Dark Ages of Nepal

Introduction to Dark Ages in Nepal

The Dark Ages in the history of Nepal lasted from 879 A.D. to 1200 A.D. It was a tumultuous period with very few inscriptions and physical evidence available to ascertain even the names of the kings. The Golden Age during the Lichhavi Dynasty also faded away, and Nepal struggled to remain a powerful state.

The beginning of the Dark Ages corresponds with the inscription of King Jayadeva Second in 733 A.D., after which Vijayadeva became king. After Vijayadeva, the identity of the kings of Nepal became much less known. It is during the time period of 733 A.D. to 879 A.D. that the roots of the Dark Ages were sown. Mary Slusser has termed this period the Transitional Period, and it is generally assumed that the Lichhavi Dynasty was ousted during this period.

The event marking the beginning of the Dark Ages in Nepal coincides with the beginning of Nepal Sambat Era in 879 A.D. The actual events leading to the start of the Dark Ages are unknown and uncertain. The Gopal Raja Bansawali states that King Raghavadeva was ruling Nepal at the time, while the Kaiser Shumsher Bansawali attributes the beginning of the era to King Raghavadeva himself. Some historians attribute it to the visit of important religious personalities from India.

In consensus, historians have argued that a significant event of political or religious significance occurred during the reign of King Raghavadeva. International historians have argued that a new era was started to commemorate the end of Tibetan domination over Nepal, whereas Indian historians have proposed that the invasion of King Rampal from Bengal and his victory resulted in the beginning of the new era.

According to folk tales, it was Sakhwal, later known as Sankhadar Sakhwa, a local businessman who, after obtaining gold, freed the slaves of Kathmandu Valley, and a new era began following this event.

However, conclusive evidence is lacking regarding the matter of the beginning of the Dark Ages and Nepal Sambat. In a typical fashion, the consensus of historians lies in the belief that a significant event happened in the Pashupatinath Temple that resulted in the beginning of the Dark Ages.

Important Kings of the Dark Ages of Nepal

King Gunakamadeva

King Gunakamadeva is perhaps the most cherished king of the Dark Ages. He ruled Nepal from 980 A.D. to 998 A.D. He is also said to have founded the city of Kantipur, although no evidence exists to ascertain it except the Gopal Raja Bansawali.

He contributed to the Pashupatinath Temple by donating “11 Koshas” of treasure to it and also a golden water tap near the Pashupatinath Temple compound. According to Sylvain Levi, the towns of Patan and Bhadgaon came into existence during his reign as well. The treasures provided by Gunakamadeva were worth over Rs. 50 Crores, according to various sources.

King Sivadeva

Perhaps another famous king, Sivadeva is a celebrated ruler of the Dark Ages. He ruled Nepal from 1098 A.D. to 1126 A.D. He is often confused with Simhadeva, but historians have identified both names as belonging to the same individual. He donated to the Pashupatinath Temple and its whole periphery with a copper roof.

He also provided a silver lotus to Pashupatinath. King Sivadeva also established the town of Kirti-Bhaktapur, which is modern-day Kirtipur. Additionally, he is said to have erected several wells, ponds, and dhungedharas at various sites around the Kathmandu Valley. Among his other contributions, he minted various coins under the name of Sreesingh.

He maintained religious tolerance in Nepal and oversaw the renovation of the Golden Suki, a traditional garment worn by Nepalese rulers.

King Anandadeva

Anandadeva was the king of Nepal from 1147 A.D. to 1167 A.D., ruling for a length of 20 years. The Gopal Raja Bansawali states that Anandadeva was the protector of all the lands of Nepal. He is said to have been courageous, intellectual, and religious as well. Most importantly, King Anandadeva is credited with constructing the majestic Tripura Palace in Bhaktapur. He installed a copper roof with two gods within the palace complex.

He also left behind more than 20 documents and manuscripts in his name, highlighting his activeness during his rule over Nepal. He laid the groundwork for the transition of Nepal from the Dark Ages and is remembered as a just king who maintained rules and regulations within Nepal.

