A Unifying Concept of Nepalmandal


The word Nepalmandal is used as a synonym of Nepal-rājya, Nepal-bhukti “kingdom of Nepal” since Licchavi king Jayadeva’s reign(AD 713–733). Limitation of the territory of it could not be ascertained in Ancient and Early Medieval period. After Transitional (879–1200) and Early Malla (1200–1382) period, Nepalmandal got its stability since the reign of Jayasthiti Malla (1382–1395). After him, the religious geography of Nepalmandal — the Nepal Māhātmya was composed in 15th century. The “Nepāla-kṣetra” (15.3–4) is defined there as below:

On the east there is “all sin destroyer” Kausiki (Tamakosi), on the west there lies Trisul-ganga (Trisuli), on the north there is Shivapuri (Gosainkunda, Rasuwa) and on the south there flows the river “cool-watered” (Chisapani, Kulekhani).

This territory is fixed as Nepalmandal since 15th century to present day, where Newar civilization developed in urban area and Tamang habitation in hillside rural area. The Medieval Nepalmandal is present Hilly Region of the Central Development Region with 12 districts; one of five administrative divisions of the Kingdom of Nepal. Nepalmandal is described otherwise as Kathmandu Valley and surrounding area, Greater Kathmandu, Newār-rājya and so on.

Nepalmandal divided into four autonomous states in Late Medieval period of Nepalese history as Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, and Dolakha. It is an unitary kingdom as revealed in documents of the Saṃkalpa vākya, Eulogies of kings, circumbulating pilgrimage, Treaties made among kings and cultural activities.

After the death of Yakṣa Malla (1428–1482) his sons made a memorandum the tambaśāsan “decree in copperplate” among themselves in AD 1495 that lands ruled by themselves (thama thama cacarapatayā rājapāta) would not be interfered by another. This autonomous administration over a part of Nepalmandal of the sons of Yakṣa Malla has been interpreted as division of Early Medieval Nepal and as the landmark of Late Medieval period by historians. It is seen from different cultural and political events that descendant kings of Jayasthiti Malla’s lineage suppose themselves their states a part of Nepalmandal, when they address another state as “dadājuyā rājya” (elder brother’s state) and “kijājuyārājya” (younger brother’s state). Thus we find with unified view that Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Dolakha are united states of Nepalmandal. Sister states of it is fraternal sharing of a kingdom as separate houses of brothers of a family.


  1. Meaning
  2. Extension

3. Boundary and administrative division

4. Unifying elements:

4.1. Taleju

4.2. Saṃkalpa Vākya

4.3. Eulogies

4.4. Treaties

4.5. A set pilgrimage

1. Meaning

There are many meanings of the word Mandal. Historians and cultural experts have interpreted it in ‘Nepalmadal’ as a country having nearly a circular shape. M.S. Slusser (1982) in her Nepal Mandala : A cultural study of the Kathmandu Valley defines :

In conjunction with the word “Nepal”, it signified to the Nepalese

the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding territory. (Preliminary page)

Actually, Mandal in conjunction with ‘Nepal’, signifies a specific territory with a sovereignty and culture. Nepalmandal (AD 713–733) is a synonym of (Nepal)rājya (464) Nepalbhū (640), Nepalbhukti (705) since Licchavi Period. More than 225 Licchavi inscriptions have been found within the then Nepalmandal ; Dumja (Sindhuli district) to the east, Gorkha to the west and Tistung (Makawanpur) to the south. There is no Licchavi inscriptions available north to the Kathmandu Valley. The name Nepalmandal popularized in Medieval Period and used simply Nepal also for it. Mandal is more popular in cultural and religious realm symbolizing a specific region.

