Nepal, a beautiful country that lies on the lap of mountains, is very rich in history, art, and culture. It is a landlocked country squeezed between India and China and is a multi-religious, multi-lingual, multi-racial, and multi-cultural country with a long and rich past that dates back to 11000 years. Its territory extends roughly 500 miles (800 kilometers) from east to west and 90 to 150 miles from north to south between N 28º23’41.4846” E 84º7’26.4288”.
The capital city of Nepal is Kathmandu.
A country of ancient civilization can be traced thousands of years before the birth of Christ (BC). Legends say that the very first dynasty to rule the Kathmandu valley was the Gopala dynasty (the cow herders). Then ruled by Kiratas. After Kiratas, came the Lichhavis, who massively improved the economy and made great contributions to the arts, architecture, and temples.
With the downfall of Lichhavis, another important era of Nepalese history, the Mallas rose around the 13th century. Innumerable temples, palaces, idols, and crafts, still prevalent in the Kathmandu valley, is an excellent examples of art and architecture from that period.
Nepal has a long and glorious history of thousand of years and by 1767 AD, the Great King Prithivi Narayan Shah of the Shah Dynasty conquered various warring principalities and laid the foundation of modern Nepal.
Unification and Modern Nepal
King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1723–1775 AD) was born in Gorkha on 27 Poush 1779 BS (11 January 1723). After the death of his father Narabhupal Shah on 25 Chaitra 1799 BS, he became the king of Gorkha. He ascended to the throne of the Gorkha kingdom on 1799 BS (3 April 1743). He was interested in politics and diplomacy and had greater plans to visit and conquer other countries since his days as a crown prince.
The unification of Nepal officially began in 1800 BS (1743 AD) after King Prithvi Narayan Shah launched an annexation campaign seeking to broaden his own kingdom’s borders. After conquering the Nepal Mandala, which consisted of the three separate city-states of the Kathmandu Valley, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and Bhaktapur, Shah moved his hilly capital in Gorkha to the fertile and wealthy city of Kathmandu and adopted the name Nepal for his newly unified empire. The Shah dynasty would go on to unite the various warring kingdoms that once occupied parts of present-day Nepal into a nation-state that stretched up to the Sutlej River in the west and Sikkim-Jalpaiguri in the east. Before usage by the Gorkha Empire, the Kathmandu Valley was known as Nepal after Nepal Mandala in the Newar language, (Newar are the natives of ancient Nepal i.e. Kathmandu Valley)
After his conquest of the Kathmandu Valley, Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered other smaller territories south of the valley to keep other smaller fiefdoms near his Gorkha state out of the influence and control of British rule. After his kingdom spread from north to south, he made Kantipur (now Kathmandu) the capital of the expanded country which was known as the Kingdom of Gorkha (Gorkha Samrajya). It was renamed the Kingdom of Nepal in 1930 by King Tribhuwan Bir Bikram Shah.
The first Prime Minister of new Nepal was Bhimsen Thapa (1775 AD – 1839 AD). He was the de facto ruler of the country for the length of his tenure as King Girwana Yuddha Bikram Shah, who became king when an infant, was not interested in running the country and preferred to reign as the figurehead and his successor was also an infant.
Bhimsen Thapa also holds the record for the longest tenure i.e 32 years, from 1806 to 1837, in the history of the country – first as the young king’s regent and then as prime minister after King Girwana Yuddha came of age. It was during his rule that Nepal reached its greatest extent to Kumaon, Garhwal, and Darjeeling (now Indian states) and then lost a third of that after a defeat in the Anglo-Nepal War (1814–1816).
Sughauli Treaty Signify the Territory of Present-Day Nepal
The Sugauli Treaty was signed on December 2, 1815, and ratified on March 4, 1816, between the British East India Company and the Nepal kingdom. This ended the second British invasion of the Himalayan kingdom during the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814-1816). The signatory for Nepal was Raj Guru Gajaraj Mishra aided by Chandra Sekher Upadhyaya and the signatory for the Company was Lieutenant-Colonel Paris Bradshaw.
