Why The British Never Colonized Nepal – Know the Real Reasons


Why the British never colonized Nepal? :- The British Empire- the largest of the ever-existing states in the history of mankind with colonies on all inhabited continents. The history of the British Empire to this day plays a large role in the life of such countries as the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, Singapore, Ireland, Germany, France, and many other countries.

The British Empire grew for more than two hundred years. The culmination of the expansion of a colossal state is considered to be the beginning of the 20th century. At this time, the diversity of different territories on all continents is rightly called an empire, over which the sun never sets.

Nepal one of the few nations that were never colonized by British

The history of Nepal dates back to the 8th century BC. According to legend, the valley of Kathmandu in the distant past was a lake. According to the Buddhist version, Manjushri cut the mountain with a magic sword, and the water was gone.

Adherents of Hinduism claim that great Krishna did this by cutting the gorge with lightning. Scientists have also confirmed the version that in fact, the valley of Kathmandu was once the bottom of a lake.

The kingdom experienced heyday and fall. In the history of Nepal, the main trading and pilgrim routes were laid throughout the country. Nepal mediated between China and India, thanks to which the state flourished for a long time.

In the history of Nepal, the main periods of government are distinguished:


  • Kirata: In the period from 700 BC. up to 300 AD Kathmandu valley was a rule of the Mongoloid tribe of the Kirats. It was at this time that Buddhism was born in the Kingdom.
  • Lichchavi: In 300 AD the Indo-European tribe Lichchavi comes to replace the kirats and rule until 750 AD. With their arrival, Hinduism begins to revive. Buddhism fades into the background.
  • Thakuri: In 602 AD the Thakuri dynasty came to power, the reign of which lasted until 1200 AD. This period was marked by the formation of small principalities, the prosperity of trade, the development of religion and crafts.
  • The dynasty of Malla: 1200-1768 – the reign of the royal dynasty of Malla. This period is considered the Golden Age in the history of Nepal. Art develops, trade relations with Tibet are improved, a large number of shrines of both religions are built and restored.

Shah Dynasty

While the city-states of Malla feuded with each other, to the west of Kathmandu, in the middle of the road to Pokhara. The small kingdom of Gorkha, ruled by the Shah dynasty, gained strength.

In 1768, the 9th king of this dynasty, Prithvi Narayan Shah, conquered the valley of Kathmandu and transferred its capital to the city of Kathmandu. Thus was the beginning of the reign of the Shah dynasty in Nepal.

The first monarchs continued their expansion from the new center until the collision with the Chinese in Tibet, subordinate to China. Nepal first defeated local Tibetan troops in 1790, but in 1792 the Manchu-Chinese troops sent from China proper struck back.

Deeply invaded Nepal and approached the capital, forcing the Nepalese to sign an agreement in which they pledged to stop the invasion of Tibet. And pay off a tribute to the Chinese emperor in Beijing (these payments continued until 1912).

Meanwhile, British influence increased on the subcontinent, and in 1792 an English envoy appeared in Kathmandu. Despite treaties with the British Empire, Nepal continued the policy of expanding its borders (at the beginning of the 19th century, they stretched from Kashmir to Sikkim).

This could not but lead to conflicts with the British-controlled principalities of northern India and disputes over the Terais (forest belt south of Himalayan foothills). Ultimately, in 1814, this led to war with the British Empire.

As a result of which, according to the Sugauli Treaty of 1816, Nepal lost half of its territory, including Sikkim and most of Terai, its modern eastern and western borders were established. The complete defeat of Nepal and its incorporation into the British Empire was prevented by the exceptional courage of the Gurkha soldiers, which delighted their opponents so much.

The Sugauli Treaty marked the beginning of India’s increasing influence on the economy of Nepal. For a long time, Nepal served as a mediator between India and China through Tibet.

However, a century after the establishment of new direct trade routes, Nepal has largely lost its position in the Indo-Chinese trade. The Sherpa nationality was particularly affected, whose main occupation at that time was the delivery of goods through high mountain passes in the Himalayas, primarily through the Nangpka-La Pass (5741 m).

