The black and white images above are from Landons book, further info in main text. The coloured with Hanuman is from the National Museum of Nepal.
SYMBOLS OF STATE & POWER.
This page is about the Symbols of Statehood and Power as used over the past centuries in Nepal and part of Heritage Knives´s exploration of Military History. From the modern foundation of Nepal in 1768 until 1951 Nepal was administered as a Military State, by Rana dynasty 1951-1846, and by the Shah Dynasty 1846 - 1768. With a Military State I mean that the Military formed the back bone of the State and economy, the majority of Govt. positions were primarily of Military rank and senior military ranks would also include a senior role as a civil administrator. The Military state was a traditional way of running the State with the King at the top. For example during the Rana dynasty, a Commanding General as a military officer would have military regiments under his direct command and also play a important role in the civil administration of the country. This grew out of the earlier Shah dynasty, where the position of "Kaji" often had these duties and also served as a governor of newly conquered areas. In conclusion, a successful career was based on your role and position in the military. It is from the military that the first flags as used in Nepal have their roots, not in the idea of a Civil State where every citizen is equal before the law (a rather new idea in Nepal which only took firm base after 1990 and still a struggle).
The following page examins the National and other flags and symbols as used over the last three centuries by the Rana and Shah dynasties which forms the base for modern Nepal as a nation.
The earliest written document regarding flags used in Nepal is from Perceval Landon´s book "Nepal" published in 1928, based on his journey to Nepal in 1924. The book lists the following flags; National, Royal Standard, Maharajah, Commander-in-Chief and the Senior (Western) Commanding General as shown above, along with the Coat of Arms. These have also been reproduced in colour below.
Over the years various theories and ideas have come regarding the meaning and use of the flag and symbols, often with minimal research and rational thought to re-inforce a (neo-nationalistic) idea of what the past was like. An idea or imagination does not become a truth becuase it is repeated we hope, instead it poses a threat to what and how it actually was used. Further research is needed as is often the case with Nepalese history. The primary source of information here is Landon´s book along with information from well researched sites such as Hubert Herald, Crwflags and others.
It is said that King Prithivi Narayan Shah in the mid 18th century used the Nepalese flag but there is no research to support the claim, if a flag was used it would have been something similar to the Hanuman flag more then the flag with sun and moon we see today. A flag based on military use, to invoke spiritual blessings of divine powers for battle more then the idea of a Nation-state.
It is commonly belived that the Sun represents the Rana family and the Moon the Shah family, to which also further research is needed and until then only a claim. If so, it would also mean that the national flag as we know it was created after 1846 when Jung Bahadur assumed the office of Prime Minister and the development of various Rana era flags with the Moon. In contrast the use of Sun and Moon images is ancient and seen all over the Indian sub continent, from various rulers to in spiritual imagery. It is not uncommon to find flags with both the Sun and Moon from the pre-Gorkha invasion in the temples of Kathmandu.
The many hundreds of independent rulers of colonial India from at least the mid 19th century were given their Coat of Arms and flags by the British, at various Durbars held and had earlier been using other flags and symbols.
It is likely that the Malla rulers may have developed the flag as the most advanced civilization regarding symbols, arts and much else was under taken during their reign, that in turn may have drawn or earlier dynasties and therefore faulty to belive that Prithivi Narayan Shah was using a flag with the Sun and Moon in his campaigns during the mid 18th century unless it can be confirmed by material evidence or written sources.
National Flags of Nepal,
adopted after 1768 but unknown exactly when use started. Triangular flags date back several centuries on the Indian sub-continent.
All regimental names comes with the suffix "Shree" beforehand. Regiments are called Battalions in the Nepalese Army and each Battalion/Regimental Colour has its own traditions attached to it.
Flags & Symbols of the King / Royal House.
The King of Gorkha following the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley in 1768-69 took over the three thrones of the Valley from the Malla rulers and several other kingdoms the Gorkhali military had conquered, where by the (Raja) King of Gorkha became the Great King of Kings, Maharajadhiraja. The Maharajadhiraja was also called "Shree 5 Sarkhar", simplified the five times honoured government, which was a title the Malla Kings had used. Many of the beliefs regarding the King and Kinghood the Gorkhalis took from the Malla kings, whom for example belived their rulers to be an incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu, the Preserver.
Lord Vishnu is considered to be the Naga-raja, the king of snakes and therefore often depicted on a bed of snakes or they are found just behind his head forming a throne alike structure. It is also for this reason snakes beautifully adore the Royal Throne of Nepal, since the time of the Mallas till 2001.
The later development of adding a Lion to the Royal Standard is a mixture of Hindu, Buddhist and a by product of colonial British influence.
A reconstruction of the symbols as found on the Royal throne in the first half of the 19th century.
The flag (standard) of the King in the later halfof the 19th century. The Moon represents the lineage of the Shah family, the Chandravanshi.
The Royal Standard from the 1920s as given in Landon`s book. The Lion image is associated with strength and power.
A modern version of the Royal Standard, post 1960´s.
The Cypher/ Symbol/ Shield of the Royal House (Shah) was most likely created during King Mahendras reign (1955-1972).
The personal cypher of King Mahendra, follows the same design as that of the Royal House but with his monogram inside.
The Royal cypher during King Birendra´s reign (1972-2001). Follows the earlier style but with some changes.
The personal cypher with monogram of King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev.
The military ranks of King Birendra, Crown Price Dipendra and Prince Niranjan.
Images from Hubert Herald, Gurkha Antiques and Heritage Knives.
Flags & Symbols of the Rana Era, 1846 - 1951.
