Historical Background of Nepal

Historical Background of Nepal

historical-nepalModern Nepal is an amalgamation of a number of principalities, which had independent entities in the past with long glorious history. Culture and tradition that date back to time are immemorial. Its civilization can be traced back to thousands of years before the birth of Christ. The recorded history of Nepal dates from the 7th or 8th centuries BC. The Gopalas, the Abhiras, the Kiratis, the Lichhvi, the Thakuris and the Mallas succeeded Kathmandu Valley before the integration of great Nepal.


Kiratis are Mongols, who are believed to have come to Nepal from the east. They are believed to be the first rulers of Nepal. Yalambar, on the kings of Nepal, is mentioned in the Mahabharata. It is believed that Buddha came to the Kathmandu Valley during the rule of the seventh of the 28 Kirati rulers and stayed for a while in Patan. Emperor Ashok from India put up a pillar at Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha in the 2nd century BC. It is also believed that Ashok went to Patan and had four stupas built there. It is believed that his daughter Charumati established the village of Chabahil in Kathmandu. There is a stupa and monastery in Chabahil that are said to date back to her time. The Kiratis lost power around 300 AD. The Rai and Limbu in east Nepal are believed to be their descendants.


Around 300 AD the Licchavis, who were based in North India invaded Nepal and overthrew the Kiratis. During this period Hinduism became the main religion in Nepal over Buddhism. Manadeva I expanded the rule of Licchavis. There is an inscription by him dated to 476 AD that tells of his glories at the Changu Narayan Temple, which is on the east side of Kathmandu Valley. His son Manadeva put stone inscriptions around the Kathmandu Valley.


The first Thakuri king was Amsuvarma who started to rule in 602 AD. He succeeded his father-in-law, who was a Lichhavi. He expanded the kingdom in the north and south directions. He built an impressive seven story palace at Deopatan, which is located near Pashupatinath. His daughter Bhrikuiti got married to a Tibetan prince Shrong Chong Gompo. She received the begging bowl of the Buddhua as part of her wedding dowry. It is believed that she is a reincarnation of the Green Tara of Tibetan Buddhism. The Thakuris ruled for around the next 600 years. It is said that the present city of Kathmandu was founded by Guna Kamadeva in the 10th century.


It is said that in 1200 that King Arideva was formed the Malla dynasty. During their rule the valley was wealthy. Many of the building found in Kathmandu Valley were built during their rule. The unique art and culture of the valley are contribution of Malla kings. Patan was invaded and destroyed in 1311. The Mallas were Hindus, but tolerated other religions. One of the main Malla rulers was Hari Singh who came to the valley around 1330. During this time Nepal became much individual state who often fought between each other. In the 14th century the Muslim invaded Nepal and destroyed many Hindu and Buddhist temples. Also Hindus fled from the plains of India to the hills of Nepal and established individual country s. During this time there were over 40 individual country s in Nepal. The mallas maintained their own armies and minted money. In Kathmandu Valley there were three main kingdoms in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. In 1372 Jayasthiti Malla took over Patan and ten years later took over Bhaktapur, bringing the entire valley under his control. Under the rule of Yaksha Malla (1428-82) Nepal borders went from west to the Kali Gandaki River and east to Sikkim, and from Tibet in the north to the Ganges River in the south. Ranjit Malla 1722-1769 is the last ruler of the Malla dynasty.

Malla Kings Ruled Over Kathmandu

  • Ratna Malla 1482-1528
  • Mahendra Malla 1560-1574
  • Sadasiva Malla 1574-1583
  • Siva Singh Malla 1578-1620
  • Pratap Malla 1641-1674
  • Prithvibendra Malla 1680-1687
  • Bhaskara Malla 1687-1714
  • Jagat Jaya Malla 1722-1736
  • Jaya Prakash Malla 1736-1768
Malla Kings Ruled Over Patan

  • Jayasthiti Malla 1372-1395
  • Siddhinarsingh Malla 1620-1661
  • Srinivasa Malla 1661-1684
  • Yoganarendra Malla 1684-1705
  • Vishnu Malla 1729-1745
  • Rajya Prakash Malla 1745-1758
  • Visvajita Malla 1758-1760
Malla Kings Ruled Over Bhaktapur

  • Yaksha Malla 1428-1482
  • Raya Malla 1482-1505
  • Eksha Mal Malla 1505-1568
  • Jagat Jyoti Malla 1613-1637
  • Jagat Prakash Malla 1644-1673
  • Jitamitra Malla 1673-1696
  • Bhupatindra Malla 1696-1722
  • Jaya Ranjit Malla 1722-1769

Shah Dynasty

historical-nepalThe Shah Dynasty was formed from Lamjung. Khaje Dura and Kusmakhar Ghimire brought Kulmandan Shah from Kaski and formed as a king. He has two sons as Narahari Shah and Drabya Shah. After the expiration of king Kulmandan, Narahari became the king of Lamjung and Drabya Shah became the king of Gorkha. The 9th Shah King Prithivi Narayan Shah launched the unifying campaign from Gorkha and indeed integrated it in 1768. Then Shah Dynasty ascended the throne of the unified country from the Kathmandu as a capital of new Nepal.

