Geography of Nepal
Nepal has a very interesting geography as it is a relatively small country which is sandwiched between the respectively larger countries of India and the Tibetan Autonomous region of China. It occupies an area of just over 145,000 square kilometeres. There is no coast in Nepal, as it shares three quarters of its borders with India (south, east and west) and the remaining northern border with China.
The border geography for Nepal means that it is fairly dependant on India for access to the sea and for receiving imports into the country.
The geography of Nepal is very mountainous and as such, it is host to the Himalayas in the north of the country which contains Mount Everest; the tallest mountain in the world. Mount Everest is just over 29,000 feet in height. The majority of the other Himalayan peaks exceed 8,000 meters in height. The most famous of these mountains include Kanchenjunga (8,598 meters) and Dhaulagiri (8,137 meters).
The lowest geographical point in Nepal is in the Jhapa region and measures 70 meters above sea level.
In addition to the Himalayas, the geography in Nepal is also host to two other physiographic regions known as the ‘Hills’ and the ‘Terai’. These zones are determined by the relationship of the land to sea level. Whilst the Himalayas makes up approximately 15% of Nepal, the Hills makes up approximately 65% and the Terai makes up approximately 18%.
Unfortunately the Hills have been subject to an increasing number of environmental disasters which are due in likelihood to deforestation and intensive farming. Kathmandu is situated in the Hills.
The geography of the Terai makes it excellent fertile land for farming. This zone is host to marshes, forests and wildlife such as the rhino and crocodiles.
Due to the diverse land geography within these zones, the weather and climatic conditions are clearly very different.
The History of Nepal is characterized by its isolated position in the Himalayas and its two dominant neighbors, India and China. Even though Nepal’s heart land was independent through most of its long history, its territorial boundaries have varied greatly over time and internal mosaic of kingdoms restructured often: right from the period of Mahajanapadas, through Greater Nepal to the British Raj.
Due to the arrival of disparate settler groups from outside through the ages, it is now a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, multi-lingual country. Its population is predominantly Hindu with significant presence of Buddhists, who were in majority at one time in the past. Nepal was split in three kingdoms from the 15th to 18th century, when it was unified under a monarchy. The national language of Nepal is called ‘Nepali’, a name given – long after unification of Nepal – to the language called Khas Kura.
Nepal experienced a failed struggle for democracy in the 20th century. During the 1990s and until 2008, the country was in civil strife. A peace treaty was signed in 2008 and elections were held in the same year.
Many of the ills of Nepal have been blamed on the royal family of Nepal. In a historical vote for the election of the constituent assembly, Nepalis voted to oust monarchy in Nepal. In June 2008, Nepalis ousted the royal household. Nepal was formally known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, when it became a federal republic.
The word Nepal is derived from Nepa ; the old name of Kathmandu valley was Nepa in Nepal Bhasa, the language of Newars, who were the early inhabitants of the valley, long before the unification of Nepal. The fact that Nepal Sambat, one of the three main calendars of Nepal, existed long before the unification of Nepal proves this historical fact.
Other toponym theories include: –
* “Nepal” may be derived from the Sanskrit nipalaya, which means “at the foot of the mountains” or “abode at the foot”, a reference to its location in relation to the Himalayas. Thus, it may be an Eastern equivalent of the European toponym “Piedmont.”
* It has also been suggested that the name comes from the Tibetan niyampal, which means “holy land”.
* A third theory suggests that Nepal came from combounding the words NE, which means wool, and PAL, which means a tented house; long time ago, Nepal used to produce a lot of wool and the houses were used to store the wool – hence the word NE-PAL.
* The name, Nepal, is also supposed to be derived from the Sanskrit word “NEP”(???), with the suffix “AL” added to it; though still under controversy, NEP were the people who use to be cow herders – the GOPALS ( – who came to the Nepal valley for the first time from the Ganges plain of India.
* According to Nepali scholar Rishikesh Shaha, the ancient chronicles report that, a sage (muni) named Ne became the protector (p?la) of this land and the founder of its first ruling dynasty. The name of the country, Ne-p?la, therefore originally meant the land ‘protected by Ne.'
Early ages Prehistory
Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that a people who were probably of Tibeto-Burman ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.
Legends and Ancient times
Though very little is known about the early history of Nepal, legends and documented references, like the following, reach back to the first millennium BCE:
* The epic Ramayana, which dates from an era before the Mahabharata, states that Mithila, currently known as Janakpur in Nepal, is the birth place of the highly revered princess Sita, the virtuous queen of Hindu divine king Lord Rama.
* Also, the presence of historical sites, e.g. Valmiki ashram, indicates the presence of Sanatana (ancient) Hindu culture in Nepal at that period.
* The epic Mahabharata mentions the Kiratas among the inhabitants of Nepal. Kirati king Yalambar had the dubious honor of being slain in the battle of the Mahabharata, in which gods and mortals fought alongside each other. Legend credits him with meeting Indra, the lord of heaven, who ventured into the Valley in human guise.
* According to some of the chronicles the successors of Ne were the gop?lava??i or “Cowherd family”, whose names often end in -gupta and are said to have ruled for some 491 years. They are said to have been followed by the mahai?ap?lava??a or “Buffalo-herder Dynasty”, established by an Indian Rajput named Bhul Singh.
* inscriptions found on archeological stoneworks, which list mostly the dates and commissioners of these constructions, also communicate royal edicts, religious mantras or historical notes sometimes and, through the corroboration of local myths with such evidence, a people prior to the Licchavi have been identified, known as the Kirata.
Nepal’s recorded history began with the Kiratis, who arrived in the 7th or 8th century BCE from the east. Little is known about them, other than their deftness as sheep farmers and fondness for carrying long knives. The Kirats ruled for about 1225 years (800 BCE-300 CE), their reign had a total of 28 kings during that time. Their first and best remembered king was Yalambar, who finds a reference in the epic Mahabharata.
