1768 – Prithvi Narayan Shah unifies Kathmandu Valley (Matthew p. 141)

1950 – Nepalese people and King Tribhuvan overthrow the Ranas, ruling party over Nepal, w/ support from India, lead to “Delhi compromise” (Matthew p. 142)

1950 – Delhi Compromise: King, prime minster and Nepali congress agreed to hold elections (Matthew p. 142)

1962 – Mahendra, son of King Tribhuvan introduced the panchayat system, democracy where Kingrules and is supported by councils (Matthew p. 142)

1996 – Communist Party of Nepal Maoist (CPN-M) launch revolution against the state (Tirosh-Samuelson p. 393)

February 1st, 2005 Coup d’état — King Gyanendra overthrew elected government (Matthew p.139)

2008 Elections held – CPN-M won plurality of the seats (Matthew p. 137)


Panchayat System

One event in Nepali history that influenced many of the modern social injustices is the introduction of the panchayat system by King Mahendra.  Son of King Tribhuvan, Mahendra believed that the king needed more power to “contain the growing tensions in Nepal” (Khadka p. 431).  These tensions included a poor relationship with neighboring country India, of which, the foreign minister of Nepal stated that a new political system was key to an improved relationship (Khadka p.432).  In order to implement his new political system, Mahendra needed the faith and support of the people which he had, as they accepted him as a “benevolent reincarnation” (Khadka p. 432).  Although, in theory, the new system gave people political rights, “the ‘innovative’ panchayat system was basically just an attempt to idealize the concept of a Hindu monarch by combining it with certain features of other political systems” (Khadka p. 432).  King Mahendra used his new political system to gain more power and take away from his people.

Official Portrait of King Mahendra

Official Portrait of King Mahendra

The panchayat system was a four-tiered power system.  On the base was the village assembly.  For this, the adult population of the villages voted for an eleven-member village panchayat.  This assembly took care of the low level political affairs of the villages.  Each village panchayat would send one representative to the district panchayat which formed the zone assembly.  This panchayat acted as a district level governing body.  The next level in the panchayat system was the national panchayat.  For this level, representatives from each district were selected by the zone assembly. The apex of the system was King Mahendra.  Although the basic structure of this system lasted, it was adapted to throughout the years as “the first amendment to the constitution abolished the zonal panchayat” (Khadka p.434).

After implementation of this system, King Mahendra banned all political parties.  The official government statement was as follows, “the official philosophy of the partyless character of the system was to maintain a ‘systematic neutrality’ suited to Nepal’s political geography” (Khadka p.435).  The King justified taking away political freedom by telling people that his system was necessary for international stability.  Thus, the political ideology of the nation was that, as demanded by the king, was that “the king should direct policies of the nation as an absolute ruler” (Khadka p.435).

The effects of the oppressive rule of King Mahendra and his panchayat system are still felt today.  The lack of a political party lead to increased economic instability.  “For some time no concrete political economic objectives were formulated for the system, because it had no fixed political ideology on which these could be based” (Khadka p.434).  This economic stress on society is something that ties the panchayat system to the Dickinson Nepal Mosaic.  Many of the environmental issues that occur in Neal stem for the lack of social equality.  For example, people are pushed to abuse natural resources in times of economic struggle, if it is their only option for revenue or resources.  This struggle is one that occurs everywhere  but, in Nepal, was made worse by the  panchayat system.




Khadka, Narayan. “Crisis in Nepal’s Partyless Panchayat System: The Case for More Democracy.” Pacific Affairs 59, no. 3 (1986).

Matthew & Upreti, 2010, Environmental change and human security in Nepal, pp 137 – 154 in Matthew et al (eds), Global Environmental Change and Human Security.

Tirosh-Samuelson, Hava. Asian Survey 47, no. 3 (2013): 393-414.

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