For the next twenty years the integration was continued on up to the ruler King Pratap singh Shah and Rana Bahadur Shah. The kingdom expanded until the Nepalis were defeated by the Chinese army in Tibet. In the beginning of the 19th century Nepal had expanded to reach from Kashmir in the west to Sikkim in the east. At that time (in 1810) Nepal was more than twice its real size now. Nepal got into a war with the British who were impairing over India but never slack with them. The war ended with the signing of the 1816 Sugauli Treaty in which Nepal lost Sikkim and most of the Terai territory when King Girban Yuddha was ruled over. Most of the present borders of Nepal were established at this time. Some of the lost land was given back to Nepal by the British, in return for their support during the Indian Upraising (War of Independence) in 1958.

In 15 September 1846, Jung Bahadur Kunwar from Gorkha organized to have hundreds of the main leaders in the Kot courtyard next to Durbar Square in Kathmandu. Then the nobleman and soldiers killed all the opposites that it is referred to as the Kot Massacre. He then made himself the Prime Minister and took the title Rana. He then gave himself the title maharaja and made the position hereditary. His family became the real rulers of Nepal and the Shah family became basically figureheads. For the next 104 years the Ranas held the real power in Nepal. During this time Nepal remained independent of foreign rule, while most of its neighbors fell under colonial rule. The better portions during the Rana rule were ended of labor slave and establishment of Tri-Chandra College in Kathmandu.

After the Second World War there were many changes within the countries. The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet and thousands of Tibetans started to fled to Nepal. India became independent. The Nepali Congress Party was formed headed by BP Koirala to bring the democracy in Nepal to oppose the rana rulers where even some Ranaa were its members. In 1950 King Tribhuvan got the surrender to the Indian Embassy and from there went to India. In the meantime BP Koirala took over a good part as a mediater between king and ranas with the help of Indian government King Tribhuvan returned to Nepal and formed a new government announcing the democracy with Prime Minister Mohan Sumsher Rana which was made up of BP Koirala’s Nepali Congress and the Ranas.

After The Death of King Tribhuvan in 1955 Nepal was succeeded by his son King Mahendra. Under a new constitution a democratic parliamentary system was established. The first election was held in 1959. The Nepali Congress Party won a good majority and BP Koirala became the first elected Prime Minister of Nepal. In late 1969 the king did not like the way things were being run and had the cabinet arrested. The king took total control and political parties were banned. In 1962 King Mahendra established a panchayat system in which local councils picked representatives to a district panchayat, who then chose the 35 member National Panchayat. The king still had complete power. He would choose 16 members of the National Panchayat and chose the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

After shot death of king Mahendra, Birendra became the king of Nepal 1971. Most of the Nepalese people were dissatisfied with the autocratic system led by his father king Mahendra. There was a big violent riot in 1979 against corrupt governing system. King Birendra was well educated from Harvard and Eton colleges. So, the king Birendra allowed a referendum to choose between political parties and the panchayat system. BP Koirala was allowed to take part in the election. He had been under arrest since 1960. But unfortunately, the 1980 referendum went 55% to 45% in favor of the panchayat system. The king allowed an election in which the people would elect the legislative body for a five-year term, which would then elect a Prime Minister. The king still appointed 20% of the legislature. All candidates had to be members of one of six of the government-allowed political parties and they had to vote under their own name and not under the political party. Different freedoms were authorized, but in truth there were still many restrictions. Opposition of the government was restricted and members of the main Nepali Congress party between 1960 and 1990. BP Koirala died in 1983. The king basically maintained a high deal of control, and the National Panchayat had a rubber stamp position. The noble class had the power and money.

historical nepalIn 1989, after the 30 years of autocratic Panchayeti System the opposition political parties held People’s Movement (Jana Aandolan) to restore the multi-party democracy in the leadership of Nepali Congress party. People were unhappy about government corruption. In February 1990, the government arrested thousand of protested against the government. Protestor were tortures, teared gased and shot at. It is believed that 300 people were killed. They were supported by an economical blockage by Indian Government. Because of the generating political unrest in nepal and pressure from international community, the government had slack down to the overcome of the public and the king opened the ban on political parties and agreed to accept a parliamentary multi party system with constitutional monarchy dated on 9 April 1989. The new Democratic Constitution of the country was promulgated on November 9, 1990.

