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Kingdom Tales

The Ranas of Nepal are here. ANUJ KUMAR takes a bow.



Prabhakar SJB Rana (sitting) with his nephew Gautam SJB Rana in New Delhi. Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

THEY MAY be known for their obstinate isolationism but a troika of new generation Ranas is tenacious enough to break free from the past and is set to sneak into our drawing rooms with tales of splendour and pictures of grandeur about the aristocratic clan that controlled power in the Himalayan Kingdom for more than a century.

"The Ranas of Nepal", the coffee table tome published by Timeless Books, unravels the mysteries associated with the 104 years (1850-1954) of Rana oligarchy that kept the Shah Kings deprived of authority, institutionalised Prime Ministership for Ranas and more than that shut the Kingdom to the world, through some eminent members of the Rana family.

"Ranas can be loved or hated but they can't be ignored. The book follows a balanced approach; we haven't tried to overplay their legacy. It puts together their customs and lifestyles, as Ranas were great hunters and horsemen and had great love for food and jewellery. It has exquisite pictures and harmonising words to qualify the pictures," remarks Prabhakar SJB Rana, the great grandson of Dev Shumshere Rana, who was in power for just three months but according to Prabhakar, he sowed the seeds of industrialisation in Nepal. He holds that Ranas earned sovereign status for Nepal.

But history holds Ranas' friendship with the British Empire as the cause of this status particularly a reward for standing by their side during the First War of Indian Independence and later in World War-1.

"This is diplomacy. When Jung Bahadur Rana, the founder went to England he realised the importance of the Empire's alliance and most of the riyasats in India were amiable with the British rule. However, I do feel that Ranas failed to take notice of changes that were taking place in the subcontinent after the Second World War and that was responsible for their downfall." Prabhakar, who heads the Soaltee group feels that though the change towards Democracy has been dramatic, remnants of feudal mentality are still there. However, more and more young Ranas are turning towards business and other professions."

But one Rana who has stuck to the power albeit the democratic way is Pashupati SJB Rana, chairman of Rashtriya Prajatantra Party who has also lent his pen to the book. "I am a member of parliament since 1974 and that speaks of people's love for us and our work and the campaign in our part of the world is unlike India. We have to tour the constituency on foot and spend days in villages."Prabhakar praises his ancestors for bringing the Western architecture to a Kingdom cluttered with pagodas. "Jung Bahadur Rana introduced Anglo-French influence in Nepal and the greatest illustration is the Old Hanuman Doka Palace." And what about the food habits? "Ranas love lavish food and exotic wines. They are non vegetarians with special liking for Mughlai food." Non-vegetarianism in a Hindu State? "Yes, because of mountainous terrain and the majority practising Tantrik Hinduism and Buddhism, where blood sacrifice is a must."

The youngest of the trio, Gautam Rana acquaints with the cherished jewels of his ancestors. "Emeralds were their first love. Their crowns were full of them. Craft had Indian influence as Jung Bahadur was enamoured with the Lucknow School when he visited the city after the Sepoy Mutiny."

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