Rana dynasty

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The Rana dynasty (Nepali: राणा वंश Sanskrit: [raːɳaː ʋɐ̃ɕɐ], Nepali: [raɳa bʌŋsʌ]) were a Chhetri[note 1] dynasty that[6] imposed authoritarianism in the Kingdom of Nepal from 1846 until 1951, reducing the Shah monarch to a figurehead and making the Prime Minister and other government positions held by the Ranas hereditary. They are Kshatriya, whose ancestors were descended from the Ranas of Udaipur, Rajasthan, India.[7][8] The Rana dynasty is historically known for their iron-fisted rule.[9] This changed after the Revolution of 1951 with the promulgation of a new constitution, when power shifted back to the monarchy of King Tribhuvan.[10]

Rana dynasty
राणा वंश

Ranas of Nepal
Parent familyKunwar family
CountryKingdom of Nepal
Founder Bir Narsingh Kunwar (Jung Bahadur Rana)
Current headPashupati Shumsher Rana
Final rulerMohan Shumsher Rana
TitlesShree Teen Maharaja of Nepal, Maharaja of Lamjung and Kaski
"Janani Janmabhumishcha Swargadapi Gariyasi"
Mother and Motherland are superior to heaven
PropertiesRana palaces of Nepal

The Rana dynasty were descended from the Kunwar family, a nobility of the Gorkha Kingdom.[11] Due to their marital lineages with the politically reigning Thapa dynasty (of Mukhtiyar Bhimsen Thapa) from the early 19th century, Ranas gained entry to central Darbar politics.[12][5] The Ranas were also linked to a minor faction of the Pande dynasty of Gorkha through the Thapa dynasty.[5]



Please note that the following genealogy by Daniel Wright was most likely fabricated during the nineteenth century, and there is no historical evidence before that time to back it up.[13]

Chronicler Daniel Wright has published the genealogy of Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana. The genealogy begins with Tattā Rāṇā as Raja (King) of Chittaurgarh.[4] His nephew Fakht Siṃha Rāṇā had a son named Rāma Siṃha Rāṇā, who came to the hills after the siege of Chittaur.[4] He was employed by a hill Raja for ten or twelve months who wanted to retain Rāma Siṃha in his country. The hill Raja asked for the daughter of the Raja of Bīnātī, a Bagāle Kṣetrī, and married her to Rāma Siṃha.[4] They had six sons over 10–12 years, one of whom was recognized by the title of Kum̐vara Khaḍkā for bravery displayed in the battle against Raja of Satān Koṭ.[4] The title was used by his descendants. Rāma Siṃha was suddenly met by his younger brother who requested him to return Chittaur for once, and Rāma Siṃha died reaching there.[14] The hill Raja made Rāma Siṃha's son Rāut Kunwar a nobleman (Sardār) and commandant of the army.[14] Ahirāma Kunwar, a son of Rāut Kunwar, was invited by the King of Kaski and was made a nobleman with a birta or jagir of Dhuage Saghu village.[14] The King of Kaski asked for the hand of Ahirāma's daughter, who was a great beauty, through only Kalas Puja, to which Ahirāma replied to give his daughter only through lawful marriage.[14] The King brought his troops and tried to take on the village by force.[14] Ahirāma was supported by the villagers belonging to the Parājulī Thāpā caste and a war was initiated.[14] On the same day, Ahirāma took his immediate family including two sons namely; Ram Krishna Kunwar and Jaya Krishna Kunwar, to the King of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan Shah where the lands of Kunwar-Khola were given to them as birta.[15]

John Whelpton opines that the Kunwar origin legend which states that the first of their ancestors to enter the hill married a daughter of Bagale Kshetri might have directed their family links to Bagale Thapa, the clan of Mukhtiyar Bhimsen Thapa.[16]

The Rana dynasty descended from Kunwar Kumbhakaran Singh, younger brother of Guhila King of Mewar, Rawal Ratnasimha. During the first siege of Chittorgarh in 1303 A.D., Kumbhakaran Singh's descendants left Mewar to the north, towards the Himalayan foothills, according to the book "Rana's Of Nepal" where the preface is written by Arvind Singh Mewar.[17][18] The Rana dynasty claimed to be Rajputs of western Indian origin, rather than the native Khas Kshatriyas despite the fact that they spoke Khas language and attempted to disassociate from their Khas past.[19] Also, many historians are of the opinion that ruling families in Nepal often claim Indian Rajput descent for political purposes.[20] The Ranas claimed the Vatsa gotra.[2]

