If we unfold the history of Nepal, the record extends back to 11,000 years. It is believed that the name ‘Nepal’ originated from the ethnic group known as the Newar. Nepal is a small landlocked country that sits between two countries ‘India’ and ‘China’. Nepal is also known as a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-racial, and multi-cultural country. Nepal’s record can be classified into three main periods Ancient, Medieval, and modern.
The ancient history of Nepal mainly comes from the ethnic group Newar( today knowns as Kathmandu Valley). It consists of both Hindu and Buddhist versions of their legend which are both believed and respected equally.
Limbuni located in the southern part of Nepal, is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. It is found the region was highly influenced by the Buddhist culture. A famous column known as the ‘Ashoka Pillar’ is erected in Limbuni by the Indian monarch Ashoka who ruled in the third century BCE and as well as other shrines in the valley stand as evidence. Although there is no actual proof that the Emperor visited Limbuni himself. but the legend narrates him visiting the Kathmandu valley.
In the 7th or 8th centuries BCE, the Kiratis arrived from the East and are also known as the first-ever rulers of Nepal and marking the beginning of Nepal’s history. The first governing family with Indian ancestry, the Lichhavis expelled the Kirats in the early 4th century CE. Changu Narayan Temple and Pashupatinath Temple are some of the artifacts that Lichhavis built. The Lichhavis laid the foundation of what Kathmandu Valley is today. And built most of Kathmandu’s architecture.
Pashupatinath Temple is a renowned temple that lies at the top of the hill and has a popular flok people believe. According to urban legends, a cow frequently visited the hill and fed milk. This behavior of the cow was noticed by the herder. Out of sheer interest, he dug the spot and found a linga with the face of Shiva engraved in it which gave a dazzling light. Later a shrine was constructed in its honor “Pashupatinath” an incarnation of Lord Shiva.
The Lichhavis laid a foundation for Nepal’s culture but the Mallas brought a period of cultural development. During their time of reign, they constructed several temples and palaces that supported the culture and tradition of the people and introduced the spectacular chariot festivals of Indra Jatra and Machhendranath. In the 15th century, Yaksha Malla Partitioned the kingdom between his three sons that’s when Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur were born.
According to urban mythology, Lord Indra posed as a peasant and traveled through Kathmandu plucking flowers for his mother. He was recognized by the people and caught him. Then his mother traveled to Kathmandu after growing concerned about his prolonged absence and discovered him being kidnapped with his legs and hands bound. The natives were ashamed of their behavior after they found out the truth about Lord Indra. Later, they asked for mercy and began celebrating the Indra’s coming with lavish feasts, singing, chariots, and dancing. Nepal still celebrates this auspicious day each year.
In the 18th century, Gorkha became powerful, and its monarch Prithivi Narayan Shah unified the country in 1769 and relocated its capital to Kathmandu, and founded the Shah Dynasty which governed Nepal until 2008.
The diversity in the culture, tradition, and language made it challenging to take control which got worse after the death of Prithvi Narayan Shah leaving the Shah Rulers nothing more than a symbolic ruler. In the 19th century, the Rana family came to hold the real authority. With the establishment of a democratic election and a constitution, the century followed experienced the process of democracy.
Under the banner of the People’s Movement, there were many demonstrations such as a Maoist rebellion and an unsuccessful democratic attempt. In 2008 the country was declared Federal Democratic Republic which brought an end to 240 year old Monarchy.
Although Nepal faces many challenges “modernization” Nepal has made huge progress. Today Nepal stands unified and coexists with people of different cast cultures, languages, and traditions.
Now you have your glimpses into the history of Nepal, your travel to Nepal would be more meaning full and knowledgeable. Exploring through the ancient temples and stupas and enjoying the different religions and customs.