Nepal History

Nepal History

Early to middle ages

Around 1000 BC In the northern regions of what is now Nepal lived ethnic groups who came into the country from the north, while in the south there were peoples of Indo-Aryan descent. Around 560 BC Prince Siddhartha Gautama, who became world famous as Buddha, was born in Kapilawastu in the southwest of today’s Nepal. He traveled the country as a preacher of the “four noble truths” after his death around 480 BC. His followers spread his message.

In the 3rd century BC. the area was under the control of the Indian Maurja dynasty, which ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent and whose rulers were followers of Buddhism. In the first centuries AD, the Hindu Liccavi dynasty, which came from northern India, took control of the Kathmandu valley. AD 725 Kathmandu, the capital of what is now Nepal, was founded. From the 9th century, the Thakurie dynasty, closely associated with Tibet, controlled the country’s fortunes.

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Under the Malla dynasty, which came under the sovereignty of the Islamic Sultanate of Delhi, Hinduism was introduced to the dominant religion in the country and the caste system. After the death of King Yaksa Malla in 1482, the empire was divided into several minor kingdoms, in addition to which other principalities were created, which warmed again and again in the next centuries.

One of these minor empires was the Gurkha Empire, a multi-ethnic group whose members were descendants of Rajputs who had fled India in the 13th century. In 1768, after decades of fighting, Prithvi Narayana Shah (the Shah dynasty had ruled the Gurkhas since 1559) succeeded in uniting numerous principalities in the Kingdom of Nepal with the capital Kathmandu.

Colonial period

After wars over Terai hegemony with Britain (Gurkha War, 1814-16), which at that time controlled much of the Indian subcontinent, Nepal became a British protectorate: Britain committed to accept the Shah dynasty and the borders of Nepal, on the other hand, Nepal had to accept a permanent representative of Great Britain in its capital and hand over some areas to the British East India Company. According to AbbreviationFinder, this status led to a fragmentation into pro and anti British groups within Nepal.

In 1846 the ruling Shah dynasty was disempowered by the pro-British noble family Rana (Khot massacre), until 1951 members of the Rana clan ruled over Nepal. The kings ruling at that time were practically prisoners in their palace and had only representative tasks. The heirs to the throne were each married to a Rana daughter.

Gurkha troops trained as elite units supported Great Britain in suppressing the Great Uprising in India in 1857/58 and fought alongside British troops as mercenaries in the First and Second World Wars. In return, Great Britain guaranteed Nepal’s sovereignty; the country did not become a colony.


After the end of World War II, the Rana regime was overthrown by Nepalese opposition figures living in India (Nepalese Congress Party, NCP). King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram Shah, who had fled to India in 1950 (India fought for independence from Britain in 1947), returned to Nepal and proclaimed the constitutional monarchy as the country’s state. At the same time, he lifted the caste system and initiated the opening and democratization of the country. In 1955 Nepal became a member of the United Nations. A constitution was passed in 1959 and the Nepalese Congress Party (NCP) won the first free elections.

At the beginning of the 1960s, all democratic movements in Nepal were stopped at once: King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah banned all parties, overturned the 1959 constitution and adopted a new one in 1962, in which a party-free council system (panchayat system) was introduced, which gave the king more power again. The background to these measures was the fear that the India-oriented Congress Party could make the country an Indian protectorate.

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At the beginning of the 1980s, due to an increasing opposition movement in the country and numerous unrest, the king was forced to bring about a referendum on the council system, which surprisingly confirmed the system. It was not until 1990 that the democracy movement was supported by such a large majority that the ban on parties was lifted and a new constitution transformed the state into a parliamentary monarchy with limited king power. The Nepalese Congress Party (NCP) won the 1991 elections. A Communist Party of Nepal / United Marxist-Leninists (CPN-UML) emerged as the second strongest political force, alongside a large number of other parties, which led to domestic political instability.

Between 1991 and 1999 various coalitions ruled repeatedly, including a government led by the communist Man Mohan Adhikari (November 1994 to November 1995). From the mid-1990s, rebels of the “Communist Party of Nepal – Maoists” (CPN-M; also known as Maoists for short) attempted to force land reform in favor of the landless peasants by means of attacks. In June 2001, a massacre occurred in the Nepalese royal family in which King Birendra and a large part of his family died, allegedly due to a killing spree by Crown Prince Dipendra.

As successor, the king’s younger brother, Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev, was enthroned, who was considered conservative and anti-reform. The new king was heavily hostile by the Maoists, and there were repeated attacks that were not directed against the civilian population, but specifically against representatives of the state apparatus. In May 2002, King Gyanendra dissolved the parliament. In early February 2005, he finally seized power in Nepal with a military coup and declared a state of emergency. After mass protests, however, he returned the executive to a government of the seven parliamentary parties and reinstated the parliament. Finally, the civil war ended in November 2006 with two agreements.

At the beginning of 2007, a transitional constitution was adopted and a transition parliament (with the participation of Maoists), in April 2007 a transition government was established (also with Maoist participation). With the vote in parliament on December 28, 2007, the abolition of the monarchy and the transition to a “democratic Federal Republic” were decided. In April 2008 the elections to the constituent assembly took place, which also represents the parliament. The Maoist party became the strongest party with around 29% of the vote; since it failed to meet the absolute majority, the formation of a coalition government became necessary. Nepal has been a Federal Democratic Republic since May 28, 2008.

With the fruitless dissolution of this first constituent assembly in May 2012, an internal political crisis began, which only came to an end in March 2013 with the appointment of a transitional government. New elections to a second constituent assembly took place in November 2013. The Maoists had large losses.

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