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Nepal (nəpôlˈ), officially Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, republic (2015 est. pop. 28,656,000), c.54,000 sq mi (139,860 sq km), central Asia. Landlocked and isolated by the Himalayas, Nepal is bordered on the west, south, and east by India, and on the N by the Tibet region of China. Katmandu is the capital.
Land and People
Geographically, Nepal comprises three major areas. The south, known as the Terai, is a comparatively low region of cultivable land, swamps, and forests that provide valuable timber. In the north is the main section of the Himalayas, including Mt. Everest (29,032 ft/8,849 m), the world's highest peak. Nepal's major rivers, which rise in Tibet, rush through deep Himalayan gorges. Central Nepal, an area of moderately high mountains, contains the Katmandu valley, or Valley of Nepal, the country's most densely populated region and its administrative, economic, and cultural center. Nepal's railroads, connecting with lines in India, do not reach the valley, which is served by a highway and a bridgelike cable line. There are a few other modern highways.
The population of Nepal is the result of a long intermingling of Mongolians, who migrated from the north (especially Tibet), and peoples who came from the Ganges plain in the south. The chief ethnic group, the Newars, were probably the original inhabitants of the Katmandu valley. Other groups include the Chettris, Brahmans, Magars, Tharus, and Gurungs. Several ethnic groups are classified together as Bhotias; among them are the Sherpas, famous for guiding mountain-climbing expeditions, and the Gurkhas, a term sometimes loosely applied to the fighting castes, who achieved fame in the British Indian army and continue to serve as mercenaries in India's army and in the British overseas forces. Nepali, the country's official language, is an Indo-European language and has similarities to Hindi. Tibeto-Burman languages, Munda languages, and various Indo-Aryan dialects are also spoken. About 80% of the people are Hindu, about 10% are Tibetan Buddhists (see Tibetan Buddhism), and there are smaller groups of Muslims and others. Tribal and caste distinctions are still important. The royal family is Hindu, and until 2006 the country was officially a Hindu kingdom. The entrenched caste system and rural poverty provided fertile ground for the Maoist insurgency that began in the 1990s.
Some 75% of Nepal's people engage in agriculture, which contributes about 40% of the GDP. In the Terai, the main agricultural region, rice is the chief crop; other food crops include pulses, wheat, barley, sugarcane, and oilseeds. Jute, tobacco, cotton, indigo, and opium are also grown in the Terai, whose forests provide sal wood and commercially valuable bamboo and rattan. In the lower mountain valleys, rice is produced during the summer, and wheat, barley, oilseeds, potatoes, and vegetables are grown in the winter. Corn, wheat, and potatoes are raised at higher altitudes, and terraced hillsides are also used for agriculture. Medicinal herbs, grown on the Himalayan slopes, are sold worldwide. Livestock raising is second to farming in Nepal's economy; oxen predominate in the lower valleys, yaks in the higher, and sheep, goats, and poultry are plentiful everywhere.
Transportation and communication difficulties have hindered the growth of industry and trade. Biratnagar and Birganj, in the Terai, are the main manufacturing towns, and Katmandu also has some industry. There are rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; other products include carpets, textiles, cigarettes, and building materials. Wood and metal handicrafts are also important. Significant quantities of mica and small deposits of ocher, copper, iron, lignite, and cobalt are found in the hills of Nepal. Hydropower is the main source of electricity in Nepal, and there are plans to further develop the potential of the nation's rivers.
Tourism, a chief source of foreign exchange (along with international aid and Gurkha pensions), was hurt during the conflict with the country's Maoist rebels. Carpets, clothing, leather and jute goods, and grain are exported; imports include gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products, and fertilizer. Nepal's trade is overwhelmingly with India. In recent years, significant deforestation and a growing population have greatly affected the country.
To the Mid-Twentieth Century
By the 4th cent. A.D. the Newars of the central Katmandu valley had apparently developed a flourishing Hindu-Buddhist culture. From the 8th–11th cent. many Buddhists fled to Nepal from India, and a group of Hindu Rajput warriors set up the principality of Gurkha just west of the Katmandu valley. Although a Newar dynasty, the Mallas, ruled the valley from the 14th–18th cent., there were internecine quarrels among local rulers. These were exploited by the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, who conquered the Katmandu valley in 1768.
Gurkha armies seized territories far beyond the present-day Nepal; but their invasion of Tibet, over which China claimed sovereignty, was defeated in 1792 by Chinese forces. An ensuing peace treaty forced Nepal to pay China an annual tribute, which continued until 1910. Also in 1792, Nepal first entered into treaty relations with Great Britain. Gurkha expansion into N India, however, led to a border war (1814–16) and to British victory over the Gurkhas, who were forced by treaty to retreat into roughly the present borders of Nepal and to receive a British envoy at Katmandu.
The struggle for power among the Nepalese nobility culminated in 1846 with the rise to political dominance of the Rana family. Jung Bahadur Rana established a line of hereditary prime ministers, who controlled the government until 1950, and the Shah dynasty kings were mere figureheads. In 1854, Nepal again invaded Tibet, which was forced to pay tribute from then until 1953.
Under the Ranas, Nepal was deliberately isolated from foreign influences; this policy helped to maintain independence during the colonial period but prevented economic and social modernization. Relations with Britain were cordial, however, and in 1923 a British-Nepalese treaty expressly affirmed Nepal's full sovereignty. Nepal supplied many troops for the British army in both world wars.
The successful Indian movement for independence (1947) stimulated democratic sentiment in Nepal. The newly formed Congress party of Nepal precipitated a revolt in 1950 that forced the autocratic Ranas to share power in a new cabinet. King Tribhuvan Bir Bikram, who sympathized with the democratic movement, took temporary refuge in India and returned (1951) as a constitutional monarch. In 1959 a democratic constitution was promulgated, and parliamentary elections gave the Congress party a clear majority.
The following year, however, King Mahendra (reigned 1956–72) cited alleged inefficiency and corruption in government as evidence that Nepal was not ready for Western-style democracy. He dissolved parliament, detained many political leaders, and in 1962 inaugurated a system of “basic democracy,” based on the elected village council (panchayat) and working up to district and zonal panchayats and an indirectly elected national panchayat. Political parties were banned, and the king was advised by a council of appointed ministers. King Mahendra carried out a land reform that distributed large holdings to landless families, and he instituted a law removing the legal sanctions for caste discrimination. Crown Prince Birenda succeeded to the throne (1972) upon his father's death; like previous Nepalese monarchs, he married a member of the Rana family in order to ensure political peace.
Prior to 1989, Nepal maintained a position of nonalignment in foreign affairs, carefully balancing relationships with China, the USSR, the United States, and India. The USSR and the United States were major aid donors. A 1956 treaty with China recognized Chinese sovereignty over Tibet and officially terminated the century-old Tibetan tribute to Nepal; all Nepalese troops left Tibet in 1957. The Sino-Nepalese border treaty of 1961 defined Nepal's Himalayan frontier.