Established in 1846 by Jung Bahadur Kunwar Rana who became Prime Minister of Nepal and Maharajah of Lamjung & Kaski and made these offices hereditary. The Rana dynasty lasted till 1951 and ruled Nepal as a Military State with the PM/Maharjah being the de facto ruler of the Nation and the Military, his brothers & relatives holding senior ranks in the military-government. The framework followed the earlier pattern of the Gorkhalis but was adapated and changed to suit the Ranas. The King, Maharjadhiraja, was the Head of State but in a ceremonial role with no real responcibility.
Positions were held most often in accordance with the Roll of Succession as decided by the PM and family tradition. A coup within the family in 1885 established Jung Bahadurs nephews, the Shumsher brothers reign til 1951 and from which the Shumsher branch of the Ranas started using the name "Shumsher Jung Bahadur" (SJB) in the middle of their names.
All images from CRW flags & Hubert Herald.
The earliest emblem as used by the Rana Prime Minister, mid 19th century.
H.H. The Maharajah.
The post of Prime Minister & Maharajah went to the same person, the de-facto ruler of Nepal.
The Seal of the Prime minister. The Sun, Moon and Feet images are used. Text in Nepali, English and Urdu (or Persian) was used until 1951.
H.E. The Commander in Chief.
The second highest position in the country and next in line to become PM and Maharaja. The C-in-C was the Chief administrator of the Kingdom.
The flag (standard) of the Maharaja in the later half of the 19th century. The Sun represents the lineage of the Rana family, the Suryavanshi.
H.E. Senior Commanding General.
Was also called the Western (Senior) Commanding General and the third most important position in the Government.
Explanation of the symbols used in the Coat of Arms of Nepal.
“The upper symbol is the “Sri Panch”or headdress. The King’s head-dress is adorned with five “Chands”. Other high officials bear one “Chand”.
The “Chands” in the head-dress correspond with the number of “Sris” to which the wearer is entitled. In referring to the King or the Minister, the one is styled “Sri Panch (five) Sarkar,” and the other “Sri Tin (three) Sarkar” in consonance with the number of “Sris” that go before the name of each. The “Sarkar” in the reference stands evidently for “Government.”
The bird of paradise plume is believed to have been introduced by Mathabar Singh Thapa when he came back after his sojourn in the Panjab Court. The spray of peacock feather is a part of the badge of the high Chinese honour borne by the present Prime Minister and Marshal.
Below the “Sri Panch”or the head-dress is shown a pair of footprints known as “Guru Paduka,” representing the footprints of Sri 108 Goraknath, the guardian deity of Gorkha, whence the Ranas came.
Below the “Paduka” appear a pair of crossed kukhris, the national weapon of the Gurkhas. This emblem is of recent introduction into the armorial bearings of the country.
On either side of the pair of crossed kukhris, the sun and moon are represented. These are very common symbols on coins, flags, copper and other inscriptions, and are inserted to invoke the blessing of the gods, and to make the objects or the name and fame of the donor as everlasting as the two prominenet orbs in heaven. These, with the “Guru Paduka,”may be taken in the same manner as the auspicious symbols by which a letter should be begun. The crescent moon is in the increasing phase, typifying an expansion of glory and fame.
The shield below, the coat of arms itself, symbolizes the whole country of Nepal from the Himalayas to the forest-covered Tarai watched over by the guardian deity Sri 108 Pashpatinath, herein depicted with four arms and the emblems according to the “Dhyan”or mental image for worship laid down in the shastras. (The idea is of a god who creates and destroys the universe and protects and fulfils the wishes of the devotee.)
The legend in Sanskrit encircling the lower part of the shield expresses that one’s mother and motherland stand even higher than, and are superior to, “Swarga”or heaven itself. So that he who honestly and faithfully serves both will in the end be admitted to a sphere of the highest heaven.”
- Text as found in "Nepal" by Perceval Landon, 1928, given on Hubert Herald.
National Coat of Arms / Emblem of Nepal.
Started in the 1870´s or earlier, the first being used by Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana.
a very rare image of the first Coat of Arms of Nepal.
Personal Coat of Arms / Emblems of the Rana family.
The most known is that of Maharaja Chandra SJB Rana (reign: 1901-1929) and also used by the state in the pre-1920´s era. The seperation between personal and State was not always very clear and it is not uncommon to find the Personal Coat of Arms (of the Maharaja) being used on State material including Military equipment.
Chandra SJB Rana, b. 1863 - d. 1929.
Son of Dhir Shumsher Rana (brother of Jung Bahadur Rana). Younger brother to Maharaja Bir SJB Rana.
Prime Minister of Nepal 1901-1929.
Singha Durbar, the largest Palace in Asia when completed in 1908 with over 1700 rooms. Functiond as the residence of Maharaja Chandra SJB Rana and succeding PM´s till 1953, then as the seat of the Nepalese Govt.
Juddha SJB Rana, b. 1875 - d. 1952. Younger brother of Maharaja Chandra SJB Rana.
Prime Minister of Nepal 1932-1945.
Indra SJB Rana,
b. ca. 1890 - d. 1926. Son of Maharaja Bir SJB Rana.
Notice the similarity with that of his older brother Rudra.
Mohan SJB Rana, b.
1885 – d. 1967. Eldest son of Maharaja Chandra SJB Rana.
Prime Minister of Nepal 1948-1951
Unknown, likely early 20th century Rana family.
Rudra SJB Rana.
born 1878 - d. 1963. Son of Maharaja Bir SJB Rana.
Held various positions incl. General, C-in-C, Governor & Field Marshal.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the author/web publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. For permission requests, write to the web publisher.