The Kunwar family’s metamorphosis into the Rana dynasty and the founding of the Rana rule in Nepal was a watershed moment in the country’s history.

Rise of the Rana Dynasty

Background on the Kunwar Family:

  • The Kunwars were originally from the Chhetri caste, which is historically a warrior and administrative class in Nepali society.
  • The family rose to prominence in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, chiefly through military service and ties with the governing Shah dynasty.

Jung Bahadur Kunwar:

  • The most important character in this change was Jung Bahadur Kunwar (later Jang Bahadur Rana), who was born in 1817.
  • Jung Bahadur was a military leader who rose to prominence due to his strategic ability and political savvy.

Kot Massacre in 1846:

  • The Kot Massacre on September 14, 1846, was a watershed moment in the Rana dynasty’s ascension to power.
  • During a moment of political unrest, Jung Bahadur staged a massacre at Kathmandu’s Kot courtyard, killing numerous rival nobles and consolidating his control.
  • This massacre signaled the start of Jung Bahadur’s domination in Nepali politics.

Proclamation of the Rana Dynasty:

  • Following the Kot Massacre, Jang Bahadur became Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief of Nepal.
  • He effectively became Nepal’s king, with the Shah monarchs remaining as figureheads.
  • In 1858, he accepted the title “Rana” and founded the hereditary Rana Prime Ministership, therefore establishing the Rana dynasty.

The Rana regime (1846–1951)

Autocratic Rule:

  • The Rana regime was characterised by autocratic government, with Rana Prime Ministers wielding unlimited authority and Shah Rulers limited to ceremonial functions.
  • The Ranas exercised strict control over the military, government, and foreign affairs.

Modernization efforts:

  • Despite their autocratic leadership, the Ranas attempted to modernise, introducing Western-style education, infrastructure development, and legal reforms.
  • Jung Bahadur personally travelled to Europe, becoming the first Nepalese leader to do so, and implemented reforms based on his findings.

Isolationist Foreign Policy:

  • The Ranas followed an isolationist policy, keeping Nepal’s independence from British India while restricting outside influence and modernization to defend their own control.

The Fall of the Rana Regime:

  • The Rana regime lasted until 1951, when a popular uprising, combined with pressure from the monarchy and external pressures, brought an end to their authority.
  • King Tribhuvan regained power, with the help of pro-democracy groups and India, resulting in the foundation of a constitutional monarchy and the start of political reform in Nepal.

The establishment of the Rana dynasty constituted a watershed moment in Nepalese history, with the Kunwar family becoming the reigning Rana clan and creating a century-long dictatorial dictatorship.


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