Nepal is a country in Asia. This nation lies in a region called South Asia. It could be considered to be part of the Indian Subcontinent. Nepal is in the Himalayas Mountains. The Himalayas are the highest mountains in the world. The lowland region of Nepal has cool winters and warm summers. In the mountains it is always cold.
There are only two neighbours of Nepal. These are China and India. The highest Himalayas are on the border of China and Nepal. There are very few roads from Nepal into China. Most of Nepal’s trade is with India.
There is no coastline in Nepal. The country has low rainfall except in the monsoon which occurs in July and August.
Nepal was once divided into many different realms. Hinduism came to the country over 4 000 years ago. Most Nepalis are still Hindu. Many sacred shrines are within Nepal’s frontiers. Gautama was a Hindu princeling. He left his palace and saw four lugubrious sights. This made him reflect. He founded a religion called Buddhism and became known as Buddha.
In the 18th century Prithvi Narayan Shah rose to prominence. He was the king of a small kingdom in the middle of Nepal. He was trying to take the largest valley in the country – Kathmandu. There was to be a battle. He had a vision. He was told that next day his arm would prevail and his progeny would rule the land for 14 generations. In the 14th they would be annihilated. Next day fortune blessed his arms with victory. Indeed, he came to be King of Nepal. He was the first one to unite the nation.
Some time later the Nepalese came into contact with the Britishers who ruled India. In 1814 the British and Indians fought a war against Nepal. Nepal was smashed and lost half her territory. The British general who was the architect of victory in the Nepal War was commemorated by a monument that bore his name in Calcutta – the Ochterlony Monument. In recent times this said monument has been rededicated in honour of Indian separatists.
The Britons were impressed by the fighting qualities of their Nepalese foes. The Brits asked the King of Nepal whether they could recruit some of these doughty warriors into their army. The Nepali king answered in the affirmative. The Nepalese troops who joined the British Indian Army were called Gurkhas. This is because of a town in central Nepal called Gorkha which is where many of them hailed from. The Gurkhas were to be one of the most reliable regiments in the Indian Army.
In the 1840s the Prime Minister of Nepal – Rana – gained more power than the king. The king was believed to be an emanation of the Hindu god Vishnu. The king and his family seldom left the palace at Durbar Square in Kathmandu. The Rana family then effectually wielded power. The prime ministership became hereditary. The king never left the Kathmandu Valley.
In 1857 Nepal assisted the Britishers and Indians in defeating some religious fanatics. The grateful Indians and their British friends returned some of the land seized in 1814.
In about 1910 four men tried to overthrow the Rana family. They were executed in four different ways. One was shot, one was hanged etc… They are remembered at the Martyr’s Gate in Kathmandu.
Gurkhas served with distinction in all Indian wars. They never mutinied. They always made common cause with their British allies. The Gurkhas felt themselves to be very different from the people of the plains.
A hospital was built in Kathmandu to tend those Gurkhas wounded in the First World War.
In 1947 India became independent. The British were suddenly not so important. Some of the Gurkha regiments were allotted to the army of the newly independent India. Some went to the British Army.
The king managed to overthrow the Rana family and regain power. The royal family were the masters for the first time in a century. Nepal had some modernising monarchs. These included Trihhuvan and Mahendra.
In 1971 King Birendra became king. His Majesty has attended Eton College – the world’s best school. He also studied at a university in Japan but left without a degree.
Birendra was minded to share power with the people. His queen was a Rana. That means she was from the prime ministerial family. Their marriage was the two families achieving rapprochement. She believed in maintaining absolute monarchy.
Literacy spread at this time. Socialist notions came from Indian and China. Many WESTERN backpackers came here. They were on the banana pancake trail. They often experimented with cannabis which grew wild in the hills. The government outlawed cannabis but a royal building was burnt down next night. It was probably arson in protest at the new edict.
Many Nepalis went to India and the Middle East to work.
In the 1980s a protest movement grew demanding democracy. The Government of Indian backed the democratic movement. The Indians closed the border. Shortages of everything grew severe. There were large scale riots. People tried to storm the royal palace. The police shot dead many who tried to attack the palace.
The king had to give in. Democracy was introduced. The Nepali Congress Party won the elections.
In the 1990s a Maoist insurgency started in the hills. The government found it difficult to contain.
In 2001 there was a row in the royal family. The king’s eldest son Dhipendra wished to wed his girlfriend. The king found her unsuitable. They threatened to disinherit the crown prince. He would be passed over in favour of his younger brother Nirajan. Dhipendra was told to go to his room to calm himself.
#Dhipendra returned with guns and shot dead the whole family. He then turned the gun on himself.
The royal family were rushed to hospital. They were all dead except Dhipendra who was on life support. A couple of days later he died. Or was life support switched off?
The new king was Ganendra – the younger brother of Birendra. Ganendra had not been at the dinner when Dhipendra killed the others. Some said that Ganendra was somehow behind the massacre. He was deeply unpopular because of his tearaway son Paras who had killed a film star due to reckless driving.
People noted the prophecy that the descendants of Privthi Narayan Shah would all be slain in the 14th generation. It was 14 generations since that man conquered Kathmandu.
The Maoist insurrection grew and grew. Tourists were scared away. The economy was close to collapse. Finally the Maoists were poised to take the capital. The king fled.
The Maoists took over. Astonishingly, they did not behave like Maoists. They held elections. The monarchy was abolished and the country became a republic.
The capital city of the nation is Kathmandu. There are some fabulous cities in that valley such as Patan and Bhaktapur. These are well preserved terracotta towns.
Most people are Hindu and some are Buddhists. These faiths are syncretic and they overlap. Some people belong to both. There are a few Muslims and Christians.
Nepali is the official language. It is related to Hindi. It is penned in the Deva- Nagari script.
The Flag of Nepal has two right angle triangles one on top of the other. No other flag is like it. The flag is red, white and blue. It has symbols on it.
Mount Everest – the tallest mountain in the world – is in this country. It has a different name in Nepali. It is named after a Briton who was in charge of a geographical study of India.
Nepal is not a rich country. Most people are literate now. Gender roles are strict specially in the countryside. People put a lot of emphasis on family honour.
The capital city is Kathmandu. There are many dogs in this city. Because of the number of canines people sometimes called it Dogmandu.
- Name the two neighbours of Nepal? (Two marks)
- What are the clours on the Nepali Flag? (Three marks)
- Who was Prithvi Narayan Shah? Four marks
- How did the prophecy made to him come true? Three marks.
- What is the tallest mountain in the world?
- Which mountain range covers much of Nepal?
- What is the language of Nepal?
- Which religion was founded in Nepal?
- What faith do most Nepalis subscribe to?
- Is there a king of Nepal now?
- Why do people sometimes call a certain city ‘Dogmandu’?
- Do you wish to pay a visit to this land? Five marks.