Rana Bahadur Shah

Introduction to Rana Bahadur Shah

Rana Bahadur Shah was the son of Pratap Singh Shah and Rajendra Laxmi Shah. He was also the grandson of Prithvi Narayan Shah. He became king at the age of two when his father died. His mother acted as the Queen Regent until he was 10 years old. In 1842 B.S., he became an orphan, and Bahadur Shah, his uncle, acted as the Regent.

Thus, he always lacked that sense of security and maturity. He removed his uncle from all government posts in 1851 B.S. when he became 18 years old. He was married to the Princess of Palpa.

He had also married another woman, and Radodhhat Shah was born to her. But an interesting turn of events occurred when he saw a mesmerizingly beautiful widow one day.

Reign of Rana Bahadur Shah

Marriage with Kantimati

The name of the widow was Kantimati. Rana Bahadur Shah expressed his desire to marry her. The widow, ashamed and disinterested, denied his offer. After many tries, Kantimati finally agreed to a clause. She proposed that the son born from the union of Rana Bahadur Shah and Kantimati be the future king of Nepal.

He reluctantly agreed. Rana Bahadur, who was 19–20 years old, didn’t fully comprehend the impacts his choices would have. In any case, in 1854 B.S. Ashoj 19, Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah was born and named Crown Prince.

Fall of Rana B. Shah

At this time, Kantimati suffered from an unknown disease and couldn’t be healed. She expresses the desire to see her son King before her death. Rana Bahadur Shah agreed once more, and Girvan was established after 95 Bhardars, or courtiers, signed.

Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah was made King of Nepal in 1855 B.S. Like his father, he became an infant king. The King of Palpa, Prithvipal Sen, officially announced his kingship.

In exchange, He imprisoned Palpa’s King in Lalitpur Durbar. Also, Rana Bahadur Shah acted as Swami Maharaja. Following this, Ranoddhat Shah became Chautara, or prime minister, at a very young age. Because Kantimati was too ill, Queen Rajeshwori acted as regent queen, and Rajeshwori was the eldest among them.

Kantimati died in 1856 B.S. Rana Bahadur Shah couldn’t accept the death of his love. Even after spending Rs. 1 lakhs and 20,000, he was unable to save her. He tried killing himself several times but was prevented.

He destroyed statues of temples, fired countless houses, killed the doctors and Vaidhyas, and trashed many temples. He was on the verge of madness. Slowly, he recovered himself and decided to participate in the administration.

The Courtiers were used to working without Rana Bahadur Shah and tried their best to prevent him from being a part of the administration. The courtiers took Girvan to Nuwakot and shifted the capital from Kathmandu to Nuwakot.

In return, Rana Bahadur Shah named himself king and started ruling Nepal from Pulchowk. Also, he attacked Nuwakot but failed.

He requested help from his supporters, but his popularity declined. The Bhardars from Nuwakot attacked, and Rana Bahadur Shah fled to Kashi with Bhimsen Thapa and other supporters. His eldest wife, Rajeshwori, fled three days later. In this way, he destroyed his chance at kingship and the stability of the kingdom as a whole in the year 1856 B.S.

Subhaprava, the second wife of Rana Bahadur Shah, was named regent by the courtiers. Meanwhile, he contacted the British East India Company in 1857 B.S. Jestha 16 and requested an army.

In exchange, Rana Bahadur Shah promised the British East India Company 50 percent of Terai’s revenue and 35 percent of Hills’ revenue. Desperately, he also assured them that Nepal could be ruled under the British East India Company.

These offers weren’t accepted by the British East India Company, and he returned empty-handed.

Rise of Rana Bahadur Shah

An interesting event happened in the Nepalese Court that turned the tides in favor of Rana Bahadur Shah. It was discovered that Subhaprava, the Regent Queen, and Kirtimansingh Basnet, a powerful courtier of the Basnet clan, were having an affair.

Thus, 120 courtiers who disliked Subhaprava plotted to kill Kirtimansingh Basnet. He was brutally murdered on Ashoj, 15 B.S., at 9 p.m. in 1858. The assassins were Pande’s. This created a massive rivalry between Pande and Basnet. Anyway, 80 Bhardars were arrested for this event, and 5 to 7 of them were killed.

The event eased the return of Rajeshwori, the eldest queen, to Nepal. She arrived in Nepal in 1859 B.S. Ashar, battling through difficulties on the journey.

When Rajarajeshwori returned, she sent a sum of money to pay the debts of Rana Bahadur Shah. She also resolved rental issues throughout the valley and provided power to Pandey’s and Shah’s. She let Prithvipal Sen, the King of Palpa, go free.

