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History of Nepal

Nepal was settled at least by 500 BC by the Kirant people; however the land was most likely settled by numerous people prior to that time. However all earlier evidence seems to be in the form of legends, with no true archeological remains. The Kirant people supposedly began their rule in about 1200 BC. Despite the lack of information surrounding this empire, what is known is that the Kirant people still live in the eastern part of Nepal.

Siddharta Gautama,was the first Buddha and the founder of Buddhism when in lived in the 500s-400s BC. It is said that he spent much of his life in what is today the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal.

From this point, in about 500 BC to about 1100 AD little is known about Nepal. There were numerous kingdoms that ruled the region, but few details are known. In the 900s it appears the city of Kathmandu was established as the capital and in the 1000s the country became more open, partially by trade and relations, but also due to invasions from Indian rulers.

In the 1100s the Malla rulers came to power, greatly expanding the territory from the Kathmandu valley to surrounding valleys. These kings introduced numerous aspects of Indian culture and changed land ownership laws. However, the kings couldn't maintain their expanding empire divided by mountains and in 1484 the land was again divided into smaller kingdoms. This division of the land led to battles over controlling all the land once again and over time destroyed the progress of the country.

Division ended in 1769 with the beginning of the Gorkha rulers, called the Shah dynasty. The Shah rulers began taking over the lands fairly quickly; however in 1767 the people of Kathmandu sought British India's assistance to intervene. Shockingly, the Shah's army defeated the Brits and took Kathmandu in 1768. These new rulers understood the need to adopt various belief systems and great diversity in their people and generally speaking they accommodated these differences quite well.

This new empire continued their land gains, however eventually pushed too far as they invaded Tibet in the late 1700s and India a couple years later. The Chinese fought this invasion of Tibet and quickly the Nepalese had surrendered. The land gains in India were slower but still significant as in 1814 the British invaded, defeating the Nepalese in 1816, forcing the Nepalese to hand over lands to British India.

These battles began the slow decline of the Shah dynasty as other members of government gained greater and greater powers, eventually making numerous governmental positions, including that of the Prime Minister to be hereditary. Fortunately, over time relations between the United Kingdom and Nepal improved and in 1923 the two signed a friendship treaty.

From this point until the 1950s a larger and larger number of Nepalese moved to India to be educated and slowly a movement had begun to free Nepal of their government, not unlike the independence movements taking place in India. This led to a new constitution and elections in 1959, however by the next year this government had all but collapsed as it reverted back to a monarchy under the direction of King Mahendra.

Under King Mahendra political parties were outlawed as he pushed unity among the people, often times at the expense of small ethnic groups with varying languages and customs. After his death, his son took over in 1972 and asked the people what they wanted. This led to his continued rule, but a large number of reforms beginning in 1980. However these changes were vast enough for many of the rural people and in 1991 the king was forced to allow parliamentary elections.

The new government couldn't resolve many of the issues present in the country and in 1996 the country collapsed into civil war. This violence and instability continued through the 1990s and into the 2000s. In 2001 Crown Prince Dipendra killed his parents and other members of the royal family before killing himself. This led to a new king (the former king's brother), who shut down the government and tried to stabilize the country, but with little success. His struggle to maintain power continued until 2006 when elections took place; these elections were boycotted by many and others were encouraged to run by the government, making their results questionable as a true representation of the people.

In 2008 a federal democratic republic was founded in Nepal and the monarchy was eliminated as the communist party took the majority in the Parliament.

This page was last updated: July, 2012