2. Extension

There are two schools of thought regarding extension of Nepalmandal. The first one is contraction theory that Nepalmandal was as wide as modern Nepalese kingdom. This is advocated by Saṃśodhana Maṇḍala school They prefer to cite for this the Allahabad pillar (line 22–23) of Samudra Gupta (c. AD 330–375), which is composed by the minister śūrasena. There Nepalese king is mentioned in between Kāmarupa (Assam) and Kartṛpura (Kumaon) as a frontier-king. (Fleet 1888/1963: 14). This schools also like to explain Early Medieval viṣayas (districts) of Nepalmandal extended from saptakosi region in the east to sapta Gandaki region in the west (Pant-Sharma 1977: 14–15). They think that this bigger kingdom was contracted and divided into city-states of Kantipur, Lalitpur and Bhaktapur.

The second theory is of expansion of Kathmandu Valley. The western(Petech 1984: 193–194) and the local scholars feel that Nepalmandal was originally Kathmandu valley and it was expanded in surrounding area. They deny it to be as large as modern Nepalese boundary. They try to find out Early Medieval districts within the proximity of Kathmandu Valley.

Ten viśayes are known of Early Medieval Nepal: Gandigulma (AD 1099), Jiglodgama(?, 1004), Udayapur (1066), Phallaping (1092), Dhavalasrota (11003), magvar (1101), Pannaga (1150), Pancāvata (1201) khalapi (1306) and khvakhanā (1315). Among these only two Pharping, and khokana is well known. Others are not identified well enough. There are only personal interpretations we find.

We have an interesting account regarding the extension of Nepalmandal in the reign of Yaksa Malla (1428–1482). The description was made by king Jagajjyotir Malla (1614–1636) about 200 years later in his Svarodayadipikā of 1614. (A 31/17: 201 v2–202 r5). There it is mentioned that Yakṣa Malla had extended his kingdom upto Baṅgadeśa (Bengal-Bangladesh) in the east Gorakhā-palapā in the west. Suranadī (=Ganga) to the South and saptāhagamyā bhūmi ( the land to reach seven days/ Shikarjung in Tibet).

3. Boundary and administrative division

After rise of Jayasthiti Malla (1382–1395), the Medieval Kingdom of Nepalmandal became stable and native cultural creation evolved. Nepāla-Māhātmya, the cultural geography of Nepalmandal was composed. There is important description of Rājeśvarī (1.53, 16.2–3, 29.12). The Shakta deity Rājeśvarī was established in 1408 during the reign of Dharma Malla-Jyotir Malla. (Regmi 1966: 45; Tandan 1999: 134–136) Hence Nepāla-Māhātmya is the creation of after 1408, (Acharya 1997: 72), that is, it is composed in 15th century. The boundary of Nepāla-kṣeṭra is given there in the chapter 15: 3–5:

East — Sarvapāpavināśinī kauśikī (All sin destroyer river)

West — Triśūlagaṅgā (Trisuli river)

North — Śivapurī (city of Śiva)

South — Śitalodakā nadī (cool-watered river)

(khanal 1971: 163; Acharya 1992: 168)

The eastern boundary is thought the Saptakosi region (Gyawali 1977: 6). Actually it is Tamakosi, which we know from the following table:

From these attributives of rivers, we know that the eastern boundary of Nepalmandal is Tāmākośī “the destroyer of sin”. Mentioning specific river was omitted describing simply Kauśikī, Gaṇḍakī in later description of this stanza in Himavatkhaṇḍa and Bhāṣā Vaṃśāvalī.

The western boundary is Trisuli, which flows in Nuwakot and Dhading districts. Saṃśodhana Maṇḍala denied it supposing that at least upto AD 1069 Nepal was extended to Lamjung in the west on the basis that a Aṣṭasāhasrikā deposited in Nor monastery, Tibet was written in Laṃjuguṅ(ka) in that year during the reign of Śaṅkaradeva. (Vaktavya 1977: 37) we cannot say for sure that Laṃjuguṅ of the manuscript is the same as Lamjung of western development Region for merely similarity of a word.