Historical background

Sardar Ram Krishna Kunwar, prominent male ancestor of Ranas of Nepal

The founder of this dynasty was Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana, who belonged to the Kunwar family,[11] which was then considered a noble family of Kshatriya status.[11] Jang Bahadur was a son of Gorkhali governor Bal Narsingh Kunwar and nephew of Mathabarsingh Thapa,[12] the reigning Prime Minister of Nepal (1843–1845) from the Thapa dynasty.[21] Bal Narsingh Kunwar was the son of Kaji Ranajit Kunwar and grandson of Sardar Ram Krishna Kunwar,[22] who was prominent military general of King Prithvi Narayan Shah.[23][24] Ram Krishna Kunwar was born to Ahiram Kunwar.[22] There were ample of rewards and recognitions received by Sardar Ram Krishna Kunwar from the Gorkhali monarch Prithvi Narayan.[25] His grandson Bal Narsingh was initially a follower of the renounced King Rana Bahadur Shah and Kaji Bhimsen Thapa, and followed the King in his exile to Banaras on 1 May 1800.[26] On the night of 25 April 1806, King Rana Bahadur was killed by step-brother Sher Bahadur in desperation after which Bal Narsingh immediately killed the King's assassin.[27][28][29] He was a close ally of the influential minister Bhimsen Thapa,[27] who initiated a great massacre at Bhandarkhal garden following the chaos from the King's murder.[30][31][32] Following closeness to Mukhtiyar Bhimsen, he became the son-in-law of Bhimsen's brother Kaji Nain Singh Thapa of Thapa dynasty.[5] The close relatives and supporters of Thapa faction replaced the old courtiers and administrators.[30] The Kunwar family came to power being relatives of powerful Mukhtiyar Bhimsen Thapa. Similarly, Kunwars were related to Pande dynasty by their maternal grandmother Rana Kumari Pande who was daughter of Mulkaji Ranajit Pande.[5]

Rise of Jung Bahadur

Jung Bahadur Kunwar Ranaji, founder of Rana dynasty

Bal Narsingh's son Kaji Jung Bahadur Kunwar became a significant person in the central politics of Nepal during the prime ministership of his uncle Mathabar Singh Thapa.[23] On 17 May 1845 around 11 pm, Mathabar Singh was summoned to the royal palace and was assassinated in a cold blood by Jung Bahadur on the royal orders.[23] He was considered to have been merciless, ruthless and fatal due to his association with Mathabar Singh.[23] Jung Bahadur was made a Kaji (equivalent to minister) after following the order of assassination of Mathabar.[11]

On the night of 14 September 1846, Queen Rajya Lakshmi Devi summoned the courtiers on the mysterious murderer of her aide General Kaji Gagan Singh, to which courtiers hurried to the Kot quickly.[33] Many of the courtiers were unarmed except for a sword, as they had responded immediately to the royal summons. The armies allocated by Jung Bahadur Rana also had taken most of the arms of courtiers who had managed to bring them. Queen Rajya Lakshmi Devi and King Rajendra Bikram Shah were also present in the Kot.[34] Queen Rajya Lakshmi demanded the execution of Kaji Bir Keshar (Kishor) Pande on alleged suspicion to which General Abhiman Singh Rana Magar looked towards King for confirmation. Jang misinformed Queen that Abhiman Singh's troops were arriving for overpowering the Queen's faction and demanded an immediate arrest.[11] Abhiman tried to force his way out and was killed by Jung's soldier. In the chaos followed, Jung and his brothers began bloodshed and many rival nobles and courtiers were eliminated by them.[35] The letter to British Resident Henry Montgomery Lawrence stated that there were 32 Bharadars (courtiers) killed in the massacre.[36]

Kot massacre episode


When Jang Bahadur refused the Junior Queen's request to place Prince Ranendra in the place of Crown Prince Surendra of Nepal, the Queen secretly contacted the victims of Kot and conspired to assassinate Jung Bahadur in the royal Bhandarkhal garden. After receiving a command from the Queen to come to Bhandarkhal, Jang Bahadur took his fully armed troops and headed towards the garden. The troops killed the chief conspirator, Birdhwaj Basnyat on the way, and marched towards Bhandarkhal where seeing Jang Bahadur approach fully armed with his troops, the other conspirators started to flee. 23 people were killed in the massacre while 15 escaped.[37] In the 23rd of September 1846, all officers of military and bureaucracy were called upon to their respective offices within 10 days. Then, Jung Bahadur appointed his brothers and nephews to the highest ranks of the government.[38] He consolidated the position of premiership after conducting Kot massacre (Kot Parva) and Bhandarkhal Parva[39] on the basic templates provided by his maternal grand-uncle Mukhtiyar Bhimsen Thapa.[12]

