judicial body called the niksari court, which consisted of several 
judges drawn from among lawyers or public servants, such as princi- 
pality chiefs and army generals. The most important cases were not 
dealt with by this court but were sent directly to the Maharaja. 

The court system was reorganized between 1905 and 1930 by Prime 
Minister Chandra Shamsher Rana. He established two major courts 
of appeal in Katmandu — the diwani court for civil cases and the fuzdari 
court for all criminal cases except those which military courts {sadar 
jayigi kotwali) and police courts (thana) were empowered to handle. 
The police courts, executing the direct orders of the Maharaja, were also 
empowered to handle certain civil cases, including those involving at- 
tempts to convert Nepalese to Christianity or any other foreign religion. 
In addition to these courts, a special appellate body, called the amini 
goswara court sat in Katmandu to hear appeals from certain courts in 
the Tarai controlled by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

The Tarai and the Mountain Regions had virtually separate court 


systems. Fifty provincial courts were authorized to hear both civil and 
criminal cases: 28, called adalat courts, were in the Mountain Regions; 
and 22, called amini courts, were in the Tarai. The Mountain Region 
also had 18 additional courts composed of senior military officers. It was 
the responsibility of these courts to see that justice was expedited in 
the adalat courts, and they also served as courts of first appeal. In the 
Tarai there were 9 similar courts and 1 court of first appeal; they were 
presided over by bada hakiin instead of military officers. 

New reforms were contained in the Constitutional Act of 1948, which 
went into effect in 1950, just before the insurrection which ousted its 
Rana authors from power. The primary purposes of the Act were to 
integrate the lower courts with the new panchayat system which was 
to be developed and to free all courts from the control of the executive 
(see ch. 11, Constitution and Government). 

Outstanding features of the proposed reforms were: administration 
of elementary civil and criminal justice by the village panchayat ; trial 
by judges in public courts, including courts of first instance and courts 
of appeal; establishment of a Supreme Court {pradhan nyayalya) con- 
sisting of a Chief Justice and a maximum of 12 other judges appointed 
by the Maharaja; and provisions for the dismissal of judges only by the 
Maharaja on request from the legislature, based on proved misbehavior 
or incapacity. 

The end of the Rana rule in 1951 prevented the application of the 
Constitutional Act. Its influence, however, was reflected in subsequent 
developments. The repeated emphasis on judicial reform in the pub- 
lished programs of successive governments since 1951 suggests that this 
objective has not been satisfactorily attained. Some progress has been 
made, however. The Prime Minister has been divested of his judicial 
powers, and he no longer functions as the highest court of appeal. The 
Supreme Court Act of 1952 established this court as the highest judicial 
body in the country, with powers and structure corresponding generally 
to those of the Supreme Court in India. At this level only have judicial 
and executive functions been completely separated. 

Under the panchayat law of 1952, jurisdiction over petty crimes in 
the outlying areas was vested in the village panchayats, which took 
over this responsibility from the headmen or village councils, whichever 
happened to preside. In 1957, however, the village headmen and coun- 
cils, traditionally vested with a high degree of autonomy, were again 
entrusted with keeping peace and order and the panchayats were offi- 
cially relieved of their judicial functions, which they seem to have per- 
formed well in most instances. The change may have been made because 
the isolation of many villages, particularly those in western Nepal, 
made it difficult to maintain adequate liaison between the panchayat 
and the central authorities. A month or more is required for couriers 


to reach the western districts from Katmandu, and radio communica- 
tions are not yet installed in all areas. Hence, information regarding 
new laws and directives is generally lacking. 

As early as 1953 the government began sending traveling courts into 
the districts. Initially concerned mainly with land disputes, they appar- 
ently acquired additional functions. In 1959 several of these courts, 
popularly called touring commissions, each consisting of two justices 
appointed by tlie King, were inspecting various district courts. In addi- 
tion, they reportedly handled almost 700 cases during the year and 
reviewed hundreds of appeals and police reports. By 1963 they were 
empowered to audit public accounts, hear complaints of all kinds, make 
arrests, hold trials and impose sentences. 

The application of reform measures inevitably encountered obstacles. 
In 1953, for example, the Supreme Court, in exercising its newly granted 
independence, affirmed its right to issue writs of habeas corpus and ruled 
that the government had no right to imprison persons under the Public 
Safety Act (1952), which authorized imprisonment without trial for 
offenses against the state. The King then moved to reduce the powers 
of the judiciary. In February 1954 he issued a proclamation which de- 
clared in substance that the ultimate judicial authority rested in the 
Crown. The proclamation also deprived the Supreme Court of the right 
to issue writs of habeas corpus in certain types of cases. After a public 
outcry against this curtailment of judicial authority, the government 
relented, and in at least one instance honored the Court's action in issu- 
ing a writ for the release of a person imprisoned under the Public 
Safety Act. In 1955 King Mahendra proclaimed the Supreme Court the 
highest court of appeal in the land. Appeals became numerous, every 
appeals court was overworked, backlogs developed and cases were not 
heard for many months after they were presented. 

An important step toward a unified judicial system came in 1956 with 
the establishment, mostly in the Tarai, of a series of district courts to 
hear civil and criminal cases. Appeals courts were set up in Katmandu. 
All were headed by the Supreme Court. In December 1959 further 
judicial developments included a proclamation by the King authorizing 
district courts to handle original cases of all kinds within their respective 
areas and any cases sent to them by the Supreme Court. The proclama- 
tion also i)rescribed the establishment of at least three so-called high 
courts, one in Katmandu Valley, one in eastern Nepal at Ham, and the 
other in western Nepal at Napalganj. These courts, each composed of 
one chief judge, a maximum of two other judges and additional judges 
as required, were to handle appeals against the decisions of district 
judges. Appeals could be made in cases involving a fine of NR2,000 
(for value of the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) or more, or NR1,000 
and a prison sentence of 1 year or more, or those involving especially 


complicated legal questions. Appeals from a high court to tiie Supreme 
Court could be made in cases involving complicated legal questions, in 
interpretation of the Constitution, and in sentences imposing capital 
punishment or imprisonment for more than 5 years and a fine of NR5,000 
or more. 

After the King took over direct control of the government in 1960, 
he pressed for modernization of the court system. By April 1961 he 
had proclaimed several important reforms. For the first time public 
prosecutors were attached to each of the high courts, and prosecutors 
as well as defense advocates were made available to the district courts. 
He also abolished the Rana practice of requiring the accuser to go to 
jail along with the accused, pending trial. After a general reorganization 
of the judicial structure in November 1961, the three high courts were 
discontinued in December, and their nine judges were attached to the 
Supreme Court as additional judges for assignment to traveling courts 
as needed. 

The Constitution of 1962 stipulates that the King shall appoint the 
Chief Justice after consulting with members of the Council of State, 
and that he shall appoint other judges after consulting with the Chief 
Justice. Requirements for appointment include a minimum of 5 years' 
experience as a district judge or an equivalent judicial post and a mini- 
mum of 7 years' experience as a government or private pleader. The 
judges may remain in office until they have reached 65 years of age. 

The Supreme Court may award punishment prescribed by law "in 
respect to contempt of itself or its subordinate courts." It also is em- 
powered to issue orders and directives, including writs of habeas corpus 
and mandamus, and injunctions for ensuring the exercise of the funda- 
mental rights granted under Article 3 of the Constitution (see ch. 11, 
Constitution and Government). 

By June 1963 the court system was headed by the Supreme Court, 
composed of a Chief Justice and 9 judges (4 principal judges and 5 
additional judges) and a small secretarial staff. There were 11 district 
courts and 62 subdistrict courts, commonly called regional courts. The 
Attorney General (chief public prosecutor) was assisted by 3 govern- 
ment advocates, and each district and regional court was provided with 
public prosecutors and defense advocates. 

The large backlog of cases in 1955 apparently had been virtually 
eliminated by April 1963, when the King retired 5 Supreme Court judges, 
reportedly because they lacked sufficient work. Despite reform and 
reorganization, many weaknesses remain to be overcome. Some cases 
in 1963 were still being tried by improvised special courts. Some deci- 
sions still appeared to be influenced by caste and the standing of the 
involved parties with the King and the government officials. Regula- 
tions for uniform legal and court procedures were lacking. Areas of 


jurisdiction beMeen the various courts were vaguely defined. In some 
places — as in the Jumla and Mustang Districts — judicial powers were 
still exercised by courts administered by local rajas (rajyaia) , whose 
hereditary authority is a vestige of the feudal past (see ch. 2, Historical 
Setting) . 

Crimes and Punishments 

Treason and other major offenses against the state are regarded as 
the most serious crimes. Less serious, but listed under the State Case 
Act of 1961 as offenses requiring primary investigations by the state 
itself, are: crimes against the throne or members of the royal family, 
misappropriation of public funds, destruction of public property, forgery 
of official seals, counterfeiting, attempting to convert Hindus to Chris- 
tianity or any other foreign religion, propagation of atheism, murder, 
rape, dacoity, arson, cow slaughter and gambling. 

The death sentence may be imposed only for treason. Punishment 
for other crimes appears to be limited to imprisonment and fines. The 
severity of punishment depends on the seriousness of the crime, the 
degree of culpability and any mitigating circumstances. This is illus- 
trated by the sentences imposed in April 1963 by a tribunal in Katmandu 
upon 17 persons convicted of attempting to dynamite a number of public 
buildings. All received prison sentences: 8 for life and 9 for periods 
ranging from 6 months to 5 years, and fines ranging up to NR5,000. 
In February 1963 a junior ofiicial in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
was sentenced to 6 months in prison and fined NR500 for forging official 
documents; 2 of his colleagues were fined NR1,000 each for their part 
in the offense. 

After taking control in 1960 the King promulgated several laws pro- 
hibiting activities prejudicial to national unity. The Public Security 
Act of August 1961, for example, authorized the detention of violators 
for a maximum period of 3 years without trial. The Act further stipu- 
lated that its provisions could not be questioned in any court of law. 
FurthermaOre, the law prohibiting political activities, passed in April 
1963, stated that violators would incur a maximum penalty of 3 years' 
imprisonment, a fine of NR1,500, or both. 

The Penal System 

State-supported penal institutions include the central prison at Kat- 
mandu and a jail at most of the district capitals. All are administered 
by the Ministry of Home Affairs. Prisoners seem to be well cared for 
and many are employed on various public works projects. 

Jail reform measures, announced in July 1963, apply particularly 
to the central prison at Katmandu, where the facilities presumably are 
better than elsewhere. The principal reforms include arrangements for 


medical treatment and for enlargement and modernization of the cells, 
provision for indoor and outdoor recreation and permission to dine with 
relatives during festivals and to see visitors at specified hours on certain 
days. In addition, the Cottage Industries Department was directed to 
supervise the operation of workshops in which prisoners are to be 
trained to make cotton and woolen cloth, hosiery, baskets, mats and 
aluminum utensils. Because of limited capacity, only about 100 out 
of the 1,200 prisoners can be accommodated in the workshops. The 
reforms lack provisions for photographic files or for record-maintenance 


The authorities have successfully dealt with the challenges of various 
dissident groups; but in two notable instances — in 1955 and again in 
1960 — the threat to the state has appeared so serious that the monarch 
has felt it necessary to assume direct control of the government. On 
three occasions India, upon request, has sent forces to help restore civil 

Meanwhile, all politically articulate Nepalese elements, except the 
Communists, have been concerned that continuing agitation and acts 
of violence might jeopardize the country's sovereignty by providing an 
occasion for intervention by the Chinese Communists. Consciousness 
of the threat heightened with Chinese aggression against India in 1962, 
and as of the end of 1963, Nepal had enjoyed more than a year without 
major civil disturbances. 

The government appears to be in firm control of the country and 
capable of coping successfully in the foreseeable future with either 
subversion from the outside or threats to internal security generated 
domestically. Potentially subversive groups lack organization and effec- 
tive leadership, and King Mahendra is vigorously moving ahead with 
the establishment of the panchayat system. The government is actively 
indoctrinating the people in the panchayat concept and attempting to 
improve administrative channels between Katmandu and the outlying 
districts. Governmental representatives are visiting various parts of 
the country, talking to regional officials and villagers, listening to their 
grievances and, where possible, taking authorized remedial action on 
the spot. 


Nepalese history is replete with incidents of intrigue, conspiracy and 
violence perpetrated in the fierce competition both within the ruling 
families and among the rulers of the small principalities into which the 
country was long divided. After control of the central government passed 
from the kings of the Shah dynasty in 1846 to the hereditary prime 


ministers of the Rana family, a series of sanguinary episodes marked 
the conspiratorial efforts of various groups to restore effective power to 
the monarch or to seize power themselves (see ch. 2, Historical Setting; 
ch. 12, Political Dynamics). 

Early in the twentieth century, with increasing numbers of Nepalese 
youths returning from service in India and elsewhere with British 
Gurkha military units, a growing national consciousness became appar- 
ent. Educated Nepalese, outside the ruling class, tended to blame the 
Ranas for the country's backwardness and for its enforced isolation. 
By 1935 a group of five young dissidents secretly formed the People's 
Party (Praja Parishad), w^hich sought to restore the King to power. 
The party virtually disintegrated in 1940 when most of its leadership 
was either imprisoned or executed for alleged participation in an anti- 
Rana conspiracy. Despite repression, anti-Rana agitation increased, 
and it was stimulated by the independence movement in India. The 
Nepali National Congress, formed in January 1946 in Banaras (India), 
also was dedicated to replacing Rana autocracy with a constitutional 
monarchy. In 1948 a member of the royal family and some disgruntled 
Class "C" Ranas combined to form the Nepali Democratic Congress. 
It merged with the Nepali National Congress in March 1950 to form 
the Nepali Congress, which had the political and financial backing of 
Subarna Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana — one of the few Class "A" 
Rana who supported the King. In effect, the Congress was a consoli- 
dation of forces seeking to overthrow the Rana regime (see ch. 5, Family 
and Social Structure; ch. 12, Political Dynamics). 

The new party became increasingly militant and immediately came 
under suspicion when the press, in September 1950, reported another 
plot, allegedly to murder the Prime Minister, Mohan Shamsher Jang 
Bahadur Rana, the Commander in Chief of the Army and other promi- 
nent Ranas in Katmandu. The Congress leaders denied that they were 
involved in such a plot, but they did reveal plans to organize an armed 
force. With this they intended to capture a district (apparently Palpa, 
some 75 miles west of Katmandu), help the King escape from Rana 
control, and assist him in setting up a government in the captured area. 

When the Chinese Communists moved into Tibet in October 1950, 
India gravely concerned about the deteriorating security situation in 
Nepal, decided to aid the anti-Rana elements. On November 6, King 
Tribhuvan was given refuge at the residence of the Indian Ambassador 
in Katmandu. The Rana authorities, noting India's firm opposition 
and the demonstrations in the streets in support of the King, stopped 
threatening to remove the King forcibly to the palace. Despite police 
surveillance the royal family was able to escape to India in two 
Indian planes. 

Meanwhile, the situation was developing into a full-scale insurrec- 
tion. Early in November 1950 the rebel forces, under Nepali Congress 


leadership, captured Birganj, the most convenient crossing point into 
India south of Katmandu Valley. By November 13 they had moved 
north some 30 miles to Amlekhganj, where they met resistance from 
Rana government units which forced them back to the Birganj area. A 
week later government troops were in Birganj, and the Congress forces 
presumably had infiltrated into India or had disappeared inio the town. 

West of Birganj the Congress elements, under K. I. Singh, gained con- 
trol of Butwal, in the border district of Bhairawa. Singh claimed he could 
have captured the entire district if Congress leaders had provided him 
with arms and ammunition. Meanwhile, leaders of the semiautonomous 
Kiranti proclaimed the establishment of an independent republic in the 
northeastern part of the country (see ch. 2, Historical Setting; ch. 4, 
Ethnic Groups and Languages) . 

In addition to armed opposition in remote areas, hostile demonstra- 
tions in Katmandu Valley. Indian support of the insurgents and British 
aloofness, the Rana regime was confronted with internal disagreements. 
Some of the young, liberal Rana began to favor an Indian proposal for 
a constitutional monarchy. Debate on the proposal v/as abruptly ended 
by renewed military action. By December 18 the rebels had captured 
Bhojpur, Khotang, Dingla and the industrial town of Biratnagar, all in 
eastern Nepal. In western Nepal the towns of Chainpur, Kailali, 
Kanchanpur and others were in their hands. 

Faced with these developments and handicapped by inability to move 
troops from eastern to western Nepal without passing through India, on 
January 7, 1951, the regime accepted the compromise settlement for a 
constitutional monarchy which had been proposed by India. By the end 
of the month the settlement was accepted also by all Nepali Congress 
leaders except K. I. Singh and a few of his followers in the Bhairawa 
District of Western Tarai. They refused to lay down their arms, reject- 
ing any compromise with the Rana regime. The end of Rana rule finally 
came on February 15, 1951, when the King returned to Katmandu as 
head of state^ and preparations began for an elected constituent assem- 
bly and for the appointment of a Rana-Nepali Congress interim Cabi- 
net (see ch. 12, Political Dynamics) . 

The new government soon became the target of insurgent forces. In 
western Nepal, K. I. Singh, with some 300 of his followers, refused to 
recognize the King's authority. In May 1951 he and about 100 of his 
men, including some members of the newly formed Communist Party 
of Nepal, were jailed in Bhairawa by the Nepalese authorities assisted by 
Indian forces. Singh escaped in July but was soon rearrested and im- 
prisoned in the Singha Durbar in Katmandu. 

Meanwhile, some of the Ranas, still hoping to regain power, formed 
the Gorkha Dal party. They were joined by a sizable number of army 
officers and, after making exaggerated claims regarding their strength, 


they demanded representation in the Cabinet. The Minister of Home 
Affairs, B. P. Koirala, charged that the party was inciting anarchy in 
the country and, on April 9, 1951, he imprisoned its president and sec- 
retary general. Gorkha Dal partisans stormed the prison, released the 
two leaders and gathered threateningly at the home of the Minister, 
whose guards fired into the crowd, killing two persons and wounding 
many others. The party was banned on April 15, and the next day the 
King, determined to eliminate Rana influence from the army, dismissed 
some 30 officers for complicity in the disorders. Despite this setback the 
Gorkha Dal leaders by late 1951 had formed the Gorkha Parishad 
(Gurkha Party), with branches established in various parts of the 
country, but they did not thereafter disturb the peace. 

Violence flared up again on November 6, 1951, when police fired on a 
procession of students in Katmandu. Incited by Communist Party 
agitators, the students then demanded the immediate dismissal of the 
Inspector General of Police. The Prime Minister's criticism of the police 
action embarrassed the Minister of Home Affairs, who, in support of the 
police, contended that the demonstrators drew fire only after they at- 
tempted to disarm the guards at police headquarters. The incidents pre- 
cipitated a government crisis, and within a few days the Nepali 
Congress party ministers and the Prime Minister resigned. 

By the autumn of 1951 many of the former insurrectionists in the 
paramilitary Raksha Dal were becoming disgruntled because members of 
the Rana family still held key government posts. In western Nepal dis- 
affected elements tended to join the K. I. Smgh partisans, who were still 
resisting the authorities and continuing the anti-Rana struggle in the 
Bhairawa area. In eastern Nepal many came under the influence of the 
newly formed State Senate (Rashtriya Mahasabha), a group which 
pressed for the independence of the Kiranti, who claimed that they were 
not under the jurisdiction of the new government. 

Early in January 1952 the top leaders of the dissident groups, along 
with K. I. Singh, were under guard in the Singha Durbar in Katmandu. 
They were, however, able to maintain contact with confederates on the 
outside. On January 22, about 1,200 Raksha Dal men, acting under 
Singh's directions, attempted a coup d'etat. They stormed the Singha 
Durbar, released Singh and 2 leaders of the Kiranti separatist movement, 
seized the arsenal and the airport and cut telephone communications with 
India. The army, remaining loyal to the King, quelled the revolt within 
24 hours. But Singh, with about 30 of his followers, escaped to Lhasa, 
Tibet, and later they went on to Peiping. On January 23 the King 
declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew and banned political 
meetings and demonstrations. On January 25 he outlawed the Com- 
munist Party and on January 27, the State Senate. Later in the year 
the Raksha Dal was disbanded, and some of its trusted members were 
accepted in the police force. 


Government Policy 

No general definition of subversion has been written into law, but 
Article 9 of the Constitution of December 16, 1962, prescribes that the 
principal duty of every citizen is to be faithful to the nation and loyal 
to the State. Article 7 stipulates that, in the interest of the public good, 
laws and regulations may be enacted to restrict or control the exercise 
of fundamental rights. In addition, laws may be enacted to prevent 
attempts to "subvert this Constitution or any law in force for the time 
being or any other acts of subversion." 

By the end of 1963 the King and the National Panchayat had promul- 
gated numerous acts and decrees which prescribed punishments for any 
antinational and antisocial activities likely to endanger the peace and 
tranquility of the country by inciting hatred against the government or 
any particular group or community. 

The leaders of the government are prone to assume that all opposition 
is potentially subversive in intent. Probably coupled with this official 
attitude is a tendency among the people generally to attach no particu- 
lar stigma to the person accused or convicted of subversive acts. 

Communist Activity 

The Communist Party of Nepal was formed in West Bengal, India, in 
September 1949 by Nepalese members of the Communist Party of India. 
There is evidence that some of these members, including Man Mohan 
Adhikari and Pushpa Lai, were involved in the strike of the Biratnagar 
Jute Mill workers in 1947. Both men continue to be prominent Party 
leaders (see ch. 18, Labor). 

The Party, since its formation, has been handicapped by factionalism 
and an apparent lack of aggressive leadership. Moreover, governmental 
proscription has forced it to operate underground for more than half of its 
existence — from January 1952 to April 1956, for alleged complicity in 
the abortive coup led by K. I. Singh, and since January 1961, when the 
King banned all political parties. 

Initially, the Party seemed to have acquired considerable influence, 
especially among students in Katmandu, jute mill workers in Biratnagar 
and landless peasants in the Tarai. By early 1950 some radical elements 
in the Nepali National Congress reportedly had switched to the Com- 
munist Party, and some Party members had infiltrated into the National 
Congress (see ch. 12, Political Dynamics). 

