Archaeological studies carried out in the Himalayan region of Nepal have suggested that the territory has been inhabited for more than 9,000 years, especially by the ethnic Kirant population over the last 2500 years. Excerpts from various Sanskrit and Hindu scriptures such as the Skand Purana, Narayana Puja and Atharyva Siras (800-800BC) have cited the various ancient historical developments that have occurred in the Nepal region. Around the turn of 10th century BC, the region was divided into hundreds of tiny kingdoms and confederations formed by various tribes and clans. It was during this period that Siddharta Gautama (5th century BC), the founder of Buddhism was born as heir to the throne of the Shakya confederation. A few centuries later the region was controlled by the first Indian Imperial power, the Mauryan Empire, whose architect was Changdragupta Maurya. During the rule of the Gupta Dynasty in 4th century AD, Nepalese kings came under direct
control of the Gupta Empire, thereby becoming another vassal state in the region again. The following century saw the emergence of the Licchavis (predominantly based in the Kathmandu valley) to power. They ruled Nepal for the next few centuries and are credited for overseeing the growth of the first truly Nepali state. By 879 AD, a new ruling class had emerged that ushered in the Newari era. At the turn of the 11th century AD, the regions of southern Nepal were under the influence of the Chalukya Empire (South India), which led to the region becoming predominantly Hindu in their religious beliefs.
Nepal in the 12th century, much like the past, was ruled by a motley of leaders who had their own little kingdoms, until the Mallas (from the wrestler’s clan) consolidated power and made their dominion more manageable in the form of larger territories for fewer kings. This era came to a close after two centuries and was followed by a wholesome unification of the whole Nepal region. Yet again, this arrangement crumbled, giving way to the creation of three kingdoms called Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. History repeated itself yet again as the three kingdoms envied and mistrusted each other further deepening the incompatibility of their existence side by side.
Frustrated by the intransigence of the three rulers, a Gorkha king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, with the patronage and promised neutrality of Indian kings at the Nepali-Indian border went on to unify the kingdom in 1768 AD after a three year struggle which culminated in the bloodless occupation of the Kathmandu valley, the citizens of which were celebrating Indra Jatra (a Newar festival). People in Nepal today have another reason to celebrate this day: the birth of the Nepali state. The reunification of Nepal led to an expansion of the nation towards both east, west and south which led to wars with Tibet and the British East India Company (Anglo-Nepalese War) during the early years of the 19th century. Their abject failure at victory during these wars led to various treatises being signed. This resulted in Nepal ceding Tista (East) and the southern lands of Terai to the British East Trading Company, territories such as Kangara (West) to Tibet and eventually Sikkim to it’s former rulers. However their enemies were to leave impressed with the courage, bravery and fearlessness displayed by the Gurkhas.
Less than a century later, the Rana lineage took over the country after a military leader called Jung Bahadur Rana became king following a civil war that pitted the royal family against the military. Building his reputation as a dependable ally to the British by assisting the British during the Sepoy Rebellion (1857) and the two World Wars, this era witnessed the British give back parts of the Terai region. Subsequently in 1923 the UK and Nepal saw ties further cemented with the signing of the friendship treaty between the two countries leading to Nepal being recognized as an independent state. A year later, Nepal saw the abolition of slavery.
As the Rana lineage became more autocratic over the decades, pro-democracy groups launched an effort to hold elections and take the country towards a form of government resembling a constitutional monarchy. During this period India, worried about the recent invasion of Tibet by the Chinese sought to bolster it’s influence over Nepal by providing not just military and developmental aid but also support for a system of government that sponsored both King Tribhuvan in 1951 and a democratic government, which was mainly comprised of by the NCP (Nepali Congress Party). This resulted in an often irritable relationship between the king and the NPC which resulted in the abolition of the democratic side of the arrangement in 1959.
It was a matter of 3 decades before the “Jan Andolan” (People’s Movement) finally made the king accept multiparty democracy and democratic reforms in 1991. The year 1996 saw the birth of a party called the Communit Party of Nepal (Maoist) with an agenda of creating a socialist form of government with the king removed entirely from power. After countless deaths during the Maoist insurgency and an unfortunate massacre at the royal palace which obliterated the ruling family, King Gyanendra ascended to the throne and shortly thereafter, dissolved the ruling party and the government. This was followed by a large scale war between the Royal Nepal Army and the Maoists which
claimed many more lives before a ceasefire was announced by both sides. With waning support for the king from all levels of the Nepali populace as well as the recently elected constitutional assembly, the monarchy was abolished in 2008 and this event ushered in a new Nepal as a federal republic.
Presently, Nepal’s largest party is the Communist Party of Nepal followed by the Nepali Congress with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) at a close third.