A brief history of Nepal The exotic source of our gorgeous clothing

Thursday, 28 September 2017  |  Kate

You might have noticed that a lot of the beautiful, unusual clothing we sell is designed and made in Nepal. It's a remarkable country, rich in dramatic Himalayan mountain-scapes, tiny colourful villages and peaceful, hard-working people. Here's a brief history of Nepal to inspire you.

About ancient Nepal

The ancient people of India knew all about Nepal, that remote and mysterious mountainous place to their north, and they were fascinated by it. They talked about it in their classical literature, which is one of the reasons we know about its ancient history. China was also well aware of the small nation that bordered theirs, and they found it equally fascinating.

During the 3rd century BC the Indian Emperor of the time introduced Buddhism to the Nepalese, and the year 200AD saw the Lichavis people grab power in Nepal. The country flourished as a result, and some of the most magnificent Hindu and Buddhist temples date back to that time. But all civilisations eventually come to an end and when the ruling Lichavis disappeared in around 870, a powerful family of kings called the Thakuris took over.

Peaceful centuries passed until the 1100s saw a different set of kings take over, all of whom had names ending in 'Malla'. By the 1300s one of them, Jayasthiti Malla, decided it was a good idea to bring in a caste system. The Malla dynasty's power and influence peaked during the 1400s under the rule of King Yaksha Mall. By the late 1400s, after his death, Nepal was divided into three, each third ruled by one of his three sons.

The 1700s saw Privthi Nayan Shah take power, a man who was rightly suspicious of the British power grab in neighbouring India and determined to protect his country. As a result he slammed the borders shut and Nepal became steadily more and more isolated.

Nepal since the 1800s

It wasn't until the early 1800s that the Nepalese were forced to address the British issue head-on, fighting a brutal war to redefine their borders but eventually being overwhelmed and ultimately serving the British army.

In 1846 Rang Bahadur seized power and declared himself the nation's Rana, the prime minister, relegating the country's kings to mere figureheads. In 1923 Britain and Nepal signed a peace treaty and ushered in modern Nepal. But 1950 saw the Rana overthrown and royal authority restored.

In 1990 protests led to democracy being restored, eventually leading to a Communists government taking power in 1994. But the new status quo didn't last for long. During 1995 Nepal's Supreme Court nullified the election and put the previous parliament back in power. 1996 saw a violent Maoist insurgency, and peace wasn't back on the cards until late 2006. The Nepalese monarchy was abolished two short years later and Nepal, now a  republic, was given a new constitution in 2015.

Today's Nepal

Nepal has always been a fairly poor country, in part because of its dangerous and hostile landscapes, dizzying peaks and poor infrastructure. Most of the population survives through subsistence farming, and thousands died in the horrific April 2015 Gorkha earthquake. Now the country has recovered a little from the disaster, the tourists are returning and the country's 29 million people are looking forward to a better life.

We love working with our friends in Nepal, partly because they are such lovely, warm people and partly because of their amazing creativity and love of colour. If you have ever marvelled at our magical Nepalese clothing, you can also marvel at the country's extraordinarily turbulent and fascinating history, a history that has made the Nepalese what they are, that drives that extraordinary creativity and joy for life onwards. We hope to be working with them for many years to come. 

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