Meanwhile, the Party benefited from favorable propaganda based on 
Communist successes in China and Tibet. Many Nepalese mountain 
people with social and religious ties in Tibet appear to have been favor- 
ably impressed by the reports of new roads, schools and hospitals in 
nearby Tibetan towns. These impressions were soon offset, however, 
when their Tibetan neighbors began to flee from Chinese Communist 
repressions in the occupied areas. 


During the anti-Rana rebellion of 1950-51, Communists were par- 
ticularly active in Bhairawa District in the Western Tarai, where the 
Nepali Congress forces, commanded by K. I. Singh, were also engaged. 
Both groups, operating separately, but for the same objectives, refused 
to recognize the cease-fire agreement negotiated by leaders of the Nepali 
Congress and of the government. The dissidents were suppressed only 
after Nepalese troops aided by Indian Army units from Bihar had been 
brought against them. 

The Communists were among the more active of some 35 political 
groups competing for power in 1951 after the overthrow of the Rana. 
They attempted to associate themselves with the predominant Nepali 
Congress and urged it to press for objectives which would, in effect, 
turn the anti-Rana movement into a mass struggle for land and social 
reforms on the Communist model. Late in 1951 the Communists joined 
with the People's Party to form the United Front, which opposed any 
compromise with Rana elements. Disgruntled by its failure to receive 
any representation on the 45-member consultative council appointed 
by the King in October 1951, the Front soon broke up. 

The Communists then turned to Singh, supporting his effort to over- 
throw the government by force in January 1952. Although banned 
because of their complicity in this venture, the Party continued to pur- 
sue its objectives through various front organizations, such as the Kisan 
Sangh (Peasant Association), the Mahila Sangh (Women's Associa- 
tion), the Jan Adhikar Suraksha Samiti (People's Rights Protection 
Committee), the All-Nepalese Students' Federation, the Nepalese Peace 
Committee and some trade union groups. Government controls were 
lax, and the Communists were actually dominant in some of the remote 
mountainous areas where governmental authority was not yet fully 

The Party was also active in the Jhapa area on the Indian border 
in the southeastern Tarai, where it stimulated a wave of lawlessness 
in April and May 1952. The instrument employed appears to have 
been the Kisan Sabha (Peasant Assembly), a Communist-dominated 
Indian pressure group exploiting peasant grievances. In August 1952 
guerrillas attempted to capture Jumla, a district capital near the Tibetan 
border in northwestern Nepal. In July 1953, Communist-inspired peas- 
ant uprisings in the southwestern Tarai were quelled with the aid of 
Indian troops. In support of the anti-Indian feeling— which in 1953-54 
was fostered by the Nepali Congress— the Communists and the Gurkha 
Party led demonstrations in May 1954 against the visiting Indian 
parliamentary delegation to Katmandu. In August 1954 the People's 
Rights Protection Committee sponsored public mass meetings in Kat- 
mandu, denouncing "American imperialist activities." 

During this period, Communists, through the front organizations, 


pressed for radical land reforms calling for elimination of the wealthy 
landowning class and redistribution of land among tenants and landless 
peasants. In foreign affairs, emphasis was mainly on "peace" propa- 
ganda, "non-alignment" with any bloc, denouncement of "imperialist 
war mongers," and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the 
Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China. The Party seemed 
to be split into two factions over India, one favoring and the other oppos- 
ing friendship and cooperation. The anti-Indian faction, denouncing 
the Indo-Nepal treaty of 1950 as a violation of Nepal's sovereignty, 
demanded the withdrawal of the Indian military mission and the re- 
moval of Indian personnel from border check posts (see ch. 22, The 
Armed Forces). 

The ban imposed on the Party by the government in January 1952 
was lifted on April 16, 1956, after the Party's underground leader, 
Man Mohan Adhikari, defiantly notified the government that the Com- 
munists intended to come out into the open on that date. The govern- 
ment's decision was announced following written assurances from Com- 
munists leaders that their policies would be pursued within the limits 
of the constitutional monarchy. The legalized Party sought but failed 
to get representation in the successive governments, even that of K. I. 
Singh, who had returned from Communist China in September 1955 
with the public acclaim of a national hero and had drawn some promi- 
nent Communists into his newly formed United Democratic Party. 
Resentful over their lack of representation in the government, the 
Communists strongly denounced the presence in the Cabinet of "inde- 
pendents" acting as "agents of the feudal hierarchy." The Second Party 
Congress, held in June 1957, endorsed the Party's existing programs 
and policies, placing special emphasis on abrogation of the treaties 
with India and Great Britain which authorized the recruitment of 
Nepalese for Gurkha regiments (see ch. 12, Political Dynamics). 

In the parliamentary elections of February-April 1959, only 48 out 
of about 850 candidates were Communists and only 4 of the Communists 
were successful, as compared to 74 for the leading Nepali Congress 
party. The Party's Secretary General, Keshar Jang Raimajhi, running 
in the Palpa District, was defeated. In an apparent reaction to this 
poor showing the Party's Central Committee, in September 1960, recom- 
mended an extensive revision of the Party's organization and prepared 
an elaborate political program aimed at the establishment of a "peoples 
democracy" under the existing parliamentary system. It was stipulated, 
however, that "mass movements" and agitations would be continued 
regardless of legal processes. Named as the principal targets were 
domestic "feudalists" and foreign "imperialists led by the United States." 
Immediate objectives included stoppage of Gurkha recruitment by the 
British Army and closure of British recruitment depots in Nepal; with- 


drawal of United States technicians and experts and their replacement by 
Asians; and prohibition of United States private investments in Nepal. 
Significantly, the Central Committee's position regarding the monarchy 
and its attitude toward the ideological dispute between the Soviet Union 
and Communist China was not announced. 

Meanwhile, the Communists received moral support from the Soviet 
Embassy, which opened in Katmandu in October 1959, and from the 
People's Republic of China Embassy, which opened in July 1950. Soviet 
and Chinese Communist friendship associations were organized under 
the sponsorship of the respective embassies, and technicians and special- 
ists from both of these countries arrived to assist in organizational and 
propaganda activities (see ch. 13, Foreign Relations; ch. 14, Public 

Although the Communists were not openly involved in the revolt 
of October 25, 1960, in the Gurkha District, their activities, along 
with those of other opposition groups, were hampered by the King's 
action on December 15, 1960, banning all political activity. Although 
most of the top leaders of other political groups were imprisoned or were 
able to escape to India on that date, the government succeeded in ar- 
resting three prominent Communists: Man Mohan Adhikari, from 
Biratnagar; Tulsilal Amatya, a member of Parliament; and Pushpa 
Lai, a member of the Central Committee. The rest, including Secre- 
tary General Keshar Jang Raimajhi, reportedly went into hiding in 

Some of those imprisoned were released within a few days but sur- 
veillance apparently was lax. Press accounts indicate that the Com- 
munist Party's Central Committee met early in May 1961 in the state 
of Bihar, India. At this meeting, Secretary General Raimajhi reportedly 
contended that the Party should support King Mahendra's leadership. 
He resigned from his post after a clash with the Party's left-wing 
faction on this issue and returned to Katmandu. 

Raimajhi, arrested on July 9, was released from prison in raid- August 
but was restricted to Katmandu Valley. Meanwhile, in their first deter- 
mined effort against the Communists, the police had arrested 11 persons 
involved in the distribution of Communist posters and leaflets in Kat- 
mandu Valley. In May 1962, Tulsilal Amatya, as Secretary General, 
announced in a press conference at Banaras, India, that the Third Party 
Congress had recently been held and that the new Party program 
envisaged a united front of "all political parties and revolutionary 
forces against the King's dictatorial regime." 

This program appears to be still in effect as of late 1963. The Party, 
adjusting to its illegal status, attempts to carry out its policies and 
programs through members working individually in organizations that 
have not been banned or in support of opposition groups in exile, such 


as the Nepali Congress. Such tactics enable it to exploit vulnerabilities 
in a time of crisis, and it possibly could emerge as a dominant political 

Estimates of the total Party membership vary widely, from 3,000 to 
8,000. Strength appears to center in pockets scattered throughout the 
country, particularly in Biratnagar District (Eastern Tarai) and Palpa 
District (southwest of Katmandu), in certain localities along the boun- 
dary with Tibet, and among the Kiranti in the Eastern Alountain 
Region. Substantial support reportedly is found among the Newari 
merchants, artisans, educators, students and the lowest castes in Kat- 
mandu and Katmandu Valley. 

The Party's greatest weakness seems to be factionalism, which has 
damaged the effectiveness of its leadership and handicapped its organi- 
zational efforts. Published accounts indicate the existence of two main 
factions. One, led by Secretary General Tulsilal Amatya (in exile in 
India) , favors the revolutionary approach to power through cooperation 
with any group, regardless of orientation, and is willing to help over- 
throw the monarchial system. The other, led by Raimajhi, seeks the 
same objective by giving temporary tactical support to the King and 
to the monarchial system. Despite its factional strife, the Party is a 
force to be reckoned with in the country's political life, although as of 
1963 it seems incapable of offering any immediate threat to overthrow 
the government. 

Other Groups 

In December 1960, when the King took direct control of the govern- 
ment, many members of the dissolved Parliament fled to India. In exile, 
they and other dissidents, under the leadership of General Subarna 
Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana, a prominent figure in the outlawed 
Nepali Congress party and former Deputy Prime Minister (1959-60), 
have organized a strong opposition movement. The movement has both 
resorted to violence against government forces and — in connection with 
resolutions in January 1961 demanding that the King reconvene Parlia- 
ment and release political prisoners — launched a passive resistance 

The government's offer in July 1961 of amnesty to all politicians 
sought by the police since Occember 1950 was met by the opposition 
forces with violence. Armed raiding parties based in India began to 
make incursions across the border. By the end of 1961 these sporadic 
forays were supplemented by guerrilla activity in various parts of the 
country. Early in January 1962, General Subarna Shamsher reportedly 
asserted in Patna, India, that the resistance movement against the 
monarchy was being intensified, that some 20 police posts had been 


seized, that guerrillas had captured arms and ammunition from govern- 
ment storehouses, and that sabotage was taking place throughout the 
country. In August 1962 a rebel radio station reportedly began to 
operate near Darjeeling. 

By the autumn of 1962, however, the tempo of guerrilla activity 
seemed to be subsiding as^the effectiveness of government security forces 
improved. Meanwhile, resentment was growing in Nepalese official 
circles against India for permitting the exiles to organize and train armed 
groups for raiding expeditions into Nepal. A relaxation of tension came 
in November 1962 with an announcement in Calcutta by General Sub- 
arna Shamsher that because of the Chinese Communist threat the Nepali 
Congress leaders had decided to suspend temporarily their activities 
against the government. Indian pressure and the decreasing rewards of 
guerrilla operations undoubtedly also influenced the decision. Despite 
its continued quiescence in 1963, there was nothing to indicate that the 
leadership of the exiled opposition had relinquished its aim of returnmg 
to power in Nepal. 

Tibetan Refugees 

After the revolt in Tibet in 1959 against the Chinese Communists, 
some 10,000 Tibetans (including an estimated 6,000 who had fought 
against the Chinese) fled to Nepal. Some of these refugees have since 
moved to India, but many, possibly about 7,000, still remain in the 
country, particularly along the northern border. They constitute a 
major welfare problem, and the government, in cooperation with the 
International Red Cross, has concentrated them in settlements of 
approximately 500 persons each in widely separated areas. The largest 
groups are around Jumla, Mustang and Pokhara in the Western Moun- 
tain Region; in the Khumbu Valley and around Namche Bazar and 
Okhaldhunga in the Eastern Mountain Region; and in the Bhairawa 
District of the Western Tarai. A few are in the Katmandu Valley. 
These concentrations have contributed to grain shortages and rising 
food prices in some areas — in 1962 around Pokhara and Okhaldhunga 

Except in the field of public welfare, the refugees, as of the end of 
1963, pose no serious problem for the military and internal security 
forces. Communist agents reportedly have infiltrated into the settle- 
ments, and the potentialities for their exploitation by Nepalese or 
Chinese Communists are recognized by the authorities. This threat 
could become serious in a deteriorating situation caused by hostile activi- 
ties of Nepalese political exile groups from their Indian bases in the 
south. There is also the danger that at some point the presence of 
Tibetan refugees might be used by the Chinese Communists as a pretext 
for a military invasion of Nepal. 



Other groups offering possible opportunities for exploitation by Com- 
munist or other subversive elements include about 4,000 young men, 
some of them army officers, educated and trained outside the country, 
who are impatient with the pace of social and economic change in Nepal. 
About 3.000 of these are unemployed and are frustrated by lack of 
opportunity to apply their acquired skills. Others include a sizable 
group of former members of the ruling class, resentful over the loss of 
wealth, power and prestige; and about 5,000 landless people, most of 
whom have come down from areas of land scarcity in the mountains and 
live illegally in improvised shelters in forest reservations of the Tarai. 



Nepal is famous for its fighting men. In the two world wars they 
played a role out of all proportion to the country's size and resources. 
Numerous ethnic groups living in the mountains are justly proud of 
their warrior traditions, and as the need for military service arises they 
willingly respond to the call. Conscription has never been necessary. 
In quality the country's manpower ranks among the best in the world. 
The ingenuity, self-reliance, cheerful acceptance of discipline and adapt- 
ability of the average recruit tend to offset his generally low level of 

The worldwide reputation of the Nepalese soldier as a superior fight- 
ing man is due mainly to the qualities of the troops of Nepalese origin 
who have fought as contingents in the British Army since the early 
years of the nineteenth century and for the Indian Army since it was 
formed in 1947. With their inherent military traits, the ex-servicemen 
from these British and Indian units constitute a valuable reserve backed 
by more than a century and a half of martial traditions. 

Outside Nepal these soldiers are commonly known as Gurkha. The 
designation has no ethnic connotation; the term derives from the name 
of the old Kingdom of Gorkha (Gurkha), the territory of which was 
roughly that of the present-day administrative district of Gurkha, in 
the mountains some 90 miles west of the Katmandu Valley. 

Soldiers from the old Kingdom established an international reputation 
for their military prowess during the eighteenth century by their suc- 
cessful invasions of Tibet. As the Gurkha Kingdom expanded eastward 
across the Himalayas to Sikkim, the King's warriors, taken from all 
groups in the area, came to be known to the outside world as Gurkha 

Nepal's military establishment in 1963 consisted of the Royal Nepal- 
ese Army, predominantly an infantry force of about 10,000 men — 
slightly more than one-tenth of 1 percent of the total population. The 
Army is organized into three brigades, supplemented by miscellaneous 
smaller units, including a mountain artillery battery, the Royal Guards 
detachment and a band. Each brigade consists of one or more rifle bat- 
talions, and a large proportion are stationed in the Katmandu Valley. 

Also in the military establishment and under Army control since 
1962 is a detachment called the Home Guards, formerly known as the 
Armed Police Force. The total strength of the Home Guards detach- 
ment is about that of a brigade, but its military value is questionable 
because of its dispersion in small and relatively isolated groups through- 


out the country, its inadequate equipment and its lack of unit training. 
Tliere is no air force or navy (see ch. 21, Public Order and Internal 

The military establishment appears to be a reliable arm of the gov- 
ernment. Discipline is good and morale is enhanced by the volunteer 
character of the service, pay as good or better than that of civilians 
in positions of comparable responsibility and, above all, the tradition- 
ally high prestige accorded to the military profession. The officer corps 
seems to be free of political ambitions, and the military apparently 
remained neutral in the competition among various political leaders 
which marked the period just before December 15, 1960, when the King 
took control of the government. Ethnic differences do not seem to be 
a source of friction within the armed forces. 


The military prowess of the Nepalese soldier first became known 
outside the country in the eighteenth century, when forces from what 
was then known as the Kingdom of Gorkha invaded Tibet (see ch. 2, 
Historical Setting). Within Nepal itself certain ethnic groups, such 
as the Magar, Gurung, Limbu, Rai and Thakuri (a caste of the Pahari 
ethnic group), had much earlier won a reputation as "warrior tribes." 
The Magar, Gurung and Limbu furnished the bulk of the Kingdom's 
soldiers up to the rank of captain. Higher ranks tended to be filled from 
tiie Thakuri, Chetri and Rai groups. These officers came almost ex- 
clusively from families of the ruling elite. Caste consciousness, how- 
ever, did not seem to be a problem (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Lan- 
guages) . 

Up to the middle of the nineteenth century, armies were raised when 
needed and disbanded when the need ended. This practice created a 
sizable reserve of trained veterans, but it resulted in a recurring un- 
employment problem. In general, only members of the higher castes 
were retained in the service between the wars. 

The first steps toward the creation of a sizable permanent military 
establishment were taken by Prime Minister Bhim Sen Thapa (1804- 
37), who raised the Army's strength from 10,000 to 15,000 men. In 
addition he built arsenals, ordnance workshops and cantonments. The 
large parade ground constructed at Tundikhel in Katmandu at that time 
is still in use. Development continued, and in 1857 some 9,000 Nepalese 
troops under Prime Minister Jooda Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana ren- 
dered valuable service to the British during the Indian mutiny, par- 
ticularly in the relief of Lucknow. 

Early in the 1880's Prime Minister Rana Udip Singh (1877-85) in- 
troduced a militia system by which the Army could be rapidly expanded 
on short notice — an expedient which was of great value to the Allied 


Powers in World War I. Prime Minister Chandra Shamsher (1901-29) 
introduced many military reforms in the course of a program of mod- 
ernization of government services generally. Among measures affecting 
the Army were the adoption of translated British military manuals for 
the use of troop units ; promotion examinations ; improved standards of 
efficiency; reorganization of administrative processes; and payment of 
all ranks in cash, rather than in land or grain, as formerly practiced. 

Despite these reforms, the officer corps, above the rank of captain, 
continued to be limited to members of the Rana family and to the 
Thakuri, Chetri and Rai groups. Moreover, barracks were inadequate 
to accommodate all men in the 26 battalions stationed in the Katmandu 
Valley. Many soldiers had to seek their own food and lodging in towns 
and villages near their garrisons. 

During World War I the Nepalese Army was expanded and 6 new 
regiments, totaling more than 20,000 men — all volunteers — were sent 
to India, most of them to the North-W^est Frontier Province, to release 
British and Indian troops for service on overseas fronts. In World War 
II two brigades arrived in India where they served until after the end 
of hostilities. Other elements served in Southeast Asia, particularly in 

By 1950 the Army was composed of 31 battalions, and all important 
posts were held by members of the Rana ruling family. Many of the 
battalions had just returned from India and Burma. Back in Nepal, 
they found that pay, rations, equipment and general conditions of serv- 
ice contrasted unfavorably with what they had known under the British. 
Many of the general officers had never served in lower ranks. The bulk 
of the Army's strength of 45,000 men was stationed in the Katmandu 
Valley, where the Rana government, aware of growing opposition, could 
keep the officers under surveillance. Forced by the lack of barracks to 
find lodging where they could, many soldiers had to leave their private 
billets at 3 or 4 o'clock in the morning to arrive at their drill forma- 
tions on time. 

Many of the veterans of World War II left the service at the end of 
their enlistments. Many officers were unqualified to give proper training 
to the young replacements, and poor pay added to mounting discontent. 
Hence, by the time of the revolt in 1950, many soldiers were in a mood 
to defect to the anti-Rana forces. Most of the remainder, though not 
actively disloyal, were unenthusiastic in their support of the gov- 
ernment (see ch. 21, Public Order and Internal Security). 


The old Kingdom of Gorkha was conquered in the mid-sixteenth cen- 
tury by Drabya Shah, the founder of the dynasty of Shah Thakuri 
kings which has reigned ever since (see ch. 2, Historical Setting). Two 


centuries later, the Gorkha (then known as Gurkha) Kingdom began a 
major expansion under energetic, young King Prithvi Narayan Shah 
(r., 1742-75), who captured the Katmandu Valley and unified numer- 
ous petty kingdoms while consolidating his control over an area sub- 
stantially the same as that of modern Nepal. As Gurkha rule expanded, 
control of the conquered territories was left mainly to district governors, 
called bada hakim, who were responsible for establishing military strong- 
points and for maintaining a local militia. 

Before the end of the eighteenth century the Gurkha ruler had sent 
successful military expeditions into Tibet and China. Pressure south- 
ward and westward, however, met resistance from the military forces 
of the British East India Company which were expanding its influence 
northward into the Himalayas. Increasingly frequent clashes of the 
opposing forces culminated in the Anglo-Nepalese war of 1814-16, in 
which the victorious British were impressed by the fighting qualities of 
the Gurkha soldiers. When Nepalese General Amar Singh Thapa was 
forced to capitulate west of the Kali River in May 1815, the remnants 
of his troops were accepted into the British military service. By the 
Treaty of Sagauli, in 1816, the British recognized the sovereignty of 
Nepal and received permission to recruit Nepalese into the British 
Indian Army. 

Recruiting, which actually began in 1815, had to be carried on semi- 
clandestinely even after the Treaty came into effect, since British mili- 
tary representatives, as foreigners, were forbidden by law to enter the 
country. The three battalions organized from General Thapa's con- 
quered forces were expanded into regiments, and each regiment sent its 
own recruiters into the interior. Applicants for service came almost 
entirely from the mountain regions. The ethnic groups with a martial 
tradition were represented, including the Limbu and Rai from the area 
of the Kiranti in the eastern section, the Magar, Gurung and Tamang 
from the central part, and the Chetri and Thakuri castes from the west 
(see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages). 

The Gurkha units soon proved to be a valuable asset to the British 
Indian Army. Impressed by the loyalty and effectiveness of the Gurkha 
during the Indian Mutiny of 1857, and notably at the siege of Delhi, 
the British awarded them battle honors and organized two additional 

Recruiting continued, and the adaptability of Gurkha troops to vari- 
ous types and conditions of combat was shown by their performance in 
the Second Afghan War (1878-80) and in the Boxer Rebellion (1900). 
By 1908 the Gurkha Brigade had been formed. This was a flexible 
unit, in peacetime numbering about 12,000 men organized into 10 regi- 
ments, each consisting of 2 rifle battalions. Other Gurkha units included 
the Assam Rifles, Burma Rifles, Indian Armed Police and Burma Mili- 


tary Police. Regiments and battalions were designated numerically. 
For example, the Second Battalion of the Seventh Gurkha Rifles is com- 
monly referred to with pride by its members as the 2/7. 

