The Culture of Nepal

Nepal Cultural Life 

The relaxation of censorship that followed the overthrow of Rana rule in 1951 encouraged a revival of artistic and intellectual expression. In literature and poetry, Nepali works emphasize the cultural renaissance and national patriotism. King Mahendra, a poet whose Nepali lyrics have been published in English translation under the name of M.B.B. Shah (for Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah), did much to promote the revival of arts and literature. 

The cultural heritage of Nepal, particularly contributions made by the Newar of Kathmandu Valley to sculpture, painting, and architecture, is a source of great pride. Hindu and Buddhist religious values have provided the basic source of inspiration to Newar artisans. The themes of most artistic works have been primarily religious; the lives of the gods, saints, and heroes and the relationship of man to society and to the universe are expounded in sculpture, architecture, and drama. In Kathmandu Valley some 2,500 temples and shrines display the skill and highly developed aesthetic sense of Newar artisans. 

Music and dance are favourite pastimes among the Nepalese. Religious ceremonies require the use of drums and wind instruments preserved from ancient times. Important in most religious and family occasions are devotional songs that have elements of both classical and folk music and that have been used by some contemporary musical revivalists in their attempt to bridge the gap between the two. The government-owned Radio Nepal broadcasts programs in Nepali and English. The country’s first television station, at Kathmandu, began broadcasting in 1986. 

Newspapers and periodicals are published in Nepali and in English. Newspapers are frequently sensational in tone and are poorly staffed and financed. Gorkha Patra, published by the government, occupies a commanding position in the Nepalese press. Nepalese newspaper readers rely on the foreign press, particularly Indian newspapers, which are flown daily into Kathmandu, for more sophisticated coverage of world and national news. After 1960 King Mahendra required newspapers to obtain official clearance for all reports of political activity. Subsequently the government increased its censorship, and in 1985 the publication of many newspapers was suspended. In 1990, reflecting the change in the country’s political climate, freedom of the press was restored. 


Nepal shares geographical borders with India and China and correspondingly shares a history with its two giant neighbors. It was influenced to a large extent by the same incidents that proved to be turning points in the history of India and China.

Over 2,800 years back, the initial history of Nepal was recorded when a kinfolk of Mongolian people—the Kiratis—arrived in the Himalayan territory, across the Tibetan plateau. The current societies of Limbu and Rai are believed to be direct progenies of the Kiratis. From the Indu plains, the Buddhist Shakyas are accredited with introducing Mahayana Buddhism to Nepal and it became the main religion.

The Licchavis and the Guptas arrived in Nepal from the northern parts of India, in an around 300 B.C.E when present-day Nepal acknowledge huge migration, the newcomers ousted the Kiratis progenies and ushered in Hinduism as the official religion of the country and alternated power. The Guptas are believed to have introduced the caste system, essentially outlandish to the dominant cultural system, but it remained restricted among the elite. The Licchavis ruled for three centuries and were colonized by the Thakuris in 600 B.C.E.

Ansuvarman, the originator of the Thakuri dynasty, was a wise and wealthy king. In order to protect his northern borders from invasion by the Tibetan kings, he married his daughter to a Tibetan prince. Ansuvarman had affection for a valley in the eastern part of his kingdom and established his capital city there. After that, in the 10th century that Kasthmandap (Holy Place of Wood) was built, which has arisen to be known as Kathmandu later. Ansuvarman’s palace, in Durbar Square in Kathmandu, which the Nepalese monarch continued till the modern Narayanhity Palace was built.

Nepal was ruled by the Thakuri dynasty for three centuries and the 12th century carried the Malla dynasty. Foremost of the Malla rulers, King Arideva’s reign was considered to be one of great wealth and prosperity for the Himalayan Kingdom. The Mallas, though Hindu, were accepting the other major religion, Buddhism, but were particularly strict on implementing the caste system. However, the Malla dynasty lost control within a century over large parts of the country, which divided into small city-states, as many as 48 at one point. Partly responsible were the frequent invasions of India by Muslim militaries from the northwest, which also invaded Nepal several times. It was nearly 100 years later when another Malla king took charge of the country. In the meantime, two kingdoms began to gain the power to dare the Kathmandu valley, that of the Palpa and the Khas Kingdom.