The north border Śivapurī is thought the northern hill of Kathmandu Valley by several scholars (Achary 1992: 168). In Himavatkhaṇḍa, it is named Nīlakaṇṭha and translated into Nepali as Gosainthan by Pandit Buddhisagar Parajuli (Yogi 1957: 161)

The southern boundary śitalodakā is well-known in the name of Chisapani. The river is converted into Indra sarovara (Indrarājyalakṣmī lake) of Kulekhani Hydro-electric project in Makawanpur district. In Himavatkhaṇḍa, the southern border is mentioned as Naṭeśa. Parajuli translated it as Naṭeśvara (Jaṭeśvara) and introduced as a place of Champaran, India. But we can equate Naṭeśa of Nepāla-Māhātmya to Naṭārambheśvara of 64 śivalinga, which lies in ṅātalāco according to the 1763 text (joshi 2001: 396) and Mahādevaṭāra of Makawanpur in a chronicle of Kaisher Library (1970: 5). The name given there is Nṛtyeśvara. In any way, it is seen that the southern border of Nepalmandal is the northern hillside of Makawanpur district.

The area covered by Nepāla-kṣetra of Nepāla-Māhātmya is approximately the same as mentioned in a dairy of historical events of the extension of Śivasiṃhadeva (1578–1619) of Kathmandu. Though there were joint rulers Gangadevi, Trailokya Malla and Tribhuvana Malla (1559–1610) in Bhaktapur Śivasiṃhadeva claims the whole Nepalmandal as below:

At that time it was the era of the overlord of kings (rājādhirāja), the supreme lord, the twice blessed jayaśivasiṃha Malla. At that time he reigned, with his kingdom (extending), starting in the east, up to Dolakhā, towards the north up to Risti (close to Tātopānī) and kiro (=kyirong), towards the west beyond the (Triśulī ?) gandakī … towards the south and west up to Makwanpur and Sindhuli.

(Text: E 1874/2: 15.2–4; Translation: Rospatt 2000: ?)

Administrative Division

Nepalmandal was distributed into states mainly in four Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and Dolakha in Malla period. After the conquest of Gorakha king, new administrative division was made, in which Nepalmandal area was made central division called Sadara Upatyakā and there were 10 districts. 5 in Hill and 5 in Tarai region(Vaidya-Manandhar 1996). In the time of Rana prime Minister Bir Shamshere the kingdom of Nepal divided into 32 districts. At that time and later when districts were divided into 37 and 75 Nepalmandal divided as below:

4. Unifying elements

Almost all historians take as granted that Nepalmandal divided into three city-states after the death of Yakṣa Malla (1428–1482). Actually his sons made a pact in tambaśāsana “ the decree in copperplate” in AD 1495 amongst them. The decree stipulated that the kingdom be distributed amongst the brothers each autonomously administrating a piece of their father’s kingdom (thama thama cacarapatayā rājapāta). (PN 4/25: 3–7) Accordingly, Nepalmandal was sub-divided into Kathmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur and sometime Banepa.

Though sons of Yakṣa Malla distributed themselves his father’s kingdom, they accepted Nepalmandal a unified state. They thought the state a legacy of Jayasthiti Malla. Specifically, karṇāta Malla’s lineage in term of Petech (1984: 230–231). Petech divided Malla dynasty into three categories: Early Malla (1200–1257), Bhonta and Tripura family (1258–1382) and karṇāta Malla (1382–1769).

The seed of the karṇata Mallas was sown by Harasiṃhadeva (1307–1326) in AD 1314 wedding with Devaladevi of Tripura Royal family and presenting goddess Taleju to the royal palace of Nepalmandal.


Taleju is a unifying deity of Nepalmandal. It was presented by Harasimhadeva, the king of Tribhukti to Anandadeva, the king of Nepalabhukti in AD 1314. It is an addition of the Shakta deity in the tradition of Nepalese kings since Ancient Licchavi Māneśvarī and Early Medieval Malla’s Guhyeśvarī. The main Taleju of Bhaktapur re-installed in other distributed states also and even in rural administrative centre.

