Definitions

Nepal

Nepal

[nuh-pawl, -pahl, -pal, ney-]
Nepal, independent nation (2005 est. pop. 27,677,000), c.54,000 sq mi (139,860 sq km), central Asia. Landlocked and isolated by the Himalayas, Nepal is bordered on the west, south, and east by India, and on the N by the Tibet region of China. Katmandu is the capital.

Land and People

Geographically, Nepal comprises three major areas. The south, known as the Terai, is a comparatively low region of cultivable land, swamps, and forests that provide valuable timber. In the north is the main section of the Himalayas, including Mt. Everest (29,035 ft/8,850 m), the world's highest peak. Nepal's major rivers, which rise in Tibet, rush through deep Himalayan gorges. Central Nepal, an area of moderately high mountains, contains the Katmandu valley, or Valley of Nepal, the country's most densely populated region and its administrative, economic, and cultural center. Nepal's railroads, connecting with lines in India, do not reach the valley, which is served by a highway and a bridgelike cable line. There are a few other modern highways.

The population of Nepal is the result of a long intermingling of Mongolians, who migrated from the north (especially Tibet), and peoples who came from the Ganges plain in the south. The chief ethnic group, the Newars, were probably the original inhabitants of the Katmandu valley. Other groups include the Chettris, Brahmans, Magars, Tharus, and Gurungs. Several ethnic groups are classified together as Bhotias; among them are the Sherpas, famous for guiding mountain-climbing expeditions, and the Gurkhas, a term sometimes loosely applied to the fighting castes, who achieved fame in the British Indian army and continue to serve as mercenaries in India's army and in the British overseas forces. Nepali, the country's official language, is an Indo-European language and has similarities to Hindi. Tibeto-Burman languages, Munda languages, and various Indo-Aryan dialects are also spoken. About 80% of the people are Hindu, about 10% are Tibetan Buddhists (see Tibetan Buddhism), and there are smaller groups of Muslims and others. Tribal and caste distinctions are still important. The royal family is Hindu, and until 2006 the country was officially a Hindu kingdom. The entrenched caste system and rural poverty provided fertile ground for the Maoist insurgency that began in the 1990s.

Economy

Some 75% of Nepal's people engage in agriculture, which contributes about 40% of the GDP. In the Terai, the main agricultural region, rice is the chief crop; other food crops include pulses, wheat, barley, sugarcane, and oilseeds. Jute, tobacco, cotton, indigo, and opium are also grown in the Terai, whose forests provide sal wood and commercially valuable bamboo and rattan. In the lower mountain valleys, rice is produced during the summer, and wheat, barley, oilseeds, potatoes, and vegetables are grown in the winter. Corn, wheat, and potatoes are raised at higher altitudes, and terraced hillsides are also used for agriculture. Medicinal herbs, grown on the Himalayan slopes, are sold worldwide. Livestock raising is second to farming in Nepal's economy; oxen predominate in the lower valleys, yaks in the higher, and sheep, goats, and poultry are plentiful everywhere.

Transportation and communication difficulties have hindered the growth of industry and trade. Biratnagar and Birganj, in the Terai, are the main manufacturing towns, and Katmandu also has some industry. There are rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; other products include carpets, textiles, cigarettes, and building materials. Wood and metal handicrafts are also important. Significant quantities of mica and small deposits of ochre, copper, iron, lignite, and cobalt are found in the hills of Nepal. Hydropower is the main source of electricity in Nepal, and there are plans to further develop the potential of the nation's rivers.

Tourism, a chief source of foreign exchange (along with international aid and Gurkha pensions), has been hurt by the escalation of the conflict with the country's Maoist rebels. Carpets, clothing, leather and jute goods, and grain are exported; imports include gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products, and fertilizer. Nepal's trade is overwhelmingly with India. In recent years, significant deforestation and a growing population have greatly affected the country.

Government

An interim constitution adopted in Jan., 2007, transferred the executive power of the Nepalese monarch to the prime minister and established a 330-seat Interim Parliament, which was replaced by an elected 601-seat Constituent Assembly in 2008. The assembly, which is also an interim body, is responsible for both acting as Nepal's legislature and writing a new constitution. Administratively, the country is divided into 14 zones.

History

To the Mid-Twentieth Century

By the 4th cent. A.D. the Newars of the central Katmandu valley had apparently developed a flourishing Hindu-Buddhist culture. From the 8th-11th cent. many Buddhists fled to Nepal from India, and a group of Hindu Rajput warriors set up the principality of Gurkha just west of the Katmandu valley. Although a Newar dynasty, the Mallas, ruled the valley from the 14th-18th cent., there were internecine quarrels among local rulers. These were exploited by the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, who conquered the Katmandu valley in 1768.

Gurkha armies seized territories far beyond the present-day Nepal; but their invasion of Tibet, over which China claimed sovereignty, was defeated in 1792 by Chinese forces. An ensuing peace treaty forced Nepal to pay China an annual tribute, which continued until 1910. Also in 1792, Nepal first entered into treaty relations with Great Britain. Gurkha expansion into N India, however, led to a border war (1814-16) and to British victory over the Gurkhas, who were forced by treaty to retreat into roughly the present borders of Nepal and to receive a British envoy at Katmandu.

The struggle for power among the Nepalese nobility culminated in 1846 with the rise to political dominance of the Rana family. Jung Bahadur Rana established a line of hereditary prime ministers, who controlled the government until 1950, and the Shah dynasty kings were mere figureheads. In 1854, Nepal again invaded Tibet, which was forced to pay tribute from then until 1953.

Under the Ranas, Nepal was deliberately isolated from foreign influences; this policy helped to maintain independence during the colonial period but prevented economic and social modernization. Relations with Britain were cordial, however, and in 1923 a British-Nepalese treaty expressly affirmed Nepal's full sovereignty. Nepal supplied many troops for the British army in both world wars.

