Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah

Introduction of Mahendra

Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, born on 11 June 1920, was the King of Nepal from 1955 until his untimely death in 1972. He was the King of Nepal from 1955 to 1972. He modernized Nepal in a holistic manner by bringing about industrial, political, and economic changes.

Despite having no formal education, he was privately educated and learned various subjects because of his personal enthusiasm. During his reign, the First Five-Year Plan of Nepal was effectively introduced. Nepal Rastra Bank and the Supreme Court were also institutionalized into Nepal.

King Mahendra also promulgated the Constitution of Kingdom of Nepal and the Constitution of Nepal that introduced Bicameral Parliamentary System and Partyless Panchayat System respectively.

Personal Life of King Mahendra

Mahendra was the eldest child of King Tribhuvan and Queen Kanti. Under the Rana dynasty, the king’s power was reduced to become a figurehead. The royal family had been held captive in Narayanhiti Palace since the rise of the prominent Rana dynasty.

Despite no formal education, Mahendra was privately educated inside the palace and learned politics, economics, Nepali literature, history, and culture.

Mahendra had a love affair with a concubine named Geeta Gurung inside the palace. A child was born when he was just 13 years old, but since the concubine was not a Thakuri. Therefore, his marriage could not take place.

The royal family then decided to marry their son to the Rana family, and in 1940, he married Indra Rajya Lakshmi. She is the granddaughter of Juddha Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana and daughter of General Hari Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana.

Mahendra had three sons, Birendra, Gyanendra, and Dhirendra, and three daughters, Shanti, Sharada, and Shobha. Unfortunately, his first wife, Crown Princess Indra, died in 1950.

Political Reign of King Mahendra

Rise

In 1951, King Tribhuvan launched a successful political movement against the Ranas and established Nepal as a constitutional monarchy. Mahendra was not happy that King Tribhuvan had reduced the rights of the monarchy in the 1951 (2007 B.S) Interim Constitution while bidding farewell to the Rana dynasty after the 1951 revolution.

After the death of his first wife Indra Rajya in 1950, Mahendra was in a love affair with sister-in-law Ratna. King Tribhuvan was planning to prevent his son from marrying Rana’s daughter Ratna under any circumstances.

Prince Mahendra did not like the pressure of his father to marry the girl of his choice. King Tribhuvan did not favor expanding relations with the Rana family, even more so with Shumsher’s Clan. In 1952, two years after the death of his queen, Mahendra married Indra’s younger sister, Ratna Rajya Lakshmi Devi.

This created terrible relations between him and his father. This marriage produced no children as King Mahendra had married on the condition his personal life should not hinder his national duties. Hence, the queen agreed to be childless.

Mahendra became the king of Nepal as the successor of King Tribhuvan. When King Tribhuvan left for Europe for treatment, Mahendra got authority from the then-King Tribhuvan. He inherited the throne at the age of 34 as a constitutional monarch.

He became king on 13 March 1955, but his coronation took place on 2 May 1956 due to the one-year mourning period for his father’s death.

Before 2015 B.S.

Tanka Prasad Acharya became the Prime Minister of Nepal on January 27, 1956 (Magha 13, 2012 B.S), appointed by King Mahendra. During his term, Nepal saw the founding of the Nepal Rastra Bank and the Supreme Court.

Nepal established diplomatic relations with many countries. He also enjoyed close ties with the Chinese government. China provided Rs 60 million to Nepal on 7 October 1956 (Ashwin 22, 2013 B.S). Tanka Prasad Acharya resigned as Prime Minister in July 1957(Ashadha 2014 B.S).

In 1957 (2014 B.S), King Mahendra appointed K.I. Singh as Prime Minister. Singh’s cabinet included Education Minister Mahakavi Laxmi Prasad Devkota. However, Singh’s tenure was mostly spent attempting to curtail his own enemies. He was later replaced by a government led by Suvarna Samsher Rana.

He was dismissed by King Mahendra because he tried to stage a coup against the king and relegate him to a ‘puppet king’, similar to the Rana dynasty.

After 2015 B.S.

King Mahendra promulgated the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1959 (2015 B.S) to move the country towards a parliamentary system.

On the basis of the royal announcement on February 1, 1958, a Constitution Drafting Commission was formed on March 27, 1958.

The Constitution of the Dominion of Nepal was declared by King Mahendra on February 12, 1959 (Falgun 1, 2015 B.S) based on the draft submitted by the Constitution Drafting Commission.

The bicameral system included a lower house, the House of Representatives, with 109 members elected from 109 constituencies, and an upper house, the General Assembly, with 36 members, 18 elected and 18 nominated.

Candidates were required to be 25 years of age to become a candidate for the House of Representatives and 30 years of age to be a candidate for the General Assembly. After reaching the age of 21, one could become a voter.