Harasimhadeva (b.1294/c.1307-d.1326) attacked Kathmandu Valley as invited by Jayaśaktideva, son of the Prince Jayādityadeva. His force attacked Patan in 1311 and Deupatan and Banepa in 1312 (Vajracarya 1965: 25–26). At this, the powerful Regent Rudra Malla (1296–1326) thought of making marital relation with Harasimhadeva. He gave his younger sister Devaladevi (1299–1366) in marriage to Harasimhadeva. The date seems to be NS 434 (AD 1314) mārga śuklapakṣa, when Harasiṃhadeva’s minister Caṇḍeśvara donated Suvarṇa Tulādāna at Bagmati. (Vajracarya 1965: 30). In 1314, when Harasimhadeva came to Bhaktapur with the goddess tulajā, he presented the deity to the king of Nepalmandal. Later diary of historical events recorded the fact as below:

? veda vahni viricārsya

nepālasambatsare hṛte |

harisiṃho mahipāra

devyāsaha māviśet ||

thvana ṣeya (!) srīharisiṃhadeva

rājāna, śrī 3 talejudeva nepālasa

bijyācaku juro || 434

[ B 239/4: (48r): 4–7]

Afterwards Taleju became the tutelary deity of Malla kings. After coming Jayasthiti Rājamalladeva in 1354 at Bhaktapur court and married with Rajalladevi (1347–1395), grand daughter of Harasimhadeva-Devaladevi, political and cultural scenario of Nepalmandal changed. The lineage of Jayasthiti Malla thought the sole authority of the kingdom.

4.2 Saṃkalpa Vākya

In oriental tradition saṃkalpa vākya (words of solemn vow) is read while someone donates something for public purpose. In such words description of Parārdha, Kalpa, manvantara, Yuga, pāda and virtuous place dvīpa, khaṇḍa or varṣa and deśa are common. After this, a real country, shrine, region, river, specific place, city and locality are mentioned. In our case Nepalmandal, Nepaldeśa or simply Nepal is spelled first, then description of intended place is made. This tradition of saṃkalpa vākya clearly shows that Nepalmandal is unified state and other places are branches of it. After mentioning Nepal-mandal /deśa, cities are mentioned as below:

Kantipur — West of Bagmati and east of Bisnumati

Lalitpur — South of Bagmati

Bhaktapur — East of Bagmati

Dolakha — West of Suvarṇakośī and east of Tāmrakośī

Nuwakot — West of Triśūlagaṅgā and south of Nīlakaṇṭha and so on.

4.3 Eulogies

There are common eulogies (Praśasti) of Medieval kings of Northern SARCA, like rājarājendra, mahārāja, raghuvaṃśāvatāra, hanumaddhvaja etc. Words like graced by Māneśvarī, Paśupati are common to Nepalmandalic kings. Some kings of Nepalmandal have taken specific eulogy like Kavīndra (by Pratap Malla), Saṅgītārṇavapāraga (by Yoganarendra Malla) etc. But when we find eulogy of word with conjuction of ‘Nepal’, taken by kings of city-states, we must say that they all claim Nepalmandal as their common state. We find such titles as below:

Nepāla — cūḍāmaṇi “crest jewel of Nepal”

Nepāla — bhūpāla-cūdāmaṇi “crest jewel of kings of Nepal”

Nepāla-maṇḍalā = dhīśvara “Great lord of Nepalmandal”

Nepāleśvara “Lord of Nepal” and so on.

4.4 Address in treaties

There are several treaties made between kings of Nepalmandal. We see in them a curious secrecy that the kings address each other as of their fraternal relation. Below you will find a list of address made by them:

NS 615/AD 1495 — Rāya Malladeva dadā (elder brother)

Rāma Malladeva phukiṃja (kin brother)

NS 741/AD 1621 — Kijājuyā rājya (yg. brother siddhinarasimha’s (b.1606) state)

Dadājuyā rājya- (eld. brother Lakṣmīnārāsiṃha’s (b.1598) state)

NS 778/AD 1658 — Pratap (b. 1623)Malla — śrīnivāsa Malla(b.1627) dāju-kijā nehmasena (by two

brothers Pratap Malla and Śrīnivāsa Malla)

NS 816/AD 1696 — Jitāmitra Malla dājusta Yoganarendra Malladeva(b.1667)sana cosyam duṃtā

(Yoganarendra Malla gave in written to eld. brother Jitamitra Malla).

