The toponym "Nepal" may derive 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. Thus, it may be an Eastern equivalent of the European toponym "Piedmont." It has also been suggested that the name comes from the Tibetan niyampal
, which means "holy land". A third theory suggests that Nepal came from the word NE which means wool and PAL means tented house. 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
Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. Documented references reach back to the first millennium BCE, when ancient Indian epics such as the Mahabharata mention the Kiratas
, the inhabitants of Nepal. It appears that people who were probably of Tibeto-Burman ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago. The Ramayana, which dates from an era before the Mahabharata, states that Mithila, currently known as Janakpur in Nepal, is the birth place of goddess Sita. Also, the presence of historical sites, e.g., Valmik ashram, indicates the presence of Aryan culture in Nepal at that period.
Birth of Buddhism
Aryan tribes began arriving around 1500 BCE from the northwest. Around 1000 BCE, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the region. One of the earliest confederations was that of the Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu, near the present-day border with India. One of its princes was Gautama Buddha Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BCE), who renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the ''''Buddha'''' ("the enlightened one"). By 260 BCE, most of North India northern India was ruled by the Maurya Empire. Although not all of Nepal was under Maurya rule, there is evidence of at least the influence of Ashoka Ashoka the Great—the ruler of the Maurya Empire from 273 BCE 273 to 232 BCE after his father chandragupta had died. and a convert to Buddhism—have been found in the Kathmandu Valley. In the fourth century CE, the area fell under the Gupta Empire. Though all of Nepal wasn''t under the direct control of the Gupta''s, they have had an influence on its culture.
Main article: Licchavi
Between about 400 and 750 AD, Nepal''s present capital Kathmandu was ruled by the Licchavi kingdom. Archaeological evidence for this period mainly consists of stonework inscriptions, reckoned on two separate, consecutive eras. The former, Åšaka era has an epoch corresponding to 78 AD, whereas the latter Aṃshuvarmā or Mānadeva 2 era reckons from 576.
Whilst most such inscriptions list the dates and commissioners of stonework construction, some communicate royal edicts, religious mantras or historical notes. It is through the corroboration of local myths with such evidence that a people prior to the Licchavi have been identified, known as the Kirata. Of these people very little is known.
The Licchavi rulers arranged for the documentation of information on politics, society, and the economy in the region. Most of the Licchavi records—written in Sanskrit—are deeds reporting donations to religious foundations, predominantly Hindu temples; and the last such record was added in 733.
Map of Nepal
The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By the late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal''s religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.
By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended wsuffix malla
("wrestler"). Arimalla was the first king of this dynasty, which was initially marked by upheaval before the kings consolidated their power over the next 200 years.
Three medieval kingdoms
Hindu temples in Patan, the capital one of the three medieval kingdoms
Thirteenth-century Nepal was occasionally pillaged by the Delhi Sultanate of northern India, and was marked by increased militarisation.
By the late 14th century much of the country came under the rule of the king Jayasthitimalla, who managed to unite most of the fragmented power bases. This unity was short-lived: in 1482 the kingdom was carved into three: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon.
Modern Nepal was created in the latter half of the 18th century when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom. It is a misconception that the Gurkhas took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal. The region was given its name after the Gurkhas had established their control of these areas. Gurkha, also spelt as Gorkha, are people from Nepal who take their name from the legendary eighth century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. Gurkhas claim descent from the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmins of Northern India, who entered modern Nepal from the west.
After decades of rivalry between the medieval kingdoms, Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu valley and the creation of a single state, which he achieved in 1768. Between 1717 and 1733, the Nepalese in the west and Bhutanese in the east attacked Sikkim many times, culminating with the destruction of the capital Rabdentse by the Nepalese. The Sikkim king fled to Tibet. After Shah''s death, the Shah dynasty began to expand their kingdom into India. Between 1788 and 1791, Nepal invaded Tibet and robbed Tashilhunpo Monastery of Shigatse. Alarmed, the Chinese emperor Qianlong dispatched a sizeable army that forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy repatriations.
After 1800, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved unable to maintain firm political control over Nepal. A period of internal turmoil followed. Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), in which Nepal suffered a complete rout. The Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, ceding parts of the Terrai and Sikkim to the British in exchange for Nepalese autonomy.
Rani (Queen) of Nepal surrounded by her Ladies-in-Waiting, 1920
Factionalism among the royal family led to a period of instability after the war. In 1846, Queen Rajendralakshmi plotted to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader who was presenting a threat to her power. The plot was uncovered and the queen had several hundred princes and chieftains executed after an armed clash between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen. This came to be known as the Kot Massacre. However, Bahadur emerged victorious and founded the Rana lineage. The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Rana regime, a tightly centralized autocracy, pursued a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences. This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence during the colonial era, but it also impeded the country''s economic development.
The Ranas were staunchly pro-British, and assisted the British during the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, and later in both World Wars.
In 1923 Britain and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal''s independence was recognised by the British.
Main article: Democracy movement in Nepal
With the annexation of Tibet by the Chinese in 1950, India faced