The History of Nepal - History In The Dust

Historicalfacts.net: The History of Nepal - The valley of Kathmandu is a fertile plain some twenty miles long. It is densely populated with about 1,500 inhabitants per square mile. A trade and cultural center for the entire region and capital of Nepal, Kathmandu is the commercial and administrative center with a population of almost 400,000. It contains over 2,000 temples and shrines dedicated to a variety of religions and is home to many diverse peoples, indeed no less than 36 languages and dialects may be heard in its streets.

The History of Nepal - History In The Dust

This ancient city has historically revolved around the Pagoda of Kasthmandap (The House of Wood). Located near Durbar Square in the heart of Kathmandu, this building marked the intersection of the area's vital trade routes. Modern Kathmandu is actually two distinct cities with different styles of architecture. The "Old City" lies to the west and flanks the Tundhikhel, a large open field used primarily as a parade ground. The newer area to the east, where modern and western architecture is rapidly growing and new building surrounding the old and new cities and Patan across the river to the south, is expanding to form a very large metropolis.
The History of Nepal
The History of Nepal - History In The Dust

To the west of Kathmandu, in the shadow of the Annapurna Massif, lies the small town of Pokhara. Its secluded subtropical valley is overlooked by the awesome Macchapucchare, or Fishtail Peak. Only open to outsiders for a very few years, the town's growth has been fast and rather haphazard, but it is a confirmed favorite of travelers due to its serene lake and phenomenal views of the Himalayas.

The earliest inhabitants of the Nepal Valley were the Kirats around the 8th century B.C., but the later Newars provided the legends that have formed an integral part of the tradition of Nepal. Of paramount importance to Nepal's history is Lumbinv, the birthplace of the Buddha. There exists definite archaeological evidence of very early Buddhist influence from the third century B.C. The first documented dynasty is that of Licchavi, which was founded in the 4th century A.D. These were a people originally from the plains of India and of the Hindu religion who created strong trading ties with Tibet and a vital commercial and cultural center in the Nepal valley.

The tenth to the eighteenth century, during the rule of the Malla dynasty, is known as the Middle Period. The first legal and social codes were introduced that were based on Hindu principles. Earthquake and invasion were to leave their scars in the 14th century, but the civilization with its walled towns, paved roads and already entrenched caste system was to withstand invasion by Muslim hordes, division and rivalry between factions and the rule of feudal lords. The Third Malla Dynasty in 1372 saw the dawn of a more settled and secure period. The arts of sculpture and wood carving flourished and territory was acquired, but on the death of King Tayasthiti Malla, division of the kingdom between his children soon caused further disruption and eventually war, which was to last for two centuries.

Sophisticated agricultural methods and new crops introduced during the 17th century improved economy and trade in Nepal. The Malla Dynasty had left a legacy of division resulting in the conquest of Kathmandu by the Shah rulers of Ghorka (located between Pokhara and Kathmandu). The new rulers, while expanding their base, clashed with Tibetan troops and asked for help from the British East India Company, who at that time (1792) were establishing British Rule in India. Help was too late in coming, however, and Nepal was invaded by Chinese troops who exacted regular tribute to the Chinese emperor which continued until 1912.

At the beginning of the 19th century a trade agreement was signed with the British. Nepal then steadily expanded its borders which resulted in disputes with the British. The "Treaty of Friendship" in 1816 actually resulted in loss of territory for Nepal and checked further expansion. In retaliation for this treaty (in which they had little choice) the Nepalese closed their borders to foreigners and established a standing army. Gurkhas, the soldiers of Nepal, were so impressive they have formed an important addition to the British Army through two world wars and many other fields of action.

During the year of 1846 Tung Bahadur Rana, an army general, took advantage of unrest at the palace and had himself declared the Prime Minister and later Maharajah. He established a century long oligarchy which was much influenced by England. Some reforms were instituted, but the standard of living of the rulers contrasted blatantly with the life of most of the inhabitants of Nepal.

After World War II many major events took place worldwide, some of which had profound effect on Nepal. India, freed of British rule, expanded its borders to the Himalayas. China annexed Tibet, causing a massive influx of refugees into Nepal. Tensions within the government between democratic and authoritarian factions and interference from India resulted in the removal of the despotic Ranas and the return, with India's backing, of the rightful King Tribhuvan.

During the reign of his son, King Mahendra, a parliamentary system and a constitution were established but were terminated within a year (in 1960) as usurping the power of the monarch. A new constitution with limited powers and under the control of the sovereign was instituted in 1962. In 1979, under the rule of King Birendra, rioting broke out in Kathmandu and a referendum was ordered to determine a system of government. Elections were held and the constitution was amended, though the king was to continue to have a great deal of authority and to rule the people much as before.