Recent History

The successful Indian movement for independence (1947) stimulated democratic sentiment in Nepal. The newly formed Congress party of Nepal precipitated a revolt in 1950 that forced the autocratic Ranas to share power in a new cabinet. King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram, who sympathized with the democratic movement, took temporary refuge in India and returned (1951) as a constitutional monarch. In 1959 a democratic constitution was promulgated, and parliamentary elections gave the Congress party a clear majority.

The following year, however, King Mahendra (reigned 1956-72) cited alleged inefficiency and corruption in government as evidence that Nepal was not ready for Western-style democracy. He dissolved parliament, detained many political leaders, and in 1962 inaugurated a system of "basic democracy," based on the elected village council (panchayat) and working up to district and zonal panchayats and an indirectly elected national panchayat. Political parties were banned, and the king was advised by a council of appointed ministers. King Mahendra carried out a land reform that distributed large holdings to landless families, and he instituted a law removing the legal sanctions for caste discrimination. Crown Prince Birenda succeeded to the throne (1972) upon his father's death; like previous Nepalese monarchs, he married a member of the Rana family in order to ensure political peace.

Prior to 1989, Nepal maintained a position of nonalignment in foreign affairs, carefully balancing relationships with China, the USSR, the United States, and India. The USSR and the United States were major aid donors. A 1956 treaty with China recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and officially terminated the century-old Tibetan tribute to Nepal; all Nepalese troops left Tibet in 1957. The Sino-Nepalese border treaty of 1961 defined Nepal's Himalayan frontier.

India's geographical proximity, cultural affinity, and substantial economic aid render it the most influential foreign power in Nepal, but its military and political interference in Nepal's affairs has been a constant source of worry for the government. In 1969, Nepal canceled an arms agreement with India and ordered the Indians to withdraw their military mission from Katmandu and their listening posts from the Tibet-Nepal frontier. In 1989 the Indian government closed its borders with Nepal to all economic traffic, bringing Nepal's economy to a standstill. During the early 1990s, Nepal developed closer ties with China. In the 1980s and 1990s thousands of ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan were forced to take up residence in UN refugee camps in Nepal. In 2003 an agreement was reached that allowed some of the refugees to return to Bhutan, but most remained in camps in Nepal. Some began being resettled overseas in 2008.

Weeks of street protests and general strikes forced King Birenda to proclaim (Nov., 1990) a new constitution that legalized political parties, asserted human rights, abolished the panchayat system, and vastly reduced the king's powers in a constitutional monarchy. In the 1991 parliamentary elections, the centrist Nepali Congress party won a slim majority and formed a government, which collapsed in 1994. Following a succession of failed coalition governments, the Congress party once again won a majority in the 1999 legislative elections, and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai became prime minister. Meanwhile, a Maoist insurgency began in rural Nepal during the mid-1990s.

In Mar., 2000, concern within the Congress party over Bhattarai's administration forced his resignation, and Girija Prasad Koirala became prime minister, holding the office for the fourth time. The king and many members of the royal family were killed in June, 2001, by the crown prince, apparently because of his parents' objection to his proposed marriage; the prince committed suicide. The king's brother, Prince Gyanendra, succeeded to throne; Gyanendra, unlike Birenda, had opposed the 1990 constitution.

In July, 2001, Koirala resigned and Sher Bahadur Deuba, also of the Nepali Congress party, became prime minister. In November negotiations with the Maoist rebels broke down and serious fighting began; the rebels won control of a significant portion of Nepal. In May, 2002, Congress party infighting led Deuba to dissolve parliament and seek new elections, which prompted the party to expel him and call for his cabinet to resign, which mostly did not. When Dueba called (Oct., 2002) for the postponement of elections for a year, the king removed him from office and named Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a former prime minister and monarchist, to the post. Elections were postponed indefinitely.

In Jan., 2003, a cease-fire was signed with the rebels, and negotiations began, although there were occasional violations of the cease-fire. In May growing opposition demonstrations against the government led Chand to resign, but hopes for a compromise with the opposition were dashed when the king named Surya Bahadur Thapa, a royalist, as prime minister and effectively brought all of the country's administrative powers under control of the crown. The rebels withdrew from the inconclusive negotiations in Aug., 2003, and fighting between government troops and rebel forces soon resumed. Neither the army nor the Maoists gained full control of the countryside, parliament remained dissolved, and there were increasing public protests against the king.

In Apr., 2004, the king promised to hold parliamentary elections in 2005. The following month the prime minister resigned, and in June the king appointed Deuba to the post. Deuba subsequently formed a broad-based coalition government. Despite government offensives against the rebels, they remained strong enough to enforce their will. In August and December the rebels again called successful blockades of the capital; they also began forcing the closure of a number of businesses.

Declaring that the cabinet had failed, the king dismissed the government in Feb., 2005, and declared a state of emergency, placing opposition figures under arrest. He assumed direct control of the government as chairman of a new cabinet. Many political prisoners were released in April, and the emergency ended in May, but the king retained the powers he had assumed. In July, 2005, Deuba and several others were convicted and sentenced on corruption charges by an anticorruption commission established by the king.

Nepal's two largest parties, the Congress and the Communist (United Marxist-Leninist), subsequently ended their support for a constitutional monarchy, and in September the Maoist rebels declared a three-month cease-fire. Nepal's opposition parties and the rebels agreed in Nov., 2005, jointly to support the reestablisment of constitutional democracy in the country, and the rebels then extended their cease-fire for a month. In Jan., 2006, however, the rebels announced the cease-fire would end because the government had continued its operations against them. By April, when the king offered to restore a democratic government, the situation in the country had become even more troubled, with the prodemocracy demonstrations and the government response to them increasingly confrontational and violent.

The reinstatement of parliament in April ushered in a rapid series of governmental changes. Koirala again became prime minister, and his government respond to the rebels' three-month cease-fire with an indefinite one. The monarchy was stripped of its powers and privileges, although not abolished, and Nepal was declared a secular nation. The government began talks with the rebels, who in June agreed in principle to join an interim government. Some 16,000 people are believed to have died in the country's decade-long civil war.