In 1814, the Europeans first encountered the Gurkha. This year, the British army, which won a famous victory over Napoleon at Waterloo, headed from conquered India to conquer small but proud Nepal. The first clash between the English and the Gurkhas ended very badly for them.

The column of General Shipton was completely crushed. The overwhelming advantage in artillery, which the British, by virtue of their status as an advanced economic power, shamelessly used in all the colonial wars. In the impassable gorges of the Sivalik ridge was practically reduced to zero. The English expeditionary corps suffered heavy losses.

Thus, victory could be Pyrrhic. If it could even be achieved. The conquerors did not enter the territory of the Himalayan kingdom. Moreover, admiring the courage and resilience of the Gurkhas, they invited them to join the army of His Royal Majesty.

Since the signing of the agreement in Sugauli (1816), Gurkha soldiers faithfully serve in the British (and now in the Indian) army. And their salary makes a significant contribution to the economy of Nepal.

In addition, part of the lost territory was returned to Nepal in 1858 as a thank you for the support of the British during the Sipah Uprising in India (or the First Indian War of Independence – according to Indian historiography).

Gurkha participated in many military campaigns and have always been true to their duty, disciplined and skillful. This is what Field Marshal Lord Slim has said about them: “The Lord created the Gurkhas as ideal infantrymen — brave, tenacious, patient, easily adaptable, skilled in disguise, proud of the military glory of their ancestors, responding to devotion.

To this, we can add honesty in words and deeds, impeccable order, cheerful spirit. I have always experienced great service satisfaction with Gurkha soldiers. ”

Just as in the regular regiments of the armed forces of Great Britain, the fighting traditions are very strong in the Gurkha units. Continuity is observed in all parts, and many Nepalese families comprise several generations of their members who served in the same regiment.


Strong ties are also in the twin units – Gurkha regiments and regular units of the British army. Thus, Gurkha musicians play Scottish bagpipes to commemorate battles with the Scots against the Turks during the 1st World War. The same tradition is the formidable Nepalese knife – khukuri.


This knife is multifunctional. They can cut down trees and cut vegetables. The blade about 400 mm long is made of hardened steel, about 10 mm thick at the butt. In section, the blade has a triangular shape, symbolizing the trinity of the gods – Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva.

The handle is made of wood or bone. Khukuri with sheaths – traditionally wooden, covered with lacquered leather and have compartments for two small knives, worn with Khukri. One knife is sharp and is used for cutting, and the other is blunt and is used for striking sparks in order to get fire.

The English army anecdote tells about the remarkable ownership of the Nepalese khukuri.

During the attack, the Gurkha collided with the enemy soldier in a trench and, rushing at him, sharply stabbed the Khukuri with a knife.

You missed, saying he grinned and aimed at the Nepalese.

“Well, no,” said the Gurkha. “Try to shake your head now …”

Alternate answer to the question

When the British East India Company, led by Robert Clive, defeated Nawab Bengal and his French allies in the Battle of Plessis in 1757. He consolidated his position in Bengal and expanded to the whole of India over the next 100 years.

At the same time, the ambitious king of Gorkha, the princely state just a few miles from the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley, was also on the rise. And was engaged in expanding the borders of his kingdom.

His name was Prithvi Narayan Shah, later he became known as the father of modern Nepal. He actually created the state of Nepal, having conquered all the small states in the surrounding areas, including in the Kathmandu valley.

By that time, the Indian subcontinent had two main forces: the British East India Company and the Nepalese Gurkha Army (Gorkhali). Ultimately, these two powers had to cross the bayonets, because their paths crossed. So in 1814, the Anglo-Nepalese war began, which lasted until 1816.

The defeat suffered by the gorkhalis not only stopped the expansion of the kingdom but also deprived the gorkhalis of the fighting spirit once and for all. The Nepalese army was crushed by defeat and could no longer regain its former glory.

