The territory of Nepal has a recorded history since the Neolithic age. The name “Nepal” is first recorded in texts from the Vedic Age, the era which founded Hinduism, the predominant religion of the country. In the middle of the first millennium BCE, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in southern Nepal. Parts of northern Nepal were intertwined with the culture of Tibet. The Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal became known as Nepal proper because of its complex urban civilization. It was the seat of the prosperous Newar confederacy known as Nepal Mandala. The Himalayan branch of the ancient Silk Road was dominated by the valley’s traders. The cosmopolitan region developed distinct traditional art and architecture. By the 18th century, the Gorkha Kingdom achieved the unification of Nepal. The Shah dynasty established the Kingdom of Nepal and later formed an alliance with the British Empire, under its Rana dynasty of premiers. The country was never colonized but served as a buffer state between Imperial China and Colonial India. In the 20th century, Nepal ended its isolation and forged strong ties with regional powers. Parliamentary democracy was introduced in 1951, but was twice suspended by Nepalese monarchs in 1960 and 2005. The Nepalese Civil War resulted in the proclamation of a republic in 2008, ending the reign of the world’s last Hindu monarchy.