In the chronicle of Bansawali William Kirk Patrick mentions that the Kirat rule existed from about 900 BC to 300 AD. During this long period altogether 29 Kirat Kings ruled over the country. The 29 Kirat Kings were;
1. Yalambar 2. Pari 3. Skandhar 4. Balamba 5. Hriti 6. Humati 7. Jitedasti 8. Galinja 9. Oysgja 10. Suyarma 11. Papa 12. Bunka 13. Swawnanda 14. Sthunko 15. Jinghri 16. Nane 17. Luka 18. Thor 19. Thoko 20. Verma 21. Guja 22. Pushkar 23. Keshu 24. Suja 25. Sansa 26. Gunam 27. Khimbu 28. Patuka 29. Gasti
First Kirat King
The 1st Kirat King Yalambar laid the foundation of the Kirat dynasty after defeating the last ruler of Abhir dynasty. When Kirats occupied the valley, they made Matatirtha their capital. The Kirat kingdom during the rule of Yalambar had extended to Tista in the East and Trisidi in the West. It is said Yalambar had gone to witness the battle of Mahabharata between the Pandavas and the Kauravas. He was so brave and powerful that Lord Krishna beheaded him prior to the battle suspecting he might fight for the Kauravas.
The 7th Kirat King ‘Jitedasti’
During the rule of 7th Kirat King Jitedasti, Lord Gautam Buddha had visited the valley with his several disciples. He visited holy places of Swayambhu, Guheswari etc and preached his religious gospels. Kirats of the valley refused to follow his doctrine but welcomed Lord Buddha and his disciples.
The 14th Kiirat King ‘Sthunko’
During the rule of 14th Kirat King Sthunko, the Indian Emperor Ashok came to the Kathmandu Valley with his daughter princess Charumati. During his stay in the valley, he had built four stupas in four directions and one in the centre of Patan. He had arranged his daughter Charumati’s marriage with a local young prince named Devpal. Prince Devpal and his consort Charumati lived at Chabahil near Pashupati area. Later Charumati had built the stupas of Devpatan after the death of her husband in his memory. Charumati who had later on become a nun herself also got erected a convent where she resided and practiced Lord Buddha’s doctrine.
The 15th Kirat king ‘Jinghri’
During the rule of 15th Kirat King Jinghri, another religious doctrine Jainism was being preached by Mahavir Jain in India. In this regard, Bhadrabhau, a disciple of Mahavir Jain came to Nepal. But comparatively, Jainism could not gain popularity like Buddhism in Nepal.
The 28th Kirat King ‘Paruka’
During the rule of 28th Kirat King Paruka, the Sombanshi ruler attacked his regime many times from the west. Although he successfully repelled their attacks, he was forced to move to Shankhamul from gokarna. He had built a royal palace called “Patuka” there for him. The ‘Patuka’ palace is no more to be seen now except its ruins in the form of mound. Patuka had changed Shankhamul into a beautiful town.
The 29th Kirat King ‘Gasti’
The last King of the Kirat dynasty was Gasti. He proved to be a weak ruler and was overthrown by the Sombanshi ruler Nimisha. It brought to the end of the powerful Kirat dynasty that had lasted for about 1225 years. After their defeat, Kirats moved to the Eastern hills of Nepal and settled down divided into small principalities. Their settlements were divided into there regions, i.e. ‘Wallokirat’ that lied to the East of the Kathmandu, ‘Majkirat’ or Central Kirat region and ‘Pallokirat’ that lied to the far East of the Kathmandu valley. These regions are still heavily populated by Kirats.
Birth of Buddhism
Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini, Nepal.
One of the earliest confederations of South Asia was that of the Shakya clan, whose capital was Kapilavastu, Nepal. One of its princes was Gautama Buddha, Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BCE), who renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha (“the enlightened one”). By 260 BCE, most of North India and southern Nepal were ruled by the Maurya Empire. It was during this period that Buddhism first came to Nepal; it is claimed that Buddha and his disciple Ananda visited the Kathmandu Valley and stayed for a time in Patan. Although not all of Nepal was under Maurya occupation, there is evidence of at least the influence of Maurya Emperor Ashoka the Great, the legendary Buddhist proselytiser and ruler from 273 BCE to 232 BCE. Ashoka was a visitor to Kathmandu in this period and, as a follower of Buddhism, he visited Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, and erected stupas in Kathmandu. His daughter married a local prince and further spread the religion. The remains of a Buddhist convent have been found in the Kathmandu Valley.
As the Kirat dynasty came to an end in the valley, parts still remained in the eastern mountains. : History of Limbuwan where they are considered to be the forefathers of today’s Limbu and Rai castes.
By 200 CE, Buddhism had waned, and was replaced by Hinduism, brought by the Licchavis, who invaded from northern India and overthrew the last Kirati king. The Hindus also introduced the caste system (which still continues today) and ushered in a classical age of Nepalese art and architecture.
It is unclear when exactly the Licchavi kingdom began. From the findings at the ancient capital of Handigaun, it appears that Licchavi rulers were in power on two occasions: from about 200 CE to the 5th century, and from about 750 to 1200 CE.[Archaeological evidence for the Licchavi period mainly consists of stonework inscriptions, reckoned on two separate, consecutive eras; the former era evidence, in the Åšaka or Saka era, has an epoch corresponding to 78 CE, whereas the latter, of A?shuvarm? or Manadeva-II’s era, reckons from 576 CE.
In between, in the fourth century CE, the country fell under the influence of Indian Gupta Empire – considered to be a golden period of Hinduism in India – whose cultural diffusion is evident, despite their lack of direct control of Nepal.
First Licchavi rule evidence: A well-preserved life-sized sandstone sculpture of a king named Jaya Varman, discovered in Maligaon in the eastern part of Kathmandu, contains an inscription dating it to the ‘samvat’ year 107, which most probably is in the Shaka era and is, therefore, from 185 CE; this dating is also supported by the style of the sculpture which is clearly Kushan in origin. It is unclear whether Jaya Varman was a Licchavi or a pre-Licchavi monarch. However, most scholars are agreed that, Licchavi rule of the Kathmandu valley must have begun in the first or second century CE.
Second Licchavi rule evidence: Two known dated inscriptions, both Licchavi, are a broken pillar inscription from Pashupati dated 381 (459 CE), and the Changu Narayana pillar inscription of King Manadeva in 386 (464 CE).