Until 1914 the British recruited about 1,500 men a year to keep the 
20 Gurkha battalions up to strength. As a rule, men from the same 
ethnic group were assigned to the same units. About 7 regiments were 
composed of Magar, Tamang and Gurung; 2 regiments were recruited 
from the Rai and Limbu; and 1 from the Chetri and Thakuri. In many 
instances several generations of one family have served in the same 
regiment. The Magar, Gurung and Rai, who over the years have sup- 
plied most of the recruits, have come to be regarded as the true Gurkha, 
but the Limbu, Chetri, Tamang, Sunwar and Thakuri are also included 
in the category. On a percentage basis the Gurung group provide a 
higher proportion of its total population for the military service than 
any other group. 

The recruits, after examination and enlistment by Gurkha regimental 
representatives at assembly points near their homes, were sent to col- 
lection centers in northern India, mainly at Gorakhpur and at Ghum 
near Darjeeling, for final processing and assignment to units. The 
Nepalese Government encouraged recruitment by assurances that serv- 
ice with the British forces would be regarded as service in the Nepalese 
Army and that special efforts would be made to provide employment 
for the returning veterans. This policy was based on the view that these 
trained veterans would add to the military strength of Nepal. R,ecruit- 
ment was also helped by the relatively high pay and pensions and the 
opportunities for advancement in noncommissioned ranks. 

During World War I the Nepalese Government agreed to maintain 
recruitment at a level which would sustain the existing Gurkha units 
and make possible the creation of additional ones. The battalions were 
increased to 33, and Gurkha units were placed at the disposal of the 
British high command for service on all fronts. Many volunteers were 
assigned to noncombat units, such as the Army Bearer Corps and the 
labor battalions, but they also were in combat in France, Gallipoli, 
Palestine, Baluchistan, Waziristan, Mesopotamia and Burma. Despite 
some 20,000 casualties, replacements were always available. By the 
end of 1918 about 200,000 men had volunteered for service in the British 

During World War II the total number of Gurkha battalions in the 
British service was increased to 45. About 110,000 men passed through 
10 Gurkha training centers to serve in line units which fought on almost 
every front, including France, Italy, North Africa, Greece, Cyprus, Iraq, 
Iran, Burma, Indochina, Indonesia, Malaya and in Singapore, where 
reportedly Gurkha troops were the last to cease fire when the British 


surrendered to the Japanese. Casualties in all theaters mounted to ap- 
proximately 25,000 men. 

By the end of 1946 various specialized units had been created, such 
as paratroops, signal corps, engineers and military police. When India 
attained independence in 1947, the old Gurkha Brigade was disbanded. 
Four regiments remained in the British service and six passed to the 
new Indian Army, which recruited an additional regiment to make a 
total of seven. As of late 1963 a large proportion of those with the 
British were in Malaya, where from May 1948 to August 1960 they 
formed the backbone of the offensive, which decimated the Communist 
terrorist forces and brought the state of emergency in the peninsula 
to an end. Others have been in the defense of North Borneo against 
Indonesian-sponsored guerrilla depredations, and a few are on garrison 
duty in Hong Kong. 

The Gurkha in the service of India, estimated at. some 50,000, con- 
stitute about 10 percent of that country's army. Since 1948 many have 
been on the Kashmir frontier, facing the Pakistan Army. Many others 
were stationed in the North East Frontier Agency, where they played 
a major role in resisting the Chinese Communist attack in October 1962. 
A lesser number served with distinction in the Congo as a part of the 
Indian contingent in the United Nations forces. 

After 1950 the King permitted British and Indian officers to visit the 
recruiting areas inside the country. The British established a recruiting 
center at Dharan Bazar, about 25 miles north of Biratnagar in the East- 
ern Tarai. They also opened centers at Bokhara and Paklihawa south 
of Butwal in the Western Tarai. The Indians use the old collection 
centers at Gorakhpur and Ghum near Darjeeling. 

Besides the military advantage accruing to the country from the 
presence of some 60,000 to 70,000 trained and disciplined Gurkha vet- 
erans, they represent a valuable human resource. Service abroad has 
widened their horizons, and military training and discipline have taught 
them not only how to obey but how to give orders. Many have gained 
specialized skills in communications and engineer units. Most have 
had some training in such practical subjects as sanitation, hygiene, agri- 
culture and the building trades. 

The Gurkha also play an important role in the country's economy. 
The cash inflow derived from annual pensions, remittances to families 
or savings taken home in a lump sum by discharged veterans or by serv- 
icemen on leave is a major source of foreign exchange. In 1962 the 
Ministry of Finance estimated that about NRIO million (for value of 
the Nepalese rupee, see Glossary) came into the country annually as 
pensions to men formerly in the British service. Pensions to Indian ex- 
servicemen exceed this amount. 

In some Gurung villages about half of the families have one or more 


pensioners. For many families, hope of financial solvency rests on their 
sons returning home with a substantial sum saved during a 3-year en- 
listment. Such income also indirectly benefits others than the recipients 
when it goes into circulation in the purchase of consumer goods, the 
payment of debts, the acquisition of agricultural equipment or invest- 
ment in small commercial ventures. 

The returned Gurkha is accorded high status in his village and he 
is apt to be a community leader. In many localities Gurkha veterans 
have combined their talents and pooled their capital to build schools 
and dispensaries and to promote other cooperative projects. The chil- 
dren of Gurkha servicemen enjoy special educational opportunities in 
Army schools and in scholarships to certain other schools organized by 
Gurkha veterans. 


Terrain, weather and logistic considerations present special problems 
to any military force operating in the country. Ground units would have 
to be equipped to cope with climatic extremes of monsoonal rains and 
drought and of jungle heat and high-altitude cold. They would en- 
counter terrain ranging from the world's highest and most deeply gorged 
mountains to the deep swamps and dense forests of the Gangetic Plain 
(see ch. 3, Geography and Population). 

Troops and supplies would have ample cover, but their movement 
would be extremely difficult. The use of motor transport would be im- 
possible except for short stretches in limited areas where roads are avail- 
able. Often the use of pack animals is precluded by the narrow, rocky 
trails around cliffs and the lack of bridges across steep-sided mountain 
streams. In many places all supplies would have to be moved by human 

Throughout the country the terrain lends itself to ambush and the 
hit-and-run tactics of guerrilla warfare. Thus, the local inhabitants, 
familiar with the countryside and accustomed to the severe climatic 
conditions, would have a decided tactical advantage over an invading 

The country's northern boundary of some 670 miles faces the Chinese 
Communists in Tibet. The remaining boundaries, totaling about 930 
miles, are with India and the Indian protectorate of Sikkim. The moun- 
tains in the north constitute a formidable obstacle for military ground 
forces bent on moving in any direction. Troops could moVe with diffi- 
culty through about 15 passes, most of them above 9,000 feet in eleva- 
tion. In contrast, terrain along the Indian boundary is relatively favor- 
able, in most places, for military operations, particularly for movements 
southward toward the Gangetic Plain. Movements northward from the 
Plain would soon be channeled into narrow mountain valleys. 


On the north the danger to Nepal would appear to be not so much 
from large-scale invasion as from infiltrations of subversive agents — a 
tactic which the Chinese Communists could employ without risking the 
commitment of sizable military forces. Nepal, were it to convert into a 
satellite of the Chinese Communists, could be used by them as an ad- 
vanced base dominating the strategically important Gangetic Plain 
from Delhi to Calcutta. Hence, India must regard Nepal as a critical 
salient in its front facing the Chinese Communists. 

In the event of a major armed clash between the two largest Asian 
powers, Nepal, squeezed between them, would probably become an op- 
erational area for the opposing forces. The Nepalese then would be 
subjected to great pressures, as the Chinese and Indians each would 
seek to win partisans. The opposing pressures would tend to restrict 
the Nepalese Government's freedom of action and force it into align- 
ment with one side or the other. 

The potentialities for military or subversive action against Nepal by 
the Chinese Communists are heightened by their new, strategic road 
constructed parallel to the Nepalese-Tibetan boundary only about 50 
miles inside Tibet. At least five feeder roads lead southward from this 
main road through passes into Nepal. From east to west, the first road 
leads to the Rakha La (Rakha Pass), near the principal area of the 
restive Limbu ethnic group ; the second extends to Kodari, the northern 
terminus of a road being constructed to Katmandu with Chinese Com- 
munist aid; the third leads from the Chinese Communist military base 
and airfield at Girang Dzong (Kyirong) to the relatively low 8,000-foot 
pass at Rasua Garhi; the fourth runs from the Chinese Communist 
military garrison near the Kore La in Tibet to Mustang in Nepal, an 
area used by Tibetan Khampa refugees to stage forays into Tibet; and 
the fifth is from Taklakhar on the Karnali River, through the Lipulek 
La to the v/est bank of the Kali River on the boundary between Nepal 
and Uttar Pradesh, India (see ch. 3 Geography and Population; ch. 21, 
Public Order and Internal Security). 

Most of the people in each of the geographic regions live mainly on 
local resources, requiring little from the outside. Hence, the loss of any 
particular area, except the Katmandu Valley, would not necessarily 
bring about the capitulation of the entire country. However, the loss of 
the Valley, traditionally the heart and political center of Nepal, could 
well mean the end of organized resistance. 

Open and rolling terrain is found in relative few areas, such as in 
parts of the Katmandu Valley and in the Western and Far Western 
Tarai. Large-scale airdrops would be feasible in these places during 
the dry season (mid-October to mid-May), but subsequent troop move- 
ment into the interior would soon be hampered by the Himalayan mas- 
sif. During the monsoon season (mid-June to mid-September) fog, low 


clouds and torrential rains frequently interfere with air operations and 
would make airdrops of troops and supplies extremely hazardous. 


Nepal, bordered by Communist China to the north and India to the 
south, is signatory to no formal military alliances and has sought to 
avoid any appearance of political alignment which might complicate its 
relations with either of its big neighbors. In keeping with this position 
the government has concluded treaties of amity and friendship with both 
India and China. The treaty with India provides for mutual assistance 
in the event of aggression against either country. The earliest docu- 
ment of this nature was the Sino-Nepalese Treaty of 1792, signed after 
the Chinese had defeated the forces of the Gorkha Kingdom at Nawakot, 
only 20 miles northwest of Katmandu. In the treaty the signatories 
agreed that henceforth they would regard China as a father to them, and 
they affirmed their understanding that China would come to the aid of 
Nepal should it ever be invaded by a foreign power (see ch. 13, Foreign 

The Tibetan treaty was followed in 1816 by the Treaty of Sagauli, 
which terminated the 2-year Anglo-Nepalese war. Besides pledging 
mutual friendship, this treaty permitted the British to recruit Gurkha 
troops for the British Army in India. Under the treaty, which was not 
revised until 1923, Nepalese Army units came to Britain's aid on nu- 
merous occasions — notably in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, World War I, 
World War II and during the postwar anti-Communist campaign in 

The Tibetan-Nepalese peace treaty of March 1856 (known as the 
Treaty of Thapathali), signed at the conclusion of a successful Nepalese 
2-year campaign in Tibet, stipulated that Tibet pay annual tribute to 
Nepal and grant certain extraterritorial rights to Nepalese traders. It 
also pledged a mutual policy of nonaggression, and Nepal agreed to 
come to Tibet's assistance if Tibet should be invaded by the forces of 
"any other prince." A century later, in September 1956, the agreement 
was replaced by a treaty of amity and commerce with Communist China. 
The treaty ended Nepal's tribute income and extraterritorial privileges. 

Two treaties with India and Great Britain have military significance. 
The tripartite treaty signed in 1947, when India became independent, 
divided the Gurkha Brigade between the British and Indian forces, and 
authorized each country to recruit Nepalese youths to their respective 
Gurkha units. The treaty permitted Gurkha units to serve in the British 
and Indian Armies for an unstipulated period, and it is still in force. A 
special agreement concluded in 1948 with the British authorized them 
to maintain a recruiting depot in Nepal to serve their Gurkha units. In 
April 1958 this agreement was renewed for another 10 years. 


In 1950, with the changed situation brought about by the Chinese 
Communist invasion of Tibet, Nepal signed a treaty of peace and friend- 
ship with India, which provides for consultations in case either country 
is threatened by foreign aggression. Furthermore, India is to make 
military aid available only if requested by Nepal. Prime Minister 
Nehru has repeatedly stated, in effect, that any attack on Nepal would 
be regarded as an aggression against India. 

Agreements with Communist China lack direct military significance. 
Pledges of friendship and peaceful coexistence are mentioned in state- 
ments and joint communiques issued during interchanges of visits by 
government leaders. Nepal in 1960 reportedly rejected a Chinese Com- 
munist suggestion for a mutual nonaggression pact. Nevertheless, Chen 
Yi, Foreign Minister of Communist China, in October 1962 announced 
that if Nepal were attacked, China would be on Nepal's side. But the 
Nepalese press asserted that there had been no discussions regarding a 
mutual defense treaty. 

Manpower and Materiel 

Sufficient manpower is available to maintain an army of some 100,000 
men in addition to those already serving in Gurkha units. The total 
male population between the ages of 15 and 49 is estimated to be ap- 
proximately 2.4 million, of whom about 50 percent (1.2 million) are 
physically fit. In any major mobilization of manpower for military 
units, however, economic and logistical inadequacies would limit sub- 
stantial expansion, even with outside support. Moreover, crop produc- 
tion would suffer from a lack of workers during the short but critical 
harvesting seasons. 

Approximately 70,000 men are already in service: 10,000 in the Nepal- 
ese Army, 10,000 in British Gurkha units and 50,000 in Indian Gurkha 
units. Thus, roughly 90,000 additional physically fit men between the 
ages of 15 and 50, would be available for military mobilization. It is 
estimated that the ranks of the mobilized units could be filled largely 
by ex-servicemen — some 50,000 discharged or retired from British and 
Indian Gurkha units and about 30,000 who formerly served in the Nepal- 
ese Army (see ch. 3, Geography and Population; ch. 18, Labor). 

All materiel, except for a few simple weapons and a small amount of 
ammunition, must be imported. The country's arsenal facilities are 
extremely limited, and raw materials are generally lacking. Only food, 
some clothing, a few tools and some articles of individual equipment can 
be obtained from local sources. Moreover, in prolonged combat opera- 
tions involving heavy losses, the lack of sufficient manpower to replace 
battle casualties would limit the size of the military establishment. 


Military Budget 

The annual expenditure from state funds by the Ministry of Defense, 
according to published figures from official sources, almost doubled be- 
tween the fiscal year 1956-57 and the fiscal year 1961-62. Despite this 
increase in funds reportedly expended by the Ministry of Defense, in 
percentage terms military outlay appears to have decreased from 29.3 
percent of total government expenditures in 1956-57 to 15.1 percent in 

The Ministry of Defense spends more than any other government 
agency, but the largest proportion of the funds — more than 66 percent 
in the fiscal year 1962-63 — is expended on economic and social services 
by various other ministries. Most people probably are unaware of mat- 
ters pertaining to the national budget, and there are no indications of 
any popular feeling that defense costs constitute an unduly heavy tax 


The Army has the four-fold mission of backing up the country's 
Civil Police Force in the maintenance of internal security, manning 18 
military check posts on the boundary with Tibet, performing ordinary 
police duties in areas where police units are not available, and assisting 
in the road building program by furnishing labor and technical help, 
particularly in building bridges and in surveying for new roads. The 
Army is also frequently used in emergency relief missions to localities 
stricken by fire, floods or landslides. In the 1959 elections. Army units 
took over police duties in some areas so that the Civil Police could be 
used to maintain order at the polls. 

The Army has also been called upon to protect the integrity of the 
Crown. In December 1960, when the King took direct control of the 
government, Army units patrolled the streets of Katmandu, and a num- 
ber of political leaders, including Cabinet members, reportedly were 
taken into custody and detained by the military pending disposition 
of their cases. 


The King has been Supreme Commander of the Royal Nepalese Army 
since the overthrow of the Rana regime in 1951, a position confirmed by 
the Constitution of December 1962. The King reserves for himself the 
portfolio of the Minister of Defense. Administration of the Ministry is 
a responsibility of the Secretary of the Ministry of Defense, a post held 
in 1963 by Major General Padam Bahadur Khatri. The secretary is 
aided by a personal assistant and two under secretaries (see fig. 15). 

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is the Royal Nepalese Army Headquarters, which, patterned after the 
British system, includes two functional groups — general staff and admin- 
istration. The highest post in the Headquarters is that of Commander 
in Chief, held in 1963 by General Nir Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana. 
He is assisted by the Chief of General Staff, Lieutenant General Surendra 
Bahadur Shah, who in turn is assisted by the directors of three small 
staff sections : military operations, training and intelligence. The Chief 
of General Staff is also in charge of two administrative staff officers: 
the Adjutant General, responsible for personnel matters and military 
justice; and the Quartermaster General, responsible for supply. Both 
hold the rank of major general. Directly responsible to the Chief of 
Staff are the commanders of the 1st, 2d and 3d Brigades and of the 
Home Guards detachment, each with the rank of brigadier general. 


Training is modeled on that of the Indian Army which, in turn, has 
been strongly influenced by its years of service as part of the British 
military establishment. An Indian military mission arrived in Katmandu 
on April 7, 1952, soon after the attempted coup by Kunwar Indrajit 
Singh. The main purpose of the mission apparently was to assist in 
correcting disciplinary, training and organizational defects, the serious- 
ness of which was revealed during the attempted coup led by Singh. 

The mission consisted of a major general and an instructional staff 
of about 100 commissioned and noncommissioned officers. Its mem- 
bers, except for a few technical officers, were selected almost entirely 
from Indian Gurkha units. During the course of a strict training pro- 
gram, many misfits were eliminated from the service and more selective 
methods of recruiting were adopted. An effort was made to base promo- 
tions on proficiency rather than on family connections. Many of the 
older officers who were judged to be unqualified to carry out the duties 
attached to their rank either resigned or were dismissed. In marked 
contrast with the past, the remaining officers began to take an interest 
in their men and, in effect, a new Army was created. Despite resentment 
from some dismissed officers and opposition from certain political ele- 
ments, relations between the mission and the Nepalese military became 
generally satisfactory. 

By the end of 1956 the Army had been reduced in size from about 
25,000 ill-paid, poorly trained, undisciplined men to a force of about 
6,000, which was receiving rigorous training and adequate pay. Spe- 
cialized units, such as signal, supply, engineer, mortar and mountain 
artillery, had been created. Indian doctors established an Army medical 
detachment and trained its corpsmen. Selected officers and men were 
being sent to India for advanced and specialized training. In 1958 the 
military mission was replaced by the Indian Military Training and 


Advisory Group, consisting of about 20 officers, headed by a major gen- 
eral. This group continued to function in Katmandu until December 
1963, when the responsibilities were reduced to liaison work on com- 
mon defense problems and its name was changed to the Indian Military 
Liaison Group. 

As of the end of 1963, training appears to be limited to basic drills 
and fundamental instruction of individuals, squads and platoons in 
the operation and tactical use of their weapons. Schedules are fre- 
quently disrupted or suspended by the assignment of Army units to 
road construction work or other nonmilitary tasks. A favorable influ- 
ence on training standards, however, is the presence of many former 
members of the British and Indian Gurkha regiments. 

Enlistees, before being assigned to units, receive almost a year of 
training under officers and noncommissioned officers specially chosen 
for this task. This long training period apparently is necessitated by 
the high illiteracy rate among the recruits. Privates and noncommis- 
sioned officers who are candidates for promotion are given extra instruc- 
tion several hours each day in a so-called noncommissioned officers' 
platoon. Promotions are given to those who pass training tests. A 
small group of noncommissioned officers is selected each year for ad- 
vanced, or specialist, training in Indian Army schools, and at least two 
officer candidates are sent annually to the British Military Academy 
at Sandhurst, England. On the whole the Nepalese Army probably is 
sufficiently trained for effective guerrilla operations or for combat in 
small units — the type of warfare which would be most likely to be 
fought in its own territory. 


The strongest foreign influence on military training and organiza- 
tion is that of the British. A large proportion of the officers and non- 
commissioned officers and some of the privates have served in British 
Gurkha units. Most of these have attended British training courses; 
some have received instruction at Sandhurst, England; and virtually 
all are indoctrinated in British military practices. The standards of 
military discipline, duty and proficiency acquired through this experi- 
ence are important factors making for the reliability of the post-Rana 

Indian influence dates from soon after 1947 when servicemen, re- 
turning from tours with Gurkha units in the new Indian Army, began 
to enlist in the Nepalese Army. When the Indian military mission 
arrived in 1952, this influence was intensified. British impressions, 
however, remained dominant, as Indian military concepts and practices 
are basically British. 

Indian influence was further strengthened by the cooperation of both 

forces on several occasions when Indian troops at Nepal's request 
helped quell disturbances near the common boundary. Later, Indian 
soldiers and technicians assisted in manning some of the check posts on 
the frontier with Tibet. Despite these close associations, the government 
has not permitted the garrisoning of Indian troops in Nepal, and the 
recruiting centers for Indian Gurkha units are on the Indian side of the 

Chinese Communist propaganda directed mainly against Gurkha re- 
cruiting activity does not appear to have any noticeable success among 
the Nepalese. On the other hand, Chinese operations in Tibet, Ladakh 
and the North East Frontier Agency have no doubt heightened Nepalese 
awareness of the importance of mutual security arrangements between 
Nepal and India. The Nepalese are also apprehensively conscious of 
Chinese Communist sensitivity to any military collaboration between 
Nepal and India. 