The valley had for eons been the home of the gopalas, or cowherds, and of transient tribes. When the Mallas came to power in 1200, they brought their artisans and master builders who created the early monasteries, temples and houses which may still be seen today. Early Newar settlements were located on ridges, leaving valuable bottom land for agriculture. Houses were of tile and brick and the streets were paved.

During the 18th century the Gorkhas united Nepal and established their capital at Kathmandu. The medieval town they built is the core of the modern-day city. The labyrinth of streets and alleys has both an aesthetic and functional order with surprise glimpses of beautiful facades, fountains and statuary at every turn. The details are overwhelming where centuries of artists, carpenters, sculptors and builders have expressed themselves in every nook and cranny.

The center of Kathmandu, Durbar Square, has over fifty monuments and temples within its confines and during festivals is the place where the whole valley seems to congregate. Even when there is no festival the square teems with children, vegetable hawkers, farmers, sellers of cheap goods and the rickshaw and taxi traffic of the city.

To the west of the square is an area called Maru Tole where the 12th century Kasthamandap still stands. Originally a meeting place, it was subsequently dedicated as a temple to Goraknath, whose sealed statue rests inside.

Another place of interest in this vicinity is the Fagannath Temple, a 17th century building known for its erotic carvings. Adjacent to this may be seen a huge relief of Black Bhairav, a fearsome god of horrendous appearance supporting a headdress and garland of human skulls and holding in its three pairs of arms an array of weapons and a severed head.

At the northwestern corner of the square lies the Kot, an open courtyard where in 1846 the forefather of the Rana Dynasty, Tung Bahadur Rana, massacred a good percentage of the aristocracy of Nepal prior to overtaking the country.

Northeast along the ancient diagonal "road to Tibet" lies the commercial center of Indra Chowk, traditionally used by the sellers of textiles, now a kaleidoscope of every kind of product and produce. The four and five-story elegant though time-worn houses look down upon the mass of brightly dressed shoppers, and the smells of the spices and the songs of caged canaries assail the senses.

However one may try, it would be impossible to describe all the temples and towers, shops and markets and all the other wonders of Kathmandu. It must be experienced in all its color and variety and inimitable style.

The Mountain People of Nepal

For centuries the Nepalese people have scraped a living from the unforgiving slopes of the Himalayas. They have grown their meager crops on precipitous terraces and cut the stabilizing trees from the slopes for their fires. But only 10% of the land in Nepal is suitable for crops and the removal of trees has caused erosion to assume catastrophic proportions.

Land reform in the mid-1960s was largely unsuccessful, so that in 1976 cooperatives were organized though these, too, are slow to effect improvement. One successful aspect of Nepalese country life has been the frequency with which new schools have been built, resulting in a literacy rate of 25% as opposed to the previous negligible percentage.

The Himalayan Trust, financed by Sir Edmund Hillary (the first person to conquer Mt. Everest), has been responsible not only for the building of schools, but for clinics, hospitals and landing strips. The health of the mountain people with their poor diet and smoky and unsanitary houses has benefitted greatly from these facilities.

Rural poverty is a major problem in Nepal. Lack of food, medical care and adequate shelter and sanitation are responsible for the high mortality rate, especially among the children. Many hill farmers cannot produce enough food to feed their families and must spend part of the year looking for part-time work which is hard to find. One answer has been to migrate to the more abundant Terai, which is now showing the strain of excess population, or to India where the situation is not much better. Population continues to grow at a staggering rate despite much loss of life. The awesome terrain preludes exploitation of the mineral resources of the Himalayas and what industry exists in Nepal is mainly restricted to the Terai.

Centuries of tree removal for domestic fires and building have created an erosion problem which has resulted in the loss of much necessary agricultural land in Nepal. Work is being done both by the government and outside agencies to encourage the villagers to plant and tend trees; new plantations may be seen, often the work of school children, protected by wind-blown prayer wheels to ensure their strong growth.

Nepal is primarily dependent on India for trade, a necessity which sometimes causes unease among the population. India, together with China and to a great extent America and Britain, have provided aid in many spheres from family planning to road building.

Buddhism is the primary religion of the mountains, but many ancient beliefs predominate. A melting pot of many races, cultures, languages and religions, the Nepali people coexist in relative harmony though often quite isolated from one another, especially outside of the towns.

