Social Structure of Medieval Nepal

Subject: Social Studies

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Overview

The period before Prithvi Narayan Shah (880 – 1769 A.D) is regarded as the Medieval period of Nepal. This historical period of Nepal had various social features. Inheritance of dynasty, origin of surname, Dolaji system, widow and re-marriage, rituals and festivals, language and literature and evil customs etc were some of the features of the medieval period.
Social Structure of Medieval Nepal

Social Structure of Medieval Period

Medieval period

Medieval period
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Medieval period

The period before Prithvi Narayan Shah (880 – 1769 A.D) is regarded as the Medieval period of Nepal. This historical period of Nepal had various social features. Some of them are as follow:

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  • Joint Family System
    During the rule of Mallas, people used to live in a large family. They used to share same kitchen and same roof for their livelihood. They believe that they should live jointly according to their religion, social norms and values. Houses were constructed as a clustered settlement.
  • Varna System
    According to Mallas, there were many castes and varnas. People were divided into thirty-six castes and four varnas from eighteen castes and four varnas. This was influenced by the division as preached by the Saint Manu in his Manusmriti. But in the course of time, it turned into a strong castism which caused discrimination among the castes and division of society on the basis of higher castes and lower castes. After the rise of King Jayasthiti Malla, the caste discrimination system was slowly banned. He brought several reforms in the caste system and the divisions of the society. He maintained and kept the society in order. So, we are now in this condition.

Inheritance of Dynasty

The Malla rulers of the Kathmandu valley were known as descendants of sun. They used to call Shah from out of a valley as the descendants of moon. King Aridev coined the term "Malla" which literally meant "wrestling". It is said that Aridev was born during a wrestling ceremony. Later, heheard the news of the birth of his son while hewas engaged in wrestling.

Origin of Surname

In the medieval period, people used to originate surname from their occupation. For example, the ministers were called Mulami (Mulmi at present), courtiers were called as Shistha or Shrestha and the prime minister was called as Mahath. Similarly, painters were called as Chitrakar, those who made sweets were called as Madhikarmi and those who used to look after stones were called as Bhandare and so on.

Dolaji System

In the medieval period, there was the system of marriage in which bridegroom was received in the home of a bride. It is no more followed that, after the marriage, a bridegroom should live in his wife’s birthplace. King Jayasthiti got the title of "Malla" after his nuptial relation with Rajalyadevi. Similarly, King Punya Pal received the Malla title after his marriage with Shakunmala through Dolaji Marriage.

Widow and Re-marriage

Widow and Re-marriage
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Widow and Re-marriage

In the medieval period, there was the system or trend of widow and re-marriage. Both male and female have right to re-marriage after their divorce or death of their husband or wife. The daughter of Rudra Malla of Bhaktapur – Nayak Devi married to Prince of Kaski Harishchandra and married to second time with the Prince of Tirhut – Jagat Singh Kunwar.

Rituals and Festivals

Rituals and Festivals
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Rituals and Festivals

Rituals and festivals were celebrated in various ways according to their cultures. In the present time, we celebrate a lot of festivals and traditions but in the medieval period, they used to celebrate Dashain, Tihar, Gaijatra, Indrajatra, Ghantakarna etc as their major festivals. They used to perform religious and cultural dances like Mahakali dance, Lakhe dance and Kumari dance etc. Both Hinduism and Buddhism were practiced in the medieval period. There was a mutual relationship between Hindus and Buddhists. Most of the kings used to follow Hinduism but they used to give equal priority to other religions as well.

Language and Literature

Malla Kings were learned but some of them were religious and spiritual ones. Siddhi Nara Singh did penance and constructed Krishna Temple. He was a spiritual and learned king. Dramas, songs, puranas, tantra and ritual books were written by him. They used to speak Sanskrit, Newari, Maithili, Khas etc. They have learned about Chanakya Policy, science of ethics, politics, philosophy, poetics etc.

Evil Custom

Medieval society was full of social evils. Some of these were early marriage, slavery system, satee system and so on. In this period, people had very hard and struggled life. Girls were not allowed to exhibit even their face to any unknown persons. They had to cover their face with a veil. It was known as Purda system.

Things to remember
  1. The period before Prithvi Narayan Shah (880 – 1769 A.D) is regarded as the Medieval period of Nepal.
  2. They believed that they should live jointly according to their religion and social norms and values.
  3. According to Mallas, there were many castes and varnas. People were divided into thirty-six castes and four varnas from eighteen castes and four varnas.
  4. The Malla rulers of the Kathmandu valley were known as the descendants of sun.
  5. In the medieval period, people used to originate surname from their occupations. For example, the ministers were called Mulami (Mulmi at present), courtiers were called as Shistha or Shrestha and the prime minister was called as Mahath. Similarly, painters were called as Chitrakars, those who made sweets were called as Madhikarmi and those who used to look after the stones were called as Bhandare and so on.
  • It includes every relationship which established among the people.
  • There can be more than one community in a society. Community smaller than society.
  • It is a network of social relationships which cannot see or touched.
  • common interests and common objectives are not necessary for society.
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Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Social structure of Medieval Nepal
Questions and Answers

During the rule of Mallas, people used to live in a large family. They used to share the same kitchen and the same own roof for their livelihood. They believed that they should live jointly according to their religion and social norms and values. Houses were constructed as a clustered settlement. So, that type of system is called the joint family system.

The Medieval society was full of social evils. Some of those were early marriage, slavery system, satee system and so on. In this period, people have very hard and struggled life. Girls were not allowed to exhibit even their face to any unknown persons. They had to cover their face with a veil. It was known as Purda system.

The period before the rise of Gorkha state in the leadership of Prithvi Narayan Shah is regarded as the Medieval period in the history of Nepal.

There were 4 varnas and 36 castes in the Medieval period.

The system of marriage in which a bridegroom is received in the home of a bride is called as the Dolaji System.

Siddhi Nara Singh Malla penanced and constructed the Krishna Temple.

Dashain, Tihar, Gaijatra, Indrajatra, Ghantakarna were the religious festivals in the Medieval period.

The historical period of Medieval was from 880 to 1769 A.D.

A curtain or screen used mainly in India to keep women separated from men or strangers is called as purda.

Both Hinduism and Buddhism were practiced in the Medieval period.

Jayasthiti Malla brought several reforms in the caste system and the division of the society.

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