There is a good and quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk, Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 CE.
The Licchavi rulers arranged for the documentation of information on politics, society, and the economy in the region. Most of the Licchavi records—written in Sanskrit—are deeds reporting donations to religious foundations, predominantly Hindu temples; and the last such record was added in 733.
Map of Nepal
The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain.
By 879, the Licchavi era had petered out and was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty. A grim period of instability and invasions often referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ followed, but Kathmandu Valley’s strategic location ensured the kingdom’s survival and growth.
Magar is a warrior and martial people that first established it’s kingdom in present day western Nepal. They were animistic and shamanic in their religious practices. The Kham Magar of upper Karnali basin and their brethren of mid hills of Nepal had a flourishing and empirical kingdoms. Much archaeological proof of their existence can be found in the western mid hills of Nepal.
Magar have a strong military and warrior traditions. However, their hospitality and concern for the fellow human being is also legendary. The two waves of immigrants became the undoing for Magar empire.
Firstly, the Khasas were welcomed and assimilated within Magar empire. Secondly, following the rout of fundamentalist Brahmin Hindus of the Gangetic plains of India by the advancing Mugal forces, the traditionalist Brahmin Hindus entered Magar empire as refugees. They brought with them Hindu religion.
It is the misfortune of Magar empire and the whole Magar people that these two groups were given sanctuary in Magar empire. The latter group of refugees started to impose their fundamentalist view of Hindu religion upon Magars in Magar kingdoms whereas the former group were given the status of Chettri by the latter group in accordance to their fundamentalist view of Hindu religion.
This left the Magar people to be boxed into the third tier of their own kingdoms. (The first being the fundamentalist refugee Brahmin, the second being newly elevated Chettri, previously the Khasas)
This meant that the once rulers of the Nepali mid hills became the ruled upon. Thus starts the degradation of Magar empire. The introduction of Hinduism in itself became the cataclysmic event in the undoing of the Magar empire.
Several centuries later, the Thakuri king, Arideva, founded the Malla dynasty, kick-starting another renaissance of Nepali culture. Despite earthquakes, the occasional invasion, and frequent feuding between the independent city-states of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the dynasty flourished, reaching its zenith in the 15th century under Yaksha Malla.
By the late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the occupation of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal’s religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.
History of Limbuwan
In the mean time, History of Limbuwan covers much of the history and achivements of Kirant people of Eastern Nepal/Limbuwan from ancient period until the Limbuwan Gorkha War and the Gorkha Limbuwan Treaty of 1774 AD.
Three medieval kingdoms Hindu and Buddhist temples in Patan, the capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms
Thirteenth-century Nepal was occasionally attacked by the rulers of Delhi Sultanate of northern India, and was consequently marked by increased Nepali militarisation. By the late 14th century, much of the country came under the rule of the king Jayasthitimalla, a Newar King, who managed to unite most of the fragmented power bases. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the territory was carved into three kingdoms : Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon.
Most of the Nepalese architectural heritage such as temples, palaces including many UNESCO world heritage sites were built by Newars during the rule by Newar Kings. These include Kathmandu Old Palace (Kathmandu Durbar Square), Patan Palace (Patan Durbar Square), Bhaktapur Palace (Bhaktapur Durbar Square) etc.
Between 1717 and 1733, the Nepalese in the west, and also the Bhutanese from the east, attacked Sikkim many times, culminating with the destruction of the capital Rabdentse by the Nepalese. The Sikkim king fled to Tibet.
Modern period: Gorkha rule
The old king’s palace on a hill in Gorkha
After decades of rivalry between the medieval kingdoms, modern Nepal was created in the latter half of the 18th century, when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu valley and the creation of a single state, which he achieved in 1768.
The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom. It is a misconception that the Gurkhas took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal. The region was given its name after the Gurkhas had established their control of these areas. Gurkha, also spelt as Gorkha, are people from Nepal who take their name from the legendary eighth century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. Gurkhas claim descent from the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmins of Northern India, who entered modern Nepal from the west.
After Shah’s death, the Shah dynasty began to expand their kingdom into what is present day North India. Between 1788 and 1791, Nepal invaded Tibet and robbed Tashilhunpo Monastery of Shigatse. Alarmed, the Chinese emperor Qianlong dispatched a sizeable army that forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations.
After 1800, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved unable to maintain firm political control over Nepal. A period of internal turmoil followed.
Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company – over the princely states bordering Nepal and India – eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), in which Nepal suffered a complete rout. The unequal Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, ceding large parts of the Nepali territories of Terrai and Sikkim, (nearly onethird of the country), to the British, in exchange for Nepalese autonomy. As the territories were not restored to Nepal by the British, at the time of granting freedom to the people of British India, these have become a part of the Republic of India, although Sikkim was annexed by India later.
Rani (Queen) of Nepal surrounded by her Ladies-in-Waiting, 1920
Factionalism among the royal family led to a period of instability after the war. In 1846, Queen Rajendralakshmi plotted to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader of Indian Rajput ancestry, who was presenting a threat to her power. The plot was uncovered and the queen had several hundred princes and chieftains executed after an armed clash between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen. This came to be known as the Kot Massacre. However, Bahadur emerged victorious eventually and founded the Rana dynasty; the monarch was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary, held by a Rana.
The Rana regime, a tightly centralized autocracy, pursued a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences. This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence during the British colonial era, but it also impeded the country’s economic development and modernisation. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, and later in both World Wars.
In 1923 Britain and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal and India (which was under British Rule at that time) negotiated and ended up exchanging some of the cities (independence: THIS IS NOT A APPROPRIATE WORD IN THIS CONTEXT).
Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.
