People have lived in the Himalayan area for at least eleven thousand years, according to Neolithic artifacts discovered in the Kathmandu Valley. The Kusunda people are thought to represent the earliest demographic stratum.
Nepal is initially listed as a blanket exporting country in the late Vedic Atharvaveda Pariia and in the post-Vedic Atharvashirsha Upanishad. It is listed as a neighboring nation in Samudragupta’s Allahabad Pillar. The Skanda Purana includes a distinct chapter called “Nepal Mahatmya” that goes into more depth regarding Nepal’s beauty and strength. In Hindu scriptures such as the Narayana Puja, Nepal is referenced.
People who spoke Tibeto-Burman lived in Nepal about 2500 years ago. The Gopal Bansa and Kirati kings, on the other hand, have little archeological evidence, with only mention in the later Licchavi and Malla periods.
Small kingdoms and clan confederations emerged in Nepal’s southern areas about 500 BCE. From one of them, the Shakya polity, emerged Gautama Buddha (traditionally dated 563–483 BCE), a prince who subsequently resigned his position to pursue an austere life, established Buddhism, and became known as Gautama Buddha.
The Maurya Empire of North India ruled the southern areas by 250 BCE, and portions of Nepal subsequently became a nominal subordinate state under the Gupta Empire in the fourth century CE. The Licchavi Kingdom ruled the Kathmandu Valley and the area around central Nepal beginning in the third century CE.
The narrative of the famous Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk Xuanzang, dated from about 645 CE, has a very comprehensive depiction of the kingdom of Nepal. The Kathmandu Valley’s stone inscriptions are significant historical sources for Nepal.
The Licchavi dynasty fell out of favor in the late eighth century, owing to the Tibetan Empire, and was succeeded by the Newar or Thakuri period, which began in 879 CE (Nepal Sambat 1) and lasted till the present day, but the extent of their influence over the nation is unknown. It seems to have encompassed the Pokhara region in the eleventh century. Southern Nepal was influenced by the Chalukya kingdom of South India around the late eleventh century. Nepal’s religious system altered during the Chalukyas, since the rulers favored Hinduism over Buddhism, which was prevalent at the period.
Leaders with the Sanskrit suffix malla began to appear in far western Nepal in the early 12th century (“wrestler”). Over the following 200 years, these monarchs solidified their authority and reigned until the kingdom split into two dozen small kingdoms. In the late 14th century, a new Malla dynasty, starting with Jayasthiti, arose in the Kathmandu valley, uniting most of central Nepal once again. The empire was split into three kingdoms in 1482: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.
Kingdom of Nepal (1768–2008)
Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha monarch, set out to assemble what is now Nepal in the mid-eighteenth century. He began his task by ensuring the neutrality of the mountain kingdoms on the frontier. In 1769, he conquered the Kathmandu Valley after many deadly engagements and sieges, including the Battle of Kirtipur. Father Giuseppe, a battle eyewitness, wrote a comprehensive description of Prithvi Narayan Shah’s triumph.
The Gorkha dominion achieved its pinnacle when the Kumaon and Garhwal Kingdoms in the west and Sikkim in the east were united under Nepali authority. Greater Nepal formerly stretched from the Teesta River in the east to Kangra, Himachal Pradesh, through the Sutlej in the west, and as far south as the Terai plains and north of the Himalayas as it does now. A disagreement with Tibet over control of mountain routes and Tibet’s inner Tingri valleys prompted China’s Qing Emperor to launch the Sino-Nepali War, forcing the Nepalis to flee and pay large reparations to Peking.
The Anglo-Nepali War (1815–16) resulted from a feud between the Kingdom of Nepal and the East India Company over the acquisition of small nations bordering Nepal. The British initially misjudged the Nepalese and were severely beaten until they committed more military resources than they expected. The bravery and expertise of their opponents left a lasting impression on them. Gurkhas gained a reputation as ferocious and cruel troops as a result of this. The conflict came to a conclusion with the Sugauli Treaty, in which Nepal gave up newly acquired Sikkim and Terai territories, as well as the right to recruit troops. Madhesis were given their lands by Nepali after supporting the East India Company during the war.
A era of instability resulted from factionalism among the royal family. In 1846, a conspiracy was uncovered exposing the ruling queen’s intention to depose Jung Bahadur Kunwar, a rising military commander. This resulted in the Kot massacre, in which several hundred princes and chieftains were executed throughout the nation as a result of violent confrontations between military troops and officials loyal to the queen. Jung Bahadur Kunwar won the battle and established the Rana dynasty, which was subsequently known as Jung Bahadur Rana. The monarch was elevated to a nominal position, while the Prime Ministership was elevated to a strong and hereditary one. During the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Ranas were strongly pro-British and aided the British (and later in both World Wars). The British gave Nepal portions of the Terai area inhabited by non-Nepalis as a goodwill gesture for her military assistance in maintaining British authority in India during the revolt. The United Kingdom and Nepal officially signed a friendship pact in 1923, which replaced the 1816 Sugauli Treaty.
