Nepal covers a span of 147,181 sq. kilometers ranging from altitude of 70 meters to 8,848 meters. Mountains, mid hills, valleys and plains dominate the geography of landlocked Nepal that extends from the Himalayan range in the north to the Indo-Gangetic lowlands in south. Mt. Everest, the highest point of the Himalayas is in Nepal.
Physical features also include green paddy terraces, wind-swept deserts, dense forests and marshy grasslands. The country is well endowed with perennial rivers, lakes and glacial lakes that originate in the Himalayas. Twenty percent of the land in the country is used for agriculture, where 0.49 percent is used for permanent crops, mainly rice.
Climatic conditions of Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the north summers are cool and winters severe, while in south summers are sub tropical and winters mild.
The variety in Nepal’s topography provides home to wildlife like tigers, rhinos, monkeys, bears, yaks, leopards and different species of insects and birds, Nepal is a home to almost 10 percent of the world’s bird species among which 500 species are found in the Kathmandu valley.
The country has managed to preserve some endangered species of Asia in its extensive parks and protected natural habitats. The most abundant natural resource in Nepal is water. Other resources found here are quartz, timber, lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore and scenic beauty.
Nepal has seen many rulers and ruling dynasties. The earliest rulers were the Kirantis who ruled from 9th century B.C. to 1st century A.D. Legends and chronicles mention that the Indian Emperor Ashoka had come to Nepal and visited Lumbini, the place where the Buddha was born, and where he erected a huge stone pillar to commemorate his visit to that spot.
The Kirants were replaced by Licchavis who, according to the earliest evidences in inscriptions of the 5th century A.D. found in the courtyard of Changunarayan temple which is about 15 km north east of Kathmandu, ruled this country from 1st century to 9th century A.D. This period is noted for the many temples and fine sculptures built around the Kathmandu valley.
The Licchavis were followed by the Thakuris, then came the Malla dynasty. The Mallas ruled focusing mainly on the Kathmandu Valley which has been the residence for most Nepali rulers from time immemorial. No other part of Nepal is as rich in cultural heritage as Kathmandu. Thanks to the exceptionally talented crafts-men, who dedicated themselves to construct the many temples and statues, we have seven world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley itself.
In the 14th century A.D. King Jayasthiti Malla established a rigid social order. His grandson tried in every way to protect his country from suspected enemy states. Unfortunately, all his efforts were fruitless, everything went beyond his control and the country eventually divided up into 50 small feudal states including the three major ones in the valley.
Then came the Shah dynasty. King Prithvi Narayan Shah who annexed small principalities including three states in the Kathmandy Valley and unified Nepal in a single kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation.During the mid-19th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal’s first prime minister to wield absolute power. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s.
Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic state on May 28, 2008, during the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. It was previously a multiparty democracy since 1990.
Riligion & Festivals
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Nepal has been declared as a secular country by the Parliament on May 18, 2006. Religions like Hindusim Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
For centuries the Nepal remained divided into many principalities. Kirats ruled in the east, the Newars in the Kathmandu Valley, while Gurungs and Magars occupied the mid-west. The Kirats ruled from 300 BC and during their reign, emperor Ashoka arrived from India to build a pillar at Lumbini in memory of Lord Buddha. The Kirats were followed by the Lichchhavis whose descendants today are believed to be the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. During this period, art thrived in Nepal and many of the beautiful woodcarvings and sculptures that are found in the country belong to this era.With the end of the Lichchhavi dynasty, Malla kings came to power in 1200 AD and they also contributed tremendously to Nepal’s art and culture. However, after almost 600 years of rule, the kings were not united among themselves and during the late 18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, King of Gorkha, conquered Kathmandu and united Nepal into one kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation, during the mid-19th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal’s first prime minister to wield absolute power. He set up an oligarchy and the Shah Kings remained figureheads. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s.
Festivals in Nepal
Nepal is a land of Festivals. For the Nepalese, festivals are not merely the annual spectacles, but also are a living part of their rich cultural heritage. Festivals effectively bind together the Nepalese people of diverse cultural backgrounds and beliefs into one nation. There are more than 50 major festivals in a year celebrated by Nepalese. Although most of these festivals are religious some have historical significance, while others are seasonal celebrations. Most Nepalese festivals are related to different Hindu and Buddhist gods and goddesses and they are celebrated on such days consecrated for them by religion and tradition. There are also some festivals which are observed in honor of personal relatives such as festival of Matatirtha (for mothers), Gokarna Ausi (for fathers), Gaijatra (for the ones who are passed away). Some festivals are of national significance such as Dashain, a celebration of Goddess
Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi, and some are confined to the Katmandu Valley, while still others are celebrated only within one or two villages or cities. The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar in Nepal. Below is the list of most popular festival in Nepal:
For more details information about Festivals in Nepal, see Attraction of Nepal. www.dntt.com.np
Nepali, written in the Devanagari script is the national language. English is widely understood in the urban centers and areas frequented by tourists. Most Nepali people speak more than one language.