An election was held in May 1991 in which 20 parties contested for 205 seats in Parliament. The Nepali Congress Party won 100 seats, the Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML) won 69 seats and United People’s Front received the next largest amount of votes. In the next couple years things didn’t do very good economically. During a general strike in April 1992 there was ruining a several people were killed. The Nepali Congress government called for an election in late 1994 in which no party got a clear majority. The communist CPN-UML party formed a coalition with the Rastriya Prajatantra Party supported by the Nepali Congress party. This is one of the few times that a communist government was elected by the public in the world history. Within nine months the Congress party withdrew its support and the Congress party formed a new government with the support of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party. During the election in May 1999 the Nepali Congress party got a clear majority for the first time.

King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev ruled Nepal for 30 years from 30th January 1971 to 1st June 2001. King Birendra died in a bloody shooting at the royal palace on 1 June 2001 in a regular royal family gathering. Most of the royal family members were shot dead on the spot and some are in Army Hospital. Many others were injured including the present queen Komal. It is blamed that Crown Price Dipendra is responsible for the bloody shootings. It is said that, he fatally wounding himself then. Dipendra was crowned king; he died three days later and was succeeded by his uncle (the younger brother of the late King Birendra) His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev is ruling as a twelfth King of 225-year-old Shah Dynasty.

The successful Indian movement for independence (1947) stimulated democratic sentiment in Nepal. The newly formed Congress party of Nepal precipitated a revolt in 1950 that forced the autocratic Ranas to share power in a new cabinet. King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram, who sympathized with the democratic movement, took temporary refuge in India and returned as a constitutional monarch. In 1959 a democratic constitution was promulgated, and parliamentary elections gave the Congress party a clear majority. The following year, however, King Mahendra (reigned 1956–72) cited alleged inefficiency and corruption in government as evidence that Nepal was not ready for Western-style democracy. He dissolved parliament, detained many political leaders, and in 1962 inaugurated a system of “basic democracy,” based on the elected village council (panchayat) and working up to district and zonal panchayats and an indirectly elected national panchayat. Political parties were banned, and the king was advised by a council of appointed ministers. King Mahendra carried out a land reform that distributed large holdings to landless families, and he instituted a law removing the legal sanctions for caste discrimination. Crown Prince Birendra succeeded to the throne (1972) upon his father’s death; like previous Nepalese monarchs, he married a member of the Rana family in order to ensure political peace. Prior to 1989, Nepal maintained a position of nonalignment in foreign affairs, carefully balancing relationships with China, the USSR, the United States, and India. The USSR and the United States were major aid donors. A 1956 treaty with China recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and officially terminated the century-old Tibetan tribute to Nepal; all Nepalese troops left Tibet in 1957. The Sino-Nepalese border treaty of 1961 defined Nepal’s Himalayan frontier. India’s geographical proximity, cultural affinity, and substantial economic aid render it the most influential foreign power in Nepal, but its military and political interference in Nepal’s affairs has been a constant source of worry for the government. In 1969, Nepal canceled an arms agreement with India and ordered the Indians to withdraw their military mission from Katmandu and their listening posts from the Tibet-Nepal frontier. In 1989 the Indian government closed its borders with Nepal to all economic traffic, bringing Nepal’s economy to a standstill.

