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THE CLOSED DOORS FOR THE GOSPEL IN NEPAL BEFORE 1950- English Article


THE CLOSED DOORS FOR THE GOSPEL IN NEPALBEFORE 1950   by: -Pabitra M. Bhandari




INTRODUCTION
     During 18th and 19thcentury, while churches in the West were busy on debating, quarrelling and again reviving due to the "Rationalism, revivalism and denominationalim,"[1] the Himalayan Kingdom Nepal, the top of the world remained in darkness without the light of the Gospel. It was the year of 1950, when the door for the gospel was opened in Nepal. Then, the Churches around the kingdom (i.e. various parts of India) entered into Nepalwith the good news.[2]Until today, millions of people have not heard the name of Jesus across the country, but, today, the possibility is there. Many missionaries are harvesting the crops today, but it was impossible to find a Christian in side the country, 50 years ago. Indians received Gospel long time ago. Churches were flourished in the neighbor land under British colonialism. But their voice was too low to reach at the ears of Nepalese peoples.[3] What did close the door back then? Why any missionary did not enter the country before 1950? The paper will focus on these questions analyzing the situation of Nepalese, Gospel in Nepalevents during those periods.
Nepal and the Gospel: Now and Then
Before 1700s, Instead of a single nation, there were several minute kingdoms in the place where present Kingdom of Nepal is situated. Mallaruled at the Kathmandu Valley during the Later Medieval ages. And those kings were religiously generous toward other religions.[4] They allowed preaching the gospel. Missionaries from Lasha came to Nepal in 1715 and achieved significant success on their mission. It is said that there were even a few Catholic churches were built in Nepal valley before 1769.[5] But it was the period when King from Gorkha a great warrior, Prithvi Narayan Shah saw a vision to unite the minute kingdom and came to attack Kathmandu Valley.[6] All the Christians were wiped out and the door was shut.  Following kings also followed the same footsteps of the great conqueror and the door for the Gospel was shut for Hundreds of years.[7]
Chapter 2
THE POLITICAL DOOR
Though Nepalwas isolated in the mountains from the rest of the world but they certainly knew the situations around their neighborhood. They knew that Portuguese, Dutch, French and English colonizing all over the world. Nepalese saw that British India companies are in the control of their closest neighbor Indiaand power remained to them. The great threat was realized by king Prithvi Narayan Shah.[8]Therefore the door was closed politically by King Prithvi Narayan Shah and his successors took his footsteps. Until the Ranas were over thrown from the power in 1950 the door remained closed for almost 180 years.

The Unification and the Exclusion Policy
Prithvi Narayan Shah, king of a small hilly country, had vision to unify all the tiny states to form them into one Larger, viable nation.[9] Prithvi Narayan Shah started his unification by uniting his neighbor countries such as Banepa, Nala, Nuwakot etc.[10] Around 1770, Prithvi Narayan Shahagot victory over the valley where the gospel seed was newly planted.[11] He was able to reign 7 years his unified state and died in 1775.[12] Nepali Language became the lingua franca uniting the diverse people, and the nation came to be the only Hindu Kingdom in the modern world.[13] The British colonialism in Indiagave suspicion toward the foreigners in the valley. Lindell writes, "The Circumstances of the Fathers and of the Christians became extremely difficult during the final months of the conquest of the valley cities."[14] The pressure was so heavy that the Christians decided to leave the country, and permission to leave was also granted in February 1769. 60 Christians with those missionaries left for India.[15] It was the year of 1789 that the activities of Christians in Nepal valley came to an end.[16]

War with England: Pride and Fear
The unification begun by the Great King Prithvi Narayan Shah was carried on by his followers. Nepal's boarder was extended until Sikkimto the east, Sutjet to the west and Garhwal and Kumaon of Uttar Pradesh to the south.[17] The New kings came to be more fundamental Hindus, who established mandir, performed dharma and gave dan to others.[18] But when the kingdom grew, it became a threat to the British in India. As a result they clashed together from 1814~16. Even though Nepal lost one third of its territory, it was able to preserve its sovereignty.[19] Lindell says, "The attitude of the Gorkhalis (Kings after Prithvi Narayan Shah) toward foreigners evolved considerably during these years of shifting thrones and boundaries."[20] The Kingdom of Nepal isolated herself from its neighbor building a wall of exclusion. Same time British made a huge wall of restriction on Nepalby controlling her foreign relations.[21] Nepal, with a little pride for wining British but a lot of fear, closed the door for outsiders that stopped the Gospel flourishing outside the boarder.

