Bhimsen Thapa, a key figure in Nepalese history, is frequently portrayed through two opposing lenses: as a heroic leader who modernised Nepal and protected its sovereignty, or as a selfish dictator who used his position for personal benefit.

Heroic Leader

Defender of Nepal’s Sovereignty: Bhimsen Thapa, a heroic leader and defender of Nepal’s sovereignty, was instrumental in repelling British imperialism in the early 19th century. He led Nepal in the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-1816), demonstrating extraordinary military leadership and strategy that helped Nepal maintain its independence despite final defeat and the signing of the Sugauli Treaty.

Modernization Efforts: Bhimsen Thapa launched various initiatives to modernise Nepal. He implemented military, economic, and social reforms, including as building a permanent army, developing infrastructure, and promoting trade and agriculture.

Administrative Reforms: During his term, there were initiatives to centralise administration, decrease corruption, and enhance governance. He is credited with establishing the present Nepalese bureaucracy.

Selfish Dictator

Consolidation of Power: Bhimsen Thapa’s ascension to power required extensive political manoeuvring and the removal of opponents. He consolidated control around himself and his family, frequently marginalising or eliminating those who resisted him.

Repression and Control: Bhimsen Thapa maintained control by surveilling, imprisoning, and executing political opponents. His presidency was characterised by a lack of political freedom and dictatorial authority.

Economic exploitation: Critics claim that Thapa’s economic policies only benefited himself and his allies. There were accusations of corruption and exploitation, with a few people controlling the majority of money and resources.


Bhimsen Thapa’s legacy is rich and multidimensional. While his achievements to Nepal’s sovereignty and industrialization are clear, his methods of power maintenance, including repression and corruption, create a more authoritarian picture. Whether he is viewed as a heroic leader or a selfish tyrant is often determined by one’s perspective on the balance between his accomplishments and the methods he employed to attain them.


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