Democracy movement in Nepal
Popular dissatisfaction against the family rule of the Ranas had started emerging from among the few educated people, who had studied in various Indian schools and colleges, and also from within the Ranas, many of whom were marginalised within the Ruling Rana hierarchy. Many of these Nepalese in exile had actively taken part in the Indian Independence struggle and wanted to liberate Nepal as well from the internal autocratic Rana occupation. The political parties like The Prajaparishad and Nepali Congress were already formed in exile by the leaders like B.P. Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Subarna Sumsher Rana, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai,Girija Prasad Koirala and many other patriotic minded Nepalis, who wanted to stage both the military and popular political movement in Nepal, to overthrow the autocratic Rana Regime. Among the prominent martyrs to die for the cause, executed at the hands of the Ranas, were Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Shukraraj Shastri, Gangalal Shrestha and Dasharath Chand. This turmoil culminated in King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi Narayan Shah, fleeing from his “palace prison” in 1950, to newly independent India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana administration. This eventually ended in the return of the Shah family to power and the appointment of a non-Rana as prime minister. A period of quasi-constitutional rule followed, during which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling political parties, governed the country. During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution for Nepal that would establish a representative form of government, based on a British model.
In early 1959, Tribhuvan’s son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held. The Nepali Congress Party, a moderate socialist group, gained a substantial victory in the election. Its leader, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, formed a government and served as prime minister. After years of power wrangling between the Kings (Tribhuvan and Mahendra) and the government, Mahendra dissolved the democratic experiment in 1960
Royal Coup by King Mahendra
Declaring parliamentary democracy a failure, King Mahendra carried out a royal coup 18 months later, in 1962. He dismissed the elected Koirala government, declared that a “partyless” panchayat system would govern Nepal and promulgated another new constitution on December 16, 1962.
Subsequently, the elected Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and hundreds of democratic activists were arrested. (In fact, this trend of arrest of political activists and democratic supporters continued for the entire 30 year period of partyless Panchayati System under King Mahendra and then his son, King Birendra).
The new constitution had established a “partyless” system of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered to be a democratic form of government, closer to Nepalese traditions. As a pyramidal structure, progressing from village assemblies to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the panchayat system constitutionalised the absolute power of the monarchy and kept the King as head of state with sole authority over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) and the Parliament. One-state-one-language became the national policy and all other languages suffered at the cost of the official language, “Nepali”, which was the king’s language.
King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27 year-old son, King Birendra, in 1972. Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities in 1979, King Birendra called for a national referendum to decide on the nature of Nepal’s government–either the continuation of the panchayat system with democratic reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system. The referendum was held in May 1980, and the panchayat system won a narrow victory. The king carried out the promised reforms, including selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat.
People in rural areas had expected that their interests would be better represented after the adoption of parliamentary democracy in 1990. Nepali Congress with support of “Alliance of leftist parties” decided to launch a decisive movement agitational movement, Jana Andolan, which forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections in nearly 50 years. The Nepali Congress won 110 of the 205 seats and formed the first elected government in 32 years.
In 1992, in a situation of economic crisis and chaos, with spiralling prices as a result of implementation of changes in policy of the new Congress government, the radical left stepped up their political agitation. A Joint People’s Agitation Committee was set up by the various groups. A general strike was called for April 6.
Violent incidents began to occur on the evening ahead of the strike. The Joint People’s Agitation Committee had called for a 30-minute ‘lights out’ in the capital, and violence erupted outside Bir Hospital when activists tried to enforce the ‘lights out’. At dawn on April 6, clashes between strike activists and police, outside a police station in Pulchok (Patan), left two activists dead.
Later in the day, a mass rally of the Agitation Committee at Tundikhel in the capital Kathmandu was attacked by police forces. As a result, riots broke out and the Nepal Telecommunications building was set on fire; police opened fire at the crowd, killing several persons. The Human Rights Organisation of Nepal estimated that 14 persons, including several on-lookers, had been killed in police firing.
When promised land reforms failed to appear, people in some districts started to organize to enact their own land reform, and to gain some power over their lives in the face of usurious landlords. However, this movement was repressed by the Nepali government, in “Operation Romeo” and “Operation Kilo Sera II” which took the lives of many of the leading activists of the struggle. As a result, many witnesses to this repression became radicalized.
Nepalese Civil War
In February 1996, one of the Maoist parties started a bid to replace the parliamentary monarchy with a so-called people’s new democratic republic, through a Maoist revolutionary strategy known as the people’s war, which led to the Nepalese Civil War. Led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known as “Prachanda”), the insurgency began in five districts in Nepal: Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha, and Sindhuli. The Maoists declared the existence of a provisional “people’s government” at the district level in several locations.
Meanwhile, on June 1, 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra went on a shooting-spree, assassinating 9 members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, before shooting himself. Due to his survival he temporarily became king before dying of his wounds, after which Prince Gyanendra (Birendra’s brother) inherited the throne as per tradition. Meanwhile, the Maoist rebellion escalated, and in October 2001 the king temporarily deposed the government and took complete control of it. A week later he reappointed another government, but the country was still very unstable: because of the civil war with the Maoists; the various clamouring political factions; the king’s attempts to take more control of the government; and worries about the competence of Gyanendra’s son and heir, Prince Paras.
In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy began to wane. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers, declaring a “state of emergency” to quash the Maoist movement. Politicians were placed under house arrest, phone and internet lines were cut, and freedom of the press was severely curtailed.
The king’s new regime made little progress in his stated aim to suppress the insurgents. Municipal elections in February 2006 were described by the European Union as “a backward step for democracy”, as the major parties boycotted the election and some candidates were forced to run for office by the army. In April 2006 strikes and street protests in Kathmandu forced the king to reinstate the parliament. A seven-party coalition resumed control of the government and stripped the king of most of his powers. As of 15 January 2007 Nepal was governed by an unicameral legislature under an interim constitution. On December 24, 2007, seven parties, including the former Maoist rebels and the ruling party, agreed to abolish monarchy and declare Nepal a Federal Republic.. In the elections held on April 10, 2008, the Maoists secured a simple majority, with the prospect of forming a government to rule the proposed ‘Republic of Nepal’.
