Skip to main content


At the Kot Massacre of 1846 A.D. Jung Bahadur Rana was the last man standing. He quickly consolidated his power by getting Regent Queen Rajya Luxmi Devi to appoint him the new prime minister of Nepal. A hereditary prime ministership of his family was started that lasted for 104 years. The royal family of the Shah dynasty was marginalized and reigned as mere figure heads.

Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana quickly set out to consolidate his power base. He rewarded his brothers-in-arm by making the prime ministership hereditary, going from elder brother to younger brother, a masterful scheme refuting the accepted norm of primogeniture that firmly aligned his younger brothers as loyal followers. Named Bir Narsingh Kunwar at birth, Jung Bahadur changed his surname to "Rana", a pretentious move to establish familial ties with the famous Rajput warriors of Rajputana. His family's social come-uppance was established by the marriage of his two elder sons to daughters of King Surendra, while he gave his two daughters, Tara and Lalita, in marriage to Crown Prince Trailokya Bir Bikram Shah. One of the daughters would produce the heir to the throne, the future King of Nepal Prithivi Bir Bikram Shah and she would also serve as regent to the minor king. King Surendra would later bestow upon Jung Bahadur a noble and hereditary title of Maharajah of Kaski and Lamjung.

Lalita Rajeshowri Devi mother of King Prithivi
Prime Minister Maharajah Jung Bahadur died in 1877 A.D. in Pattharghatta. His family would be immediately divided between his sons in one camp and his brothers in another. His sons Jagat Jung and Jit Jung were enormously wealthy and connected to the royal family by marriage. But Jung had willed the prime ministership to be inherited by his younger brothers so Ranauddip, the 5th surviving brother, became the new prime minister of Nepal. However intrigues were hatched from day one by both the camps fighting for supremacy. Jagat Jung fired the first shot against the uncle Ranauddip but the plot did not succeed and he was removed from the roll call. Now it was the turn of the family of the Shumshers, the sons of the illustrious Commander-in-chief Dhir Shumsher, youngest brother of Jung Bhadur who had died a few years into the prime ministership of Ranauddip.

Queen Lalita Rajeshwori Devi was the second daughter of Jung Bahadur Rana. She was the junior queen, Kanchi Badamaharani, also known as Tower (Dowager) Shri Panch. She would play a crucial role in the coup d'etat mounted by cousin Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, which would send Jung Bahadur's family into oblivion. The senior queen Tara Kumari was the sister of Jagat Jung, the eldest son of Jung Bahadur Rana and hence she was advocating on behalf of her brother for the restoration of his hereditary roll of succession. The second queen Lalita was the half-sister of Jagat and she was dead against this, siding with cousins Bir Shumsher and his brothers in their quest to succeed Prime Minister Ranauddip Singh. She was joined by her two younger sisters, Khadga Kumari known as Chirbiray Maiya and Deep Kumari known as Kanchi Maiya of Bagh Durbar, both married to a royal prince Sahebju Dhirendra Bikram Shah. This period in history is famously known as the era of "Petticoat" politics. Once again two opposing centrifugal forces in the court would bring dramatic changes in the course of Nepalese history.

Crown Prince Trailokya died young and soon after King Surendra Bir Bikram Shah died too. Prithivi Bir Bikram was crowned a baby king in 1881 A.D. at the age of six with his mother Lalita Rajeshwori acting as the Regent of Nepal. The sun started to shine on the Shumsher Rana cause. Bir Shumsher mounted a successful coup d'etat against his uncle in 1885 A.D. with the support of the regent queen and his younger brothers. Prime Minister Ranauddip was assassinated in his palace. Bir was quickly sworn in as the new Prime Minister and Maharajah of Nepal by Queen Mother Lalita Rajeshwori on behalf of the king. Jung Bahadur's son Jagat Jung and grandson Juddha Pratap were killed immediately while rest of the family took asylum at the British Residency and were allowed to flee to India.

Regent Queen Lalita Rajeshwori Devi was instrumental in the emergence of the Shumsher famly. But after Bir Shumsher became the prime minister she fades into the twilight of history as the executive powers of the state were firmly in the hands of the Rana family. The last regent queen in our history was Queen Mother Revati Raman Rajya Luxmi Devi acting as regent for her stepson King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah, when he inherited the throne of Nepal in 1911 A.D. at a mere age of five.

The days of the powerful regent queens of Nepal are now truly over. Rudyard Kipling once wrote, "A woman's guess is much more accurate than a man's certainty." A republican Nepal will no doubt generate its own powerful "petticoat" politics in the days to come.


  1. Subodh dai, you have masterfully glossed over the "vicious" rise of our ancestors to power.

    Your penultimate sentence seems to assume that a "republican Nepal" is here to stay. I'm not so sure: (a) not at all sure that a republic is good for Nepal; and (b) maybe I am a dreamer, but a restoration of the monarchy is not too far-fetched yet.

    As for "petticoat politics", the new Ranas - our comrades - have a penchant for involving their wives in politics. So I doubt that this pms strain of politics will fade away soon.

  2. Power politics is a dog eats dog business. Ram Rajya or Camelot is just a myth perpetuated by clever court sychophantic historians. Junge did to others what others would have loved to have done to him.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


As a kid I used to gape in wonderment at the magnificent crown my father possessed not knowing that the jewels were only for show. The dark green emerald drops were made of glass, the sparkling diamonds were probably zirconium and the pearls were not of the best sort. Every Rana general had his personal crown in those days and my father was no exception. I did not recognize the difference between this personal crown of father's and the other more valuable crown of the Nepalese Commander-in-Chief of the Army that my father was seen wearing in many a portrait displayed about the house. Little did I know that my father was the last person to put on his head the army chief's crown from the Rana era, real glittering diamonds, snow white pearls and thumb-sized emerald drops and all. The feather in the crown was the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave it such a majestic look.

Nepal had only three crowns that were genuinely the real stuff bedecked with expensive pear…


The first time I ever saw this historical edifice thirty five years ago, she was in ruins and looked like an old hag during the winter of her life, simply waiting for her eventual demise. I was then on my way further west on a week-long trek from Tansen to Tamghas in Gulmi District.
Thirty five years later, I found myself at the same spot once again, this time out there on purpose. I had seen pictures of the building with a coat of new paint before and I wanted to see how much change had been made by the Nepal Government’s Department of Archeology. Yes, the outer fa├žade still looked brand new with fresh paints, which to me personally was a bit too gaudy. But when I walked through the inside of the building and saw nothing but empty rooms without even a single piece of furniture, my enthusiasm took a nose dive.

And when I entered one room where there was a fireplace with the floor in front of the hearth still looking as black as charcoal, I assumed that, over the years before ren…


If only the Tudor King Henry VIII of England were as lucky as Jung Bahadur Rana, he would have had male heirs aplenty and he would not have had to behead a few of his queens in the hope of his next one presenting him with an heir. All the Maharanis would live together at Hampton Court Palace in seeming harmony at least until the death of the Maharajah. If England had the tradition of Sati, who among Henry's wives would have had the macabre honour of being buried alive with him? Would her be Catherine of Aragon his first queen? Or Anne Boleyn? Or the fair Jane Seymour, his favorite queen who gave him his only male heir, had she not died in her postnatal illness?

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana had many wives because he did not have the Catholic Church to worry about. He had at least a dozen sons and innumerable daughters from at least 13 recorded wives. He married some for love, others for political alliances with various noble houses, including a sister of Fateh Jung Shah, one of th…