Books About Nepal’s History

Riya Pant,   Blog   14 May 2022
Books About Nepal’s History

Whether you’re dreaming of trekking the Himalayan Mountains or submerging yourself in its diverse culture, Nepal is a place to read about before visiting. Our country is most popularly known as the birthplace of Buddha and the home to the great Mount Everest. But that is not all. There are several other things that deserve to be highlighted. One of them is our complex history.

This list features native Nepali as well as foreign authors who will give you a well-rounded and correct account of our tradition, way of living and history.

  • Forget Kathmandu – Manjushree Thapa

Forget Kathmandu: An Elegy for Democracy is a historical book by Manjushree Thapa published in 2005. Thapa is one of the first mainstream English writers from Nepal. She grew up in Nepal, Canada and the United States. She worked as a journalist during the Maoist insurgency in Nepal. This book is a narration of the author’s personal experience, reportage and analysis of the present socio-political scenario of Nepal. The book covers several issues in the political and historical scenarios of Nepal. It includes the ten-year-long Nepalese civil war and the Royal Massacre.

Forget Kathmandu is Thapa’s attempt at making sense of the state of Nepal in the early 2000s. She travels to Dailekh, Kalikot and Jumla, the hotspots of the civil war, to interact with the locals. They see poverty at the worst, negligible facilities, gender inequality and caste divide. The book begins with the turmoil that occurred when news of the royal massacre reached the people. The rituals and the conspiracies were abundant. Then, she goes back in history to discuss the Shah rulers, the Ranas and the Mallas before them. The book links the past and present of Nepal by breaking narratives of the past and creating a background for interpreting the present.

  • Battles of the New Republic – Prashant Jha

Battles of the New Republic: A Contemporary History of Nepal is an account of Nepal’s transformation from war to peace, monarchy to republic, a Hindu kingdom to a secular state, and a unitary to a federal state. But the process of change has repeatedly broken down and Nepal’s politics has continuously fragmented. The first Constituent Assembly failed to draft a constitution; the Maoists, who sparked the transformation with an armed insurrection and once represented hope, have been co-opted into the very political culture they once challenged; never-ending political negotiations have chronically paralyzed the governance initiatives needed to address Nepal’s problems; and India, the country’s powerful neighbour, has played an overwhelming role in national politics, choosing to intervene or stay away at crucial junctures.

With access to the most powerful leaders in the country as well as diplomats, it gives an unprecedented glimpse into Kathmandu’s high politics. But this is paired with the ground-level reportage on the lives of ordinary citizens striving for a democratic and equitable society.

  • The Bullet and the Ballot Box: The Story of Nepal’s Maoist Revolution – Aditya Adhikari

In the past decade, many books have been written on Nepal’s Maoist movement to understand its emergence, causes and growth, from different perspectives. What sets this book apart is that it provides a comprehensive picture of the revolutionary movement and the peace process that followed.

Adhikari states that Nepal’s movement was not spontaneous, not by chance and not irrational. Nepal’s revolution had three phases: pre-movement, the war period and the post-movement. It discloses important hidden facts not revealed by earlier books.

  • The Royal Ghosts – Samrat Upadhyay

The title of the book comes from the massacre of the royal family in 2001, but the book includes short stories about the problems of daily life in Kathmandu. The influence of the Maoist on ordinary people is also a theme. These characters struggle with their duties to their ageing parents, an oppressive caste system, and the complexities of arranged marriage. In the end, they manage to find peace and connection, often where they least expect it— with the people directly in front of them. Issues such as homosexuality, father-daughter relationships and victimization of terrorism are portrayed. These stories brilliantly examine not only Kathmandu during a time of political crisis and cultural transformation but also the effects of that city on the individual consciousness. 

  • Kathmandu – Thomas Bell

Kathmandu is the greatest city in the Himalayas. It is a unique survival of cultural practices from around the nations. It is a carnival of sexual licence and hypocrisy, a jewel of world art, a hotbed of communist revolution, a paradigm of failed democracy, a case study in bungled Western intervention, and an environmental catastrophe. The book follows the author's story through a decade in the city and unravels the city's history through successive reinventions of itself.

Closed to the outside world until 1951 and trapped in a medieval time warp, Kathmandu's rapid modernization is an extreme version of what is happening in many traditional societies. The many layers of the city's development are reflected in the successive generations of its gods and goddesses, witches and ghosts, the comforts of caste; the ethos of aristocracy and kingship. 


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