The foundation of modern Nepal, which until 2007 was styled as the „only Hindu kingdom (of the world)“, goes back to the middle of the 18th century when Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, started expanding his dominion. Conquering many petty states, such as the rich Malla kingdoms of Kathmandu Valley in 1768/69, the Shah Kings soon ruled over a large territory, which subsequently developed into a national state. This project aims at understanding developments the formation of the Himalayan state entailed, such as the restructuring of social institutions or the expansion of Hindu rule. Research is based on a corpus of documents available in public and private archives of the Kathmandu Valley. Among the writs numbering in hundreds of thousands particular attention is given to those relating to religious institutions (such as edicts, land grants, contracts, foundation charters, letters) and to legal and administrative practice (such as court decisions on moral conduct, letters of indulgence, caste regulations). Files held by the National Archives and other governmental institutions were partly microfilmed by the German Oriental Society (Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft), but only some of them have been edited, translated, or studied so far.
Kathmandu Durbar Square, the royal palace complex, 1852,
drawn by Henry Ambrose Oldfield (1822-1871), Photo: Zulufive
With research units in Heidelberg and Kathmandu the project will systematically study and selectively edit and translate this unique textual corpus, which forms the basis for the still largely unexplored history of the many religious institutions and sites as well as of the jurisprudence of Nepal. The centrepiece of the academic endeavour is an open access digital database, which will unite references to published and unpublished documents and will enable complex searches in the data sets. Apart from the development of this database, which has a pioneering character in the research in South Asian documents, the Nepalese case-study will connect to wider scholarly discussions, such as the legitimation and affirmation of rulership, political unification and nation building, the importance of textualization and codification of law, and the development of elite cultures in the 19 th century.
For further information and access to the database click here
Direct access to the database
Direct access to the editions
For documents published in cooperation with the Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg, click here.
Brochure for download (PDF)
News and Announcements: International Conference Studying Documents in Pre-modern South Asia and Beyond: Problems and Perspectives 4th – 6th October 2015, Akademie der Wissenschaften, Karlstrasse 4, Heidelberg
Further information and program.
Chair of the Commission
Prof. Dr. Bernd Schneidmüller
Head of the Research Unit
Prof. Dr. Axel Michaels
Dr. Astrid Zotter
Christof Zotter, M.A.
Simon Cubelic, M.A.
Dr. Manik Bajracharya
Rajan Khatiwoda, M.A.
University of Heidelberg
South Asia Institute | rooms 211/212
Im Neuenheimer Feld 330
phone: +49 62 21 | 54 49 40