India's geographical proximity, cultural affinity, and substantial economic aid render it the most influential foreign power in Nepal, but its military and political interference in Nepal's affairs has been a constant source of worry for the government. In 1969, Nepal canceled an arms agreement with India and ordered the Indians to withdraw their military mission from Katmandu and their listening posts from the Tibet-Nepal frontier. In 1989 the Indian government closed its borders with Nepal to all economic traffic, bringing Nepal's economy to a standstill. During the early 1990s, Nepal developed closer ties with China. In the 1980s and 1990s thousands of ethnic Nepalese from Bhutan were forced to take up residence in UN refugee camps in Nepal. In 2003 an agreement was reached that allowed some of the refugees to return to Bhutan, but most remained in camps in Nepal. Some began being resettled overseas in 2008, and by the end of 2010 more than 40,000 had left.
Weeks of street protests and general strikes forced King Birenda to proclaim (Nov., 1990) a new constitution that legalized political parties, asserted human rights, abolished the panchayat system, and vastly reduced the king's powers in a constitutional monarchy. In the 1991 parliamentary elections, the centrist Nepali Congress party won a slim majority and formed a government, which collapsed in 1994. Following a succession of failed coalition governments, the Congress party once again won a majority in the 1999 legislative elections, and Krishna Prasad Bhattarai became prime minister. Meanwhile, a Maoist insurgency began in rural Nepal during the mid-1990s.
In Mar., 2000, concern within the Congress party over Bhattarai's administration forced his resignation, and Girija Prasad Koirala became prime minister, holding the office for the fourth time. The king and many members of the royal family were killed in June, 2001, by the crown prince, apparently because of his parents' objection to his proposed marriage; the prince committed suicide. The king's brother, Prince Gyanendra, succeeded to throne; Gyanendra, unlike Birenda, had opposed the 1990 constitution.
In July, 2001, Koirala resigned and Sher Bahadur Deuba, also of the Nepali Congress party, became prime minister. In November negotiations with the Maoist rebels broke down and serious fighting began; the rebels won control of a significant portion of Nepal. In May, 2002, Congress party infighting led Deuba to dissolve parliament and seek new elections, which prompted the party to expel him and call for his cabinet to resign, which mostly did not. When Dueba called (Oct., 2002) for the postponement of elections for a year, the king removed him from office and named Lokendra Bahadur Chand, a former prime minister and monarchist, to the post. Elections were postponed indefinitely.
In Jan., 2003, a cease-fire was signed with the rebels, and negotiations began, although there were occasional violations of the cease-fire. In May growing opposition demonstrations against the government led Chand to resign, but hopes for a compromise with the opposition were dashed when the king named Surya Bahadur Thapa, a royalist, as prime minister and effectively brought all of the country's administrative powers under control of the crown. The rebels withdrew from the inconclusive negotiations in Aug., 2003, and fighting between government troops and rebel forces soon resumed. Neither the army nor the Maoists gained full control of the countryside, parliament remained dissolved, and there were increasing public protests against the king.
In Apr., 2004, the king promised to hold parliamentary elections in 2005. The following month the prime minister resigned, and in June the king appointed Deuba to the post. Deuba subsequently formed a broad-based coalition government. Despite government offensives against the rebels, they remained strong enough to enforce their will. In August and December the rebels again called successful blockades of the capital; they also began forcing the closure of a number of businesses.
Declaring that the cabinet had failed, the king dismissed the government in Feb., 2005, and declared a state of emergency, placing opposition figures under arrest. He assumed direct control of the government as chairman of a new cabinet. Many political prisoners were released in April, and the emergency ended in May, but the king retained the powers he had assumed. In July, 2005, Deuba and several others were convicted and sentenced on corruption charges by an anticorruption commission established by the king.
Nepal's two largest parties, the Congress and the Communist (United Marxist-Leninist), subsequently ended their support for a constitutional monarchy, and in September the Maoist rebels declared a three-month cease-fire. Nepal's opposition parties and the rebels agreed in Nov., 2005, jointly to support the reestablisment of constitutional democracy in the country, and the rebels then extended their cease-fire for a month. In Jan., 2006, however, the rebels announced the cease-fire would end because the government had continued its operations against them. By April, when the king offered to restore a democratic government, the situation in the country had become even more troubled, with the prodemocracy demonstrations and the government response to them increasingly confrontational and violent.
The reinstatement of parliament in April ushered in a rapid series of governmental changes. Koirala again became prime minister, and his government respond to the rebels' three-month cease-fire with an indefinite one. The monarchy was stripped of its powers and privileges, although not abolished, and Nepal was declared a secular nation. The government began talks with the rebels, who in June agreed in principle to join an interim government. Some 16,000 people are believed to have died in the country's decade-long civil war.
A Nov., 2006, accord called for the rebels to join the government and assemble in camps and place their weapons under UN supervision, and the following month an interim constitution under which the monarch was not head of state was agreed to. The question of the ultimate abolition of the monarchy was left to a constituent assembly that would be elected in 2007. Human-rights groups accused the rebels, however, of continuing to engage in extortion and conscription. In Jan., 2007, the rebels joined the interim parliament and the interim constitution came into effect; in April they joined a new interim government. Although some 31,000 rebels were in camps by late February, far fewer numbers of weapons had been sequestered. Also in January, long-simmering resentment of the native peoples of the Terai, known as Madhesis, led to protests and violence in S Nepal as the Madhesis pressed their demands for autonomy for the Terai. Although the government subsequently reached an agreement with the Madhesis, violence in the region continued throughout the year.
The government and the Maoists agreed to hold elections for the assembly in late 2007, and in June, 2007, parliament passed a constitutional amendment giving it the power to abolish the monarchy. The government later voted to nationalize the royal palaces and other royal property. The rebels withdrew from the government in Sept., 2007, demanding the monarchy be abolished before any elections, and the assembly elections were subsequently postponed into 2008. In Dec., 2007, the parliament voted to abolish the monarchy and establish a republic in Apr., 2008, after the constituent assembly elections; the Maoists then returned to the government.
In Feb., 2008, resurgent unhappiness in the Terai with the government led to a Madhesi strike and blockade that kept fuel and other supplies from Katmandu. The Maoists were accused of intimidating both voters and opposing candidates in rural areas in the campaigning for the April vote, but in the balloting for assembly members the Maoists led all other parties, doing well in both rural and urban areas and winning more than a third of the seats. At the constituent assembly's first meeting (May, 2008) its members voted to abolish the monarchy. The following month, after Maoists resigned from their cabinet seats, Prime Minister Koirala resigned.
In July, Nepal's first president, Ram Baran Yadav, was elected by the assembly with the support of Nepal's major non-Maoist parties. Yadav, a Madhesi and member of the Congress party, defeated the Maoist-backed candidate when Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum switched its support to Yadav. However, the Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, better known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda, was elected prime minister with the support of most of the major parties in Aug., 2008. Prachanda resigned as prime minister in May, 2009, when the president reversed Prachanda's firing of the army chief, who was accused of disobeying government orders; Madhav Kumar Nepal, a Communist, subsequently became prime minister.
The Maoists mounted protests and strikes against the president, calling for an apology, but the government refused to negotiate. In the months following, progress toward drafting and adopting a new constitution was slow, and the timetable was extended several times. In June, 2010, the prime minister resigned in an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the political deadlock, but the parties were unable to agree on a new prime minister. Jhalanath Khanal, a Communist, was finally elected prime minister in Feb., 2011; in March the Maoists joined the new government.
