The first mention of Tundikhel was in a 1709 scripture engraved in Taleju Bhawani temple by Queen Bhuwan Laxmi. This was during the Malla period, when Tinkhyo (Tundikhel) was a vast open space set aside by Kathmandu’s rulers for social and cultural events.
The Italian Jesuit Ippolito Desderi who visited Kathmandu in 1721 in his chronicles mentions a two- mile long plain. In the 1850s, Henry Ambrose Oldfield, the British resident surgeon in Kathmandu, wrote in his book Sketches of Nepal that Tundikhel originally stretched from where the stadium is today to Rani Pokhari in the north. He estimated that it measured 2-3 miles in length, and 300 yards in width.
Over the centuries, rulers as far back as Pratap Malla divided it up for their own convenience. Today only 15% of the space is open to the public.
In 1671, King Pratap Malla constructed Rani Pokhari on the northern part of Tundikhel. In the 1800s and early 1900s the Rana Regime used Tundikhel mostly for military parades and the pronouncements of edicts.
When Bhimsen Thapa built a palace for himself in Lagan Tole south-west of Tundikhel, it brought the army even closer to Tundikhel. Barracks were constructed, and a canon foundry went up on the south-western side.
Before Jang Bahadur, it used to be Chhauni that military drills were held. Once he returned from England, he turned Tundikhel into a parade ground for the Nepali army.
There were two trees that stood at the centre of Tundikhel for many years, and one of them was a Chakala sima (खरीबोट in Nepal) around which a marble platform was later built. The other tree was called Yaka sima, the lone tree. Both are now gone.
Major proclamations were made by the Rana rulers from the platform. In 1885, Bir Shumshere proclaimed himself prime minister from there, an in 1924, Chandra Shumshere announced the emancipation of the slave. In 1945, the end of World War 2 in which 20,000 Nepali soldiers fighting for the British Army were killed in action, was announced in the same place.
In 1956, the southern part of Tundikhel was turned into a stadium for sporting events to mark the coronation of King Mahendra. In 1960, Sahid Gate was constructed with a road dividing Tundikhel into two halves. The Nepal Army then built a permanent pavilion for parades, and this Panchayat era structure is still used and is fenced off from the public.
In 1962, Tundikhel was further fragmented to build Ratna Park dedicated to Queen Ratna and in 1973 Khula Manch was added with an open-air theatre.