Nepal – Jewel of the Himalayas

What Do You Know about Nepal?

Nepal has no ports. Why? It’s completely landlocked with India on the southwest and China on the northeast. But you have to go through the mountains to get to Tibet (China) and India is way down the mountains at a much lower elevation. It’s about the size of Arkansas. But if you don’t know how big Arkansas is, that doesn’t help you much. Anyway, it’s not too big. And it’s high. It’s so high, they have the tallest mountain. Mount Everest? 30,000 feet. That sounds higher than 9,000 meters, doesn’t it? And it has other ones that are pretty tall as well but not so famous.

They call it the Himalayan range.


Do they have Democracy or a King?

In 1990, King Birendra introduced some democracy to Nepal. He didn’t want to. In 2006, King Gyanendra gave up the throne somewhat and let the Parliament have some say. They voted to reduce the king’s power, not a surprise. Then in 2008, they abolished the monarchy entirely. No more king.


If you go back to the 6th century B.C. you find Prince Siddhartha Gautama achieved enlightenment as Buddha. You didn’t know that, right? True story. Then Buddhism gave way to Hinduism. The Indians got up there with that around the 12th century. There were some dynasties before by the Malla kings really got Nepal going over the next 500 years.

In the middle of the 1700’s, King Prithvi Narayan Shah shows up. He found India too hot,in more ways that one. The Moghul ran him out. Once you get to Nepal, there is no where to run really so he stopped and took over. I guess Nepal wasn’t big enough to suit him so the expanded it to border Kashmir and India. They had to deal with the British in 1800 or so and smooth things with the British East India Company.

It took until 1920 for Britain to recognize that Nepal was it’s own country. The Rana family ran the show until 1950 under the title of prime minister. Now the king took over and turned it back into a monarchy. But this time “a constitutional monarchy”. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah became king a few years later and died rather suddenly in 1972. Heart attack. But Prince Birendra took over. He was 26.


Will Nepal go Red?

Jumping ahead to 1990, a pro-democracy movement said now King Birendra had to let some political parties get organized and have some elections. The liberal Nepali Congress Party won the elections barely squeezing out the Communist party. The communists did not take losing too well and tried to overthrow everybody else. They did get something going in the countryside in 1996.


Prince kills royal family, then self in Nepal

In 2001, all hell broke loose with Prince Dipendra shooting King Birendra. Why did he kill the old man? Nobody liked his new bride was the story. He was really mad about it and shot up the entire royal family including his mom! The he shot himself rather than explain his actions. Prince Gyanendra, his uncle, had to pick up the pieces and take over the king job.


King Takes Over

King Gyanendra decided it was time to clean house. There were few royals left to argue with him and he shut down the whole government in 2002. He said they were corrupt and ineffective. He declared a state of emergency and ordered the army to crack down on the Maoist guerrillas. The rebels did not take this lying down and fought back losing hundreds in the process. In 2003, the Maoist rebels blockaded Kathmandu for about a week. No food or fuel went into the capital.

King Gyanendra fired everybody and took complete control now. By 2006, everybody was sick of it and started pro-democracy protests. ‘What about a prime minister?’ said King Gyanendra. No go. They wanted the whole deal. A new constitution, too. Finally, King Gyanendra agreed to bring back the Parliament. Again, the new parliament quickly moved to diminish the king’s powers. He had to see that one coming. Girija Prasad Koirala became prime minister and everyone was happy. They declared Nepal a secular nation and stripped the king of his authority over the military. Now everyone was happy. Except the king, of course.


The Maoist rebels and the government signed a peace agreement in 2006. Over the decade, 12,000 people had died. In 2007, the Maoists got in on the government only to quit later that year. Not enough progress. Some people are never happy. A couple months later, they reconsidered and rejoined when Parliament voted to completely abolish the monarchy and make the place a federal democratic republic.

In 2008, they got a new constitution and the Maoist rebels ended up with half the elected seats. This beat fighting in the countryside. Well, 240 years was enough ruling for the monarchy and King Gyanendra decided to clear out of the Narayanhiti Palace and quit the king business entirely. Just call me a commoner, he said and they did.

As you might guess things went back and forth between the communists and everybody else. Finally, the Maoists said they would give up and return the private property the had seized from opponents.

It went on and on until 2011, when Parliament finally agreed on a prime minister: Jhalanath Khanal. He was the chairman of the Communist Party. It really didn’t stop there. The rival parties within in Constituent Assembly agreed to draft a new constitution and address questions about the 19,000 former Maoists who are currently living in camps throughout the country.


In Nepal, there are now three genders. This causes trouble with taking a census but shows that the government is trying to make everybody happy whether they are communist of whatever.


Even up to 2012, they still haven’t settled on a new constitution. Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai announced that he would hold elections in November 2012 for a new legislature. In his announcement Bhattarai said, “Political consensus is still needed to move ahead. Let us learn from mistakes and move ahead.”

The Supreme Court of Nepal says they better get one soon. You didn’t know they had a Supreme Court, did you? Well, they do, and they would like to see the new, new constitution pretty darn quick. About 30 million other Nepalese would, too. Well, enough about politics, huh?


Basic Stuff about Nepal

The capital and largest city is Kathmandu. Over a million people call it home. There are a couple other big cities like Biratnagar and Lalitpur, but nobody talks about them much. They speak English a lot in Nepal and they spend Nepalese rupees. Got the name from India. There are a lot of ethnic/racial groups but most people are Hindu with some Buddhist in the mix. people only make about $1,200 a year. That $100 a month. Maybe it’s because unemployment is at 45%.

They grow rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, and root crops. Milk and water buffalo meat are also in good supply. There are only about 11 million in the work force and most of them are unskilled labor. It’s mostly farming with little industry and some service jobs.

Tourism is big there as you might guess. They also make carpets. the natural resources are water, timber, hydropower, scenic beauty, and some minerals. They export carpets, clothing, and leather goods. They import gold, machinery, oil products, and fertilizer. They trade mostly with India, U.S., Germany, China, and Indonesia.

They have a million mobile phones, and 100,000 television are tuned to the one tv station. They do have the internet there with 19,000 Internet Service Providers and 300,00 internet users. The best way to go there is to fly with over 40 airports.


Learn more about Nepal at The Himalayan Bazaar


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