Failure to reach an agreement on integrating rebel forces into the military led Khanal to resign in August, and Maoist party vice chairman Baburam Bhattarai was elected to succeed him. In November, the parties finally agreed to merge some 6,500 rebels into the armed forces. After the supreme court refused to extend the deadline for writing a constitution further, the government collapsed in May, 2012, after several parties withdrew. No agreement on a constitution was reached, and the assembly was dissolved.
Elections were called for Nov., 2012, but they were postponed after opposition parties refused to participate unless the prime minister resigned first. In Mar., 2013, an interim election government headed by the supreme court's chief justice, Khilray Regmi, was established. The constituent assembly elections were finally held in Nov., 2013, and resulted in significant gains for the Congress and Communist parties; the Maoists placed third. The Maoists asserted that the results were due to fraud, but agreed to join the assembly on condition that a parliamentary investigation into the election was conducted. Congress party leader Sushil Koirala, G. P. Koirala's cousin, became prime minister in Feb., 2014.
In early 2015, government attempts to bring a constitution to a vote, over objections by Maoists and opposition ethnic parties who called for a federal structure with ethnically based provinces, led to demonstrations and to general strikes enforced by violence. Parts of the country, including the capital, suffered severe damage from two earthquakes (April, May) in 2015; some 9,000 people died, and some 4 million left homeless. Subsequently, reconstruction proceeded very slowly. A constitution was finally adopted in Sept., 2015, but the demarcation of the provinces and other provisions led to ethnic protests from Madhesis and Tharus who believed the constitution diluted their potential political representation. Some Hindus also objected to the document because it established a secular state. Imports from India were hampered by protests that continued until Feb., 2016, leading to fuel shortages; India also was accused of interfering with border traffic.
K. P. Sharma Oli, leader of the Communist party, was elected prime minister in October under the new constitution, and Bidhya Devi Bhandari subsequently became the first woman to be elected president. Oli's government collapsed in July, 2016, after first the Maoists and then other parties withdrew their support. A new government, headed by Prachanda, was then formed by Congress, the Maoists, and smaller parties under a power-sharing agreement that called for the Maoists and Congress to share the prime ministership. In May, 2017, Prachanda resigned ahead of a government leadership switch, and the following month Congress's Sher Bahadur Deuba succeeded him.
In the parliamentary elections of Nov.–Dec., 2017, the Communist party won a plurality. The Communists and Maoists formed a coalition government in Feb., 2018, with Oli as prime minister, and the parties merged to form the Nepal Communist party in May. Bhandari was reelected president in March. Political tensions with India increased in 2020 over a disputed area claimed by Nepal as part of its Far West prov. but controlled by India since the mid-1900s. In Dec., 2020, amid tensions between Oli and Prachanda, the president dissolved the parliament and called early elections at Oli's request; the move was challenged in court.
See D. R. Regni, Medieval Nepal (4 vol., 1965–66); N. B. Thapa and D. P. Thapa, Geography of Nepal (enl. and rev. ed. 1969); I. R. Aryal and T. P. Dhungyal, A New History of Nepal (1970); R. S. Chauhan, The Political Development in Nepal, 1950–70 (1972) and Society and State Building in Nepal (1988); J. Whelpton, Nepal (1990); B. Crossette, So Close to Heaven: The Vanishing Buddhist Kingdoms of the Himalayas (1995); S. B. Ortner, Life and Death on Mt. Everest (1999); J. Gregson, Massacre at the Palace: The Doomed Royal Dynasty of Nepal (2002).
a state in southern Asia, in the central part of the Himalayas, the earth’s highest mountain system. To the north it borders on the People’s Republic of China, and to the south, west, and east, on India. Area, 140,800 sq km; population, 11.5 million (1972, estimate). The city of Katmandu is the capital. Administratively, Nepal is divided into 14 zones (anchais) and 75 districts.
Constitution and government. Nepal is a monarchy. The present constitution was adopted in 1962 (supplemented in 1967). The head of state is the king, in whom all authority is vested. He appoints the prime minister and all other members of the government from among the membership of the National Panchayat (parliament). The king is the supreme commander of the armed forces and exercises supreme judicial authority. The deliberative bodies, the State Council and the National Guidance Council, are under the king’s authority. The National Panchayat consists of 125 members, 90 of whom are elected for six-year terms by local bodies of self-government (district and zonal panchayats). The remaining deputies are elected for four-year terms by functional and professional groups (peasants’, workers’, youth, women’s, and other groups) or are appointed by the king. The powers of the National Panchayat are limited. Laws it enacts go into effect after being confirmed by the king. In Nepal, 3,800 rural and 16 urban panchayats elected by the population are in operation; 14 zonal and 75 district panchayats are formed through multistage elections by rural and urban panchayats. The judicial system of Nepal, headed by a supreme court, includes district, zonal, and regional courts.
A. A. MISHIN
Natural features. The territory of Nepal is mountainous. Two zones of mountains, divided by a system of valleys and basins, extend along the country from northwest to southeast. The northern zone is formed by the southern slopes of the central part of the Himalayas (the Great Himalayas). Mount Chomolungma, or Everest (8,848 m), and Mount Kanchenjunga (8,585 m) are situated on the northern and eastern borders of Nepal. Several other summits exceed 8,000 m. The central area of the mountains has alpine terrain, with intensive recent glaciation and numerous traces of ancient glaciation. Extremely large landslides and avalanches are characteristic. River gorges are deep and frequently transversal. The frontal ranges are considerably lower (Mahabharat, with elevations to 2,959 m; Siwalik, up to 2,277 m). They are strongly dissected, at times close to badlands. Intermontane basins (elevations of 1,000–1,500 m) are characterized by hilly and low-mountain terrain, separating ancient lake beds, where most of the population of Nepal is concentrated (for example, the Valley of Nepal). The northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (elevations to 200–250 m) lies to the south.
A subequatorial monsoon climate with sharply pronounced altitudinal zonality prevails. In the south the average January temperature is 15°C, and in the intermontane basins, 0°-10°C; above 4,000 m temperatures remain below freezing for the greater part of the year. In July the air temperature in the south reaches 30°C, and in the intermontane basins, 20°C. At altitudes of 4,500–5,000 m it falls to 10°C. More than 2,000 mm of precipitation falls annually in the southern foothills and on the mountain slopes (the maximum is during the summer monsoons); in the basins, total precipitation is less than 1,500 mm. In high-mountain areas precipitation is mainly in the form of snow.
The rivers (Ganges basin) are turbulent and filled with rapids. They have large reserves of hydroelectric power. They are fed by mixed sources (snow, ice, and rain) and are characterized by summer floods. The Karnali, Gandak, Kosi, and Baghmati are the most important rivers. There are no large lakes.
Rain forests (teak, acacia, and palm, with an abundance of lianas and epiphytes) on alluvial and mountain yellow soils are developed on the foothills of the Himalayas and on the southern slopes. There are jungles on swampy soils in the most moist areas. Forests have been greatly reduced at lower mountain levels. Evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forests (oak, maple, and magnolia) are found on mountain brown-wood soils in central sections of the slopes. Coniferous forests of cedar, spruce, and fir predominate at elevations of 3,000 m and above. At elevations exceeding 4,000 m there are shrub thickets (rhododendron and juniper) and subalpine and alpine meadows on mountain-meadow soils. Cold-desert vegetation is found in certain areas on the northern slopes.
