Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is located mainly in the Himalayas but also includes parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. With an estimated population of 26.4 million, it is 48th largest country by population and 93rd largest country by area. It borders China in the north and India in the south, east, and west while Bangladesh is located within only 27 km of its southeastern tip and Bhutan is separated from it by the Indian state of Sikkim. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital and largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.
The name “Nepal” is first recorded in texts from the Vedic period of the Indian subcontinent, the era in ancient India when Hinduism was founded, the predominant religion of the country. In the middle of the first millennium BCE, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini in southern Nepal. Parts of northern Nepal were intertwined with the culture of Tibet. The centrally located Kathmandu Valley was the seat of the prosperous Newar confederacy known as Nepal Mandala. The Himalayan branch of the ancient Silk Road was dominated by the valley’s traders. The cosmopolitan region developed distinct traditional art and architecture. By the 18th century, the Gorkha Kingdom achieved the unification of Nepal. The Shah dynasty established the Kingdom of Nepal and later formed an alliance with the British Empire, under its Rajput Rana dynasty of premiers. The country was never colonised but served as a buffer state between Imperial China and British India. Parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1951, but was twice suspended by Nepalese monarchs, in 1960 and 2005. The Nepalese Civil War in the 1990s and early 2000s resulted in the proclamation of a secular republic in 2008, ending the world’s last Hindu monarchy.
The Constitution of Nepal, adopted in 2015, establishes Nepal as a federal secular parliamentary republic divided into seven provinces. Nepal was admitted to the United Nations in 1955, and friendship treaties were signed with India in 1950 and the People’s Republic of China in 1960. Nepal hosts the permanent secretariat of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, of which it is a founding member. Nepal is also a member of the Non Aligned Movement and the Bay of Bengal Initiative. The military of Nepal is the fifth largest in South Asia; it is notable for its Gurkha history, particularly during the world wars, and has been a significant contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations.
Local legends have it that a Hindu sage named “Ne” established himself in the valley of Kathmandu in prehistoric times, and that the word “Nepal” came into existence as the place was protected by the sage “Nemi”. It is mentioned in Vedic texts that this region was called Nepal centuries ago. According to the Skanda Purana, a rishi called “Nemi” used to live in the Himalayas. In the Pashupati Purana, he is mentioned as a saint and a protector. He is said to have practised meditation at the Bagmati and Kesavati rivers and to have taught there.
The name of the country is also identical in origin to the name of the Newar people. The terms “Nepāl”, “Newār”, “Newāl” and “Nepār” are phonetically different forms of the same word, and instances of the various forms appear in texts in different times in history. Nepal is the learned Sanskrit form and Newar is the colloquial Prakrit form. A Sanskrit inscription dated 512 CE found in Tistung, a valley to the west of Kathmandu, contains the phrase “greetings to the Nepals” indicating that the term “Nepal” was used to refer to both the country and the people.
It has been suggested that “Nepal” may be a Sanskritization of “Newar”, or “Newar” may be a later form of “Nepal”. According to another explanation, the words “Newar” and “Newari” are vulgarisms arising from the mutation of P to V, and L to R.
Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least eleven thousand years.
Nepal is first mentioned in the late Vedic Atharvaveda Pariśiṣṭa as a place exporting blankets, and in the post-Vedic Atharvashirsha Upanishad. Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu texts such as the Narayana Puja.
Legends and ancient texts that mention the region now known as Nepal reach back to the 30th century BC. The Gopal Bansa were likely one of the earliest inhabitants of Kathmandu valley. The earliest rulers of Nepal were the Kiratas, peoples often mentioned in Hindu texts, who ruled Nepal for many centuries.
Around 500 BCE, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the southern regions of Nepal. From one of these, the Shakya polity, arose a prince who later renounced his status to lead an ascetic life, founded Buddhism, and came to be known as Gautama Buddha.
By 250 BCE, the southern regions had come under the influence of the Maurya Empire of North India and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Empire in the 4th century CE. Stone inscriptions in the Kathmandu Valley are important sources for the history of Nepal.
The kings of the Lichhavi dynasty have been found to have ruled Nepal after the Kirat monarchical dynasty. The context that “Suryavansi Kshetriyas had established a new regime by defeating the Kirats” can be found in some genealogies and Puranas. King Raghav Dev also started the Nepal Sambat.
