Nepal Mandala

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Kirtipur with the Himalaya in the background.
Map from 1886 showing Nepal Mandala between Gorkha in the west, Khatang in the east and Muckwanee in the south.
Coins issued by the kingdoms of Nepal Mandala circulated in Tibet till the 18th century.

Nepal Mandala (Nepali: नेपाल मण्डल) is an ancient confederation on the Indian subcontinent, marked by cultural, religious and political boundaries which lies in present-day central Nepal.[1] It consists of the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas.[2][3] The rule of the indigenous Newars in Nepal Mandala ended with its conquest by the Gorkha Kingdom and the rise of the Shah dynasty in 1768.[4]

According to the Outline History of Nepal, Nepal consisted of three kingdoms during the early medieval period: Khas in the west, Karnatak in the south and Nepal Mandala in the center and Kirat in the east.[5]

Bhaktapur was the capital of Nepal Mandala until the 15th century when three capitals, including Kathmandu and Lalitpur, were established.[6]

Cultural area[edit]

The extent of Nepal Mandala has been traditionally defined by the locations of 64 Hindu and 24 Buddhist pilgrimage sites. The Hindu shrines consist of 64 Shiva lingas scattered from Brahmeswar in Nuwakot district in the west to Bhimeswar in Dolakha District in the east.

The 24 Buddhist pilgrimage sites are spread from the Trishuli River in the west to Dolalghat in the east. When seen as an ordered pattern, they form the picture of the mandala of Chakrasamvara, the principal deity of Vajrayana Buddhism. Nepal Mandala was conceived on the basis of the Chakrasamvara Mandala.[7]

Francis Buchanan-Hamilton has written in An Account of the Kingdom Of Nepal published in 1819 that four pilgrimage spots marked the boundaries of Nepal Proper: Nilkantha (an eight-day journey north from Kathmandu), Nateswar (three days to the south), Kaleswar (two days to the west) and Bhimeswar (four days to the east).[8]

Political area[edit]

The term mandala also means a country,[9] and it has been used to represent traditional political formations such as federation of kingdoms. The area comprising Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Dolakha during the Malla period is generally known as Nepal Mandala.

According to the Outline History of Nepal, Nepal Mandala was situated between the Khas and Simraungarh kingdoms. The Khas kingdom extended from Garhwal in the west to the Trishuli River in the east, and from Lake Manasarovar in the north to the Terai in the south. Karnataka, also called Simraungarh, was situated in the Terai.[10]

Western travelers in the late 18th century have written that Nepal's borders extended to Tibet in the north, the nation of the Kirata in the east, the kingdom of Makwanpur in the south[11] and the Trishuli River in the west which separated it from the kingdom of Gorkha.[12]

In 1661, Jesuit Fathers Johann Grueber and Albert d'Orville travelled from Tibet to India through Nepal. They mentioned in their report that they passed through "Cuthi", the first town in the kingdom of "Necbal" (Nepal), and arrived in "Cadmendu" (Kathmandu), the capital of "Necbal". From "Cadmendu", a journey of five days brings one to "Hedouda", a market town in the kingdom of "Maranga".[13] The town of Hedouda is known as Hetauda today.

The inhabitants[edit]

The oldest inhabitants of Nepal Mandala are the Newars who are of multiple racial strains that combined over millennia. Newar civilization is a blend of different cultures that came together in Nepal Mandala.[14] According to sociologists, the people of Nepal gradually became known as Newar during the fifteenth century under the reign of Pratap Malla of Kathmandu.[15]


The Buddhist text Manjushrimula Kalpa has mentioned Manadeva (reigned 464-506 AD) as being the king of Nepal Mandala. The term Nepal Mandala also appears in the popular Buddhist text Swayambhu Purana. It occurs in a stone inscription at Gyaneswar, Kathmandu dating from the eighth century during the reign of Licchavi king Jayadeva II.[16] Legends also speak about the fact that old Kirati kings offered the throne of the Mandala to the Shakya clan, the clan attributed to the origins of buddhism.

The term Nepal Mandala has been used through the centuries in stone and copper inscriptions and the colophons of manuscripts when mentioning the dedicator's address. It is also referred to during important Buddhist ceremonies.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Prajapati, Subhash Ram (2006). "Nepal Mandal". In Prajapati, Subhash Ram (ed.). The Masked Dances of Nepal Mandal. Thimi: Madhyapur Art Council. ISBN 99946-707-0-0. Pages 9-11.
  2. ^ Dhungel, Ramesh K. (January 2007). "Anguished Cry of a Defeated Ruler: A Raga Song Composed by Ranajit Malla". Contributions to Nepalese Studies. Retrieved 22 February 2013. Pages 95-102.
  3. ^ Slusser, Mary (1982). Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley. Princeton University. ISBN 978-0-691-03128-6. Page vii.
  4. ^ Waller, Derek J. (2004). The Pundits: British Exploration Of Tibet And Central Asia. University Press of Kentucky. p. 171. ISBN 9780813191003.
  5. ^ "Outline History of Nepal" (PDF). Higher Secondary Education Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 5 April 2012. Page 2.
  6. ^ Michael, Thomas and Cuhaj, George (2009). Standard Catalog of World Gold Coins. Krause Publications. ISBN 9781440204241. Page 1062.
  7. ^ Vajracharya, Naresh Man. "Buddhism in Nepal and Nepal Mandala". Retrieved 2 March 2012.
  8. ^ Hamilton, Francis Buchanan (1819). An Account of the Kingdom Of Nepal and of the Territories Annexed to This Dominion by the House of Gorkha. Edinburgh: Longman. Retrieved 4 June 2012. Page 192.
  9. ^ Subedi, Abhi (January 2002). "Travel as Theatre in Nepal Mandala" (PDF). Contributions to Nepalese Studies. Retrieved 16 April 2012. Page 173.
  10. ^ "Outline History of Nepal" (PDF). Higher Secondary Education Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 6 April 2012. Page 2.
  11. ^ Giuseppe, Father (1799). "Account of the Kingdom of Nepal". Asiatick Researches. London: Vernor and Hood. Retrieved 9 March 2012. Page 308.
  12. ^ Kirkpatrick, Colonel (1811). An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul. London: William Miller. Retrieved 9 March 2012. Page 123.
  13. ^ Levi, Sylvain. Nepal. Retrieved 14 March 2012. Page 50.
  14. ^ Tamot, Kashinath (2006). Nepal Mandala. Lalitpur: Nepal Mandala Research Guthi. ISBN 99946-987-5-3. Page 11.
  15. ^ Bista, Dor Bahadur (1991). Fatalism and Development: Nepal's Struggle for Modernization. Orient Blackswan. p. 40. ISBN 9788125001881. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  16. ^ Shrestha, Rajendra (7 November 2010). "Various Communities of Historical Nepal Mandala and Newa: Autonomous State". Jheegu Swanigah (Special Issue). Page 60.
  17. ^ Gutschow, Niels (1997). "The Kathmandu Valley, Nepal Mandala: Definition of time and space" in The Nepalese caitya: 1500 years of Buddhist votive architecture in the Kathmandu Valley. Edition Axel Menges. ISBN 9783930698752. Page 15.

Further reading[edit]

  • Slusser, Mary Shepherd. Nepal Mandala: A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley (Two Volumes), Princeton University Press 1982. ISBN 9780691031286
  • Pruscha, Carl. Kathmandu Valley - The Preservation of Physical Environment and Cultural Heritage - A Protective Inventory, Vol. 2, Wien 1975