The Portrait of Bhimsen Thapa

After nearly 4 years in exile, Rana Bahadur Shah returned to Nepal on February 21, 1860, B.S. Falgun. First, he arrested his opponents and conspirators. Damodar Pande, a highly powerful courtier, was arrested.

Many of Rana Bahadur’s opponents were killed or arrested. Second, he took absolute power into his hands and became King Regent. Third, he awarded Bhimsen Thapa the post of First Kaji. Also, he exiled Rajarajeshwori, the eldest queen, for some reason.

Restored Portrait of Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah

Contributions of Rana Bahadur Shah

Rana Bahadur Shah also contributed to the Political and Diplomatic History of Nepal. He also attempted to conduct Land Reforms in Nepal. More importantly, his reign was filled with Administration and Political Instability. Nonetheless, he paved the way for Bhimsen Thapa.

Victory over Garhwal

Rana Bahadur Shah was immediately informed that political instability had arisen in Garhwal. Also, the Western Expedition wasn’t carried forward after the death of Bahadur Shah, who was the Regent for him.

King Pradhumna Shah of Garhwal prepared a massive army of 20,000 for the revolt against Nepal. Rana Bahadur Shah also dispatched a massive army to fight Pradhumna. They had an immense battle, which Gadhwal lost.

King Pradhumna Shah retaliated again with an army of 12,000, which Nepal overcame. In 1861 B.S. or 1804 C.E., the conflict in Garhwal and Sirmor was handled. Amar Singh Thapa defeated nearby kingdoms and extended the Nepalese border to Kangada. This extension of the border took place in 1863 B.S. or 1809 C.E.

Nationalization of Birta Lands (Baisathi Haran)

Concurrently, Rana Bahadur Shah, with the assistance of Bhimsen Thapa, nationalized Birta and Guthi lands given to Brahmins and temples in 1862 C.E. The nationalization policy was limited to the Brahmins and Chetris, and soldiers were provided with higher remuneration.

It ultimately affected the likeability of Rana Bahadur Shah in the Brahmin community.

The Birta Lands of Kshetri weren’t annexed because they would act as a barrier in the integration process. Many Brahmins and Courtiers blamed him for being an atheist and Bhimsen Thapa for encouraging such an act.

This would result in the eventual downfall of both Rana Bahadur Shah and Bhimsen Thapa.

First Mukhtiyar of Nepal

Importantly, Rana Bahadur Shah was the first person to receive the post of Mukhtiyar (similar to Prime Minister) from his son in 1862 B.S. After he became the Mukhityar of Nepal, he managed to oust any courtiers that opposed him.

He also made sure that he controlled the Administration of Nepal. Although it lasted for a short time, he made Bhimsen Thapa an integral part of the Nepali Administration.

But all this would soon come to an abrupt end. He also killed many popular courtiers and arrested many others.

He had exiled his own wife, who helped him gain power again. Rana Bahadur Shah had played with Prithvipal Sen, the King of Palpa. He had annexed the Guthi Lands of the Brahmins. Thus, his popularity among the Brahmins, the public, and courtiers, including his brothers, was at an all-time low. He was assassinated 15 months after becoming the first Mukhtiyar of Nepal by his brother Sher Bahadur Shah.

Assassination of Rana Bahadur Shah

Rana Bahadur Shah was assassinated by his own Brother Sher Bahadur Shah, 15 months after R.B.S became the Mukhtiyar of Nepal. He was quite unpopular among the Factions of Nepal and he treated his wife, his brothers and even his relatives in a bad manner. For reasons as these, Rana Bahadur Shah, due to a vicious disagreement with Sher Bahadur Shah, was killed.

Primary Account

Rana Bahadur Shah had suspected that Sher Bahadur Shah would attack or even try to kill him. Hence, Rana Bahadur ordered Sher Bahadur to assist in the Western Expedition of Nepal. Sher Bahadur contested the decision and left. Sher Bahadur was summoned to the palace once more to persuade him to travel to the West.

Thus, Rana Bahadur Shah ordered the imprisonment of Sher Bahadur Shah. However, Sher Bahadur Shah, in the rush of the moment, took out his sword and killed him.

Sher Bahadur Shah was killed by the bodyguard of Rana Bahadur Shah, Bal Narsingh Kunwar upon witnessing the incident.

Secondary Account

This story is based on the testimony of Balnarsingh Kunwar, the bodyguard of Rana Bahadur Shah. The event takes place in the house of a powerful courtier, Tribhuvan Khawas. Tribhuvan Khawas was imprisoned by Rana Bahadur Shah, 20 days after he became Mukhtiyar.

