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Nepal Basic Facts - History

Nepal Basic Facts - History

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Population 2009 ......................................................... 28,563,000
GDP per capita 2008 (Purchasing Power Parity, US$)........... 1,00
GDP 2008 (Purchasing Power Parity, US$ billions).............. 31.09

Average annual growth 1991-97
Population (%) ....... 1.3
Labor force (%) ....... 2.2

Total Area...................................................................1,068,298 sq. mi.
Poverty (% of population below national poverty line)...... 26
Urban population (% of total population) ............................... 89
Life expectancy at birth (years)..................................................... 73
Infant mortality (per 1,000 live births)........................................ 22
Child malnutrition (% of children under 5) ............................... 2
Access to safe water (% of population) ..................................... 65
Illiteracy (% of population age 15+) ............................................. 4

History of Nepal

The history of Nepal is intertwined with the history of the broader Indian subcontinent and the surrounding regions, comprising the areas of South Asia and East Asia.

Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multiracial, multicultural, multi-religious, and multilingual country. The most spoken language is Nepali followed by several other ethnic languages.

The Kingdom of Nepal was established in 1768 and started a campaign of unifying all of Nepal that would form modern territories of Nepal. Some former territories had been lost due to the kingdom having participated in the Sino-Nepalese War which ended in both victory and loses, ultimately accepting as a tribute state of Qing dynasty of China from 1792 to 1865. [1] The Anglo-Nepalese War ended in British victory and ceded some Nepalese territory. In a historical vote for the election of the constituent assembly, the Nepalese parliament voted to abolish the monarchy in June 2006. Nepal became a federal republic on 28 May 2008 and was formally renamed the 'Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal' ending the 200-year-old reign of the Shah monarchs.

50 Amazing Facts About Nepal

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Thought you knew Nepal? Well, maybe it’s time to think again. This infographic contains 50 amazing facts about this astounding country that will surprise and intrigue you. Even the most jaded traveller’s feet will start to itch again, and there’s enough ammunition here to have you firing on all cylinders in any pub quiz.

Nepal lies sandwiched between the two domineering land masses and national powers that are India and China, yet it still manages to retain a culture that is distinctly its own.

We all know that the highs of visiting Nepal include the majestic towering peak of Mount Everest, which finally kisses the sky at 8,850 metres. But did you know that 8 out of 10 of the world’s highest mountains are found within the relatively small 143,000 km2 that Nepal occupies?

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Nepal was known to the Ancient Indians. It was mentioned in classical Indian literature. In the 3rd century BC, the great Indian Emperor introduced Buddhism into Nepal. Nepal was also in contact with China. About 200 AD a people called the Lichavis took power in Nepal. Under them Nepal flourished and great temples both Hindu and Buddhist were built.

However, the Lichavis eventually declined and a new era began in 879 AD. They were replaced by a series of kings called the Thakuris. n From the 12th century a series of kings whose surname ended in Malla reigned in Nepal. In the 14th century one of them, Jayasthiti Malla introduced the caste system into Nepal. The power of the Malla dynasty reached a peak in the 15h century under Yaksha Mall.

However, after his death in 1482, his kingdom was divided between his 3 sons. Nepal was reunited in the 18th century by a man named Prithvi Narayan Shah. He was suspicious of the growing power of the British in India and decided to isolate his nation.

However, in the 19th century, the Nepalese were forced to come to terms with the British. In 1814-1816 they fought a war after which the present boundaries of Nepal were drawn. Then in 1860 Nepalese soldiers began serving in the British army.

Meanwhile, in 1846 a man named Rang Bahadur seized power and declared himself Rana or prime minister. Afterward, the kings of Nepal were only figureheads and the Rana held the real power. Finally, in 1923 Britain and Nepal signed a new treaty.

In 1950 the Rana was overthrown and royal authority was restored. Then in 1959 elections were held in Nepal. However, the king quarreled with the elected Congress and dismissed it in 1960. Under a new constitution of 1962, the king had all the real power. However, in 1990 widespread protests led to the restoration of democracy. Nepal gained a new constitution and in 1991 elections were held.

Then in 1994, a minority Communists government took power. However, in 1995 the Supreme Court nullified the election results and reinstated the previous parliament.

