Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana was Prime Minister and virtual ruler of Nepal for approximately more than three decades between 1846 and 1877. He was a courageous man and was able to successfully overthrow his rivals, and subsequently reinforce his command in the administrative, judicial and civil affairs of the country. During his time he strived to maintain cordial relations with foreign nations in Europe and was known to have made trips to Britain and France. He also strived to bring reforms by promoting modernization, revising judicial customs and working towards the abolishment of various social evils like ‘Sati’. Approximately a decade after his term as Prime Minister of Nepal, he was made the King of the districts Kaski and Lamjung. During his period of service, he established and strengthened the ‘Rana Dynasty’, which continued to rule Nepal until 1951.
Childhood & Early Life
Jung Bahadur Rana was born Bala Narsingh Kunwar on 18 June 1816. His father, Bal Narsingh Kunwar was the personal bodyguard of King Rana Bahadur Shah, and was awarded the post of ‘Kaji’. His mother, Ganesh Kumari, was closely related to the respected Thapa family. The influential position of his parents allowed him to enter the royal court at a young age.
At the age of sixteen, Jung Bahadur Rana joined the military, when Nepal was under the leadership of his maternal grandfather Bhimsen Thapa. However, with the loss of power of Bhimsen Thapa, he lost his job as well as property.
Following this event, he went on a journey spanning north India for a few years and returned to Nepal in 1840.
In 1840, upon his return to Nepal, he was made captain in artillery. The following year he was offered a post as the personal bodyguard of the King and in 1842, took up the position of Kaji in the palace.
In 1946, he obtained control over the government after killing a usurper, Gagan Singh, who had plotted with the queen to elevate himself as Prime Minister and make the queen’s son as the King, by assassinating Jung Bahadur Rana. The plot was exposed and Jung Bahadur Rana exiled the King and Queen. He was then given the post of prime minister for life.
By 1850, he had eliminated his major enemies and established control over important administrative matters. His family and close ones were appointed in pivotal positions at the royal court. Between 1850 and 1851, he visited England and France. He was known to have had good relations with the British throughout his life.
Jung Bahadur Rana in an attempt to revise the old penal code, advised his officials to amend the nation’s then existing legal system into a unified body of laws that included procedures and frameworks for understanding and acting in the event of various civil and criminal matters. In 1854, the ‘Muluki Ain’ was completed and included matters like revenue, land, caste disputes, marriage and family law.
He was a skillful diplomat and this helped Nepal to stay independent even while India was under the control of the British during his time. At the time of the Indian Mutiny in 1857-1858, he supported the British army with a battalion of Gurkha soldiers.
He worked towards the modernization of the country and was highly influenced by European architecture and sense of fashion. Jung Bahadur Rana tried to bring about reform in Nepal by improving administration. He strived to abolish the custom of ‘Sati’, self-immolation of wives at the husband’s pyre.
In 1856, a special decree granted complete authority in all judicial, administrative, civil affairs as well as foreign relations to him, as Prime minister. Additionally, he was made the King or ‘Maharaja’ of Kaski and Lamjung districts.
In 1858, he was bestowed the honorary title ‘Rana’ by King Surendra. The prime ministers who descended from his family later added his name to theirs and his family went to be known as ‘the house of Ranas’.
Upon being given the position of Prime Minister for life, he felt it was his duty that the state should be succeede