People and Culture
The country of Nepal, nestled into the folds of the Himalayas, is a nation representative of a singular flux of races and religions. ‘Melting Pot’ is a term often used to describe the Nepal People, coalesced and united, despite their racial and religious differences.
The people of Nepal or the Nepalese people live scattered throughout the vales and hilly terrains that feature the geography of the country. The Nepalese add up to a population of 22 million approximately. The Nepal people living in different regions have distinctive social customs and life styles that distinguish them from the other ethnic groups.
The Newars, a group of Nepali people, live mainly in the Kathmmandu valley. The Tamangs live on the outskirts of the Kathmandu valley. The Sherpas inhabit the eastern and central regions of Nepal’s mountains. In the vicinity of the Kali Gandaki River in the northern Nepal live the Thakalis people.
The Midlands of Nepal are populated by the Chhetris and Brahmins. The Tharu people dwell in the Terai region. The Limbus, Magars, Jirels, Chepangs, Rais and Sunwars occupy the middle hills. In the lowland Terai and the Dun valley reside the Danwars, Darais, Rajputs, Rajbansis, Dhangars, Majhis, Dhimals and Statars.
Nepal is a harmonious blend of different ethnic groups who are bonded by their fervent loyalty to the institution of Monarchy. The principle religions of the Nepal people are Buddhism and Hinduism. The inhabitants of Nepal mainly communicate in the Nepali language. However, Nepal people use Newari language predominantly in the Kathmandu valley while Tibetan languages are chiefly in use in the mountains.
Nepal culture is marked for its rich diversity. The culture of Nepal includes music, dance, art forms, literature, religion and architecture in varied forms. Nepal has numerous ethnic groups and clans, which have a separate and distinct culture of their own. There are many religions that are practiced in this exotic mountainous country.
Music is an integral part of the cultural heritage of Nepal. Music in all forms is appreciated and adored in the country. Folk music is greatly loved by the Nepali people over modern forms of music. There are influences of Indian and Tibetan music on the music of Nepal.
Another facet of Nepal culture lies in its architecture. There are mainly three types of architectural features that are preferred in Nepal-the pagoda style, the stupa style and the shikhara style. There are several temples, churches, synagogues and Buddhist monasteries in Nepal that are built based on these architectural styles. The culture of Nepal is vividly depicted in these architectural wonders of Nepal.
Apart from music, dance is also a preferred mode of entertainment for the people of Nepal. The religious ceremonies that are celebrated in the country have music and dance as an integral part of their program. Religion is another important part of Nepal’s culture. Hinduism is the primary religion in Nepal, followed by Buddhism and Christianity. There are many festivals, which are celebrated in Nepal and are religious in origin. All these things amalgamated together make a rich cultural heritage of Nepal.
Communication & News
The Central post Office located near Dharahara Tower, in Sundhara. The Counters on the post office provide stamps, postcards and aerogram. Express Mail Service (EMS) is available in Central post Office. EMS is also available at Thamel, Basantapur and airport postal counters.
Telephone, fax, telex and telegraph services are available at any part of the country. The country Code for Nepal is 977 and the area code for Kathmandu is 1.
E-mail & Internet
Private communications centers and Hotels provide Email and Internet Services almost 24 hrs.
Daily Newspapers and Magazine
There are so many newspapers available in the kingdom of Nepal. Major newspapers are printed in English and Nepali languages. Some newspapers are The Rising Nepal, The Kathmandu post (English Daily) and Gorkhapatra, Kantipur (Nepali Daily). Besides that: a large numbers of International newspapers and magazines are also available in Kathmandu.
Various Radio stations broadcast different music’s and other programs for entertainment. English news bulletins are broadcasted daily morning and evening and Nepali news update in every hour.
Whether & Climate
Nepal is the country of extremes. Weather and climate of Nepal varies with its topography and altitude. It ranges from tropical to arctic. The low-land plains of the Terai can have tropical temperatures and the Himalayas can get to zero temperatures. The Terai region, which lies in the tropical southern part of the country, has a hot and humid climate. The hill, mid-hills and particularly the Kathmandu valleys are pleasant with warm summers and cool winters almost all the year round. The northern mountain region, around an altitude above 3300 m has an alpine climate with a considerably lower temperature in winter as can be expected but the sun can blaze you during the day, even in the mountains.
Monsoon in Nepal is not the typical monsoon of Asia. Rains usually occur during the night-time and early morning mountain views can even be had in this season. The rainy season lasts from July to August. Sub-tropical climate and alpine climate areas are dissected by deep valleys, formed by run-off from the monsoon and snow melt-water. Temperature ranges between maximum of 37 and minimum of 6 degree Celsius in the plains, 28 and 2 degree Celsius in the Kathmandu valley and 16 and 6 degree Celsius in the mountains.