Physique and standards of physical fitness vary according to ethnic 
origin and area of residence. Men from the tropical lowlands of the 
Tarai are less hardy than those from the mountain regions. As a result, 
virtually all of the recruits accepted for enlistment in Gurkha or 
Nepalese Army units come from the upland areas, where men are accus- 
tomed to carrying heavy loads for long distances over precipitous and 
rocky trails at high altitudes. On the other hand, the incidence of in- 
fectious disease is high in the general population, and malaria, tubercu- 
losis, syphilis and dysentery would probably be present in any sizable 
group of new recruits in spite of efforts to screen out the physically 
unfit before enlistment. In the service, however, medical care, adequate 
diet and hygienic measures greatly reduce the incidence of disease, 
and experience in the varied environments of Asia, Europe and North 
Africa has shown that illness in Nepalese units has not been a serious 
problem (see ch. 6, Health and Welfare). 

Nepalese troops are accustomed to creating their own amusements 
and many excel in one or more outdoor sports. On the whole, they are 
good hunters, experienced in the use of firearms, and accustomed to living 
on their own resources for long periods in the mountains. 

They have distinguished themselves in hand-to-hand fighting and in 
guerrilla operations. Gurkha unit histories are replete with accounts 
of courageous stands in the face of heavy odds, and in the two world 
wars 12 Victoria Crosses (comparable to the United States Medal of 
Honor) were awarded to Gurkha soldiers. 

The different languages of the various ethnic groups in the military 
service present no problem as virtually all soldiers speak Nepali. Caste 
and ethnic differences are minimized by the policy of assigning recruits 


from the same area and ethnic groups to the same unit. Low-caste 
enhstees are assigned to service units. Caste consciousness also seems 
to diminish within the mihtary framework. 


Recruitment regulations, published November 19, 1962, prescribe that 
qualified candidates for enlistment appear before a selection and recruit- 
ing board composed of an officer from the Adjutant General's Depart- 
ment as chairman and four inemberS; consisting of an appointed recruit- 
ing officer, a unit or training center commander, a medical officer and the 
chief officer or representative of the military registration office as secre- 
tary. Candidates must be at least 18 and not more than 25 years of age, 
physically fit, more than 5 feet S^/^ inches tall and not engaged in 
political activity. Exceptions are made for honorably discharged former 
Gurkha soldiers, who are under 36 years of age and physically fit, and 
who have not been convicted of any criminal offense. Appointment is 
confirmed only after the candidate's statements regarding his residence, 
age, caste and address are attested to by an officer of the Army or of the 
civil service. Recruits may be dismissed any time during the first year 
of training if it is discovered that they fail to meet the entrance quali- 

Upon entering the service the recruit signs a contract to participate 
in the drills and training prescribed by Army regulations, to obey orders 
wherever he may be sent, to protect the life and throne of the King, and 
to arrest or report any person threatening the King. Enlistment is for 
a 10-year period, except for former Gurkha soldiers, who enlist for 
3 years. Upon discharge the serviceman, if he does not reenlist, agrees 
to be available for duty if called upon, as long as he is physically fit. 


The surplus of volunteers and the lack of need for conscription sug- 
gest that the morale of the new Army is good. Evident factors con- 
tributing to this are economic security, the high prestige traditionally 
accorded to the military, relatively good pay, and opportunities for 
advancement and for the acquisition of special skills. Extra pay is 
provided for certain duties entailing unusually heavy expenses or re- 
sponsibilities. Pay schedules also include allocations for rations and 
travel allowances while on duty and for pensions upon retirement. 

Military activities are seldom mentioned in the press or in the public 
statements of government leaders. Both officers and soldiers appear 
to be well regarded by the people, and it would seem that the work of 
servicemen on road construction projects and on disaster relief missions 
has contributed importantly to this attitude. 



The rank structure is modeled after that of the Indian Army (see 
table 14). The honorary rank of field marshal is held by the King and 
by several venerated retired officers, including Kaiser Shamsher (the 
King's uncle) and Hari Shamsher (the King's father-in-law), for their 
services to the Crown. King Mahendra also received the honorary rank 
of field marshal in the Pakistan Army, bestowed by President Moham- 
med Ayub Khan on May 12, 1963, during a state visit to Nepal. As of 
mid- 1963 the highest rank held by an officer on active duty was that 
of general, held only by the Commander in Chief, Nir Shamsher Jang 
Bahadur Rana (see figs. 16, 17 and 18). 

Table 14- Rank Structure in the Nepalese Army, 1963 

Nepalese Rank United States Equivalent 


Field Marshal General of the Armies 

General General 

Lieutenant General Lieutenant General 

Major General Major General 

Brigadier General Brigadier General 

Colonel Colonel 

Lieutenant Colonel Lieutenant Colonel 

Major Major 

Captain Captain 

Lieutenant Lieutenant 

Second Lieutenant Second Lieutenant 

Junior Commissioned Officers 

Subedar Major No United States equivalent 

Subedar Do 

Jemadar Do 

Noncommissioned Officers and Privates 

Havildar Sergeant 

Naik Corporal 

Lance Naik Private First Class 

Sepoy (Trainee Private) Private 

Jawan Recruit 

Source : Adapted from United States Government sources. 


Decorations and awards are bestowed only by the King, under the 
provisions of the Constitution of December 16, 16^2. Investitures are 
made on special occasions, such as the King's birthday, to military and 
police personnel and civilians. Medals and decorations are proudly 






Commander in Chief 

General Lieutenant General Major General Brigadier General 


Colonel Lieutenant Colonel Major 

"W^ r>^ r>^ 

Captain First Lieutenant Second Lieutenant 

Figure 16. Shoulder Insignia oj Rank, Royal Nepalese Army Officers. 


Subedar Major 





Lance Niak 




Figure 17. Insignia oj Rank, Noncommissioned Officers and Privates, 
Royal Nepalese Army. 

worn at formal ceremonies, and they are a prescribed part of the uniform 
for members of courts-martial while they are in session. The Gurkha, 
retired an active, are authorized to wear the decorations they received 
from the British or Indian Governments (see table 15). 

Leave Policy 

A liberal leave policy also contributes to morale. Leave is of three 
types: ordinary, home and sick. The maximum of 20 days' annual 
ordinary leave is not cumulative from year to year, nor can it be granted 
for more than 10 days in one period except in an emergency or to attend 
the funeral services of a family member, when 14 and 20 days, respec- 


Commander in Chief 


Lieutenant General 

Major General 
Brigadier General 


Lieutenant Colonel 



First Lieutenant 

Second Lieutenant 







Figure 18. Cap Insignia of Rank, Royal Nepalese Army Officers. 

tively, are authorized. Home leave accrues to soldiers ffter 1 year of 
service at the rate of 45 days each year, but two-thirds of the leave lapses 
if it is not used during the year. Home leave may be advanced to a 
soldier in the event of a calamity in his family. Sick leave of up to 15 
days annually is authorized. In case of serious prolonged illnesses, 
special sick leave is authorized for periods up to 2 years. Full salaries 
are paid during the first 3 months, and half salary for the next 6 months. 


Thereafter, pay and allowances cease, and if the soldier is still unfit 
for duty at the end of 2 years he is discharged. If sickness or injury 
is caused by his service duties, special sick leave is granted with full 
pay and allowances until the soldier is cured or is given a disability 

Tabic 15. Nepalese Decorations and Medals, jor Military Personnel and Others 
(in accepted order of precedence) 




Ojaswi Rajyanya 

Glorious Regal . . . 

Highest decoration. Reserved 

for royalty. 

Om Ram Patta 

Lord Ram Medal 

For prime ministers and other 

high officials. 

Nepal Tara 

Nepal Medal (sometimes 

Awarded in five classes: I, II, 

called Star of Nepal). 

III, IV and V. Class I is 
regarded as a very high 

Trishakti Patta . .■ 

Medal of Three Powers: 
earth, heaven and 

Awarded in four classes: I, II, 

III and IV. For outstanding 



Gorkha Dakshin Bahu . . . 

Gorkha Right Hand 

Awarded in four classes: I, II, 
III, and IV. For extra- 
ordinary service. 

Gajendra Mokshya 

Emancipation of Ele- 

Lifesaving medal. From leg- 


endary story of Vishnu sav- 
ing elephant's life threatened 
by attacking crocodile. 

Dirgha Seva Patta 

Long Service Medal 

Awarded for 30 years' faithful 
service to the government. 

Nepal Pratap Bardhak . . . 

Nepal Powerful Medal . . . 

Awarded for adventuresome 
and courageous achieve- 
ments, including research. 

Source: Adapted from Nepal Gazette, XII, No. 49, March 25, 1963; and from United States 
Government sources. 

Ration allowances for the period of ordinary leave are paid in advance. 
Leave periods are increased by 1 day for each 16 miles the soldier must 
travel on foot to his home. If his trip is made by automobile, plane or 
train, only the time spent on the journey can be added. Leave may 
not be granted to more than 25 percent of a unit at any one time. 

Military Justice 

The military court system consists basically of courts-martial, similar 
in composition and jurisdiction to those of the Indian Army. Courts- 
martial are of four kinds: general, district, summary general and sum- 
mary. A general court-martial is convened by the Commander in Chief 
or an officer deputized by him. It consists of five or more officers, each 


with 3 or more years of commissioned service. Attending the court, but 
not a member, is an officer of the Judge Advocate General's Depart- 
ment or an officer designated by the Judge Advocate General. The court 
is authorized to impose any sentence prescribed by Army regulations. 
A district court-martial consists of three or more officers, each with a 
minimum of 2 years of commissioned service, and it may impose any 
sentence other than the death penalty. A summary general court- 
martial consists of three or more officers, with no requirement as to the 
length of their commissioned service. A summary court-martial may be 
convened by the commander of a department or detachment (presumably 
of battalion size), and he acts as the court. 

The death sentence may be imposed for treason, mutiny, desertion, 
inciting panic and for surrendering troops, arms or garrisons to the 
enemy, with a finding of cowardice. Authorized punishment for derelic- 
tion of military duties or regulations in time of war is generally twice 
as severe as that prescribed for the same offenses committed in time of 

The disciplinary powers of officers and noncommissioned officers are 
somewhat more extensive than in the United States military service. 
Unit commanders may impose up to 30 days' confinement in prison or 
restriction to barracks. The most common forms of company punish- 
ment include extra guard duty, suspension from duty or from supervisory 
assignments, fines of up to 14 days' pay, detention of pay until a finan- 
cial or property loss is compensated, reprimand and warning. Junior 
commanders may demote noncommissioned officers with the rank of 
havildar (sergeant) or lower. 


Logistical problems would be paramount in any military operation in 
the country. The inadequacies of food resources, industrial capacity and 
transportation facilities create extraordinary difficulties with respect 
to supply, distribution, troop movement and evacuation. Motorable 
roads are almost completely lacking in the mountain regions, and in the 
Tarai are limited to a few short, intermittent stretches (see ch. 16, 
Character and Structure of the Economy). 

Food production in most areas is barely sufficient to support the local 
population. In the lowlands, ground movement would virtually halt 
during the wet season because of extensive flooding, washed-out bridges 
and deep mud. In the mountains, troops would have to march single file 
over precarious trails subject to washouts, landslides and avalanches 
of boulders, ice and snow. Stream crossing points are limited to a few 
fords and flimsy suspension bridges. In the entire mountain area only 
about 20 bridges are suitable for pack animals. Supplies, including 
rations, would have to be carried by porters. Drops by helicopters and 


airplanes could be made only in favorable weather and in the restricted 
areas accessible to troops. 

Airlift capabilities are limited to several C-47-type civilian planes 
of the Royal Nepal Airlines Corporation and to 3 others of the same 
type received from Communist China late in 1963. The principal airfield 
is at Katmandu; at 12 airstrips in the outlying districts 2-motor planes 
can be landed in daylight during fair weather. Since all the airstrips 
except those at Gurkha and Pokhara are near the boundary with India, 
they would be of little use in moving troops or supplies toward the 
Tibetan border. Long-distance lateral movements in the mountain area 
are generally more easily made by going south to the Indian plains and 
reentering Nepal at another point than by traveling directly. 

Medical equipment and supplies are extremely scarce, and there are 
only about 130 qualified physicians in the country. Treatment of com- 
bat casualties would be restricted to ru4imentary first aid. Evacuation 
during operations would present serious problems. Most of Nepal's 900 
hospital beds are in the Katmandu Valley, and the 1 small military 
hospital is in Katmandu. Facilities in other areas consist of dis- 
pensary-type installations (see ch. 6, Health and AVelfare). 


The military is completely subordinate to the King, both in theory 
and in practice. He is vested by the Constitution of December 16, 1962, 
with direct and extensive control over military affairs: 

A member of the National Panchayat before presenting proposed legis- 
lation pertainmg to the Royal Army shall obtain the permission of His 

If His Majesty is satisfied that there exists an emergency' which threatens 
the country's security, war, external aggression or internal disturbance, he 
may proclaim a grave state of emergency, suspend all or part of the Con- 
stitution and assume an3'' or all powers vested in any government body. 

His Majesty is vested with the Supreme Command of the Royal Army. 

His Majesty has powers to grant pardons and to remit or commute any 
sentence passed by any Court. 

Title, honors and decorations shall be conferred by His Majesty. 

His Majesty is not amenable to any court. 

Because of the King's dual role as Supreme Commander of the Army 
and Mini.ster of Defense, there is no intermediate echelon between the 
Crown and the Commander in Chief. The Ministry has been in charge 
of some member of the royal family since the end of Rana rule in 1951, 
except for a brief period in 1959-60, when Bishweshar Prasad Koirala 
was the incumbent. The importance assigned by the King to the loyalty 
of the Army to his person is apparent in the pledge prescribed for re- 
cruits to protect the life and throne of the King and in the military law 
prohibiting servicemen from engaging in political activity. Even before 


1960, when the King took control of the, the Army on the 
whole refrained from taking sides with the political leaders who were 
competing for power. Since 1960 the Army has proved to be a u sful 
instrument in consolidating the King's position as head of state. 

The civilian attitude toward the military is generally favorable. 
Soldiers usually conduct themselves circumspectly and without arro- 
gance in their dealings with civilians. The soldier's favorable status 
with respect to pay and amenities may arouse envy but not resentment 
among civilians in positions of comparable responsibility. 



Section IV. National Security 

Among the sources consulted in the preparation of this section, the 
following are recommended as additional reading on the basis of quality 
and general availability. 

Armstrong, Hamilton Fish. "Where India Faces China," Foreign Af- 
fairs, XXXVII, July 1959, 617-625. 

Hagen, Toni. Nepal. New York: Rand McNally, 1960. 

Hitchcock, John T. "Some Effects of Recent Change in Rural Nepal," 
Human Organization, XXII, Spring 1963, 75-82, 

Jain, Girilal. India Meets China in Nepal. New York: Asia Publishing 
House, 1959. 

Karan, Pradyumna P., and Jenkins, William M., Jr. The Himalayan 
Kingdoms: Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 

Lamb, Pitney Beatrice. India. A World in Transition. New York: Prae- 
ger, 1963. 

Mullaly, B. R. "Nepal — Land of the Gurkhas," Army Quarterly, 
LXXXII, April and July 1961, 33-47. 

Northey, W. Brook. The Land of the Gurkhas. Cambridge: Heffer and 
Sons, 1937. 

Northey, W. Brook, and Morris, C. J. The Gurkhas: Their Manner, Cus- 
toms and Country. London: Lane, 1928. 

Tucci, Giuseppe. Nepal. The Discovery of the Malla. (Trans., Lovett 
Edwards.) New York: Button, 1962. 

Tuker, Francis. Gorkha — The Story of the Gurkhas of Nepal. London: 
Ccnstable, 1957. 


"The Atlantic Report on Nepal," Atlantic, CCXI, March 1963, 24-31. 

Chakavarti, P. C. India's China Policy. Bloomington: University of In- 
diana Press, 1962. 

Elliot, J. H. Guide to Nepal. Calcutta: Newman, 1959. 

Gilliard, E. Thomas. "Coronation in Katmandu," National Geographic, 
CXII, July 1957, 139-152. 


Hitchcock, John T. "A Nepalese Hill Village and Indian Employment," 
Asian Survey, I, November 1961, 15-20. 

Hyde, H. Montgomery. "Nepal," Royal Central Asian Journal, XLVIH, 
Pt. 1, January 1961, 75-82. 

India. Embassy in Nepal. Cooperation for Progress. Gangtok: Govern- 
ment of India Press, 1961. 

Kane, Robert S. "Pleasures and Places — Nepal," Atlantic, GOV, June 
1960, 155-159. 

Levi, Werner. "Political Rivalries in Nepal," Far Eastern Survey, XX- 
III, July 1954, 102-107. 

Masters, John. Bugles and a Tiger. New York: Viking Press, 1956. 

. "The Fighting Gurkha," Holiday, XXIV, November 1958, 76, 

77, 185-187. 

Moorthy, K. Krishna. "The Sino-Indian Impasse," Far Eastern Eco- 
nomic Review, XXX, December 1, 1960, 496-501. 

. "Worsening Nepal-India Row," Far Eastern Economic Review, 

XXXVIII, November 1, 1962, 285-290. 

Morris, John. A Winter in Nepal. London: Hart-Davis, 1963. 

Nepal. Laws, Statutes, etc. "Constitution of Nepal," Nepal Gazette, 
XII, Extraordinary Issue No. 29, December 16, 1962. (Trans, by 
Regmi Research Project, No. 167/63.) 

. "Courts," Nepal Gazette, IX, Extraordinary Issue No. 19, De- 
cember 15, 1959. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 552.) 

. "Espionage Act 1962," Nepal Gazette, XI, Extraordinary Issue 

No. 47A, April 11, 1962. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 

-. "Public Security Act 1961," Nepal Gazette, XI, Extraordinary 

Issue No. 18, August 25, 1961, (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, 
No. 2209.) 
. "Travel Allowances," Nepal Gazette, XIII, April 27, 1963. 

(Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 865/63.) 

-. "Treason Act 1962," Nepal Gazette, XII, Extraordinary Issue 

No. 8B, June 29, 1962. (Trans, by Regmi Research Project, No. 3040/ 

"Nepal," Worldmark Encyclopedia of the Nations — Asia and Australia. 

(1963 ed.), 243-250. 
Okada, Ferdinand E, "The Gurkhas." (Orientation Paper No. 11.) 

Katmandu: U.S. Agency for International Development, Mission to 

Nepal, January 31, 1963 (mimeo.). 
. "Notes on Local Administration in Nepal." (Orientation Paper 

No. 12.) Katmandu: U.S. Agency for International Development, 

Mission to Nepal, March 12, 1963 (mimeo,). 


Pant, Y. P. "Nepal's Economic Development," Economic Weekly, XIV, 

November 10, 1962, 1725-1732. 
. "Nepal's Population Growth," Far Eastern Economic Review, 

XXXVII, September 13, 1962, 499-504. 
. "Planning for Employment in Nepal," Far Eastern Economic 

Review, XXX, October 13, 1960, 69-71. 

Patterson, George N. "Recent Chinese Policies in Tibet and Towards 
the Himalayan Border States," China Quarterly, No. 12, October- 
December 1962, 191-202. 

Pignede, Bernard. "Clan Organization and Hierarchy Among the 
Gurungs," Contributions to Indian Sociology, VI, 1962, 102-119. 

Red'ko, I. B. "Recent Events in Nepal: The Soviet View," Central 
Adan Review, IX, No. 4, 1961, 390-401. 

Richardson, Hugh. "Recent Developments in Tibet," Asian Review, 
LV, October 1959, 243-258. 

Rose, Leo E. "Conflict in the Himalayas," Military Review, XLIII, 
February 1963, 3-15. 

. "The Himalayan Border States: 'Buffers' in Transition," 

Asian Survey, III, February 1963, 116-122. 

Saksera, Narendra. "The End of a Mission, the Shape of Nepal's New 
Army," Calcutta Statesman, February 22, 1959. 

Searls, Guy. "Communist China's Border Policy: Dragon Throne Im- 
perialism," Current Scene: Developments in Mainland China, II, 
April 15, 1963, 1-22. 

Shrestha, Badri Prasad. A71 Introduction to Nepalese Economy. Kat- 
mandu: Nepal Press, 1962. 

Tucci, Giuseppe. Nepal. The Discovery of the Malla. (Trans., Lovett 
Edwards.) New York: Dutton, 1960. 

"Uneasy Nepal," Eastern World, XVI, March 1962, 16-22. 

U.S. Department of State. Bureau of Intelligence and Research. World 
Strength of the Communist Party Organizations. (Intelligence Report 
No. 4489, R-14.) Washington: USDS, January 1962. 

. World Strength of the Communist Party Organizations. (Intel- 
ligence Report No. 4489, R-15.) Washington: USDS, January 1963. 

Yearbook on Human Rights, 1953. New York: United Nations, 1955. 

Yearbook on Human Rights, 1957. New York: United Nations, 1957. 

(The following periodicals were used in the preparation of this section: 
Motherland, from February 1 to August 20, 1963; Commoner, from 
February 1 to August 20, 1963; Times of India, from February 10 to 
August 1, 1963; Hindustan Times, from March 10 to October 15, 1963; 
Regmi Research Project Reports (Katmandu), from January 1, 1960 


to August 20, 1963; Asian Recorder, from January 23, 1960 to July 
29, 1963; Deadline Data on World Affairs, Nepal, Damestic, from 
November 1950 to April 22, 1963; and Keesings C ontemporary Ar- 
chives Weekly Diary of World-Events, from January 1, 1955 to Au- 
gust 24, 1963.) 





Sikkim, to the east of Nepal, is a compact square-shaped country 
situated between two massive mountain spurs jutting southward from 
the main Himalayan range. Slightly smaller than Yellowstone National 
Park, it has an estimated population of about 165,000, composed mainly 
of Lepcha and Bhote ethnic groups and of relatively recent emigrants 
from Nepal. Most of its people live in rural areas in detached home- 
steads, generally a mile or more apart. Gangtok, the capital and largest 
town, with only about 7,000 inhabitants, is an overgrown village rather 
than an urban center. The country has common frontiers with Tibet 
on the north and east, Bhutan on the southeast, and India on the south, 
as well as with Nepal on the west (see fig. 1). 