The constitution recognized Nepali as the official language and Devanagari as the official script of the country. The Public Service Commission was formed under the constitution, and one-third of its members had to have not served in government for the previous five years.

For the first time, an Auditor General was appointed, but there was no provision for an Election Commission.

The first democratic election in Nepal was conducted in 1959 to elect 109 MPs to the House of MPs, Nepal’s lower house of Parliament.

The election took place in 45 days from Falgun 7, 2015 until Chaitra 21, 2015 B.S. in accordance with the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1959, which was implemented on Falgun 1, 2015 B.S. The Nepali Congress won the election with a two-thirds majority and emerged as the largest party.

In 1959, the Nepali Congress emerged as the largest party in the election and elected B.P. Koirala as Nepal’s prime minister. Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala was sworn in on Jestha 13, 2016 B.S. in front of King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah. The first assembly of the house took place on 1 July 1959.

Coup of King Mahendra

King Mahendra declared a coup on December 15, 1960. He assumed control of the state, arguing that the previous Congress administration had encouraged corruption, prioritised party above national interest, and failed to preserve peace and order.

The King suspended the constitution, disbanded the elected legislature, and fired the administration. He also instituted direct control and imprisoned then-Prime Minister B.P. Koirala and his closest administration associates. Political parties were also prohibited.

King Mahendra established Panchayat, a partyless political system comprising village, district, and national councils, on April 13, 1961.

The Nepali Congress leadership first advocated nonviolent resistance to the new rule and created partnerships with a number of political organisations, notably the Gorkha Parishad and the United Democratic Party.

Constitution of Nepal, 2019 B.S.

On May 8, 1962, the Constitution Drafting Commission was established, with Rishikesh Shah, the then-Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, as chairman, Kulshekhar Sharma as Member Secretary, and Mrs. Angur Baba Joshi as the only female member.

The commission was assigned to submit the draft constitution to the king within 23 days until June 1, 1962. On December 16, 1962, King Mahendra promulgated a new constitution. It institutionalized a Four-Tier Panchayat System.

The Rashtriya Panchayat was a unicameral legislature established under the constitution. Article 90 conferred sovereign power and residual powers to the King. A clause of the constitution stated that the constitution might be modified by a royal proclamation from the king.

For the first time, the Election Commission and the Commission to Prevent Abuse of Authority were established in this constitution. Six class organisations were formed, each of which could send members to the Rashtriya Panchayat.

The Constitution officially recognized Hindu religion as the national religion and introduced the country’s first national anthem by giving official recognition to Shriman Gambhir. It also debuted the country’s new modernised national flag, as well as the process for drawing the flag for the first time.

In addition to that, it introduced national emblems such as Lali gurans as the national flower, crimson color as the national color, the cow as the national animal, and Danphe as the national bird of Nepal.

Contributions of King Mahendra

Nationalism

King Mahendra promoted Nationalism in Nepal and made several campaigns to create a Distinct Identity for the Nepalese People.

He banned foreigners from purchasing land in Nepal, made Khas Kura the national language, established the Nepal Rastra Bank to make Nepali currency compulsory throughout the kingdom, and introduced the modern national flag and national anthem of Nepal.

He also adopted the principle of Panchsheel and non-aligned foreign policy, and established Nepal as a committed member of the United Nations.

King Mahendra pursued a foreign policy of neutrality between China and India. He also achieved a historical diplomatic victory by signing the Nepal-China Boundary Treaty of 1961, and it also resulted in Nepal gaining 302.75 square kilometers of land from China.

He introduced five years government plans and established the National Planning Commission to plan and oversee development in the country.

Development Activities

Nepal was dependent on the central bank of India for foreign currency reserves. However, to reduce dependence on India, King Mahendra established Nepal’s central bank in 1956. Therefore Nepal became an independent Country in foreign currency exchange by 1964 A.D.

Nepal Industrial Development Corporation started serving as an industrial finance organization to expand Nepalese industries and services. King Mahendra built physical infrastructure to support economic development and laid the foundation for the Industrial Estates (IEs), with technical and financial assistance from the United States of America.

He established several organizations, including the Salt Trading Corporation, National Trading Limited, and Dairy Development Corporation, and issued Nepal’s first government bond in 1964 A.D.

Mahendra also contributed to healthcare by building Nepal’s first maternity hospital, Kanti Children’s Hospital, and Royal Drugs laboratory. The Malaria Eradication Project in the Terai region was also launched, with many other ayurvedic schools and medical institutions established.

King Mahendra established diplomatic ties with China and was the first King of Nepal to visit China.

Agricultural Development

During his reign from 1955-1972, King Mahendra of Nepal focused on the development of agriculture and tourism.

In agriculture, several institutions such as the Institute of Agriculture and Animal Science (IAAS), Birgunj Sugar Mill, Soktim Tea, Nepal Tea Development Corporation, and Agricultural Development Bank were established to support animal husbandry and modernize traditional agriculture.