Security for Visitors
Tourist Police was established in 1979 under the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. The special unit has been designated the task of providing security to visitors. The team of Tourist Police consists of officers who can speak and understand English and Hindi. They register complaints, investigate matters, provide protection and safety to tourists. They also try to ensure hassle-free trip for visitors and assist tourists when necessary. There are three units of Tourist Police forces in Kathmandu. While the main office is at the Tourist Service Center in Bhrikuti Mandap(Phone: 4247041, 4247037), the other one at Basantapur(Phone: 4268969).
Here are some tips on how visitors can remain safe:
Inform your whereabouts immediately upon arrival to the local police or concerned embassy or consulate.
Use the services of government registered travel and trekking agencies only.
Stay only at government registered hotels, resorts, guest houses and lodges.
Use only those porters who are authorized by your travel agency or hotel.
Exchange foreign currency only at authorized places.
Carry certified copies of documents and leave the originals and other valuables in the safe deposit box of your hotel.
Never leave these items unattended in your room.
Do not carry large sums of cash.
Never leave your luggage and other valuables unattended at any time, any place.
In case of theft or loss contact the nearest police station immediately.
Carry travelers’ cheques and limited amount of cash while on tour.
Best Time to Visit Nepal
The best season to visit Nepal is after the monsoons that end in August, and before the winter sets in. The months between September and December are the most preferred ones by the visitors. The rains wash the dusty tracks and the valley looks magnificent with blooming flowers. Post -Monsoon Nepal welcomes you with flower-laden plains and brimming rivers. It is humid in plains at that time but it is still better than the scorching heat of the summers.
It is best to visit hilly areas in summers; that is, the month of May and June. The average temperature at that time hovers around 22-25 Celsius. Nights are a bit chilly in the lower Himalayan region but are comfortable. Mountainous areas are extremely unsafe in the Monsoons. The persistent rains make the hilly tracts slippery. The landslides are very common in the monsoons. Again in the post-monsoon months, you can start for the hill tours.
In winters, most of the hilly areas become out of bound due to very heavy snowfall and avalanches. But if you are fond of snowfall then you can opt for lower Himalayan regions that look beautiful in the blankets of snows.
Nepal food alludes to the cuisine of Nepal. Nepal cuisine, based on cultural diversity and geographical features, combines motley of food types rather than one type of cuisine.
Nepal food varies from region to region and from one ethnic group to the other. The Terai cuisine is often very similar to the Indian recipes, but there are variations among the Tharu and the other ethnic groups. The Himalayan cuisine, extremely delicious, constitutes chiefly the diet of the Tibetans and also of the ethnic groups inhabiting the northern parts of Nepal.
The Newars celebrate the maximum number of feasts and festivals and are well known for their contribution to the varieties in Nepal recipes. Newar food can be categorized into two broad types – daily foods called Jyona or lunch and Beli or dinner, and Bhoye, which is a food menu, arranged in systematic order.
The two famous foods of Nepal include dhal bhat and momos. ‘Dhal Bhat Tarkari’, which is lentil soup rice and curry constitutes the chief diet of the Nepalese living in the hills. This is eaten twice daily. Dhedo, a type of Tibetan food made of flour, butter, ghee or water, is eaten high up on the mountains due to scarcity of rice.
Nepal food consists of snacks like roti, bread, curried vegetables and milk tea that are eaten in between the daily meals. Some other famous Nepalese foods include Gundrook-Dheedo, Alu Tama, and Chatamari. Tongba and Rakshi are the traditional drinks of Nepal.
Nepal Art and culture are both chiefly the manifestations of the religious beliefs of the country. The chief feature of Nepal Art has been its delicacy and decor. The Nepal Art is beautifully influenced by the culture of the people and is intertwined with their everyday lives. The two most famous manifestations of the Nepal Art are the sculptures and the paintings. There is very little influence of the modern world in the sphere of Art in Nepal.
The earliest forms of he Nepalese Art are the manuscript illustrations on the palm leaves. The earliest manuscript found dates back to 1015 A.D. by the name of Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita. The wooden boxes used to cover these manuscripts are more often than not much more delicately decorated. The influence of religion on this work of art of Nepal is clear from the way images of gods and goddesses are used to decorate the manuscripts. These Gods belong to both the Hindu as well as the Buddhist religions. Other popular forms of painting are the metal sculptures.
Sculptures are another major genre of art at Nepal. Much of the earlier sculptures are found in the Terai regions of the country. Like the paintings, most of the sculptures are religious in theme. The copper, bronze and stone sculptures belonging to the Lichchhavi period are the most beautiful ones. Woodcarving is another important name among the various art forms in Nepal.
Normally, domestic consumption of electricity in Nepal comes to 220 Volts/50 cycles. Climatic conditions in Nepal may bring in fluctuation in electric supply leading to load shedding. However, Nepal hotels have UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) to deal with this electric crisis. It is advisable to carry voltage converters and plug adapters with you while travelling in Nepal for using electric goods. Voltage converters and plug adapters are easily accessible at shopping malls in the cities of Nepal.
For more information, please, see this website: www.dntt.com.np