In the early 12th century, leaders emerged in far western Nepal whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla . These kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years, until the kingdom splintered into two dozen petty states. Another Malla dynasty beginning with Jayasthiti emerged in the Kathmandu valley in the late 14th century, and much of central Nepal again came under a unified rule. In 1482, the realm was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.
Kingdom of Nepal
In the mid-18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king, set out to put together what would become present-day Nepal. He embarked on his mission by securing the neutrality of the bordering mountain kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, notably the Battle of Kirtipur, he managed to conquer the Kathmandu Valley in 1769. A detailed account of Prithvi Narayan Shah’s victory was written by Father Giuseppe, an eyewitness to the war.
The Gorkha control reached its height when the North Indian territories of the Kumaon and Garhwal Kingdoms in the west to Sikkim in the east came under Nepalese control. A dispute with Tibet over the control of mountain passes and inner Tingri valleys of Tibet forced the Qing Emperor of China to start the Sino-Nepali War compelling the Nepali to retreat and pay heavy reparations to Peking.
Rivalry between the Kingdom of Nepal and the East India Company over the control of states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepali War. At first, the British underestimated the Nepali and were soundly defeated until committing more military resources than they had anticipated needing. They were greatly impressed by the valour and competence of their adversaries. Thus began the reputation of Gurkhas as fierce and ruthless soldiers. The war ended in the Sugauli Treaty, under which Nepal ceded recently captured lands as well as the right to recruit soldiers. Madhesis, having supported the East India Company during the war, had their lands gifted to Nepal.
Factionalism inside the royal family led to a period of instability. In 1846, a plot was discovered revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Kunwar, 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 Kunwar emerged victorious and founded the Rana dynasty, later known as Jung Bahadur Rana. 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 Rebellion of 1857 . Some parts of the Terai region populated with non-Nepali peoples were gifted to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship that superseded the Sugauli Treaty of 1816. Nevertheless, an estimated 234,600 people are enslaved in modern-day Nepal, or 0.82% of the population. Debt bondage even involving debtors’ children has been a persistent social problem in the Terai. Rana rule was marked by tyranny, debauchery, economic exploitation and religious persecution.
In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the invasion of Tibet by China 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, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom. In 1991–92, Bhutan expelled roughly 100,000 Bhutanese citizens of Nepali descent, most of whom have been living in seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal ever since. The bill came into force on 28 May 2008.
Republic of Nepal
The Unified Communist Party of Nepal won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on 10 April 2008, and formed a coalition government, which included most of the parties in the CA. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted that the elections themselves were markedly peaceful and “well-carried out”.
The newly elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on 28 May 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to form a new government, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from 28–30 May. The king was thereafter given 15 days to vacate Narayanhity Palace so it could reopen as a public museum.
Nonetheless, political tensions and consequent power-sharing battles have continued in Nepal. In May 2009, the Maoist-led government was toppled and another coalition government with all major political parties barring the Maoists was formed. Madhav Kumar Nepal of the Communist Party of Nepal was made the Prime Minister of the coalition government. In February 2011 the Madhav Kumar Nepal Government was toppled and Jhala Nath Khanal of the Communist Party of Nepal was made the Prime Minister. In August 2011 the Jhala Nath Khanal Government was toppled and Baburam Bhattarai of the Communist Party of Nepal was made the Prime Minister.
The political parties were unable to draft a constitution in the stipulated time. This led to dissolution of the Constituent Assembly to pave way for new elections to strive for a new political mandate. In opposition to the theory of separation of powers, then Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi was made the chairman of the caretaker government. Under Regmi, the nation saw peaceful elections for the constituent assembly. The major forces in the earlier constituent assembly dropped to distant 3rd and even below.
In February 2014, after consensus was reached between the two major parties in the constituent assembly, Sushil Koirala was sworn in as the new prime minister of Nepal.
On 25 April 2015, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck Nepal. Two weeks later, on 12 May, another earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 hit Nepal, which left more than 8,500 people dead and about 21,000 injured.
In 20 September 2015, a new constitution, the “Constitution of Nepal 2015” was announced by President Ram Baran Yadav in the constituent assembly. The constituent assembly was transformed into a legislative parliament by the then-chairman of that assembly. The new constitution of Nepal has changed Nepal practically into a federal democratic republic by making 7 unnamed states.
In October 2015, Bidhya Devi Bhandari was nominated as the first female president.
Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, long and wide, with an area of. See List of territories by size for the comparative size of Nepal. It lies between latitudes 26° and 31°N, and longitudes 80° and 89°E.
Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Himal, Pahad and Terai. These ecological belts run east–west and are vertically intersected by Nepal’s major, north to south flowing river systems.
The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Terai is a lowland region containing some hill ranges. The plains were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The outermost range of foothills called Sivalik Hills or Churia Range, cresting at, marks the limit of the Gangetic Plain; however broad, low valleys called Inner Tarai Valleys lie north of these foothills in several places.
Pahad is a mountain region that does not generally contain snow. The mountains vary from in altitude with progression from subtropical climates below to alpine climates above. The Lower Himalayan Range, reaching, is the southern limit of this region, with subtropical river valleys and “hills” alternating to the north of this range. Population density is high in valleys but notably less above and very low above, where snow occasionally falls in winter.
Himal is the mountain region containing snow and situated in the Great Himalayan Range; it makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the highest elevations in the world including height Mount Everest on the border with China. Seven other of the world’s “eight-thousanders” are in Nepal or on its border with China: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kangchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.
Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below, the temperate zone, the cold zone, the subarctic zone, and the Arctic zone above.
Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.
Nepal is popular for mountaineering, having some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the southeast ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb, so most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.
The collision between the Indian subcontinent and Eurasia, which started in the Paleogene period and continues today, produced the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau. Nepal lies completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one third of the -long Himalayas.
The Indian plate continues to move north relative to Asia at about per year. This is about twice the speed at which human fingernails grow, which is very fast given the size of the blocks of Earth’s crust involved. As the strong Indian continental crust subducts beneath the relatively weak Tibetan crust, it pushes up the Himalayan Mountains. This collision zone has accommodated huge amounts of crustal shortening as the rock sequences slide one over another.
Based on a study published in 2014, of the Main Frontal Thrust, on average a great earthquake occurs every 750 ± 140 and 870 ± 350 years in the east Nepal region. A study from 2015 found a 700-year delay between earthquakes in the region. The study also suggests that because of tectonic stress transfer, the earthquake from 1934 in Nepal and the 2015 earthquake are connected – following a historic earthquake pattern.
Erosion of the Himalayas is a very important source of sediment, which flows to the Indian Ocean via several great rivers: the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra River systems.
The dramatic differences in elevation found in Nepal result in a variety of biomes, from tropical savannas along the Indian border, to subtropical broadleaf and coniferous forests in the Hill Region, to temperate broadleaf and coniferous forests on the slopes of the Himalaya, to montane grasslands and shrublands and rock and ice at the highest elevations.
At the lowest elevations is the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion. These form a mosaic with the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, which occur from and include the Inner Terai Valleys. Himalayan subtropical pine forests occur between.
Above these elevations, the biogeography of Nepal is generally divided from east to west by the Gandaki River. Ecoregions to the east tend to receive more precipitation and to be more species-rich. Those to the west are drier with fewer species.
From, are temperate broadleaf forests: the eastern and western Himalayan broadleaf forests? From are the eastern and western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. To are the eastern and western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows.
Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last three decades. Up until 1990, Nepal was a monarchy under executive control of the King. Faced with a communist movement against absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to a large-scale political reform 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 60 members: ten nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives, and the remaining 15 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 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 the prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.
A popular democratic 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 joined the interim government of Nepal.
In December 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill making Nepal a federal republic, with a president as head of state. Elections for the constitutional assembly were held on 10 April 2008; the Maoist party led the results but did not achieve a simple majority of seats. The new parliament adopted the 2007 bill at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority, and King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave the Royal Palace in central Kathmandu. He left on 11 June.
On 26 June 2008, the prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, who had served as Acting Head of State since January 2007, announced that he would resign on the election of the country’s first president by the Constituent Assembly. The first round of voting, on 19 July 2008, saw Parmanand Jha win election as Nepali vice-president, but neither of the contenders for president received the required 298 votes and a second round was held two days later. Ram Baran Yadav of the Nepali Congress party defeated Maoist-backed Ram Raja Prasad Singh with 308 of the 590 votes cast. Koirala submitted his resignation to the new president after Yadav’s swearing-in ceremony on 23 July 2008.
On 15 August 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country’s transition from a monarchy to a republic. On 4 May 2009, Dahal resigned over on-going conflicts with regard to the sacking of the Army chief. Since Dahal’s resignation, the country has been in a serious political deadlock with one of the big issues being the proposed integration of the former Maoist combatants, also known as the People’s Liberation Army, into the national security forces. After Dahal, Jhala Nath Khanal of CPN was elected the Prime Minister. Khanal was forced to step down as he could not succeed in carrying forward the Peace Process and the constitution writing. On August 2011, Maoist Babu Ram Bhattarai became third Prime Minister after the election of constituent assembly. On 24 May 2012, Nepals’s Deputy PM Krishna Sitaula resigned.
