Mahendra of Nepal

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Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah
King Mahendra's official portrait
His Majesty King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
King of Nepal
Reign 13 March 1955 – 31 January 1972
Coronation 2 May 1956[1]
Predecessor Tribhuvan
Successor Birendra
Spouse Lady Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi
(m. 1940–1950, her death)
Lady Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi (m. 1952–1972, his death)
Issue Princess Shanti Singh
Princess Sharada Shah
Prince Birendra
Prince Gyanendra
Princess Shobha Shahi
Prince Dhirendra
Dynasty Shah dynasty
Father Tribhuvan of Nepal
Mother Lady Kanti Rajya Laxmi Devi
Born (1920-06-11)11 June 1920
Narayanhiti Palace,[1]Kathmandu, Nepal
Died 31 January 1972(1972-01-31) (aged 51)
Dialo Bangala, Bharatpur, Nepal
Religion Hindu

Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (11 June 1920 – 31 January 1972) was King of Nepal from 1955 to 1972.


King Mahendra was described by many historians that he was a true patriot ("Ma mare pani mero desh bachi rahos.") meaning "even if I die may my country live on". He was revered as the "Builder of Nepal" as he had built many monuments, buildings and other important things, the most prominent ones being the "East-West Highway" and the Pragya Pratisthan Bhawan.[2]

Early life[edit]

Mahendra was born 11 June 1920 to King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah of Nepal. Although Tribhuvan was nominally king since 1911. Mahendra was captive in Narayanhity Royal Palace, virtually a gilded cage. In 1940 he married Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi,[3] daughter of General Hari Shamsher Rana. They had three sons, Birendra, Gyanendra, Dhirendra and three daughters Shanti, Sharada, and Shobha.[4] Queen Indra died in 1950. In 1952, Mahendra married Indra's sister, Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi. This marriage produced no children. Meanwhile, popular discontent and the British withdrawal from India in 1947 had made Rana rule increasingly untenable. In 1950 the political situation had deteriorated so far that the personal safety of the royals was in doubt. Tribhuvan and most of his family escaped to India. Open revolt ensued and by the end of the year the Ranas agreed to a coalition government under Tribhuvan in which they shared power equally with the Nepali Congress Party. By the end of the year the Ranas were maneuvered out and Nepal's first experiment with democratic government under constitutional monarchy was underway. Tribhuvan's health was poor and he died in 1955.


Mahendra of Nepal (second from left) in a visit to Israeli Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 1958

Mahendra succeeded Tribhuvan as King of Nepal. He was crowned on 2 May 1956.[5] On 15 December 1960 he suspended the constitution, dissolved parliament, dismissed the cabinet, imposed direct rule and imprisoned then prime minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala and his closest government colleagues.[6][7] Mahendra instituted a Panchayat hierarchical system of village, district and national councils, a variant of guided democracy. He pursued a foreign policy of neutrality between China and India.

Mahendra was made a British Field Marshal in 1960. Mahendra implemented a land reform policy, which provided land to many landless people. The Mahendra Highway (also called East-West Highway) that runs along the entire Terai belt in southern Nepal was constructed during his reign. He launched the Back to the Village National Campaign in 1967 which was one of his largest rural development efforts. He also played a key role in making Nepal a member of the United Nations in 1955 A.D.

Death and survivors[edit]

Mahendra suffered a heart attack while hunting in Chitwan with Tiger Tops Hotel proprietor John Coapman, also associated with the CIA at the time,[8] who reported in 1977 that Mahendra died in his arms after eating dinner "on shikar" and died 31 January 1972 in Bharatpur.[9]

His son Birendra assumed the throne on 24 February 1975 but perished in the Nepalese royal massacre on 1 June 2001.

Titles and honours[edit]

National orders
Foreign Honours



  1. ^ a b c d Royal Ark
  2. ^ "King Mahendra's personality". 
  3. ^ "King Birendra of Nepal". London: Daily Telegraph. 23 August 2001. Retrieved 21 July 2008. 
  4. ^ Nepalitimes
  5. ^ British Pathe
  6. ^ "Bisheshwor Prasad Koirala". 8 September 1914. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  7. ^ "Permanent rebellion: The story of B.P. Koirala". Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  8. ^ ".". An Interesting Institution of Learning. Retrieved 26 August 2011. 
  9. ^ ".". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 August 2011. [dead link]
  10. ^ Orders
  11. ^ Medals
  12. ^ Badraie
  13. ^ Philippine Diplomatic Visits


Preceded by
Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah
Crown Prince of Nepal
Succeeded by
Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah
Preceded by
Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah
Crown Prince of Nepal
Succeeded by
Birendra Bir Bikram Shah
Preceded by
Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah
King of Nepal