Nepal


Nepal
   A kingdom centered on the Katmandu Valley north of India in the Himilayas. Nepal was ruled by a number of caste and ethnic groups such as the Brahman, Chetri, Newar, Sherpa, and Tharu, and divided into as many as 50 principalities before it was united under Prithvinarayan Shah in 1743 who became Raja of Gurkha and established the Shah dynasty, 1743–1955. The Gurkhas expanded to Garhwal in the west and Sikkim in the east, bringing them into conflict with the East India Company. The southern boundary of Nepal with India, the Terai, the submontane belt, also led to a border dispute. In 1792, Nepal and the company signed a commercial treaty, but it was abrogated by a faction that came to power in 1794. Between 1795 and 1796, the British made economic and diplomatic overtures to Kathmandu but were ignored before they finally signed a 13-article treaty on October 26, 1801. Nepali hostility to the treaty, however, caused Lord Wellesley (1760–1842), governorgeneral from 1798–1805, to unilaterally terminate it.
   Between 1813 and 1823, however, Francis Rawdon Hastings, first marquis of Hastings (1754–1826), served as governor-general of India and commander-inchief of the Indian Army. He was determined to continue the expansion of the East India Company’s territorial holdings in South Asia and initiated wars against the Pindaris, the Marathas, and Nepal. Hastings gave an ultimatum to Nepal in March 1814, ordering Kathmandu to recognize British authority over the border districts of Sheoraj and Butwal or face invasion. The British invaded but then withdrew in May as the malaria season approached. The Nepalese reoccupied the territory as the British prepared for full-scale war at the end of the rainy season. In September 16,000 troops marched into Nepal, but Nepali resistance delayed British victory until they had captured Kathmandu and forced the Treaty of Sugauli of 1815. It deprived Nepal of Garhwal, Sirmur, and Kumaon in the west, and Sikkim and Morung in the east and a slice of territory to the south, in all about one-third of its territory. It also forced a British resident on Kathmandu. From the war the British learned the difficulty of defeating the Gurkhas and accordingly accepted Nepal as a buffer state with China.
   The Indian Mutiny of 1857 dramatically changed the relationship with Nepal as Jang Bahadur, the first of the hereditary Rana Dynasty of prime ministers (1846–1877), sent some 6,000 soldiers to aid the British. As a result, Britain restored the Terai lands to Nepal and established an entente with Nepal, allowing it to retain its internal autonomy and its isolationist policies, although it was treated as a protectorate. In the treaty of December 21, 1923, the British recognized Nepal’s independence.
   FURTHER READING:
    Shaha, Rishikesh, Modern Nepal: A Political History 1769–1955. 2 vols. New Delhi: Manohar, 1990.
   ROGER D. LONG

Encyclopedia of the Age of Imperialism, 1800–1914. 2014.

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