Nepal has rich and diverse fauna. Elephant, tiger, leopard, rhinoceros, and boar are encountered in the jungles. Monkeys are numerous. Birds include the parrot and peacock. There are many poisonous snakes. Asiatic black bear, snow leopard, mountain sheep, and wild goat live in the mountains.
Tropical fauna and flora are protected in the Chitawan Preserve (on the border with India); in the Langtang, Sagarmatha, and Nagarjung national parks; and in Lake Rara.
NATURAL REGIONS. In the Central Himalayas, there is a predominance of cliffs, taluses, recent glaciers, alpine and subalpine meadows, and mountain forests. There is sharply pronounced altitudinal zonality.
In the intermontane basins there is a predominance of hills and low mountains, which are covered with forests in places.
River valleys are plowed in some areas, and slopes are terraced.
The frontal ranges are forested and sharply divided by valleys.
The Terai are forested swampy plains in the southern foothills of the Himalayas.
IU. K. EFREMOV
Population. The ethnic composition of Nepal is complex. The peoples of the country speak almost 60 languages and dialects (14 of which are written) from two language families, Indo-European and Sino-Tibetan. The Nepali, who have settled mainly the central and southwestern parts of the country, are the main ethnic group. They number 6 million (1971 census). The Newar (about 455,000) also live in the central area of the country. West of the Newar are the Gurung (about 200,000) and Magar (about 288,000). To the east are the Tamang, or Murmi (about 555,000); the Kiranti, or Rai (about 232,000); the Limbu; the Lepcha; and the Sunwar. Sherpa (50,000) and Bhotia, who are closely related to the Tibetans, live in high-mountain valleys of the far north of the country. The southern lowlands are inhabited by the Bihari (a group consisting of the Maithili [1.3 million] and the Bhojpuri [800,000]), as well as the closely related Tharus (495,000). Recent émigrés from India also live in Nepal. Nepali is the official language. About 90 percent of the population professes Hinduism, 7.5 percent professes Buddhism (mainly Lamaism), and about 2 percent professes Islam. A considerable portion of the Hindus worship Buddhist sacred objects as well.
The Hindu calendar, beginning from the Vikrama era (the beginning of its year 2031 corresponded to Apr. 13, 1974), is most widespread in modern Nepal and is used in official correspondence. The Gregorian calendar is also used.
The average annual population increase (1963–71) is 1.8 percent and comes mainly from natural growth. In the 1930’s the population was about 5.6 million; in 1961 (census) it was 9.4 million; and in 1971 (corrected census data), 11,560,000. As a result of considerable emigration in the past, there are fewer men than women. Most of the economically active population (91.6 percent in 1970) is employed in agriculture. The working class is small (about 50,000). The feudal ruling elite occupies a predominant position in society.
Although the average population density is about 80 persons per square km, the highest density (up to 800 per sq km) is found in the Valley of Nepal. Urban population is only 3.84 percent of the total (1971 census). The major cities are Katmandu, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Biratnagar, Nepalganj, and Birganj.
Historical survey. In the mid-first millennium B.C., tribal associations of the Videha, Malla, and Lichchhavi inhabited the Terai and sections of the foothill jungles adjoining the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The mountain valleys of Nepal were settled during the Mesolithic period by equatorial (Negroid-Australoid) and Mongoloid tribes (ancestors of the Newar, Kiranti, and other Himalayan peoples). The date of emergence of the first state formations in the mountain valleys is unknown.
In the early centuries of the Common Era, an early-feudal Newar state, headed by the Lichchhavi dynasty, appeared in the Valley of Nepal. This state, called Nepal in Indian sources, developed under the influence of Indian civilization (religion, law, and official language) and established ties with Tibet and China. After its decline (eighth century), a state in the Valley of Nepal was restored in the early 13th century (headed by the Malla dynasty, which ruled until 1769).
A low level of development of productive forces, natural barriers, and ethnic diversity resulted in continued political fragmentation on the territory of modern Nepal throughout almost the entire Middle Ages. In the 15th century the state in the Valley of Nepal broke up into the principalities of Bhatgaon (or Bhadgaon), Katmandu, and Patan. Twenty-two principalities existed in the Karnali River basin (among them were Jumla and Jajarkot); in the Gandak River basin there were 24 (Palpa, Tanahun, and others). Kiranti and Limbu tribal associations were preserved in the east. Feudal relations (with preservation of patriarchal slavery) evolved in the principalities. Urban culture in the Valley of Nepal attained a comparatively high level.
The Khasa people, who spoke Khas-Kura (modern Nepali), a language of the Indo-Aryan group, formed gradually as a result of the increased influx (beginning in the 12th century) of Indo-Aryan population into the territory and the mixing of this population with local Magar, Gurung, and other tribes. By the 15th and 16th centuries the Khasa had become the most numerous ethnic group on the territory of Nepal. In the 16th and 17th centuries the Khasa-Magar principality of Gurkha grew stronger. Its ruler, Ram Shah (ruled 1605–32), implemented administrative reforms and improved legislation for the purpose of strengthening central authority. By 1769, exploiting the absence of unity among the Newar principalities, the Gurkhas under the leadership of Prithvi Narayan (ruled in Gurkha from 1742 to 1769) conquered the principalities of Makwanpur, Katmandu, Patan, and Bhatgaon, and later also the lands of the Kiranti. Prithvi Narayan became the king of a centralized Nepali state, with Katmandu as its capital.
By the end of the 18th century, Nepal reached the borders of Kashmir in the west and Sikkim in the east. The Newar aristocracy was deprived of its privileged position. High state posts became the monopoly of the Khasa feudal nobility. Feudal holdings (birtas) became widespread. The conversion of many conventional feudal holdings into hereditary and inalienable holdings (late 18th century) was an important step in the development of feudal land relations and was one of the factors that strengthened the economic power and further elevated individual feudal clans through limitation of royal authority and state ownership of land.
The English East India Company, whose territorial holdings in India extended to near the borders of Nepal, exerted considerable influence on the historic fate of Nepal beginning in the second half of the 18th century. In 1814 the company accused the Gurkhas of attacking English border outposts and declared war on Nepal. In accordance with the unequal Segauli Treaty (1816), Nepal yielded to the company a number of territories and was forced to admit an English resident to Katmandu. Nepal’s foreign relations with other states were placed under English control. In 1846 the company helped Jang Bahadur, head of the Rana feudal clan, to stage a coup d’etat. As a result of the overthrow, Jang Bahadur became prime minister. This post, like other high posts, was made into a hereditary monopoly privilege of the Rana clan. The king became only the nominal head of state. The Rana clan effected autocratic rule.
Under the administration of the Rana clan (1846–1951), Nepal served as a supplier of soldiers for the British colonial army (recruiting stations for the British army were opened in the country). Appropriating the country’s national resources, the Ranas transferred most of their capital abroad (mainly to India) and invested it in commercial enterprises.
The predominance of feudal relations, the isolation of Nepal from the outside world, the outflow of accumulations of funds, and the geographic and economic fragmentation of the country retarded development of productive forces. Most of the cultivated land was concentrated in the hands of feudal landlords (mainly the Rana clan, which numbered about 100 families); 80 percent of the sown area was tilled by peasant tenants (mainly sharecroppers), who were completely without rights. Rental payment rates were not regulated and in most instances were more than 50 percent of the crops. Indentured slavery, which was legally abolished only in 1926, was widespread. More than 3 million persons left Nepal in search of work (emigrating mainly to India, Burma, and Malaya) during the Rana rule.