On May 28, 2008 the newly elected Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a Federal Democratic Republic, abolishing the 240 years old monarchy. The motion for abolition of monarchy was carried by a huge majority; out of 564 members present in the assembly, 560 voted for the motion while 4 members voted against it. Finally, on June 11, 2008 ex-king Gyanendra left the palace. Ram Baran Yadav of Nepali Congress became the first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal on July 23, 2008. Similarly, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, popularly known as Prachanda, of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) was elected as the first Prime Minister on August 15, 2008 defeating Sher Bahadur Deuba of Nepali Congress.
A chronology of key events
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Please improve this section if you can. (August 2008)
This section contains a chronology of events from the formation of unified Nepal.
* 1768 – Gurkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah conquers Kathmandu and lays foundations for unified kingdom.
* 1792 – Nepalese expansion halted by defeat at hands of Chinese in Tibet.
* 1814-16 – Anglo-Nepalese War; culminates in treaty which establishes Nepal’s current boundaries.
* 1846 – Nepal falls under sway of hereditary chief ministers known as Ranas, who dominate the monarchy and cut off country from outside world.
* 1923 – Treaty with Britain affirms Nepal’s sovereignty.
* 1950 – Anti-Rana forces based in India form alliance with monarch.
* 1951 – End of Rana rule. Sovereignty of crown restored and anti-Rana rebels in Nepalese Congress Party form government.
* 1953, May 29 – New Zealander Edmund Hillary and Nepal’s Sherpa Tenzing Norgay become the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest.
* 1955 – Nepal joins the United Nations.
* 1955 – King Tribhuwan dies, King Mahendra ascends throne.
* 1959 – Multi-party constitution adopted.
* 1960 – King Mahendra seizes control and suspends parliament, constitution and party politics after Nepali Congress Party (NCP) wins elections with B. P. Koirala as premier.
* 1962 – New constitution provides for non-party system of councils known as “panchayat” under which king exercises sole power. First elections to Rastrya Panchayat held in 1963.
* 1972 – King Mahendra dies, succeeded by Birendra.
* 1980 – Constitutional referendum follows agitation for reform. Small majority favours keeping existing panchayat system. King agrees to allow direct elections to national assembly – but on a non-party basis.
* 1985 – NCP begins civil disobedience campaign for restoration of multi-party system.
* 1986 – New elections boycotted by NCP.
* 1989 – Trade and transit dispute with India leads to border blockade by Delhi resulting in worsening economic situation.
* 1990 – Pro-democracy agitation co-ordinated by NCP and leftist groups. Street protests suppressed by security forces resulting in deaths and mass arrests. King Birendra eventually bows to pressure and agrees to new democratic constitution.
* 1991 – Nepali Congress Party wins first democratic elections. Girija Prasad Koirala becomes prime minister.
* 1994 – Koirala’s government defeated in no-confidence motion. New elections lead to formation of Communist government.
* 1995 – Communist government dissolved.
* 1995 – Radical leftist group, the Nepal Communist Party (Maoist), begins insurrection in rural areas aimed at abolishing monarch and establishing people’s republic, sparking a conflict that would drag on for over a decade.
* 1997 – Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba loses no-confidence vote, ushering in period of increased political instability, with frequent changes of prime minister.
* 2000 – GP Koirala returns as prime minister, heading the ninth government in 10 years.
* 2001, June 1 – King Birendra, Queen Aishwarya and other close relatives killed in shooting spree by drunken Crown Prince Dipendra, who then shoots himself.
* 2001, June 4 – Prince Gyanendra crowned King of Nepal after Dipendra dies of his injuries.
* 2001 July – Maoist rebels step up campaign of violence. Prime Minister GP Koirala quits over the violence; succeeded by Sher Bahadur Deuba.
* 2001 November – Maoists end four-month old truce with government, declare peace talks with government failed. Launch coordinated attacks on army and police posts.
* 2001 November – State of emergency declared after more than 100 people are killed in four days of violence. King Gyanendra orders army to crush the Maoist rebels. Many hundreds are killed in rebel and government operations in the following months.
* 2002 May – Parliament dissolved, fresh elections called amid political confrontation over extending the state of emergency. Sher Bahadur Deuba heads interim government, renews emergency.
* 2002 October – King Gyanendra dismisses Deuba and indefinitely puts off elections set for November. Lokendra Bahadur Chand appointed as PM.
* 2003 January – Rebels, government declare ceasefire.
* 2003 May-June – Lokendra Bahadur Chand resigns as PM; king appoints his own nominee Surya Bahadur Thapa as new premier
* 2003 August – Rebels pull out of peace talks with government and end seven-month truce. The following months see resurgence of violence and frequent clashes between students/activists and police.
* 2004 April – Nepal joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
* 2004 May – Royalist Prime Minister Surya Bahadur Thapa resigns following weeks of street protests by opposition groups.
* 2004 June – King Gyanendra reappoints Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister with the task of holding elections.
* 2005, February 1 – King Gyanendra dismisses Prime Minister Deuba and his government, declares a state of emergency and assumes direct power, citing the need to defeat Maoist rebels.
* 2005, April 30 – King lifts the state of emergency amid international pressure.
* 2005 November – Maoist rebels and main opposition parties agree on a programme intended to restore democracy.
* 2006 April – King Gyanendra agrees to reinstate parliament following weeks of violent strikes and protests against direct royal rule. GP Koirala is appointed as prime minister. Maoist rebels call a three-month ceasefire.
* 2006 May – Parliament votes unanimously to curtail the king’s political powers. The government and Maoist rebels begin peace talks, the first in nearly three years.
* 2006, June 16 – Rebel leader Prachanda and PM Koirala hold talks – the first such meeting between the two sides – and agree that the Maoists should be brought into an interim government.
* 2006 November – The government and Maoists sign a peace accord, declaring a formal end to a 10-year rebel insurgency. The rebels are to join a transitional government and their weapons will be placed under UN supervision.
* 2007 January – Maoist leaders enter parliament under the terms of a temporary constitution. Violent ethnic protests erupt in the south-east; demonstrators demand autonomy for the region.
* 2007 April – Former Maoist rebels join interim government, a move that takes them into the political mainstream.
* 2007 May – Elections for a constituent assembly pushed back to November.
o A US offer to resettle thousands of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal has raised hopes but has also sparked tension in the camps, says Human Rights Watch.