Rana Regime; Rule of Jang


After the massacres of Kot and Bhandarkhal, the Thapas, Pandes, Basnyats and other citizens had settled in Banaras. Similarly, some citizens had gone to settle in Nautanwa and Bettiah. Chautariya Guru Prasad Shah too had gone to live with the King of Bettiah. After knowing about the presence of the King and the Queen in Benaras, Guru Prasad went there and started to congregate an army and a plan to execute Jung Bahadur started to be formed.[38]

Battle of Alau


On 12 May 1847, Jung Bahadur gave a speech in Tundikhel. There he accused the King of the attempted assassination of the Prince and the Prime Minister. The Council then decided to dethrone King Rajendra deeming him mentally ill, and on the same day Surendra was crowned as the new king of Nepal. Hearing the news of the coronation of Surendra, Rajendra decided to take the responsibility of removing Jung Bahadur upon himself and declaring himself as the leader of the army, he left Benaras. Rajendra then appointed Guru Prasad Shah as the Chief of the Army for the operation of removal of Jung Bahadur Rana from Nepal and started to accumulate weapons and training the troops. Antagonism from the British-India Company forced Rajendra and his troops to enter Nepal. On 23 July, the troops reached a village called Alau in Bara and set a camp there. One spy group of the Government of Nepal was keeping close eyes on the event of the rebel groups at Bettiah. They sent the news to Jung Bahadur, immediately after which he sent a troop in the leadership of Sanak Singh Tandon to Alau. They were told to suppress the rebellions, arrest Rajendra and bring him to Kathmandu. On 27 July, the Gorakhnath Paltan (Gorakhnath Battalion) reached and rested in a village called Simraungadh, not too far from Alau. The battle of Alau was a decisive one between the forces of King Rajendra and Jang Bahadur. The King lost significantly in the battle. If the massacre of Kot had established Jung Bahadur as a dictator, the battle of Alau had helped him strengthen his dictatorship. Rajendra was imprisoned in an old palace in Bhaktapur.[38]

Rise to royalty


On 15 May 1848, a Lal Mohar (Red sealed document) was issued claiming descent from Ranas of Mewar and authorizing the Kunwar family of Jang Bahadur to style themselves as Kunwar Ranaji.[40] On 6 August 1856, Jang Bahadur Kunwar (now Ranaji) was conferred the title of Maharaja (Great King) of Kaski and Lamjung, two former hill principalities, by King of Nepal, Surendra Bikram Shah.[41]

Rana Regime; Rule of the Shamshers

Bir Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, the first Shumsher Rana ruler

In 1885, the Shumsher family, the nephews of Jung Bahadur Kunwar Rana, murdered many of the sons of Jung Bahadur and took over Nepal in a military coup d'état thus bringing in the rule of the Shumsher Rana family also known as the Satra Bhai (17 brothers) Rana family. They murdered Ranodip Singh Kunwar and occupied the hereditary throne of Prime Minister. After this they added Jang Bahadur to their name, although they were descended from Jang's younger brother Dhir Shumsher.[5]

Kunwar family tree

Ram Krishna Kunwar
Ranajit Kunwar
Bal Narsingh KunwarBalaram KunwarRewant Kunwar
Bhakta Bir KunwarJang Bahadur KunwarBam Bahadur KunwarBadri Narsingh KunwarJaya Bahadur KunwarKrishna Bahadur KunwarRanauddip Singh KunwarJagat Shamsher KunwarDhir Shamsher Kunwar

Rana Prime Ministers


Nine Rana rulers took the hereditary office(s) of Prime Minister, Supreme Commander-in-Chief and Grand Master of the Royal Orders. All were crowned as the Maharaja of Lamjung and Kaski.



Succession to the role of the Prime Ministers and the title of Shree Teen Maharaja of Nepal and Maharaja of Lamjung and Kaski was by agnatic seniority, by which the oldest male heir among the sons of equal (a-class) marriages in a generation would succeed. The order of succession was determined by seniority, with each eligible male heir holding a military command, as follows:

  1. Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief (Mukhtiyar the Heir Apparent, with the rank of Field Marshal).
  2. Western Commanding-General.
  3. Eastern Commanding-General.
  4. Southern Commanding-General.
  5. Northern Commanding-General.

