The Malla Dynasty

The present territory of Nepal was divided into several kingdoms during the medieval period. Kathmandu Valley also divided into Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur by the end of 15th The malla kings came to power after they defeated the Licchavi king. Ari Malla was the first king of Malla dynasty and other well-known kings were Jayasthiti Malla, Yakshya Malla, Pratap Malla, Jayapraksah Malla, Mahendra Malla, etc. were well known for their reforms introduced in Nepal. The Malla developed a culture that has no parallel in the later times because during their rule art, religion, philosophy, architecture, were properly developed.

Major Kings of Medieval Period

Jayasthiti Malla: -

He was the brave, perfect, strong and powerful king. He was farsighted man, a skilled politician, a great reformer, a lover of the arts, and a skillful administrator. During his rule, he made great reforms of all kinds such as social, economic, religious, and political and brought about a great revolution in the life of people. Socially he stratified Nepali society according to the Varna system into various castes groups and sub-groups based on the ancient Hindu philosophy. The basis of caste system was maintained according to the hierarchy and occupation. During his rule Newari and Sanskrit language were developed equally. Poems were written Sanskrit language. He was the fond of Music, dance and painting. Criminal were punished on the basis of nature and intensiveness of crime.

Economically he divided the land on the basis of its productivity into Abal, Doyam, Shim, Chahar. He started measuring instrument such as mana paathi, dharni, etc. He divided all land of Nepal into four kinds on the ropani system of measurement. The first graded land measured 95 haat, the second graded land measured 109 haat, and third graded land measured 112 haat and forth graded land 125 haat in one ropani. The land measurement officials were called Kshetrakars and the house-survey officials were called Takshyakars.

Many formulas were developed to fix the price of house. Houses on the main road of the town, in the lane, and in the suburbs were valued as first, second and third grade house respectively. A house with a perimeter of 95 haat on the road and house with a perimeter of 101 haat in the lane were equally valued. He enacted laws defining the position and functions of the people of different castes and professions. The Newar also divided into four castes following the line of Hindu caste system. Especially the classes were made according to the professions of individuals in Newar community. He built many shrines and temples. Near the Pashupati he built a temple and set up the image of Rama with the Lava and Kusha. He also set up images of Kumbheshwor amd Unmatta Bhairab in Patan.

During the period of Jayasthiti Malla, Sanskrit and Newari both Language fluorished. Poems were written in Sanskrit Language. The story of Ramayan was dramatized and the play Bhairabanands used to play on the stage. On the occasion of the funeral procession and burning rites of any members of royal family, the practice of singing Dipakrag was introduced by Jayasthiti Malla.

Yakshya Malla (1428 to 1482AD)

Yakshya Malla Ascended the throne after his father Jyoti Malla. Since the time of his father he was in-charge of the administration of Bhadgaun. He extended the territory of Nepal up to Benagal in the east, Gorkha in the west, Bhot in the north and Ganges in the south but the territory of India Conquered by him was lost soon. He was the lover of religion. He appointed the Brahmins of Maharastra as the priest of Pashupati temple. Since then these Brahmins continue to be priest at Pashupati even to this day. The temple of Dattatreya was rebuilt by the Yakshya Malla. He was devotee of both Vishnu and Shiva. He had equal respect to the Buddhism. After the death of Yakshya Malla the Kingdom was divided into several kingdoms and Kathmandu valley was also divided into three kingdom which are as follows:

The Kingdom of Bhadgaun

Raya Malla was the first King of Bhaktapur after the division of Kingdom. After the Raya Malla, Bhuwan Malla, Pran Malla, Vishwa Malla, Trilokya Malla, Jagajyoti Malla Narendra Malla, Jagat Prakash malla, Jitamitra Malla, Bhupatindra Malla and ranjit Malla became the Kings of Bhadgaun. Among several Kings some important Kings are as follows:

  • Jagajyoti Malla: - After the Trailokya Malla Jagajyoti mall became the King of Bhadgaun. He was interested in astrology and Sanskrit literature. Hes wrote dramas such as Hara Gauri Bibaha, Kunja Bihari He wrote Sngeet chandra, Sangeet saar sangraha. He introduced the system of celebrating Jaatra of Adi Bhairab on the first Baishakh
  • Jitamitra Malla: - He became the king Jagat prakash malla and ruled from 1673 to 1696 AD. He wrote two dramas, Jaimini Bharatam and Ashwamedha Natakam in sanskrit. He was the wise man. Hence the title of sumati (Wise) added to his name. To assist the development of agriculture he constructed a public canal.
  • Bhupatindra Malla: - Bhupatindra Malla was a famous king of Bhadgaun. He ascended the throne of Bhadgaun in 1696 AD. He was very fond of building temples and Palaces. The fifty-five-window palace of Bhaktapur is a single example of artistic examples. Inside this palace images of narasigha and Hanuman were installed. The golden gate of Bhaktapur palace and highest temple Nyatapol were also famous art and architecture of his time.
  • Ranajit Mall: - He was the last Malla king of Bhadgaun. He was the fond of collecting rare and precious things.

