The name Nepal has been in use since ancient time. The name which became popular during Lichchhavi reign was limited only to Kathmandu valley and its periphery during the Malla reign. After the unification, Kathmandu became the capital and ‘Nepal’ has started to imply the present day Nepal. It is found that the name Nepal has been described on the basis of derivation, different languages, ethnicity, genealogy, and the ancient texts.
‘Nepal’ is the cultural form of the ancient Kirati word “Nepa”. “Ne” means middle and “Pa” means country; and the meaning of ‘Nepa’ is ‘middle country’. Located in the mid-hill section, the suffix ‘la’ was added to ‘Nepa’ and the name became Nepal.
In Tibetan language, ‘Ne’ means house and ‘Pal’ means wool, thus, this region is taken as the place where wool is found. Since sheep are reared in this region, it’s normal getting ‘Pal’ or ‘Pasham’, ‘Pashmina’ (wool). Tibetans call Nepal ‘Walwo’ and Mongols call Nepal ‘Walpo’. People from Bhot call this trans-Himalayan land ‘Paldesh’ or ‘Walpo’.
The Newars used to call Nepal only ‘Nepa’ which later became Nepal. “Ne” means middle and “Pa” means country. Since Nepal is located in the mountainous region, the name makes sense. It is assumed the ‘la’ is suffixed to ‘Nepa’ and it became Nepal in the same way as ‘Jhya’, ‘Pasa:’ became ‘Jhyal’, and ‘Pasal’ when ‘la’ is suffixed to them.
In Limbu language, Nepal means plain land. Since there is a big plain valley in the hilly region, it has been called Nepal.
In ancient Lepcha language, ‘Ne’ means sacred and ‘Pal’ means cave. This way, ‘Nepa’ implies a sacred or a religious place. The Tamangs of Nepal also call pilgrimage ‘Ne’. In Lama holy book, ‘Ne’ is interpreted as a sacred place. There is a village ‘Nepa’ in Khotang.
The name ‘Nepal’ is assumed to have been formed by adding the suffix ‘Aal’ (place) to the word ‘Neep’ (the foot of hill). Just as Himal and Panchal, it has been described from the linguistic point of view that the name Nepal was formed with Neep (foot) and Aalaya (residence) to mean the residence at the foot of hill. The word used in the Yajurveda ‘Neep’ means the residents of a valley.
The root word of Nepal is ‘Neep’. ‘Neep’ also means Ashok (Kadam) tree. Just as Shiva becomes Shaiba in Sanskrit, ‘Naipal’ of Nepal has been used. Although there is linguistic proximity of words and phonetic consonance is seen, the above mentioned collocations and meanings have not been proved.
An eminent person of the Tamang clan used to do trade with Tibet. The same Tamang became the leader of Lama. In Tamang Lama language, ‘Ne’ means breast. The eminent person who was raised by the breast-like hill of the earth later on was known by the name hill and Nepal was known by the name of the same hill.
(A) According to Nepal Mahatmya (Eulogy), a sage named “Ne” nurtured people of the country and thus the name of the country became Nepal.
(B) The Newar of the Maalbar clan from Kerala of the south India came here with the founder of Simraungadh, Nanadev. After their arrival, the place was named Nepal. The ancient ruler of Nepal, Gopalbamshis, used to be called ‘Neep’ and their home (Aalaya) was called Nepal. The word ‘Neep’ has been found to be stated in the Vedic volume and even in Astadhyahi of Panini.
(C) Nepal used to be called “Balyal” or Waplo whereas the Chinese travelers used to call Ni-Po-Lo. Since there were main settlements of Kirat here, the place was named ‘Newal’ in Buddhist scriptures and NIPAUL, NEPAUL, NIPAL and NEPAL in English and the Indians used the word ‘Nepal’.
Although there are different bases and assumptions like these behind the naming of Nepal, there is not a sure reason on why the country was named ‘Nepal’. However, there are no different opinions on the fact that the independent and uninterrupted nature of Nepal has been maintained due to its original civilization, culture and arts.
Source: Government of Nepal Ministry of Communication and Information Technology Department of Information and Broadcasting.