Nepal Fun Facts and History

July 31, 2023

Paul Kay

Do you know where Nepal is? Most people don’t because it’s part Asia and tucked away north of India and south of Tibet. You probably hear about Nepal because of Mt. Everest and the people that are trying to climb to the summit with sherpas. There is a very good movie on this topic called Everest which details one of the more famous climbers. 

Maybe you have heard of Kathmandu. What’s the first thing you think of when you hear of Kathmandu? Is it the famous Bob Seger song? When I was working in Japan, Madeline and I had the opportunity to visit Nepal. It is a small country steeped in history. You can read our post about hotels and attractions here. The above picture is of the Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. More on what stupa is in our review of Nepal attractions.

Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia. The history of Nepal is a complex and fascinating one that is marked by various political and social changes. The earliest inhabitants of Nepal were the Kiratas.  The history of the Kiratas is shrouded in myth and legend, and little is known about their early origins. However, it is believed that they migrated to the region from the east and settled in various parts of present-day Nepal.

The Kiratas were primarily a tribal people who lived in small villages and practiced subsistence farming. They were known for their hunting and fishing skills and were skilled in making handicrafts and weaving. The Kiratas are also known to have developed a unique language, which was different from the Indo-Aryan languages that later came to dominate the region.

The Kiratas are mentioned in ancient Hindu texts such as the Mahabharata and the Puranas, where they are depicted as fierce warriors who were often at odds with the ruling classes. It is said that the Kiratas resisted the conquests of the Kuru dynasty, and were eventually defeated by the legendary hero Bhima, who is said to have married a Kirata princess. 

After the Kirata rule, according to historical records, the Licchavis eventually took over Nepal from the Kiratas. The Licchavis were originally from the Indian subcontinent, and migrated to Nepal in the 3rd century AD. They settled in the Kathmandu Valley, which was at that time ruled by the Kiratas, and gradually began to establish their own power base.

The Licchavis were known for their military prowess and their skill in trade and commerce. They established a powerful kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley and played an important role in spreading Hinduism and Buddhism throughout the region.

A statue of Avalokiteshvara from Nepal. Produced in the 7th or 8th centuries, during the Licchavi period

The Licchavi period was marked by a flourishing of art and culture, with the construction of magnificent temples and monuments that are still visible today. The Licchavis developed a unique style of art and architecture that blended elements of Hinduism and Buddhism, and created a distinctive Nepali culture that is still celebrated today.

Over time, the Licchavi dynasty faced increasing pressure from rival dynasties and external threats, and their power began to decline. In the 7th century AD, the Licchavis were defeated by the Thakuri dynasty, which established its own rule over the region.

The Thakuri dynasty was founded by Arideva, a prince from the Karnali region of Nepal. Arideva is said to have conquered the Kathmandu Valley and established his capital at Thakuri, which is believed to be the origin of the dynasty's name.

Under the Thakuri dynasty, Nepal saw the development of a powerful and centralized state, which was ruled by a succession of strong kings. The Thakuris were known for their military prowess and their skill in diplomacy, and they maintained close ties with neighboring kingdoms and empires.

The Thakuri period was marked by a flourishing of art and culture, with the construction of magnificent temples and monuments that reflected the influence of both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Thakuris also introduced a new system of government, which included the establishment of a powerful bureaucracy and a complex legal system.

However, the Thakuri dynasty faced increasing pressure from rival dynasties and external threats, and their power began to decline in the 10th century AD. They were eventually replaced by the Malla dynasty, which emerged as a powerful force in the Kathmandu Valley.

Malla Dynasty King of Bhaktapur Bhupatindra malla at Bhaktapur Durbar Square

During the medieval period, Nepal was ruled by a number of dynasties. The Malla Dynasty was one of the most important dynasties of this period. The Malla kings were great patrons of art and culture and developed a unique style of architecture that can still be seen in many parts of Nepal. The Malla dynasty ruled over the Kathmandu Valley in Nepal from the beginning of the 12th century to the 18th century. The exact dates of their rule are not well-documented, and there is some disagreement among historians about the beginning and end of their reign.

According to tradition, the Malla dynasty was founded by Ari Malla, a king who came to power in the 12th century. Under the Mallas, the Kathmandu Valley saw a period of cultural and artistic flourishing, as well as the construction of magnificent temples, palaces, and monuments that still stand today. During the Malla period, the Kathmandu Valley was divided into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Patan. Each kingdom was ruled by a separate branch of the Malla family, and they often competed with one another for territory and resources.