The success of the national-liberation struggle in the countries of Asia after World War II (1939–45) and the defeat of colonialism in those countries created favorable conditions for the development of the antifeudal and anti-imperialist struggle of the Nepali people. Industrial enterprises (mainly enterprises of light industry in the cities of Birganj and Biratnagar) appeared in Nepal as early as the end of the war; the formation of the working class also began at that time. In the southern regions, which were oriented toward the economy of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the decay of the feudal structure intensified. Commodity agriculture developed further in the Valley of Nepal. The activity of the Nepali political émigrés in India increased noticeably.
The Nepali National Congress Party (since 1950, the Nepali Congress) was founded in 1947 in Calcutta. Leading positions in the party were occupied by members of impoverished feudal families and the petit bourgeois intelligentsia. The party played an important part in stimulating anti-Rana forces in Nepal.
Under the specific conditions of Nepal—an extremely small working class, an exceptionally weak commercial-industrial bourgeoisie, the prevalence of feudal social institutions, and a medieval way of life—the democratic movement proceeded under the slogan of returning the king’s prerogatives, which had been usurped by the Ranas. In 1949 the Communist Party of Nepal was formed. A united front of anti-Rana forces was established (it was active in 1951–52). Through its efforts the power of the Ranas was ended (the revolution of 1951).
On Feb. 18, 1951, King Tribhuvan (ruled 1911–55) abolished the institution of hereditary prime ministers. A provisional constitution announced by the king on Apr. 10, 1951, proclaimed a constitutional monarchy. It declared civil rights and freedoms (the right to establish parties and organizations, universal suffrage, and so on). However, in 1959 a new constitution, restricting the democratic rights and freedoms of the population, was announced. In 1959, candidates of the Nepali Congress were victorious in the first parliamentary elections in the history of Nepal; the party promised to carry out an agrarian reform, implement the reorganization of the administrative apparatus and legal proceedings, and improve the situation of the working people. However, it did not carry out its promises.
On Dec. 15, 1960, under conditions of aggravated social and economic conflicts, King Mahendra (ruled from 1955 through January 1972) dissolved parliament and the government, personally assuming all legislative and executive authority. The activity of all political parties and organizations was banned on Jan. 5, 1961 (the ban was made official by the constitution of 1962). A panchayat system was created, based on the idea of “class consciousness,” whose purpose was to reduce class conflicts in the course of capitalist transformation of Nepali society. The National Panchayat, heading an entire system of panchayats (local bodies of self-government), was elected to replace the parliament. “Class organizations” (of peasants, workers, young people, women, and former soldiers), operating under the control of the state, were formed to replace the banned parties. In 1975, certain amendments were introduced into the constitution of 1962: the status of “class organizations” was changed (they were deprived of representation in the National Panchayat), and the electorate was broadened somewhat. However, these changes have not greatly affected the political structure of the panchayat system.
The new legal code of 1963 eliminated the most odious medieval vestiges in social relations (it prohibited early marriages and various labor obligations and forms of forced labor, and also abolished caste restrictions). The agrarian reform law of 1963 and subsequent acts were aimed at the elimination of the powerful landlords’ landownership by establishing a fixed maximum for such ownership and a maximum rent. As of 1974 its basic tenets had still not been implemented.
The elimination of Nepal’s age-old international isolation and the conduct of a peace-loving foreign policy were of considerable importance in strengthening Nepal’s national independence. Nepal became a member of the UN (1955) and of many other international organizations. As of July 1974 it had established diplomatic relations with 56 states. Diplomatic relations with the USSR were established on July 20, 1956. Agreements on economic cooperation (1959, 1964, and 1973), cultural cooperation (1964), and commercial cooperation (1965 and 1970) have been concluded between the USSR and Nepal. Nepal participated in conferences of nonaligned states in Belgrade (1961), Cairo (1964), Lusaka (1970), Algiers (1973), and Colombo (1976). Progressive circles of Nepali society are active in the Afro-Asian solidarity movement and in the struggle for peace. In particular, representatives of Nepal took part in the World Congress of Peace-loving Forces (Moscow, 1973).
A. A. PRAZAUSKAS and I. B. RED’KO (from the end of the 18th century)
Economic geography. Nepal is a backward agrarian country in whose economy feudal and semifeudal relations prevail. Over a long period, Nepal developed under conditions of foreign isolation and internal economic fragmentation.
Since the 1960’s, socioeconomic changes in Nepal have taken place in conjunction with the adoption of laws on agrarian reform. According to the government’s economic development programs (1956/57–1960/61, 1960/61–1964/65, 1964/65–1970/71, 1970/71–1974/75), the most attention has been devoted to sectors of the infrastructure—transportation, power engineering, agriculture, and irrigation. Funds entering Nepal in the form of foreign aid and loans are an important source for capital investment. Expansion of Nepal’s economic ties with many countries, and also with specialized institutions of the UN, is fostering economic development.
The USSR, in particular, has extended aid to Nepal in the construction of the Birganj-Janakpur highway (part of the national east-west highway), a hydroelectric power plant (Panaoti), and a number of industrial plants (a sugar refinery and a plant for agricultural implements in Birganj and a cigarette factory in Janakpur).
Small-commodity agriculture, cottage industry, and domestic trades are the main occupations of most of the population. A subsistence economy has been preserved in mountain regions.
Agriculture accounts for about 70 percent of the gross national product; industry and construction, about 12 percent; commerce, 3 percent; and transportation and communications, about 2 percent (UN data, 1970).
AGRICULTURE. More than one-half of the cultivated area belongs to large landowners, who lease it to the peasants. The land reform of 1963 limits land allotments. Land surpluses are bought up by the state and sold to the peasants. In actual fact, implementation of the reform is being sabotaged by the landlords. As of 1971, less than 28 percent of the territory of Nepal was used for agriculture. About 2 million hectares (ha) are under cultivation. There are 1.9 million ha of meadows and pastures. About 200,000 ha are irrigated. Rice (60 percent of the sown area) is the main agricultural crop. Other crops include sugarcane, jute, tea, rice, oil-bearing plants (peanuts and mustard), cardamom, mangoes, and bananas in the Terai zone of southern Nepal; rice, wheat, Indian corn, soy, and citrus fruits in the valleys of central Nepal; and rye, barley, oats, potatoes, Indian corn, mountain varieties of rice, and millet in the northern valleys. (For sown areas and harvests of main crops, see Table 1.) Some of these crops grow at elevations up to 4,000 m.
Animal husbandry is concentrated primarily in high-mountain regions of northern Nepal, where yaks, tszo (a yak-cow hybrid), sheep, and goats are bred. In central and southern Nepal, animal husbandry is of secondary importance; zebu cattle and buffalo are bred there. As of 1972 there were about 10 million head of cattle (including 3.5 million buffalo), 2.2 million sheep, 2.3 million goats, and 300,000 pigs. Most of the cattle are used as draft animals.
