Buddhism, one of the world's great religions, is based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who became known as the Buddha ("Enlightened One"). He was born (traditionally about 624 BC but according to most modern scholars about 563 BC ) in Lumbini, near Kapilavastu in the Terai, then part of India, and died at Kushinagara (traditionally about 544 BC but according to the modern view about 483 BC ).
Amar Singh Thapa, Nepalese military leader of the 19th century and rival of Gen. David Ochterlony in the war between British India and Nepal, is a national hero. The two best-known Rana prime ministers were Sir Jung Bahadur Rana (1817–77) and Sir Chandra Shamsher Jang Rana (1863–1929). The most highly regarded writers are Bhanubhakta, a great poet of the 19th century, and the dramatist Bala Krishna Sama (Shamsher, b.1903). King Mahendra Bir Bikram-Shah (1920–72), who introduced the partyless political system, based on the Nepalese tradition of the village panchayat (council), was succeeded on the throne by his son, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev (b.1945), who democratized the panchayat system. Well-known political leaders include the brothers Matrika Prasad Koirala (b.1912), head of the Nepali Congress Party and the first post-Rana prime minister of Nepal (1951–52 and 1953–55), and Bisweswar Prasad Koirala (1915–82), head of the Nepali Congress Party and the first elected prime minister of Nepal (1959–60).
World renown was gained for Nepal by a Sherpa porter and mountaineer, Tenzing Norgay (Namgyal Wangdi, 1914–86), who, with Sir Edmund Hillary, a New Zealander, ascended to the summit of Mt. Everest in 1953.