A Nov., 2006, accord called for the rebels to join the government and assemble in camps and place their weapons under UN supervision, and the following month an interim constitution under which the monarch was not head of state was agreed to. The question of the ultimate abolition of the monarchy was left to a constituent assembly that would be elected in 2007. Human-rights groups accused the rebels, however, of continuing to engage in extortion and conscription. In Jan., 2007, the rebels joined the interim parliament and the interim constitution came into effect; in April they joined a new interim government. Although some 31,000 rebels were in camps by late February, far fewer numbers of weapons had been sequestered. Also in January, long-simmering resentment of the native peoples of the Terai, known as Madhesis, led to protests and violence in S Nepal as the Madhesis pressed their demands for autonomy for the Terai. Although the government subsequently reached an agreement with the Madhesis, violence in the region continued throughout the year.

The government and the Maoists agreed to hold elections for the assembly in late 2007, and in June, 2007, parliament passed a constitutional amendment giving it the power to abolish the monarchy. The government later voted to nationalize the royal palaces and other royal property. The rebels withdrew from the government in Sept., 2007, demanding the monarchy be abolished before any elections, and the assembly elections were subsequently postponed into 2008. In Dec., 2007, the parliament voted to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic in Apr., 2008, after the constituent assembly elections; the Maoists then returned to the government.

In Feb., 2008, resurgent unhappiness in the Terai with the government led to a Madhesi strike and blockade that kept fuel and other supplies from Katmandu. The Maoists were accused of intimidating both voters and opposing candidates in rural areas in the campaigning for the April vote, but in the balloting for assembly members the Maoists led all other parties, doing well in both rural and urban areas and winning more than a third of the seats. At the constituent assembly's first meeting (May, 2008) its members voted to abolish the monarchy. The following month, after Maoists resigned from their cabinet seats, Prime Minister Koirala resigned.

In July, Nepal's first president, Ram Baran Yadav, was elected by the assembly with the support of Nepal's major non-Maoist parties. Yadav, a Madhesi and member of the Congress party, defeated the Maoist-backed candidate when Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum switched its support to Yadav. However, the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda, was elected prime minister with the support of most of the major parties in Aug., 2008. Prachanda resigned as prime minister in May, 2009, when the president reversed Prachanda's firing of the army chief, who was accused of disobeying government orders; Madhav Kumar Nepal, a Communist, subsequently became prime minister. The Maoists subsequently mounted protests against the president, calling for an apology, but the government refused to negotiate.

Bibliography

See D. R. Regni, Medieval Nepal (4 vol., 1965-66); N. B. Thapa and D. P. Thapa, Geography of Nepal (enl. and rev. ed. 1969); I. R. Aryal and T. P. Dhungyal, A New History of Nepal (1970); R. S. Chauhan, The Political Development in Nepal, 1950-70 (1972) and Society and State Building in Nepal (1988); J. Whelpton, Nepal (1990); B. Crossette, So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas (1995); S. B. Ortner, Life and Death on Mt. Everest (1999); J. Gregson, Massacre at the Palace: The Doomed Royal Dynasty of Nepal (2002).

Country, southern Asia. Area: 56,827 sq mi (147,181 sq km). Population (2007): 28,196,000. Capital: Kathmandu. Most of the people are Nepalese of Indo-Aryan ancestry; there is a significant minority of Tibeto-Nepalese peoples. Languages: Nepali (official), English, various others. Religions: Hinduism; also Buddhism, Islam. Currency: Nepalese rupee. Nepal contains some of the most rugged mountainous terrain in the world. The Great Himalayas, including Mount Everest, are in its central and northern parts. As a result of its years of geographic and self-imposed isolation, it is one of the world's least-developed countries. Its market economy is mostly based on agriculture, including livestock raising; tourism is also important. The region developed under early Buddhist influence, with dynastic rule dating to about the 4th century CE. Nepal was formed into a single kingdom in 1769 and fought border wars in the 18th–19th century. Its independence was recognized by Britain in 1923. Nepal operated as a constitutional monarchy from 1959 into the early 21st century. A new constitution in 1990 restricted royal authority and accepted a democratically elected parliamentary government. Nepal signed trade agreements with India in 1997. The country was stunned in 2001 when the crown prince killed most members of the royal family, including himself. After a historic vote by a constituent assembly in 2008, the monarchy was abolished and Nepal became a multiparty republic, with the prime minister serving both as the chief of state and as the head of government.

Learn more about Nepal with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Nepal (नेपाल ) is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the north and by India to the south, east and west. The Himalaya mountain range runs across Nepal's northern and western parts, and eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest, are within its territory.

Historically, Nepal had many small kingdoms and the modern state was formed with the Unification of Nepal by Prithvi Narayan Shah on December 21, 1768. Prior to 2006, Nepal was a kingdom. Nepal is now a federal democratic republic. Its recent history has involved struggles for democratic government with periods of direct monarchic rule. From 1996 until 2006, Nepal suffered from a Civil War between government forces and guerrillas of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).

On December 28, 2007, the Interim Parliament passed a bill and declared Nepal to be a Federal Democratic Republic. The first meeting of the Constituent Assembly officially implemented that declaration on May 28, 2008.

Nepal is a multi-cultural, multi-linguistic and multi religious country. For a relatively small country, Nepal has a diverse landscape, ranging from the humid Terai plains in the south to the mountainous Himalayas in the north, which makes it a major tourist destination. Hinduism is practiced by a huge majority of the people, but the country also has a strong Buddhist tradition; Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama is located in the Terai, one of the three regions of Nepal.

The capital Kathmandu is the largest city in the country. The official language is Nepali and the state currency is the Nepalese Rupee (NPR). Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape. The blue border on the flag of Nepal signifies peace, red stands for victory in war or courage. It is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. While the curved moon is symbol of peace and calm nature of Nepalese, the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.