Of these four neighbors, Tibet has had the major role in influencing 
Sikkim's development and in shaping its cultural identity. Bhote 
(Bhotia) people began entering the country from eastern Tibet in the 
early fourteenth century, spread along the valleys of the Tista River 
and its tributaries, and gradually extended their control over the local 
Lepcha inhabitants. When Sikkim emerged as a distinct national en- 
tity in 1642, a family of Tibetan ancestral origin sat on the throne, and 
the foundations of a theocratic state, based on Tibetan Lamaism, had 
been established. 

British domination, lasting from 1861 to 1947, brought about no sig- 
nificant weakening of the country's Lamaist cultural tradition; during 
the same period, however, Hindu cultural patterns, introduced by emi- 
grants from Nepal who began arriving in the mid-nineteenth century, 
took a strong hold in the southern part of the country. With the ad- 
vantage of available land in an undeveloped economic setting and the 
opportunity to profit greatly from their own efforts, the Nepalese flour- 
ished in Sikkim and made a major contribution to economic growth. 
By the early 1960's the Nepalese had become by far the largest segment 
of the population and Hindu culture had asserted itself to the point that 
some Sikkimese, including the Maharaja himself, feared that the Tibet- 
an-related traditional culture was in danger of being submerged. While 
the monarch called for the preservation and strengthening of the indige- 
nous tradition, at the same time he welcomed the efforts to modernize 
the country which India, having assumed the British protectorate in 
1947, was undertaking. 

The economy is mainly agrarian. Most of the people earn a liveli- 
hood from farming and animal husbandry; there is almost no industry, 
but handicrafts are well developed. Commerce, traditionally arising 
from the country's position on the shortest and easiest caravan route 
between Tibet and India, is also important. Gangtok is the commercial 
center as well as the capital. The country is not self-sufficient in food, 
and a continued effort is being made to increase exports to India, the 
source of most imports. There are no banks and the Indian rupee is the 


standard currency. A program to modernize the economy, carried out 
with Indian financial aid and technical assistance, has been fairly suc- 
cessful. Government revenues, for instance, almost doubled between 
1956 and 1962 to IR7.8 million (for value of the Indian rupee, see Glos- 
sary) . 

Although it is theoretically a kingdom ruled by its own Maharaja, 
the country is actually a protectorate of India, particularly in respect 
to its foreign relations and the defense of its territorial integrity. It has 
no constitution, but several political parties have been formed. The 
Maharaja by proclamation of March 23, 1953, introduced certain fea- 
tures of a democratic system of government. The proclamation recog- 
nized the authority of an Indian-appointed dewan, whose responsibili- 
ties were similar to those of a prime minister. It also established a State 
Council, which had limited legislative functions, and an Executive 
Council, which served as a Cabinet. The dewan presided over both 

The basic character of this governmental structure remains essen- 
tially unchanged. In the aftermath of the aggressions of Communist 
Chinese forces in the Himalayan area in late 1962, however, certain 
modifications, possibly of a temporary nature, have been introduced. 
Chief of these were the replacement in early 1964 of the dewan by an 
Indian "principal administrative officer" and the substitution of a Con- 
sultative Committee for the State Council. 

Political issues stem mainly from the demands of the Nepalese com- 
munity for increased representation in governmental affairs. The 
Lepcha-Bhote politicians, led by the ruling family, contend that since 
many of the Nepalese are recent arrivals in the country, they should be 
regarded as temporary residents unqualified to have a dominant voice 
in state councils until their permanent assimilation into Sikkimese so- 
ciety is assured. Overshadowing all political activities is the Chinese 
Communist threat from Tibet. As in Nepal, this threat, particularly 
intensified by the Chinese aggressions of 1962 in the Himalayan region, 
has united, temporarily at least, the various groups in support of the 
defensive efforts undertaken by the Governments of Sikkim and India. 


The northern, eastern and western boundaries of Sikkim are defined 
by the watersheds of three mountain ranges: on the north the crest of 
the main Himalayan range outlines the 55-mile boundary with Tibet; 
on the east and southeast, the Dongkya Range lies between Sikkim and 
Tibet for 55 miles and Bhutan for 20 miles ; on the west, the watershed 
line on the Singalila Range constitutes the 50-mile frontier with Nepal. 
On the south, the 55-mile boundary with India is marked by no par- 
ticular natural feature, except for a short distance by the Tista River 


and its tributary, the Rangpo River. The boundaries of modern Sikkim 
are virtually the same as those defined in 1890 by the British in an 
Anglo-Chinese agreement. The maximum distance from north to south 
is about 65 miles and that from east to west 55 miles, a total area of 
approximately 2,745 miles (see fig. 19). 

The formidable mountain barrier enveloping the country on three 
sides is cut by only three passes with elevations lower than 17,000 feet. 
These passes are of particular importance as they provide a relatively 
easy route between Sikkim and tiie Chumbi Valley in the strategically 
situated wedge-shaped Tibetan area extending southward almost to 
the Indian border. Moreover, routes from Tibet through these passes 
lead directly to the narrow corridor, only 25 miles wide, which connects 
the main portion of India with Assam, the North East Frontier Agency 
and Nagaland. 

Figure 19. Physical Features of Sikkim. 


The most important pass is Natu La, less than 30 miles northeast 
of Gangtok. With an elevation of approximately 14,200 feet, it is on 
the most practical land route from the Chumbi Valley to the plains of 
India. A secondary pass, about 5 miles south of Natu La, is Jelep La, 
with an elevation of 14,390 feet. The trail through it crosses some high 
mountains before reaching Kalimpong in India. Minor passes include 
Patra La, elevation 14,240 feet, about 25 miles north of Natu La; Ta-Chi 
La, elevation 17,393 feet, near the upper reaches of the Lachung River, 
in the northeast; and the Chorten Nyima La, elevation 18,500 feet, in 
the northwestern corner of the country. 

Sikkim has more than 20 mountain peaks rising about 20,000 feet. 
By far the most renowned is Kanchenjunga, elevation 28,208 feet — the 
third highest peak in the world. Situated in the northwestern part of 
the country astride the boundary with Nepal, Kanchenjunga is generally 
regarded by the Sikkimese as a sacred mountain. Besides being the 
subject of numerous legends and providing the inspiration for many 
artists and writers, it evokes emotions among the Sikkimese as does 
Mount Everest among the Nepalese. Within 10 miles on either side 
of Kanchenjunga are two other majestic peaks: on the north, Tent 
Peak at 24,165 feet; on the south, Kabru at 24,075 feet. The highest 
peak on the eastern range is Pauhunri, elevation 23,385 feet, 5 miles 
southeast of Ta-Chi La pass. 

Ridges and spurs from the enveloping mountains define the drainage 
pattern. From the crest of the Himalayan range rise the Lachung River 
in the northeast and the Lachen River in the northwest. In their south- 
ward course they join at Chuntang to form the Tista River, which with 
its tributaries drains virtually the entire country. It plunges southward 
some 40 miles before entering India through a deep narrow gorge south- 
west of the border town of Rangpo, eventually joining the Brahmaputra 
in East Pakistan. The principal tributaries of the Tista are the Rangpo 
in the southeast and the Rangit in the southwest. None of the rivers 
are navigable, but some have potentialities as sources of hydroelectric 

Natural resources remain largely unexplored and undeveloped. Depos- 
its of copper, found in many places but particularly in the Rangpo area 
southwest of Gangtok, have been worked by primitive methods for more 
than a century. Other mineral findings include coal (in sizable quanti- 
ties), graphite, gypsum, tin, zinc, aluminum, lead, iron ore (in small 
quantities) , silver and gold. 

Vegetation types and densities depend largely on elevation and soil 
availability. More than half the country is too barren and rocky for 
any vegetation except brush and grasses sufficient to support yak herds 
and wild sheep. In the extreme south, rain forests lush with tropical 
plant life are found in some of the narrow river valleys at elevations 


ranging from 700 to about 3,000 feet above sea level. Farther north, 
particularly at elevations between 9,000 and 12,000 feet, are vast areas 
of untapped woodland in which oak and birch generally predominate. 
Various species of fir, chestnut and rhododendron are also found. 

The monsoonal alternation of wet and dry seasons characteristic of 
the general area is complicated by the topography, particularly of slopes, 
exposure and altitude. The basic pattern is determined by the moisture- 
laden southerly winds blowing in from the Bay of Bengal, bringing the 
heaviest rains from about May to November. In general the climate is 
characterized as tropical at elevations up to 3,500 feet; temperate from 
3,500 to 12,000 feet; and alpine from 12,000 feet to the permanent snow- 
line, which begins in some areas at around 16,000 feet. Based on incom- 
plete records, the average annual rainfall is said to be about 137 inches 
in Gangtok, and as high as 200 inches each year on the south-facing 
slopes of mountains up to 8,000 feet. 


Of the three main ethnic groups, the Lepcha were the first established 
in the area. Nothing certain is known about their time of arrival, but 
it is commonly believed they were Sikkim's original inhabitants. Lepcha 
settlements were encountered in the early fourteenth century by the 
Bhota when they began coming into the country from eastern Tibet, 
the largest influx moving southwestward through the Chumbi Valley 
(now in Tibet) across the 14,200-foot Natu La pass, and on to various 
points along the Tista River and its tributaries. A smaller number 
pushed across the still higher passes on the northern frontier. 

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the newly arrived Bhote 
readily gained ascendancy over the less sophisticated local people. Some 
Bhote established themselves on the land and built up large estates. 
Others devoted themselves to the propagation of Tibetan Lamaism 
among the animist Lepcha, succeeding in converting many of them to 
the Buddhist faith. Of the lamas engaged in missionary endeavors in 
this period, those who were to play a major role in the nation's history 
congregated at Yoksam on the Rangit River, a tributary of the Tista 
River in the southwestern region. 

In the mid-seventeenth century several of the chief monks at Yoksam, 
realizing the need for a formal government structure in Sikkim, estab- 
lished a wealthy Bhote from Gangtok as ruler of a Lamaistic theocratic 
state. He was Phuntso (Phunshog, Penshoo) Namgyal, a seventh- 
generation descendant of a Tibetan nobleman, who according to legend 
was helped to this position in fulfillment of a sacred prophecy. The 
coronation took place in 1642 at Yoksam. Shortly thereafter the newly 
crowned Maharaja appointed 12 Bhote and 12 Lepcha as civil officials 
and gave them large tracts of land ; they were the forebears of Sikkim's 


nobility, later called kazi. Lamaist monasteries and shrines multiplied 
throughout the countryside and Buddhist emigrants not only from Tibet 
but from eastern Nepal entered the country in increasing numbers. 

Cordial relations with the Dalai Lama V in Lhasa were quickly estab- 
lished, developing in later years to the point that Sikkim, whose royal 
family customarily intermarried with Tibetan nobility, became a virtual 
dependency of its neighbor to the north. This relationship continued 
until well into the nineteenth century, during most of which time Tibet 
itself was under suzerainty of the Chinese empire. 

The boundaries of the country, fixed at the time of Phuntso Nam- 
gyal's coronation, extended beyond their present outlines on the east 
across the Chumbi Valley to the Ha Valley of Bhutan ; on the south to 
the plains of India just below Darjeeling and Kalimpong; and on the 
west across the Ham province of Nepal. During the eighteenth century, 
however, Sikkim was attacked first from the east, later from the west, 
and lost much of its territory. The Bhutanese invaders struck during 
the reign of the third Maharaja, Chakdor (Chagdor) Namgyal, who 
ascended the throne in 1700. Having occupied the country and forced 
the Maharaja to flee to Lhasa, they were eventually expelled with 
Tibetan help but by terms of the settlement allowed to retain the Kalim- 
pong area. The Bhutanese attacked again in 1780, but this time were 
turned back. Greater losses were suffered as a result of the Gorkha 
invasion of the late eighteenth century, when the Nepalese conquerors 
seized the entire western and southern portions of Sikkim up to the 
banks of the Tista River. 

At the close of the Anglo-Nepalese war (1814-16), the government 
of British India returned this territory (exclusive of Ham) to Sikkim, 
an act which marked the start of effective British influence in the area. 
In 1839, however, Sikkim was forced to cede the Darjeeling district to 
the East India Company, in return for which Great Britain provided an 
annual subsidy to the Maharaja of IR3,000. Trade and commercial 
relations between the two countries shortly thereafter produced friction, 
aggravated in 1849 by the arbitrary imprisonment of two British citi- 
zens who had been traveling in Sikkim. 

To safeguard its interests the Government of British India in 1861 
imposed the Treaty of Tumlong, under which Sikkim was forced to 
recognize British authority and responsibility in its internal and foreign 
affairs. The annual subsidy, withheld since 1850, was restored. How- 
ever, the situation was not to the liking of the Maharaja, who in 1886 
sent a plea for support to the Chinese resident in Lhasa. In response a 
small Tibetan force was dispatched to Sikkim, where it established 
fortifications in the southeastern region near the Jelep La pass. These 
troops continued to harass the British until finally driven out in 1888. 


Soon afterward China capitulated on the matter of British supremacy 
in Sikkim and signed a convention at Calcutta in 1890 confirming the 
British protectorate there; further, it agreed in 1893 to a supplementary 
treaty on trade and internal matters. This accomplished, the British 
appointed an Indian political officer and a council composed of civil 
officials and lamas to assist the Maharaja in dealing with affairs of state. 
The Maharaja fled, later dying in exile. He was succeeded in 1914 by 
his son, who succumbed in 1918, and was followed on the throne by his 
half brother, Tashi Namgyal, father of the present Maharaja. The 
annual subsidy, which had been forfeited in 1889, was resumed. 

Under British domination Sikkim experienced a period of peace and 
political stability. A few roads were built, a temporary hospital was 
constructed, and initial measures were taken to develop the economy. 
But the mass of the people continued to have little or no opportunity 
for schooling. A major change in the character of the population 
occurred with the sudden influx, beginning about 1870, of predominantly 
Hindu immigrants from adjacent areas of eastern Nepal. 

In 1947, India assumed the British protectorate, a status confirmed 
by a treaty of December 1950, when an Indian civil official was ap- 
pointed to assist the Maharaja. 


Persons of Nepalese origin make up an estimated 65 to 80 percent 
of the population. The remainder is comprised largely of Bhote, some 
Lepcha and a few strongly Indian-influenced groups on the southern 
frontier, such as the Tharu (Mechi subgroup), Dhimal and Rajbansi. 
None of these ethnic groups is found exclusively within the borders of 
Sikkim. The Lepcha, for example, are also found in eastern Nepal, the 
Darjeeling district of West Bengal in India and in western Bhutan. The 
Dhimal, Rajbansi, and Tharu (Mechi) are also found in the Tarai 
regions of Nepal and India. 

As in Nepal these varied ethnic communities fall into two large group- 
ings on the basis of cultural orientation: those influenced by Tibetan 
culture and those influenced by Indian culture. Within the Tibetan- 
oriented group, besides the Bhote and Lepcha, are a few Buddhist 
Nepalese, including Tamang, Sherpa and the tshong, descendants of the 
Magar, Limbu and Gurung groups who settled in Sikkim as early as 
the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Indian-oriented group, by far 
the larger, is made up almost exclusively of persons of recent Nepalese 
extraction whose forebears entered Sikkim mainly within the past cen- 
tury. They are Hindus and belong predominantly to the Rai ethnic 
group, although Newar and Pahari (particularly of the Chetri caste) 
are present. 

Nepali is spoken with varying degrees of fluency by nearly everyone. 


It is the common medium of communication not only among the 
Nepalese but also between them and the Bhote and Lepcha, each of 
which has a native tongue of its own. Den-jong-ke, the language of the 
Bhote, is a dialect of Tibetan and is spoken in the Ha Valley of Bhutan 
and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet as well as in Sikkim. It belongs to the 
Tibeto-Burman family, as perhaps does Rong-ke, the language of the 
Lepcha. Both Den-jong-ke and Nepali are used in official communica- 
tions with local administrative centers, but Nepali is the standard 
medium in instruction in the schools. The use of English however is 
being encouraged by the Maharaja. 

Although close social contacts between Lepcha and Bhote have been 
limited largely to the upper class, relations between the two groups have 
been generally harmonious. Lepcha have always been represented in the 
government and have been fully admitted to the lower ranks of the 
Buddhist clergy. A few have become abbots. The Lepcha, moreover, 
have adopted many elements of Bhote culture. Their house-type, cos- 
tume, language, customs and agricultural practices have been strongly 
influenced by the Bhote, whom Lepcha regard as socially superior. Only 
in a few solidly Lepcha villages and on an estate belonging to the 
Maharaja which has been set aside as a Lepcha reservation have they 
retained much of their old culture. Although intermarriage between the 
Bhote and Lepcha does occur, both groups tend to marry predominantly 
within their own ethnic groups, and neither intermarries with the Hindu 
Nepalese settlers. 

Considerable discord has existed between the Hindu Nepalese settlers 
and the Bhote and Lepcha. The Nepalese tend to feel that the govern- 
ment does not adequately represent their interests as the largest element 
in the' population and resent the discrimination practiced against them. 
Napalese settlers traditionally have not been allowed to become village 
headmen and for some time have been forbidden by law to settle north 
of the Dikchu River, above Gangtok. They can apply for citizenship 
only after 15 years' residence, and their citizenship can be revoked at any 
time by the Maharaja for disloyalty to or dissatisfaction with the 

Bhote, Lepcha and Nepalese are all patrilineally organized and are 
frequently found in extended family households. They differ, however, in 
many respects in the details of both domestic groups and the larger 
kinship system. Among both Bhote and Lepcha, for example, most mar- 
riages apparently are monogamous; a few are polyandrous, still fewer 
polygynous. A Bhote or Lepcha man rarely has more than one wife, but 
among the Nepalese polygamy is fairly common. 

The Bhote and Lepcha must ordinarily perform bride service — that is, 
work for their father-in-law for a period of time — as well as pay a large 
bride-price as part of the marriage arrangements, neither of which is 


done by the Nepalese. While performing bride service the Bhote hus- 
band usually lives with the bride's family, whereas the Lepcha husband 
remains with his own. 

The principle of equal inheritance is apparently followed by most 
Bhote and Lepcha, although one of the sons may be treated preferentially. 
In at least one Lepcha clan, however, the family estate is shared jointly 
by all sons. To prevent fragmentation of an estate a group of brothers 
sometimes will share a common wife, thereby retaining joint ownership 
of the family property. When there are no sons, a man is taken into the 
family to become the common husband of all of its unmarried daughters. 

The Lepcha are organized into large patrilineal clans iptso) which 
still retain to some degree their individual association with specific areas 
of Sikkim, although the movement of families to new areas has some- 
what blurred this localization of the clan, particularly in the larger vil- 
lages. The Bhote, on the other hand, seem to lack such large kinship 
groups ; Bhote families sharing the same family name are not necessarily 
relatives. Not only is descent not traced past grandparents, but many 
of these family names merely indicate the geographic origin of the fami- 
lies bearing them and do not imply even remote kinship. 


Probably only about one-third of the people are adherents of Tibetan 
or Lamaist Buddhism, the state religion. The remainder are Hindus 
who undoubtedly have retained the beliefs and practices that character- 
ize the popular religion of their caste or ethnic group in Nepal, including 
their own form of shamanism. 

The Buddhist clergy of Sikkim belong to the "Red Hat" orders of 
monks who are followers of Padmasambhava, the great teacher of the 
Vajrayana school who was responsible for the initial conversion of the 
Tibetans to Buddhism. Of the three orders of Red Hat monks, the 
Kagyutpa, Nyingmapa and Sakyapa, the Kagyutpa has the largest repre- 
sentation in Sikkim; its principal, the Gyalwa Karmapa Lama, fled 
Tibet after the 1950 invasion by the Chinese Communists and now lives 
at a monastery near Gangtok. 

The present Maharaja, Palden Thondup Namgyal, is a strong sup- 
porter of the faith, deeply interested in preserving its cultural and moral 
influence on the life of the country. In October 1958 he founded the 
Namgyal Institute of Tibetology at Gangtok, with the aim of promoting 
research in and knowledge of Buddhism, particularly in its Tibetan 
form. He is also president of the Mahabodhi Society, an Indian organi- 
zation devoted to the propagation of Buddhism. 

Although the high-ranking members of the Buddhist clergy no longer 
officially assist and advise the Maharaja as they once did, they continue 
to receive some financial support from the government. The 35 major 


gompa, or monasteries, receive small annual stipends from the state 
treasury. Part of their expenses and all those of smaller gompa, how- 
ever, are met by the villages they serve. 

A parish representative periodically visits each household to collect 
donations of cash or produce. Households wishing to have private serv- 
ices conducted for them are moreover expected to pay a fee which varies' 
with the ecclesiastical rank of the lama. Buddhist villagers of a parish 
additionally provide 15 days of uncompensated labor per household 
each year toward the maintenance of the gompa, and during the major 
festivals certain households take turns providing food and drink for all 
the' lamas. 

When living and working as tenant farmers or laborers in Bhote and 
Lepcha villages, Hindus may, like their neighbors, make contributions of 
produce or labor to the gompa and in the absence of Brahmans may 
retain lamas to conduct occasional private religious services. As Hindus 
they are seldom as liberal and frequent in making donations as the Bhote 
and Lepcha, for whom contributions to the gompa constitute a heavy 
financial burden. 

The Sikkimese gompa consists of a temple used solely for worship 
purposes and a few smaller buildings in which the lamas live during the 
major seasonal festivals, and to which they retreat for the rainy season 
(May to October) , when ordained monks are expected to withdraw from 
the world for a period of meditatioa and contemplation. At other times 
of the year lamas reside in their own homes. Those few whose houses 
are closest to the monastery manage its routine daily affairs. Each 
village usually has its own gompa, often quite small and simple, but 
affiliated to one of the major gompa, each of which has jurisdiction over 
a number of villages in a circumscribed area or parish from which it 
draws support. 

The Lepcha, although converted to Buddhism by the Bhote, did not 
abandon their earlier shamanistic beliefs in the spirits of various moun- 
tains, particularly Kanchenjunga, near which they believe their ancestors 
dwell. Instead, their earlier beliefs and traditions became intermingled 
with and reinterpreted in the light of Tibetan Buddhism. 

