Nepal is a relatively new country in its current format and has undergone various upheavals right up until today and the current changes taking place.
Until recently the history of Nepal was overly Kathmandu-centric and high-caste dominated, ignoring other changes and developments. The history below roughly reflects that bias providing only a simple overview.
The Himalayan tantric form of Buddhism flourished and the Hindu caste system became more rigid under the Mallas who were Newar kings. During this time the Mughal invasion of India also pushed many high caste Hindus to escape to the safety of Nepal.
The Shah and the “unification” of Nepal
The Shah kings were Chetris who conquered the many states in today’s Nepal before capturing Kathmandu in 1768. The Shah won land all the way into Tibet and across to the Sindh doubling the size of the country they called “Gorkha”.
When the British finally halted and repelled the Gorkha army they were so impressed with their strength and stamina that they enlisted the men as “Gurkhas”. Since that day Nepalese men have fought bravely for a number of foreign governments.
The Rana Primeministers
The weakening Shah kings closed the borders in 1816 and were overtaken in a palace revolt in 1846 by Jung Bahadur Rana who led a family of hereditary primeministers.
Following a fascination with Europe the Ranas started an extravagant European lifestyle whilst leaving the Nepalese population to a life of undevelopment and poverty. Even in the early twentieth century Nepal had only 1 school and hospital.
The Shah come back
With India becoming independent from Britain in the 1950s, the time for Rana despots had come to an end and the return of a Shah king started a journey toward democracy in a largely medieval country. The decade long journey ended with a new king taking back power and ruling directly for the next 40 years.
Democracy enters Nepal History
Political parties succeeded in fighting for multi-party democracy and the first elections took place in 1991. Unfortunately the new democratic constitution was “given” to Nepal by the king and a few political leaders and was wholy inappropriate.
A splinter group of a left-leaning political party started a violent struggle following its rejection from taking a role in constitution making and governance. Emphasising many of the legitimate grievences in Nepal, particularly amongst the rural people and low castes, the Maoists quickly gained control over much of Nepal.
King dissolves Parliament
Arguably the first people-led revolution started 19 days of massive protests in Nepal and ended with the king announcing that he would hand power to a coalition of the political parties and the Maoists who would for the first time enter a concensus government to form a new constitution.
Following remarkably peaceful elections in April 2008 the Nepalese people shocked the world by choosing the Maoists over the traditional political parties.
The new concensus government now has 2 years to write a new constitution.