Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev
Birthday: June 11, 1920
Emperors & Kings
Died At Age: 51
Sun Sign: Gemini
Born in: Kathmandu, Nepal
Famous as: Former King of Nepal
Spouse/Ex-: Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi, Queen Ratna of Nepal
father: King Tribhuvan of Nepal
mother: Queen Kanti Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah
children: King Birendra, King Gyanendra, Prince Dhirendra, Princess Shanti, Princess Sharada, Princess Shobha
Died on: January 31, 1972
place of death: Bharatpur, Nepal
Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was the King of Nepal from 1955 to 1972. He was the ninth Shah dynasty emperor of Nepal. His reigning years were marked with numerous political reforms aimed at improving and developing the economic, political and social status of his country. Historians describe him as a “true patriot” as he firmly believed in the mantra "May my country lives on even if I die". He was admired, as the "Builder of Nepal" because he had constructed several monuments, buildings and improved the lifestyle of his people. His notable works include the construction of East-West Highway (Mahendra Highway), the Pragya Pratisthan Bhawan and Back to the Village National Campaign. He played an important role in making Nepal a member of the United Nations. In the light of his achievements, he was bestowed with several honours and awards such as Knight of the Order of the Elephant (Denmark), Royal Victorian Chain (U.K.) and Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum (Japan). King Mahendra was survived by his son Birendra who took to the throne in the spring of 1975.
Childhood & Early Life
King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was born to King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev and Queen Kanti Rajya Laxmi Devi Shah on June 11, 1920 at Narayanhity Royal Palace in Kathmandu, Nepal.
He studied politics, economics, english language and Nepali language and culture, privately in the Palace. He was a deep admirer of Nepalese literature and composed several poems.
On the sudden death of his father, King Tribhuvan (March 13, 1955) in Zurich Canton Hospital (Switzerland), Mahendra ascended the throne. The Coronation Ceremony of King Mahendra was held on May 2, 1956.
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In 1950s the discontent among Nepalese due to a weak autocratic regime of the ruling dynasty of the Ranas had caused a revolt. The revolution of November 1950 brought an end to the Rana empire that had ruled the country for 104 years, since 1846 A.D. The personal safety of the royals was critical. Subsequently, the Ranas agreed to form a coalition government under the captive King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah Dev and they shared power equally with the Nepali Congress. However, the political situation was threatening as the government was formed by different parties who wanted to control and rule the country.
When Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev ascended the throne in 1955, he found the political situation of Nepal deteriorating. Subsequently, he took a stringent measure on 15 December 1960 and dissolved the elected parliament, suspended the constitution, imposed direct rule and imprisoned the ruling Prime Minister Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala and his closest government colleagues.
He introduced several reforms for improving the administration, political system and society.
In 1960 the King established the Panchayat System, using his emergency powers. It was a hierarchical system to maintain law and order and involved village, district and national councils.
To achieve efficient administration and bring rapid progress and development in the country, King Mahendra established the National Planning Council. This agency had to make recommendations to the King for the development projects in Nepal. For the convenience of administration, he divided the kingdom of Nepal into 14 Zones and 75 Districts.
The King realized that villages and remote areas of Nepal were the backbone of the country. Therefore, he focused on the development of villages and established a National Campaign – “Back to the Village” in 1967. This campaign spread awareness among the villagers regarding their rights, duties and privileges and strengthened their sense of nationalism.
In his reign, King Mahendra introduced Five-year Plans that focused on the development of the country. Under this plan, he launched several schemes like Rastriya Beema Sansthan (Life Insurance Corporation), Nepal Rastra Bank, Rastriya Banijya Bank and the Agriculture Development Bank.
He also launched numerous industries and provided employment for his people. Bansbari Leather Shoes Factory and Janakpur Cigarette factory were established.
King Mahendra introduced the Land Reforms Act in January, 1964 to protect the rights of the small farmers and tenants.
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Hydal Power projects at Trishuli and Panuati were set up to generate electric power to run the industries.
He established the Supreme Court and reformed the Nepalese judicial system to protect the fundamental rights of the citizens.
He was an equally renowned poet and composed several heart-warming poems and songs in Nepali Language. He is regarded as the pioneer poet of the modern Nepali literature.
He laid down the foundation of the East-West Highway (Mahendra Highway) that serves as a trade route between Nepal and its neighboring countries.
He created and introduced the New Civil Code (Muluki Ain) on 17th August 1963 to protect the rights of women, children and weaker sections of the society.
For the development of education across the country, King Mahendra established the Tribhuvan University, the Janak Education Material Centre and Teacher's Training Institute.
For the development of culture, arts and sports he created the National Sports Council, Rastriya Nachghar, Rastriya Sabhagriha and Dasarath Stadium.
He also focused on developing tourism in Nepal. Subequently, he constructed numerous, rest-houses, inns and water taps in this beautiful country.
He pursued a foreign policy of neutrality between China and India. Nepal continued to enjoy diplomatic relations with 51 countries till January 1972.
Due to his friendly attitude towards neighboring countries and the international organizations, Nepal was admitted to the United Nations (U.N.O) in 1955, International Labour organization and the Non-aligned Community.
Awards & Achievements
King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev was appointed as a British Field Marshal in 1960.
He received honours from several countries - France: Grand Cross of the Order of Legion of Honour (1956), Finland: Grand Cross with Collar of the Order of the White Rose (1958), Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant (1960), Iran: Grand Collar of the Order of Pahlavi (1960), Japan: Collar of the Order of the Chrysanthemum (1960), United Kingdom: Royal Victorian Chain (1961), Grand Cross Special Class of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany (1964), Belgium: Grand Cross of the Order of Leopold II (1964), Grand Cross of the Order of the Netherlands Lion (1967), Collar of the Order of the Million Elephants and the White Parasol, Kingdom of Laos (1970), Nishan-e-Pakistan (1970), Collar of the Order of Sikatuna, Rank of Raja, Philippines (1971) and Iran: Commemorative Medal of the 2500th Anniversary of the founding of the Persian Empire (1971).
His national honours include: Sovereign of the Order of Nepal Pratap Bhaskara, Sovereign of the Order of Ojaswi Rajanya, Sovereign of the Order of Nepal Taradisha, Sovereign of the Order of Tri Shakti Patta, Sovereign of the Order of Gorkha Dakshina Bahu, Most Glorious Mahendra Chain (26 February 1961), and Commemorative Silver Jubilee Medal of King Tribhuvan (11 December 1936).
Personal Life & Legacy
At the age of twenty he married Indra Rajya Laxmi Devi on May 8, 1940. The Royal couple was blessed with six children (3 daughters - Shanti, Sharada, and Shobha and 3 sons- Birendra, Gyanendra, Dhirendra).
After her death in 1950, the King remarried two years later on December 10, 1952. The new Queen Ratna Rajya Laxmi Devi was the younger sister of the deceased queen.
He ruled the country for 17 years and died at Diyalo Bungalow in Chitwan, Bharatpur, Nepal, on 31st January 1972, due to a heart failure.
His eldest son Birendra resumed the throne on 24 February 1975.