The substantial reasons for the arrest were excessive spending, the signing of commercial and unequal treaties, and a commitment to treason. Rana Bahadur Shah had also confiscated the property of Tribhuvan Khawas and warranted the death penalty for the crimes.

When the time for the death penalty was near, Tribhuvan Khawas requested a proper investigation of the matter. He complied with the request.

Thus, a large meeting and subsequent investigation were held at the house of Tribhuvan Khawas in the evening. Everyone arrived, including Rana Bahadur Shah and others. Sher Bahadur Shah and Tribhuvan Khawas were criticized for their extravagance.

Sher Bahadur Shah responded harshly to him and seemed dissatisfied. Also, He announced that Sher Bahadur wouldn’t be pardoned for the act of treason. The back and forth continued among the courtiers.

The courtiers decided to have dinner and return. Most of them were sent away by him. Sher Bahadur Shah decided to stay. When the house was emptied, Sher Bahadur Shah delivered two blows to Rana Bahadur Shah, seriously injuring him.

Balnarsingh Kunwar immediately battled with Sher Bahadur Shah and killed him. He died on the way, and his final rites were performed by Bam Shah.

Both the stories, in their approaches, seem correct. Some historians question the reliability of Balnarsingh Kunwar and suspect that he actually murdered them both. Others think Balnarsingh Kunwar is correct.

Bhandarkhal Parva 1st

In the aftermath of Rana Bahadur Shah’s assassination, a total of 77 men were killed. Bhimsen Thapa led the mass murder, killing Bidur Shah, Tribhuvan Khawas, Prithvipal Sen, and their families. Not one suspect was left out. The security of the royal family was magnified. In total, 77 men and women were killed in the murder of Rana Bahadur Shah.

Not only that, 15 women had to go to Sati with Rana Bahadur Shah, including the eldest queen, Rajarajeshwori. In total, 93 humans died for the murder of one. This is human equality.

It led to the rise of Bhimsen Thapa as the de-facto ruler. As a result, many historians suspect that Bhimsen Thapa collaborated with Balnarsingh Kunwar to assassinate him.


These major events from 1851 B.S. to 1861 B.S., a span of 10 years, show the struggle for power in the Royal Palace of Nepal. Rana Bahadur Shah, in his 20s, can be seen as immature and impulsive. He showed no loyalty toward Nepal. He was willing to sell Nepal to gain power.

He also married a widow who completely controlled Rana Bahadur Shah until her death. Kantimati, the widow, was the indirect reason for his downfall of him. His assassination of Bahadur Shah also bit him on the back.

Thus, He wasn’t the ideal example of a ruler. Maybe, for this reason, he was assassinated by one of his relatives and his rise into power was cut short.



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  • Regmi, D.R. “Modern Nepal, Volume I and II. F.K.L.M., 1975
  • Pradhan, Kumar. “The Gorkha Conquest” Oxford University Press, Kalkutta 1991
  • Stiller, L.F. “The Rise of House of Gorkha” Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1975
  • Gyawali, Surya Bikram. “Nepalka Shahbanshi Rajaharu”. Government of Nepal, 2031 B.S.
  • Kumar, Satish. “The Rana Polity in Nepal”. Asian Publishing House, 1967
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Pokhrel, A. (2023). King Rana Bahadur Shah – Itihasaa. Encyclopedia of Nepali History. https://itihasaa.com/modern-kings/rana-bahadur-shah/


Who was Rana Bahadur Shah?

Rana Bahadur Shah was the son of Pratap Singh Shah and Rajendra Laxmi Shah, and he became king at the age of two when his father died.

Why is Rana Bahadur Shah called Mad King?

Rana Bahadur Shah destroyed statues of temples, fired countless houses, killed doctors and Vaidhyas, and trashed many temples because he couldn’t accept the death of his love, Kantimati.

Who acted as the Queen Regent for Rana Bahadur Shah?

Rana Bahadur Shah’s mother acted as the Queen Regent until he was 10 years old.

Who is Kantimati?

Rana Bahadur Shah married Kantimati, a widow whom he saw one day and found mesmerizingly beautiful. She was the mother of Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah.

Who became the King of Nepal after Rana Bahadur Shah?

Girvan Yuddha Bikram Shah, the son born from the union of Rana Bahadur Shah and Kantimati, became the future king of Nepal.

Who is the First Mukhtiyar of Nepal and how?

Rana Bahadur Shah, after returning from his Exile to India, returned, killed his opposition, and became the First Mukhtiyar of Nepal. He was assisted by his eldest Wife and Bhimsen Thapa.