all about nepal
October 19, 2006 12:33pm CST
Nepal ([n?'p??l] (help·info)), officially the Kingdom of Nepal, is a landlocked Himalayan country in South Asia, bordered by China (Tibet) to the north and by India to the south, east and west. More than 80% of Nepalese follow Hinduism, which is higher than the percentage of Indian Hindus, making it the single most Hinduic nation in the world. For a small territory, the Nepali landscape is uncommonly diverse, ranging from the humid Terai in the south to the lofty Himalayas in the north. Nepal boasts eight of the world's fourteen highest mountains, including Mount Everest on the border with China. Kathmandu is the capital and largest city. The other main cities include Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Janakpur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj, and Mahendranagar. The origin of the name Nepal is uncertain, but the most popular understanding is that it derived from Ne (holy) and pal (cave). After a long and rich history, during which the region splintered and coalesced under a variety of absolute rulers, Nepal became a constitutional monarchy in 1990. However, the monarchy retained many important and ill-defined powers. This arrangement was marked by increasing instability, both in the parliament and, since 1996, in large swathes of the country that have been fought over by Maoist insurgents. The Maoists, alienated from mainstream political parties, went underground and started a guerilla war against both monarchy and mainstream political parties. They have sought to overthrow feudal institutions, including the monarchy, and establish a republic. This has led to the ongoing Nepalese Civil War in which more than 13,000 people have died. On the pretext of quashing the insurgents, who now control about 60% of the country, the king closed down the parliament and sacked the elected prime minister in 2002 and started ruling through prime ministers appointed by him. He then unilaterally declared a "state of emergency" early in 2005, and assumed all executive powers. Following the Loktantra Andolan, 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 19, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state. As of September, 2006, a complete rewrite of the country's constitution was still expected to happen in the near future. 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 Tibeto-Burman ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.  Indo-Aryan Kelsey Knutson tribes entered the valley around 1500 BC. Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose. One of the princes of the Shakya confederation was Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BC), who renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ("the one who has awakened"). By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a puppet state under the Gupta Dynasty in the 4th century. From the late 5th century, rulers called the Licchavis governed the area. The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late 8th century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By 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. Hindu temples in Patan, the capital of one of the three medieval kingdoms Nepalese royalty in the 1920sBy the early 13th 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 over the next 200 years. By late 14th century much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived: in 1482 the kingdom was carved into three – Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon – which had petty rivalry for centuries. In 1765 the Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to unify the kingdoms, after first seeking arms and aid from Indian kings and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify Nepal three years later. This marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal. A dispute and subsequent war with Tibet over control of mountain passes forced Nepal to retreat and pay heavy repatriations to China, who came to Tibet's rescue. Rivalry with the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the brief but bloody Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16), in which Nepal defended its present day borders but lost its territories west of the Kali River, including present day Uttaranchal state and several Punjab Hill States of present day Himachal Pradesh. The Treaty of Sugauli also ceded parts of the Terai and Sikkim to the Company in exchange for Nepalese autonomy. Factionalism among the royal family led to instability after the war. In 1846, a discovered plot to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader by the reigning queen, 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. Bahadur won and founded the Rana dynasty, leading to the Rana autocracy. 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 the British during the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, and later in both World Wars. In 1923 the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognised by the UK. In the late 1940s, emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, China occupied Tibet in 1950, making India keen on stability in Nepal, to avoid an expansive military campaign. Thus India sponsored Tribhuvan as Nepal's new king in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the democratic experiment was dissolved in 1959, and a "partyless" panchayat system was made to govern Nepal. In 1989, the "Jan Andolan" (People's) Movement forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and establish a multiparty parliament in May 1991. Nepali Congress Party wins first democratic elections. Girija Prasad Koirala becomes prime minister.  Recent events Map of NepalOn June 1, 2001, the Heir Apparent Dipendra reportedly went on a killing spree in the royal palace, in response to his parents' rejection of his choice of wife. His parents were killed and he died 3 days later. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by Birendra's brother Gyanendra. In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy waned.  On February 1, 2005 Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers in the name of combating the Maoist movement. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire which was not reciprocated by the royal government; the latter vowed to defeat the rebels by force. A few weeks later, the government stated that parliamentary elections would be held by 2007 even after the failed municipal elections. The seven parliamentary parties (SPA), with support from the Maoists, arranged a mass uprising against the reign of King Gyanendra. The royal government used various means to quell the uprising. Frustrated by lack of security, jobs and good governance, thousands of people took to the streets to demand that the king renounce power outright, but the royal government turned even more ferocious and continued its atrocities including daytime curfews amid a Maoist blockade. Food shortages hit people so that they prepared to march into the city centre and encircle the royal palace. The security forces turned brutal and the king seemed to think nothing had happened so far. Thousands were injured and 21 people died in the uprising, which was meant to be peaceful but turned violent due to the actions of the government and its vigilantes. Foreign pressure continued to increase on King Gyanendra to surrender power so that on April 21, 2006 Gyanendra announced that he was giving up absolute power and that "Power was being returned to the People". He called on the seven party coalitions to name a possible Prime Minister and that elections would be held as soon as possible. Many Nepalese protesters however, still carried out rallies in numerous cities and vowed to continue the stir until they would achieve complete abolishment of the monarchy. Finally after 19 days of protests, on April 24 midnight, the king called for the country's parliament to reassemble on April 28. Parliament has since reassembled and stripped the king of his power over the military, abolished his title as the descendent of a Hindu God, and required royalty to pay taxes. Furthermore, several royal officials have been indicted, and the Nepalese government is no longer referred to as "His Majesty's Government", but rather as the "Government of Nepal". An election of the constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution has been declared unanimously to be held in the near future, with the possible abolition of the monarchy as part of constitutional change. Following Gyanendra's relinquishing of absolute power, the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels agreed on a ceasefire.