Though the Malla were active in other areas, they didnít come to the valley until 1200 AD when King Ari-deva assumed the title and founded a new, highly accomplished dynasty. The Malla Period is a glorious era in the history of Nepal. Mallas developed trade and commerce, industry, religion and culture. They reached a high level of perfection in the fields of art and architecture.
The early Malla monarchs held absolute power by divine right: they were considered to be incarnations of Vishnu, as are the present Shah rulers. Although the Mallas were Hindu Shaivites following strict Brahmin rituals, they were tolerant of Buddhism, which was widespread at the court and among the people - especially in its Tantric form, the cult of Vajrayana.
A feudal administrative structure was imposed, dominated by an aristocratic elite whose powers at times overshadowed those of the sovereign. Below them, Brahmins and Chhetris monopolized all offices of profit around the palace. Next on the social ladder were the traders and farmers, divided into 64 strictly enforced occupational castes.
The most popular kings of this period and their accomplishments are briefly described below:
Jayasthiti Malla was the most famous of all the Malla Kings. As a great reformer, he codified the whole structure of the Nepalese society in a strictly orthodox Hindu frame. Jayasthiti was a builder of temples and a patron of art and literature. He was also an economic reformer and introduced a system of measuring land and houses.
Pratap Malla was the King of Kantipur, todayís Kathmandu. He was an authority in religion, music, and the art of warfare. And though he was a Hindu, he tolerated other religions. He even reconstructed the Buddhist shrine of Swayambunath. He constructed Krishna Mandir, the Shrine of Taleju, Rani Pokhari, and Guheswari temple.
Jaya Prakash was the last King of Kantipur. Although brave and confident, he was unlucky. He tried to save the Valley from a Gorkha attack, calling for unity among the three states around Kathmandu. But he was not heeded to. Even calling on the army from the East India Company did not help. Fighting within his family was partly to blame.
Ranjit Malla was the last King of Bhaktapur. As a lover of rare and precious things, he added many courtyards to his palace. And to improve economic conditions in his Kingdom, he imported silver exporting it as coins.