[Tewari et al 1964]

4.5 Role of the eldest king

Malla kings have family role in cultural, even in internal politics of Nepalmandalic states. Pratap Malla had made his younger son Mahīpatindra Malla the king of Kathmandu before his death. But after he died, Śrīnivāsa Malla of Lalitpur replaced the former king and made the new king to Nṛpendra Malla, the eldest son of Pratap Malla in 1674 (Regmi 1966: 86] When king Bhūpālendra Malla of Kathmandu was ascended the throne, in 1687 king Jitāmitra Malla and his brother Ugra Malla of Bhaktapur crowned him and the post of cautārā (Prime minister) was conferred to Lakṣmi Narayana Joshi of Madu.[Regmi 1966: 28]

When Lokaprakaśa Malla of Lalitpur ascended the throne in 1705, Bhūpatīndra Malla of Bhaktapur crowned him. [Regmi 1966: 53]

It is notable here that marriages of Pratap Malla’s sons Nṛpendra Malla (in NS 795.7.26.2), Pārthivendra Malla (in NS 795.8.14.5) and Mahipatīndra Malla (in NS 795.8.24.1) were made by the king Śrīnivāsa Malla of Lalitpur as the eldest uncle of the family. Joint rulers of Bhaktapur king Jitāmitra and Ugra Malla witnessed all of them.

[Vajracarya, 1967: 24–25]

It is seen in historical diary of events that when a member of Malla king dies all royal members of three cities have to purify from death impurity themselves. If needed death rite was managed by the king of another city. King Yoganarendra Malla (1685–1706) was died in Cangu of Bhaktapur. His dead body was taken to Patan next day by the king of Kathmandu Bhaskar Malla (1701–1722) for funeral rite.

[Regmi 1966: 54]

6. A set deities

There are set deities in Nepalmandal. They are distributed all over the region. As Nepalmandal sub-divided, there are some shrines made as replica of the main deity of another state. But paying visit to the original shrine is still in use. Every year people of Nepalmandal go to visit one day in Āṣāḍha Śukla ekādaśī in four Nārāyaṇas of Kathmandu Valley. They are Cangu(Bhaktapur), Bisaṇkhu(Lalitpur), Śesanārāyaṇa and Icangu(Kathmandu). The deities were originally established in third century by King Haridatta Varman (GV 20 r:5)

Buddhist people go for religious vow occasisionly in four Karunāmaya/Lokeśvara/Lokanātha. They seem to be four Siddhas of seventh century Licchavi Nepal in the time of Narendradeva(643–679). Four Karunamayas located as below:

It is believed that in 12–13th century, an anonymous artist made four images of Bhagavatī. Scholars dated the sculpture of Bhagawatī varying 9th to 15th centuries. People go for worship in these shrine occasionally. They are located as below:

Palanchok Bhagavati, Kabhre

Nala Bhagavati, Kabhre

Naksal Bhagavati, Kathmandu

Shobha Bhagavati, Kathmandu

There are several such set deities in Nepalmandal, specially in Kathmandu Valley.

Circumbulating Pilgrimage

There are several cities and villages, where people go round the locality every year in a particular day. There are some circumbulating place of pilgrimage in Nepalmandal.

In Nepāla-Māhātmya in 29th chapter Mahātma Guṇāḍhya, go round to visit sacred places of Nepala-kṣetra starting from Paśupati for five days. He covers five districts with Makawanpur and Kabhre including three districts of Kathmandu Valley. Guṇāḍhya visits 25 Śivalingas in his circumbulation. (Malla 1992:148) Sacred Śivaliṅgaṣ were increased from 25 to 64 in Catuḥṣaṣṭhī śivaliṅga yātrā text of Himavatkhaṇḍa. We have the earliest Himavatkhaṇḍa of NS 796/AD 1676 (E 340/4; Pant 1979). This circumbulating pilgrimage covers 10 districts of Nepalmandal except Rasuwa and Sindhuli. We find several texts of 64 Śivaliṅga Yātrā from 18th century. (Joshi 2001:395–8). The central deity of this pilgrimage is also paśupati.