During the early 1990s, Nepal developed closer ties with China. In the 1980s and 1990s thousands of ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan were forced to take up residence in UN refugee camps in Nepal. Weeks of street protests and general strikes forced King Birendra to proclaim (Nov., 1990) a new constitution that legalized political parties, asserted human rights, abolished the panchayat system, and vastly reduced the king’s powers in a constitutional monarchy. In the 1991 parliamentary elections, the centrist Nepali Congress party won a slim majority and formed a government, which collapsed in 1994. Following a succession of failed coalition governments, the Congress party once again won a majority in the 1999 legislative elections, and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai became prime minister. Meanwhile, a Maoist insurgency began in rural Nepal during the mid-1990s. In Mar., 2000, concern within the Congress party over Bhattarai’s administration forced his resignation, and Girija Prasad Koirala became prime minister, holding the office for the fourth time. The king and many members of the royal family were killed in June, 2001, by the crown prince, apparently because of his parents’ objection to his proposed marriage; the prince committed suicide. The king’s brother, Prince Gyanendra, succeeded to throne; Gyanendra, unlike Birendra, had opposed the 1990 constitution. In July, 2001, Koirala resigned and Sher Bahadur Deuba, also of the Nepali Congress party, became prime minister. In November negotiations with the Maoist rebels broke down and serious fighting began; the rebels won control of a significant portion of Nepal. In May, 2002, Congress party infighting led Deuba to dissolve parliament and seek new elections, which prompted the party to expel him and call for his cabinet to resign, which mostly did not. When Dueba called (Oct., 2002) for the postponement of elections for a year, the king removed him from office and named Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a former prime minister and monarchist, to the post. Elections were postponed indefinitely. In Jan., 2003, a cease-fire was signed with the rebels, and negotiations began, although there were occasional violations of the cease-fire. In May growing opposition demonstrations against the government led Chand to resign, but hopes for a compromise with the opposition were dashed when the king named Surya Bahadur Thapa, a royalist, as prime minister and effectively brought all of the country’s administrative powers under control of the crown. The rebels withdrew from the inconclusive negotiations in Aug., 2003, and fighting between government troops and rebel forces soon resumed. Neither the army nor the Maoists gained full control of the countryside; parliament remained dissolved, and there were increasing public protests against the king. In Apr., 2004, the king promised to hold parliamentary elections in 2005. The following month the prime minister resigned, and in June the king appointed Deuba to the post. Deuba subsequently formed a broad-based coalition government. Despite government offensives against the rebels, they remain strong enough to enforce their will. In August and December the rebels again called successful blockades of the capital; they also began forcing the closure of a number of businesses.

Restoration of the Shahs

historical nepalIn late 1950 tribhuvan escaped from his palace to the Indian Embassy and from there to India. Meanwhile, The Nepali Congress party, Led by B.P Koirala, managed to take most of the Terai from the Ranas and established a provisional Government that ruled from the border town of Birgunj. India exerted its influence and negotiated a solution to Nepal’s turmoil, and Tribhuvan Returnedto Nepal in 1951 to set up a new commoners from the Nepali congress Party.

Although Nepal Gradually reopened its long –closed doors and established relations with many others nations., dreams of a new democratic system were not permanently realized. Tribhuvan died in 1955 and was succesed by his son Mahendra . A new constitution provided for a parliamentary system of Government and in 1959 Nepal held its First general election. The Nepali Congress Party won a clear victory and BP Koirala became the new priminister . In late 1960, how ever the king decided the Government wasn’t to his taste and had the cabinet arrested. Politicals Perties were banned and Mahendra swapped his ceremonial role for real control.

In 1962 Mahendra decided that a party less, indirect panchayat (council) system of Government was more appropriate to Nepal. Local panchayat chose representative for district panchayats, which in turn were represented in the national panchayat. The real power, however, remained with the king who chose 16 menbers of the 35 member National Panchayat, and appointed the prime minister and his cabinet. Political parties continued to the banned.

Mahendra died in 1972 and was succeeded by his British- educated son Birendra. Popular disconted with slow development , official corruption and rising costs simmered in the 1970s. In 1979 the smouldering anger finally exploded into violent riots in Kathmandu, and king Birendra announced a referendum to chose between the panchayat system and one that would permit political parties to operate. The result was 55% to 45% in favour of the panchayat system; however , the king maintained the direct appointment of the legislature, which in turn was responsible for the election of the prime minister.

On the surface, the panchayat system, which allowed a secret vote and universal suffrage, didn’t appear to be dictatorial: the constitution theore

For centuries the country of Nepal was divided into many principalities. Kirats ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars occupied the mid-west. The Kirats ruled from 300 BC and during their reign, emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirats were followed by the Lichhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. During this period, art thrived in Nepal and many of the beautiful woodcarvings and sculptures that are found in the country belong to this era. With the end of the Lichhavi dynasty, Malla kings came to power in 1200 AD and they also con tributed tremendously to Nepal’s art and culture. However, after almost 600 years of rule, the kings were not united among themselves and during the late 11th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered Kathman du and united Nepal into one country. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation. During the mid-I 9th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal’s first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah Kings remained figure-heads. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s. Today, Nepal enjoys a multi party democratic system with a constitutional Monarch.

Many Nepalis now avert their eyes when they walk past the palace, or avoid passing it altogether, for it evokes painful memories as the scene of the inexplicable royal massacre of June 1, 2001, when Crown Prince Dipendra killed his entire immediate family – King Birendra, Queen Aishwara and his younger brother and sister – and five other relatives before apparently turning the gun on himself. Tribhuwan Sadan, the building where the carnage took place, was demolished a few weeks later on orders of the Queen Mother. As of this writing, the new King Gyanendra and Queen Komal and their son, Crown Prince Paras, continue to reside at Nirmal Niwas in Maharajganj, and it’s not clear whether they will ever move in to Narayanhiti Durbar.

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