The government also invested in apple farming in Mustang and Baitadi, with the establishment of the Temperate Horticulture Development Center. It disseminated successful varieties of fruit to local farmers.

The Timber Corporation of Nepal Limited was established to systematically collect and supply firewood produced by forest management to the general public. Janakpur Cigarette Factory was set up, and the development of tobacco cultivation was developed in Nepal.

Tourism Reforms

King Mahendra opened Nepal to international visitors and erected many residences, rest stops, bars, and water taps around the kingdom. Nepal joined the International Union of Official Travel Organisations in 1959, and the following year established a distinct tourism department.

The first handicraft exhibition was performed in 1960, and the first professional trekking took place when the Himalayas were opened up to tourists for trekking. The first tourism act was enacted in 1964, and the first travel agency, Mountain Travel Nepal, was established.

The Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN) was also established. King Mahendra visited Rara Lake in 1964 and penned his famous poem Rara Ki Apsara.

Other Developments

During his reign, Mahendra built the modern Narayanhiti Palace, Ratna Mandir, the Lakeside Palace for Queen Ratna, and Diyalo Bangla, a palace for the former royal family in Bharatpur, Chitwan.

He was also responsible for the construction of the Koshi River Barrage, the Gandaki river dam, and the Trisuli Dam for irrigation, flood control, and hydroelectricity generation.

King Mahendra’s reign was when he established the Tribhuvan University, Pulchowk Engineering Campus, Thapathali Engineering Campus, and Padma kanya campus. He provided higher education, technical education, and opportunities for women.

He introduced the first telephone service, radio, and television broadcast, and established a printing press to print books in Nepal.

Political and Social Reforms

King Mahendra introduced a new constitution, incorporate the phrase ‘Hindu Kingdom’, and scientifically divided the country into 14 administrative zones with 75 districts.

He nullified Royal courts and introduced local courts. He also separated the powers within Nepal. He introduced the Rastriya Panchayat for legislative power, the Council of Ministers for executive power, and the Supreme Court for judicial power.

He established the Office of the Auditor General, the Public Service Commission, and the Election Commission.

Conclusion

Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah introduced the Nepal’s first five-year plan, Nepal Rastra Bank, and the Supreme Court.

Miscellaneous

Cite

Pokhrel, A. (2023). King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History. https://itihasaa.com/modern-kings/tribhuvan-bir-bikram-shah/

FAQ’s

What were the changes brought about by King Mahendra in Nepal?

King Mahendra brought about industrial, political, and economic changes in Nepal during his reign. He modernized Nepal by understanding the needs of the Nepalese People.

Was Mahendra a Nationalist?

King Mahendra played a crucial role in promoting nationalism in Nepal by creating a distinct identity for the Nepalese people and promoting national unity and nationality through policies such as banning foreigners from purchasing land, making Khas Kura the national language, and introducing the modern national flag and national anthem.

Who was Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev?

Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was the King of Nepal from 1955 until his death in 1972.

Why is the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal 1959 bring?

The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal introduced by King Mahendra in 1959 introduced a parliamentary system with a bicameral legislature.

Who were King Mahendra’s parents?

King Mahendra’s parents were King Tribhuvan and Queen Kanti.

Who was King Mahendra’s first wife?

King Mahendra’s first wife was Indra Rajya Laxmi. She died in 1950.

What was the relationship between King Mahendra and his father King Tribhuvan like?

The relationship between King Mahendra and his father King Tribhuvan was tense, particularly after King Mahendra married his sister-in-law Ratna, which his father opposed.

What was the Foreign Policy of Mahendra?

King Mahendra pursued a foreign policy of neutrality between China and India and established diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. He adopted the principle of Panchsheel and non-aligned foreign policy, which established Nepal as a committed member of the United Nations.

What did Mahendra do to Nepal’s Education?

King Mahendra established the Tribhuvan University, Pulchowk Engineering Campus, Thapathali Engineering Campus, and Padma kanya campus, to provide higher education, technical education, and opportunities for women.

How did Mahendra promote Tourism in Nepal?

King Mahendra opened up Nepal to foreign tourists, built many houses, rest houses, taverns, and water taps in the country, and established the Hotel Association of Nepal (HAN). He enacted the first tourism act in 1964, and the first travel agency, Mountain Travel Nepal, was established. He visited Rara Lake in 1964 and penned his famous poem Rara Ki Apsara, which attracted many tourists to the region.

Did Mahendra Develop Nepal?

King Mahendra introduced five years government plans and established the National Planning Commission to plan and oversee development in the country. He built physical infrastructure to support economic development and laid the foundation for Industrial Estates with technical and financial assistance from the United States of America. He also established several organizations and issued Nepal’s first government bond in 1964.