At the turn of the nineteenth century three different indigenous concepts were central to the Nepalese understanding of their polity. These were the possessions (muluk) of the king, the realm (deśa), and the countries (also deśa or des) of a people. Each of these concepts specified a different relationship between ruler, land, and people, and each was legitimated with reference to a different kind of authority: proprietary, ritual, or ancestral. When the East India Company gained politicoeconomic control of the Ganges basin, the Nepalese found that they had to accommodate themselves to a powerful neighbor with alien views on the structure and boundary of the polity. In order to preserve its political autonomy on the subcontinent, the Nepalese government began to reconceive the nature of its polity from a foreign point of view. This article considers reinterpretations by the Nepalese government over a period of one hundred and fifty years of the concepts of possessions, realm, and country in order to form the modern concept of the nation-state.

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