Etymology

Nepal Bhasa origin

The word “Nepal” is believed by scholars to be derived from the word “Nepa:” which refers to the Newar Kingdom, the present day Kathmandu Valley. With Sanskritization, the Newar word Nepa became Nepal. The Newars of present day Nepal, refer to all the inhabitants of Kathmandu valley and its peripheries (called "Nepa:") before the advent of Shah dynasty. The Nepal Sambat calendar, named after this Newar kingdom and devised 1100 years ago, is still one of the major calendars used in Nepal and testifies to its antiquity.

Ne Muni

Many historians and local traditions say that a Hindu sage named "Ne" established himself at the valley of Kathmandu during prehistoric times and that the word "Nepal" came into existence as the place protected ("pala" in Sanskrit) by the sage "Ne". The etymology of the name Nepal means, "the country looked after by Ne".

He used to perform religious ceremonies at Teku, the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. He is said by legend to have selected a pious cowherd to be the first of the many kings of the Gopala Dynasty. These rulers are said to have ruled Nepal for over 500 years. He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopal (Cowherd) Dynasty. The Gopal dynasty ruled for 621 years. Yakshya Gupta was the last king of this dynasty. However,this mythology can be challenged as no such name as Ne exists in Nepali or other Sanskrit derived languages.

According to Skanda Purana, a rishi called "Ne" or "Nemuni" used to live in Himalaya. In the Pashupati Purana, he is mentioned as a saint and a protector. He is said to have practiced penance at the Bagmati and Kesavati rivers and to have taught his doctrines there too.

Language

All the languages spoken in Nepal are national languages. Nepali is the official language of Nepal,with almost 60 percent of the population speaking it. The language which is believed to be the closest derivation from Sanskrit, was originally called Khaskura, but became known as Nepali during the 20th century. However, all languages spoken in Nepal can be used for official purposes and documentation irrespective of what the official language is.

In the capital Kathmandu, Nepal Bhasa (the Newar language) and Nepali are the most widely used language.

History

A chronology of key events

  • 1768 - Gurkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah conquers Kathmandu and lays foundations for unified kingdom.
  • 1792 - Nepalese expansion halted by defeat at hands of Chinese in Tibet.
  • 1814-16 - Anglo-Nepalese War; culminates in treaty which establishes Nepal's current boundaries.
  • 1846 - Nepal falls under sway of hereditary chief ministers known as Ranas, who dominate the monarchy and cut off country from outside world.
  • 1923 - Treaty with Britain affirms Nepal's sovereignty.
  • 1950 - Anti-Rana forces based in India form alliance with monarch.
  • 1951 - End of Rana rule. Sovereignty of crown restored and anti-Rana rebels in Nepalese Congress Party form government.
  • 1953, May 29 - New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepal's Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
  • 1955 - Nepal joins the United Nations.
  • 1955 - King Tribhuwan dies, King Mahendra ascends throne.
  • 1959 - Multi-party constitution adopted.
  • 1960 - King Mahendra seizes control and suspends parliament, constitution and party politics after Nepali Congress Party (NCP) wins elections with B. P. Koirala as premier.
  • 1962 - New constitution provides for non-party system of councils known as "panchayat" under which king exercises sole power. First elections to Rastrya Panchayat held in 1963.
  • 1972 - King Mahendra dies, succeeded by Birendra.
  • 1980 - Constitutional referendum follows agitation for reform. Small majority favours keeping existing panchayat system. King agrees to allow direct elections to national assembly - but on a non-party basis.
  • 1985 - NCP begins civil disobedience campaign for restoration of multi-party system.
  • 1986 - New elections boycotted by NCP.
  • 1989 - Trade and transit dispute with India leads to border blockade by Delhi resulting in worsening economic situation.
  • 1990 - Pro-democracy agitation co-ordinated by NCP and leftist groups. Street protests suppressed by security forces resulting in deaths and mass arrests. King Birendra eventually bows to pressure and agrees to new democratic constitution.
  • 1991 - Nepali Congress Party wins first democratic elections. Girija Prasad Koirala becomes prime minister.
  • 1994 - Koirala's government defeated in no-confidence motion. New elections lead to formation of Communist government.
  • 1995 - Communist government dissolved.
  • 1995 - Radical leftist group, the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), begins insurrection in rural areas aimed at abolishing monarch and establishing people's republic, sparking a conflict that would drag on for over a decade.
  • 1997 - Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba loses no-confidence vote, ushering in period of increased political instability, with frequent changes of prime minister.
  • 2000 - GP Koirala returns as prime minister, heading the ninth government in 10 years.
  • 2001, June 1 - King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other close relatives killed in shooting spree by drunken Crown Prince Dipendra, who then shoots himself.
  • 2001, June 4 - Prince Gyanendra crowned King of Nepal after Dipendra dies of his injuries.
  • 2001 July - Maoist rebels step up campaign of violence. Prime Minister GP Koirala quits over the violence; succeeded by Sher Bahadur Deuba.
  • 2001 November - Maoists end four-month old truce with government, declare peace talks with government failed. Launch coordinated attacks on army and police posts.
  • 2001 November - State of emergency declared after more than 100 people are killed in four days of violence. King Gyanendra orders army to crush the Maoist rebels. Many hundreds are killed in rebel and government operations in the following months.
  • 2002 May - Parliament dissolved, fresh elections called amid political confrontation over extending the state of emergency. Sher Bahadur Deuba heads interim government, renews emergency.
  • 2002 October - King Gyanendra dismisses Deuba and indefinitely puts off elections set for November. Lokendra Bahadur Chand appointed as PM.
  • 2003 January - Rebels, government declare ceasefire.
  • 2003 May-June - Lokendra Bahadur Chand resigns as PM; king appoints his own nominee Surya Bahadur Thapa as new premier
  • 2003 August - Rebels pull out of peace talks with government and end seven-month truce. The following months see resurgence of violence and frequent clashes between students/activists and police.
  • 2004 April - Nepal joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  • 2004 May - Royalist Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa resigns following weeks of street protests by opposition groups.
  • 2004 June - King Gyanendra reappoints Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister with the task of holding elections.
  • 2005, February 1 - King Gyanendra dismisses Prime Minister Deuba and his government, declares a state of emergency and assumes direct power, citing the need to defeat Maoist rebels.
  • 2005, April 30 - King lifts the state of emergency amid international pressure.
  • 2005 November - Maoist rebels and main opposition parties agree on a programme intended to restore democracy.
  • 2006 April - King Gyanendra agrees to reinstate parliament following weeks of violent strikes and protests against direct royal rule. GP Koirala is appointed as prime minister. Maoist rebels call a three-month ceasefire.
  • 2006 May - Parliament votes unanimously to curtail the king's political powers. The government and Maoist rebels begin peace talks, the first in nearly three years.
  • 2006, June 16 - Rebel leader Prachanda and PM Koirala hold talks - the first such meeting between the two sides - and agree that the Maoists should be brought into an interim government.
  • 2006 November - The government and Maoists sign a peace accord, declaring a formal end to a 10-year rebel insurgency. The rebels are to join a transitional government and their weapons will be placed under UN supervision.
  • 2007 January - Maoist leaders enter parliament under the terms of a temporary constitution. Violent ethnic protests erupt in the south-east; demonstrators demand autonomy for the region.
  • 2007 April - Former Maoist rebels join interim government, a move that takes them into the political mainstream.
  • 2007 May - Elections for a constituent assembly pushed back to November.
    • A US offer to resettle thousands of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal has raised hopes but has also sparked tension in the camps, says Human Rights Watch.
  • 2007 September - Three bombs hit Kathmandu in the first attack in the capital since the end of the Maoist insurgency.
    • Maoists quit interim government to press demand for monarchy to be scrapped. This forces the postponement of November's constituent assembly elections.
  • 2007 October - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges Nepal's parties to sink their differences to save the peace process.
  • 2007 December - Parliament approves abolition of monarchy as part of peace deal with Maoists, who agree to re-join government.
  • 2008 January - A series of bomb blasts kill and injure dozens in the southern Terai plains. Groups there have been demanding regional autonomy.
  • 2008 April - Former Maoist rebels win the largest bloc of seats in elections to the new constituent assembly, but fail to achieve an outright majority.
  • 2008, May 28 - Nepal becomes a republic.
  • 2008 June - Maoist ministers resign from the cabinet in a row over who should be the next head of state.
  • 2008, July 21 - Two months after the departure of King Gyanendra, Ram Baran Yadav becomes Nepal's first president.
  • 2008, August 15 - The Constituent Assembly elects the Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' as the first Prime Minister of federal democratic republic Nepal.

