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Kingdom of Nepal, Nepal Adhirajya

Last modified: 2008-08-09 by ian macdonald
Keywords: nepal | star | crescent | triangle | face |
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5:4, image by André Coutanche
Flag adopted 12 December 1962, coat of arms adopted 16 December 1962.

According to the very precise construction details contained in the Nepalese Constitution, the proportions of the flag are 4:3 plus width of the blue border (which makes the upper pendant longer than the lower because of its sharper angle).
Christopher Southworth, 13 May 2003

Meaning of the Flag

The flag of Nepal is the only national flag which is not rectangular, being based upon two separate pennants which belonged to rival branches of the Rana dynasty, which formerly ruled the country. The two pennants were first joined in the last century, but it was not adopted as the official flag until 1962, when a constitutional form of government was established.

The moon in the upper part represents the royal house. The sun in the lower part symbolizes a branch of the Rana family, members of which acted as prime ministers until 1961.

The charges are now said to represent the hope that Nepal itself will last as long as the sun and the moon. The style of these heavenly bodies was streamlined on December 16, 1962. The coat of arms still portrays these charges with facial features. Crimson is deemed the national color.

Motto on their coat of arms: "The mother and the Mother Earth are more important than the heavenly kingdom."

Alter (1986) Banderas y escudos del mundo (Flags and coats of arms of the world). Madrid: EASA (1986).
Flags. Philadelphia: Running Press (1994)
The Observer's Book of Flags. London: Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd. (1966)
Juan Vaquer, Jr., 25 February 1999

The faces were removed in 1962, I believe.
John Ayer, 30 September 2000

Some other attributions have been reported to FOTW concerning the origin and meaning of the flag:

  • The other day I met a man who was from Nepal and he explained to me about the flag's meanings. The moon, he said, is supposed to represent quiet because Nepal is such a peaceful country and people are asleep during the night. And the sun is suppose to represent work because it is such a hard-working country and everyone is busy during the daytime. Interesting., 06 Dec 1999
  • The sun and the moon mean that Nepal will last as long as the two remain in the sky. The flag has been in use in Nepal for centuries, from the time of the Malla dynasty that preceded the Shahs and the Ranas. As an example, see this photo of the Golden Gate (1753 AD) which is ornamented with a metal Nepal flag. Such flags are installed at the doorways of many temples in Kathmandu; some have the sun and moon design and some don't.
    Name withheld by request, 11 July 2004
  • The two triangles symbolize the Himalayas and also stand for the two main religions in Nepal - Hinduism and Buddhism.
    'National Emblems of Nepal', issued by the Department of Publicity in December 1963
    Christopher Southworth, 12 July 2004

History of the Flag

Prior to the adoption of the present national flag on Dec16 1962, flags with faces were used in Nepal:

Image based on Flaggenbuch:
[Old Nepali Flag] image by Jaume Ollé, 27 June 2001

Image based on Flags of All Nations:
[Old Nepali Flag] image by Jaume Ollé, 27 June 2001
Nozomi Kariyasu, 27 June 2001

Information on a more ancient representation of the Nepali flag can be found in M. Lupant's book:

The first reproduction of the Nepali flag found by M. Lupant is shown in a book published by Perceval Laundon in 1928 (Nepal, vol. 1, pp. 233-236, Constable, London). The flag was crimson with a green border. It was made of two superposed isoceles triangles. The two points could have symbolized the royalty and the Rana family. The moon symbolized the King and the sun symbolized the Rana family. Moon and Sun expressed the hope that the Nation shall live as long as them. The faces are both shown with ears and a symbol in the middle of the forehead (probably one of the coloured spots used by Hinduists, whose name I forget), and the face in the upper triangle has a small neck putting it above the moon.
Ivan Sache, 27 June 2001

Why is the Nepali flag the only non-rectangular national flag?

Probably the answer is easier, if the question is asked the other way round: Why are all national flags (except for the Nepali one) rectangular?
The pretty uniform shape of the national flag can be probably explained by the fact that the national flag has its origin in a limited area (Europe and Mediterranean), as ship flags. Certainly there had been different shapes in the early times, but rectangular clothes of an approximate proportion of between 1.5:1 and 2:1 seemed the most practical ones, so the countries "standardized" this shape. Afterwards the ship flags had been adapted for terrestrial use. National flags of countries outside Europe only developed after European national flags had standardized their shape, so they were imitating the rectangular shape as well as some of the symbolic elements (vertical/horizontal stripes, for instance). Older national symbols were transformed to the "European" flag shape, for instance in Ethiopia, where the originally separated red, yellow and green pennants were transformed into a horizontal triband of rectangular shape. Nepal retained the original shape of its flag (basically two pennants one above the other). The first origin of this flag is probably elusive. However, other flags in the Indian area also showed non-rectangular, often pennant-like shape, see in-princ.html#alpha. The Nepali flag is probably the only one surviving, something like a "living fossil". Usually living fossils survive in rather secluded areas, such as Nepal (not having coastal access, and being mountainous) or Switzerland (the same), still sticking to the square shape of its flags.
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 17 July 2004

