A Short History of Nepal
Swiss Nepal Trekking & Expedition
2015 has been a big year for the citizens of Nepal as a new constitution has been passed, making the country a democratic, secular federal republic. It is the first time a Constitution has been passed that was written by and for the people of this great country.
Nepal's history goes back over 3500 years as there were numerous mountain kingdoms as well as those across the Terai region that borders India. In terms of contribution, Nepal was the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama, known today as The Buddha. It was from Nepal that his teachings entered the world.
The land called Nepal has experienced the rise of many rulers and dynasties, which has molded the country and its culture in its mysterious and fascinating ways. The Kirant Dynaasty was one of the first such ruling groups that ruled from the 3rd Century BC to the 13th Century, AD.
They were followed by the Lichchhavis and then the Malla kings who greatly developed the Kathmandu Valley. It wasn't until King Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha conquered the Kathmandu Valley in 1769 that a unified Nepal came into existence. His dynasty ruled through his successors until 2007 when the monarchy ended and a republic established.
King Prithvi Narayan Shah united the country with its various ethnic and religious groups in order to create a strong counter balance to the ever growing British influence to the south in India. Nepal did experience a number of wars with the British in the Western part of the Terai region. The Nepalese were tough fighters, but were not able to overcome the technology of the British guns. However, Nepal was able to negotiate a lasting peace with the British in the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816 which guaranteed the sovereignty of the nation.
Nepal plunged into its "dark ages" in 1846 with the Kot Massacre that was led by Junga Bahadur Rana which turned the monarchy into a puppet regime, and made the Ranas into a hereditary prime ministership. They retained complete control of the country, including closing it off to the outside world until 1950 when King Tribhuvan was able to overthrow their dictatorship.
Free elections began in 1952, and in 1960, King Mahendra established the Panchayal System (Five Councils System) as well as a new constitution was given to the people. It still wasn't a democratic system for the people of Nepal.
The Maoists insurgency took many lives as forces fought to establish Nepal as a republic. In 2001, the entire Royal Family was assassinated. King Birendra's successor, his brother, was crowned King Gyanendra. His response to the insurgency was by harsh measures, which led to further uprisings. On Dec. 24, 2007, Nepal was finally declared a Federal Republic and there was no more monarchy.
The Maoists won a simple majority in the elections of 10 April, 2008 and ruled until their defeat in 2013 by the Nepali Congress Party in free and fair elections. The new coalition of political parties led by Nepali Congress and UML were able to finally push through the long awaited Constitution on 20 September, 2015 which gave the country a secular government with complete freedom of speech, press and religion.
Nepal is nestled between two giants: China and India. India sits on the southern, eastern and western borders of the country while China occupies the northern end which is the backbone of the mighty Himalayan Mountain Range.
Nepal sits between the coordinates of 28000'N and 84000'E. This nation occupies a total land area of 147,181 sq km. The country is divided into three geographic regions. The very southern area is the Terai and these relatively flat lands hungs the northern border of India and is noted for jungles and good farm land.
In middle region is known as the Hilly region and is made up of the foothills of the Himalayas. This is where a large number of Nepalese live. The far north is the High Himalayas with a very sparse population, high mountain vistas and incredible scenic views.
Culture and Customs
Nepal is rich in culture and diversity. Here, over 50 ethnic groups live in peace and harmony with other as they have for centuries. Nowhere on earth has so many ethnic groups lived together in such a peaceful state while continuing to celebrate their local languages, cultures and customs.
The various groups inhabit different parts of the country and are at different elevations. They range from the tribal groups in the Terai like the Tharus to the tough mountain people like the Gurung, Tamangs and Sherpas who have eked out a living in some very hostile locations. Their terraced lands are beautiful to behold as they have created farms in some very inhospitable locations.
There are many languages spoken, although English is becoming more and more common as it is a required subject in our schools. The major religions of the country include Hinduism, Buddhism, Bön, and local tribal religions. Islam is found primarily in the Terai and Christianity is growing in the country.
Each of the ethnic groups has its own traditional dances, foods, costumes and languages. Each group is very happy to share their customs and culture with the outside world. Don't be surprised if they invite you for tea, to try some homemade wine "roxy" and even take part in their local dances. The Nepali people are very friendly and enjoy visitors.