Prehistory

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that people who were probably of Kirant ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.

Ancient

Terai News writes, "Nepal has been highlighted for last several centuries in Indian Sanskrit literature like ‘Skand Purana’. ‘Skand Purana’ has a separate volume known as ‘Nepal Mahatmyaya’, which explains in more details about Nepal." Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu scriptures such as the Narayana Puja and the Atharva Siras (800-600 BC). Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the region. From one of these, the Shakya confederation, arose a prince named Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BC), who later renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ("the enlightened one").7th Kirata king Jitedasti was on throne in Nepal valley at the time. By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Dynasty in the fourth century AD. In the fifth century, rulers called the Licchavis governed the majority of its area. There is a good and quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 AD.

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.

Medieval

By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ("wrestler"). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years; by the late 14th century, much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the region was carved into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.

After centuries of petty rivalry between the three kingdoms, in the mid-18th century Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha King set out to unify the kingdoms. Seeking arms and aid from India, and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms, he embarked on his mission in 1765. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify Kathmandu Valley three years later in 1768. However, an actual battle never took place to conquer the Kathmandu valley; it was taken over by Prithvi Narayan and his troops without any effort, during Indra Jatra, a festival of Newars, when all the valley's citizens were celebrating the festival. This event marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal.

Modern

There is historical evidence that, at one time, the boundary of Greater Nepal extended from Tista River on the East to Kangara, across Sutlej River, in the west. A dispute and subsequently war with Tibet over the control of mountain passes forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations. Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16). The valor displayed by the Nepalese during the war astounded their enemies and earned them their image of fierce and ruthless "Gurkhas". The war ended in the Treaty of Sugauli, a territorial disaster for the nation, under which Nepal ceded Sikkim and lands in Terai to the Company.

Factionalism inside the royal family had led to a period of instability. In 1846 a plot was discovered, revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Rana, a fast-rising military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre; armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Jung Bahadur Rana 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 Ranas were staunchly pro-British, and assisted them during the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 (and later in both World Wars). The decision to help British East India Company was taken by the Rana Regime, then led by Jang Bahadur Rana. Some parts of Terai Region were given back to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture, because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the Sepoy Rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognized by the UK. Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.

In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the assertion of Chinese control in Tibet in the 1950s, India sought to counterbalance the perceived military threat from its northern neighbour by taking pre-emptive steps to assert more influence in Nepal. India sponsored both King Tribhuvan as Nepal's new ruler in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the monarch scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a "partyless" panchayat system was made to govern Nepal until 1989, when the "Jan Andolan" (People's Movement) forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament that took seat in May 1991.

In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people's socialist republic. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On June 1, 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace; it left the King, the Queen and the Heir Apparent Crown Prince Dipendra among the dead. Prince Dipendra was accused of patricide and of committing suicide thereafter, alleged to be a violent response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife. However, there are lots of speculations and doubts among Nepalese citizens about the person(s) responsible for the Royal Massacre. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by King Birendra's brother Gyanendra. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to negotiate their demands.