In 1372, the king of Kathmandu, Jayasthiti Malla, conquered the neighboring city-state of Patan, and, a decade later, the city-state of Bhaktapur. The present Kathmandu Valley kingdom expanded enormously during the reign of his successor, King Yaksha Malla. By the middle of the next century, Nepal’s borders stretched southwards to the Ganga River, and north deep into Tibet. During this time, the caste system embedded as a smart method of social stability, ensuring the Malla reign. However, after his death in 1482, Nepal once again fragmented into many small states. This lasted for almost two centuries. In the 18th century, the Shah dynasty came to power.

In the Gorkha Kingdom, Prithvi Narayan Shah born in Gorkha set about to unify the many princely states in reaction to colonialism. He gradually stretched his power until finally, in 1768, he captured the Kathmandu Valley and established the modern nation of Nepal. Hardly 20 years later, war broke out between Nepal and China over Tibet. Lasting nearly a decade, the Nepalese were defeated and forced to sign a treaty that obligated them to pay annual homage to the Chinese. This honor continued for over a century and ended in 1912. In the meantime, Nepal also fought the British, who had been conquering territory in India. The British were struggling for control over the southern parts of Nepal and the Ganga plains. Eventually, Nepal was defeated and lost much of its territory to the British in the war of 1814-1816.

Gurkha Army Commander in English Territory

Throughout, the Shahs sustained to be the rulers of Nepal until 1846. They lost power to the powerful Rana family, gigantic landowners from the west. Rana, Jung Bahadur, plotted the infamous KOT MASSACRE and assassinated all the court and political leaders of Nepal. He stated himself as prime minister and took all the governmental power from the monarch. After this, the King was reduced to a mere figurehead. The position of the prime minister became a hereditary one and the Rana family sustained in power for over a century, with the Shah Kings as simulated prisoners in the palace. After the Indian independence in 1947, Nepali Congress divisions in India launched a trickery revolution to overthrow the Ranas. In 1950, King Tribhuvan absconded to India, and an armed revolt trailed. Under pressure from India, the Ranas were overthrown and Tribhuvan Shah became absolute monarch again, but he passed away in 1955. His son, Mahendra, succeeded him.

Nepal was not excited to return to an authoritarian monarchy. Kneeling on pressure, King Mahendra instilled a constitutional parliamentary system. In 1959, for the first time – the elections were held under this system and Nepali Congress leader B.P. Koirala became the first elected prime minister of Nepal.

Though the honeymoon between the monarchy and democracy was momentary and within a year the king dissolved the parliament, placed the entire cabinet under halt and resumed total control. He then hosted a decentralized pseudo-democratic system, setting up the National Panchayat (or, councils). The king picked 16 members of the panchayat, while the other 19 were selected through indirect elections. While political parties stayed banned, the village panchayats selected members for the district panchayats and which in turn sent members to the “Rashtriya Panchayat” (National Council). The system was rife with corruption and bad governance. Upon the death of King Mahendra in 1972, his descendant Birendra succeeded. Birendra’s lack of political reform drew sharp criticism around; in 1979, demonstrations enforced the king to announce a national referendum to decide the fate of the panchayat system in favor of the multiparty system. Held in May 1980, the referendum presented a narrow win to the panchayat system, but many believed it to be a fixed one. King Birendra carried out some promised minor reforms, but the total system stayed fundamentally the same.

In 1990, the political parties again forced the king and the government to change. Many small groups of Leftist parties united to form United Left Front and joined forces with the Nepali Congress Party to launch strikes and demonstrations in the major cities of Nepal. The two-month Jana Andolan (Peoples Movement) was initially dealt with cruelly, more than 50 people killed by police gunfire and hundreds under arrest. But in April, the king finally yielded as the movement augmented and gained massive ground support. Subsequently, he disbanded the panchayat system, lifted the ban on political parties, liberated all political prisoners, and re-introduced multi-party democracy, reducing much of his owned powers.

An interim government was avowed in on April 19, 1990. The new government was led by Krishna Prasad Bhattarai as prime minister- who chaired over a cabinet made up of members of the Nepali Congress Party, the Communist Party of Nepal, royal appointees and independents. The newly formed government drafted and promulgated a new constitution in November 1990, which assured the protection of fundamental human rights and parliamentary democracy was established under a constitutional monarch. May 1991, Elections were described as free and fair elections by the international observer, in which the Nepali Congress won 110 seats out of 205 to form the government. The leading opposition, the United Marxist and Leninist Party (UML), won 69 seats. Girija Prasad Koirala comes to be prime minister and molded the government. In, May-June 1992 the confirmation of Nepal’s new democratic government was concluded following local elections in which the Nepali Congress Party recorded an undoubted victory.