A large number of tourists visit this tiny yet enchanting Himalayan land of Nepal to see its natural grandeur, which has overshadowed one most interesting and important aspect: the age old cultural heritage of the friendly, independent and peace-loving Nepalese people.
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Nepal in brief
Nepal is well said as a country of great beauty & visual varieties with the altitude of 70m above the sea level in the south & about 8848m height of Mt. Everest in the north. Nepal has, therefore, diversity in altitude that has reflected to our unique culture. Nepal is famous in the world for its natural beauty, shining mountains, green valley & beautiful green places with terraced farmlands & hilly foot trails & the forests full of rare wild lives including the lordly tiger, one- horn rhinoceros. The religious homogeneity is next unique feature for Nepal. The exquisite art & architecture of Nepal reflect the artistic ingenuity & the religious tradition of people as well. The beautiful lakes & springs can be considered as the main remarkable point of the country & plants like orchids & rhododendrons is as scenic as you can imagine.
In the ancient period Nepal was considered as the history of Kathmandu. At that period, its area had shrunk & expanded & had several states. But its present boundaries are expanded after many decades.
History tells that once a time Kathmandu Valley was a great lake in the middle of which a brilliant flame emanating from a lotus flower was rested. Manjushri broached the valley wall with a magical sword & drained the water & the valley was empty from water. The Kathmandu Valley was created & it is said that Swayambhu appeared in a flaming spot when the Valley was formed. As far as Manjushri was a Buddhist from China as we know or perhaps it wasn’t Manjushri. According to the Hindu religion Krishna created the Valley, hurling a thunderbolt to create the Chorbar gorge.
Scientists have also proved that at one time the valley was submerged. They agreed that the rivers of the valley do indeed flow southward through the narrow Chobar Gorge.
The recorded history of Nepal begins when the Kiratis from the eastern part of the country started to rule the country. The first known rulers of the Kathmandu valley were Kiratis. Yalamar, was the first of their king, he was also mentioned in the Hindu epic the Mahabharata. During the Kirati period that Buddhism first arrived in the country, Krakuchhanda Buddha, Kanak Muni Buddha and Kashyapa Buddha visited the Kathmandu valley to worship Swayambhunath. After Kiratis, the Lichhavis as the second ruler of the country began rulli 4th to 7th century. The temple of Changunarayan was built in Licchavi period, which can be seen now a days.
The Malla period was golden period of Kathmandu valley when great numbers of art, statues and temples were built. During the 147th century Malla ruled this valley for a total period of 568 years. At that period this country was divided into small principalities and kingdoms of 24 groups in western and 22 groups in far western Kathmandu valley was divided into three states of Kantipur, Lalitpur & Bhaktapur.
From the tiny Kingdom of Gorkha, halfway between Kathmandu and Pokhara the king of Shah dynasty gradually strengthened and extended their power. In 1768 king Prithivi Narayan Shah defeated the Malla kings and Nepal has been ruled by Shah kings ever since. His Majesty King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev is the eleventh king in this shah dynasty.
Nepal is a sovereign mountainous kingdom, located in Southern of Asia. It is land locked country, situated between China to the North and India to the South East and West, which are the two giant countries of Asia. The area of Nepal is 1,47,181 sq. km. In total which covers 0.3 percent of Asia and 0.03 percent area of the world. It lies between the latitude of 26’ 22’ and 30’ 27’ North and the longitude of 80’ 4’ and 88’ 12’ East. The country is small only about 880 km. long from East to West and breadth varies from 145 to 241 km from north to South. So the average breadth is 193 km, which covers approximately the same land area.
The topography changes dramatically within a short lateral distance. There is a narrow strip of low lands in the south. Further north lie the Himalayan foot hills and ranges which run roughly east-west across the country and include eight of the highest peaks in the world each over 8000m. Nepal is also remarkable in its great variety of climate and vegetation.
Geographically, Nepal can divide into three main regions:
1/ Himalayan Region 2/ Hilly Region 3/ Terai (plain Region)
The mountainous region covers 15 percent of total area lies in the northern side of country lying horizontally in the altitude of 4700m and above. In this region white snow falls every season. So we found here, several mountains with Mt Everest (8848m), give pleasure for all mankind. Another attraction of this region is several Kundas (Big lake) and also several national parks, and wild life reserves with Sagarmatha National Park, which is known as world heritage site. In this region settlement of only SHERPA can be found. In snow, snow bear and footprints of YETI can be seen.
The hilly region covers 68 percent of total area. It is formed by the Mahabharat range that soars to touch mountain region in the altitude of 600 m to 4700 m height. In winter, snow may fall in high hills. This region is formed by beautiful valleys like Kathmandu and Pokhara and famous for fascinating lakes in Pokhara Phewa, Begnas, Rupa etc. and the Tilicho lake in Manang District which is situated at the top level of the world. Swimming and boating in these lakes can enjoy everyone. The three major rivers Koshi, Gandaki and Karnali come out from Himalaya and flow through this region.
Additional attraction in this region is Nagarkot and Dhulikhel where the rising sun can be viewed. Most of the snow covered beautiful mountain can be enjoyed from hill top of Nagarkot, Phulchoki and Pokhara.
