Indo-Nepal Relations in Medieval Nepal

Introduction to Indo-Nepal Relations in Medieval Nepal

During the Malla Period, Nepal’s connection with India revolved around religious and educational exchanges. Swami Shankaracharya’s visit promoted Shaivism, while educational ties with India were disrupted due to invasions. Trade thrived, with Nepal serving as a gateway between India and Tibet.

However, military confrontations caused significant damage to Nepal’s cultural heritage. Indo-Nepal relations have always been intertwined, shaping the shared history and trade between the two nations.

Religion and Education

During the Malla Period in Nepal, Indo-Nepal relations were prominently featured. Instead, Nepal’s focus was on its connection with India, particularly in terms of religious and educational exchanges.

One notable event during this period was the arrival of Swami Shankaracharya and his disciples from Kashi (now Varanasi), India. They visited Nepal and promoted Shaivism while refuting Buddhism. Swami Shankaracharya and his followers visited the famous Pashupatinath temple and initiated people and princes into Shaivism. They even traveled back to Kashi and used the gifts they received to renovate two Shiva temples there.

Swami Shankaracharya’s visit to Nepal had a significant impact. Many individuals received Shivadiksha (initiation into Shaivism) from him, including Prince Anandadeva, Prince Vasantadeva (nephew of Anandadeva), and Prince Someshwaradeva. Swami Shankaracharya established a temple and a monastery dedicated to Lord Shiva at the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers, aiming to promote Shaivism permanently.

Before the Malla Period, Nepalese students used to travel to educational institutions in India, such as Nalanda and Vikramshila, to acquire knowledge. Likewise, Indian students would come to Nepal for specialized studies and research. However, due to the Muslim invasion in North India, Nepali students lost their connection with these educational institutions, leading to a disruption in these educational exchanges.


During the Malla Period, Indo-Nepal relations experienced various incidents that shaped the interactions between the two regions. One such event occurred when Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq of Delhi was returning to Tirhut after quelling the rebellion in Bengal. King Harisimhadeva of Simraungad mistakenly believed that the Sultan’s army intended to attack him, leading him to launch an attack on the Sultan’s army. In response, the Sultan’s forces destroyed Simraungadh.

Following the attack, his queen Devaladevi sought refuge in the Bhaktapur palace. Another significant event took place on the 9th of Mangsirshudi in 1406 when Ilyas Sultan Samsuddin, the ruler of Bengal, attacked Bhaktapur from the east en route to Sindhuligarhi.

The invading army caused extensive destruction and looting in Bhaktapur. They even fragmented the statue of Pashupatinath into three pieces and acquired a substantial amount of wealth from the treasury of Pashupati.

The following day, this army proceeded to destroy the Swayambhu Stupa and entered Patan, where they vandalized forts, temples, and idols. After inflicting considerable devastation and plundering the three cities of the Nepal Valley for seven days, Sultan Samsuddin and his Muslim army returned to Bengal.

Trade and Culture

Indo-Nepal relations have a long and intertwined history. Dating back to the Malla period, there was a significant exchange of visits, trade, and commerce between Nepal and India. Indian traders would often conduct business with Tibet through Nepal during this era. Ratna Malla‘s reign saw the entry of Kashmiri Muslims into Nepal via Tibet.

Nepal, during the Malla period, not only traded with Tibet but also exported its goods to India and other countries. Arab countries were also recipients of Nepalese musk. In the thirteenth century, Krishna, the Yadav king of South India, acknowledged the popularity of Nepalese chamar (leather) and musk in South India through a copper plate inscription.

Mines and industries flourished during the Malla period, resulting in the production of various goods for local consumption as well as for exports. Nepalese goods found their way to Arab and European countries through India and Tibet.

Several sources highlight the demand for Nepali products and their export potential. Some books have asserted the health benefits of mixing sulfur dust with a thin piece of Nepalese copper whereas others from the Malla period, mention the high demand for Nepalese swords in the Indian market. They also emphasize the import of high-quality copper from Nepal to India.

Travel accounts from the past provide insights into trade relations. Ralph Fitch documented the trade between India and Tibet through Nepal and Bhutan. Armenian merchant Hovhans Joghyasti reported that Indian merchants engaged in trade with Nepal and Tibet earned profits ranging from 70 to 130 percent during the seventeenth century.

Father Desideri, in his account of Nepal, noted the significant business conducted by Indian and Tibetan traders. He also mentioned the presence of Kashmiri traders with offices and shops in Nepal. In 1766, Pastor Tradquille observed Muslim traders from Betiya in India transporting goods for trade in Tanahun, western Nepal.

Nepal’s trade relations involved the import of herbs, salt, chaunri’s tail (a type of herb), gold, and silver from Tibet, while spices, salt, stuffed cloth, and silk clothes were imported from India. Nepal, in turn, exported herbs, leather, wood, and metal materials to India. The Indian market had a strong demand for Nepalese falcons, which were caught, trained, and sold by hunters in western Nepal.

Gift exchanges were common between Nepal, India, Tibet, and China. It is believed that King Kulamandan of Kaski pleased the Mughal emperor and was granted the title of Shah, leading to the name change from Kulamandal to Shah. Similarly, Gorkha king Ram shah used to send gifts to Mughal emperors Jahangir and Shah Jahan, as documented in genealogical records.

The Malla kings of Bhaktapur and Kantipur showed a keen interest in Christian priests, often receiving medicines and modern inventions like binoculars. However, due to a popular revolt against Christians in Nepal, they temporarily stopped residing in the country.

In an effort to accommodate Christians, King Ranajita Malla of Bhaktapur sent his envoy, Bhawanidatta Bhoju, to Patna. Father Joachin and Father Vitus arrived in the valley and Ranjit Malla provided them with gifts and accommodation.


Throughout history, Indo-Nepal relations have been characterized by trade, cultural exchanges, and diplomatic engagements. The Malla period witnessed a flourishing trade network, with Nepal serving as a crucial gateway between India and Tibet. Nepalese products, such as musk, copper, and swords, were highly sought after in India. Likewise, Nepal imported various goods, including herbs and spices, from both India and Tibet.

However, Several Invasions occurred against Nepal that depict instances of territorial disputes, misunderstandings, and military confrontations. The actions of the Muslim armies resulted in the loss of cultural and religious artifacts, causing significant damage to the historical heritage of Nepal.