Nepal has seen many rulers and ruling dynasties. The earliest rulers were the Kirantis who ruled from 9th century B.C. to 1st century A.D. Legends and chronicles mention that the Indian Emperor Ashoka had come to Nepal and visited Lumbini, the place where the Buddha was born, and where he erected a huge stone pillar to commemorate his visit to that spot.
The Kirants were replaced by Licchavis who, according to the earliest evidences in inscriptions of the 5th century A.D. found in the courtyard of Changunarayan temple which is about 15 km north east of Kathmandu, ruled this country from 1st century to 9th century A.D. This period is noted for the many temples and fine sculptures built around the Kathmandu valley.
The Licchavis were followed by the Thakuris, and then came the Malla dynasty. The Mallas ruled focusing mainly on the Kathmandu Valley which has been the residence for most Nepali rulers from time immemorial. No other part of Nepal is as rich in cultural heritage as Kathmandu. Thanks to the exceptionally talented crafts-men, who dedicated themselves to construct the many temples and statues, we have seven world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley itself.
In the 14th century A.D. King Jayasthiti Malla established a rigid social order. His grandson tried in every way to protect his country from suspected enemy states. Unfortunately, all his efforts were fruitless, everything went beyond his control and the country eventually divided up into 50 small feudal states including the three major ones in the valley.
Then came the Shah dynasty, which prevails even today. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, founder of Modern Nepal, who annexed small principalities including three states in the Kathmandu Valley and unified Nepal in a single kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation.
During the mid-19th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah Kings remained figureheads.