Independent kingdom in central Asia, land locked and isolated by the Himalayas, on the NE border of India, bordered on the N by Tibet. A cultural and religious center since the fourth century a.d., it developed from the eighth through the 11th centuries as a haven for Buddhist and Hindu Rajputs from India, the latter establishing the kingdom of Gurkha. In the second half of the 18th century Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the Katmand u valley from the long-established ruling Mallas, ethnically belonging to the native Newar majority. In 1815 Great Britain turned back the Gurkha expansion into northern India, and it finally recognized Nepal’s independence in 1923. As prime ministers, the Rana family held power from 1846 to 1950. Nepal exacted tribute from Tibet until 1956. Basically isolationist over the years, Nepal aided the British during the Indian Mutiny of 1857–58 and in World War I. A constitutional form of government replaced autocratic rule following a successful democratic revolt in 1950, but this was modified in the 1960s, during the regime of King Mahendra. Upon Mahendra’s death in 1972, his son, Prince Birendra, took the throne. In May 1980 Nepal’s first election ratified Birendra’s monarchy and a parliament. The king promised fullscale democracy in the future, but delayed any implementation. Until 1989, Nepal was a neutral country, taking aid from the USSR, the United States, and China. In 1989, India closed its border with Nepal in retaliation for Nepali noncooperation with the Indian military and closeness with China. In 1990, street riots forced King Birenda to create a new constitution with democratic reforms. A series of coalition governments formed during the 1990s, as the country battled a Maoist insurgency in the rural areas of the nation. In 2001, the king and many members of the royal family were murdered by the crown prince. The king’s brother, Prince Gyanendra, took the throne. In 2002, the king removed the prime minister and replaced him with a hand picked monarchist. In 2005, as the Maoist rebels have continued to occupy large portions of the country, the king took full control of the government in a “state of emergency,” placing democratic opposition people under arrest. In 2006, the king agreed to reinstate the House of Representatives and return power to the people. The government and Maoists then agreed to an armistice.