* 2007 September – Three bombs hit Kathmandu in the first attack in the capital since the end of the Maoist insurgency.
o Maoists quit interim government to press demand for monarchy to be scrapped. This forces the postponement of November’s constituent assembly elections.
* 2007 October – UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges Nepal’s parties to sink their differences to save the peace process.
* 2007 December – Parliament approves abolition of monarchy as part of peace deal with Maoists, who agree to re-join government.
* 2008 January – A series of bomb blasts kill and injure dozens in the southern Terai plains. Groups there have been demanding regional autonomy.
* 2008 April – Former Maoist rebels win the largest bloc of seats in elections to the new constituent assembly, but fail to achieve an outright majority.
* 2008, May 28 – Nepal becomes a republic.
* 2008 June – Maoist ministers resign from the cabinet in a row over who should be the next head of state.
* 2008, July 21 – Two months after the departure of King Gyanendra, Ram Baran Yadav becomes Nepal’s first president.
* 2008, August 15 – The Constituent Assembly elects the Maoist Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ as the first Prime Minister of federal democratic republic Nepal.
People & Coustoms
The population of Nepal was recorded to be about 25 million as of July 2002. Eighty-six percent of Nepalis follow Hinduism, while eight percent follow Buddhism and three percent follow Islam. The population comprises various groups of different races which are further divided into different castes. The distinction in caste and ethnicity is understood more easily with a view of customary layout of the population.
Some of the main groups are such: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangpas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the capital valley of Kathmandu; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.
Nepali is the official language of the state, spoken and understood by 100 percent of the population. Multiple ethnic groups speak more than a dozen other languages in about 93 different dialects. English is spoken by many in government and business offices. It is the mode of education in most private schools of Kathmandu and some other cities.
The Northern Himalayan People
In the northern region of the Himalayas are the Tibetan-speaking groups namely Sherpas, Dolpas, Lopas, Baragaonlis, Manangis. The Sherpas are mainly found in the east in the Solu and Khumbu region; the Baragaonlis and Lopas live in the semi-deserted areas of Upper and Lower Mustang in the Tibetan rain-shadow area; the Managis live in Manang district area; while the Dolpas live in Dolpa district of West Nepal, one of the highest settlements on earth at 4,000 meters.
The Middle Hills and Valley People
Several ethnic groups live together in harmony in the middle hills and valleys. Among them are the Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs, Sunuwars, Newars, Thakalis, Chepangs and majority of Brahmans and Chhetris. The Brahmans and Chhetris have long dominance in all pervading social, religious and political realms. There are also some occupational castes namely: Damai (tailor), Sarki (cobbler), Kami (blacksmith) and Sunar (goldsmiths). Though, there exist numerous dialects, the language of unification is the national language, Nepali.
Ethnic Diversity in the Kathmandu Valley
Kathmandu Valley represents a cultural cauldron of the country, where, people from varied backgrounds have come together to present a melting pot. The natives of the Kathmandu Valley are the Newars. Newari culture is an integration of both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Newars of Kathmandu Valley were traders or farmers by occupation in the old days.
The Terai People
The main ethnic groups in Terai are Tharus, Darai, Kumhal, Majhi and other groups that have roots in India. They speak north Indian dialects like Maithili, Bhojpuri. Owing to the fertile plains of Terai, most inhabitants live on agriculture. There are, however, some occupational castes like Majhi (fisherman), Kumhal (potter) and Danuwar (cart driver).
POPULATION OF MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS
ETH. GROUP POPULATION
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Nepal has been declared as a secular country by the Parliament on May 18, 2006. Religions like Hindusim Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
For centuries the Nepal remained divided into many principalities. Kirats ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars occupied the mid-west. The Kirats ruled from 300 BC and during their reign, emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirats were followed by the Lichchhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. During this period, art thrived in Nepal and many of the beautiful woodcarvings and sculptures that are found in the country belong to this era. With the end of the Lichchhavi dynasty, Malla kings came to power in 1200 AD and they also contributed tremendously to Nepal’s art and culture. However, after almost 600 years of rule, the kings were not united among themselves and during the late 18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered Kathmandu and united Nepal into one kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation. During the mid-19th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal’s first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah kings remained figureheads. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious significance. The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Laxmi.
Nepal has several ancient pilgrimage sites. Each temple is attached to a legend or belief that glorifies the miraculous powers of its deity. Kathmandu Valley is home to the famous Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath Stupa and several other famous temples. Hundreds of famous temples are located in and around the Kathmandu Valley.
Some well-known pilgramage sites are: Barah Chhetra, Halesi Mahadev, Janaki Temple, Pathibhara, Tengboche in East Nepal; Manokamana, Gorkha, Lumbini, Muktinath, Gosainkunda, Tansen, Kathmandu Valley in Central Nepal; and Sworgadwari, Khaptad Ashram in West Nepal.
Nepal is also the Gateway to Kailash Mansarovar, the mythical abode of Lord Shiva. Devotees from various parts of Nepal and India throng the temples during special festivals. Even though weak infrastructure renders some places hard to reach, efforts are being made on national level to develop and promote some popular sites.
Pilgrimage sites of Nepal like Muktinath and Gosainkunda make popular trekking destinations. Tours to these sites are encouraged for the novelty they provide in terms of nature and culture.
Buddha is widely worshipped by both the Buddhists and Hindus of Nepal. The five Dhyani Buddhas Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi, represent the five basic elements earth, fire, water, air and ether. Buddhist philosophy conceives these gods to be the manifestation of Sunya or absolute void. Mahakaala and Bajrayogini are Vajrayana Buddhist deities worshipped by Hindus as well.
Hindu Nepalis worship the ancient Vedic gods. The much worshipped are Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, different manifestations of the Supreme Hindu Trinity. Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva represents the supreme power in most Shiva temples.
Female deities are revered and feared in this Himalayan Kingdom. Their Shakti cult aspires to appease the dynamic element in the female counterpart of Shiva. Mahadevi, Mahakali, Bhagabati, Ishwari are some of the names given to Shiva Shakti. Many temples in Nepal are dedicated to Shakti. Kumari, the virgin goddess, also represents Shakti.
