Nepal Needs to Restore Monarchy
Picture Courtesy: Times of India
Nepal has a great history, and its people have a unique role to play in shaping the contemporary economic and geopolitical order. One of the most interesting but probably less known wars that Nepal fought was the Sino-Gorkha or Sino-Nepalese War 1788-1792. This war ended with the Treaty of Betravati on 2 October 1792. This war taught China a key lesson. Nepal may be small in terms of its territorial size but more than a match for the Chinese army. The ten thousand-strong invading army from China met the royal army of Nepal and after heavy fighting and brave resistance from Nepalese forces Chinese troops were compelled to retreat to the Betrawati River around 1000 or 1200 Chinese troops were killed in the manner. The Chinese General Tung Thyang lost all hopes of attacking the Nepalese forces and decided to conclude a treaty. Nepal’s military commander Kaji Damodar Pande concluded the treaty with the Chinese.
Nepal, unlike many other Asian powers of today, was never colonized under the direct rule of a foreign invader. Afghans, Mughals, the British, and China have all tried but no one could subjugate Nepal. Thus, even though Nepal was a small country in terms of its territory and a small economy its voice at an international level has been respected. India, the UK, the US, and Japan have strategic connections. Nepal has always played an important role at the international level. One of the reasons for this has been the statesmanship of its great line of kings and military leaders. Nepal, during the monarchy, had more credible and more respected leaders like King Birendra Bikram Shah. But now, Nepal is losing its clout in the absence of the monarchy and the dilution of its Hindu identity that forms the soul of Nepal. Religion is a vital and deeply ingrained aspect of Nepalese culture.
Nepal has a rich cultural heritage, and its Hindu traditions and practices are of great value to the subcontinent’s civilization. Hinduism and Buddhism have been practiced in Nepal for over two thousand years. According to one story, Hinduism was brought to the Kathmandu Valley from the Indus Valley around 2,000 BCE. The Lord Pashupati Temple has pujaris from Kerala in India. Nepal is the land of Mother Sita and Lord Buddha, and Nepal is a key part of the cradle that has nurtured the Hindu civilization. The Dusshera of Nepal and Durga Puja of India are examples of the synthesis of our land and people.
Kukur Tihar, also known as the “day of the dogs,” is a festival celebrated in Nepal as part of the multi-day festival of Tihar dedicated to honoring and worshiping dogs for their loyalty, companionship, and role as protectors, who now have followers in Spain as well. This great heritage is now missing its greatest patron, the Hindu Monarchy. The present approach of being apologetic about Nepal’s Hindu identity has greatly undermined Nepal’s political stability and the pride of its people. Nepal’s abolition of the monarchy and its status as a Hindu Kingdom in a controversial manner without the consent of its people has led to the present-day turmoil.
Nepal has always been among the great nations and has the distinction of producing some of the world’s best soldiers who have received military honors that only a few other countries can match. The Nepal Army is among the best in the world. Nepal has also given a few great kings like Prithvi Narayan Shah, King Mahindra, and King Birendra Bikram Shah among a great line of rulers and prime ministers like Jung Bahadur. The three pillars of Nepal, its status as a Hindu kingdom, the constitutional monarchy, and its army have enabled it to guard its hard-fought independence. The Nepal Army is an institution built and nurtured over a century by the great kings of Nepal. The army has always stood by its people in all periods of challenges and crises.
In the current geopolitical situation, small nations are falling apart as they come under economic and political compulsions from hegemonistic powers like China. Nepal needs to be proud of its history, Hindu identity, and its diversity.
Nepal had its monarchy to protect it and one great king and leader of our time is Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah, the former King of Nepal (reigning from 2001 to 2008). This was a turbulent time for Nepal. Few world leaders can claim to have faced an internal crisis of such magnitude and kept the country united and held their heads high among world leaders. The world has seen many leaders who run away to a foreign land abandoning their people. We have innumerable examples of politicians whose names are synonymous with cronyism and corruption. Former King Gyanendra therefore stands out as a leader who has never abandoned his people and his belief in the people of Nepal. His commitment to his country, people, and faith is unflinching. He stood by these ideals even when it meant he would face political wilderness. Gyanendra left the Narayanhiti Palace located in Kathmandu on June 11, 2008, moving into the Nagarjuna Palace and his statement ended with words where he wished “May Lord Pashupatinath bless us all”. He did not show remorse for the loss of power, but his speech reflected his commitment to his country and people. In the past, what ensured Nepal’s success was tremendous public trust in the country’s leadership. Nepal never had to compromise its sovereignty. Nepal is one of the few Asian countries that has never been colonized. Nepal holds the unique distinction of not being colonized by either the Qing Period from 1788 to 1792. The British also realized and recognized the martial abilities of the Gorkha and the leadership quality of the kings who found prudence in peace rather than war.
As they say in German “Gute alte Zeit” — meaning good old days, the era before the abolition of monarchy will be remembered fondly by people. Former King Gyanendra’s era was one of the most difficult periods. His contribution and achievement have never been part of the larger international political discourse. His sober personality foreign policy management during difficult times and ability to steer the economy need to be acknowledged. One of his significant contributions is the way he led the Nepal Army and never compromised Nepal’s Hindu identity; this is significant as Nepalese identity around the world is its grand Hindu ethos.
Nepal’s army and its people’s identity are at the core of Nepal’s national security. The world knows Nepal for Lord Pashupati and as the birthplace of Lord Buddha. When history is written, when the former King Gyanendra gets his recognition, and when the truth of those turbulent times comes out, Nepal will be able to redeem itself.
Nepal has a long history of resilience, and it has a long border with China, a hegemonistic and dictatorial power, an antithesis of Nepal’s culture of democracy, freedom, and diversity. The youth will have to separate the facts from fiction to get a clear understanding of history and prepare for the future. Every generation must earn its freedom.
King Gyanendra had his share of mistakes, but he never abandoned his nation and people. He saved our region from turmoil even at the cost of losing the crown. We need to acknowledge his contribution to our region’s geopolitics and people. No wonder the people of Nepal have started a movement for the restoration of its ancient Hindu identity and Hindu monarchy. Like the Ram Temple movement of India and the Bangladesh Liberation Movement, its vibrations are felt by all in the Indian subcontinent.