On 27 May 2012, the country’s Constituent Assembly failed to meet the deadline for writing a new constitution for the country. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that new elections would be held thar later year. “We have no other option but to go back to the people and elect a new assembly to write the constitution,” he said in a nationally televised speech. One of the main obstacles has been disagreement over whether the states that will be created will be based on ethnicity. This election was delayed by the Election Commission for a year, eventually occurring in late 2013 and electing the country’s Second Constituent Assembly. This assembly promulgated the extant Constitution of Nepal in 2015.
Nepal is one of the few countries in Asia to abolish the death penalty. Nepal is the only Asian country where the possibility of same-sex marriage has been proposed in the high court and in the legislature although same-sex marriage currently does not exist in Nepal . The decision was based on a seven-person government committee study, and enacted through Supreme Court’s ruling November 2008. The ruling granted full rights for LGBT individuals, including the right to marry, and Nepalese now can get citizenship as a third gender rather than male or female as authorised by Nepal’s Supreme Court in 2007.
Nepal is governed according to the Constitution of Nepal, which came into effect on 20 September 2015, replacing the Interim Constitution of 2007. The Constitution was drafted by the Second Constituent Assembly following the failure of the First Constituent Assembly to produce a constitution in its mandated period. The constitution is the fundamental law of Nepal. It defines Nepal as having multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-religious, multi-cultural characteristics with common aspirations of people living in diverse geographical regions, and being committed to and united by a bond of allegiance to the national independence, territorial integrity, national interest, and prosperity of Nepal. All Nepali people collectively constitute the nation.
The Constitution of Nepal has defined three organs of the government.
Executive: The form of governance of Nepal is a multi-party, competitive, federal democratic republican parliamentary system based on plurality. The executive power of Nepal rests with the Council of Ministers in accordance with the Constitution and Nepali law. The President appoints the parliamentary party leader of the political party with the majority in the House of Representatives as a Prime Minister, and a Council of Ministers is formed in his/her chairmanship. The executive power of the provinces, pursuant to the Constitution and laws, is vested in the Council of Ministers of the province. The executive power of the province shall be exercised by the province Head in case of absence of the province Executive in a State of Emergency or enforcement of Federal rule. Every province has a ceremonial Head as the representative of the Federal government. The President appoints a Governor for every province. The Governor exercises the rights and duties as specified in the constitution or laws. The Governor appoints the leader of the parliamentary party with the majority in the Provincial Assembly as the Chief Minister and the Council of Ministers are formed under the chairpersonship of the Chief Minister.
Legislative: The Legislature of Nepal, called Federal Parliament, consisting of two Houses, namely the House of Representatives and the National Assembly. Except when dissolved earlier, the term of House of Representatives is five years. The House of Representatives consist of 275 members: 165 members elected through the first-past-the-post electoral system consisting of one member from each of the one hundred and sixty five electoral constituencies formed by dividing Nepal into 165 constituencies based on geography and population; 110 elected from proportional representation electoral system where voters vote for parties, while treating the whole country as a single electoral constituency. The National Assembly is a permanent house. The tenure of members of National Assembly is six years. The National Assembly consists of 59 members: 56 members elected from an Electoral College, comprising members of provincial Assembly and chairpersons and vice-chairpersons of Village councils and Mayors and Deputy Mayors of Municipal councils, with different weights of votes for each, with eight members from each state, including at least three women, one Dalit, and one person with a disability or a member of a minority. 3 members, including at least one woman, are to be nominated by the President on the recommendation of the Government of Nepal. A Pradesh Sabha or Provincial Assembly is the unicameral legislative assembly for a federal province. The term for the Provincial Assembly is five years, except when dissolved earlier.
Judicial: Powers relating to justice in Nepal are exercised by courts and other judicial institutions in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution, other laws, and recognised principles of justice. Nepal has a unitary three-tier independent judiciary that comprises the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of Nepal, 7 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts.
As of 3 April 2018, Nepal is divided into 7 provinces and 77 districts. It has 753 local units.
There are 6 metropolises, 11 sub-metropolises, 276 municipal councils, and 460 village councils for official works. The constitution grants 22 absolute powers to the local units while they share 15 more powers with the central and state governments.