In 1996 a Maoist (Communist) insurgency began in Nepal which severely damaged the economy. However, a peace accord was signed in November 2006. In April 2008 elections were held and a coalition government came to power. In May 2008 the monarchy was abolished and Nepal became a republic. Nepal gained a new constitution in 2015.

Today Nepal remains a poor country. Most of the people live by farming. However, tourism in Nepal has great potential. In 2020 the population of Nepal was 29 million.

Outline Map of Nepal

The above map represents Nepal, a Himalayan nation in the Indian subcontinent. The mountain chains of the Himalayan range run west-east through the country. The map can be downloaded, printed, and used for coloring or educational purpose like map-pointing activities.

Located in the Himalayan mountain region of the Indian subcontinent, Nepal is a mountainous country with picturesque landscapes. The above map represents Neapl.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. Historically, caste and class status paralleled each other, with the highest castes having the most land, capital, and political influence. The lowest castes could not own property or receive an education. Although caste distinctions are no longer supported by law, caste relations have shaped present-day social stratification: Untouchables continue to be the poorest sector of society, while the upper castes tend to be wealthy and politically dominant. While land is still the principal measure of wealth, some castes that specialize in trade and commerce have fared better under modern capitalism than have landowning castes. Changes in the economic and political system have opened some opportunities for members of historically disadvantaged castes.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Caste and ethnic groups are often identifiable by both physical traits and styles of dress and ornamentation. These symbols of ethnic identity along with distinctive forms of music, dance, and cuisine, continue to be important. The culture of caste Hindus is the national

The country is home to both the one-horned rhinoceros as well as the Bengal tiger. The one-horned rhino is considered to be a vulnerable species according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). Nepal ranks third (behind India and Bangladesh) in terms of having the highest concentrations of Royal Bengal Tigers on the planet.

In terms of both plants and animals Nepal flourishes with biodiversity. In terms of plants the country is home to 360 orchid species, six per cent of the planet’s rhododendron species, 39 % of the world’s Meconopsis poppy, and 5980 flower species. As for animals Nepal’s Nepalese river serves as the one and only natural breeding ground for Long Snouted Gharial crocodiles. The country is also home to 870 species of birds and 650 types of butterflies.



A landlocked country the size of Arkansas, lying between India and the Tibetan Autonomous Region of China, Nepal contains Mount Everest (29,035 ft 8,850 m), the tallest mountain in the world. Along its southern border, Nepal has a strip of level land that is partly forested, partly cultivated. North of that is the slope of the main section of the Himalayan range, including Everest and many other peaks higher than 8,000 m.


In Nov. 1990, King Birendra promulgated a new constitution and introduced a multiparty parliamentary democracy in Nepal. Under pressure amid massive pro-democracy protests in April 2006, King Gyanendra gave up direct rule and reinstated Parliament, which then quickly moved to diminish the King's power. In Dec. 2007, Parliament voted to abolish the monarchy and become a federal democratic republic. The transition to a republic was completed in May 2008, when the Constituent Assemby voted to dissolve the monarchy.


The first civilizations in Nepal, which flourished around the 6th century B.C. , were confined to the fertile Kathmandu Valley where the present-day capital of the same name is located. It was in this region that Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born c. 563 B.C. Gautama achieved enlightenment as Buddha and spawned Buddhism.

Nepali rulers' early patronage of Buddhism largely gave way to Hinduism, reflecting the increased influence of India, around the 12th century. Though the successive dynasties of the Gopalas, the Kiratis, and the Licchavis expanded their rule, it was not until the reign of the Malla kings from 1200?1769 that Nepal assumed the approximate dimensions of the modern state.

The kingdom of Nepal was unified in 1768 by King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who had fled India following the Moghul conquests of the subcontinent. Under Shah and his successors, Nepal's borders expanded as far west as Kashmir and as far east as Sikkim (now part of India). A commercial treaty was signed with Britain in 1792 and again in 1816 after more than a year of hostilities with the British East India Company.

The Independence of Nepal and the First Free Election

In 1923, Britain recognized the absolute independence of Nepal. Between 1846 and 1951, the country was ruled by the Rana family, which always held the office of prime minister. In 1951, however, the king took over all power and proclaimed a constitutional monarchy. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah became king in 1955. After Mahendra died of a heart attack in 1972, Prince Birendra, at 26, succeeded to the throne.