The Kingdom of Patan

Siddhi Narasingha Malla (1620-1661AD)

After the Hariharsinga Malla his son Siddhi Narasigha Mall became the king of Patan. He was a poet, a dramatist, and a lover of the arts and writing and well versed in Sanskrit. He built many temples, water-spouts, tanks, and Monastries in Lalitpur, of which 21 spired temple of Radhakrishna still stands as a marvel of architectural design. It presents a unique example of Nepalese art. Walls are carved with the chief event of Ramayan and the Mahabharata. He constructed the temple of Taleju Bhawani. He used to pass his days and nights in religious observance and hard penance like keeping himself at the center of five fire (Panchagni)in summer and lying on cold stone in the open court yard of his palace in winter. During his period the trade of Patan was flourished. Traders from foreign country used to frequent to this place. He established friendly relation the Ram Shah of Gorkha. He abdicated in favor of his son and abandoned all worldly affairs and became an ascetic. Then he passed his remaining days of his life in kashi.

Shri Nivas Malla (1661-1684AD)

After the abdication of his father (Siddhi Narasingha Malla), Shri Nivas Malla adopted the throne of Patan. He made alliance with the King Jagat Prakash Malla of Bhadgaun. Both of them jointly attacked Kathmandu and captured some of its fortresses. Pratap Malla of Kathmandu then made treaty with Shri Nivas. Like his father he was religious and fond of art and architecture. He reconstructed the ‘Degutale’ temple of palace and the temple of Matsyendra Nath. The Bhim mandir of patan was built in his time.

Yoga Narendra Malla (1684-1705AD)

He became the king of patan at the age of eighteen. He made alliance with Kathmandu and Makwanpur and invaded Bhadgaun many times. According to chronicles he was greatly shocked at the premature death of his son.

Vishnu Malla (1729-1745AD)

During his rule, a great famine occurred. As a remedy to this, he performed purascharan and Nagasadhana several times. Being a childless, he nominated Rajya prakash Malla, a brother of Jaya prakash Malla of Kathmandu, for his successor.

Tej Nara singh Malla (1765-1768)

Tej Nara Singh had ruled only for a few days in patan when Prithivi Narayan Shah occupied the Kathmandu Valley in 1768 AD.

The Kingdom of Kathmandu

Ratna Malla: - He was the first king of Kathmandu kingdom. He ruled kathamndu from 1482 to 1520 AD. During the time of Ratna malla, the muslims were permitted for the first time to come to Nepal and settle down for the purpose of trade. Ratna Malla set up the images of Astha Matrikaalong with that of Dantakali. During his rule the copper mine of Chitlang was exploited and cupper currency were introduced. He also erected the image of Tulaja Bhawani.

Mahendra Malla: -

After the Narendra Malla, he became the king of kathmandu kingdom. He was the very popular king and it is said that he did not eat before the people ate their meals.

Pratap Malla: -

King Pratap Malla became the king of Kathmandu kingdom in 1641 AD. He was a brave, learned, religious and good administrator. He was very fond of constructing temples for gods and goddesses. As a protection against deases and evil spirits he set up the image of Hanuman and built the Hanuman dhoka. In front of that gate he built a beautiful temple of Krishna. Pratap malla built the temple of Kal bhairab, Guheswari theple, Rani Pokahari, Bajrayogini temple, Budhanilakantha temple and others. During the period of pratap malla a treaty with Tibet was implemented. The treaty laid the following provisions:

  • Nepalses 32 business centres were to be operated in Tibet.
  • Nepali councilor would be in the Tibet for the promotion of Nepalese trade.
  • Nepalese coins would be circulated and accepted in Tibet.
  • If Nepalese traders died without their offspring, their property would be returned to the government of Nepal by Tibet.

Jaya Prakash Malla : -

Jaya prakash Malla was the last king of Kathmndu Kingdom. He ruled Kathmandu from 1736 to 1768 AD. He was brave, religious, and self- willed. He was a man of strict nature and hot temperament. He passed the whole period of his kingship in a series of fights and struggle.