The triangular shape reflects the historical shape of flags used by kingdoms on the Indian subcontinent. Even today the flags flown on the masts of temples in India are predominantly triangular.
Armano Grande, 19 March 2008

National Emblem

[Nepali National Emblem] image by Jan Oskar Engene, 20 December 2006

Nepal has seen political turmoil for some time, the latest developments seeing the King hand over his powers to a parliamentarian government and the government signing a peace treaty with Maoist rebels. Apparently searching for a new national emblem has formed part of these developments. The front page of "The Rising Nepal" newspaper reported on December 18 that a new national emblem "incorporating national unity and people's sovereignty" has been adopted. According to the newspaper, the new emblem "reflects spirit of loktantra marked by inclusiveness and gender parity." The description of the emblem is as follows: "It is round in shape with national flag on the top of its centre encircled by rhododendron, the national flower. Inside the circle lies Mt. Everest, hill, map of Nepal and handshake of a man and a woman. Below the circle reads the Sanskrit verse 'janani janmbhumisch sworgadapi gariyasi' which means the 'mother and the motherland are greater than heaven'."
Three artists are named as the people behind the new emblem: Nabindra Man Rajbhandari, Himalaya Gautam and Krishna Shrestha.
It seems clear, then, that the national flag is not undergoing any changes.
Jan Oskar Engene, 20 December 2006

The coat of arms in use before 30 December 2006 ( consists of a white cow, a green pheasant (Himalayan Monal), two Gurkha soldiers (one carrying a kukri and a bow, and the other a rifle), peaks of the Himalayas, two crossed Nepalese flags and kukris, the footprints of Gorakhnath (the guardian deity of the Gurkhas) and the royal headdress. It also contained the same red scroll with the national motto. This coat of arms was preceded by the Emblem of Nepal.
Esteban Rivera, 20 January 2008

Proposals to Change the Flag

[Nepal flag proposal] image by Ivan Sache, 4 March 2007

On the "United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal" blog, Prakash Bom explains that the national flag of Nepal should be changed for the design proposed by Shree Shreshta. The main idea supporting the change is the need to remove the connotations with the Hindu nationalism and the royal values. Accordingly, the proposed flag is rectangular, red with the 12-pointed star of the present flag in canton.

The comments left by the blog's readers do not really support the change. Gus Tracchia and Peter Ansoff have added vexillologically oriented comments, whereas most other comments are politically based. Anyway, it seems from that limited sample that the Nepalese do enjoy their national flag and do not want to change it.
Ivan Sache, 4 March 2007

Two major Nepali newspapers - Gorkhapatra and Nepali Times - report today that on May 28 (2008), at the first seating of the Constitutional Assembly, the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal would be officially declared, before any other business on the agenda. Also, the royal flag would be removed from atop the Narayanthiti Palace and replaced with the national flag, presumably unchanged yet.
Chrystian Kretowicz, 23 May 2008

May 29 2008: The flag of Nepal's 240-year-old Shah dynasty has been taken down from the palace in Kathmandu, after legislators abolished the world's last Hindu monarchy.
Kathmandu - The flag of Nepal's 240-year-old Shah dynasty was taken down from the main palace in Kathmandu on Thursday after legislators abolished the world's last Hindu monarchy, officials said. "The royal flag was replaced by Nepal's national flag inside the palace on Thursday morning," a palace official said on condition of anonymity. Thursday and Friday were declared public holidays in the new republic. The king has been given 15 days to vacate the sprawling pink palace at the heart of Kathmandu, which will now be turned into a national museum. "The flag has been changed as part of the government decision to implement a republic," the palace official said.
Bruce Berry, 29 May 2008

Aircraft Marking

[Nepali Air force marking] image by Eugene Ipavec, 30 May 2006

Red six-pointed star (like a Magen David, filled) bordered white and containing a black trident. national flag on the fin.
Željko Heimer, 3 July 2002

The Royal Nepalese Army, Air Wing, was formed in the mid 1960's and became the Royal Nepal Air Force in July 1979 when it adopted the marking.
Dov Gutterman, 20 June 2004

Nepali Peace Flag

[Nepali Peace Flag] image by Roman Kogovsek, 9 July 2005

I have seen this flag across Nepal and in Darjeeling. I was told that it is a Peace flag. It has 16 red rays on a yellow field with a yellow circle and eight pointed star in the middle. The script is in English and in Nepali: Supreme Father Shiv.
Roman Kogovsek, 9 July 2005