History

Note – Dates are indicated as Bikram Samvat – BS which is a Hindu calendar system historically used in the Indian subcontinent. Bikram Samvat is generally 57 years ahead of Gregorian Calendar, except during January to April, when it is ahead by 56 years.

The early history of Ranibari Community Forest dates back to the reign of Licchavi dynasty (1024 – 1241 BS) in Kathmandu. The Licchavi king Gunakamadeva founded a city on the bank of Bishnumati river called Kantipur, which is now known as Kathmandu. To protect the city, it is said that the king established eight Ajima temples in strategic locations along the peripheries. Ajima refers to Goddess Mahalaxmi or Mahadurga and is worshipped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Army barracks were established in each of these locations for protection of the city. In addition to these eight temples, other Ajima temples were also established, and Porpa Ajima was one of them. It is believed that it was named thus as the Ajima of Porpa region. Among Newar communities the name Porpa Ajima is used whereas in other communities the name Ranidevi is commonly used.

Around 1642 BS during the reign of king Shiva Singh Malla of Malla dynasty, his queen Ganga established a garden near Budhanilkantha. Some historical records indicate that the current Ranibari forest is a remnant of that garden. The forest exclusively belonged to royal families for generations as a place of worship, and after the end of Malla dynasty, the Shah dynasty followed suit. After 2007 BS, with the advent of democracy in Nepal, the forest became accessible to the public.

As Ranidevi is also known as Bandevi or Forest Goddess, the temple is said to have been built in the open without a roof. Ranidevi or Bandevi represents the incarnation of Parvati and Shiva. So the earliest idols established in the temple were those of Ranidevi and Shivalinga. Later Buddha Chaitya, was added in 2029 BS followed by construction of Pati or resting place for devotees in 2037 BS. Other Chaityas, Statues and Patis were added afterwards.

Around seven decades ago, the forest area was delineated by brick walls. There used to be a guard house inside the forest. People believed that taking resource from the forest was inauspicious due to the presence of deities, so this helped preserve the forest biodiversity. Seeing the old walls and guard house deteriorate with age, people of the community came together to protect the forest for present and future generations. They sent a formal application to the District Forest Office, Kathmandu, for stewardship of the forest. In 2057 BS, the area was officially approved as Ranibari Community Forest and the Ranibari Community Forest User Group was formed. Several renovation work has been carried out since then. The Ranibari Community Forest User Group is responsible for conservation and management of the forest, and the forest is open for all visitors.