Condition of Nepal (Kathmandu Valley) Under the Malla

Political Condition

Malla dynasty was based on the divine theory of Kingship. The kingship was hereditary. Malla did not think that it is necessary to take the opinion of the common people in political affairs. Although they took a kin interest in the works of public welfare and upgraded the social and economic life of people. There was a feudal type of administration where samanta and pradhans became the ruler. There were different kingdoms in the valley. Though, the Malla Kings of their kingdoms had descended from the same ancestry, there was no unity among them. The Malla period is characterized by power politics. When the king was minor or inefficient, the chiefs and nobles took the power in their own hands tried to become all in all.

Social Condition

Society was influenced by Hindu caste system during the Malla period. The Civil code framed by Jayasthiti Malla divided the society into different caste and sub-caste groups. Though the valley was inhabited by both Hindu and Buddhists in the Malla period, it did not affect the peace and harmony of the society. Though the Malla Kings were Hindu they did not interfere with the religious life of others and they were religiously tolerant to others. Though the Malla had come from other side, they slowly adopted the manners and customs of the Newars and gradually merged in their society.

In course of time, the ruling Mallas of the valley became virtually Newars, with the result that the Newari and Malla culture became the synonyms. The inhabitants of valley were very much fond of festivals, which remained unhampered by the instability and disturbed political environment. People took the pleasure in religious ceremony and dances like Mahakali dance, kartik dance, Lakhe Jaatra etc were popular at that time. Different jaatra such as Kankeswori jaatra, Indra jaatra, Gai jaatra, Bisket Jaatra, Bhoto Jaatra etc. were introduced by Malla dynasty. They took part in their recreation and observed the religious festivals, spending money quite liberally in these things. It was a patriarchal society and all power and authority was transferred from the male line. There was also the custom of Sati Pratha. Mugal type of dress was popular in rural family. The dress was like Jaama which was called Angarakha. The main dress of common women was cholo, fariya and patuka and dress of male was daura, suruwal, patuka etc. There was joint family system in Malla period and the head of joint family was known as Thakali. Individual of four generation were found in the same family. Women were not given as much respect and importance as those of men. Only sons were inherited the paternal property.

Religious condition

The environment of Malla period was quite religious. King Jayasthti Malla reorganized the declining old caste system of the Hinduism and solidified the foundation of Hindu religion. Buddhism was also spreading due to the regular inflow of the Buddhist monks and teachers from Tibet as well as India. From the time of Ratna Malla Muslims were allowed to settle in Nepal. It is believed that the Malla also allowed to few Christian to live in Nepal. Malla ruler showed the religious tolerance and provide an environment to flourished Buddhism In society. Even the people showed the religious tolerance and there existed no ill feelings on religious ground. Rater surprisingly, they all tried to show the religious unity. Buddhist used to go to the Hindu temple and Hindu used to go the Monasteries. Thus, the followers of both religions lived in peace and harmony, cooperating with each other and respecting each other’s religions.

Economic Condition

There was sound economic condition of the country. Agriculture was the main occupation of people. The agricultural productions were paddy, Maize, sugarcane, fruits, vegetables etc. The paddy was farming on an extensive level in the fields around the Bagmati, Vishnumati, Manahara, and others rivers. There was the managed irrigation system. The kings helped farmer by digging canals to irrigate their field. The canal made by the kings were called Rajkulo and regulation were also made to get water from those canals. Wells and ponds are also constructed. From the time of Jayasthiti Malla Lands were divided into four classes according to ability of productivity.

The Malla period is also marked by the development of trade, commerce and cottage industries. To boost the trade the large trade depots were established in different places. Weight and measures were fixed and controlled by the government, which not only facilitated trade but also prevented merchant from cheating the common people. Trade was also facilitated by the circulation of coins of different denominations eg Daam (one fourth of a paisa) Paisa, suki (twenty five paisa) and Mohar (fifty paisa). Daam and paisa were copper coins and suki and Mohar were silver coins. Customs and land revenue were the main source of public income. There were no big industries in those days, people grew cotton in required quantity and wove cloth of different varieties. They also made beautiful pots and utensils out of metal like copper and brass.

Other notable cottage industries were the making of gold and silver ornaments and the images of the stone, metal etc. The cottage industries were the good source of national income. The trade treaty with India and Tibet had also a great on the economy of Kathmandu Valley. There was the good deal of export and import trade with these countries. Paper, Onion, soya-bean, pots and images of made of brass, copper etc were exported to Tibet and Herbs, salt, Yak tail, gold and silver etc were imported from the Tibet. Similarly Nepal exported herbs, wood, metal works, woolen clothes, rugs, blankets, paper etc to India and Spices, salt, silk clothes, etc were imported from India. All three kingdoms of Kathmandu valley had placed their councilors in Tibet. Thus, the economic condition of Kathmandu valley in the Malla period was much better than previous dynasties.