INDUSTRY. Industry has been poorly developed. The country’s mineral resources have been little studied. Primitive methods are used in the mining of coal, iron ore, ocher, talc, mica, potassium nitrate, copper, and gold. Deposits of magnesite have
|Table 1. Sown area and harvest of main agricultural crops|
|Sown area (ha)||Harvest (tons)|
|Tobacco||. . .||5.000||8,000||. . .||7,400||9,000|
been discovered. Total electric power production is 90 million kilowatt-hours, of which more than half is produced at a hydroelectric power plant (1972–73). Manufacturing industry is engaged mainly in the processing of local agricultural raw materials. There are individual factory-plant enterprises for the production of sugar (in Birganj and Biratnagar; 12,000 tons in 1972), tobacco (more than 2 billion cigarettes annually at a factory in Janakpur and at other locations), rice-polishing and other sectors of the food industry, jute (13,300 tons of jute items), and cotton (3.5 million m of fabric). Other industry includes wood products, paper, chemicals, leather footwear, and brick and tile. Metalworking is established (an agricultural machinery plant in Birganj). Handicrafts industries producing domestic items (weaving of cloth, production of baskets, mats, earthenware, agricultural implements, and so on) and objects of applied art are widespread.
TRANSPORTATION. Transportation is poorly developed. There is no unified transportation network. The total length of motor-vehicle roads is 4,400 km (1971), including more than 1,000 km (1972) of paved roads suitable for year-round use. An east-west highway is under construction in the Terai (since 1965). The length of narrow-gauge railroad track is 102 km. A freight ropeway from Katmandu to Khitaura (45 km) crosses the Mahabharat Range. There are air links with India, Bangladesh, Burma, Pakistan, and Thailand.
FOREIGN TRADE. An excess of imports over exports is characteristic of foreign trade. Machinery is imported, along with transportation equipment, petroleum products, cement, and consumer goods. Exports include jute and jute products, grain, oil seeds, sugarcane, tobacco, musk, wool, skins, leather, lumber, herbs, and handicrafts items.
About 70 percent of foreign trade turnover (1971–72) is with India, through which Nepal transships goods for trade with other countries (there was an Indo-Nepali agreement on trade and transit in 1971). Nepal has its own warehouse areas in the Indian port of Calcutta; the first merchant ship in the history of Nepal was registered there. Soviet-Nepali trade relations are developing.
Nepal is visited by foreign tourists and mountain climbers (in 1972 they numbered 54,000, which gave Nepal 21 million rupees in revenue). The monetary unit is the Nepali rupee. According to the rate of exchange of the State Bank of the USSR, as of June 1974, 100 rupees were worth 7.07 rubles.
D. N. KOSTINSKII
Armed forces. The armed forces of Nepal consist of land forces and an air force. The king is the supreme commander. The minister of defense is the overall administrator of the army; direct command is exercised by the commander in chief, to whom the general staff is subordinate. The army is manned by volunteers. The total strength of the armed forces (1973) is about 13,500 men. In addition, there are internal security forces (about 3,000 men). Land forces (13,000 men) consist of several infantry brigades, a separate artillery division, and a parachute company. The air force (about 500 men) has ten airplanes. Armaments and matériel are of foreign production.
Medicine and public health. According to estimates, the birthrate in 1971 was 44.6 and the death rate 22.9 per thousand. Infectious diseases predominate (tuberculosis, dysentery, smallpox, typhoid fever, malaria, measles, epidemic hepatitis, and diphtheria). There are endemic foci of cholera in the southern regions on the border with India. Epidemic outbreaks of smallpox are recorded almost annualy. A natural focus of plague is found in the northwest. Leprosy continues to be a serious public-health problem. Trachoma is widespread.
Malaria, helminthiases, and gastroenteritic diseases are found in the southern and central regions, including a narrow zone of the Indo-Gangetic Plain and the lower mountain slopes. Cholera, smallpox, and venereal diseases are associated with considerable continuous migrations of the population. Catarrhal illnesses of the upper respiratory tracts, otitis, rheumatism, and nephritis are characteristic of the mid-mountain zone. Tuberculosis is widespread. In noninfectious pathology, endemic goiter is encountered; foci of this disease in the mid-mountain and high-mountain zone form the Himalayan endemic region, the largest in the world. Catarrhal illnesses are frequent in high-mountain regions. Amebic dysentery, trachoma, and leprosy are widespread.
A modern health service in Nepal is only now being established. In 1971 there were only 55 hospitals, with 2,000 beds (1.8 per 10,000 inhabitants), of which 41 were state hospitals. Outpatient services were provided by 97 medical centers, 14 dispensaries, and 21 medical stations. In 1963 the USSR built a hospital (with 50 beds) and a polyclinic in Kathmandu and presented them as a gift to Nepal; in 1970 the hospital became Nepal’s first specialized pediatrics hospital. In 1969 medical personnel included 291 doctors (one doctor per 3,700 inhabitants), seven dentists, eight pharmacists, and more than 300 secondary medical personnel. There is no higher medical school in the country. Doctors receive their training in India. Three schools train secondary medical personnel.
Z. I. MARTYNOVA and A. L. SOKOLOVA
Veterinary services. Foot-and-mouth disease, hemorrhagic septicemia, rinderpest, sheep pox, rabies, coccidiasis, salmonellosis, piroplasmosis, fascioliasis, echinococcosis, contagious abortion, tuberculosis, scabies, and ecthyma are widespread among farm animals. The state veterinary service includes the Central Veterinary Hospital, central and zonal veterinary laboratories, zonal and regional hospitals, and vaccination stations in a system of veterinary border inspection. In addition to diagnostic research, the Central Veterinary Laboratory vaccinates against rinderpest, hemorrhagic septicemia, and rabies. There is no veterinary inspection of the slaughter of cattle and the procurement of animal raw materials. Specialists receive advanced training in India. There are 42 veterinarians in Nepal (1972).
S. I. KARTUSHIN
Education and scientific institutions. From 1952 to 1954, 96 percent of the population of Nepal was illiterate. During the 1967–68 academic year 37 centers for the elimination of illiteracy among adults were in operation, with an enrollment of 80,000. Since 1971, the most attention has been paid to the development of professional and vocational education. The programs of all educational institutions are being reviewed. Professional and vocational disciplines are being introduced into the programs of general education schools as required subjects. New colleges are being established at Tribhuvan University in Katmandu (founded in 1958 from Trichandra College). Nepal has both public and private educational institutions. Tuition is charged for education at all levels, with the exception of certain public elementary schools.
There are two main educational systems in Nepal: English and Sanskrit. The English system is more widespread. It consists of a five-year elementary school (classes are conducted in Nepali, and English is introduced at the third-grade level). Secondary school has two stages (three and two years). Sanskrit schools (mainly private) admit children from the age of 6 from families practicing Hinduism. There is a six-year elementary school and a three-year secondary school. In the 1969–70 academic year the total number of students in all elementary schools was 449,000, and in secondary schools, about 97,000. In accordance with the new system of education in Nepal, the following types of schools are being established: elementary (first to third grades), incomplete secondary (fourth to seventh grades), and secondary (eighth to tenth grades). There are general, vocational, and Sanskrit secondary schools. As of July 1974 the reform of elementary and secondary education had been implemented in 31 regions.
Vocational training is provided on the basis of the English incomplete secondary school. There are agricultural, vocational, forestry, mining, medical, and pedagogical training schools. During the 1969–70 academic year, enrollment at vocational institutions was 6,000, and at teachers colleges, 365.