The treaty called for territorial concessions in which parts of Nepal will be given to British India, the establishment of a British representative in Kathmandu, and allowed Britain to recruit Nepali Gurkhas for military service. Nepal also lost the right to deploy any American or European employee in its service (earlier several French commanders had been deployed to train the Nepali army).
Under the treaty, about one-third of Nepalese territory was lost, including Sikkim (whose Chogyals supported Britain in the Anglo-Nepalese War); territory to the west of the Kali River like Kumaon (present Indian state of Uttarakhand), Garhwal (present Indian state of Uttarakhand); some territories to the west of the Sutlej River like Kangra (present-day Himachal Pradesh); and much of the Terai Region. Some of the Terai Region was restored to Nepal in 1816 under a revision of the treaty and more territory was returned in 1865 to thank Nepal for helping to suppress the Indian rebellion of 1857.
Since then till now Nepal extends from Mechi in the east and Mahakali in the west.
Rana Regime in Nepal
The Kot Massacre of 1846 gave sufficient power to Jung Bahadur to establish his dictatorial rule in Nepal. The butchery began after the murder of Gagan Singh, the power behind the throne on 14 September 1846. Almost all the spirited nobles and the highest officers were either killed or exiled.
It was soon followed by another mass massacre called Bhandarkhal Parva. Jung Bahadur Rana captured all the state power and became the Prime Minister and Commander-in-Chief. He ousted king Rajendra Bikram Shah and exiled his junior Queen, Rajyalaxmi to place their son Surendra on the throne.
He got himself and his kins the title of ‘Maharaja’ from the king. He reduced the king to a nominal head. The king delegated all his powers and authorities to Maharaja Jung Bahadur Rana. Rana was authorized to carry out ‘pajani’, declare war or make peace, and sign treaties with any countries. Thus, he fully consolidated his position and became the de-facto ruler of Nepal.
Jung Bahadur Rana established the system of hereditary Rana Prime Ministership in Nepal and also secured the title of ‘Shree 3 Maharaja’. He passed the order of succession to his brothers. Under this rule, only the Ranas could become the Prime Ministers as per the succession lineage established. The Rana Prime Ministers ruled over Nepal for 104 years as dictators enjoying unlimited powers and authorities until King Tribhuwan restore democracy and Shah dynasty legacy.
Restoration of Democracy, End of Rana Regime
After the democracy movement in the early 1950s Rana’s were out thrown from Nepal and King Tribhuwan was restored as the head of the Nation. Later 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 (BP Koirala) formed a government and served as the first elected Prime Minister of democratic Nepal. A constitution was finally approved in 1959, under which general elections for a national assembly were held. The NC won an overwhelming victory and was entrusted with the formation of Nepal’s first popular government. But persistent controversy between the cabinet and King Mahendra led the king to dismiss the Nepali Congress government in December 1960 and to imprison most of the party’s leaders. The constitution of 1959 was abolished in 1962, and a new constitution was promulgated that established the crown as the real source of authority. King Mahendra obtained both Indian and Chinese acceptance of his regime, and the internal opposition was weak, disorganized, and discouraged. Mahendra died in January 1972 and was succeeded by his son Birendra, who was crowned in 1975.
To meet the first serious political challenge to the monarchy since 1960, King Birendra announced in May 1979 that a national referendum would be held to decide between a nonparty and multiparty (by implication, parliamentary) political system. In the referendum, which was held in May 1980, the political groups supporting the existing nonparty system won by a relatively small margin of 55 percent, accurately reflecting the sharp differences in the country on basic political issues.
The policy objectives of the interim government were “to maintain law and order, develop a multiparty system on the basis of constitutional, draft a new constitution, and hold general elections” to a parliament. Within a year, all four tasks were accomplished with remarkable success despite the broad divergence of views among the major political organizations. A draft of the new constitution, prepared by a broadly representative government commission, was submitted to the palace and the cabinet on September 10, 1990. In November, following two months of vigorous debate on a number of key issues—including the role of the king, the development of a secular state, emergency powers, and the status of Nepal’s many languages—an amended version of the constitution was promulgated by King Birendra that provided for both a constitutional monarchy and a multiparty parliamentary political system.