In response to the 2006 democracy movement, the king agreed to relinquish the sovereign power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 18, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, abolishing its time honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, a bill was passed in parliament, to amend Article 159 of the constitution - replacing "Provisions regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" - declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on May 28, 2008 as a constituent assembly meeting in the capital, Kathmandu, overwhelmingly voted to abolish royal rule.

End of monarchy

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on 10 April 2008, and are trying to form a coalition government with some smaller parties. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted the elections themselves were markedly peaceful and "well-carried out."

The Maoists had insisted on the abolition of the monarchy, with Nepal remaining democratic, but becoming a federal state with an elected head. The newly-elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on May 28, 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to end Nepal's 240 year old monarchy, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissent note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three day long public holiday from 28 May to 30 May. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, in order to re-open it as a public museum. He did not, however, grant Royal Assent to the acts of either the interim parliament or the Constituent Assembly, especially that which declared a republic. Further, the interim constitution is repugnant to the 1992 constitution, which had never been legally abolished, making the republic from either a de jure or royalist, divine right perspective invalid, keeping Gyanendra as king.

Geography

Geography of Nepal is uncommonly diverse. Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (500 mi) long and 200 kilometres (125 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi). See List of territories by size for the comparative size of Nepal.

Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, Siwalik region and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems.

The southern lowland Plains bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali. This region has a hot, humid climate.

The Hill Region (Pahad) abuts the mountains and varies from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,300–13,125 ft) in altitude. Two low mountain ranges, the Mahabharat Lekh and Shiwalik Range (also called the Churia Range) dominate the region. The hilly belt includes the Kathmandu Valley, the country's most fertile and urbanised area. Unlike the valleys called Inner Tarai (Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka), elevations above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) are sparsely populated.

The Mountain Region, situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes the northern part of Nepal. It contains the regions of highest altitude in the world; the world's highest mountain, 8,850 metres (29,035 ft) height Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) is located here on the border with Tibet. Seven other of the world's ten highest mountains are located in Nepal: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,940 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,900–7,875 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,875–11,800 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,800–14,400 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,400 ft).

Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in winter, and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. Once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.

Nepal is a hotspot of mountaineering, containing some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.

Until the Sugauli Sandhi (treaty) was signed, the territory of Nepal also included Darjeeling, and Tista to the east, Nainital to the south-west and Kumaun,Garwal and Bashahar to the west. However, today these areas are a part of India (Although International Rules and Nepal's Friendly Treaty with India-1950 directly indicate that these be apart of Nepal. As a result, Nepal shares no boundary with Bangladesh now and the two countries are separated by a narrow strip of land about 21 kilometre (13 mi) wide, called the Siliguri Corridor‎ or Chicken's Neck.A huge majority of Nepalese still live here (almost 2 million). Efforts are underway to make this area a free-trade zone. The border dispute between India and Nepal has often been a cause of tension between the two countries.

Subdivisions

Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts, grouped into 5 development regions. Each district is headed by a permanent chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries. The 14 zones are:

Neotectonics of Nepal

The collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian continent, which started in Paleogene time and continues today, produced the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, a spectacular modern example of the effects of plate tectonics. Nepal lies completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one third of the 2400km-long Himalayas.

The Indian plate continues to move northward relative to Asia at the rate of ~50mm/yr. Given the great magnitudes of the blocks of the Earth’s crust involved, this is remarkably fast, about twice the speed at which human fingernails grow. As the strong Indian continental crust subducts beneath the relatively weak Tibetan crust, it pushes up the Himalaya mountains. This collision zone has accommodated huge amounts of crustal shortening as the rock sequences slide one over another. Erosion of the Himalayas is a very important source of sediment, which flows via great rivers (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra) to the Indian Ocean.

Structural and Neotectonic pattern of Nepal

The main structures of Nepal consist of several north-dipping thrust faults; the more important ones are the main frontal thrust (MFT), the main boundary thrust (MBT) and the main central thrust (MCT) (F. Jouanne et al.,2004). These thrust faults lie to the south of the South Tibetan Detachment System(STDS) which is a system of low angle normal faults and is also an important aspect of Nepal Himalayan tectonics.

The thrust faults trend generally 120°N in western Nepal, curving to 90°N in the eastern part of the country (Upreti & Le Fort 1999). These thrust faults, with generally southerly transport directions (Brunel 1986; Pecher 1991; Mugnier et al.,1999), are inferred to branch off the major basal detachment of the Himalayan thrust belt called the main Himalayan thrust (MHT) that localizes the underthrusting of the Indian lithosphere beneath the Himalayas and Tibet (Zhao et al., 1993). All the cross-sections made through the Himalayan belt advocate a mid-crustal ramp, below a large-scale antiformal structure of the Lesser Himalayas and to be north of a synformal structure(Schelling & Arita 1991; Srivastava & Mitra 1994; Pandey et al. 1990; DeCelles et al. 1998; Mugnier et al. 2003). Geological, geophysical and structural data indicate that there are lateral variations in the geometry of the MHT (Zhao et al.,1993; Pandey et al.1995,1999), but direct knowledge of the geometry of the MHT is sparse and therefore the validity of the profiles is still in debate. The thrusts are generally younger from north to south (24-21 Ma for the MCT, less than 2 Ma for the MFT) (Hodges et al. 1996; Harrison et al. 1997). On the basis of these faults, the structure of Nepal is generally subdivided into five tectonic zones:

  1. Gangetic Plain (Terai) (area on the south of MFT)
  2. Sub-Himalayas (Siwaliks)(area between MFT and MBT)
  3. Lesser Himalayas (area between MBT and MCT)
  4. Higher Himalayas (area between MCT and STDS)
  5. Tibetan-Tethys (area north of STDS)

