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Nepal Main Page

Prehistory

 

 

 

 


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Prehistory

Kathmandu Valley

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that Kirat ethnicity people were the first people to settle in Nepal and ruled Nepal for about 2,500 years.

Ancient

Terai News writes, "Nepal has been highlighted for the last several centuries in Indian Sanskrit literature like 'Skand Purana'. 'Skanda Purana' has a separate volume known as 'Nepal Mahatmya', which explains in more details about the beauty and power of Nepal." Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu scriptures such as the Narayana Puja and the Atharva Siras (800-600 BC). Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the region. From one of these, the Shakya confederation, arose a prince named Siddharta Gautama (563483 BC), who later renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ("the enlightened one"). The 7th Kirata king, Jitedasti, was on the throne in the Nepal valley at the time. By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan Empire of northern India, and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Empire in the fourth century AD. In the fifth century, rulers called the Licchavis governed the majority of its area. There is a good and quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 AD.

The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By the late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal's religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

Medieval

By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ("wrestler"). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years; by the late 14th century, much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the region was carved into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.

Kingdom of Nepal

Main article: Kingdom of Nepal

Hindu temples in Patan, capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms

After centuries of petty rivalry between the three kingdoms, in the mid-18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha King, set out to unify the kingdoms. Seeking arms and aid from India, and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms, he embarked on his mission in 1765. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify the Kathmandu Valley three years later in 1768. However, an actual battle never took place to conquer the Kathmandu valley; it was taken over by Prithvi Narayan and his troops without any effort, during Indra Jatra, a festival of Newars, when all the valley's citizens were celebrating the festival. This event marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal.

In 1788 the Nepalese overran Sikkim and sent a punitive raid into Tibet. Kangra in northern India was also occupied by the Nepalese. In 1809, Ranjit Singh the ruler of the Sikh state in the Punjab, had intervened and drove the Nepalese army east of the Satluj river.

Statue of a Gurkha soldier

At its maximum extent, Greater Nepal extended from the Tista River in the east, to Kangara, across the Sutlej River in the west as well as further south into the Terai plains and north of the Himalayas than at present. A dispute and subsequent war with Tibet over the control of mountain passes forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations to China.

Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (181516). At first the British underestimated the Nepalese and were badly defeated until committing more military resources than they had anticipated needing. They were greatly impressed by the valor and competence of their adversaries. Thus began the reputation of "Gurkhas" as fierce and ruthless soldiers. The war ended in the Treaty of Sugauli, under which Nepal ceded recently captured portions of Sikkim and lands in Terai as well as the right to recruit soldiers.

Factionalism inside the royal family had led to a period of instability. In 1846 a plot was discovered revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Rana, a fast-rising military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre; armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Jung Bahadur Rana emerged victorious and founded the Rana lineage.

The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted them during the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 (and later in both World Wars). Some parts of the Terai Region were given back to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture, because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the Sepoy Rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognized by the UK.

Nepalese royalty in the 1920s

Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924. Nevertheless debt bondage even involving debtors' children has been a persistent social problem in the Terai.

In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the assertion of Chinese control in Tibet in the 1950s, India sought to counterbalance the perceived military threat from its northern neighbour by taking pre-emptive steps to assert more influence in Nepal. India sponsored both King Tribhuvan (ruled 1911-55) as Nepal's new ruler in 1951 and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom.

After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, King Mahendra (ruled 1955-72) scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a "partyless" panchayat system was made to govern Nepal until 1989, when the "Jan Andolan" (People's Movement) forced King Birendra (ruled 1972-2001) to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament that took seat in May 1991. In 199192, Bhutan expelled roughly 100,000 ethnic Nepalis, most of whom have been living in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal ever since.

In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people's socialist republic by violent means. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On June 1, 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace. King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya, Crown Prince Dipendra and seven other members of the royal family were killed. Dipendra was accused of patricide and of committing suicide thereafter. This outburst was alleged to have been Dipendra's response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife. Nevertheless there are speculation and doubts among Nepalese citizens about who was responsible.

Following the carnage, Birendra's brother Gyanendra inherited the throne. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement, but this initiative was unsuccessful because a stalemate had developed where the Maoists were firmly entrenched in large expanses of countryside yet could not dislodge the military numerous towns and the largest cities. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to negotiate.

In response to the 2006 democracy movement King Gyanendra agreed to relinquish sovereign power to the people. On April 24, 2006 the dissolved House of Representatives was reinstated. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 18, 2006 the House of Representatives unanimously voted to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, ending its time-honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution  replacing "Provisions regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" - declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on May 28, 2008, as the constituent assembly overwhelmingly voted to abolish royal rule.

 Republic

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on April 10, 2008, and formed a coalition government which included most of the parties in the CA. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted that the elections themselves were markedly peaceful and "well-carried out."

The newly elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on May 28, 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to form a new government, with th monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissent note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from May 28 to 30. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, to re-open it as a public museum.

Nonetheless, political tensions and consequent power-sharing battles have continued in Nepal. In May 2009, the Maoist-led government was toppled and another coalition government with all major political parties barring the Maoists was formed. Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) was made the Prime Minister of the coalition government.

 

 
 
 
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