In 1990, a pro-democracy movement forced King Birendra to lift the ban on political parties. The first free election in three decades provided a victory for the liberal Nepali Congress Party in 1991, although the Communists made a strong showing. A small but growing Maoist guerrilla movement, seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and install a Communist government, began operating in the countryside in 1996.

On June 1, 2001, King Birendra was shot and killed by his son, Crown Prince Dipendra. Angered by his family's disapproval of his choice of a bride, the crown prince also killed his mother and several other members of the royal family before shooting himself. Prince Gyanendra, the younger brother of King Birendra, was then crowned king.

King Gyanendra Asserts Control over the Government

King Gyanendra dismissed the government in Oct. 2002, calling it corrupt and ineffective. He declared a state of emergency in November and ordered the army to crack down on the Maoist guerrillas. The rebels intensified their campaign, and the government responded with equal intensity, killing hundreds of Maoists, the largest toll since the insurgency began in 1996. In Aug. 2003, the Maoist rebels withdrew from peace talks with the government and ended a cease-fire that had been signed in Jan. 2003. The following August, the rebels blockaded Kathmandu for a week, cutting off shipments of food and fuel to the capital.

King Gyanendra fired the entire government in Feb. 2005 and assumed direct power. Many of the country's politicians were placed under house arrest, and severe restrictions on civil liberties were instituted. In Sept. 2005, the Maoist rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire, which ended in Jan. 2006. In April, massive pro-democracy protests organized by seven opposition parties and supported by the Maoists took place. They rejected King Gyanendra's offer to hand over executive power to a prime minister, saying he failed to address their main demands: the restoration of Parliament and a referendum to redraft the constitution. Days later, as pressure mounted and the protests intensified, King Gyanendra agreed to reinstate Parliament. The new parliament quickly moved to diminish the king's powers and selected Girija Prasad Koirala as prime minister. In May, it voted unanimously to declare Nepal a secular nation and strip the king of his authority over the military.

Steps Toward Peace and a New Constitution

The Maoist rebels and the government signed a landmark peace agreement in Nov. 2006, ending the guerrilla?s 10-year insurgency that claimed some 12,000 lives. In March 2007, the Maoists achieved another milestone when they joined the interim government. Just months later, in Sept. 2007, however, the Maoists quit the interim government, claiming that not enough progress had been made in abolishing the monarchy and forming a republic. They agreed to rejoin the interim government in December, when Parliament voted to abolish the monarchy and become a federal democratic republic.

In April 2008, millions of voters turned out to elect a 601-seat Constituent Assembly that will write a new constitution. The Maoist rebels, who recently signed a peace agreement with the government that ended the guerrilla?s 10-year insurgency, won 120 out of 240 directly elected seats. In May, the assembly voted to dissolve the 239-year-old monarchy, thus completing the transition to a republic. King Gyanendra vacated Narayanhiti Palace in June and began life as a commoner.

Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala resigned in June, after two years in office. In July, the Maoists said they would not participate in the government when their candidate for president, Ramraja Prasad Singh, was defeated. Other parties in the Constituent Assembly united to elect Ram Baran Yadav as the country's first president. The move seemed to jeopardize the peace process. A Maoist was elected prime minister in August, however. The Constituent Assembly voted 464 to 113 in favor of Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, over Sher Bahadur Deuba, a member of the Nepali Congress Party who served as prime minister three times. In a compromise, the Maoists said they would not hold posts in the party?s armed faction and would return private property it seized from opponents.

In May of 2009, the fragile compromise government fell apart when Pushpa Kamal Dahal, the country's Maoist prime minister, resigned and the Maoists quit the government. Dahal's resignation came after Nepal's President, Ram Baran Yadav, reinstated fired General Rookmangud Katawal. Katawal had been fired for refusing to work with the Maoists his reinstatement came partially as a result of outside pressure from India. Dahal said he would not rejoin the government unless General Katawal was permanently removed.

