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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Nepal History

 



It’s been claimed that when a great lake filled Kathmandu valley, it was exhausted by the patriarch Manjushree as he wanted to get a closer look of Swayambhu (adhi-buddha), the beautiful lotus flower blossoming on the lake. Similarly in another saying, there is a saint named ‘NE’ , thus named as "Nepal". Yet another claim says; 'Ne 'means wool &'pal' means' home'. Maximum wool was produced in Nepal during that era, so in the sense of 'home of wool', it was named Nepal.

However, the recorded history of Nepal started from around 800BC with the beginning of ‘Kirat period’, though this period developed after the Gopal & Mahispal periods. The history of Nepal started from the ‘Gopal period’. The Gopals were the first rulers according to the historical facts. Essentially, they entered Nepal from India. Their main occupation was rearing cows. They developed the concept of ownership very slowly. After them, ‘Mahispal period’ entered Nepal & ruled. Their main occupation was ‘Buffalo rearing’. Their concept of ownership is little bit advanced than the Gopals.

Kirat period (800B.C-300A.D)
After the downfall of ‘Mahispal period’, comes ‘Kirat period’ (800B.C-300A.D). Yalamber was the first Kirat king. During the Kirat period, there were 28 kings who ruled for another 1000 years. The significant event of that period is the birth of Gautama Buddha at the time of the seventh king. According to some accounts, Gautama Buddha spent time in Patan, where he bestowed the name of his own clan, Sakya, upon eminent blacksmiths and  goldsmiths. the great emperor of India, Ashoka, came to Kathmandu during this period. Ashoka also visited Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, as a follower of Buddhism. Daughter of Ashoka married a local prince and spread the religion even further.  As the Kirat dynasty came to an end in the valley, some parts still remained in the eastern mountains, where it is considered to be the forefathers of today's Rai and Limbu castes. The last king of Kirat period was Gasti.

Lhichivi period (300-1200A.D)
Lhichivi entered Nepal from India. After coming to Nepal, they were attracted by its monarchial system. They were probably the Rajputs of today's Bihar & Uttar Pradesh of India. Lhichivi period is also known as a golden era of Nepal. The first great historical figure, Manadev was also from the Lhichivi period, who introduced the first coin in Nepal. Amsu Verma was not a Lichhavi but he became the actual ruler in 602 A.D because he had married the daughter of a Lichhavi king Shivadev.

Amsuvarma was a far-sighted ruler. Due to his fine diplomacy in family connections, it helped to established and continue good relations with great countries like China & India. He gave and married his sister to an Indian prince and his daughter Bhirkuti to a powerful king of Tibet, Tsrong-Tsong Gampo.

Malla period (1200-1769A.D.)
The Malla period was a glorious era in the history of Nepal when trade & commerce, industry, religion & culture, art & architecture flourished and developed. The Malla rulers are also known as the incarnation of God Vishnu. They were Hindus but accepted Buddhism, shaivism etc. as well which shows a religious tolerance during that period. At that time, an aristocratic elites dominate the administrative feudal by their supremacy.  By dividing society into 64(sixty-four) occupational caste, they had their own monopoly.

The most popular king of that period was ‘Jayasthiti Malla’. He codified the the Nepalese society in a mainstream of Hindu frame. Jayasthiti Malla built many temples and facilitated the development of art & literature. He was also an economic reformer and introduced a system of measuring land and houses. He ruled from 1354 to1395.

Another famous Malla king was Pratap Malla. He was influenced by religion, music, and the art of warfare. He was a Hindu, but he accepted other religions-Buddhism etc. He reconstructed the Buddhist shrine of Swayambunath. He built Krishna Mandir, the Shrine of Taleju, Rani Pokhari as well as Guheswari temple.

Jaya Prakash Malla was the last King of Kantipur, today known as Kathmandu. During his rule, Kantipur was attacked by Gorkha.  He tried to save the valley from the assault by Gorkha, calling for unity among the three states around Kathmandu, but could not successed. Calling the army from the East India Company was also not fruitful and ultimately the war was lost to Gorkha. Fighting within his family was also partly to blame. Another king from the Malla period was ‘Ranjit Malla’, who was the last king of Bhaktapur. As a lover of rare and precious things, he added many courtyards at his palace. And to improve economic conditions in his kingdom, he imported silver exporting it as coins. ‘Aridev Malla’, ‘Yaksha Malla’ etc. are other kings from the Malla period.

Shah Period (1769 to date)
During the middle of the 18th Century, there were about 50 states in Nepal. The British Empire was colonizing India. King Prithvi Narayan Shah (from the state of Gorkha) believed that unless Nepal is unified, it is in danger of going into the hands of British India. He started the process by unifying the small states. In 1768, after ten years of preparation, siege and attack, Kathmandu fell to Gorkha on the day of the festival of Indra and the Virgin Goddess. Hence, Prithivi Narayan Shah is known as the creator of Nepal. He died in 1775 and was later succeeded by his son Bahadur Shah.

The new Shah rulers transferred their seats of power to Kathmandu. Altercation led to a two-year war with the British in between 1814 & 1816. Nepal was defeated and the Sugauli Treaty was signed in 1816, under which Nepal lost one-third of its territory.  Another stipulation had it that British citizens would reside in Kathmandu which brought great resentment among Nepalese. The borders were subsequently closed to foreigners not to be reopened until 1951.

The then prime minister Bhimsen Thapa had to bear mortification from the defeat and he was arrested, locked up and subsequently he committed suicide in 1839. The period between1836-1846 is marked with confusion and intrigues. During that time Pandays, Basnyats, and Kunwars were fighting each other for power. In 1846, Jung Bahadur Rana declared himself as the  prime minister and later "Maharajah" with powers (superior to those of the king). Then began the Rana period in Nepal which lasted up to 104 years. During this period, the country was kept in isolation and the people were deprived of political and social rights. The power structure and state money were expended for the self interest of the Ranas. The King was present but was kept under complete control of the Ranas. In 1850, Jung Bahadur visited England and France to seek foreign support for their system.

A "liberal" Rana prime minister proposed a new constitution offering a people's participation through an administrative system known as ‘Panchayat’. Village elders would solve problems locally with leaders elected to a national Panchayat.  But this new idea was soon discouraged by a successor. The Nepali Congress Party under the leadership of B.P. Koirala began the movement against the Rana rule.
The rightful monarch King ‘Tribhuvan, defenseless in his palace, escapes to India under the simulation of pursuing in November 1950. The King returned from India and soon thereafter, the Ranas went to live in India. The period in between 1951 & 1959 passed with uncertainty as the King did not comply with his promise of holding elections for the constituent assembly. Finally, only under pressure from the parties, King Mahendra declared elections for the parliament in 1959.
The Nepali Congress unexpectedly got a majority in the new parliament. This led the King into doubt that he would be reduced to a ceremonial role and thus on 15 December 1960, banned the Nepali Congress and began a direct rule. Mahendra’s son King Birendra reinstated multipart after the movemenmt in 1989.

When the late King ‘Birendra’ and his entire family were killed on 2001, his brother, Gyanendra Shah became the king of Nepal. Gyanendra reinstated the parliament aftewr popolar struggle in 2006. In 2008, the newly elected constitution assembly declared the country a republic.

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