Other popular deities are Ganesh for luck, Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for wealth and Hanuman for protection. Krishna, believed to be the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu is also worshipped widely. Hindu holy scripts Bhagawat Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat are widely read in Nepal.
Brahma , the self-created god of creation, is said to have created the cosmos. Brahma, in art forms, is depicted as a god having a long beard, radiant skin, wearing white robes, with four arms and at times mounted on a goose. Legend has it that this event urged him to create a new world for himself. After the world was created he started feeling unbearably lonely, so, he created a female partner for himself with whom he fell in love at the very first sight. The female (also identified as Savitri and Saraswati), who was extremely beautiful, was awfully embarrassed because of Brahma’s passionate behavior towards her. She tried to run away from Brahma, but whichever direction she tried to escape from a new head of Brahma would spring up. The female finding no other alternative sprang up toward the sky and another head of Brahma sprung up. Brahma grabbed the helpless female who was his daughter as well as wife. In this way Brahma got his five heads but it is believed that his fifth head was cut off as a punishment for his sinful affair with his wife-daughter.
Indra , traditionally regarded as the god of heaven. The vedas describe him as the valiant fighter who destroys devils and drought and gives people rain and food. This could be the reason for his popularity. The Puranas too speak highly of Indra, often dramatizing his numerous battles against devils. Indra- Jatra is a very famous festival celebrated in to honor of Indra.
Saraswati , the goddess of knowledge and fine arts, is often portrayed having a pure white form seated on a full blown lotus or mounted on a hansa (swan). The hansa is often regarded as our inner-consciousness and is said to be capable of driving away Avidya or ignorance. Among her four arms the two lower arms are shown playing the veena and the upper hands are shown holding a book and a rosary. Manjushree, the Buddhist goddess of knowledge and inner-vision is also worshipped equally as Saraswati is worshipped among the Hindus. Saraswati puja is a festival celebrated during spring by students. According to an age-old tradition a young child is introduced to alphabets for the first time on this day.
Kumari , the virgin goddess, represents the state deity of Nepal known as Taleju and is said to be the incarnation of Kanya Kumari. A kumari candidate is selected for a highly honored Hindu temple from a Buddhist family of Shakya clan. Once she is selected, she is highly honored by both Hindus and Buddhists including the king. She is taken out of her temple to participate in several festivals. Once a Kumari attains puberty, she loses this divine status and the selection for another kumari begins and she is made to leave the temple. The famous Kumari temple is situated right across the historical Gaddi Baithak Hall at Basantapur in Kathmandu. There are different Kumaris in Patan, Bhaktapur, Bungmati, Thimi and other Newar towns.
* Know more about Kumari. Click Here
Hanumana or the monkey god is worshipped as the god of protection. He is said to be full of shakti or strength, thus, his whole body is shown to be red. He symbolizes courage, strength and loyalty. The statues of Hanumana are found in most palaces. The images of the Hanumana always show him with closed eyes. It is said that he never married and does not like seeing females, especially unmarried female. People believe that he can destroy them if he catches sight of them.
The five Dhyani Buddha’s – Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi, represent the five basic elements of which the world is made- earth, fire, water and ether. These Buddha’s, described as the progenitors of the five kulas, or families, termed as Dvesa, Moha, Raga, Chintamani and Samaya, are associated with the fulfillment of desires as well as the attainment of Nirvana. Buddhist philosophy conceives these gods to be the manifestation of Sunya or absolute void. We often find the images of the Dhyani Buddha’s in Stupas. Akshobhaya is placed facing the east, Amitabha facing the west, Amoghasiddhi facing south, Ratnasambhava facing north and Vairochana in the center. Except for Vairochana, which is considered to be the preciding deity of a stupa, all the other Dhyani Buddha’s are seen in meditation. In most stupas the central Buddha is either hidden or seated next to Akshobhaya. Though there are only five Dhyani Buddha’s, sometimes an additional Dhyani Budda- the Vajrasattva is also included. Vajrasattva is regarded as the priest among the Dhyani Buddha’s and is seen holding a Vajra on his right hand and a ghanta(bell) on the left.
Ganesh , the god of good luck, wisdom and success, is a very popular deity worshipped by both Hindus as well as Buddhist’s in Nepal. The figure of Ganesha is childlike and unique as it has an elephant head, a big round belly, an exceptionally short body and four or more hands. His upper right hand holds a hook, representing the right path to follow, and the lower hand is seen holding a noose, representing self-restrain. The rosary on his third lower hand represents concentration, which is very important for the development of spiritual knowledge, and his lower four hands are in a gesture that assures his devotees fearlessness, indicating that he is the protector. A religious text describes the bulky body of Ganesha as the cosmos and his elephant-like shape as the embodiment of cosmic intelligence. A legend has it that he even broke his most valued tusk so that Vyasa, a great Hindu Vedic writer, could write the Mahabharat.
* Read the myth: Why Ganesh is elephant-headed?
Laxmi is the goddess of wealth and the consort of lord Vishnu. Laxmi is among the most worshipped of all gods and goddesses in Nepal. One of the most important festivals, among the multitude of Nepali festivals, is Laxmi puja. Laxmi puja is significant for those who celebrate it for it gives them a reason to hope for financial progress in the years to come. The celebration is usually done with elaborate preparations. Lights play a huge role during Laxmi puja since it is celebrated at night. Oil fed clay lamps are kept burning throughout the night. Laxmi puja is also known as the festival of lights.
* Read the myth: When Laxmi changed her mind…
Mahakaala is one of the highly fascinating Vajrayana Buddhist deities. In art forms the deity is portrayed as dark, dwarfed and big bellied, with a mukuta or headdress with skulls set in and a garland of human heads. He holds a Kurtri (flaying knife) in his right hand and a kapala (a skull cup) on the other. He has three eyes, opened wide giving him a fierce look, and teeth dripping blood. He wears tiger skin as girdle and snakes as various ornaments. Though he looks fierce, he is said to be very kind hearted. According to Sadhanmala, a very old Buddhist text, the number of arms and heads Mahakaala would have depended on the nature of purpose he was called for. He could have one face with two, four or six arms or even eight faces with sixteen arms. It is popularly believed that his fierce look is not to scare every other person but to scare away evil.