On May 23, 2009, Madhav Kumar Nepal became the new prime minister, with the backing of 21 of the 24 political parties in Nepal's National Assembly. Just over a year later, in June 2010, Prime Minister Nepal reached a deal with the Maoists in which he agreed to resign and in exchange the Maoists extended both the term of Parliament and the deadline to complete a draft constitution until May 2011. The agreement averted a political crisis.

Parliament elected a prime minister after 17 attempts in Feb. 2011. Jhalanath Khanal secured 368 of 601 votes, against 122 for Ram Chandra Poudel and 67 for Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar. Khanal, the chairman of the Communist Party of NePaul (Unified Marxist-Leninist), was sworn in on February 6. The election ended a stalemate that had paralyzed the country for months with political parties competing for control of the government. Khanal asked rival parties to support his administration and work together toward finishing the new constitution.

A Constitution Crisis and the Historic 2011 Census

On May 29, 2011, a last-minute deal was reached by Nepal's political parties to extend the new constitution deadline. The three month extension avoided what analysts were calling a political crisis. For over a year the Constituent Assembly, a special legislative body, had been trying to agree on a constitution and finalize a peace agreement that ended the Maoist insurgency. During the three month extension the rival parties within in Constituent Assembly agreed to draft a new constitution and address questions about the 19,000 former Maoists who are currently living in camps throughout the country.

In the fall of 2011, the first census results since Nepal's civil war and the fall of its Hindu monarchy will be released. It is also the first census by any country in the world to include an option for people who identify as third gender?people who do not have a fixed gender identity or sexual orientation. The inclusion is another step in embracing equal rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) people. In 2007, Sunil Babu Pant won a case in the Supreme Court that forced the government to guarantee equal rights to all sexual and gender minorities. In 2008, Pant became the first openly gay lawmaker elected to parliament. Since then, the Supreme Court has also approved same-sex marriage and Nepal now issues third gender national ID cards. Even though some logistical problems and fear among some third genders will make the census data inaccurate at best, the inclusion sends a message about the government's commitment on the issue and stands as a lesson to be learned by other nations.

No Agreement Reached on New Constitution

In May 2012, rival political parties could not agree on a new constitution before the Constituent Assembly's term expired. Because no agreement was reached, the Constituent Assembly, Nepal's legislature, would be dissolved. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that he would hold elections in Nov. 2012 for a new legislature. In his announcement Bhattarai said, "Political consensus is still needed to move ahead. Let us learn from mistakes and move ahead."

First elected to a two-year term in 2008, the Constituent Assembly was given multiple extensions after failing to agree on a new constitution. In 2012, the Supreme Court ruled against another extension.

Politicians Still Struggling to Agree on a New Government in Late 2012

In Nov. 2012, President Yadav set a Nov. 29 deadline for Nepal's politicians to reach an agreement for a new government. The process started back in 2008 with the election of a Constituent Assembly. However, since then, the assembly has not agreed on a constitution or how and when to hold more elections. Many deadlines have passed and the only thing they've agreed on was to name Maoist Baburam Bhattarai as prime minister and to select a cabinet.

Yadav's Nov. 29 deadline passed without any progress so he extended it again for another week. Rajendra Dahal, a spokesman for the president, said, "The political parties said they were very much committed to having some conclusion or output with this next week." But Dahal also said that reaching an agreement on a new government was something that could take weeks or months.

The number of political groups is one of the factors that has kept Nepal's politicians in disagreement. The country has more than 35 major political groups.

Interim Government Formed to End Political Deadlock

In early 2013, Nepal's political parties agreed on an interim government to hold elections. Chief Justice Khil Raj Regm was appointed prime minister to lead the interim government. He assumed the position on March 14, 2013.

The interim government was formed to hold Constituent Assembly elections in an effort to put an end to months of political deadlock. The elections were planned to be held by June 21, 2013, but were delayed further by the election commission. The election commission blamed the latest delay on a constitution that had no legal provisions for holding an election.

The Constituent Assembly election was finally held on Nov. 19, 2013. Voter turnout was 78.34%, beating the previous record of 68.15% during the 1991 general elections. In the election, the Nepali Congress came in first, winning 105 of the 240 seats. The Nepali Congress, the country's oldest political party, has close ties to India. The usually dominant Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won only 26 seats. Following the election the Unified Communist Party said the elections were fraudulent, but independent election observers, including former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, dismissed those claims.