In 15th century, a Buddhist Purāṇa was also composed highlighting Svayambhū. This Buddhist geography is limited to Kathmanud Valley. This text glorifies places of Sapta (7)Buddha(jāmāco, Dhināco, Phulchoki, Sivapuri and Svayambhu). Asṭa(8) Vītarāga (Bodhisattvas) and Dvādaśa(12) Tirthas in the confluence of Bagmati and Visnumati with their tributaries.

There is one Dīpamkhāyātrā performed in the coincidence of some astrological Pañcāṅga. People go around Kathmandu Valley in the selected main deities of three cities. It starts from one of Bahāls of Patan and ends in Mahālakṣmīsthāna of Langankhel. (Vaidya-Kansakar 1991: 175–6)

Caturviṃśati Pīṭha Sevā developed among Vajrayan Buddhist of Kathmandu in early 19th century or in late 18th century. According to Cakrasaṃvara-ṃandala, Vajracaryas have to do Caturviṃsati nyāsa. They touch 24 parts of body for this supposing 8 each as citta, vāk, kāya-cakra. They symbolized 24 places of Āryāvarta. Thus Vajracaryas symbolized Nepalmandal a body and attributed the places as cakras and circle of cakrasaṃvara-maṇḍala Vajracaryas of Kathmandu supposed Kāntīśvara of Indrachok, a stone in the middle of the road, as a centre (Vajracarya 1999:116). The Kāntiśvara is also supposed the central point of Kantipur city. (Ajñāta 1956:49) Kāntīśvara is a Śiva for Hindus and Kṣetrapāla for Buddhist.

There is a manuscript (E 1731/24) of Caturviṃśati Pīṭha Sevā, in which three circles and its places in Nepalmandal is described. They could be presented as below:

Madhya Pīṭha (Central Pīṭha)

[Cittacakra of Cakrasaṃvara maṇḍala]

  1. Candralakhu — Inside Narayanhiti Royal Palace
  2. Pāsiko — North-West of Royal Nepal Academy
  3. Kamalāti — Kamalādi, RNA
  4. Lumadhi — Bhadrakali, Tundikhel
  5. Phibo — On the way to thapathali, Army Head Quarter Area
  6. Pacalī — Pacali, Teku
  7. Kaṅgaḥ — Kaṅkeśvarī, near Maruhiti
  8. Luti — Indrayani, Dhalko.

Dathu gala Pīṭha (Middle fortified Pīṭha)

[Vākcakra of Cakrasaṃvara-maṇḍala]

  1. Tanaju — Back of Svayambhu
  2. Mhaypi — Nayabazar, Mhaypi
  3. Toranadeva — Tunaldevi, Handigaun
  4. Kati — Dānchi, lap of Cangunarayan
  5. Misidva — Mahakali, Bhaktapur
  6. svaruthi — Sunaguthi, Lalitpur
  7. Jālaṃdhara — Panga, Kirtipur
  8. Balakhu — Macche Narayan, Kathmandu

Pithu gala Pīṭha (Outer fortified Piṭha)

[Kāyacakra of Cakrasaṃvara-maṇḍala]

  1. Gvakhu — Bhimdhunga, Kathmandu
  2. Gadebhelu — Devighat, Nuwakot
  3. Navaliṃ — Tupyā, Purano Bhadrakali
  4. Sādukulāṃ — Sankhu, Kathmandu
  5. Samedā — Dolalghat, Sindhupalchok
  6. Vatīrtha — Dumjaghat, Sindhuli
  7. Tyānābhairava — Capagaun, Lalitpur
  8. Kaṃgu — Koduwal, Kathmandu

Considering all these unifying elements, we conclude that Nepalmandal is a unified state. At least culturally it could not be divided into parts. Newar civilization developed here as an alloy, into which many culture from South and North Asia melted into it.



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(This paper was presented at the Conference of Nepal-Current State of Research and Perspectives in Memoriam Prof. Bernhard Kolver, hosted by Institute of Indology and Central Asian Studies, University of Leipzig, Germany, June 19–22, 2003.)