Lichhavi King

Introduction of King Dharmadeva

King Dharmadeva of the Lichhavi Dynasty was a prominent King of the Lichhavi Dynasty who ruled Nepal from 425 A.D. till 464 A.D. He was the son of King Shankaradeva and the Father of King Manadeva.

His Queen was Rajyawati. King Dharmadeva conducted huge rites and rituals and had the character of both a glorious King and a Wise Sage according to the Inscriptions. His Reign was relatively peaceful until he died suddenly.

Life of King Dharmadeva

Dharmadeva was born to the royal family of the Lichhavi Dynasty to King Shankaradeva. The name of his father is anonymous. He can be presumed to have had a privileged childhood with a special attachment to Religion and Kingship.

After the death of his father Shankaradeva in approximately 423 A.D., King Dharmadeva became the King of Nepal. He was a man of great religious devotion and performed many sacrifices during his reign.

He was also an accomplished warrior and skilled in weaponry. In fact, he personally taught his son Mandev the art of warfare.

It has been repeatedly mentioned that Dharmadeva was known for his character, which was that of both a king and a wise sage. He was admired for his adherence to the principles of Rajarshicharita, as outlined in Kautaliya Arthashastra.

The Principles of a Great King are: keeping one’s senses under control, being diligent, conducting business ethically, and doing things that benefit the people. Thus, Dharmadeva was considered an ideal king who captured the hearts of his people.

The Character of King Dharmadeva

The Changunarayan Inscription lists the Character of King Dharmadeva as follows:

“With the new activities of the kings, he (Shankardev’s son), who has excellent religious deeds, discharges punishment, acts with discipline, knows rituals, has good traits, gained the hearts of the people and safeguarded the large (Nepal-) kingdom that arrived with the clan by fostering religion.”

Some of the attributes of King Dharmadeva could include: Keeping the senses under control, sharpening the intellect with the company of scholars, and keeping information about everything through a spy.

As this description is written by King Manadeva himself, it is possible that he is trying to portray his Father as an Ideal King.

Death of King Dharmadeva

Dharmadeva’s death was sudden and shrouded in mystery. According to accounts, his queen, Rajyavati, was engaged in worship when she received news of his passing. In the Gopala Raja Bansawali, it has been extensively written that King Manadeva unknowingly killed his Own Father in a stone water tap.

However, the Changunarayan Inscription of King Manadeva doesn’t mention anything of such magnitude. Also, King Manadeva was informed about the death of Dharmadeva by Rajyavati herself. Hence, it is very unlikely that Manadeva killed his own father.

At the time, the practice of satipratha was prevalent, which involved a widow immolating herself on her husband’s funeral pyre.

Rajyavati initially intended to commit sati. She exclaims to her son Manadeva that her Husband has died and there is no rationale on why she should live her life anymore. On the contrary, her son Mandev threatened to commit suicide.

Ultimately, she decided to live a life of austerity for her son because of the Political and Family Situation.

Pillar Inscription of Dharmadeva

In General, King Manadeva has been credited as the King who initiated the Written History of Nepal. However, Jagadish Chandra Regmi has argued that it could be King Dharmadeva could have initiated the Written History of Nepal.

He mentions a pillar inscription of Pashupatinath which suggests that could have been written by him.

The fragmented state of the pillar has made it difficult to gather detailed information, but it is understood that the inscription is related to the installation of the Panchavatramurti.

The genealogy of the Lichchavi king is also mentioned in the inscription, and the description is compatible with the statement of the Gopal Raja Bansawali that King Dharmadeva “made the Dakshinmurti of Sri Pashupati Bhattarak and a big Vrishadhwaj“. Based on this, it can be said that he wrote this Inscription.

Contributions of King Dharmadeva

First, King Dharmadeva maintained peace and prosperity in Nepal. He made sure that the legacy of Vrishadeva and Shankaradeva was continued. Second, he promoted healthy religious practice in Nepal, essential to maintaining religious secularism and harmony.

As Shaivism, Buddhism, and Vaishnavism were prevalent in Nepal at the time, it was necessary to unite various religions which King Dharmadeva can be credited with doing. It has been mentioned that he “worshipped the gods with good animal sacrifices.”

Third, Dharmadeva constructed a Buddhist Monastery near Syambhunath. He also constructed a huge Trident or Trisula in the Pashupatinath Temple at its southern gate. Thus, he contributed to the Arts and Architecture of Nepal. He is also said to have laid the “Panchavantra Murti” and written an inscription about it.

Gopal Raja Bansawali on King Dharmadeva

Gopal Raja Bansawali on King Dharmadeva


Dharmadeva, the Father of King Manadeva, was a Religious King who ruled over Nepal before 464 A.D. He was a religious King who belonged to the Sect of Vaishnavism. Further, he died at a young age.


  • Regmi, D. R. (1983). Inscriptions of Ancient Nepal. India: Abhinav Publications.
  • Vajracharya, Dhanavajra “Lichhavikalka Abhilekh” INAS, 1973
  • Vajracharya, Dhanavajra, and Kamal P. Malla. “The Gopalraja Vamsavali” Nepal Research Centre Publications, 1985
  • Regmi, Jagadish Chandra. “Pracin Nepalko Rajnitik Itihas” Royal Nepal Academy, 2035 B.S.
  • Poudel, Nayanath “Bhasa Vansavali Part I” Puratatva Prakashan Mala, 2020 B.S.


Pokhrel, A. (2023). King Dharmadeva – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History.