On Feb. 10, 2014, Sushil Koirala was elected as Nepal's fifth prime minister with a decisive 405-148 vote. President of the Nepali Congress party, Koirala was sworn in the following day.

Deadly Avalanche Hits Mount Everest and Sparks Protests

At least 16 Sherpa guides died in an avalanche on Mount Everest on April 18, 2014. It was the deadliest avalanche ever recorded on Mount Everest. The Sherpa guides were fixing ropes for climbers at an elevation of 19,000 feet when the avalanche hit.

After the incident, dozens of Sherpa guides walked off the job in protest over the Nepalese government's response to the tragedy. The government pledged a relief sum of around $400 to the families of the guides who died in the avalanche. The Sherpa guides were angered by the relief sum, called it an insult, and returned to their homes. Two expeditions were cancelled and 31 expeditions have been put on hold since the Sherpa guides walked out.

Earthquake Kills Thousands, Destroys Several Historic Landmarks

A magnitude-7.8 earthquake struck central Nepal, near the capital, Katmandu, on April 25, 2015, killing more than 8,000 people, injuring about 17,000, and damaging or destroying thousands of structures, including the treasured Dharahara Tower and the temple complex Bhaktapur Durbar Square. It caused avalanches on Mt. Everest, which killed at least 17 people. The earthquake was felt throughout the country and affected others in Asia. Continuous aftershocks complicated rescue efforts and further traumatized a nation stunned by catastrophic loss. Nepal's rugged, mountainous terrain made the search for survivors and attempts to deliver food and medical supplies to affected areas perilous endeavors. Seismologists have predicted an earthquake would hit Nepal, but the country was ill-prepared for a disaster of this scale. Another strong earthquake hit Nepal just three weeks later, on May 12. At least 40 people were killed and well over 1,000 injured in the magnitude-7.8 earthquake, whose epicenter was about 50 miles east of Kathmandu.

New Constitution Passes, Prime Minister Koirala Resigns

On Oct. 2, 2015, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala announced he would submit his resignation to make room for a successor. A new prime minister was a provision of a new democratic Constitution announced and adopted by President Yadav on Sept. 20. Of the new Constitution, Koirala said in a speech to Parliament, "According to my public commitment and the provisions of the constitution I will ask the respected president to take forward the constitutional process to choose the new prime minister."

Chairman of the Communist Party of Nepal, Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, became the first prime minister under the new Constitution on Oct. 11, 2015. Later that month, parliament elected Bidhya Devi Bhandari as president. Bhandari received 327 of 549 votes to defeat Nepali Congress party leader Kul Bahadur Gurung. The first woman president, Bhandari previously served as the Minister of Defense and as vice-chairwoman of the Communist Party of Nepal.


Nepal's history dates back to the time of the Gopalas and Mahishapalas who are believed to have been the earliest rulers of the valley with their capital at Matatirtha, the south-west corner of Kathmandu Valley. They were ousted by the Kirantis around the 7th or 8th Century B.C. The Kirantis are said to have ruled the valley for many centuries following their victory. Their famous King Yalumber is even mentioned in the &lsquoMahabharata&rsquo as he is said to have led his troops to the epic battle. Then around 300 A.D. the Lichhavis arrived from northern India and overthrew the Kirantis. One of the legacies of the Lichhavis is the Changu Narayan Temple near Bhaktapur, a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Culture), which dates back to the 4th Century. In the early 7th Century, their King Amshuvarma, married off his daughter Bhrikuti to the famous Tibetan King Tsong Tsen Gampo, thus establishing good relations with Tibet. The Lichhavis brought art and architecture to the valley but the golden age of creativity arrived in 1200 A.D after the Mallas conquered them.

During their 550 year rule, the Mallas built remarkable temples and artistically designed palaces with picturesque squares filled with woodcarvings and metal works. It was also during their rule that the valley society and the cities became well organized spectacular religious festivals were introduced and literature, music, art and drama were encouraged. After the death of King Yaksha Malla, the valley was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu (Kantipur), Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon) and Patan (Lalitpur). At the time, Nepal as we know it today was divided into 46 independent principalities. One among these was the kingdom of Gorkha ruled by a Shah king. Much of Kathmandu Valley&rsquos history around this time was recorded by Capuchin friars from Italy who lived in the valley on their way in and out of Tibet.