Slavery in Nepal was abolished in 1924. Debt bondage, including that involving debtors’ children, has been a chronic societal issue in the Terai. Tyranny, hedonism, economic exploitation, and religious persecution were all hallmarks of the Rana reign.
The Rana dictatorship was criticized by newly developing pro-democracy organizations and political parties in Nepal in the late 1940s. Meanwhile, after China’s conquest of Tibet in the 1950s, India attempted to offset the perceived military danger from its northern neighbor by expanding its influence in Nepal. In 1951, India supported King Tribhuvan (ruled 1911–55) as Nepal’s new monarch and a new administration, mostly made up of Nepali Congress members, thus ending Rana control in the country.
After years of power struggles between the king and the government, King Mahendra (ruled 1955–72) abandoned the democratic experiment in 1959, and Nepal was governed by a “partyless” Panchayat system until 1989, when the “Jan Andolan” (People’s Movement) forced King Birendra (ruled 1972–2001) to accept constitutional reforms and form a multiparty parliament, which took office in May 1991. Bhutan evicted about 100,000 Bhutanese nationals of Nepali ancestry in 1991–92, the majority of whom have lived in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal since since.
The Communist Party of Nepal began a violent campaign in 1996 to replace Nepal’s royal parliamentary system with a people’s republic. This sparked a lengthy civil war in Nepal, which resulted in over 12,000 fatalities.
A massacre occurred at the royal palace on June 1, 2001. King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya, and seven other royal family members were assassinated. Crown Prince Dipendra was the culprit, and he committed himself soon after (he died three days later). Dipendra’s outburst was said to be a reaction to his parents’ reluctance to accept his choice of marriage. Nonetheless, Nepalese people are speculating and having questions about who was to blame.
King Birendra’s brother Gyanendra ascended to the throne after the bloodshed. To put down the violent Maoist movement, King Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers on February 1, 2005. However, this initiative failed because a stalemate had developed in which the Maoists were firmly entrenched in large swaths of countryside but could not yet dislodge the military from numerous towns and the country’s largest cities. The Maoists announced a three-month unilateral truce to negotiate in September 2005.
King Gyanendra decided to hand up sovereign authority to the people in response to the 2006 democracy movement. The House of Representatives, which had been abolished, was re-established on April 24, 2006. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly decided on 18 May 2006, using its newly gained sovereign powers, to limit the king’s power and proclaim Nepal a secular state, ending the country’s long-standing formal position as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, parliament approved a bill amending Article 159 of the constitution to replace “Provisions respecting the King” with “Provisions of the Head of the State,” thus proclaiming Nepal a federal republic and abolishing the monarchy. The law went into effect on May 28, 2008.
In the Constituent Assembly election on April 10, 2008, the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) gained the most seats and established a coalition government with the majority of the CA parties. Although there were incidents of violence in the run-up to the election, election monitors observed that the election itself was calm and “well-run.”
On May 28, 2008, the newly elected Parliament convened in Kathmandu, and 560 of the 564 constituent Assembly members decided to establish a new administration, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, voting no. Nepal was proclaimed a secular and inclusive democratic republic at that time, with the government declaring a three-day public holiday from May 28–30. After that, the monarch was granted 15 days to leave Narayanhity Palace in order for it to reopen as a public museum.
Despite this, political tensions in Nepal have persisted, as have power-sharing struggles. The Maoist-led government was deposed in May 2009, and a new coalition administration was established with all major political parties except the Maoists. The coalition government’s Prime Minister is Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist). Madhav Kumar Nepal’s government was deposed in February 2011, and Jhala Nath Khanal of the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) was appointed Prime Minister. The Jhala Nath Khanal government was overthrown in August 2011, and Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was appointed Prime Minister.
In the period allotted, the political parties were unable to write a constitution. As a result, the Constituent Assembly was dissolved, paving the door for fresh elections to seek a new political mandate. The caretaker government’s chairman, then Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi, was appointed in defiance of the separation of powers doctrine. The country witnessed calm elections for the constituent assembly under Regmi’s leadership. The main powers in the last constituent assembly (the CPN Maoists and Madhesi parties) have fallen to third place or even below.
Sushil Koirala was sworn in as the next Prime Minister of Nepal in February 2014, after reaching an agreement with the two main parties in the constituent parliament.
President Ram Baran Yadav introduced a new constitution, the “Constitution of Nepal 2015” (Nepali: ), at the constituent assembly on September 20, 2015. The then-chairman of the constituent assembly turned the assembly into a legislative parliament. Nepal’s new constitution has effectively transformed the country into a federal democratic republic by creating seven nameless states.
A magnitude 7.8 earthquake hit Nepal on April 25, 2015. Two weeks later, on May 12, another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 struck Nepal, killing over 8,500 people and injuring over 21,000 more.
Bidhya Devi Bhandari was nominated as the first female president in October 2015.