It is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.
Nepal is one of the few Asian countries which was never colonized.
Following the Anglo-Nepalese War and the Treaty of Sugauli in 1816, Nepal became an ally of the British Empire.
A multiparty democracy evolved from 1951 to 1960, when King Mahendra enacted the panchayat system.
In 1990, parliamentary government was restored by King Birendra.
It is a founding member and hosts the permanent secretariat of SAARC.
It is also a member of the United Nations and BIMSTEC.
Nepal is strategically important due to its location between Asia's great powers, China and India. Local legends have that a Hindu sage named "Ne" established himself in the valley of Kathmandu in prehistoric times and that the word "Nepal" came into existence as the place was protected ("pala" in Pali) by the sage "Ne".
It is mentioned in Vedic texts that this region was called Nepal centuries ago.
Nepal faced a decade-long Communist Maoist insurgency and mass protests against the authoritarian King Gyanendra in 2005, which led to the abolition of the monarchy in 2008.
Its 2nd constituent assembly promulgated a new constitution in 2015.
Today, the main political blocs in Nepal are communists, social democrats and Hindu nationalists.