Notable Rana members


Other notable connected members


See also





  1. ^ Founder of this dynasty, Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana, was a noble of Khas community[1] and he belonged to the Kunwar family of Gorkha which was historically a Khadka[2] and a Chhetri clan.[3] Kunwar genealogy also states the title of 'Kunwar Khadka' taken by the ancestors of the Kunwar family.[4] They also had marital relations with other Chhetri families as the Thapa dynasty of Mukhtiyar Bhimsen Thapa and the Pande dynasty of Ranajit Pande.[5]


  1. ^ Dor Bahadur Bista 1991, p. 37.
  2. ^ a b Sharma Baral 1964, p. 111.
  3. ^ Regmi 1975, p. 90.
  4. ^ a b c d e Wright 1877, p. 285.
  5. ^ a b c d e f JBR, PurushottamShamsher (1990). Shree Teen Haruko Tathya Britanta (in Nepali). Bhotahity, Kathmandu: Vidarthi Pustak Bhandar. ISBN 978-99933-39-91-5.
  6. ^ Van PraaghD (2003). Greater Game. MQUP. p. 319. ISBN 978-0-7735-7130-3. Archived from the original on 11 September 2017. Retrieved 11 September 2017.
  7. ^ Dietrich, Angela (1996). "Buddhist Monks and Rana Rulers: A History of Persecution". Buddhist Himalaya: A Journal of Nagarjuna Institute of Exact Methods. Archived from the original on 1 October 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  8. ^ Lal, C. K. (16 February 2001). "The Rana resonance". Nepali Times. Archived from the original on 28 September 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2013.
  9. ^ "The Rana reign | Nepali Times Buzz | Nepali Times".
  10. ^ Kraemer, Karl-Heinz. "Democratization and political parties in Nepal". Harvard University. Archived from the original on 24 May 2013. Retrieved 25 November 2012.
  11. ^ a b c d e Joshi & Rose 1966, p. 30.
  12. ^ a b c Acharya 2012, p. 11-12.
  13. ^ Whelpton, John (August 1987). "The Ancestors of Jang Bahadur Rana: History, Propaganda and Legend" (PDF). Contributions to Nepalese Studies. 14 (3): 162, 163 – via SOCANTH Himalaya, Cambridge University.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Wright 1877, p. 286.
  15. ^ Wright 1877, pp. 286–87.
  16. ^ Whelpton 1991, p. 36.
  17. ^ Rana, Prabhakar S. J. B.; Rana, Pashupati Shumshere Jung Bahadur; Rana, Gautam S. J. B. (2003). "THE RANAS OF NEPAL".
  18. ^ "Ranas Of Nepal". 2003.
  19. ^ Richard Burghart 1984, pp. 118–119.
  20. ^ Nagendra Kr Singh (1997). Nepal: Refugee to Ruler : a Militant Race of Nepal. APH Publishing. pp. 1–2. ISBN 978-81-7024-847-7.
  21. ^ Acharya 2012, p. 177-178.
  22. ^ a b Pradhan 2012, p. 193.
  23. ^ a b c d Adhikari 1984, p. 27.
  24. ^ Hamal 1995, pp. 180–181.
  25. ^ Hamal 1995, p. 181.
  26. ^ Pradhan 2012, p. 13.
  27. ^ a b Acharya 2012, p. 67.
  28. ^ Nepal 2007, pp. 62–63.
  29. ^ Pradhan 2012, pp. 27–28.
  30. ^ a b Pradhan 2012, p. 28.
  31. ^ Acharya 2012, pp. 68–71.
  32. ^ Nepal 2007, pp. 63–64.
  33. ^ Acharya 2013, pp. 137.
  34. ^ Acharya 2013, pp. 137–145.
  35. ^ Joshi & Rose 1966, pp. 30–31.
  36. ^ Stiller 1981, pp. 304–306.
  37. ^ Jung, Padma (1909). Life of Maharaja Sir Jung Bahadur Rana. Allahabad. pp. 88.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  38. ^ a b c Rana, Pramod Shumsher (2009). Ranashasanko Britanta. Kathmandu: Pairavi Book House. pp. 31, 32, 44. ISBN 9789994630721.
  39. ^ Rana, Purushottam S.J.B. (1998). Jung Bahadur Rana: the story of his rise and glory. Book Faith India. p. 150. ISBN 978-81-7303-087-1.
  40. ^ Whelpton 1991, p. 253.
  41. ^ Whelpton 1991, p. 192.



Further reading