However, the war of 1814-1816 was not the first clash between the two sides. Prior to this, in 1767 there was already a short war. At that time, the British had already established trade relations with the king in the valley of Kathmandu.

And when he was attacked by the Gorkha army, the British sent troops to help their trading partner. The British, led by Captain Kinlock, suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands of the Gorkhali, losing more than 1,000 people. They fled, leaving behind weapons and ammunition. This event is known as the “Kinlock expedition”.

During its heyday, the borders of Nepal stretched as far as Kangra, including Simlu and Dehradun in the west, and in the east included Darjeeling and Sikkim.

After their previous defeat, the British avoided confrontation. But the Gurkha army had its own problems. The functioning of the army was based on a poorly thought-out plan called the Jagir system, which meant that the army was financed by taxes levied on conquered lands.

Since the troops did not receive allowances from the national treasury, they needed to conquer more land to contain their expanding ranks.

Greed also played a vital role in determining this course of history. When the Nepalese army attacked the British protectorate of Oudh, the British had no choice but to start a war. For the British, the war began badly. Four of the six generals were reprimanded and removed from service, another general died. Of the commanders, only David Ochterloni remained.

Defeated by deception

Despite the superiority of the British in arms and manpower, the Nepalese fought bravely and held out for a long time. However, they were defeated by the deception and imperfection of their own system of hiring soldiers. Not all the warriors who fought for the Gurkha’s army were from highlands.

Many of them were from different tribes that inhabited the conquered lands, so their loyalty was on the side of the tribal leaders, not the Gorkhali commanders.

The British knew this situation and used it. As a result, massive desertion began, forcing the Nepalese army to admit defeat. The defeat in the Anglo-Nepalese war was the end of the army, and the rest, as they say, is history.

For the English, Nepal was nothing more than a remote and mosquito-infested mysterious place, ruled by a tribe that looked like a beast. And the British did not have the desire to tame this beast. Nevertheless, they had some views regarding this territory and invented a brilliant plan on how to get their way.

  • First, they needed an open road to Tibet through Kathmandu for trade. This required a loyal regime in Kathmandu, which they achieved as soon as Nepal came under their influence.
  • Secondly, the British needed a representative in Kathmandu to regularly check the status of the Nepalese regime. The presence of the British mission in the center of Kathmandu fully contributed to this. So the political regime of Nepal rose under the British protectorate, even without realizing it.
  • Third, and most importantly, the British had to make sure that Nepal was never allowed to increase military strength and become a powerful nation again. The British saw the courage of these people in battle, so a plan was developed to bring these soldiers into the British army. The policy of recruiting Gurkha to the British Indian Army was, in fact, a brilliant trick. And it was done so tactfully that there was not even a need to make concessions in the Sugauli Treaty, which the parties had to sign at the end of the war.

Sugauli Treaty

By signing the treaty in Sugauli, the British got what they hoped for, and they needed nothing more. The question of the colonization of Nepal must have never been raised, as this would further complicate the situation.

In addition, colonization entails responsibility. The British had their hands free. And in these hands were the resources of the whole nation without the need to bear any responsibility.

The British were intelligent – the resources of the nation were at their disposal, and they didn’t even have to ask for it. History may indicate that the rulers of Nepal, receiving personal gain, did everything possible to help the British to make it as easy as possible. And the hidden motives of the British side have never been questioned.

If the British were to colonize Nepal, then Nepal would later become a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. And the British should treat the Gurkhas on an equal basis, as well as the forces of other member states.

But if you can get something for free, why pay for it? It is for this reason that the British did not colonize Nepal.


Jitendra Sahayogee

I am Jitendra Sahayogee, a writer of 12 Nepali literature books, film director of Maithili film & Nepali short movies, photographer, founder of the media house, designer of some websites and writer & editor of some blogs, has expert knowledge & experiences of Nepalese society, culture, tourist places, travels, business, literature, movies, festivals, celebrations.

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