The best known people of the Himalayas are undoubtedly the Sherpas -- a name synonymous with the Everest expeditions. These are a people of the high mountains and, while some have found prosperity as trekking guides and mountaineers, the majority are poor, raising yaks and goats and trading throughout the mountains from India to Tibet. They subsist on grain and potatoes grown during the short season and tea flavored with yak butter. The houses are small with little ventilation and no sanitation.

They migrated from Tibet centuries ago bringing their animistic religion, their prayer wheels and banners, and establishing shrines of stone tablets. The unique headdresses of horns and fans may be seen during ceremonials, together with incredible masks and embroidered costumes, as the village invokes the protection of the gods and deliverance from demons for another year. Gifts of flour and butter are given and, over all, the sacred smoke of juniper pervades the village.

Another group of mountain people are the Thakalis who originally were salt traders plying between India and Tibet. This group has found a certain measure of affluence by expanding into many fields as organized family groups, pooling resources and knowledge to successfully run construction companies and businesses. Their villages are visibly more prosperous, some even have running water.

The Tamang, or Horse Traders, are small farmers who excel in carpentry and basket weaving. Their gompas (monasteries) are Tibetan in style and very numerous, though some of the more northerly Tamangs follow the Bonpo religion which actually predates Buddhism in Tibet. Polygamy is sometimes encountered, being heavily dependent on the financial ability of the man to sustain an extended family.

The people of the temperate middle hills are often referred to as Gurkhas (from the kingdom of Gorkha), but this does not denote a single ethnic group. Included in this designation are the Magars, hill peasants with a definite reputation for skill in warfare. Found throughout the hills of central and western Nepal, they are a Tibeto-Burman race which have adapted totally to their present location. The caste system exists in Nepal incorporating the Brahmans, Chetris, the occupational castes and untouchables much as in India. However, many deviations have occurred, many for pragmatic reasons and are quite acceptable in the society.

Tibetan influences on Nepal can be traced throughout its history, but the refugees seen in Kathmandu fled there when China annexed Tibet. Many Tibetans have relocated near Pokhara. The Tibetan community in Kathmandu numbers around 12,000. There are several Buddhist monasteries near the Bodnath and Swayanbhunath Stupas. Southwest of Patan is Jwalkhel, the largest refugee camp and a center for Tibetan handicrafts.

Virgin girls are often regarded as the incarnation of Goddess in Hindu society. In Nepal, a virgin girl from Shakya community is chosen as the Goddess Kumari which is believed to be the reincarnation of the Goddess Taleju (the other name of Goddess Durga). There are altogether 11 different Kumari in Kathmandu Valley. The prominent ones are the Kumari from Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu.

Kumari is believed to be the reincarnation of the Goddess Taleju (credit steemitimages.com)
The Kumari of Kathmandu city is also known as "Nepal Kumari" who resides in a richly decorated house on Durbar Square. It is a general belief that Goddess Taleju resides in the body of the virgin and protects the country from the bad events or evil. If Kumari is restless then it can be predicted that very bad thing is going to happen. Kumari will no longer remain Kumari if she loses her puberty, or she loses her teeth or if there is serious blood-loss from her body and the search for New Kumari begins.

History of Kumari

The history of Nepal Kumari in Nepal is believed to have started in the Malla Dynasty. There are several myths regarding the beginning of the Tradition Kumari. One popular one goes like this. JayaPrakash Malla, the King of Malla Dynasty used to play Tripasa ( a kind of dice game) with the Goddess Taleju every night in the Royal palace. The Goddess used to come everyday and stay for hours and talk about the welfare of the country with the King. The Queen was suspicious about the activity of the King and one day she decided to go to check what the King was doing. To her surprise she saw the Goddess and the King.

The Goddess disappeared when the Queen saw her. The King started to cry and prayed her to come back and take care his country and the people. Then the Goddess reappeared and told to the King that she would reappear as the virgin girl in the Shakya community. The King then started the quest for the virgin girl in Shakya community and after the proper rituals the Kumari was chosen and since then the tradition of Kumari is still going on.

Requirements for the girl to be chosen as Kumari

Kumari is believed to have supreme power. That is why the King of the Nepal used to bow and take blessing from him as well. Now when there is no monarch the President of Nepal takes the blessing from her.

Life Style of Kumari

The people can always go to the Kumari house in Kathmandu Durbar Square and take the blessing from her. The biggest festival when Kumari is put into chariot and taken to the whole city is the Macchindranath Jatra. Macchindranath is the festival celebrated after the name of God Indra who is the symbol of rain according to Nepali culture. This festival is celebrated for 8 days. On the third day of this festival, Ganesh, Kumari, and Bhairab are taken out in a procession in a chriot and this will last for three days. Macchindranath Jatra is celebrated in the September month.

