The author of Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson has rightly said that nation, nationality and nationalism are “notoriously difficult to define”. Traditional benchmarks of these ideas have been questioned since the nineteenth century. French historian Ernest Renan declared as early as 1882 that “man is a slave neither of his race, nor of his language nor his religion nor the course of rivers nor the direction taken by mountain chains” and that “man creates a moral conscience which we call a nation”.
Yet we cannot think of a nation and nationalism without considering language, race and geography. Forgive my shortcoming in discussing this theoretically contested, emotion-laden and difficult idea of nationalism in relation to Nepal in the following paragraphs.
Paush (December-January) is the best time to reflect on Nepali nationalism and the characters that shaped this imagination. Epochal happenings in the life of this nation have taken place in December. For one, the birthday of Nepal’s unifier, Prithvi Narayan Shah, whose legacy is today’s Nepal, falls on Paush 27. These days his national unification is debated including whether he should be regarded as the founding father.