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The State of Nepal is a landlocked South Asian country bordered by China to the north and India to the south. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. Nepal, though small, has a diverse and dramatic landscape and is home to the Himalayas. Eight of the world's ten highest mountains are in Nepal, including the single highest, Mount Everest.
Nepal has a complex history dating back thousands of years. Throughout much of its existence, Nepal was controlled by external powers based in India. In the late 15th century, Nepal separated into three rival kingdoms, Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon. The dawn of modern Nepal was in 1765, when the three kingdoms were unified under Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah.
Nepal defended its territories against the British East India Company in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1815 to 1816. There were heavy casualties on both sides and Nepal lost many of its outlying territories, though it retained its present day borders and gained autonomy. The Nepalese government was unstable following the war, and the reigning queen lost her power in a failed attempt to overthrow military leader Jang Bahadur in 1846. Bahadur became the first ruler in the Rana Dynasty, which lasted until 1953. The Rana family is still powerful in Nepal, as is the Shah family, the hereditary monarchy.
Nepal became pro-British during the Rana Dynasty and signed an agreement of friendship with the United Kingdom in 1923. In the early 1950s, the Rana Dynasty fell apart under Indian influence. Democracy was attempted but abandoned in 1959 in favor of a traditional Indian village-based system of government known as panchayat, headed by an absolute monarch.
Change came again in 1989, when the Jana Andolan People's Movement pushed for a multi-party democratic system. A parliament was established in 1991, and the country's first democratic elections took place the same year. However, instability in the region continues to the present day. In 1996, Civil War broke out, instigated by Maoist rebels. Peace negotiations between the Maoists and the government took place in 2006 and an interim government was established.
Nepal's economy is mostly based on agriculture, but also on services and industry. Nepal has a high rate of unemployment, causing many to seek work in neighboring India. Foreign aid from many countries around the world is important to Nepal's economy.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal, but less than half the population speak it as their native language. Hinduism is the major religion, while Buddhism, Islam, and Kirant are important minority faiths. Traditional folklore, song, and dance are alive and influential in Nepalese culture.