Nepaiil, an independent kingdom of India, bounded N. by the Himalaya mountains, which separate it from Thibet, E. by the British district of Darjeeling and the protected native state of Sikkim, and S. and W. by Bengal, Oude, and the Northwest Provinces. It is included between lat. 26° 25' and 30° 15' N., and lon. 79° 45' and 88° 20' E.; length W. N. W. and E. S. E. about 500 m., greatest breadth 150 m.; area estimated at 50,000 sq. m.; pop. estimated at 2,000,000. The largest town is Katmandu, the capital. Nepaul is intersected by several large rivers, some of which have their sources on the table land of Thibet, beyond the Himalaya, through which they force their way by narrow chasms of great depth. The three great river systems of Nepaul comprise the Gogra and its tributaries in the west, the Gunduk and its feeders in the middle region, and in the east the alpine basin of the Coosy or Cosi. There are very few lakes in the country. The greater part of the kingdom belongs to the Himalaya region, which presents a succession of vast ridged mountain slopes with narrow glens between them; but the Ne-paulese territory also includes a tract about 20 m. in width lying within the plain which stretches southward from the base of the mountains.
In respect to elevation the country is naturally divisible into a lower region, extending from the great plain of India to a height of 4,000 ft, above the sea level; a central region, comprising all between 4,000 and 10,000 ft.; and an upper region, reaching thence to the highest peaks. There are several summits of stupendous height, among which is Mt. Everest (29,002 ft.), the highest known mountain in the world. From the N. boundary, which lies within the limit of perpetual snow, the elevations gradually sink into lower and lower hills, among which lies the great valley of Nepaul, in which is situated the capital. It is 4,500 ft. above the sea, measures 16 m. in each diameter, and is watered by the Bagmutty river, flowing southward. At the foot of these hills a belt of forest occurs, running E. and W. throughout the length of the country, and reaching within 10 m. of the S. frontier. Although a dry region, this line of forest is exceedingly malarious. It is rich in valuable timber, of which the saul tree is the most important. Succeeding this on the south is the Terai or Tarai (a Turanian word signifying lowlands), a black, level, humid, malarious region, from 10 to 20 m. broad, skirting the frontier of the Bengal provinces and Oude, an open waste covered with heavy grass.
The Terai, the forest belt, and a low sandstone range just above the latter, all belong to the l«»wer region of elevation, throughout which malaria prevails. Above these tracts the climate is remarkably equable and healthful. During the N. E. monsoon, from October to March, the weather is cold and dry, while it is wet and hot from April to September, during the prevalence of the S. W. monsoon. In the central region the temperature for months at a time will vary but a few degrees from 55° F. While these are the general characteristics of the climate, great differences, due to variations of altitude and local causes, will be found between different districts. The geological formation of the central region consists of granite, gneiss and schists. Iron, lead, copper, and sulphur are found; and gold and silver have also been said to exist, but it is thought that they are very scarce if not entirely wanting. The soil is remarkably rich, and the productions vary with the degrees of elevation. The bamboo, rattan, sugar cane, pineapple, and various other tropical fruits between the ridges of the hills and mountains, in the lowlands, give place to the oak, pine, barley, and millet, as the country rises toward the interior.
Much land is cultivated in terraces, great attention being paid to its irrigation. Rice, maize, wheat, cotton, three kinds of pulse, and tobacco are grown, Rice is the staple food; several varieties of it are cultivated in cold and dry places, and even where snow falls. Various roots and herbs form a considerable part of the sustenance of the poorer inhabitants. The number of horned cattle is not great, but there are large flocks of sheep, some of great size with tine wool, from whose milk the Nepaulese make cheese. Horses are brought from Thibet. Among the wild animals, the elephant, the tiger, the leopard, deer, antelopes, and monkeys are found in the lower region; the sun bear, wild cats, and wild dogs, in the middle re-gum; and in the upper region, the Indian bull (bos gaunis), the true bear, wild goats, wild sheep, ounces, and foxes. The woods are inhabited by great numbers of peculiar birds, and the rivers are abundantly stocked with fish. - The inhabitant-consist of a variety of races, the dominant people being the Gorkhas, a tribe of Mongol origin, Hindoos in religion, who con-quered the country about the close of the 18th century.
They have enlisted in large numbers in the British Indian army, and their services during the sepoy mutiny of 1857, particularly at the siege of Delhi, have caused them since to be regarded as valuable soldiers. They are faithful and courageous, though not very capable of endurance. (See Gorkhas.) Many Hindoos from Chitore settled in Nepaul at the time of the Mohammedan invasion, and some of them have preserved their blood pure to the present time, while others have intermarried with Chinese and Tartars. The Hindoos are found chiefly in the west; the east is populated by aboriginal tribes, among which are the Newars, Magars, Gurungs, Jariyas, Dhen-wars, Booteas, Mhanjees, and Bhanras. The Newars, who are the most important of these, are an industrious agricultural and commercial people, more advanced in the mechanical arts than the mountain tribes, ingenious and peaceable, excessively dirty, of middle size and great strength, with round flat faces, small eyes, broad noses, and open countenances. They are Buddhists, but have a priesthood of their own, and reject the Thibetan model of Buddhism which prevails among the other aboriginal tribes of Nepaul. Most of their arts appear to have been introduced from Thibet. Polyandry prevails to a limited extent.
Thirteen dialects are spoken in the kingdom, of which but two possess any literature: the Newari, or language of the Newars, and the Parbattia, an Indian Prakrit, spoken by the Gorkhas. Some coarse cotton cloth is made, and the natives work very well in iron, copper, and brass, and are good carpenters, though they never use the saw. The trade of the country is not of much importance, being injured by numerous government monopolies. A considerable quantity of timber is floated down the rivers, and finds a market principally at Calcutta. The government is strictly despotic, and essentially military in its character. Every male inhabitant is liable to military duty for one year, and there is a standing army of about 35,000 men, armed and disciplined in some measure after the model of European troops. - Of the history of Nepaul little is known until the invasion of the Gorkhas (1768); it seems never to have been subject to the Moguls or any other great Asiatic conquerors. A war in which it became involved with Thibet in 1790 led to hostilities with the emperor of China, who, regarding himself as the protector of the lamas, in 1792 sent an army of 70,000 men against the Nepau-lese and checked the extension of their territory to the northward.
A treaty of commerce was concluded with the British in 1792, and from 1802 to 1804 a political resident at the court of Katmandu represented the British government. In the mean time the country had been a prey to intestine feuds, during which it is remarkable that its boundaries were enlarged on all sides, except toward Thibet. In consequence of the repeated encroachments of the rajah upon the East India company's territories, the British declared war in 1814, and invaded the country on the W. frontier, where their troops met with repeated losses, and their commander, Gen. Gillespie, was slain. In the following year, however, the campaign under Sir David Ochterlony was attended with very different results. The victory of Malown, the capitulation of the famous Nepaulese commander Ameer Singh, and finally the rapid advance of the victors toward Katmandu, obliged the Nepaulese monarch to make peace, and a treaty was signed very favorable to the British in March, 1816. Throughout the mutiny of 1857 the Nepaulese cultivated the friendship of the British, and the prime minister Jung Baha-door defeated the last remnant of the rebels in December, 1859. The policy of the government toward foreigners, however, is exceedingly exclusive. - Much valuable information concerning the country is contained in the work on Nepaul and Thibet by B. H. Hodgson, formerly British minister at Katmandu (1874). See also Oliphant, "A Journey to Katmandu" (1852).