Monopoly of Ranas for over a century 
     After the peace treaty with British, the possibility of expanding the kingdom was ended. Then the internal struggle for peopower and position began.[22]From the middle of the 19th century, Ranas from the Capital controlled the political power. After happening several massacre, Janga Bahadur Rana declared himself the prime minister.[23]The century of total darkness began. King was left without power. People remained in their primitive Economic condition of 18thcentury. He established a fundamental Hindu Muluki Ain.[24] Prime minister and his family developed a tight administrive policy. No voice for change was tolerated. Peoples who do in and out of country were watch carefully. Over all Strong Hinduism ruled the country, where Christianity found no place to step in.[25]
     Rana's Friendship with England was ended. The Nationalist movement started in India spread inside the country. King took refuge in India in 1951. The Monarchy was restored with the help of India. Rana's century long dictatorship was ended and the right of the people was given first time to the Nepali people.[26] The political door that blocked Christianity was opened. Nepal's foreign relations increased. Even though the change was political i.e. shifting of power from one hand to another, but it opened opportunities to experience new things, As Lindell writes, "The floodgates were open."[27]

CHAPTER 3
SOCIO-RELIGIOUS DOOR
It was the political situation outside and inside that caused exodus of all the Christians from Nepalin 1769, and the internal political crisis prevented Christianity from entering into Nepal. But there was also another door that kept Gospel out of the nation was Socio-Religious door. While Nepalese, who migrated outside of Nepal received Christ, the Society and religious culture inside Nepal always rejected gospel even though occasionally they were introduced to Jesus.[28]  There must be something that hindered Gospel inside Nepalother than politics only because Nepalese in Darjeeling who were free from the factors were very responsive to Christianity.[29]
The Hindu Religion: the Foundation
     When, Hindu look at the History that king Prithvi Narayan Shah's exclusion policy, they see it as the preservation of the civilization and culture of the valley.[30] BBC writes in one instance that Nepalese are proud of their History, specially the unification of the states by King Prithvi Narayan Shah.[31] People worship King Prithvi Narayan Shah's palace as BBC quotes Purna Jung Shahi, curator of Gorkha Durbar, "This is a place where we our history combines with our faith."[32] Nepal is a diverse, multi ethnic, multi linguistic nation and Kingunites them all. Their Worship of King as Visnu, as preserver of life. Therefore Hinduism is the very central to Nepalese.[33] Therefore, nation itself is representing the ancient Hinduism to the world. Since Prithvi Narayan Shah laid the foundation of the Kingdom Nepal the Hindu socio-religious door is been closed for the Gospel.

The Caste system: the Structure
     Today one can not deny that "Caste, family and Marriage are
parts of the Hindu social system."[34] Due to the isolation from outsiders, each group of people preserved their own distinct language or dialect and developed its own marriage and social rules and became ethnocentric in almost every respect.[35] During the isolation period (From 1769 to 1950), the cast system became a social ladder thus the Hindu caste system tends to pervade the entire Nepali Situation.[36]Nepal Society is made of four different castes i.e. Brahman, Kshatriya, Vaishya and sudra. And it was also believed that these castes were created by great god, Prajapati.[37] Among these castes, Brahmans are very numerous and have much influence in the country because they are the priest of this religion based society.[38] Cindy Perrywrites one of the reasons for the exclusion policy was because of the Brahmins, the priestly cast who rose up against the Christians.[39] The kings and rulers after king Prithvi Narayan Shah also gave high priority to the sayings of Brahmans and Brahmans had a lot of privileges during those days.[40] The kings or the central rulers appoint all the Local governors and rulers, most of the appointee were Brahmans, because in those days only sons of Brahmans had opportunity to study in the Sanskrit school, and they were the only educated among the society.[41] Therefore the caste system, the social structure contributed to the exclusion policy promoting fundamental Hinduism.[42] It gave a one more lock to open in the nation for the gospel to reach to the people.