Rato-Machhendranath or Bhunga dyo , the Buddhist rain-god, is also known as Karunamaya Lokeshwara (The most compassionate god of the universe). Bunga Dyo is worshipped in its male as well as female form like umaneshwara, Laxminarayan, Praynayopaya and so on. There are two temples of Machhendra, one is at Bungmati, which is about 8km away from Kathmandu and one is at Patan. The festival of Bhunga dyo begins every year on the first day of Baishakh (March- April) and continues for a month or so. Since Nepal is an agricultural country the monsoons are very important for the Nepali’s. This festival frees the farmers from worries about not getting ample amount of rain as this festival implies the worship of the rain god. During this festival a chariot carrying the Machindra is pulled and thousands of people participate.
Bhimsen is one of the heroes of the Mahabharata and the god of trade and commerce. Bhimsen is portrayed in images as a red-faced deity with angry eyes and a thick black moustache. He is often shown lifting a horse in the air and pressing an elephant under his knee with a huge cobra and a lion watching in awe. This fierceness in his images is meant to symbolize his determination to kill Dushshasan, his enemy who had insulted Draupadi by trying to denude her in public. Bhimsen is worshipped widely by Nepali traders. Several guthi’s (a sort of trust) are devoted to the regular service of this deity. One of the most remarkable statues of Bhimsen can be seen in Patan Bhimsen temple built by Shreenivas Malla in the early 18th century.
Vishnu , in his various forms of incarnation Vishnu Dharma Purana (an old Hindu text) describes him as the preserver of the universe and the upholder of Dharma. According to the Geeta, whenever lord Vishnu sees Dharma declining and the weak and innocent suffering He comes down in different forms of incarnation to undo the wrong. The different incarnations of Vishnu could be:
Matsya – The Fish : Manu, the first founder of human civilization, was saved from a terrifying flood by Vishnu in the form of a Fish. The flood is said to have been caused by Hayagriva, the most cruel sea-monster dwelling deep in the ocean with innumerable fierce marine animals.
Kachhap or Kurma – The tortoise : When Vishnu saw the sins of Danavas or devils weighing down the earth he assumed the form of a tortoise and dived deep into the sea to raise the earth on his back and changed the earth to its natural self.
Varaha – The Boar : When a demon named Hiranyakashyapa drowned the earth, Vishnu rushed to rescue the earth incarnated as a Boar (Varaha). He plunged into the water and rescued the earth by killing the demon.
Narasimha – Man-lion Vishnu, in this incarnation killed Hiranyakashyapa by tearing open his stomach for his attempt to kill his own son- Prahlad, the most sincere devotee of the Lord Vishnu.
Vamana – Dwarf Br ahman In this Avatar (incarnation) Vishnu reclaimed the earth from Mahabali, the lord of all the three worlds, by visiting Bali in this avatar and asking him to give the land measured by three steps. As soon as Bali agreed he got back to himself and in three steps covered the universe and won it.
Parashurama The heroic Brahmin with a militant personality Vishnu in this form, with an axe on his right hand and a bow on the next, is said to have annihilated all the “kshatriyas” (warrior class) in 22 battles.
Rama – The highly perfected human-god Vishnu incarnated as Rama, the ideal king and the hero of the Ramayana, killed the king of demons- Ravana.
Krishna – The most widely worshipped incarnation of vishnu. This incarnation of Vishnu killed the ogress Putna when she tried to kill him by feeding him poisoned milk when he was a child. Later, Krishna subdued the most fatal cobra- Kaliya.
Buddha – The supreme teacher Buddha, the enlightened one, was born in Lumbini of Nepal at about 563 B.C. This incarnation of Vishnu was born to guide suffering souls to the right direction. He has taught lessons of humanity, truth and peace.
Kalaki or Kali – The last incar nation The last incarnation of Vishnu has yet not come, but people believe that it will appear at the end of the Kaliyug. It is believed that this incarnation of vishnu will come mounted on a horse, killing all the evil and saving only pious souls.
Different yantras, for tantric puja or meditation , are used by tantric pundits. Among the many yantras prevalent the shree yantra (shree stands for ‘ Laxmi ‘ the goddess of prosperity) is said to be the most important and is called the king of yantras by the tantric adepts. Shree yantra is composed of two sets of triangles one of which is composed of Shreekanthas (four male Shiva triangles denoting gradually involved energy) and the other set of triangles is composed of Shivayavatis (five female or shakti triangles denoting five senses of knowledge and action, and five subtle and gross forms of matter). These two triangles reflect the unison of Shiva and Shakti.
It is belived that Shakti is always in unison with Shiva, existing within each and every being as the inner self; the state of existence, consciousness and bliss. Shiva is the Ashraya (basis) of Shakti which in turn, being his creative faculty, is the basis of the whole universe. Hence, she is known as Shree the primordial energy existing within Shiva and yantra is her divine extension network. Without her operation, this visible cosmos would not be possible.
This universe and all it’s contents are basically composed of panchtatva or five basic elements comprising of Prithvi (earth), Apas (water), Tejas (light), Maruta (wind) and Aakaash (sky). It is believed that our body is also composed of the same basic elements called pinda. The unison of Pinda, the individual body, with Brahmaanda, the cosmic body, is beautifully represented by this great yantra.
The objective of meditation on Shree-yantra is to unite with the universal mother, in her forms of mind, life and matter, to attain consciousness and divinity. The Yantra is therefore transformed from a material object of lines and curves into a mental state of union with the universe.
The Satkon is composed of two sets of overlapping triangles. One is the symbol of Shiva, which stands for eternal being (static by nature), and the other is a symbol of Shakti, the most active female. This popular symbol of the union of Shakti and Shiva, that indicates the union of the two, is represented in several Nepali works of art like the Mandala paintings , windows and doors etc. The beautiful temple residence of
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