Present-day deformation of Nepal

The modern deformation of the Himalayas is characterized by big earthquakes. Almost half of the continuing convergence between India and Eurasia is absorbed by underthrusting of the Indian lithosphere, beneath the Himalayas and Tibet along the MHT, as proposed by seismic investigations (Zhao et al.1993). Three of the big Nepalese earthquakes (1905,1934 and 1950, with magnitudes around 8) were caused by the mid-crustal ramp along MHT (Pandey & Molnar 1989). The territory of Nepal is characterized by very intense microseismic activity, most of which follows approximately the topographic front of the Higher Himalaya (Pandey et al.,1999). Most of the earthquakes cluster between the MCT and MBT (Fig: Seismicity in the Himalayas of Nepal). Earthquake focal mechanisms indicate that the intermediate magnitude earthquakes are shallow depth (10-20km) beneath the Lesser Himalayas, demonstrating the activation of thrust planes gently dipping to the north (Ni and Barazangi, 1984). Detailed analysis of the Uttarkashi earthquake (Cotton et al. 1996) in the west of Nepal indicates that this event was initiated to the south of the Higher Himalayas front at 12±3 km depth corresponding to the southward propagation of a rupture along this segment of the MHT. A detailed study of the microseismic clusters suggests segmentation of the Himalayan arc (Pandey et al. 1999) and two major discontinuities segment the microseismicity belt at 82.5°E and 86.5°E. The projection along cross sections of the microseismic event (Fig:Cross-section and Projection of Microseimic Activity) reveals a noticeable change in shape of the clusters between central Nepal (rounded clusters are located in the vicinity of the flat-ramp transition of the MHT) and western Nepal (clusters are elongated and nearly horizontal) (F. Jouanne et al.,2004). Similarly, vertical displacement rates, expressed with reference to the Gangetic plain, indicate current uplift of the high Himalayas at 6 mm/yr, but also suggest active displacement along frontal thrusts inducing localized uplift (B. Antoine et al., 2004). There is change in maximum elevation between central (8500m) and western (7500m) Nepal and also a big difference in incision between eastern-central Nepal (6000m) and western Nepal (4500m)(B. Antoine et al., 2004). This is reflected in gentler relief in western Nepal and confirms the segmentation of geology and deformation observed with microseismicity and GPS measurements (Fig:Cross-section and Projection of Microseimic Activity).

Conclusion: To summarise, the neotectonic deformation of Nepal is characterised by three major thrust faults (MCT, MBT and MFT) which are inferred to be the splay thrust of MHT that marks the underthrusting of Indian lithosphere beneath the Himalayas. Likewise, there is a sudden change in geometry of the MHT between central and western Nepal, which is also marked in the Himalayan relief. The MHT is the main structure responsible for recent uplift and continuing deformation in Nepal. This hypothesis is reinforced by the observation that Quaternary displacement along the Main Frontal Thrust, southern emergence of the MHT and the convergence rate estimated across the Himalayas by GPS are both estimated at 18-20 mm/yr, which suggests that nearly all the displacement between India and Tibet is today transferred along the MHT (B. Antoine et al., 2004).

Government and politics

Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people's movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.

Nepal's legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had sixty members: ten nominated by the king, thirty-five elected by the House of Representatives and the remaining fifteen elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term, but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.

The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, on the recommendation of prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.

The movement in April, 2006, brought about a change in the nation's governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April, 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.

On 28 December 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill that would make Nepal a federal republic, with the Prime Minister becoming head of state. The bill was passed by the Constituent Assembly on May 28, 2008.

On 10 April 2008, there was the first election in Nepal for the constitution assembly. The Maoist party led the poll results, but failed to gain a simple majority in the parliament.

On 28 May 2008, lawmakers in Nepal legally abolished the monarchy and declared the country a republic, ending 239 years of royal rule in the Himalayan nation. The newly elected assembly, led by the former communist rebels, adopted the resolution at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority. King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave former Royal Palace in central Kathmandu by the Nepalese Constituent Assembly. He left former Royal Palace on June 11.

On 26 June 2008, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala tendered his resignation to the Nepalese Constituent Assembly, which is also functioning as Nepalese Parliament, however a new Prime Minister has yet to be elected by the Nepalese Constituent Assembly.

On 19 July 2008, the first round of voting for the election of the country's president and vice president took place in the Constituent Assembly. Parmanand Jha became the first vice president of Nepal. However, the two presidential frontrunners, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav of Nepali Congress and the Maoist-backed candidate Ram Raja Prasad Singh, both failed to gain the minimum 298 votes needed to be elected, with Yadav receiving 283 votes and Singh receiving 270. 578 out of 594 CA members registered in the voter list had cast their votes, of which 24 were invalid.

On 21 July 2008, the second round of voting was held. Yadav received 308 votes of the 590 votes casted, securing his election as president.

In August 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country's transition from a monarchy to a republic.

Military and foreign affairs

Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service (the air force unit under it.) Nepalese Police Force is the civilian police and the Armed Police Force Nepal is the paramilitary force. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. Many of the equipment and arms are imported from India. Consequently, the USA provided M16 M4 and other Colt weapons to combat communist(Maoist)Insurgents.As of now the standard issue Battle rifle of the Nepalese army is the Colt M16.

Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbours, India and China. In accordance with a long standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each others' countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. Although Nepal and India typically have close ties, from time to time Nepal becomes caught up in the problematic Sino-Indian relationship. Recently China has been asking Nepal to curb protests in Nepal against China's Policy on Tibet, and on April 17th, 2008, police arrested over 500 Tibetan protestors citing a need to maintain positive relations with China.

Terai News writes, "Being a Hindu Nation Nepal has a permanent relation, especially with the important religious places of the northern states of India. Religion has played a great role in the cultural relations between Nepal and India."

Largest cities

Economy

Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2005 was estimated at just over US$39 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 83rd-largest economy in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of Nepal's GDP, services comprise 41% and industry 22%. Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%. Agricultural produce—mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India—includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Its workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this hospitality industry has been stifled by recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepali citizens move to India in search of work; the Gulf countries and Malaysia being new sources of work. Nepal receives US$50 million a year through the Gurkha soldiers who serve in the Indian and British armies and are highly esteemed for their skill and bravery. The total remittance value is worth around 1 billion USD, including money sent from Persian Gulf and Malaysia, who combined employ around 700,000 Nepali citizens. A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries. Poverty is acute; per-capita income is less than US$ 470. The distribution of wealth among the Nepalis is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.