Art and architecture

Malla period showed its glory and greatness through the art and architecture. The artists and sculptors had exhibited excellent skill in windows, pillars of temples, and palaces. Among the excellent art made in Malla period are those of Dakshinkali at Pharping, Ugrachandi and Bhairab at Bhaktapur, Bhagawati at Planchowk, Naryanthan at Hadigaun, etc. Nepalese artists were equally export in metal work during the Malla period. They showed art in making images and figures in copper, brass, silver and gold. The golden door of Taleju and Bhaktapur Darbhar are the rare example of excellent metal work. Most of temple built during the Malla period were in Pagoda style. The coins of Malla period were also made artistically. On the coins of those days we find the picture of worship-pitcher, sun and moon, snake, and other religious symbols etc on the both side of the coins. The pictures were mostly religiously.


Most of the Malla kings were fond of litreature. The books written in the Malla period show that literature was in the highly developed stage. Some books which are handed to us from Malla period are Pratap Malla’s poems, Bhupatindra and Ranajit Malla’s songs and plays like Kansabadh and Krishna Charitra, Prakash Mall’s hymns like Gitanjali, and Jitamitra Malla’s Drama like Ashwamedha and Jaimini Bharat etc.

Causes of the downfall of the Malla rule

For nearly eight hundred years the Malla Kings ruled Nepal with great royal splendour and the end of their rule may be ascribed to various causes. The main causes of downfall of the Malla rule are as follows:

The Division of Kathmandu Valley into three kingdoms

Some historian are of opinion that the most important cause of the downfall of the Malla rule was the policy of Yakshya Malla in separating Kingdom of Nepal valley into several states and dividing them among his sons. His sons established the separate kingdoms in Kathmandu Valley and became weak. So, it was very easy to P.N. Shah to conquer them one by one.

Internal Struggle of Mallas

Another cause of downfall of the Malla rule was the internal conflict among the malla Kings of Kathmandu valley and other Mallason the eve of P.N. shah’s invasion. The chief Malla kingdoms of that time were Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaun. But the kings of three kingdoms were always fighting one another. This made them very weak and they were defeated easily with the Gorkha State.

Weak economy

Another cause of the downfall of Malla rule was their deteriorating economic condition. At first the economic condition of Kathmandu valley was very sound. But later kingdoms were engaged in internal quarrels their economy became the weak. In such context P.N. Shah occupied the neighboring provinces and made an economic blockade to the valley from all side.

The temperament of Jaya prakash Malla

Before the invasion of P.N. Shah the condition of Kathmandu Valley was going to worst condition. King Jaya Prakash Malla was the high temper. He was always in conflict with his brother and nobles. So there was no peace in the kingdom. He did not have good relation with neighboring kingdims Bhadgaun and Patan. In the meantime P. N. Shah blocked the kathmandu valley. But Jaya Prakash Malla could not do anything and he was defeatd by the hand gorkha troops.

Ranjit Malla’s suicide policy

King Ranjit Malla of Bhadgaun was also responsible to some extent for the downfall of Malla regime. Being offended with Kathmandu, he encouraged his son to develop friendship with P.N. Shah. This relationship provided an opportunity to PN Shah to study the political situation of Kathmandu valley and build his further strategy of war. Moreover, when PN Shah invaded Kathamandu later on, Ranjit Malla did not give any help to Jaya Prakash Malla. As a resulto such suicide policy the Jaya Prakash Malla helped to the downfall of the Malla regime.

The Tyranny of Six pradhans

During the ruling period of Tej Narasingha Malla the situation of Patan was in the state of worse. During his rule the six pradhans were all in all. They were de facto rulers of the state and made kings whatever they liked. Later when they saw the growing power of PN Shah around the Kathmandu valley, they invited him to the throne of patan hoping to become the masters of all the three kingdoms with his help. PN Shah sent his brother Dala Mardan Shah as his representative to sit on the throne of Patan. Thus, they invited their enemy which became the cause of downfall of the Mally regime in Nepal.

Lack of trained army

Though the Malla kings were fighting with each other, they did not develop the warfare skills of troops. Moreover they distrusted their general and used foreign troops against their enemy. Similarly the Malla kings were short sighted and had no thought of the future. Again, if by chance they defeated enemy once, they satisfied with pride and never thought of that they have to fight again.

Statesmanship and war fare skill of PN shah

PN Shah was the brave, tactful administrator and the man of strong determinations and farsighted. Though defeated in battles some times, he never lost courage and commanded personally till the victory of his troops. He knew what to do and how to do it. Due to these qualities and warfare skill of PN shah the Malla regime was downfall.