For centuries, Nepal was divided into many principalities (Chaubise States). Kirantas ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars had their domain in the mid-west. The Kirantas were said to have ruled their territories from 300 B.C. During their reign, Emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirantas were followed by the Lichhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu valley. During this period, art and architecture thrived in Nepal and many of the woodcarving and sculptures of that era still exist today. After the end of the Lichhavi dynasty, the Malla kings came into power in 1200 A.D. Their contribution to art and culture can never be underrated. Despite such unique talents in art and architecture and a long rule of over 600 years, the country was not united until the 18th century. The country took its full shape only after 1768 A.D. when Prithivi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered and united all the Tiny States into one Kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British rule in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and the country stayed in isolation for more than a century. During the mid 19th century, Junga Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister to wield absolute power and he set up dictatorship repressing the nation for more than 100 years. During Rana regime, the Shah Kings were merely recognized as figure heads. The nationwide people's movement of the early 1950 helped to restore the monarchy in Nepal by toppling Rana regime that lasted for 104 years. King Tribhuvan was an appointed ruler in 1951 and formed a government comprised of both Ranas and members of the newly formed Nepali Congress Party. But, this relatively democratic government was short-lived and King Mahendra (Tribhuvan's son and successor) introduced a 'party less' Panchayat system in Nepal. The king selected the prime minister and cabinet and appointed a large proportion of the national assembly, which duly rubber-stamped his policies. Power, of course, remained only with the King. This Panchayat system lasted for 30 years. Nepalese people who wanted corruption and autocratic rule to end formed the 'People's Movement' and a new Maoist party came into existence under the leadership of Prachanda and a people's war was declared claimed 13,000 lives within 10 years. The then king, Birendra, dissolved his cabinet, legalized political parties and invited the opposition to form an interim government. Nepal's first democratic government was only partially successful. In 2000 King Birendra and his family were massacred and Prince Gyanendra, King Birendra's brother , ascended to the throne. There was great political unrest throughout the kingdom at this time. In the mean time Maoist leaders reached an agreement with the main political parties to join forces and oppose the king. They organized massive protests and in April 2006, after tens of thousands of people took to the streets, King Gyanendra was forced to return a civilian government. In 2008 Nepal's coalition government and the communist party of Nepal (Maoist) signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end the fighting. They also agreed to participate in elections to create a constituent assembly that would rewrite the country's constitution, including whether it will remain a monarchy. Elections to the Constituent assembly were held on 10 April, 2008 and Maoists won a majority of seats. Thereafter, the parliament declared Nepal as a Federal Democratic Republic overthrowing the 240 year old Shah dynasty. King Gyanendra left the palace and started leading a civilian life. On July the newly elected President Dr. Ram Baran Yadav became the first president of Nepal and on 15th August 2008 Prachanda became the new Prime Minister.