Influences from the shamanism of other ethnic groups have also been 
felt. Thus, there are similarities to the Bon religion of Tibet, which 
entered the country with Lamaism as it did in Nepal. The Lepcha have 
several types of shaman, depending on whether the shaman is possessed 
by a Lepcha, Tibetan or Limbu deity or spirit. Both men and women 
may be shamans, and the office is inherited, a member of the shaman's 
family being chosen by the spirits to follow him or her. As in Nepal, 
the shaman appeases malign deities, offers worship to benevolent gods, 
diagnoses and cures illnesses, practices divination and sorcery, and con- 
ducts rituals at the important crises of Lepcha life, such as birth, mar- 
riage and death. 



In the traditional social order, status was primarily determined by 
birth, and only secondarily by personal achievement. The nobility 
(kazi) , who held large feudal estates in fief from the ruler, were a 
hereditary aristocracy distinguished not only by their privileged eco- 
nomic position but by their almost exclusive access to political power 
under the supreme authoniy of the king. The kazi made up the tra- 
ditional bureaucracy and, within their own domains, exercised complete 
administrative, military and judicial control. Below them were the 
stewards, who acted for the kazi in the management of their estates, a 
few commoners to whom the king had given title to small portions of land 
in return for services rendered, and the mass of peasant cultivators on the 
estates of the kazi. The only path to higher status open to these persons 
was that provided by the ecclesiastical hierarchy. 

Among his peers the ordinary man achieved respect primarily by his 
own efforts and skills, influenced by his personality and good char- 
acter. Generosity in supporting the monasteries and in conducting the 
festivities associated with the important events of life such as weddings 
and funerals was one of the significant values of the society. Ownership 
of animals and land was also important in conferring prestige. 

The traditional order was somewhat weakened by the large-scale 
influx of Hindu Nepalese settlers after 1870, although until the mid- 
twentieth century the essential pattern remained intact. In political 
and social terras the hereditary nobility remained in a preeminent posi- 
tion. The monopoly of the kazi on economic power, however, was 
increasingly challenged by the Nepalese, many of whom, although they 
had entered Sikkim with only meager resources, managed to acquire 
property by dint of hard work and careful savings. A substantial 
minority of this group were able to buy small farms of their own ; a few 
amassed considerable wealth in the form of large landholdings. 

The immigration of large numbers of Nepalese not part of the tradi- 
tional society, the redistribution of land in the post-World War II 
period, and efforts to modernize the country have wrought major 
changes in the society. New social groupings and new social values 
have emerged and the society itself has shifted from one based on 
ascribed status to one more oriented toward achievement. 

Culturally and ethnically Sikkim remains divided into two societies — 
the Buddhist Bhote-Lepcha community, in which the Bhote enjoy higher 
status, and the Hindu Nepalese. Social intercourse between the two is 
largely limited to formal contacts such as those bringing together land- 
lord and tenant, merchant and customer. Intermarriage never occurs. 

Nevertheless the existence of a common national government, a devel- 
oping national economy and the geographic unity of the country make 


it possible to put the two communities together in a single scheme of 
socioeconomic stratification. Because the criteria of this graduation do 
not entirely correspond with those ordinarily applied by Sikkimese in 
ranking one another, the framework, in terms of self-identification, may 
scarcely exist. The caste system of the Hindus and the special position 
of the Buddhist clergy, for example, are not taken into consideration. 

At the peak of the social pyramid are the Maharaja and his relatives. 
Below them in the elite are the kazi who control the higher government 
positions, wealthy Nepalese who once were large landowners, and a 
number of businessmen of varying ethnic origins. 

A middle group is composed of the Indian Marwari caste of money- 
lenders, wealthy Bhote caravaneers and stockbreeders, the bulk of civil 
servants, shopkeepers — both Indian and Nepalese — and some of the more 
prosperous peasant farmers of all ethnic groups. The bulk of the popu- 
lation are small landowning peasant farmers; lowest in the scale are 
tenant farmers, day laborers and porters. 

On the local scene ownership of land continues to define socioeconomic 
position and to confer prestige, although it no longer is an attribute of 
privileged status as it was before 1951 when all large landholdings except 
those of the Maharaja and the five principal monasteries were redis- 
tributed to peasant cultivators. Particularly among the Bhote, herds of 
yak, long- and short-horn cattle and mules are an important form of 
wealth, in some areas more significant than private ownership of land. 

Another important social change has to do with the significance now 
attached to Western education. In contrast to earlier practice such 
schooling has become as important as, and in some cases more important 
than, birth in staffing government positions. The Nepalese Hindu immi- 
grants, not sharing the values of the traditional Buddhist society, have 
been more active in seizing the opportunities opened by modern educa- 
tion and an expanding economy than have the average Bhote or Lepcha. 


At the time India assumed the British protectorate of Sikkim in 1947, 
the level of medical, health and sanitary facilities in the country was 
low. Communicable and other diseases were widespread, pure water 
supplies were almost nowhere available and modern medical care reached 
only a small fraction of the people. There were only 3 small hospitals, 
one in Gangtok with 64 beds, the others in Singtam about 10 miles 
southwest of Gangtok, and at Namchi some 20 miles southwest of the 
capital near the Indian border. These had 6 and 16 beds, respectively. 
Besides this there were 7 dispensaries, all in the southern part of the 

Since 1954, when a development program financed and largely admin- 
istered by India was put into effect, some improvement in public health 


has been brought about. Many persons have been inoculated against 
smallpox and tuberculosis and large parts of the highly malarious 
southern region of Sikkim have been covered by spraying teams. A 
maternal and child-care wing has been added at the main hospital in 
Gangtok and another hospital and some 15 new dispensaries built. A 
few young persons have been sent to India to train for the staffs of 
these new institutions. 

More effective, however, have been efforts to extend educational oppor- 
tunities to larger numbers of Sikkimese children. Literacy has been 
increased from less than 5 percent in 1950 to about 13 percent, and 
enrollment in the country's roughly 150 schools has reached 7,200, 
more than double those under the British. To improve the caliber of 
teaching, a training institute has been established at Temi in the south- 
west. The opening in 1957 of a Cottage Industries Institute in Gangtok 
has provided an opportunity for about 60 young women each year to 
learn various handicraft skills. In addition, substantial numbers of 
young persons have been sent to Kalimpong, Darjeeling and Calcutta 
for training. Some had won Indian Government scholarships; others 
were studying at private expense. 

Despite this growth in educational opportunity, modern schooling 
still failed to reach the majority of Sikkimese children, and those whom 
it did reach were in many instances taught by ill-prepared instructors 
handicapped by lack of books and equipment. Because of differing 
attitudes toward education, the principal beneficiaries of the educational 
reform were the Nepalese; interest in secular schooling among the Bhote 
and Lepcha was limited almost entirely to the upper class. Most Bhote 
and Lepcha continued to favor traditional forms of learning and sent 
their most promising male children to monasteries for training, hoping 
to see them eventually become part of the economically secure and 
respected Buddhist clergy. 

Apart from the needs of Sikkim's permanent population, the govern- 
ment has been confronted with the necessity of providing social services 
for more than 7,000 Tibetan refugees who fled to Sikkim after the 
takeover of their country by Communist China. Camps and schools 
were set up and India physicians brought in to provide medical care. 
Efforts were made to make the refugees self-supporting by employing 
them in road construction work, but they were herdsmen and farmers 
by training and few were able to accommodate themselves to this work. 
Recognizing that their presence was an enormous economic and social 
burden on Sikkim, India agreed in 1961 to take the bulk of the refugees. 
By mid-1964, nearly all had emigrated to India, leaving behind only a 
few hundred for whom food and shelter had to be provided. 

Even more critical than the need for schools, dispensaries and hos- 
pitals has been that of building up a formal communications network 


and a modern system of roads, neither of which existed at the time the 
development program was put into effect. News traveled almost exclu- 
sively by word of mouth, except in Gangtok, where a few Indian peri- 
odicals were brought in ; only one motorable road, running from Gangtok 
south to Rangpo on the Indian border, linked the country with the 
outside world. 

The Maharaja and the Indian officials concerned with Sikkimese 
affairs fully realized the urgency of modernizing the country's communi- 
cations and transport facilities and this became one of the chief problems 
attacked under the Indian-supported economic development program. 


Land Use 

Land use is largely determined by altitude and rainfall. Elevations 
range from 700 feet above sea level in the Tista Valley in the south to 
over 20,000 feet in the main Himalayan range in the north. The rainfall 
varies from 200 inches on the windward slopes to 60 inches on the lee- 
ward side. Nearly all occurs during the monsoon season from May 
through October. Land under cultivation is found is mountain valleys 
and on the slopes of the hills up to 7,500 feet, but most of it is located 
in the warm, moist valley bottom of the south, where an extended 
monsoon and heavy rainfall make it possible to raise two or three crops 
a year. Farther north the land is covered with extensive belts of forest, 
and beyond 9,000 feet an alpine tundra stretches to 13,500 feet where 
the permanent snow cover begins. Of some 3 million acres it is esti- 
mated that about 8 percent is cultivated and about 15 percent forested. 
The barren alpine region which supports only yak herds and wild sheep 
accounts for more than half the remainder. The rest of the country's 
land area is covered by perpetual snow. 

Land Tenure 

Only the Maharaja and five large monasteries retained their extensive 
landholdings after the land reforms of 1951. At that time other holdings 
were purchased by the government and distributed to farmers, who 
received ownership rights to land for which they had previously held 
usage rights only. Rents are collected directly by government officials. 
Tenants on the larges estates and the sublet farms are of two kinds. 
Some pay fixed amounts either in cash or kind ; others pay a percentage 
of harvested products. Contracts are made with the owner, usually for 
1 year. Since 1951 landlords have been required to give receipts for 
rent payments to tenants, who can be evicted only by legal process. 

To safeguard the interests of the Bhote, Lepcha and tshong, the 
government has not only denied the Nepalese the right of ownership 


or residence north of Dikchu, but has also established protective 
measures for these groups with respect to rent for tenancy. Whereas 
a Nepalese must pay one-fifth of the harvest for a paddy field, the 
Bhote and the Lepcha are required to pay only one-eighth. 

Forests at altitudes over 6,600 feet are generally designated "reserved 
forests" and are government owned. At lower elevations forests are 
owned by individuals or communities, with few restrictions on their 
exploitation by their owners. 


Agriculture is characterized by small, terraced fields, primitive imple- 
ments and much manual labor. It is markedly influenced by the climate, 
which varies from tropical at lower elevations in the south to arctic in 
the high peaks of the main Himalayan range in the north. Of appioxi- 
mately 250,000 acres under cultivation, 30,000 acres are irrigated, mostly 
in the Tista Valley where the chief ricelands are located. Both wet and 
dry farming are practiced. Staple cereals, such as rice, corn, wheat, 
buckwheat and barley, are the main crops. The average yield is low 
and total production insufficient to feed the population. Corn and rice 
lead in acreage but cardamon, an herb of the ginger family, citrus 
fruits, apples and pineapples produced for export in the warm southern 
valleys are also important. Potatoes, a major cash crop, are grown at 
altitudes between 5,000 and 6,000 feet. Sheep, goats, cattle, yaks and 
mules are numerous; at higher elevations animals rather than crops 
support the population. Besides supplying local needs, the flocks furnish 
wool, skins, hides and meat. 

A Department of Agriculture established in 1955 is carrying out an 
extensive program to improve agricultural practices and to increase 
yields. Improved seeds have been distributed, and the use of fertilizers 
and plant protection methods introduced. Three demonstration farms 
have been set up: one at 3,000 feet near Gangtok, another at Lachung 
in the northeast for the study of high-altitude crops and a potato farm 
at Temi in western Sikkim. The Department also maintains two 
cardamom nurseries at Gangtok and Rongli, a nursery for subtropical 
fruits near Gangtok and an apple orchard at Lachung. The develop- 
ment of an agricultural extension service which will provide an exten- 
sion worker in each district throughout the country is an important 
feature of the Five-Year Plan (1962-67). 

Animal Husbandry 

Animals are of great importance in the economy. Almost all farmers 
have cattle and poultry. Bullocks are used to pull the plow and the 
cart. The Bhote, animal breeders more than farmers, raise long- and 
short-horned cattle and yaks; the lower floor of the two-storied Bhote 


house is both barn and granary. All have horses and mules because 
they are also occupied with the transport of goods along mountain 
trails. Flocks are driven in the summer to higher pastures, where the 
herdsmen live in tents made of felt or thick woolen cloth. The Lapcha, 
also animal breeders, maintain long-horned cattle, swine, goats, sheep 
and poultry. Many engage more in cattle marketing than in farming. 

In an effort to improve the local strains of livestock the Department 
of Agriculture in 1956 imported a herd of Jersey cattle and a number 
of pigs and installed them in a new dairy farm at Gangtok. Their 
progeny, to be crossed with indigenous strains, have been distributed 
free of charge among villagers. A chicken farm has also been started 
and selected breeds supplied to farmers at subsidized rates; the veteri- 
nary dispensary at Gangtok has been enlarged and its facilities expanded. 


Forests rich in softwoods and hardwoods constitute one of Sikkim's 
greatest assets. The finest of them lie in the northernmost regions of 
Lachen and Lachung, where exploitation has been difficult because trans- 
portation facilities are lacking. In the lower ranges and valleys, apart 
from what is left of the dense original forest, are valuable plantations 
of sal, simal and bamboo. The northern forests are reserved, but the 
southern forests to the east and west of the heavily cultivated area 
provide valuable timber for export, fuel and building materials for 
domestic use, and grazing for animals. The Department of Forests has 
the threefold task of stopping indiscriminate felling of trees, planting 
of areas subject to erosion, and carrying on a full-scale regeneration 
program in order to preserve the timber wealth of the country. 

Gathering, Hunting and Fishing 

Many valuable roots, barks, plant'^ and seeds can be gathered in the 
forests, but the most important is cardamom, the seeds of which are 
exported to flavor curry powder and bread, cakes and cookies. Many 
Lepcha became rich as a result of gathering natural cardamom, which 
grows like a weed, sometimes up to 12 feet. 

Although they are now engaged in farming and stockbreeding, the 
Lepcha also hunt and fish, and their traditional occupation of hunting 
still plays a considerable role in their lives. Birds, deer, bears and wild 
boar are the usual objects of their arrows a^id snares. The once exten- 
sive hunting of elephants and rhinoceros is now rare because of a reli- 
gious ban on killing these animals. Four types of bows are used. Arrows 
are made of reed and bamboo, tipped with iron, and dipped in aconite, 
a sedative extract. Limbu in the western part of the country are also 
hunters but little is known of their practices. 


Fishing is a part-time occupation among Lepcha living near moun- 
tain streams, where nets or bamboo traps are used, or the water is 
poisoned. Fish are usually caught jointly by a group and the catch 
divided equally among them. 

Minerals, Power, Industries and Handicrafts 

Sikkim has extensive deposits of copper and coal; it is believed that 
the geological survey being carried out by India may reveal other 
industrial and precious minerals in commercial quantities. Copper has 
been mined since 1875. The most promising mine is at Bhotang, where 
reserves are estimated at 41,000 tons. Sikkim and India are planning 
a large-scale, joint exploitation of this mine. Other copper mines are 
located at Dikchu, about 20 miles northwest of Gangtok, and at several 
other sites. Coal deposits occur in an area of 40 to 50 square miles in 
the Rangit Valley. Reserves are estimated at 240 million tons of non- 
coking coal suitable for domestic consumption. The West Bengal Gov- 
ernment is considering the building of a ropeway to transport coal from 
this field if deposits are found to warrant the expenditures. 

Sikkim has a waterpower potential estimated at 1.2 million kilowatts 
but until 1960 had only one small hydroelectric power station, built 
in the 1920's and capable of supplying Gangtok with electricity for 12 
hours each day. In 1961 the Rangli hydroelectric project generating 
2,100 kilowatts of electricity was completed, making it possible to plan 
for the establishment of small industries. Four other small hydroelectric 
plants are being built at Mangen, on the Tista River about 10 miles 
north of Dikchu, Gezing on the Rangit River, Namchi and Naya Bazar. 
It is hoped that Sikkim's rivers can be harnessed not only for domestic 
industry but also for the export of power to India (see fig. 20). 

Industry is represented by two small plants, a fruit processing factory 
at Singtam and a distillery near Rangpo. Handicraft production, how- 
ever, is highly developed and most consumer goods and tools are pro- 
duced by artisans and craftsmen. The Cottage Industries Institute at 
Gangtok was established to encourage local handicrafts, such as carpet- 
making, weaving, traditional religious painting, embroidery and papier- 
mache work. 

Trade and Transport 

Since November 1962, when a state of emergency was declared and 
the Tibetan border closed, trade has been almost entirely with India. 
Prior to the border closure Sikkim carried on considerable trade with 
Tibet and its termination has been a severe blow. The principal imports 
from Tibet were yaks, wool and salt; Sikkim supplied handmade clothing 
and utensils. Even more important to Sikkim was the Indian-Tibetan 
trade, mainly channeled over the Kalimpong-Gangtok-Natu La pass to 


C H T\ N A 

TIBET / ,- V 


J V. 




pACH,U-17_393;* -^ ^^ 

Figure 20. Sikkim. 

the Chumbi Valley in Tibet. Exports from India into Tibet — articles 
of every description, from rice to radios — had to be carried much of 
the way by mule, caravan and porter. Sikkim exports apples, oranges, 
lumber and other forest products such as medicinal herbs and spices to 
India, and imports machinery, steel, cement, rice, wheat and cotton 

Gangtok is the center of trade. Galleried shops along the main thor- 
oughfare sell a wide variety of imported goods, and on market day 
people from the surrounding countryside bring vegetables, fruits, meat, 
fish and butter to the new, modern market. In other parts of the country, 
villagers who generally live in detached homesteads congregate every 
week at a central market to buy and sell the necessities of life. 

Gangtok's commercial importance has grown as the country's road 


system has expanded. In 1951, Sikkim had one motorable road running 
from Rangpo on the Indian border and stopping at Gangtok; only a few 
trails were passable by pack animals, the others being usable only by 
porters. Since 1958 about 500 miles of vehicular roads have been built. 
The road from Gangtok to Natu La pass was completed, as well as the 
northern Sikkim arterial road which enables villagers to send their 
produce to markets in northern India by truck instead of by porter or 
mule. Another road to the formerly inaccessible northern part of the 
country and an alternate highway to Gangtok from India via Pakhyong 
are under construction. The ropeway from India to Gangtok, com- 
pleted in 1958, supplements other freight carriers. The nearest railroad 
station is at Siliguri, about 50 miles from Gangtok; the nearest airport 
is at Baghdogra, also in West Bengal. Both are connected with Gangtok 
by a bus and truck service operated by the Sikkim National Transport 

The Two Development Plans 

Most of the advances in Sikkim's economy are the result of its two 
development plans, both financed by India. Expenditure under the 
Seven-Year Plan, dating from 1954, totaled IR34 million. About half was 
spent on communications and transportation; the remainder on agri- 
culture, minor irrigation projects and rural development, power and 
industry, and social services. The Five-Year Plan, (Sikkim's second 
plan) began on April 1, 1962, calhng for the expenditure of IR82 million 
on further modernization of the country. An IR25-miliion project to 
develop copper resources, a joint Sikkimese-Indian enterprise, is out- 
side the plan. 



Since emerging as a state in 1642 the country has been ruled auto- 
cratically by a king, commonly called the Maharaja. His absolute 
powers were curtailed in 1861, when the Government of British India 
under the Treaty of Tumlong formally established a protectorate and 
assumed control of foreign relations. 

To check a growing spirit of resistance against their controls, the 
British in 1890 appointed a political officer to reside in Gangtok and 
assist the Maharaja in administering governmental affairs through a 
durbar, or council, composed of the chief civil officials and lamas. This 
general restriction on the Maharaja's powers continued until 1918, when 
Sir Tashi Namgyal, after prolonged negotiations, was vested by the 
British with autonomy over internal affairs. 

Further changes developed soon after the Government of India took 


over the British protectorate in 1947. In view of the threat imposed by 
the entry of Chinese Communist forces in Tibet in 1950, Indian authori- 
ties felt the need for even greater assurance of close cooperation from 
the Sikkimese Government than was accorded the British. The new 
relationships were formalized in 1950 by the Indo-Sikkim Treaty in 
which India undertook the responsibility for Sikkim's foreign affairs, 
territorial defense and strategic communications. The British political 
officer, responsible also for Bhutan since 1904, was replaced by an Indian 
incumbent. Furthermore, the Indian administration added a dewan 
who, with functions similar to those of a prime minister, acted as the 
Maharaja's chief adviser. 

Early in the 1950's the Maharaja began experimenting with several 
types of advisory bodies. By proclamation of March 23, 1953, he estab- 
lished the State Council and the Executive Council, which with minor 
modifications continue to be the central elements of the new govern- 
mental structure. Despite the presence of various Indian officials and 
advisers on political, technical and other special matters, the Maharaja 
retains supreme authority over internal affairs. 

The State Council, as initially formed, was composed of 17 members: 
12 elected by universal suffrage organized on a communal basis (with 
6 members representing the Nepalese and 6 the Bhote-Lepcha segments 
of the population) and 5 members appointed by the Maharaja. The 
minimum age for candidates is 30 years and for voters, 21 years. 

As of mid- 1963 the Council, presided over by the dewan or a person 
designated by the Maharaja, met twice a year or whenever the Maha- 
raja saw fit. Its members held office for 5 years from the date of their 
first meeting after election. Issues were decided by majority vote of 
members present, with the Maharaja voting in case of a tie. 

The Council was empowered to enact laws pertaining to internal 
affairs, but the Maharaja's prior approval was required before it was 
able to consider any legislation affecting state enterprises, land revenues, 
or religious, police and financial matters. Specifically forbidden were 
deliberations relating to the ruling family, to any matters pending before 
a court or to relations with India and other foreign countries. 

The Executive Council, primarily an advisory body, all of whose 
members are appointed by the Maharaja, was composed initially of 
certain elected members of the State Council. The dewan is permanent 
chairman, but the Maharaja can veto any of the Council's decisions and 
substitute one of his own. Members serve at his pleasure and are 
directly responsible to him for their executive functions and ta the 
State Council for their administrative functions. Council members 
exercise any powers that may be delegated to them by the Maharaja, 
but each normally heads the administration of one or more specific 
departments, including Education, Public Health, Public Works, Taxes 
and Licenses, Press, Transport, Forests and Bazaars. 