Advanced training of specialists is conducted at Tribhuvan University. The university brings together a number of colleges (the Nepal National College, Trichandra College, colleges of commerce and law, and a Sanskrit college) in Katmandu and other cities. New colleges of agriculture and veterinary affairs, forestry, engineering, and applied sciences and technology, as well as a teachers college and the Institute of Nepal and Asian Studies, were opened in 1972. In addition, there is a college of art and music, as well as the Institute of Sanskrit, in Katmandu. In the 1973–74 academic year, university enrollment was 17,000. In 1969 about 1,300 Nepali received higher education abroad, mainly in India, the USSR, and the USA.
The Royal Nepal Academy (founded 1957) is the scientific center of the country. It publishes original works on literary history and criticism, linguistics, art studies, culture, and Nepali history, as well as textbooks and dictionaries. The academy consists of three divisions: culture; literature; and music, folk songs, and dance. A considerable number of the scientists and scholars of the country are instructors from Tribhuvan University and associates of the department of archaeology and other departments.
The largest libraries are located in Katmandu: the National Library (35,000 volumes and 7,500 ancient manuscripts), the Tribhuvan University Library (40,000 volumes), the Central Library, and the National Museum of Nepal (founded in 1938).
K. N. TSEIKOVICH and A. A. PRAZAUSKAS (scientific institutions)
Press and radio. In 1973, 24 daily newspapers and about 50 weeklies and journals were published in Nepal. The largest daily newspapers are Gorkha Patra (founded 1901; circulation, about 16,000), a semiofficial government publication; the Nepal Times (founded 1954; circulation, about 600); and Naya Samaj (founded 1956; circulation, about 500) in Nepali and Rising Nepal (founded 1965; circulation, about 6,000), a semiofficial government publication; Commoner (founded 1954; circulation, about 600); The Motherland (founded 1957; circulation, about 600, which expresses the views of the royal secretariat; and Himali Bela (founded 1970; circulation, about 300) in English.
Information is disseminated by a government joint-stock company (founded in 1962), the National Information Agency of Nepal.
Radio Nepal is a government service. Founded in 1951, it is situated in Katmandu. It broadcasts in Nepali and English.
Literature. The literature of Nepal has developed in the Nepali and Newari languages. The oldest literary monuments—epigraphs (mid-first millennium A.D.), vansavali (a genealogical tree), and mahatmya (glorification of gods and sacred objects) such as Swayambhu-purana (tenth century) and Nepala-mahatmya (14th-15th centuries)—were written in Sanskrit. The equality of all before god was preached in the hymns of natha poets, who reflected the protest of society’s lowest strata. Secular literature, which was oriented toward classic Sanskrit poetics, appeared in the 15th century (verse compositions, plays, and treatises on theater and music). A series of historic chronicles of the Malla dynasty were begun. The stuti genre (panegyrics in honor of the gods and members of the royal family) became established in poetry. Lyric love poetry developed (Pratapa Malla and Jayatprakasa Malla, both 17th century). Dramatists observed classical Sanskrit teachings on theater art but took into consideration distinctive features of popular theatrical presentations: the dramatic operas The Wedding of Siva and the Goddess by Jagajjyotir Malla (early 17th century) and The Sacrificing of a Steed (1663) by Jitamitra Malla. Over the course of several centuries, dramatic subjects were drawn from the Mahabharata, Ramayana, and puranas (History of Nal by Govinda Jha).
Nepali literature began in the 19th century, with the establishment of Nepali as the state language. The poets Vasanta, Indiras, Yadunath, Raghunath, and V. Keshari used traditional plots, such as the history of the life of Krishna. Prose emerged in the early 19th century (The Tale of Machhendranath). The poetry of Bhanubhakta (1812–68), whose Ramayana and numerous quatrains were characterized by Nepali local color and by modern themes, opened a new era. Nepali prose writing was further developed in the Biography of Bhanubhakta (1891) and other works by the educator Motiram Bhatta, who in 1888 founded Nepal’s first monthly, Gorkha Bharat Jiwan.
The 20th-century poets Lekhnath and J. Koirala refused to follow antiquated literary canons. Koirala was the first to turn to civic themes. The Nepali, endowed with characteristic national features, became the object of description. Literature was influenced by Indian chayavad (romanticism) and the English Lake School. The “poetry of nature” became one of the main trends in poetry of the 1930’s; it was represented by Laxmi Prasad Devkota (1908–58; the narrative poem Muna Madan, 1938) and Siddhi Caran Srestha (born 1912). In the 1940’s this poetry was succeeded by a romantic-sentimental trend (B. Tivari, and also Devkota, who turned to social themes). B. Sama, in developing philosophical themes, called for service to the needs of those suffering from poverty and lack of rights.
The literary-art journal Sarada (founded in 1934), which stimulated the short-story genre, facilitated the development of Nepali literature. G. Mainali, P. Shamsher, B. Bhikchhyu, K. Malla, and later B. Tivari, M. Koirala, B. P. Koirala, and Gothale, sketched the life of the middle and lower strata, showing the lack of rights of women and affirming the dignity of man. The idea of moral perfection is contained in the novels Rupamati, Love, and Redemption by Rudra Raj Pandey and Wheel of Fate by Ram Prasad.
Contemporary drama first appeared in the 1930’s with B. Sama, whose work is characterized by civic themes. In the plays I and Surrendered to Love (1938) he opposed childhood marriages and women’s lack of rights. In the 1940’s the one-act drama appeared. Prayogvad (experimentalism) emerged in poetry; Kedar Man Vyathit and others sought new forms to express new content. Commentary on public affairs developed. Grouped around the journal Yug-vani, writers led by L. Devkota produced sharp political articles and sketches.
The elimination of the rule of the Rana dynasty in 1951, which was a turning point in the history of Nepal, also had an effect on literature. Most of the works published in the leading literary journals (Indreni, Racana, Rupa-rekha, and Khimani) gave evidence that writers recognized their role in the struggle for a better future. The poetry of the 1950’s was distinguished by the ideas of peace and fraternity among people of all races and nationalities (the narrative poem Those Are Missiles by L. Devkota and the poems “I Love People” and “To Man” by B. Sama and “Hydrogen Bomb” by M. Ghimire). The “little man” who is becoming socially active is central to the short stories of K. Malla, Gothale, and M. Dhungel. The problems discussed in the dramatic works of the 1950’s and 1960’s shift from the moral-ethical to the social level: Fire (1959) by Gothale and The Living Dead Man (1960) by B. Malla.
The literature of the 1960’s was characterized by growing interest in the inner world of man and by attempts to use new forms and techniques. In some cases this led to concentration of attention on the individual’s subconscious and to the adoption of modernistic principles of artistic creativity (the works of the poets of the Ralf group and of the novelist Parijat and the one-act dramas of Basu Sasi). In others the process did not contradict a realistic perception of reality: the civic poetry of B. Sherchan (the anthologies Waterfall and The Blind Man on the Spinning Chair) and novels by B. P. Koirala (Three Turns, 1968) and D. Bista (One Shoot for All Seasons).
