Legal System of Gorkha

Introduction to Legal System of Gorkha

Gorkha, a small hilly Kingdom, gave birth to the Unifier of Nepal, King Prithvi Narayan Shah. Excluding the Unification, Gorkha is known for his Legal and Judicial Provisions, which consist of the basic tenets of the Modern Legal System. It was a uniquely developed system that used the Hindu Codes and Dharma Shastras as its basis.

The Most Prominent of the Kings of Gorkha to have contributed to its Judicial Betterment is Ram Shah. He passed, what is now famous as the 26 Thithis or Dhog Bhet Thithi’s. It was explicitly used in Gorkha for administrative and Judicial Regulations.

Civil Laws

Royal Meetings

When addressing the King or Shri 5, individuals were required to use the honorific title or Lord Majesty. This title emphasized the King’s high status and served as a mark of reverence toward his authority.

If a person was summoned by a Chautara (a high-ranking official), they were expected to begin by acknowledging themselves as Poor. This practice demonstrated humility and deference to the Chautara’s position.

When interacting with the King’s officers and relatives, individuals were to address them as Respected Sire.

If the King was seated on the throne, it was customary to offer one or two salutes as a sign of homage and submission to his sovereignty. Saluting the King before making any requests was considered proper etiquette. The responsibility of saluting the King was given to the Chautara, who was often the King’s brother.

A Brahminic Teacher was to be addressed directly by the King himself. This custom highlighted the importance of education and the King’s role in seeking knowledge from these learned individuals.

During formal assemblies such as the Kachahari or Bhardari Sabha, certain physical postures were expected. Individuals were prohibited from flaunting their mustaches and were not allowed to fold their legs.

The seating arrangement for the King was also specified. The Chautara would be positioned beside the King, while the King’s teacher would sit on his right. The Kaji or Minister would be seated with respect on the King’s left side.

Finally, the elderly attendees, such as Brahmins, Khas Kshetriya, and Magar, were required to seek permission before being seated. They were expected to sit in their designated areas within the Assembly, following the prescribed order of their respective social groups.


The grazing of cows should be limited to farmlands only. This restriction aims to prevent damage to forests caused by unrestricted grazing, as cows can potentially harm the vegetation and disrupt the ecological balance of forested areas.

Afforestation of trees along both sides of the road is encouraged. This initiative serves multiple purposes, including providing resting spots for travelers and contributing to a healthier environment.

Trees play a crucial role in preventing soil erosion and mitigating the risk of landslides, especially in areas where there is a lack of tree cover.

Cutting down trees near houses is strictly prohibited, and those who engage in such activities are subject to a fine of Rs. 5. It was a measure taken to discourage cutting trees and emphasize the importance of preserving the natural landscape.

Interest and Loans

According to the laws of King Ram Shah, interest cannot be charged beyond a period of 10 years. This means that lenders are prohibited from receiving interest payments after this timeframe.

For borrowing related to food consumption, a fixed interest rate of 20% has been established. This rule specifically applies to loans taken for the purpose of acquiring food.

It is important to note that this law exclusively pertains to food consumption loans. Other types of loans are not subject to these provisions.

To simplify matters, the law stipulates that after 10 years, borrowers are only eligible to borrow an amount three times the sum they initially provided. This limitation applies to all food consumption loans.

In the case of money loans, the law states that a 10% interest rate is applicable for a duration of 10 years. Consequently, borrowers are limited to receiving double the amount they originally borrowed.

Penal Laws

If individuals known as Chautaria, brothers, and Gotia commit a terrible crime against another person, they will be expelled from the country after shaving their heads. Similarly, if the individuals known as Sanyasi, Bairagi, and Bhat commit a similar crime, they will also be banished accordingly.

Banishment as a punishment ensures that you are not blamed for failing to punish your close relatives for murder (Gotrahatya) and no one will criticize you for not taking action against them. This principle is also mentioned in religious books. Therefore, banishment is considered equivalent to the death penalty.

It may be seen as wrong to execute a Brahmin, as it would be considered the murder of a Brahmin (Brahmanhatya). However, if you don’t execute them, others may accuse you of allowing them to escape punishment. Therefore, shaving the head (Mudnu) is considered equal to the death penalty, making banishment with head-shaving an appropriate punishment.

Bairagi, Sanyasi, and Bhat cannot be executed, so banishment is a suitable punishment for them. It is important to note that females should not be executed or killed, regardless of the severity of their crime.

Among the Khas, Magar, and Newar communities, only those who commit crimes should be punished. Punishment should be directed at the individual offenders, and their families should not be held responsible.

Legal Procedure

  1. Chief Dharmadhikari, Ram Shah, presided over the Nyayasan along with brahmins and Ministers to provide justice. The King carefully listened to both sides and delivered a fair decision in accordance with Shukra Niti.
  2. Educated Court Officers were responsible for documenting complaints in written form. Three general types of complaints included Bintipatra, Ijhar, and Firadpatra.
  3. Once the written complaint was prepared, the complainant had to sign or provide consent, while also mentioning any witnesses or evidence.
  4. If the requirements were fulfilled, the court would proceed with the case.
  5. The alleged criminal would be summoned by the soldiers of the King to appear in court.
  6. In simple cases, if the alleged criminal was unavailable, a representative could be sent. However, neither the representative nor the court could be held responsible if the alleged criminal lost the case or suffered harm.
  7. The representative would be remunerated 16% of the case’s worth and could only be appointed in civil cases.
  8. Criminal cases involving murder, theft, kidnapping of unmarried girls, defamation, treason, and organ deformation did not allow for the appointment of a representative.
  9. In the event of the death of any party involved in the case, their children could continue the case, or it would proceed without them.
  10. The principle stated that a case could be justly decided through a thorough and clear investigation of the evidence.
  11. Before reaching a decision, factors such as the nature of the crime, the criminal’s intent (mens rea), age, occupation, power, and financial status were examined.
  12. It is important to note that a decision does not necessarily guarantee justice; justice is determined by society, not solely by the court.


In conclusion, the legal system of Gorkha, the birthplace of King Prithvi Narayan Shah, was characterized by unique provisions that laid the foundation for the modern legal system.

Under the reign of King Ram Shah, notable contributions were made to enhance the judicial system, such as the establishment of the 26 Thithis or Dhog Bhet Thithis for administrative and judicial regulations.

The civil laws of Gorkha emphasized respect and hierarchy, with specific protocols for addressing the King, his officers, and Brahminic Teachers. Environmental regulations aimed at preserving natural resources, while interest and loan policies limited the duration and rates for different types of loans.

The penal laws focused on banishment as a severe punishment, ensuring accountability without resorting to execution. Legal procedures emphasized fairness and thorough investigation, taking into account various factors before reaching a decision.