Nepal Travel Information
Nepal is Known as the Land of Mount Everest and was “The only Hindu Kingdom in the world”, the kingdom of Nepal is a land of sublime scenery, one of the world’s best and Archeologically very important temples, and some of the best walking trails on the Earth. Although the GDP of “The Land of Buddha” is very low, but it is rich in scenic splendour and cultural treasures.
The kingdom has long exerted a pull on the Western imagination and it’s a difficult place to dislodge from your memory once you visit Nepal and return.
This is why so many travelers are forced to visit Nepal again and again with a greater appreciation of its natural and cultural complexity, a stout pair of walking boots and a desire for improved leg-definition.
The Fact About Nepal:
Name of the Country: Federal Republic of Nepal
Area: 147,181 sq km
Population: 27 million
Capital city: Kathmandu
People: Brahmins,Chhetries, Newars, Thakali, Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Rais, Limbus, Sherpas etc…
National Language: Nepali
Government: Parliamentary Democracy
Prime Minister: Head of Ministery
President: Head of the State
Major industries: Tourism, Handicraft, Agriculture and Water Resources.
Nepal’s recorded history began with the Kiratis, who arrived in the 7th or 8th century BC from the east. Little is known about them, other than their deftness as sheep farmers and fondness for carrying long knives. It was during this period that Buddhism first came to the country; indeed it is claimed that Buddha and his disciple Ananda visited the Kathmandu Valley and stayed for a time in Patan. By 200 AD, Buddhism had waned, and was replaced by Hinduism, brought by the Licchavis, who invaded from northern India and overthrew the last Kirati king. The Hindus also introduced the caste system (which still continues today in countryside ) and ushered in a classical age of Nepalese art and architecture.
By 879, the Licchavi era had petered out and was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty. A grim period of instability and invasion often referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ followed, but Kathmandu Valley’s strategic location ensured the kingdom’s survival and growth. Several centuries later, the Thakuri king, Arideva, founded the Malla dynasty, kick-starting another renaissance of Nepali culture. Despite earthquakes, the odd invasion and feuding between the independent city-states of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the dynasty flourished, reaching its zenith in the 15th century under Yaksha Malla.
The Shah Dynasty in Nepal:
The rulers of Ghorkha, the most easterly region, had always coveted the Mallas’ wealth. Under the inspired leadership of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Ghorkha launched a campaign to conquer the valley. In 1768 – after 27 years of fighting – they triumphed and moved their capital to Kathmandu. From this new base the kingdom’s power expanded, borne by a seemingly unstoppable army, until progress was halted in 1792 by a brief and chastening war with Tibet.Further hostilities followed in 1814, this time with the British over a territorial dispute. The Nepalese were eventually put to heel and compelled to sign the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, which surrendered Sikkim and most of Terai (some of the land was eventually restored in return for Nepalese help in quelling the Indian Mutiny of 1857), established Nepal’s present eastern and western boundaries and, worst of all, installed a British ‘resident’ in the country.
The Shah dynasty continued in power during the first half of the 19th century until the ghastly Kot Massacre of 1846. Taking advantage of the intrigue and assassinations that had plagued the ruling family, Jung Bahadur seized control by butchering several hundred of the most important men while they assembled in the Kot courtyard. He took the more prestigious title Rana, proclaimed himself prime minister for life, and later made the office hereditary. For the next century, the Ranas and their offspring luxuriated in huge Kathmandu palaces, while the remainder of the population eked out a living in medieval conditions.
The Rana’s antiquated regime came to an end soon after WW II. In 1948, the British withdrew from India and with them went the Ranas’ chief support. Around the same time, a host of insurrectional movements, bent on reshaping the country’s polity, emerged. Sporadic fighting spilled onto the streets and the Ranas, at the behest of India, reluctantly agreed to negotiations. King Tribhuvan was anointed ruler in 1951 and struck up a government comprised of Ranas and members of the newly formed Nepali Congress Party.
But the compromise was shortlived. After toying with democratic elections – and feeling none too pleased by the result – King Mahendra (Tribhuvan’s son and successor) decided that a ‘partyless’panchaayat system would be more appropriate for 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 with only one party – the king’s.Cronyism, corruption and the creaming-off of lucrative foreign aid into royal coffers continued until 1989. The Nepalese, fed up with years of hardship and suffering under a crippling trade embargo imposed by the Indians, rose up in popular protest called the Jana Andolan or ‘People’s Movement’. In the ensuing months, detention, torture and violent clashes left hundreds of people dead. It all proved too much for King Birendra, in power since 1972. He dissolved his cabinet, legalised political parties and invited the opposition to form an interim government. The panchaayat system was finally laid to rest.
The changeover to democracy proceeded in an orderly, if leisurely, fashion, and in May 1991 the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal shared most of the votes.
Cultural festive in Nepal traditionally begins with something religious and moves with spontaneous spirit into a pleasant family feast. This is because, for Nepali/s, relegion has always influenced and has been the core of Nepali culture.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal are religious. However, they can be generally divided into four sections keeping in mind the main aspects of the festival emphasized:
1. Religious – These festivals are specially designed to honor a certain god or goddess. For instance, Bada Dashain, the festival of Devi Durga, the universal mother goddess also known as Kali.
2.Historical – The historical festivals are celebrated to keep alive memories of events of importance. Gaijatra, was introduced by Jaya Prakash Malla.
3. Agricultural – Since Nepal is an agricultural country there are different festivals like Laxmi Puja which mark the different seasons of harvesting, planting etc.
