Chandra Shumsher: The Prime Minister Who Shaped Modern Nepal

In order to understand the complicated story of Nepal, it’s important to understand some of its modern histories, which begin with Chandra Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, who served as prime minister from 1901 to 1929. As the second son of Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana, Chandra Shumsher was born into the highest echelons of Nepalese society and was groomed by his father to one day take over the family business.

Nepal’s Chandra Shumsher was one of the most controversial figures in Nepali history, and his life was filled with both incredible achievements and numerous controversies. Chandra Shumsher was the Prime Minister of Nepal from 1901 to 1929, during which time he had a tremendous impact on the modernization of the country. After his demise His brother, Bhim Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana later succeed him as prime minister, passing many of his same reformist policies and revolutionizing the nation’s government system into one that more closely resembled Western models.

From his humble beginnings to his military service to his rise to the prime minister, this blog post will provide you with an in-depth look at the life of this complex man and his contributions in shaping modern Nepal, from his birth and death in Kathmandu.

His Family

Chandra Shumsher was born on 8 July 1863 in the Rana palace, Kathmandu, and named Bir Bikram. He was born as the sixth of the seventeenth son of Dhir Shumsher Rana. His mother was Nanda Kumari Thapa. Dhir Shumsher Rana was the youngest brother of Jang Bahadur Rana, the Rana Prime Minister who established absolute power of the Rana family in Nepal by overthrowing the Nepalese monarchy and replacing it with his own rule in 1846. Chandra Shumsher had married twice. He was married to Maharani Chandra Loka Bhakta and Maharani Balkumari Devi.

Jung Bahadur Rana [Img Credit-Wikipedia]
chandra shumsher and his family

Chandra Shumsher With His 8 Sons [Img Source-Wikipedia]

Chandra Shumsher’s descendants are still considered the most prominent members of the Rana dynasty. Through his two wives, he had eight sons. Since he ruled Nepal for over 28 years and had full control of the national economy, he accumulated immense wealth and built lavish palaces for his sons. That’s why his descendants have been the richest among all the members of the Rana dynasty.

Early Years And Education

Born in 1901, Chandra Shumsher was a direct descendant of one of Nepal’s most powerful figures-Jung Bahadur Rana. Having been born into wealth and royalty, it was unsurprising that he joined Nepalese politics early on in his life. Talking about his education, he was educated in Kolkata of India, which made him the first Prime Minister who had passed the matriculation exam.

He was often described as a gentleman who can handle a pen as efficiently as a sword. Seto Bagh-which is one of the must-read Nepali novels, based on the early days of Chandra Shumsher, depicts him as an ambitious and cunning young man with an excellent command of the English language.

Due to his family background, after completing his education he quickly distinguished himself from other members of his class by becoming an effective military leader who would go on to fight against British colonial rule. In addition to being a skilled politician, in the early days of his political career, he also had quite an eye for business.

By establishing and maintaining strong trade relations with India (Nepal’s neighbor), he created economic prosperity for both countries. His influence within Nepal grew so much that he became prime minister on 27 June 1901; however, his rise to power was not without controversy.

His Rise To Power

In order to rise in the line of succession for the hereditary Rana Prime Minister of Nepal, he alongside his brother Khadga Shumsher planned and executed the murder of his uncle Maharaja Ranodip Singh who was the second Rana Prime Minister.

In 1901, he became the Commander In Chief of the Nepalese Army when his brother Dev Shumsher was the Prime Minister. He also seized the power of the Prime Minister for himself by orchestrating Coup D’etat against his brother Dev Shumsher. This is how he became the Prime Minister of Nepal on 27 June 1901.

The Prime Ministership of Chandra Shumsher

After serving as Foreign Minister and Army Commander, Chandra became the Prime Minister of Nepal by seizing the power from his brother Dev Shumsher in June 1901. With his brother, Bhim Shumsher, as army commander and another brother, Khadga Shumsher, onboard as Second Prime Minister (to oversee daily affairs), Nepali politics came to be dominated by a single family for about a decade.