Major Political Events of the Dark Ages of Nepal

Dual-Reign and Triple-Reign

The Dark Ages saw a polarization among the cities of the Kathmandu Valley, where two or even three different kings existed during the same period of time. One famous example of triple reign is that of King Rudradeva, Bhojadeva, and Lakshmikamadeva from 1015 A.D. for more than a decade. Before the reign of these three kings, Rudradeva was ruling Nepal with King Nirbhayadeva, highlighting his dual reign as well.

Competition Between Dynasties

The pre-dominant dynasty of the kings during the Dark Ages of Nepal is said to have been removed from power by the Nuwakot Thakuri Dynasty, which descended from Amshuverma, although there is no strong evidence supporting this claim. King Sankaradeva is said to have been exiled by King Vamadeva, a descendant of Amshuverma.

King Vamadeva and his family ruled temporarily in Nepal, after which Harsadeva became the King of Nepal. The original dynasty, led by Anandadeva, ultimately dominated the Nepal Mandal and was the leading dynasty of Nepal during the Dark Ages.

Civilization of the Dark Ages

Administration of the Dark Ages

The administration and administrative positions during the Dark Ages are not well known and cannot be discussed in detail. The central authority was the king himself, assuming a divine role, and was mentioned in all the colophons and inscriptions of the time period. However, there were multiple kings in Nepal simultaneously, suggesting dual reign in the Dark Ages of Nepal.

The kings had to contend with powerful feudal lords known as Samantas and Mahasamantas, who declared themselves to be independent. Beneath the kings was the court aristocracy headed by trusted ministers of the king, and though details are not available, they also exercised considerable power in Nepal.

The government officers under the courtiers were entrusted with the works of the king and the government. Over time, the posts of Mahath and Mulami emerged, signifying the positions of Prime Minister and Minister, respectively. The landlords and the feudal class were also recognized by the administration of the Dark Ages.

The administration of the Dark Ages was not as structured as that of the Lichhavi period, and due to the lack of important evidence, it is challenging to outline the concrete administrative details of Nepal during this era.

Society and Economy of the Dark Ages

Taxes and trade were the two primary sources of revenue for the economy during the Dark Ages. The border between Nepal and Tibet realized taxes from Tibetans visiting Nepal, and tributes from the feudatories were also part of the revenue. Various kinds of taxes were levied on the people, such as oil tax, fish oil tax, etc.

Buddhism and Hinduism prevailed as the biggest religions of Nepal, with the Vajrayana cult being predominant at the time. Religion started to become an integral part of the general life of the people. Overall, the economic well-being of the Dark Ages society of Nepal seriously declined, and the society became much more ritualistic and tantric in nature. Stupas, temples, vihar, etc., were highly prevalent, and polygamy was a general practice in the society.

Foreign Relations During the Dark Ages of Nepal

The most significant aspect of foreign relations during the Dark Ages of Nepal lies in the factless Pala Suzerainty of Nepal under the Pala Empire of Bengal. Some Indian historians advocate that Dharmapala launched an attack on the Himalayas and made Nepal its dominion, but this claim has been identified as a mistaken fact in relation to the term “Gokarna.” Again, the lack of believable facts, whether culturally or politically, provides disadvantages to such beliefs. Another king, Mahipala, is also falsely said to have defeated Nepal and acknowledged as the sovereign of Nepal.

Other aspects of international relations in Nepal are not well known, including trade, marriage, military, diplomacy, and other forms of cultural exchanges. As the defining feature of the Dark Ages is the lack of evidence in the historical sense, not much can be discovered about the international relations of Nepal during this time.


The Dark Ages of Nepali History which lasted from 879 A.D. to 1200 A.D. is filled with uncertainties and lack of Events. The Lack of Inscriptions and any records has made it harder to explain the Events of the Dark Ages. Many Important Kings reigned in the Dark Ages and significantly contributed to the History of Nepal.

The Dark Ages will be remembered in History not because of Bad Omens or disastrous events but because of the Lack of Evidence we have in the Contemporary Era. The Foreign Relations of Nepal, Administration, Economy, and Society of the Dark Ages is also unknown to us. Further Research and Archaeological Progress may be necessary to combat the Lack of Evidence. The End of Dark Ages coincides with the rise of Ari Malla in 1200 A.D. and consequently the Malla’s.