The government's budget is about US$1.153 billion, with expenditures of $1.789bn (FY05/06). The Nepalese rupee has been tied to the Indian Rupee at an exchange rate of 1.6 for many years. Since the loosening of exchange rate controls in the early 1990s, the black market for foreign exchange has all but disappeared. The inflation rate has dropped to 2.9% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s.

Nepal's exports of mainly carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods and grain total $822 million. Import commodities of mainly gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products and fertilizer total US$2 bn. India (53.7%), the US (17.4%), and Germany (7.1%) are its main export partners. Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).

Nepal remains isolated from the world’s major land, air and sea transport routes although, within the country, aviation is in a better state, with 48 airports, ten of them with paved runways; flights are frequent and support a sizeable traffic. Hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. There were just over 8,500 km of paved roads, and one 59 km railway line in the south in 2003. There is only one reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta in India. Internally, the poor state of development of the road system (22 of 75 administrative districts lack road links) makes volume distribution unrealistic. Besides having landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, the long-running civil war is also a factor in stunting the economic growth.

There is less than one telephone per 19 people. Landline telephone services are not adequate nationwide but are concentrated in cities and district headquarters. Mobile telephony is in a reasonable state in most parts of the country with increased accessibility and affordability; there were around 175,000 Internet connections in 2005. After the imposition of the "state of emergency", intermittent losses of service-signals were reported, but uninterrupted Internet connections have resumed after Nepal's second major people's revolution to overthrow the King's absolute power.

Demographics

Perched on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, and the highest mountain peaks in the world. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan via Assam.

Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Brahman and Chetri caste groups came from India's present Kumaon, Garhwal and Kashmir regions, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east (from Yunnan and north Burma via Assam), and Sherpa and Bhotia in the north (from Tibet).

In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East Asian looking mixed people live in the hill region. The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population.

Nepal is a multilingual, multireligious and multiethnic society. These data are largely derived from Nepal's 2001 census results published in the Nepal Population Report 2002.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Nepal hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers in 2007 numbering approximately 130,000. Of this population, approximately 109,200 persons were from Bhutan and 20,500 from People's Republic of China. The government of Nepal restricted Bhutanese refugees to seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts, and refugees were not permitted to work in most professions.

Population Structure
Data Size
Population 28,676,547 (2005)
Growth Rate 2.2%
Population below 14 Years old 39%
Population of age 15 to 64 57.3%
Population above 65 3.7%
The median age (Average) 20.07
The median age (Male) 19.91
The median age (Females) 20.24
Ratio (Male:Female) 1, 000:1,060
Life expectancy (Average) 59.8 Years
Life expectancy (Male) 60.9
Life expectancy (Female) 59.5
Literacy Rate (Average) 53.74%
Literacy Rate (Male) 68.51%
Literacy Rate (Female) 42.49%

Despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the southern plains or terai in recent years, the majority of the population still lives in the central highlands. The northern mountains are sparsely populated.

Kathmandu, with a population of around 800,000 (metropolitan area: 1.5 million), is the largest city in the country.

Religion

The main religion of Nepal is Hinduism. Lord Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Nepal is home to the largest Shiva temple in the world, the famous Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to mythology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja. Buddhism was relatively more common among the Newar. Lord Buddha is said to be a descendant of Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts. Scholars like Dr. Eitel connects it to the Rishi Gautama. But, differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been in general very subtle and academic in nature due to the intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Both share common temples and worship common deities and many of Nepal's Buddhists could also be regarded as Hindus and vice versa. Gurkhas from Nepal are Hindu. Among other natives of Nepal, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups, who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies. Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu. The Machendrajatra festival, dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated even by Buddhists and it is the Buddhists' main festival. As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal, important priests in Nepal are called "Tirthaguru Nemuni".

Culture

Nepalese culture is diverse, reflecting different ethnic origins of the people. The Newar community is particularly rich in cultural diversity; they celebrate many festivals, well known for their music and dance.

A typical Nepalese meal is dal-bhat-tarkari. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients).. The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.

The Newari Music orchestra consists mainly of percussion instruments, though wind instruments, such as flutes and other similar instruments, are also used. String instruments are very rare. There are songs pertaining to particular seasons and festivals. Paahan chare music is probably the fastest played music whereas the Dapa the slowest. There are certain musical instruments such as Dhimay and Bhusya which are played as instrumental only and are not accompanied with songs. The dhimay music is the loudest one. In the hills, people enjoy their own kind of music, playing saarangi (a string instrument), madal and flute. They also have many popular folk songs known as lok geet and lok dohari.

The Newar dances can be broadly classified into masked dances and non-masked dances. The most representative of Newari dances is Lakhey dance. Almost all the settlements of Newaris organise Lakhey dance at least once a year, mostly in the Goonlaa month. So, they are called Goonlaa Lakhey. However, the most famous Lakhey dance is the Majipa Lakhey dance; it is performed by the Ranjitkars of Kathmandu and the celeberation continues for one whole week that contains the full moon of Yenlaa month. The Lakhey are considered as the saviors of children.

Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life, tales of love, affection and battles as well as demons and ghosts and thus reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Many Nepalese folktales are enacted through the medium of dance and music.

The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (December 28), Prithvi Jayanti, (January 11), Martyr's Day (February 18) and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat.

Most houses in rural lowland of Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework and walls of a mud and cow-dung mix. These dwellings remain cool in summer and retain warmth in winter. Houses in the hills are usually made of unbaked bricks with thatch or tile roofing. At high elevations construction changes to stone masonry and slate may be used on roofs.

See also

Notes

References

External links

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