Contribution To Modernization In Nepal

Chandra Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana was among those who are the most responsible for modernizing Nepal in several aspects, especially in terms of development and infrastructure.

During his tenure as prime minister, Chandra became increasingly authoritarian and was accused of undermining democracy. He is credited with having forged closer ties with India, which led to what is known as a parallel reign.

He brought numerous reforms to the country after his visit to Europe. He is said to have been embarrassed by the backwardness of his country, that’s why he brought some noteworthy reforms to the country.

Tri-Chandra College

Still, one of his best works in the history of Nepal was to abolish Sati Pratha(Sati Custom). He made it illegal for a person to be killed for witchcraft. He also banned ritual suicides, and make additional reforms such as abolishing slavery with the money from the treasury of Pashupatinath Temple. In 1975 B.S. he built the first-ever college in Nepal, Tri-Chandra College. For irrigation, he built several canals in the Terai of Nepal including the famous Chandra Canal of Saptari.

Raxaul-Amlekhgunj Railway

From bringing reforms in education by establishing schools to bringing reforms in the health sector by establishing several hospitals throughout Nepal including Tribhuvan Chandra Militiary Hospital. He also started the first-ever railway service in Nepal from Raxaul to Amlekhgunj. Beside all these, he also built the then largest palace-Singh Durbar in entire Asia with 1200 rooms that now acts as an official administrative building of Nepal Government. Although it is said these reforms were mostly brought for the benefit of his family, the general Nepalese also benefited from all these reforms.

He didn’t only brought changes in domestic level in Nepal, he also strengthed Nepal at the international level. While most of the South-Asian countries were under British rule, he brought Nepal-Britian Treaty of 1923 that recognized Nepal as an independent nation. After this treaty Nepal, as an independent nation, had the right to conduct its foreign policy in any way it seems fit and is considered to be “a great achievement of 25 years of Chandra Shumsher’s diplomacy“.

These are the contributions of Chandra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana that shaped the modern Nepal in true sense. Otherwise, we can see how politicians and other factors in the country have made development a sort of joke for Nepalese. The contributions made by Chandra Shumsher in terms of social reforms and infrastructure developments have been proven as the start of modernizing Nepal.

Death Of Chandra Shumsher

When Kathmandu’s aristocratic Rana prime minister and head of state, Sir Chandra Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana, died on November 26, 1929 in Kathmandu, Nepal, during a time when India was undergoing its own revolution, Nepal lost one of its most influential figures. His death marked the end of an era in which he had been one of Nepal’s most powerful men during his period. Today many remember his as a cruel Prime Minister while many remember him as a social reformer Prime Minister.


1. Who Was Chandra Shumsher?

Chandra Shumsher was the chief minister of Nepal from 1901 to 1919, as well as the Prime Minister from 1916 to 1919, and again from 1924 to 1926. He was born on April 16, 1874, in Kathmandu and studied at Durbar High School, now known as Tri Chandra College and Rana School in Lalitpur, Nepal. With his brother’s help, he became prime minister after the Anglo-Nepalese War when Nepal became an independent nation by signing the Treaty of Sugauli with Great Britain in December 1816. At this time he was only 32 years old!

2. Why Is Chandra Shumsher Considered As A Social Reformer?

Chandra Shumsher brought many social reforms including abolishing Sati Pratha, killing of a person for witchcraft, built many infrastructures like canals, bridges, roads, hospitals, first college of Nepal-Tri Chandra, and many more praiseworthy contributions for modernizing Nepal.

3. What Did Chandra Shumsher Build?

Chandra Shumsher built numerous things that include Nepal first college Tri-Chandra College and first railway in Nepal-Raxaul to Amlekhgunj, built hospitals, and established several canals.

4. Who Ended Sati Pratha In Nepal?

Sati Pratha was ended by Chandra Shumsher on December 4, 1829.

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