The changes in governmental organization and procedures since 1950 
have been in the nature of adjustments in response to internal poUtical 
pressures and to external tensions, particularly those induced by the 
disputes between neighboring India and Communist China. By 1958 
communal representation on the State Council had been somewhat 
broadened by the addition of three members, one elected by all the 
voters at large, one selected by the lamas from those monasteries recog- 
nized by the ruling family, and the third appointed by the Maharaja. 

The first general elections in Sikkimese history were held during 1952 
and 1953, but the electorate was politically immature and only about 
40 percent voted. In the second elections, held late in 1958, demands 
for a constitutional monarchy and relaxation of Indian controls became 
major issues. The third general elections, scheduled for 1962, were post- 
poned a year because of the continued state of emergency which, follow- 
ing India's example, had been declared on November 13, 1962, after 
Communist China's aggressions into Assam on the eastern, and Ladakh 
on the western, Himalayan border of India. 

As of the beginning of 1964, the State Council has been dissolved since 
the expiration of its term in 1963. During the emergency it is replaced 
by a "People's Consultative Committee" and the Executive Council is 
reduced to four members. Moreover, the Indian dewan has, by mutual 
agreement, been replaced by an Indian "principal administrative officer" 
who heads the Consultative Committee and the Executive Council. 

The Maharaja 

The country's most prominent leader is Maharaja Palden Thondup 
Namgyal, ruler since the death of his father, Sir Tashi Namgyal, on 
December 2, 1963. The Maharaja, eleventh in the Namgyal family 
dynasty, has married twice. His first wife, a Tibetan, bore him three 
children before she died in 1957. On March 20, 1963, he married Miss 
Hope Cooke, an American girl. They have a son, born in February 
1964. The Maharaja is a devout Buddhist and has played an active 
role in Sikkimese affairs since 1950, when he represented his country 
in the Indo-Sikkim Treaty negotiations. He later became a leading 
figure in the National Party. Besides having an expert knowledge of 
Sikkim and its neighboring countries, he is well read on world affairs 
and has received special training in government administration and civil 
service procedures. An extensive traveler, he has made repeated visits 
to Tibet, India and the United States; he visited Japan in 1959 and 
Moscow in 1960. In 1963 he and his bride toured England, the Continent 
and the Soviet Union. 

Political Dynamics 

Political leadership since Sikkim emerged as a state in 1642 has been 


a monopoly of a small elite, virtually restricted to the ruling Namgyal 
family. Beginning in 1890, however, this leadership was strongly tem- 
pered by the presence of a British dewan and other officials. In 1949 
they were replaced by Indian appointees whose influence has been even 
stronger than that of the British. 

Political consciousness has developed largely from conflicts between 
the traditionally autocratic rule of the Namgyal family, generally sup- 
ported by the Bhote-Lepcha community, and the demands for increased 
recognition by the recently arrived Nepalese community — an ever- 
increasing majority group. Relationships with India and China have at 
times been lively political issues, but these tend to be overshadowed by 
common aspirations for complete sovereignty. 

Popular opposition to the vaguely defined legislative, judicial and 
administrative powers accorded by the Maharaja to large landholders 
created the basis for Sikkim's first widespread political movement. 
Mounting resistance to peasant exploitation led to the coalition in Gang- 
tok of three political groups on December 7, 1947, to form the Sikkira 
State Congress Party, an offshoot of the Indian National Congress. The 
new party, composed mainly of young Nepalese, supported the peasants' 
"no tax" campaign and pressed for three major reforms: abolition of 
the landlord system, formation of a democratic government with the 
Maharaja as a constitutional monarch, and admission of Sikkim to the 
Republic of India, but with retention of internal autonomy. 

After some State Congress Party leaders were arrested in February 
1949, a number of their supporters concentrated in Gangtok to ask for 
their release and for Congress Party representatives in government 
councils. Tension mounted as a campaign for passive resistance threat- 
ened to disturb the peace. In response to the Maharaja's request for aid, 
India sent a small military force and an official vested with special 
powers, who later became the dewan. Meanwhile, several other political 
parties were formed. The Sikkim National Party, financed largely by 
the Maharaja, represented the Bhote and Lepcha communities and 
favored retention of the Maharaja's powers as sovereign head of state. 
The Sikkim Raja Praja Sammelan Party (Association of King and 
People) was composed almost entirely of Nepalese who favored de- 
thronement of the Maharaja and tightening ties with India as a means 
of acquiring increased recognition in government. Some even wanted 
Sikkim to become an integral part of India, administrered by an 
Indian-appointed chief commissioner. As far as is known, there are no 
Communists in Sikkim. 

In the first general elections, held in the summer of 1953, the State 
Congress Party won all six of the seats in the State Council allotted to 
the Nepalese community, and the National Party won all six of the 
seats allotted to the Bhote-Lepcha group. The Raja Praja Sammelan 


Party was virtually eliminated as a political force. By late 1958, when 
the second general elections were held, the slow but steady economic 
progress seemed to have had a moderating effect on political activity. 
Pleas for joining the union of Indian states had been replaced by 
demands for a representative government within the framework of a 
constitutional monarchy. The presence of the dewan was generally 
resented. A new political party, the Swantatra Dal (Independent 
Group), had appeared, claiming to represent all communal groups. The 
Congress Party won a majority of the seats in the elections, but did not 
press for radical innovations. Its leaders generally supported the gov- 
ernment's social and economic projects. The Bhote-Lepcha leaders 
appeared to regard their favorable position as secure. Political issues 
centered around persistent complaints by the Nepalese groups that the 
government discriminated against them. Their grievances, upheld by 
the State Congress and the Raja Praja Sammelan parties, included the 
imposition of an unfair share of the tax burden, restriction of settlement 
to certain areas and prohibition against buying land from Bhote without 
government permission. 

By 1961 both the major parties (the State Congress and the National 
Party) favored a broad-based elected government. The authorities 
seemed reluctant, however, to meet the demands of the opposition 
groups. The Sikkim Subjects Regulations, promulgated in July 1961 
and modified in July 1962, apparently was designed to appease some 
of the Nepalese complainants. At the same time it seemed to heed the 
warnings of some Bhote political leaders that infiltrations from eastern 
Nepal could be part of a plan to eventually take over the country and 
establish a Nepalese-dominated Himalayan federation. 

The Regulations require that a foreigner may qualify for citizenship 
only after residing in the country 15 years. Lepcha and Bhote residents 
with Sikkimese fathers or grandfathers automatically are citizens. 
Meanwhile the opposition parties voiced demands for revision of the 
electoral system in order to obtain for their constituents representation 
in government proportionate to their numbers. They threatened, if 
confronted with government inaction, to launch a civil disobedience 
campaign and to boycott the general elections scheduled for the spring 
of 1962. 

Possible clashes were avoided by the postponement of elections until 
the fall of 1963, and then indefinitely because of the Chinese Communist 
aggression starting in October, followed on November 13 by the declara- 
tion of a state of emergency, which as of early 1964 is still in effect. 
After the Chinese Communist attacks the opposition parties canceled 
their plans for a noncooperative movement and pledged full support of 
the government's defensive efforts. 

Despite the unifying influence of the Chinese Communist threat, 

there persists an inherent conflict of viewpoints between the royally 
represented Lepcha-Bhote groups and the majority Nepalese group, 
the most aggressive element in the country's economy. This situation 
represents a serious hazard to tranquillity in Sikkim's political develop- 
ment. Furthermore, this risk is augmented by a lack of national con- 
sciousness and the persistent tendency of many residents to identify 
themselves according to ethnic or regional origin — as Bhote, Lepcha, 
Nepalese— rather than as Sikkimese. Government authorities hope that 
general cooperation in the economic projects called for under the two 
development plans will improve living standards, foster national pride 
and promote confidence in the country's ability to survive as a political 

Foreign Relations 

The foreign relations of Sikkim are conducted solely by India under 
provisions of the Indo -Sikkim Treaty signed on December 5, 1950— 
Sikkim's only existent treaty with any foreign country. However, 
Sikkim joined the Colombo Plan with India's approval in November 
1962. Close ties with Tibet prevailing prior to the Chinese Communist 
invasion of that country in 1950 have since deteriorated. These ties 
(based on traditions, customs and religious beliefs, including the spir- 
itual leadership of the Dalai Lama, and nurtured largely by trade and 
royal family marriages with Tibetans) were practically severed by the 
Chinese Communists' drastic policy of political reorientation of Tibet 
toward Peiping. This forced the Sikkimese, situated south of the 
Himalayan barriers, to look to India for protection and guidance. 
India, regarding the northern boundary of Sikkim as an important 
stretch of front line in the Indo-Chinese border dispute, responded with 
liberal economic and military aid. Although sympathetic to the royal 
family, India has endeavored to maintain the uneasy balance between 
Sikkim's opposing domestic political groups, without incurring enmities 
that could be exploited by Chmese Communist forces seeking to "liber- 
ate" the country. 

Sikkimese authorities attempt to maintain a neutral attitude toward 
the Chinese Communists and exercise care to avoid actions or disputes 
which might be used as a pretext for retaliatory tactics. The problem 
of dealing with Tibetan refugees is particularly sensitive in this respect. 
The initial influx of refugees, including the flight of the Dalai Lama 
in 1959 after the unsuccessful Tibetan revolt against the Chinese Com- 
munists, soon alerted the Sikkimese to their repressive policies. Hence, 
their reported proposals for a federation of Himalayan states evoked 
little interest, even among the Sikkimese opposition leaders. 

In 1961, India agreed to bear the brunt of the refugee burden by 
accepting some 7,000, leaving only a few hundred to settle in Sikkim. 


By 1963 most of the refugees from Tibet had been interrogated and 
passed on to India; some were sent to installations specially constructed 
with Indian funds and operated by the Sikkim Relief and Rehabilitation 
Committee. If any Communists are detected among the refugees they 
are sent back to Tibet. 

The generally harmonious relations with Nepal and Bhutan are under 
Indian supervision. The bulk of the Nepalese migrations occurred dur- 
ing the period of the British protectorate and apparently have not 
become an issue between the authorities of the two states. Bhutanese 
incursions into Sikkim have ceased and the common boundary is not 
in dispute. 

Defense Matters 

Defense is a responsibility of the Indian Army. The 1950 Indo- 
Sikkim Treaty gave India the right to station troops anywhere in the 
country, take any measures regarded as necessary to defend it, control 
all imports of arms, build strategic roads and track down fugitives within 
the country. In 1961, Sikkim requested of India an increased participa- 
tion in its own defense. The army, then consisting of only 60 men, was 
used primarily to guard the Maharaja's palace. India agreed to estab- 
lish and equip a separate militia force of 280 men to be trained and 
commanded by Indian officers to help man the border outposts. 

After the Chinese Communist aggressions of 1962, border defense 
precautions were intensified. India sent one infantry division to Sikkim 
to guard the critical roads and mountain passes, giving particular 
attention to the Natu La and the Jelep La passes about 25 miles north- 
east of Gangtok, in view of recurring reports of reinforcements arriving 
at a major Chinese Communist military post maintained at Yatung 
only some 10 miles from the passes. Civil defense measures, such as the 
installation of air raid sirens in Gangtok and the organization of "village 
defense committees," were announced in the Indian press. 

Development of the militia has progressed rather slowly. In July 
1963 a Sikkimese official announced that half the force, after completing 
its training, would rotate with comparable Indian forces in border 
security duties. The Sikkimese seem to welcome the presence of Indian 
troops, who mix well with the local residents and spend money freely 
among them. 




Among the sources consulted in the preparation of this section, the 
following are recommended as additional reading on the basis of quality 
and general availability. 

Doig, Desmond. "Sikkim, Tiny Himalayan Kingdom in the Clouds," 
National Geographic, CXXIII, March 1963, 398-429. 

Gusevoy (Guseva), N. R., Dyanov, A. M., Levin, M. G., and Chebok- 
sarov, N. N. Narody Yuzhnoi Azii. (Peoples of South Asia). Mos- 
cow: USSR Academy of Science, 1963. 

Hermanns, Father Matthias. The Indo-Tihetans. Bombay: Fernandes, 

India. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Publications Divi- 
sion. Sikkim Looks Ahead. New Delhi: IMIB, 1956. 

Karan, Pradyumna P. "Sikkim and Bhutan: A Geographical Appraisal," 
Journal of Geography LX, February 1961, 58-66. 

Karan, Pradyumna P., and Jenkins, William M., Jr. The Himalayan 
Kingdoms: Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal. Princeton: Van Nostrand, 

Kuhn, Delia, and Kuhn, Ferdinand. Borderlands. New York: Knopf, 

Levi, Werner. "Bhutan and Sikkim: Two Buffer States," World Today, 
XV, December 1959, 492-500. 

Nakane, Chie. "Sikkim ni okeru fukugo shakai (Lepcha, Bhutia, 
Nepalee), no kenkyu (A Study of Plural Societies in Sikkim)" Japa- 
nese Journal of Ethnology, XXII, Nos. 1 and 2, 1958. 

Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Rene von. "Ancient Funeral Ceremonies of the 
Lepchas," Eastern Anthropologist, V, December 1951-February 1952, 

Pallis, Marco. The Way and the Mountain. London: Owen, 1961. 

Sikkim. Department of Information and Publicity. Sikkim: Her Faith 

and Future. Gangtok: SDIP, 1958. 
"Sikkim— Himalajastaat zwischen Dschunglen und Gletschern (Sik- 
kim— Himalayan State Between the Jungles and the Glaciers) " Neue 
ZUricher Zeitung, August 29, 1963, 5. 



Chakravarti, P. C. India's Chinn Policy. Bloomington: Indiana Uni- 
versity Press, 1962. 
"Concern over Sikkim," Eastern World, XV, January 1961, 15. 
Haider, Hem Chandra. "India's Neighbor: Sikkim," Modem Review, 

June 1960, 479^85. 
Harrison, Selig. "What Goes On In Remote Sikkim," Washington Post, 

March 23, 1963, 10. 
Keesings Contemporary Archives, August 19, 1961, 18279. 
Nakane, Chie. "On the Frontiers of Tibet," Japanese Quarterly, VI, 

No. 3, 1958. 
"The Namg-yal Institute of Tibetology," United Ana, XII, No. 4, 1960, 

363, 364. 
Patterson, George N. "Problems of the Himalayan Frontier," Royal 

United Service Institution Journal, CVIII, May 1963, 95-106. 
Rai, Chandra Das. "Bhutan: An Introductory Note," United Asia, XII, 

No. 4, 1960, 365-368. 
. "Sikkim: Gateway to India," United Asia, XII, No. 4, 1960, 

. "Sikkim Historical Background," United Asia, XII, No. 4, 

1960, 359, 360. 
Rawlings, E. H. "The Buffer States of Sikkim and Bhutan," Eastern 

World, XVI, November 1962, 12, 13. 
Ross, Nancy W. "A Royal Princess," Saturday Evening Post, 

CCXXXVI, No. 1£>, 20-25. 
Sikkim. "Proclamation of Maharaja Tashi Namgyal, March 23, 1953," 

Durbar Gazette, March 1953. 
"Sikkim," Far Eastern Economic Review Yearbook, (Hong Kong), 

December 16, 1962, 172. 
"Sikkim— Land of the Uphill Devils," Time, XXIII, January 12, 1959, 

"Sikkim— Seven Year Plan," United Asia, XII, No. 4, 1960, 360-362. 
Snellgrove, David L. Himalayan Pilgrimage. Oxford: Cassirer, 1961. 
Thayer, Mary Van Rensselaer. "To Be A Princess," McCall's, XC, 

September 1963, 86-90, 160-170. 
"Threat to 'Freedom of Man' in S. Viet Nam," Times of India, Septem- 
ber 5, 1963, 6. 
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Observations ' on Trip to Sikkim 

State." (Foreign Agricultural Service Report, AGR 19.) Calcutta: 

USDA, September 30, 1957. 


U.S. Department of Labor. Directory of Labor Organizations: Asia and 
Australasia, II. (Rev. ed.) Washington: USDL, March 1963. 

White, Claude. Sikkim and Bhutan: Twenty-One Years on the North- 
East Frontier, 1887-1908. London: Arnold, 1909. 

(The following periodicals were used in the preparation of this section: 
Times of India, from February 10 to December 31, 1963; Hindustan 
Times, from March 10, 1963 to February 1, 1963; Asian Recorder, 
from January 23, 1960 to December 31, 1963; Keesings Contemporary 
Archives Weekly Diary of World-Events, from January 1, 1955 to 
January 2, 1964.) 




Bhutan, second largest of the three Himalayan kingdoms, is situated 
within the eastern sector of the main range which arcs around Tibet's 
southern and western borders. Slightly larger than Switzerland and 
elliptical in shape, it has common frontiers with only three states: Tibet, 
on the west, north and northeast; India on the east, south and southwest; 
Sikkim on the west. Its total population, estimated in 1964 at approxi- 
mately 725,000, consists principally of Bhote, a people of Tibetan origin, 
and a large Nepalese minority (see fig. 1) . 

The country's rugged mountainous terrain was of major importance in 
determining its history. Because the few high valleys in which the 
population was concentrated were accessible only with great difficulty, 
the Bhote lived in isolation in the Himalayan range for centuries, their 
only uninterrupted contact with the outside world having been by way 
of trade caravans to and from Tibet. Internally the terrain made for 
centuries of feudal fragmentation and internecine warfare among rival 
groups, whose fierce jealousies led to almost continual conflict and 

Tibetan Buddhist cultural influences have long dominated Bhutanese 
society. Lamas from Tibet introduced Buddhism to the area, eventually 
establishing it as the dominant faith, and in the early seventeenth cen- 
tury set up a formal government structure based on a division of 
authority between temporal and spiritual leaders, which persisted un- 
changed until the turn of the twentieth century. 

Under the present Maharaja, Jigme Dorji Wangchuk, who has ruled 
since 1962, Bhutan is confronted with powerful forces for change, 
especially in view of the tension created by the Chinese Communist ag- 
gressions along the Indian border which took place in October 1962. 
With strong support from India, which since 1959 has had the responsi- 
bility for conducting Bhutan's external affairs, it is undertaking a care- 
fully planned program of economic and social development and slowly 
entering the modern world. 

The society is predominantly rural, and no towns or urbanized 
communities in the Western sense exist. The largest populated places 
are clusters of houses built around a structure called a dzong, a combi- 
nation of fortress and administrative and religious center. Neither great 
concentrations of wealth nor grinding poverty are evident. Farming is 
the principal means of livelihood, and families are generally self-suf- 
ficient, producing their own food, weaving their own cloth, and building 
and repairing their own houses. On the whole they eat and dress well, 
show little desire to possess luxuries and are seemingly content to follow 
a way of life which has as yet barely been touched by modern influences. 

Barter is the basis of Bhutan's economy; with the exception of two 
token Bhutanese coins, Indian currency is used for the infrequent cash 
transactions. The total annual revenue of the government is not more 


than IR5 million to IR6 million (for value of the Indian rupee, see 
Glossary). Land tax accounts for more than half the total revenue, 
other sources being the cattle tax, grazing fees and excises. More than 
half the government's expenditures are for defense; a traditional prac- 
tice of supporting several thousand lamas in eight monasteries accounts 
for an additional 25 percent. India, on its part, has financed the Five- 
Year Plan (1961-66) of economic development and provides an annual 
subsidy of IR1.2 million. 

The Maharaja theoretically is an absolute monarch, but by the 
Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Perpetual Peace and Friendship signed on August 
8, 1949, his government agreed to be guided by the advice of India in the 
conduct of external affairs, while the government of India agreed to 
refrain from interference in Bhutan's internal administration. To assist 
in his administration the Maharaja has a Prime Minister, an Advisory 
Council of eight persons and a National Advisory Assembly called the 
Tsongdu, composed of about 140 members. 

Bhutan is virtually autonomous in the administration of its internal 
affairs and has more influence over the conduct of its foreign affairs than 
does Sikkim. Some Bhutanese leaders contend that, in view of the vague 
phrasing of the Indo-Bhutan Treaty, Bhutan is not strictly obliged to 
accept India's advice. However, the Maharaja and his government, 
recognizing their dependent status, have always heeded India's counsel, 
and the divergent viewpoints in this respect have not become the 
subject of serious dispute. India maintains liaison with both the Bhuta- 
nese and Sikkimese Governments by means of a political officer in 

For defense purposes India regards Bhutan's northern boundary as a 
part of its own frontier. The invasion of Tibet in 1950 by Communist 
China raised the question of that country's intentions toward Bhutan 
and the other Himalayan states. The threat to Bhutan seemed particu- 
larly serious as early as 1954, when the Peiping authorities distributed 
maps showing extensive areas in northeastern and northwestern Bhutan 
within Communist China. 

Apprehensions mounted in October 1962 when Chinese Communist 
forces moved across the frontier into India's North East Frontier Agency, 
just east of Bhutan. But as of early 1964 the Chinese Communists had 
refrained from entering Bhutanese territory, and the Bhutanese authori- 
ties had consistently rejected Peiping's offers for aid and its proposals to 
enter unilateral discussions regarding the demarcation of Bhutan's 
northern boundary. The Chinese Communist actions have, in fact, 
served to strengthen Bhutan's ties with India. 


Size and Population Density 

The total area of Bhutan is some 18,000 square miles, its maximum 


distance from north to south being approximately 110 miles and that 
from east to west about 200 miles. In comparison with the other 
Himalyan kingdoms, the country is sparsely settled, with slightly more 
than 40 persons per square mile, as against 60 for Sikkim and 180 for 


The boundaries of the country cannot be identified by easily recog- 
nizable natural features. The indefinite common border with Tibet 
extends some 300 miles along the snow-capped and almost inaccessible 
crest of the main Himalayan Range, except for short distances in the 
northeast, northwest and west, where it lies south of the watershed. The 
alignment of this boundary has been repeatedly disputed by Communist 

The border with India, extending some 330 miles, was established by 
the British in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The eastern sec- 
tion of this border, following spurs and valleys on the southern slopes of 
the main Himalayan Range, runs some 90 miles between Bhutan and the 
Indian territory known as the North East Frontier Agency. On the south, 
the border with Assam (150 miles) and with West Bengal (90 miles) 
extends generally along the southern base of the abruptly rising Hima- 
layan foothills. In some areas it includes the northern rim of the malarial 
Brahmaputra River lowlands, caller the Duars Plain in this area. On 
the west, the boundary with Sikkim, extending only about 20 miles, was 
likewise established by the British and accepted by the Indian Govern- 
ment (see fig. 21). 