The Terai region covers 17 percent of total area. This is plain land area of Nepal in the altitude of 70m above sea level to 600 m height. This is the region of religious places and national parks, and wild life reserves. The famous religious places are Janakpur, Lumbini and Barahachhetra. Lumbini is famous for the birthplace of Lord Buddha who is the activator of world peace. There are four national parks, and wild life reserves in this region. Among them Royal Chitwan National park is the most famous for rhinoceros.
This region is also noted for trekking. All trekkers start their single step for trekking in this region.
Culture and Customs
Nepal is the meeting place of two different religions - Hinduism and Buddhism, tow races, Caucasoid and Mongoloid and tow civilization Indic and Sinic. The population has a variety of ethnic groups each with its distinct identity. Polygamy is stilled practiced in some area of the country although legislation banned it in the sixties.
When entering rooms in Nepalese home it is polite to remove shoes. While some westernized Nepalese might not be dong it, the best thing is to watch what other are doing. Many Hindu temples do not permit westerners to enter but they are quite free to watch from outside. Always walk clockwise around Buddhist stupas, chortens or mani walls. Every body remove their shoes and any items made from leather such as belts and bags before entering a Buddhist or Hindu temple.
Public displays of affection are not good manners nor should one swim naked in rivers and lakes. In the northern hill area, polyandry, the custom of a wife having more than one husband, was also practiced till recently. On the other hand, the Gurung group has an institution called Rodihgar intended to bring people together before they contemplate marriage. Widow re-marriage was not socially acceptable in some groups. An ethnic group such as Brahmins were prohibited for drinking alcohol and sometimes follow vegetarian restrains and amongst Brahmin families a man first met his wife on that day he got married. The Sherpas have remarkably free and easy moral code.
Hinduism and Buddhism constitute two major religions of Nepal sharing between them some 86.5 and 7.8 percent of the total population respectively. Both these co-religionists are bound together by a sense of fellow- feeling and bonhomie particularly displayed in their worship of common deities and joint celebration of many festivals belonging to ether religion culture Buddhism was introduced in Kathmandu valley by Emperor Ashoka of India around 250 BC. Later, around 8th century AD, the ancestors of the sherpas emigrated from Tibet bringing with them a from of Buddhism know as Ningmapa Gurungs, Tamangs, Serpas and Newars in kathmandu valley also follow Mahayaa Buddhism and the famous temple of Swayambhu in Kathmandu and the “Golden Temple” or the Hiranya Varna Mahabihar in Patan are visited mainly by Buddhist Newars.
A few people have adopted a complex blend of both Hinduism and Buddhissm known as Bajrayana, which is mainly practiced in Kathmandu valley. A remarkable feature of Nepal is thus the religious homogeneity that exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Apart from the Hindus and Buddhists, Muslim (3.5%) forms the third largest religious group. There has also been an increase in the number of Christian in Nepal in recent years, which number around 40000 although their proportion in the population is less than 1 percent and 1.2 percent of other religion.
Nepal has a population more than two crore made of different faces and tribes, living in different regions wearing different costumes and speaking different languages and dialects. The Sherpas live mainly in the mountain of eastern and central Nepal, in particular in the Solu Khumbu region at the foot of Nepal Trailblazer, the Sherpas are probably the best known Nepalese ethnic group originally from Tibet, they selttled in the area about 500 years ago. The Sherpas also known as “the tigers of the snow” live in the Himalaya region up to an average altitude of 4570m. Bahuns and Chhetris are simply the two highest castes; the Bahuns and Chhetirs are spread generally over most parts of the Kingdom. The progeny of Bahun men and hill women were considered Chhetri and a number of high status families from other hill groups have also adopted Chhetri status, so some do have Mongoloid tribal ancestry. All Bahuns and Chhetris are Hindu. The Newars constitute and important ethnic group in the capital valley Kathmandu. The Newaris of the Kathmandu valley are a good example of the result of this Himalayan melting pot. The Gurung and Magars live mainly in the west and on the southern slopes of Annapurna, Himalchuli and Ganesh Himal mountains. The Magars and Gurungs also often work as Gurkha soldiers. The Rais, Limbus, and Sunuwars inhabit the slops and valleys of the eastern mid hills and many have migrated to the eastern Terai. Larger number of people find employment with Gurkha regiments. Tamangs are one of the largest Tibet – Burman ethnic group in Nepal. Around half the Himalayan zone of Nepal is inhabited by Tamangs.
Many Tamangs have been influenced in their dress by both western and Newari styles. Traditionally, women wear a colorful wraparound skirt, a blouse, jacket and scarf. On important occasion they wear chunky gold or brass ear and nose rings set with semiprecious stones. Men wear loincloths or the traditional Newari pant, short – sleeved jackets and topis. Both men and women wear several miters of cloth wrapped around the waist.
The Thakalis live mainly Kali Gandaki valley in central Nepal, the Thakalis are a Tibeto Burman people who have become the entrepreneurs of Nepal. Originally Buddhist, many pragmatic Thakalis have now adopted Hinduism. The actual number of Thakalis is very small.
Tharus, Yadavs, Satar, Rajvanshis, and Dhimals are spread generally in the Terai region. Tharus are one of the larges ethic group in Nepal.