The Culture: The Bond
     The foundation of the Hinduism and social structure of caste system defines and maintains the main component of Nepali Culture.[43]Occupations of Nepalese are defined by their Caste and every aspect of Nepali culture, art, architecture, festivals and other customs are painted by Hindu religion.[44]Since all the rulers and high class people are Hindu (most of them Brahmins), they promote Hindu cultures in the society. And People are also very fond of those religious practices they mingle with this with great enthusiasm.[45] Inter-caste marriage is not allowed if done the consequence is disgrace and exclusion from the society.[46]From Birth to marriage and death all the ceremony and cultures are bound to hindu social structures. However, The Tradition of religiousness has given birth to two aspects i.e. loyalty towards the country and king.[47] The reason for his given by Baidhya and Bajracharya as following:
"The country is mother for a Nepali and one can easily sacrifice everything he owns including his precious life. Similarly, the king is father and protector, whom utmost loyalty must be offered. Hindu scriptures deal in length the importance of one's country and King and this is the cause why Nepali culture preserves this tradition."[48]
     Therefore it is clearly seen that people in this country are tightly bound with the culture and it is very hard from them to go away with this. The bound was much more tight and rigid during those excluded years. It was the last door that was locked again the gospel. Nowadays people are more educated than before and people started analyzing their social structures and society. we can know this by observing one young person's request for change in one magazine. He writes,
"Christianity is the best! It’s the most liberal or democratic –in political jargon... our signs on many temples read – "Only Hindus are allowed"... We still have the gene – "Untouchables" in the biochemistry of the Hindu doctrine..."[49]
     But this is not the voice of all the Nepali people. Still opposition is there form society, and culture. People need Jesus but the culture and social system doesn't allow. That's why, when Sadhu Sundar Singh dared to enter Nepal and preach Gospel during the closed period, people rejected him.[50] Culture and society blocked the way of the Gospel.

CHAPTER 4
CONCLUSION
     Today Nepal has one of the fastest growing population in the world. 15000 populations of Christians in 1970 jumped up to 400,000 until ad. 2000.[51] It is proven that Nepalis a fertile soil for the Gospel. The seed planted into the hearts of the people is growing everyday. But various hindrances in the past disturb planting the gospel seed into the heart of people. Nepali people are religious, loyal and committed. Gospel needs such soil to grow and bear fruits. Even though various disturbances blocked Christianity to enter this Kingdom, it is sure that God has prepared everything for today to go and sow the seeds. It is time harvest, Nepalneeds more workers.

by: -Pabitra M. Bhandari
GLOSSARY

Brahman: the highest caste in Nepal

Dan: gifts given to other poor peoples and Brahmans

Dharma: Rituals and ceremony done to be religious or to earn salvation

Gorkha: A Hilly region of Nepal, where King Prithvi Narayan Shah ruled. From this place, he started his expansion to other parts of present Nepal

Gorkhalis: People from Gorkha, it Also refers to the Shah Kings

Kshatriya: the caste lower than Brahman, who are actively engaged in government etc.

Lasha: Capital of Tibet, there was trade between Lasha and Nepal in ancient days

Malla: a Group of Nepali who ruled in Kathmandu Valley during the late Medieval ages

Mandir: Temple

Muluki Ain: State Law

Prajapati: Lord of People

Prithvi Narayan Shah: Great King and most respected King who initiated the expansion of the Kingdom.

Ranas: a group of Nepali people. During the 19 century they took over the power and conducted dictatorship over Nepal

Sudra: the lowest level caste, they do the lowest level of job

Vaishya: the third level caste, usually they are soldiers

Visnu: A Hindu God, Preserver of life

SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY


Bhattarai,Guna Dev."Christian Missionaries In Nepal," The Rising Nepal, March 17, 2001.

Bista, Dhor Bahadur. People of Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1996.

Lak, Daniel. "Nepal's living link with history." BBC News, 14 June, 2001.

Maharjan, Mangal Man. Comparative study of Hinduism and Christianity in Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Ekta Books, 2002.

Mushi Shew Shunker Shing and Pandit Sri Gunanand, History of Nepal. Delhi, India: Low price Publications, 1977.

Naidu, Sushil K. Nepal: Society and Culture. Delhi, India: Kalinga publication, 1999.

Perry, Cindy. A Biographical History of the Church in Nepal. Kathmandu, Nepal: Nepal ChurchHistory project, 1989.

____________. Nepali around the World: Emphasizing Nepali Christians of the Himalayas.Kathmandu, Nepal: Ekta Books, 1997.

