The End of a National Monarchy: Nepal's Recent Constitutional Transition from Hindu Kingdom to Secular Federal Republic


  • Mara Malagodi

    1. School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
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    • Dr Mara Malagodi is a Senior Teaching Fellow in the Centre for Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies and in the School of Law at SOAS, University of London. She is now enrolled on the Bar Professional Training Course in view of qualifying as a Barrister with the support of the Quatercentenary Scholarship awarded in 2011 by the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. Dr Malagodi obtained her Ph.D. from SOAS with the thesis Constitutional Nationalism and Legal Exclusion in Nepal (1990–2007). She holds a B.A. (Hon) from SOAS in Nepali & Politics, a Laurea Degree from the University of Trieste in International Relations, an M.A. from SOAS in South Asian Area Studies, and a Graduate Diploma in Law. Her research interests encompass the historico-political and legal developments of South Asian jurisdictions – especially Nepal, India, and Pakistan. Dr Malagodi is the Treasurer of the Britain-Nepal Academic Council, the Deputy Chair of the Centre of South Asian Studies at SOAS, and the Review Editor of South Asia Research. Her published work includes articles in Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism and the European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, together with the chapters on Nepal in the forthcoming edited books: Comparative Constitutional Traditions of South Asia published by OUP and Rights in Divided Societies by Hart.


The article analyses Nepal's transition in 2007 from the constitutional definition of the state as a ‘Hindu monarchical kingdom’ to a ‘secular federal republic’, followed by the abolition of the Shah monarchy in 2008. Nepal's institutional change in 2007–2008 invites reflection on the role of Hindu kingship in informing Nepali nationalism in its constitutional formulation. The developments of the Shah monarchy are interpreted as the product of both the institution and the various historical figures that have occupied that institutional place. However, it is argued that the more or less charismatic qualities of individual Shah kings were ‘contained’ within and minimised by the prevailing institutional dimension of the monarchy in defining the Nepali nation. The nationalist legitimacy of the Shah monarchy as Nepal's core political institution rested upon the notion of Hindu kingship, which transcended the single historical personalities of the Shah kings and proved so pervasive that it has shaped the constitutional definition of the nation even in republican Nepal.