General Elections and Fall of Monarchy in Nepal
General elections held on May 12, 1991, gave the Nepali Congress a majority in parliament (110 of 205 seats), but the moderate Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist)—CPN (UML)—with 69 seats, emerged as a strong opposition party. The two “Pancha” parties usually associated with the old system won only four seats. The elections were thus perceived to constitute a strong endorsement of the 1990 political changes, and Girija Prasad Koirala, the brother of Nepal’s first elected Prime Minister, BP Koirala (1959–60), was nominated by the Nepali Congress and appointed by the king to head the newly elected government.
Meanwhile, a group of Maoist rebels emerged in the 1990s and rapidly grew in number and strength and established their own breakaway party, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or CPN (M). The rebels often used violent tactics to champion the cause of the rural poor and advocated overthrowing the monarchy. By the early 21st century the Maoists not only posed a serious threat to the government but had virtually propelled the country into a state of civil war.
The killing in 2001 of the king and most members of the royal family further heightened tensions. The new king, Birendra’s brother Gyanendra, took an active role in defending the monarchy, meanwhile, including imposing direct rule in 2005.
Nepal as a Federal Democratic Republic Nation
In December 2007 it was finally agreed that the monarchy would be abolished, and elections were held in April 2008. The Maoists—who changed their party name to the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), or UCPN (M), in 2009—won the most seats, and on May 28, 2008, more than two centuries of royal rule came to an end as the new assembly voted to declare Nepal a democratic republic.
In July 2008 Ram Baran Yadav of the NC was elected by the assembly as the country’s first president. One month later an election for prime minister was held in parliament. Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, won by a wide margin and formed a coalition government. Parliamentary elections took place in November, with the Nepali Congress gaining the largest number of seats and the CPN (UML) second. The two parties discussed forming a coalition government for several months, which finally took office in February 2014. A new constitution was formulated in Nepal in 2015. In mid-September parliament finally approved the document, which took effect on September 20 and established Nepal as a secular federal-style republic. Dr. Ram Baran Yadav became the first President of the country.
As of 20 September, 2015 Nepal is divided into 7 provinces and 77 districts. They are defined by schedule 4 of the new constitution, by grouping together the existing 75 districts. (In 1962, the reorganization of traditional 32 districts into 14 zones and 75 development Districts). Two districts Rukum and Nawalparasi however are split into two parts, making 77 districts and ending up in two different provinces.
The Making of “Districts” in Nepal
During the time of king Rajendra Bir Bikram Shah and Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa Nepal was divided into 10 districts. All areas east of Dudhkoshi River were one district, Dhankuta.
During the time of prime minister Jung Bahadur Rana (1885-1901) Nepal was divided into 32 districts and Doti, Palpa and Dhankuta were 3 gaunda (Cantonment). Hilly region had 20 districts and Terai had 12 districts. Even after the fall of the Rana Rule in 1951 and until the proclamation of the new constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1962, Nepal remained divided into 32 districts. Each had a headquarters and Bada Haqim, the District Administrator.
In 1962, during the Panchyat era (1962–1990) the reorganization of 32 districts took place and Nepal now had 14 zones and 75 development Districts. District Panchayat was one of the four administrative divisions of Nepal back then. In 1972, the country was divided into four development regions, adopting a regional development approach, each running north to south: Eastern, Central, Western and Far-Western. In 1982, the Far-Western Region was split into the Mid-Western and Far-Western Regions, making a total of five. The development regions, like the zones, have had few administrative functions besides serving as another sub-national layer between the center and the districts. Composed of elected members at the district level. It was responsible for formulating district-level development policies. It was established in 1990, following the end of the Panchayat system.
With the promulgation of new constitutions as of 20 September 2015, 5 development regions and 14 zones were dissolved to make 7 provinces and Nepal now has 77 districts. They are defined by schedule 4 of the new constitution, by grouping together the existing districts. Two districts Rukum and Nawalparasi however are split in two parts ending up in two different provinces. The old District Development Committee (DDC) was replaced by District Coordination Committee (DCC).
Currently, Nepal follows the election system to nominate and choose ministers from all around the nation and President is considered the head of the nation.