4. Seasonal – The different seasonal festivals are celebrated in order to mark the beginning of special seasons. Holi or Fagu is the festival inspired by spring, the season of colours.
5. Legendary – These festivals are based on legends than on any reliable historical record. Ghantakarna is a festival, which is also based on a legend. It is celebrated as a great relief from the death of a most dreaded legendary monster- Ghantakarna.
Hinduism and Buddhism are two major religions of Nepal. Hindus and Buddhist are tolerant to each other and the both religious group worship each other’s deities and observe festivals, traditional customs and rites of both religious group in Nepal, followed by Muslims, Jains and Christians.
Himalayan Region – 15 percent of the total land of the country are covered with snow capped mountains in the northern part and altitude ranges from 4,877 to 8,848 meters including 8 peaks above the 8,000 meters namely Mt Everest (8,848m), Kanchanjungha (8,586), Lhotse (8,516), Makalu (8,463m), Cho Oyu (8,201m), Dhaulagiri (8,167 m), Manaslu (8,163 m) and Annapurna I (8,091 m).
Hilly Region – 68 percent of the total land of the country are covered by the hills and mountains in the central part of Nepal. Altitude varies from 610 to 4,877 meters in this region.
Terai Region- 17 percent of the total land In the southern part of the country, the plain area of Terai region.
People of Nepal can be divided into two distinct group, the Aryans and the Mongolians. And three are many different ethnic groups in Nepal living in different part of the country with their own unique cultures, languages and religions.
The ethnic group of Magars, Rais, Sunuwars and Gurungs live in the eastern mountains observing their own culture and speaking their own culture and speaking their own mother languages. By tradition, most Gurkha soldiers come from these ethnic groups and are famous for the bravery in the battles. Sherpas, inhabitants of the Northern Himalayan region are influenced with the Tibetan culture. The Sherpas are famous in the world for mountaineering.The Newars constitute the important ethnic group in the Kathmandu valley. The Newars are rich in culture and famous for their craftsmanship. There are many artistic pagodas, monuments and old palaces in the Kathmandu valley built by the Newars. The ethnic group of Tharus, Maithili, Bhojpuri Danuwar etc live in the Terai region.The Brahman and Chhetris also play an important role in Nepalese Society. These groups are originally from the west Nepal and now inhabit the most of all the parts of the country.Tamangs live outside the rim of the Kathmandu valley. The Thakalis inhabitant in the northwest part, upper the Kali Gandaki Rivers. The Thakalis were considered to be expert traders in the past.Apart from the above, there are still many other ethnic group in Nepal and all of these groups are tied up together by their common ideals of peace and nationalism.
CURRENCY – Currency of Nepal is known as Rupee which comes in notes of 1,2,5,10,20,25,50,100,500and 1000. Coins known as paisa comes in 5,10,25,50 and 100.Rupees coins are also used; 1,2,5,and 10.One Nepali Rupee is made up of 100 paisa. Foreign currencies must be exchanged only through the banks or authorized foreign exchange dealers.
TIME – Nepal Time is 5 hour 45 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time and 15 minutes ahead of Indian Standard Time.
WEEKEND – Saturday is the official holiday in Nepal.
ELECTRIC CURRENT – 220 Volts/50 cycles. Most of the villages, cities of the kingdom are accessed with electricity.
The Himalayan Kingdom has the richest and most diverse culture landscapes anywhere. Nepal is the holy land of Lord Pashupatinath and Gautam Buddha where the Hindus and Buddhists have lived together in harmony for centuries. The Temple of Pashupatinath is Nepals most sacred Hindu shrine and one of the four most important cities in the world for Shiva worshippers. Lord Buddha, the light of Asia, was born in Lumbini in Nepals southern plains, which makes Nepal a scared pilgrimage destination for Buddhists as well.
The rich tapestry of the cultural heritage of Nepal is synthesized in the Kathmandu Valley. The three ancient cities of the Valley Patan, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur represent an epitome of harmony in urban design, elegant architecture and refined culture. These cities pack a concentration of religious monuments unequalled in the world. Don,t miss the seven monument zones named as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO all situated within the small confines of the Valley.
Adding dazzling color to Nepal/s myriad attractions are the many festivals that dot the calendar. Join in the numerous annual festivals that are celebrated throughout the year in traditional style highlighting enduring customs and beliefs. Go for village tours and visit the multi-ethnic groups to get first hand experience of their customs and lifestyles.
As eating is a special affair in Nepal, there is food for each and every occasion and festival. Kathmandu offers an incredible selection of dining opportunities. There are many restaurants that serve only authentic Nepali food complete with ethnic ambience.
Fairs & Festivals:
Nepal’s festive calendar is hectic. Dasain, celebrated nationwide in October, is the most important of all Nepalese celebrations and features the biggest animal sacrifice of the year. Running a close second is Tihar (November), but unlike Daisan, animals are honoured rather than slaughtered. Other festivals celebrated nationally include the water-tinged Holi (March) and Chaitra Daisan (April), which is yet another bad day for animals. Hindu festivals number the Haribodhini Ekadashi (November) and Maha Shivaratri (March), both celebrated in Pashupatinath, the Gai Jatra (August) in Kathmandu and the Krishna Jayanti (August/September) in Patan. Buddhist celebrations are just as thick on the ground, and include Mani Rimdu (November) in Solu Khumbu, Buddha Jayanti (May) in Kathmandu, and Losar (Tibetan New Year) (February) in Swayambhunath, Jawlakhel and highland communities.