Panna Lal Pradhan, 1st Nepali Psychologist

Tribute on the occasion of 11th death anniversary


2006 AD, the year, Panna Lal Pradhan passed away, I was a student in Bachelors level studying at Tri Chandra College. At that time, I had not even heard his name. Few years later in 2009, when I started going to Tribhuvan University for my classes at Master’s level, I noticed small framed photo of an old man in a teachers’ room about whom nobody talked but it made me curious who he was and why the photo was there. Since 2010, I seriously started to take interest in historical development of Psychology in Nepal and our own Nepali psychologists which we did not had to study in syllabus (I strongly believe it should be included in our psychology curriculum). I started to inquire about my collective identity as an aspiring psychologist. I started a project to collect all available information on this topic when I was associated with Central Association of Psychology Students (CAPS), that is how I took the first step in knowing him. Soon I was able to contact another senior eminent psychologist Ayan Bahadur Shrestha (on left below) who at that time had already retired and was staying in Australia.


He gave me key information which helped me to establish contact with Panna sir’s daughter, Pradhan Pradhan who was working in CERID. I met her on 09 September 2011. I was so glad to have finally met her and learn about the man who was Nepal’s first psychologist.


Panna Lal Pradhan was born in 1932 AD in Birgunj as a third son of Chiniya Lal Pradhan and first son of Janak Nandani Pradhan. He was married to Late Durga Devi Pradhan and had three daughters and two sons. The major informant for this post is his first daughter, Pratibha Pradhan (pictured above).

He completed his early schooling in his hometown itself. He went to Patna University and completed his Masters in Psychology as a gold medalist in 1956 breaking all the previous records. One year after the marriage, he left for US to do PhD in psychology from Oregon University which he completed in 1962 under Colombo plan. He was appointed as second professor of Tribhuvan University after Hari Mishra in 1971.


He was very studious, and took interest in reading and learning about anything. Many people who knew Panna Lal also still remembers him for his strong memory, he could remember about any event or person he had encountered even years before. Many called him ‘Moving Encyclopedia’ for his extraordinary memory and vast knowledge; he could talk for hours on anything he had been exposed to/experienced but he did not write much himself. ‘He was lazy in matter of writing, he would talk for hours but did not show interest in writing’, admits his daughter Pratibha Pradhan. That’s a reason there are very few publications to his name. But he was a first one to publish the research in Journal of Experimental Psychology (Pradhan and Hoffman 1963) as a Nepali psychologist. Among his very few articles, unfortunately one could not be found at all, article titled “Intelligence test and its use in Nepal” which was published in Education Quarterly 1(2) in 1958. It could not be located anywhere, it is virtually extinct. So, there is urgent need to archive and store the academic work electronically before they get lost.


I have had this question always in my mind: How the field of psychology could have developed had he not left to be academically active? What were the reasons that could not motivate him to work as a psychologist but instead take up a role of administrator in Tribhuvan University? A Brilliant mind, an unsung hero, a big loss for our field because he could not fulfill/get opportunity to use his full potential to enhance the field. I held a grudge that he did not commit himself to the field of psychology and for its development in Nepal. But as I try to understand him over the years and the academic plus overall context of Nepal, I can imagine what could have diverted his path away from the discipline of psychology to educational systems. Indeed if the education had developed considerably, the situation of the country could also have been much better. His contribution for the development of higher education in Nepal is significant in terms of planning, policy making and administration and deserves appreciation though the state might not have acknowledged it, although he was very active and involved behind the scene as the advisor of many vice chancellors of the university like Trilokya Nath Upreti and Kedar Bhakta Mathema, was engaged even after his retirement and a week before he left this world.  He was definitely one of the masterminds behind formulation and implementation of education plan and policies.

As the meaning of his name in pali, ‘Panna’ – he was a man of wisdom. Respect!


Brief timeline of his life:

Year Details
1932 AD

December 30, Friday

Birth in Birgunj
1956 AD Education Completed MA from Patna University, India, gold medalist
1962 AD Higher Education Completed PhD from University of Oregon, US
1957 AD Career Started teaching in College of Education
1971 AD Career Appointed as Second professor of Tribhuvan University
1973 AD Career First Dean of Faculty of Education
1976 AD Accident survived a fatal road accident
1996 AD Career Retired from TU
2006 AD

February 25, Saturday

Death In TUTH, Kathmandu after few days of illness

Works of Panna Lal:

Pradhan, Panna L. 1958. Intelligence test and its use in Nepal. Education Quarterly 1(2): page

nos. not known.

*Pradhan, Panna L. 1962. Effect of Spacing and Range of Stimuli on Magnitude Estimation

Judgments. Ph.D. diss., University of Oregon.

Pradhan, Panna L. and Paul J. Hoffman. 1963. Effect of Spacing and Range of Stimuli on

Magnitude Estimation Judgments. Journal of Experimental Psychology 66(6): 533–541.

Dart, F. E. and Panna L. Pradhan. 1967. Cross-cultural Teaching of Science. Science 155(3763):650–656.

Pradhan, Panna L. 2000. A Study on Cost Recovery and Resource Mobilization in Tribhuvan University. Kathmandu: Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID).

This blog post was prepared with the help of following people and resources:

Interview with Pratibha Shrestha Pradhan on 09 September, 2011 in Research Centre for Educational Innovation and Development (CERID), TU and many successive meetings, most recently a conversation over phone in February 22, 2017.

Interview with Prof. Ayan Bahadur Shrestha on several occasions at his residence.

*Shrestha, Dinesh K. 2007. Dr. Panna Lal Pradhan Smritigrantha. Kathmandu: Sigma Carts

Printing and Logistics.

* Hard copies available at Martin Chautari Library, Thapathali for public reference.


3 thoughts on “Panna Lal Pradhan, 1st Nepali Psychologist

  1. It is well-written article on the Late Mr Panna Lal Pradhan, more focussed on his time line of work. I have been fortunate enough to see him talk and as we all knew, he was a wise and a knowledgeable man, who could speak about a variety of things patiently for a long time. He remained a much-respected and loved figure in his family. Thank you for writing a blog on him.

  2. ‘He was lazy in matter of writing, he would talk for hours but did not show interest in writing’,really true statement written for Dr. P. L. Pradhan. As far as I knew him he was really a package of knowledge. Always believe in “Simple living high thinking”. A well written article .I am very much grateful to you Mr. Sujen Maharjan .Thank you so much.
    “This article remind me the days I spent with my father.. .Thank You once again .
    Tanuja Pradhan

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