Kumari lives in Kumari Ghar which a store-house of magnificent intricate carvings where she performs her daily rituals. The Guthi sansthan, the government trust bears her entire expenses during her tenure. A Kumari will no longer remain a kumari once she loses her puberty or loses her teeth or there is serious blood loss from her body.

The Amazing Nepal

Nepal is one of the smallest countries of the world. Nepal covers only 0.3 % of the total land area of Asia and 0.03% of the total land area of the world. It is the landlocked country that lies in the lap of two giant nations; India in the East, West & South and China in the North. This country is on the developing phase. Though being a small country in the world Nepal is full of natural beauty, unique features and cultural diversity.

Rhododendron is the national flower and cow is regarded as the national animal. Similarly, Lophophorus (Himalayan Monal) is the national bird of Nepal. Previously, Dhaka Topi and Daura Suruwal for men used to be the national dress of Nepal. But, nowadays cultural dresses of all the ethnic groups are considered as the national dress of Nepal. Nepal used to be the only kingdom in the world. But, after dethroning King Gyanendra Nepal has become the secular state.

In this small country there are about 125 ethnic groups and all of them are leaving respecting each other. Similarly, there is religious tolerance in Nepal. Even a single drop of blood has not been shed in Nepal for the sake of religion. Nepal is culturally rich country. In Nepal, majority of people follow Hinduism. According to the 2011 census report of Nepal, 84.2% of the Nepalese follow Hinduism, 9.0% people follow Buddhism, 4.4% people follow Muslim, 3.0% people follow Kirat, 1.42% follow Christianity, and 0.9% follow other religions like Jainism, Vaisnavism etc.

Similarly, if we talk about land features of Nepal, Nepal is the only country having extreme topographic variation ranging from 70 meter to 8848 meter from the sea level. Nepal has the world's highest peak Mt. Everest at an altitude of 8,848 meter from sea level. Similarly, Nepal has been distributed into three ecological regions; Himalayan, Hilly and Terai. Himalayan region covers 20% of total land area, Hilly region covers 63% of the total land area, and 17% of the total land area is covered by Terai.

Terai region is known as the granary of Nepal. According to census report of 2011, 73.9% of people are fully depended on agriculture. Though, 73.9% percent Nepalese are fully dependent on agriculture only 28.7% of Nepal's land area is arable. Nepal has more than 6000 rivers and tributaries. Nepal is the second largest country in terms of water resource.

Nepal is dependent on other countries mostly due its landlocked features. Nepal is a country which has been exporting raw materials and importing finished goods. Hence, Nepal is bearing trade deficit since long time. Nepal is very rich country in terms of resources. But, the resources have not been used in its full extent. Research have shown that Nepal has the potentiality to produce 83,000 Megawatt electricity from the fast flowing rivers but unfortunately due to lack of huge investment in these sector Nepal has been able to produce only 1% of its total potential capacity. To be a developed country in the world, firstly Nepal must not depend on other countries in terms of hydropower.

As Nepal is the country full of natural attractions, Nepal can be the suitable tourism destination for the nature lover tourists. In Nepal, the tourists can go for a bush walk, jungle safari, elephant ride, hunting, white water rafting, honey hunting, bird watching, etc. Similarly, Nepal is also the suitable tourism destination for adventure lover tourists as well as culture lovers. Nepal is very in culture and traditions. Within this small area Nepal is a settlement of more than 120 ethnic groups. Some of the ethnic groups are on the verge of extinction; Kusunda is one of them. Raute, Chepang, etc are the other ethnic groups that are in the context of losing their identity.

In Nepal still there are ethnic groups that are living in the primitive ages. Nepali people have been protecting their culture for commercial purpose too. Protecting the culture has been an income source for Tharu community people. They have been earning handsome amount for showing their cultural dances and serving their local cuisine for the tourists. Most of the tourists visiting Chitwan often don't miss watching Tharu cultural shows and eating Tharu cuisine.

Nepal is the country having great historical importance. Nepal is the country of "Gurkhas". Nepal is the only independent country in the world. Though Gurkha soldiers lacked modern arms and ammunitions, they protected Nepal's territory from British colonization by showing their bravery and courage. Nepali people feel proud to talk about their history. Three of the world heritage sites in Kathmandu valley; Kathmandu durbar square, Bhaktapur durbar square and Patan durbar square highlight the historical significance of Nepal. These durbars were built by the Malla Kings. History lover tourists can visit these areas to know about the Nepalese history. In Nepal tourists can learn about the history related with Lichchhivi, Malla and Shah Dynasty. They can also watch the historical monuments, inscriptions, etc.