An ambitious Gorkha King named Prithvi Narayan Shah embarked on a conquering mission that led to the defeat of all the kingdoms in the valley including Kirtipur.by 1769. Instead of annexing the newly acquired states to his kingdom of Gorkha, Prithvi Narayan decided to move his capital to Kathmandu, thus establishing the Shah dynasty which ruled unified Nepal from the late 18th century to 2008.

The Gorkha state dates back to 1559 when Dravya Shah established his kingdom in a land predominated by Gurung and Magar people. During the 17th and early 18th centuries, the Gorkha kingdom was slowly expanding, conquering some neighbouring states while forging alliances with others. Eventually it was Prithvi Narayan Shah who led his troops to the Kathmandu Valley. After a long struggle, he defeated all the valley kings and established his palace in Kathmandu leaving Gorkha for good. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he banished European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained closed to the outside world.

During the mid-19th Century Jung Bahadur Rana rose to power as Nepal&rsquos first Prime Minister, becoming more powerful than the Shah King he was supposed to serve under. The king became a mere figurehead and Jung Bahadur started a hereditary reign of the Rana Prime Ministers that lasted for 104 years. In 1950, the Ranas were overthrown in an uprising to bring democracy in the country with strong support from the-then monarch of Nepal, King Tribhuvan. Soon after the overthrow of the Ranas, King Tribhuvan was reinstated as the Head of the State. In early 1959, Tribhuvan&rsquos son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held. The Nepali Congress Party was victorious and their leader, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala (popularly known as B.P.) formed a government and served as Prime Minister. But this government didn&rsquot last long as King Mahendra decided to dissolve Parliament in 1960, and introduced a one party &lsquoPanchayat&rsquo rule.

The Panchayat system lasted until 1990, when a popular people&rsquos movement led by the political parties that had been banned by the government which until then had been known as &lsquoHis Majesty&rsquos Government&rsquo, gave way to democracy. The long struggle paid off when King Birendra accepted constitutional reforms and established a multiparty parliament with himself as the Head of State and an executive Prime Minister under him. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections.

In February 1996, the Maoist parties declared a People&rsquos War against monarchy and the elected government. Then on 1st June 2001, a horrific tragedy wiped out the entire royal family of Nepal including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya along with most of their closest relatives. With only King Birendra&rsquos brother, Gyanendra and his family surviving, he was crowned king. King Gyanendra abided by the elected government&rsquos rule for a short time, but then dismissed the elected Parliament to wield absolute power. In April 2006, another People&rsquos Movement was launched jointly by the democratic parties focusing on Kathmandu, which led to a 19-day curfew imposed by the king. With the movement not cowering down and ignoring even the curfew, King Gyanendra eventually relinquished his power and reinstated Parliament. On 21st November 2006, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and Maoist Chairman Prachanda signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) 2006, committing to democracy and peace for the progress of the country and people. The king was removed and the decade long Maoist war on the state came to an end. A Constituent Assembly election was held on 10th April 2008. And on 28th May 2008, the newly elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic, abolishing the 240 year-old monarchy. Nepal today has a President as Head of State and a constitutionally elected Prime Minister heading the Government.

Nepal History

In 1923, Britain recognized the absolute independence of Nepal. Between 1846 and 1951, the country was ruled by the Rana family, which always held the office of prime minister. In 1951, however, the king took over all power and proclaimed a constitutional monarchy. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah became king in 1955. After Mahendra died of a heart attack in 1972, Prince Birendra, at 26, succeeded to the throne.

In 1990, a pro-democracy movement forced King Birendra to lift the ban on political parties. The first free election in three decades provided a victory for the liberal Nepali Congress Party in 1991, although the Communists made a strong showing. A small but growing Maoist guerrilla movement, seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and install a Communist government, began operating in the countryside in 1996.

On June 1, 2001, King Birendra was shot and killed by his son, Crown Prince Dipendra. Angered by his family's disapproval of his choice of a bride, the crown prince also killed his mother and several other members of the royal family before shooting himself. Prince Gyanendra, the younger brother of King Birendra, was then crowned king.