Introduction to Dharmadhikara

Dharmadhikara was an Administrative/Judicial Position awarded by the King in the Kingdom of Gorkha. They were principally in charge of settling conflicts and completing cases based on Dharmashastras such as Shukra Niti, Manu Smriti, etc.

In the 26 Thithis of King Ram Shah, Dharmadhikara is said to have been equivalent to that of a Chief Justice. Therefore, they were the chieftains of the Judicial Administration of Gorkha.

In fact, they were continued to be appointed during the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah. The position of Dharmadhikara was held by a religious authority. They were expected to provide necessary guidance and instructions to the employees of the main court in the capital City of Nepal.

The Equivalents of these Posts were also present during the Early Medieval Period, especially during the reign of Jayastithi Malla from 1382 A.D. to 1395 A.D. Maithili Brahmins who have obtained Wisdom via the Vedas and the Dharmashastras were bestowed with these posts.

Appointment of Dharmadhikara

The appointment of Dharmadhikara was not a decision made by the king alone. Instead, it was decided upon after taking advice from various scholars who were experts in theology, such as Rajguru, Bhardar, Kazi, and Chautaria.

Hence, the appointee could perform their duty of upholding Law and Justice with effectiveness and was knowledgeable about religion. After appointment, the Dharmadhikara had the power to appoint representatives in district-level courts.

Following Nepal’s unification, these Appointees were granted the most authority to resolve disputes that emerged at the local levels. Because Gorkha lacked a large geographic mass before to Nepal’s unification, Dharmadhikara representatives were not well-known in the Kingdom of Gorkha.

Also, their specific roles aren’t well known during the reign of most of the Gorkha Kings. The Reign of King Ram Shah and King Prithvi Narayan Shah are the only Kings that have mentioned them and promoted them to such Importance.

Responsibilities of Dharmadhikara

The Dharmadhikara’s principal duty was to provide the staff of the capital’s main court with the required guidance and instructions. But they deployed religious delegates to hear cases in tribunals outside the capital.

The religious authorities and their representatives would review the court’s ruling to see whether it was in line with the scriptures. After the religious authorities and their representatives made their choice, the judge would declare the decision, if it was right

The Court of Justice rendered decisions on matters heard by the King’s Court, including those pertaining to religious liberties.

When religious officials heard a case, they, however, evaluated the matter themselves, determined the sentence, and issued a death order

The court of religious authority was called Dharmadhikaraan.

Power of Dharmadhikara

The office of Dharmadhikara was a heavily powerful and influential magistrate post during the reign of Prithvi Narayan Shah. The religious authority appointed the delegates to the district-level courts. Further, they had the liberty to use a seal of their own.

They were able to hear pleas from Dharmadhikara representatives as well as the district-level Bichari and Ditha. It was an important and well-regarded post.


Dharmadhikara was, in general Terms, A Quasi-Religious Judicial Position with the Authority to hear and decide cases based on the Dharmashastras. They could hear appeals from the district-level Ditha, Ichhari, and Dharmadhikara Representatives.


Pokhrel, A. (2023). Dharmadhikara/ Dharma Kachahari – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History. https://itihasaa.com/gorkha/dharmadhikara-dharma-kachahari/