By 55,000 years ago, the first modern humans had arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa, where they had earlier evolved. The earliest known modern human remains in South Asia date to about 30,000 years ago. The oldest discovered archaeological evidence of human settlements in Nepal dates to around the same time.
Unification, expansion and consolidation (1768–1951)
Main article: Kingdom of Nepal
In the mid-18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king, set out to put together what would become present-day Nepal. He embarked on his mission by securing the neutrality of the bordering mountain kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, notably the Battle of Kirtipur, he managed to conquer the Kathmandu Valley in 1769. The Gorkha control reached its height when the Kumaon and Garhwal Kingdoms in the west to Sikkim in the east came under Nepalese control. A dispute with Tibet over the control of mountain passes and inner Tingri valleys of Tibet prompted the Qing Emperor of China to start the Sino-Nepali War compelling the Nepali to retreat to their own borders in the north. The rivalry between the Kingdom of Nepal and the East India Company over the control of states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepali War (1815–16). At first, the British underestimated the Nepali and were soundly defeated until committing more military resources than they had anticipated needing. Thus began the reputation of Gurkhas as fierce and ruthless soldiers. The war ended in the Sugauli Treaty, under which Nepal ceded recently captured lands.
In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Following the success of Indian Independence Movement which Nepalese activists had taken part in, with India’s support and cooperation of King Tribhuvan, Nepali Congress was successful in toppling the Rana regime, establishing a parliamentary democracy. After a decade of power wrangling between the king and the government, King Mahendra (ruled 1955–1972) scrapped the democratic experiment in 1960, and a “partyless” Panchayat system was made to govern Nepal. The political parties were banned and politicians imprisoned or exiled. The Panchayat rule modernised the country, introducing reforms and developing infrastructure, but curtailed liberties and imposed heavy censorship. In 1990, the People’s Movement forced King Birendra (ruled 1972–2001) to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty democracy.
In 1996, the Maoist Party started a violent bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people’s republic. This led to the long Nepali Civil War and more than 16,000 deaths. With the death of both the King and the Crown Prince in a massacre in the royal palace, King Birendra’s brother Gyanendra inherited the throne in 2001 and subsequently assumed full executive powers aiming to quash the Maoist insurgency himself.
The Maoist Party joined mainstream politics following the success of the peaceful democratic revolution of 2006; Nepal became a secular state, and on 28 May 2008, it was declared a federal republic, ending its time-honoured status as the world’s only Hindu kingdom. After a decade of instability and internal strife which saw two constituent assembly elections, the new constitution was promulgated on 20 September 2015, making Nepal a federal democratic republic divided into seven provinces.
CULTURE OF NEPAL
The rich, multi-ethnic and multi-dimensional culture of Nepal is based on centuries-old traditions and social customs. Its diversities range of mountain communities and social strata are expressed in music, dance, folklore, language, and religion. Nepal has two main religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, although many Nepalese practice a unique combination of both mixed with a degree of animism. The traditions of both go back over two millennia to the birth of the Buddha in Lumbini and the ancient Hindu rituals still strong today. Also treasured is the tradition of excellence in arts and crafts. Visitors will need to observe native customs when visiting temples, such as respectful, conservative dress, removing shoes before entry and asking permission to enter a Hindu temple. Nepalis are friendly, although displays of affection in public are not appreciated. Superstitions rule and it brings bad luck to praise a baby’s appearance or walk on spilled rice. Red chilies hang everywhere, driving away evil spirits and bus drivers always say a prayer before departing. The family is very important in Nepalese life, and is traditionally close-knit and loyal. Women are generally subservient to men and although highly honored as mothers, they have less access to education and political power. In rural areas, women work longer and harder than men, as they are expected to combine their household and child-raising chores with farming and taking care of the livestock. An artistic and intellectual revival took place in the 1950s, sparking a flowering of literature and art focused on national pride and religious values. Nowadays, the traditional culture of Nepal is fostered in radio programs featuring folk music and, in rural areas, devotional music and songs, a strong part of village life.
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES OF NEPAL
According to Nepal’s constitution, all of the national languages can be used as official languages.
There are over 100 recognized languages in Nepal. The most commonly used are Nepali (also called Gurkhali or Khaskura), spoken by nearly 60 percent of the population, and Nepal Bhasa (Newari). Nepali is one of the Indo-Aryan languages, related to European languages.Nepal Bhasa is a Tibeto-Burman tongue, part of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Roughly 1 million people in Nepal speak this language. Other common languages in Nepal include Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Awadhi, Kiranti, Magar, and Sherpa.