Nepal is also the important tourist destination for the religious tourists. Nepal is the birth place of Gautam Buddha. Gautam Buddha was born in Nepal in 6th century BC in Lumbini. Similarly, there is a belief among the Hindus that various gods and deities lived in Nepal. It is also the birthplace of Sita (wife of Lord Ram). Pashupatinath is one of the most popular Hindu temples all over the world.

Around 1 million people visit Pashupatinath on the day of Shivaratri (believed to be the day Lord Shiva was born). Mostly the pilgrims coming to Nepal are Hindus and Buddhists. India, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, China, Thailand, and many other Asian tourists visit Nepal for pilgrimage purpose. The only Living Goddess of the world Kumari is found in Nepal. Muktinath is the temple that is worshipped by both Hindu and Buddhists.

Nepal is also unique for vegetation. Nepal is the habitat for various endangered wild species of birds and animals.

Some famous religious temples and stupas in Nepal are:

  • Pashupatinath
  • Muktinath
  • Manakamana
  • Swayambhunath
  • Bauddhanath
  • Baraha Chhetra
  • Lumbini
  • Changunarayan
  • Budhanlkantha
  • Dakshinkali
  • Pathibhara Devi
  • Palanchok Bhagwati
  • Dolakha Bhimsen

Some famous places to visit in Nepal are:

  • Khaptad National Park
  • Sagarmatha National Park
  • Chitwan National Park
  • Annapurna Conservation Area
  • Kathmandu Durbar Square
  • Bhaktapur Durbar Square
  • Patan Durbar Square
  • Kumari Temple
  • Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve
  • Pokhara
  • Nagarkot
  • Dhulikhel
  • Rara National park
  • Shey Phoksundo National Park
  • Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve
  • Upper & Lower Dolpo
  • Upper & Lower Mustang
  • Bardia National Park

Some famous trekking routes are:

  • Annapurna region
  • Everest Base Camp
  • Upper Dolpo and Lower Dolpo
  • The Great Himalayan Trial
  • Upper Mustang & Lower Mustang
  • Langtang region
  • Rara Lake Trek

Some major mountain peaks in Nepal are:

  • Mt. Everest
  • Mt. Lhotse
  • Mt Cho oyu
  • Mt. Kanchenjunga
  • Mt. Makalu
  • Mt. Manaslu
  • Mt. Dhaulagiri
  • Mt. Annapurna

Unique features of Nepal:

  • Nepal is the country where Lord Buddha was born.
  • Nepal is the Land of Himalayas. More than one third Himalayan ranges of the world lies in Nepal.
  • Nepal is the home of world's highest peak Mt. Everest.
  • Nepal is the country with unique flag. Flag off Nepal is non-rectangular in shape.
  • Nepal is the only country where one horned rhino is found.
  • Spiny Babbler is the bird found only in Nepal.
  • Nepal is the only country with the Living Goddess "Kumari"
  • Nepal is the only country that has 7 World heritage sites within the distance of 15 km
  • Kaligandaki gorge is the world's deepest gorge (1200 meters)
  • Tilicho Lake in Nepal is the lake located at the highest altitude (4800 meters)
  • Everest View Hotel in Nepal is the hotel situated at highest altitude. (3962 meters)
  • Arun Valley is the valley located at an highest altitude.
  • Nepal is the only country with the extreme altitude variations ranging from 70 meters to the world's highest 8848 meters.
  • Though 81.3 % of the people in Nepal are Hindu, Nepal is a secular state.
  • Nepal has great cultural and historical importance as far as world history is considered. For instance, Siddhartha Gautama commonly known as the Buddha (the enlightened one) was born at Lumbini Gardens. It also houses the one of the most holy sites of Hinduism called the Pashupatinath temple at Kathmandu, the capital city.
It is thought that the world Nepal is derived from "Newar". Newar is a group of people indigenous to Nepal that have lived in the Kathmandu valley for centuries. It also refers to the Newar Kingdom. Some historians are of the view that the prefix "Ne" refers to the Hindu holy sage called "Ne Muni" who lived in the Himalayas and hence the name of Nepal. It is here that the sage lived and preached his doctrines.

Nepal is the home of several cultures and languages. Broadly speaking these include Mongolian, Indo-European and Tibeto-Burman. These can then be further divided in Nepali, Maithili, Tharu, Bhojpuri, Tamang, Awadhi, Limbu and Rai languages. Of these languages, Nepali is spoken by nearly 50% of the population. Some if not all of these languages are also spoken in neighbouring India. All of these languages are written in the Devanagri script derived from Sanskrit.

The History of Nepal - History In The Dust