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Mahesh Chandra Biography

MAHESH CHANDRA REGMI (1929-2003)

Mahesh Chandra Regmi
In accepting the 1977 Ramon Magsaysay award for journalism, literature and creative communication arts ‘for chronicling of Nepal’s past and present, enabling people to discover their origins and delineating national options’, Mahesh Chandra Regmi said:

The thrill of exploring the unknown frontiers of knowledge, the occasional exhilaration of being able to fit little-known aspects of the social and economic life of my fellow countrymen into a larger coherent picture, these have been sufficient rewards to me over the years for the wearying and taxing effort that research and writing involve.

Born in Kathmandu, on December 28, 1929, Mahesh Chandra Regmi has spent his life researching the history of his country—particularly the systems of land tenure—and in attempting to understand and apply his findings to the problems of the present.

Coming from a family with a scholarly tradition; Mahesh Chandra Regmi was tutored at home by his father until he enrolled at Trichandra College in Kathmandu where he took his bachelor’s degree in 1948. He entered His Majesty’s Government of Nepal in 1951 as Acting Director of Industries and, concurrently for brief periods, of Cottage Industries and the Central Purchase Department, before embarking upon his own venture. In 1961-62 he was Member Secretary of the Royal Taxation and Land Reform commissions. In and out of government service, his commitment has been to understanding, explaining and furthering the lot of the Nepali peasant whose hillside farm beneath the towering Himalaya remains the foundation of Nepali society.

Mahesh Chandra Regmi’s research and translation service, started in 1957, was a new kind of enterprise for Nepal. His weekly Nepal Press Digest became an effective journal of contemporary reporting within the kingdom. It was a valued source for diplomats in Kathmandu and vital for the United Nations and other organizations seeking to assist in Nepal’s progress. The Regmi Research Series, printed for ‘private study and research’ on a subscription basis, opened chapters of Nepal’s past to her own and international scholars.

Referred to as ‘one of the truly great scholars of Nepal today’ by Ludwig Stiller, Mahesh Chandra Regmi’s immense output of scholarly works speak for themselves. One of his major works, Land Tenure and Taxation in Nepal was published in four volumes at Berkeley, California, between 1963 and 1968 and the volume has become a standard reference work ‘of fundamental importance for the study of the History of Nepal’. A Study in Nepali Economic History 1768-1846, detailing the agrarian basis of the society during national unification, appeared in 1971, which Ludwig Stiller called, ‘one of the most significant books yet to be produced on the history of Nepal’. In 1976 followed Landownership in Nepal, an analysis of the origin and evolution of the rural problems besetting 95 percent of his countrymen. Among other major works by Mahesh Chandra Regmi are:

  • Thatched Huts and Stucco Palaces: Peasants and Landlords in 19th Century Nepal (1978)
  • The State and Economic Surplus: Production, Trade, and Resource-Mobilization in Early 19th Century Nepal (1984)
  • An Economic History of Nepal 1846-1901 (1988)
  • Readings in Nepali Economic History (1979)
  • Kings and Political Leaders of the Gorkhali Empire 1768-1814 (1995)
  • Imperial Gorkha: An Account of Gorkhali Rule in Kumaon (1791-1815) (1999)
  • Nepal: A Historical Miscellany (2002)

Evident throughout his collection of scholarly works, Mahesh Chandra Regmi’s feeling and compassion for the Nepali peasants, despite his skeptical and objective approach towards their problems, is best summed up in the dedication of his book, A Study of Nepali Economic History, ‘To my fellow countrymen who have suffered much.’

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