Literature in Newari has been developing since the 14th century, when Newari became an official language. In the 15th century historical chronicles and vansavali appeared, filled with legends and myths. Works from Sanskrit, Persian, and Arabic (Arabian Nights, 15th century) were translated into Newari. With the fall of the Malla dynasty (18th century), Newari literature fell into decline; it was revived only in the 20th century. In 1905, Newari was prohibited in business and literature. This retarded the development of the literature. The first prominent prose writer, Nisthanand Bajracarya (1858–1935), translated from Sanskrit the religious work Superior Wisdom (1909) and transposed into prose Buddha’s life, Free Expanses (1914). Jagat Sundar Malla (1882–1952) translated from English certain world classics, including Aesop’s fables. In the didactic narrative poems Taming of a Noble Heart, Satya Sati, and Conversation, Siddhi Das Amatya (1867–1930) departed from traditional moral and ethical views.
The founding of the Buddhist journal Buddha Dharma Patrika in 1925 stimulated the development of Newari literature. The journal’s editor, Jarma Ditya Jarmacarya, published a number of articles of literary criticism. Newari poetry, which followed romanticism, was represented by Vaikunth Prasad Lacoul (born 1906) and Siddhi Caran Srestha (born 1912). Opposing them, a group of poets headed by Chitta Dhar Hridaya (born 1906), the author of the narrative poem Sugat Saurav about the life of Buddha, turned to old subjects and endowed traditional heroes with qualities drawn from their contemporaries. Only after 1951, after the fall of the Rana dynasty, did literature in Newari have the opportunity to develop freely. Members of numerous literary associations abroad returned to their native land. The Newari Language Society (Nepal Bhasha Parishad), which published literature in Newari, was formed in 1951. The literature was enriched by new genres and content. Sudarshan Bhikshu, Satya Mohan Joshi, and Hemalala Joshi wrote historical dramas. The difficult life of the middle strata of the urban dwellers was reproduced realistically in the novels Mirror and Cold Blood by Ishwara Nanda Sresthacarya. The novels Eclipse and Sand by Dhooswan Saymi focus on social problems. Here the influence of western modernist literature is apparent. The poetry of Durga Lall, Premananda, Krishna Chandra, and Khvabilu is characterized by civic enthusiasm.
L. A. AGANINA
Architecture and art. The artistic influences of India and China are uniquely refracted in the art of Nepal. Nepal’s oldest Buddhist sanctuaries (stupas), Bauddhanath and Swayambhunath, near Katmandu (both structures date from the third century B.C. and were rebuilt in the eighth to ninth centuries), are massive stone hemispheres with turreted tops; they bear depictions of “Buddha’s eyes” encrusted with ivory in gilded copper facing. In the 15th to 18th centuries temples were erected that were closely related both to the Indian turreted temples with openwork galleries (Krishna Mandir in Patan, 15th to 17th centuries) and to the multitiered Chinese pagodas with decorative wood carving (the Nyatapola temple in Bhaktapur, 1700–08). Rich wood carving combined with decorative metal details also adorns civic buildings (the Palace of the 55 Windows in Bhaktapur, 1697). In the late 19th century the influence of the Persians and Arabs was manifested, and in the early 20th century, that of European neoclassical architecture (the palace of Singha Darbar in Katmandu). Since the 1950’s, buildings in Katmandu, Janakpur, and other cities have been constructed in the spirit of modern architecture. The people’s dwellings are low brick buildings. Bamboo structures smeared with clay are also encountered.
The medieval sculpture of Nepal (known from the first and second centuries A.D.) is close to the art of Gandhara and India of the Gupta period. Small objects of religious sculpture made of bronze, frequently decorated with semiprecious stones, flourished from the tenth to 17th centuries. Nepali painting (miniatures of manuscripts of the 11th to 14th centuries), influenced by northeastern India, was associated in the 16th and 17th centuries with the Rajput and Mughal schools of miniatures. Art on canvas patterned after Tibetan tan-ka icons became widespread in the 15th to 18th centuries. The influence of the Bengali Renaissance and attempts to assimilate European realistic artistic techniques are combined with experiments in the spirit of the latest Western trends in 20th-century art.
Theater and music. From ancient times the basic form of theater art in Nepal was that of the nritya folk production—symbolic dances with musical and choral accompaniment. The nritya were frequently similar to miracle plays in nature and were associated with cults of the gods. Each people of Nepal had its own dance presentations: devi nritya, ghatu nritya (about the lives of the gods and legendary heroes), and bara mase (dances for weddings, crops, and so on).
During the Malla dynasty, in the 15th to 18th centuries, dance presentations took on a form that has been preserved even to the 20th century. Features of drama were present in those performances. In the early 17th century the presentations Mahakali, Harasiddhi, Pachali, Kankesvari, and Ghantesvari took final shape. Nav Durga, Mahalakshmi, and others were staged in Bhaktapur at the palace of Suvarna Malla. Throughout the entire performance, which lasts about three hours, the actor says only eight to ten sentences and then reveals their meaning in dance to the accompaniment of choral music. The performers traditionally wear bright dance masks. Costumes are colorful. Faces are elaborately made up. The classic Nepali theatrical genre of gitinatya (a choreographed performance accompanied by choir and soloists) developed under the influence of various forms of folk productions. In the early 17th century King Jagajjyotir Malla staged several gitinatyas of his own composition; Haraguri Vivaha and The Wedding of Siva and the Goddess were particularly popular. The plots for most presentations were borrowed from mythological or legendary sources, mainly the epic tales of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. Satiric interludes on themes of everyday life were sometimes added to folk presentations on mythological subjects.
Despite the existence of a developed dramatic art, there is no permanently operating drama theater in Nepal. An amateur troupe under the direction of B. Sama existed in the 1940’s. A semiamateur theatrical group (connected with the Nepali radio), which from time to time produced plays by modern Nepali authors, was established in the 1960’s. Thanks to active propagandizing of folk music and dance art and the support of the government (a special division of music, folk songs, and dance has been established at the Royal Academy), forgotten traditional forms are being revived, including the gitinatya, the musical part of which consists of adaptations of folk songs and dance melodies or works by Shiva Shankar, Nati Kaji, and other modern composers. In late 1973 an amateur musical and dance group, established on the initiative of the Our Culture society, staged the allegorical gitinatya Defense, where, for the first time, contemporary personages were enacted along with gods and mythological heroes. The group turned professional in 1973.
L. A. AGANINA
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Chitta Dhar. Kavi Keshari, Nepalese Music. Katmandu, 1957.
Official name: Nepal
Capital city: Kathmandu
Internet country code: .np
Flag description: Red with a blue border around the unique shape of two overlapping right triangles; the smaller, upper triangle bears a white stylized moon and the larger, lower triangle bears a white 12-pointed sun
National bird: Impean Pheasant Danfe
National flower: Rhododendron Arboreum (Lali Gurans)
Geographical description: Southern Asia, between China and India
Total area: 56,136 sq. mi. (147,181 sq. km.)
Climate: Varies from cool summers and severe winters in north to subtropical summers and mild winters in south
Nationality: noun: Nepalese (singular and plural); adjective: Nepalese
Population: 28,901,790 (July 2007 CIA est.)
Ethnic groups: Chhettri 15.5%, Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8%
Languages spoken: Nepali 47.8%, Maithali 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Newar 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5%
Religions: Hindu 80.6%, Buddhist 10.7%, Muslim 4.2%, Kirant 3.6%, other 0.9%
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