Brief History of Nepal
The name Nepal
There is still no proven theory that explains how Nepal derived its name. Some say it is derived from Nepa: the language of Newars, as the old name of Kathmandu valley was Nepa. Another theory states that the name may have been a derivation from the Sanskrit nipalaya, which means "at the foot of the mountains" or "abode at the foot", a reference to its location in relation to the Himalayas. It has also been suggested that the name comes from the Tibetan niyampal, which means "holy land". Yet another theory suggests that Nepal came from the word NE which means wool and PAL means tented house. A long time ago, Nepal used to produce a lot of wool and the houses were used to store the wool, hence the word NE-PAL.
Though its origin is still under controversy one states that the name Nepal is supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit word "NEP" with the suffix 'AL" added to the word. NEP were the people who used to be cow dwellers, the GOPALS, who came to the Nepal valley for the first time from the Ganges plain of India.
According to the records, the history of Nepal began with the Kiratis, who arrived in the 7th or 8th century BC from the east. It was during this period that Buddhism first came to the country. In the 3rd century, Buddhism had waned and was replaced by Hinduism and the caste system, brought by the Licchavis from the Northern India who invaded and overthrew the last Kirati king. By 879, the Licchavi era had petered out and was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty. A grim period of instability and invasion often referred to as the 'Dark Ages' followed, but Kathmandu Valley's strategic location ensured the kingdom's survival with the establishment of Kantipur, now known as Kathmandu in the 10th century.
The Malla period (1200-1769), Shah period (1769-1846) and Rana period (1846-1951)
Several centuries later, the Thakuri king, Arideva, founded the Malla dynasty, kick-starting another renaissance of Nepali culture. The Valley existed out of three major cities: Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, each with their own Malla King and army. Despite earthquakes, the odd invasion and feuding between the independent city-states of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the dynasty flourished because of its unique trade location, reaching its peak in the 15th century under Yaksha Malla.
Two centuries later in the latter half of the 18th century Prithivi Narayan Shah the ruler of the small state (Gorkha) formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states, hereby establishing the country Nepal, and in 1768 he took over the Kathmandu Valley. Many disputes, small wars and peace treaties with the Chinese in the North and the British in the South made the Nepalese close their border and remain isolated from the outside world.
In 1846 the ‘Kot Massacre’ took place, killing many important people and soldiers and power was taken by Jung Bahadur Rana. Throughout the Rana period, the Shah kings sat on the throne but enjoyed no power. This was given to the role of Prime Minister, occupied by the Rana family who led a luxurious life and were supported by the British.
From 1951 onward
In 1951, after the World War II with the retreat of the British from India, the Shah king took over the power, opened the border and proclaimed a constitutional monarchy. In 1959 the first elections took place but the new government was quickly banned by King Mahendra who took complete control. Years of unrest and corruption followed until in 1989 the King accepted the role of constitutional monarch and in May 1991 elections followed.
Political instability was the keyword for the next ten years until the hapless incident of the Royal Massacre took place on the first of June 2001, killing King Birendra, the Crown Prince Dipendra and 9 other members of the Royal family. Eventually, Gyanendra, the late King's younger brother became the new King. The Maoist rebellion escalated and the King dismissed the government in October 2002, calling it corrupt and inefficient, thus taking over complete control. Power shifted from the King to new unstable governments and the Maoist clashes continued, resulting in the existence of a state of emergency which was called on and off.
The Maoist rebels and the political parties signed a landmark peace agreement in November 2006, joining together against the King and ending the guerrilla’s 10-year insurgency. In 2008 elections were held, leading to a majority for the Maoists and Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic, abolishing a 240 years old monarchy, the only Hindu Kingdom in the world.