Strategic Passes 

The five passes through the Himalayas have determined the course 
of Bhutan's caravan routes with Tibet. Bhutanese chieftains formerly 
competed fiercely for control of these passes and the trade through them ; 
the winners usually became rulers or powerful contenders for supreme 
authority. Since Bhutan stopped trading with Tibet in 1953 to impede the 
spread of Communist influence, the passes have lost their earlier sig- 
nificance. They now serve as escape routes for Tibetan refugees, and 
Bhutanese authorities regard them with concern as potential invasion 
routes for Chinese Communist forces. 

With elevations ranging from approximately 15,000 to more than 
20,000 feet, the passes are negotiable only by pack animals or porters. 
The three most important appear to be those on routes leading from 
Paro Dzong in Bhutan across the northwestern frontier into the Chumbi 
Valley of Tibet. The southernmost of these leads to Yatung; the next, 
Tremo La pass, to Phari Dzong; and the northernmost, just beyond 
Lingshi Dzong, to Diina. 

On the eastern section of the frontier, the pass north of Thunkar leads 
to Lhasa over a Tibetan motorable road reportedly to be completed by 
the Chinese Communists by 1965. The pass at Shingbe is on the shortest 



route from Tibet to Tashi Gang Dzong, the most important community 
in eastern Bhutan. 

Other important passes include those within Bhutan which lead across 
the mountain spurs jutting southward from the main Himalayan Range. 
Tashi Gang Dzong in eastern Bhutan and Paro Dzong in the west are 
connected by the country's only lateral communication route, which 
must cross a series of valleys and ridges, averaging one for each 15 miles 
of trail. The two most critical passes on this east-west axis route are 
within 25 miles on either side of Tongsa Dzong, the most important com- 
munity in central Bhutan; on the east is Rudong Pass, elevation 12,600 
feet; on the west is Pele Pass, elevation 11,055 feet (see fig. 22). 


Bhutan is entirely mountainous, except for narrow strips of the Duars 
Plain which protrude across the southern borders into the Himalayan 
foothills at several places. Elevations vary from approximately 1,000 
feet in the south to almost 25,000 feet in the north. The people are proud 
of their mountains, which are relatively unknown to the outside world, 
mainly because of the country's past policy of seclusion. Visitors are 
impressed with the scenic beauty of the snow-capped peaks and the 
variegated pattern of the rugged and deeply carved landscape. 

Along the northern border there are four peaks with elevations above 
20,000 feet. The highest is Gangri, elevation 24,740 feet, north of Tongsa 
Dzong; next in height is the country's most famous peak, picturesque 
Chomo Lhari, elevation 23,997 feet, northwest of Punakha. The most 
prominent spur jutting southward into Bhutan is the Black Mountain 
Range, which separates the country into two almost equal parts, with the 
dividing line at Pele Pass. 


All Bhutan's numerous rivers flow generally southward through gorges 
and narrow valleys, eventually to drain into the Brahmaputra some 
50 miles south of the boundary with India. Except in the east and in the 
west, the headwaters of the streams are in the regions of permanent 
snow along the Tibetan border. None of the rivers is navigable, but many 
are potential sources of hydroelectric power. 

The area east of the Black Mountain watershed is drained by the 
Tongsa Chu and its tributaries, the Bumtang and Dangme. West of the 
Black Mountain Range the drainage pattern changes to a series of 
parallel streams, beginning with the Sankosh River and its tributary, the 
Pho Chu. Farther west are the Paro Chu and Wong Chu which join to 
form the Raidak before it flows through the Sinchu La pass into India. 
Still farther west are the Torsa and Jaldhaka Rivers which rise in the 
Chumbi Valley and in Sikkim, respectively. 



Mineral and Timber Resources 

Deposits of coal, mica, graphite, iron ore, copper, gypsum and lime- 
stone are present in quantities sufficient for profitable exploitation. Other 
mineral findings include dolomite and gold. The most readily available 
natural resource is timber, as more than two-thirds of Bhutan's total 
area is forest covered. Oaks, birches, conifers and various trees suitable 
for paper pulp, turpentine and resin are plentiful, but these resources 
remain untapped. 

Flora and Fauna 

Vegetation is generally lush wherever soil is available and varies from 
tropical jungles in the south to alpine grasses and flowers in the north. 
Uncultivated areas in the narrow Duars Plain are rank with tall, 
coarse grasses and bamboo thickets. On the adjacent low-lying hills are 
dense forests composed mainly of sal, magnolia and rhododendron trees 
intermingled with tangled undergrowth. The region abounds with ani- 
mal life, such as the elephant, leopard, tiger, deer and python. 

Farther north in the high valleys and steep slopes astride the central 
axis through Tashi Gang Dzong and Paro Dzong, types of vegetation 
depend mainly on elevation and exposure to the monsoonal rains. The 
most densely wooded forests are on the rainy windward (generally west- 
ward) slopes. At lower altitudes along this axis and to the south, oak and 
bird) trees predominate in most areas. In the mixed forests to the 
north and on the crests of the high ridges to the south, conifers generally 
predominate over the oak and birch. Above 12,000 feet, trees become in- 
creasingly dwarfed and a variety of grasses provide favorable grazing 
for the hardy Bhutanese cattle and yaks during the short summers. At 
14,000 feet almost all vegetation has disappeared, except in sheltered 
spots. The mountain forests support various species of animal life, in- 
cluding the bear, deer, leopard and tiger. Leeches are a particular source 
of annoyance to man and beast. 


The monsoonal alternation of wet and dry seasons, characteristic of 
the general area, is complicated in Bhutan by topography and altitude 
as in the other Himalayan states. The moisture-laden southerly winds 
from the Bay of Bengal bring the heaviest rains each year from about 
May to December. Windward southern slopes consistently receive 
heavier precipitation than the protected adjacent leeward slopes. 

Meteorological statistics are lacking, but according to information 
based on general impressions of its infrequent visitors, the country may 
be divided into three general climatic zones. In the Duars Plain and 
adjacent low valleys, at elevations up to 3,500 feet, the climate is sub- 
tropical with high humidity and heavy rainfall, estimated at 200 to 300 


inches each year. From 3,500 to 7,500 feet it is temperate, with cool 
winters and hot summers. From 7,500 to 14,000 feet the climate is still 
temperate, but with cold winters and cool summers; the annual rainfall 
averages from 40 to 60 inches. Above 14,000 feet, an arctic climate 
prevails, with most areas permanently covered with snow or glaciers. 


Little is known of the history of Bhutan before the late eighteenth 
century. It is generally assumed that the forebears of the dominant 
ethnic group, the Bhote, came from Tibet, but the time of their arrival 
is uncertain. Of the several versions suggested by modern scholars, the 
most probable is that expansion across the mountains began in the 
ninth century when Tibet, at the height of its power, sent troops to 
seize control of the area. According to this account the Tibetan invaders 
met with little resistance in Bhutan, at that time a Hindu state ruled 
by a maharaja, and readily brought it under their control. Many of 
the local inhabitants fled south to the foothills at the base of the main 
Himalayan range or withdrew to Cooch Behar (now in West Bengal), 
a region with which they had ancestral connections. 

Small groups of farmers, herdsmen and Buddhist priests followed the 
Tibetan warriors across the mountains, the main influx coming in a 
southeastward direction through the Chumbi Valley and across into 
Bhutan over several high passes in the main Himalayan range. By the 
mid-sixteenth century a number of dzongs had been established in 
western Bhutan at places in the valleys where the terrain was sufficiently 
hospitable for habitation, including sites as far south as Punakha, the 
present capital, and Wangdii Phodrang. Intermarriage between the 
Tibetans and the descendants of those of the original inhabitants who 
remained had become common and many of the latter, originally Hindus 
or animists, had been converted to the Lamaist Buddhism of their 

Development of the government began early in the seventeenth cen- 
tury when a Tibetan lama, believed by his followers to be a reincarna- 
tion of Buddha, established his authority over the others and was given 
the title of Dharma Raja (spiritual leader). His successor is said to 
have organized the country into several territories, or provinces, each 
of which included one or more forts within its jurisdictional area. The 
governors (penlops) , who administered these territories, were appointed 
officials, who in turn appointed subordinate governors (called jungpens) 
from among the leaders in their respective forts. The Dharma Rajas 
concerned themselves primarily with religious matters, leaving authority 
over secular affairs to an appointed minister, who soon became known 
as the Deb Raja (temporal leader). 

Subsequently, as the Dharma Raja became increasingly preoccupied 


with spiritual matters, the Deb Raja came to be regarded as the actual 
head of state, and his post was given to persons "elected" by a council 
of penlops and jungpens. In practice the most powerful penlop, usually 
the most influential landlord in the country, either appointed the Deb 
Raja or usurped the post for himself. Thus, a change in the post of 
Deb Raja frequently resulted in a change of penlops and their subordi- 
nate jungpens, a system which bred intense rivalries for rulership, as 
the ousted officials customarily would occupy their time in making 
preparations to regain power by any possible means. 

Beset by internal difficulties, Bhutan nevertheless followed an aggres- 
sive policy toward its neighbors during the eighteenth century, sending 
frequent raiding parties across the western and northern borders. Its 
warriors plundered wide areas in Sikkim, kidnaped the king and carried 
off many captives, emerging from a series of engagements in possession 
of the Ha valley and the Kalimpong region (then a part of Sikkim and 
now in West Bengal). 

Bhutan's aggressions on the southern border, however, were far less 
successful. In 1771 when the Deb Raja sent troops into Cooch Behar — 
possibly to prevent any British attempt to set up a trade route through 
his country to Tibet — the British intervened, drove the Bhutanese out 
and pursued them into their own territory. Peace was arranged in 1773, 
largely through the intercession of Tibet. 

Disputes along this border nevertheless continued into the early nine- 
teenth century, with the result that in 1841 the Government of British 
India annexed the Duars Plain to Assam, placing its northern frontier 
along the general line of the present boundary. The British in return 
agreed to pay a small annual subsidy to the Bhutanese as long as they 
remained peaceful. Bhutanese raiders continued to operate across the 
border, carrying off Indian subjects of the British as slaves. 

In 1863 a British representative, sent to Bhutan to protest against 
these infractions, was kidnaped and forced to sign an agreement return- 
ing the Duars Plain to Bhutan. After escaping, he repudiated the agree- 
ment, stopped the subsidy and demanded restoration of the captives. 
When the demands were rejected in 1865, British troops invaded Bhutan 
and forced the Bhutanese authorities to sue for peace. Under the terms 
of the Sinchu La Treaty, which terminated hostilities, the Duars Plain 
and Kalimpong were ceded back to British India, the Bhutanese agreed 
to refer any dispute with Sikkim or Cooch Behar to the British Govern- 
ment for negotiation and Bhutan's annual subsidy was greatly increased. 
Thereafter, relations with the British Government in India remained 

The dual system of government, which has been in existence for some 
300 years, was discontinued in the early twentieth century when the 
incumbent Dharma Raja died and no successor who could qualify as 


the reincarnation of Buddha could be found. The Deb Raja then took 
on the added responsibihty of administering to the spiritual needs of 
the people. The post of Dharma Raja finally was abolished in 1907, 
when with British support Ugyen Wangchuk, the penlop of Tongsa 
province in the eastern region, was elected hereditary maharaja of the 
country. Hereditary secular and religious rule vested in the Wangchuk 
family facilitated the establishment of a unified, centrally administered 
government for the first time in Bhutan's history. 

In 1910 Bhutan, in return for a further increase in its annual subsidy, 
agreed to accept British guidance in its external affairs while refusing 
to allow British interference in its internal affairs. This decision meant 
that Bhutan did not receive help in building roads, expanding communi- 
cations and developing the economy as did Sikkim, which was a British 
protectorate. The pace of its development during the first half of the 
twentieth century was therefore extremely slow. The nation's limited 
resources continued to be drained off to support the monasteries, no 
roads were built, word of mouth remained virtually the only means of 
communication, and almost no one other than the ruling circle acquired 
more than a rudimentary education. Although, as in Sikkim, certain 
changes were set in motion by the continuing arrival of immigrants from 
Nepal, Bhutan's rulers chose as far as possible to insulate the country 
against exposure to the outside world. 

After Word War II, India achieved independence and took over Great 
Britain's responsibilities in the realm of Bhutan's foreign affairs. With 
Indian support the country, under a forward-looking maharaja who has 
completely reversed the former policy of isolation, has made a slow but 
steady beginning toward entering the modern world. 


During the 12 years of his incumbency as a theoretical absolute mon- 
arch, the Maharaja has introduced certain features of modern repre- 
sentative government. The latter include a Prime Minister, an Advisory 
Council, comparable to a Cabinet, and a Tsongdu or National Advisory 
Assembly, created in the mid-1950's. Although the maharaja appoints 
the Prime Minister, the Advisory Council and about 25 percent of the 
Assembly members, the remaining assemblymen are elected indirectly 
every 5 years from among village headmen. 

The Assembly is composed mainly of lamas, district officials and 
village headmen, each representing a constituency of some 5,000 persons 
and comprised of several villages. Each village, on the basis of one 
vote for a family, elects a headman every 3 years. By agreement among 
themselves the headmen from each constituency select their representa- 
tives to serve in the Assembly for a 5-year term. 


As many of the assemblymen are illiterate, most of the legislative 
bills are initiated by the maharaja and placed before the Assembly by 
the Prime Minister. Free expression of opinion is encouraged, however, 
and debates on some issues reportedly become quite stormy. Members 
may criticize the monarchy, even the maharaja himself. 

The Assembly meets once or twice each year, sometimes in Thimbu, 
the winter capital, and sometimes in Punakha, the summer capital. Each 
session, lasting 1 or 2 weeks, is presided over by the Speaker, who is 
also Chief Secretary to the government. Voting is by show of hands, 
and the maharaja has final veto power. Presumably a proposed bill 
can be defeated by a majority vote, but there is no record of such an 

For administrative purposes Bhutan is divided into 15 districts called 
dzongs, each headed by a commissioner (trimpong) , who is responsible 
for law and order and the general welfare of the people in his area. It 
is mainly through him that the Prime Minister exercises the authority 
of the central government. The trimpong is assisted by a senior official 
(nyerchen) , whose primary function is tax collection. 

Each village has a council consisting generally of one member from 
each family. The council elects a village headman, who, assisted by 
the council, is authorized to pass sentence for minor offenses. Cases 
involving more serious crimes are referred to the district magistrate 
izimpen). All defendants have the right of appeal up to the maharaja, 
whose decision is final. The mahard,ja alone is empowered to impose 
or remit the death sentence. Capital punishment, opposed by most 
religious leaders, is authorized only for the crimes of espionage and 
murder. The people appear proud of their low crime rate, and cases 
calling for the death penalty have not arisen during the reign of the 
present maharaja. However, some lamas reportedly petitioned the 
maharaja in 1962 to pass the death sentence on a man convicted of 
practicing witchcraft. Because it was not a capital offense, the request 
was refused. 

Political Dynamics 

Political leadership has been virtually a monopoly of the Wangchuk 
family since 1907, when it was vested with power to rule over secular 
and religious affairs. It appears to be confronted with no serious sources 
of opposition. The Maharaja himself is deeply involved in the broad 
task of modernization, but leaves the handling of ordinary political 
matters to his forceful brother-in-law. Prime Minister Jigme Polden 

Several factors contribute to the apparent apathy of the population 
toward political issues. Living standards are relatively good compared 
to most other Asian states. Overcrowded and impoverished urban 
settlements are lacking, and almost all families own their own land. 


Moreover, until the Chinese Communist aggressions in Tibet and 
against the neighboring Indian frontier, the people had been virtually 
isolated from the political turmoil of the outside world. Because of the 
high illiteracy rate and lack of communications facilities, political organ- 
ization and the dissemination of information on political issues have 
been seriously handicapped. It is probable, however, that the creation 
of a National Advisory Assembly with a large proportion of elected 
representation will gradually diminish this apathy. 

The only political movement with any semblance of organization is 
the Bhutanese National Congress, which represents the Nepalese 
minority group, concentrated mainly along the southern border and 
estimated to be more than 25 percent of the total population. It also 
includes a few disgruntled Bhutanese seeking to escape conscription 
in road construction work gangs. Because it is not recognized by the 
government and because of the difficulties confronting opposition ac- 
tivities in Bhutan, the National Congress operates from bases in Assam 
and Siliguri in West Bengal, of which the latter is the more important. 
Despite the apparent hopes of its leaders for Indian support, the Indian 
Government seemingly gives it no special encouragement because of an 
unwillingness to risk political instability in this critical area along its 
northern frontier. 

The principal demands of the National Congress program as set forth 
by its leader, D. B. Gurung, include abolition of discrimination against 
the Nepalese by abolishing the law of 1959 prohibiting the further 
arrival of emigrants; liberalization of the maharaja's rule; and an 
increase of elected representation in the government. Information re- 
garding the effectiveness of the program's appeal is not available, but 
some of the visitors returning from the country assert that it evokes a 
sympathetic reaction among a gradually increasing number of people. 

Despite the general sluggishness of political movements, there are 
several sources of discontent that might be exploited at a propitious 
time as issues in a campaign against the ruling powers. Traces of 
feudalism still remain, and landlords still receive a large part of the 
country's income. More than 25 percent of the state income reportedly 
is given to the monasteries. Although the general political picture 
appears calm on the surface, the latent discontent and the demands of 
the large Nepalese minority could under strong leadership readily 
develop into a major political problem. 

Key Political Figures 

The leading personality in the country is Maharaja Jigme Dorji 
Wangchuk. Born in 1929 and enthroned on October 27, 1952, he is 
third in the hereditary line of maharajas established in 1907 by the 
British. Although educated in Bhutan by royal tutors he speaks fluent 


English, Hindi and Tibetan. In 1951 he married the European-educated 
cousin of the Maharaja of Sikkim. During his brief reign he has estab- 
lished a countrywide reputation for his humanitarianism and for his 
reforms, which include the abolition of slavery, democratization of 
royalty, and promotion of women's rights. He suffered a severe heart 
attack on March 19, 1963, but reportedly was completely recovered by 
February 1964 after treatment in Zurich. 

The Maharaja's closest adviser is the dynamic Prime Minister, Jigme 
Polden Dorji, a brother of the Queen. Born about 1918, he is the most 
powerful official in the government. Although he is responsible only 
to the Maharaja, he customarily consults the National Assembly on all 
affairs of state and respects the opinions of its members. 

Foreign Relations 

The foreign relations of Bhutan have been conducted by a foreign 
power since the signing of the Punakha Treaty with the British in 1910. 
Under this treaty the Bhutanese Government accepted British guidance 
in foreign affairs, and the British agreed to exercise no interference in 
Bhutan's internal affairs. After the British left India the pact was sup- 
planted on August 8, 1949, by the Indo-Bhutan Treaty of Perpetual 
Peace and Friendship, a slightly more comprehensive version of the 
Punakha Treaty, with India replacing Great Britain in the text. 

Under the Indo-Bhutan Treaty Bhutan "agrees to be guided" by 
India's advice in the conduct of foreign relations, while India agrees 
to respect Bhutan's autonomy in internal administration and to accept 
responsibility for the country's defense and for its strategic communi- 
cations. The Treaty also provides that India shall raise Bhutan's annual 
subsidy to IR500,000 and retrocede to it about 32 square miles of terri- 
tory around Dewangiri, which had been ceded to Assam by the Sinchu La 
Treaty in 1865. It is also stated that the Bhutanese Government is free 
to import from or through India any arms, ammunition, warlike mate- 
rials or supplies as are desired for the strength and welfare of Bhutan. 

The agreement regarding these shipments is effective as long as India 
is satisfied that Bhutan's intentions are friendly and that the items will 
not fall into unfriendly hands. Bhutan, on its part, undertakes to pre- 
vent the reexportation of any of these items through government or 
individual channels. The Treaty can be terminated or modified only 
by mutual consent. 

The Treaty's vague statement relative to India's "guidance" in for- 
eign relations has been the subject of heated discussion in the National 
Advisory Assembly and is interpreted by some Bhutanese leaders to 
mean that India may offer advice but Bhutan is not obliged to accept it. 
However, despite a quiescent desire for full sovereignty, the government 
on the whole realizes its dependent status and is pro-Indian in view- 


point. Close ties are maintained between the two countries by frequent 
exchanges of visits by officials engaged in the numerous Indian-supported 
projects initiated in furtherance of the country's economic development 

Bhutanese authorities like those in Sikkim attempt to maintain a 
neutral attitude toward the Chinese Communists. This policy of neu- 
trality is frequently put to a test by Peiping's offer of financial help 
and its proposals for unilateral negotiations for defining the uncertain 
boundary with Tibet. 

Soon after the Chinese Communists came to power they published 
various maps of the Himalayan frontier region on which the southern 
boundary included large areas — such as the Tashi Gang Dzong district 
in northeastern Bhutan and a sizable strip of territory in northwestern 
Bhutan — commonly accepted as belonging to Bhutan. When Prime 
Minister Nehru in 1954 questioned the Chinese Communist leader Chou 
En-lai regarding the maps, he replied that they were only reproductions 
of old "pre-liberation" maps and that his government had not had time 
to revise them. Similar maps published in 1958 showed the same 
boundaries as the earlier ones. Evasive responses were given Prime 
Minister Nehru, who mentioned the maps in repeated notes to Peiping. 
Finally, on September 8, 1959, Chou En-lai replied that questions re- 
garding the Bhutanese northern boundary were not within the scope of 
discussions between the People's Republic of China and India. 

In 1960, Peiping published still another map, showing a part of 
Bhutan as being within Communist China. Meanwhile, during a major 
propaganda effort mounted in Lhasa, senior Chinese Communist army 
officers and civilia