Sharma, Bal Krishna. The Origin of Caste System in Hinduism and its Relevance in the Present Context. Kathmandu, Nepal: Samdan Publishers, 1999.

Stephen, Anil. “The Church at the Top of the World.” Christianity Today Magazine, April 3, 2000, 56-59.

Vaidya, T.R. and B.R. Bajracharya. Nepal: People and Culture. New Delhi, India: Anmol Publication, 1996.




[1]Earle E. Cairns, Christianity through the Century, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996). 335
[2]Cindy Perry, A Biographical History of the Church in Nepal(Kathmandu, Nepal: Nepal Church History Project, 1989), 58.
[3]Ibid. 27
[4]Guna Dev Bhattarai, "Christian Missionaries In Nepal," The Rising Nepal, March 17, 2001; the article is available from http://www.nepalnews.com/ (search: Christians)
[5]Cindy Perry, Biographical History of the Church in Nepal, 9.
[6]Jonathan Lindell, Nepal and the Gospel of God (Kathmandu, Nepal: Pilgrims Book House, 1997), 33.
[7]Ibid, 40.
[8]Jonathan Lindell, 34.
[9]Ibid, 35.
[10]Shew Shunker Singh Munshi & Sri Gunanand Pandit, History of Nepal(Delhi: Low Price Publication, 1958), 173.
[11]Munshi & Pandit, 176.
[12]Ibid.
[13]Cindy Perry, 11.
[14]Jonathan Lindell, 36.
[15]Ibid.
[16]Guna Dev Bhattarai, the Rising Nepal.
[17]Cindy Perry, Nepali around the World: Emphasizing Nepali Christian of the Himalayas(Kathmandu, Nepal: Ekta Books, 1997), 11.
[18]Munshi & Pandit, 177.
[19]Lindell, 40.
[20]Ibid, 41.
[21]Ibid.
[22]Lindell, 63.
[23]Karl Samson & Jane Aukshunas, "In Depth: History," Google; available from http://www.frommers.com/destinations/nepal/023 2020044.html; Internet; May 29, 2004.
[24]"Nepal: The Dictatorship of Jang Bahadur, Google; available from http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/r?frd/cstdy: @fieldDOCID+np0025); Internet; May 29, 2004.
[25]Lindell, 64~5.
[26]Samson & Aukshunas; Internet.
[27]Lindell, 132.
[28]Cindy Perry, A Biographical History of the Church in Nepal, 26.
[29]Cindy Perry, Nepali Around the World, 70.
[30]Guna Dev Bhattarai, the Rising Nepal.
[31]Daniel Lak, "Nepal's living link with history," BBC; avilable from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/south_asia/ 1388481.stm; Internet; May 29, 2004.
[32]Ibid.
[33]Ibid.
[34]Sushil K. Naidu, NepalSociety and Culture (Delhi, India: Kalinga Publications, 1999), 129.
[35]Dor Bahadur Bista, People of Nepal (Kathmandu, Nepal: Ratna Pustak Bhandar, 1996), viii.
[36]Ibid, ix.
[37]Bal Krishna Sharma, the Origin of Caste System in Hinduism and it Relevence in the Present Context (Nepal: Samdan Publishers and ISPCK, 1999) 13.
[38]Munshi & Pandit, 29.
[39]Cindy Perry, A Biographical History of the Church in Nepal, 11.
[40]Munshi & Pandit, 179.
[41]Cindy Perry, Nepali around the World, 14~5.
[42]Bal Krishna Sharma, 197.
[43]T.R. Vaidya & B.R. Bajracharya, Nepal: People and Culture (New Delhi: Anmol Publications Pvt. Ltd., 1996), 24.
[44]Ibid.
[45]Sushil K. Naidu, 92.
[46]Bal Krishna Sharma, 185.
[47]T.R. Baidya & B.R. Bajracharya, 25.
[48]Ibid.
[49]Ritesh Shrestha "Mission Christian," Kathmandu Post, July 30, 2001. also avilable from http: nepalnews.com; internet (search: Christian).
[50]Lindell 56; Cindy Perry, A Biographical History of the Church in Nepal, 27.
[51]Anil Stephen, "the Church at the Top of the World," Christianity Today Magazine Vol. 44, No. 4, (April 3, 2000,) 56.
by: -Pabitra M. Bhandari