Despite their internal rivalries, the Mallas were known for their skill in diplomacy and their ability to maintain close ties with neighboring kingdoms and empires. They also played a crucial role in spreading Hinduism and Buddhism throughout the region, and the Malla period saw the development of a unique blend of Indian, Tibetan, and Nepali culture.

The Great King Prithivi Narayan Shah

The Malla period came to an end in the 18th century with the rise of the Shah dynasty, which established its rule over the entire country and laid the foundation for modern Nepal. The Shah Dynasty began when King Prithvi Narayan Shah reunited Nepal into a single kingdom. He conquered the Kathmandu Valley and made it the capital of Nepal. During the Shah dynasty, the Rana dynasty began during the mid-19th century when Jung Bahadur Rana seized power in a coup and established himself as the country's de facto ruler. The Ranas were authoritarian rulers who maintained their power through a policy of isolationism and repression. The Rana period was marked by stagnation and decline, and Nepal remained largely cut off from the outside world.

The Ranas ruled Nepal for over a century, until they were overthrown in a popular uprising in 1951. Unlike the Shahs, the Ranas were not originally from a ruling family, but rather were members of the nobility who rose to power through their military and political connections. The Ranas were known for their autocratic rule and their efforts to maintain their grip on power through repression and coercion.

The Shah dynasty regained control in 1951 and continued into 2008, when the country was declared a federal democratic republic following the successful conclusion of a constituent assembly election. The decision to abolish the monarchy was made by the newly-elected constituent assembly, which was tasked with drafting a new constitution for Nepal. A new constitution was adopted in 2015. Nepal has since transitioned to a more stable political system, with multi-party elections being held regularly.

In recent years, Nepal has faced a number of challenges, including poverty, political instability, and natural disasters. Despite these challenges, Nepal remains a culturally rich and diverse country, with a unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist traditions, as well as a rich history of art and architecture.

Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia, bordered by India to the south and west, and China to the north. The country has a total area of approximately 56,827 square miles. Nepal is roughly rectangular in shape, with a length of approximately 500 miles from east to west, and a width that varies from approximately 56 to 143 miles from north to south. The country is known for its diverse topography, which includes the Himalayan mountain range in the north, rolling hills and valleys in the middle, and the flat Terai region in the south.

Despite its relatively small size, Nepal is home to a rich and diverse range of cultures, languages, and ethnic groups. The country's population is estimated to be around 29 million people, and it is known for its vibrant arts, music, and festivals.

From a tourism perspective, Nepal has plenty to offer as you can see in our blog post. The highest mountain in the world, Mt. Everest, is located in the Himalayan range in Nepal. It is a popular destination for mountaineers and trekkers. Many people come to Nepal just for the Himalayas which are home to the highest mountains in the world. Here are the ten highest peaks in the Himalayas:

Mount Everest and Mt Lhotse from Renjo pass blue colored, way to Everest base camp and three passes trek, Khumbu valley, Solukhumbu, Sagarmatha national park, Nepal Himalayas mountains

  1. Mount Everest (8,848 meters / 29,029 feet)

  2. K2 (8,611 meters / 28,251 feet) - also known as Mount Godwin-Austen

  3. Kangchenjunga (8,586 meters / 28,169 feet)

  4. Lhotse (8,516 meters / 27,940 feet)

  5. Makalu (8,485 meters / 27,838 feet)

  6. Cho Oyu (8,188 meters / 26,864 feet)

  7. Dhaulagiri (8,167 meters / 26,795 feet)

  8. Manaslu (8,156 meters / 26,759 feet)

  9. Nanga Parbat (8,126 meters / 26,660 feet)

  10. Annapurna (8,091 meters / 26,545 feet)

The first five peaks on the list are also known as the "eight-thousanders," as they are all over 8,000 meters in height. Mount Everest is the highest peak in the world, and the other nine on this list are also among the highest peaks in the world.

If you come for UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the tiny country of Nepal has 4 sites that qualify as UNESCO sites with another 15 marked as tentative. Here are my top 9 choices.

Ancient Temple and Stupa at Patan Durbar Square in Nepal

1. Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square, and Bhaktapur Durbar Square (Kathmandu Valley)

2. Swayambhunath Stupa (Kathmandu Valley)

3. Boudhanath Stupa (Kathmandu Valley)

4. Pashupatinath Temple (Kathmandu Valley)

5. Chitwan National Park

6. Sagarmatha National Park (home to Mount Everest)

World Peace Pagoda at the monastic zone of Lumbini in Nepal

7. Lumbini, the Birthplace of the Lord Buddha

8. The Seven Monument Zones of the Kathmandu Valley (Kathmandu Valley)

9. The Royal Chitwan National Park (Chitwan)

So, there are plenty of reasons to visit Nepal. Enjoy the ride. We did!

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