of Never Ending Peace And Love, does well to characterise
this nation of good natured and accommodating
people; a land of majestic Himalayan scenery comprising
eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including
Mt Everest: the uppermost place on earth at 29,029ft
India and Tibet, the Kingdom of Nepal is filled
with as many different ethnic groups, customs
and traditions as it is diverse in geography.
From the hot Indian plains and steamy southern
Tarai lowlands, the terrain crosses the Kathmandu
Valley and rises to the frozen heights of the
Himalayan peaks towards the Tibetan plateau known
as the 'roof of the world'. Spread across these
varied altitudes are communities of colourful
cultures and people (many untouched by modern
development), animated cities and towns, and far-flung
mountain villages. Life here revolves around an
intricate intermingling of ancient Hindu and Buddhist
religious rituals. Numerous festivals are celebrated
throughout the year coloured by a diversity of
religious and tribal traditions. The capital of
Kathmandu brings an assortment of these different
societies together into a vibrant collection of
brilliant sights and exotic smells, with modern
shops co-existing with street sellers, while pyramidal
Buddhist temples, holy Sadhus of the Hindu faith
and medieval palace squares fill the urban landscape.
Nepal is well endowed
with glorious scenery - verdant terraced valleys,
rushing rivers and ice-blue lakes that originate
in the 'abode of snows', or Himalayas. The uplifting
sight of soaring mountains is a magnet for mountaineers
and trekkers, offering some of the greatest challenges
and most scenic walking opportunities on earth.
Its diverse terrain offers tremendous opportunities
for adventurous activities, and although mountain
climbing and trekking are the most popular, there
is also superb white-water rafting on steep mountain
rivers, as well as elephant-back safaris or tiger
tracking in the Royal Chitwan and Royal Bardia
National Parks situated within the jungles of
the southern Tarai belt.
Nepal has many attractions,
but the essence of the country is its smiling,
friendly people with their heartfelt palm-pressed
greetings, and together with its inspiring scenery,
this beguiling kingdom is a place where one visit
is usually not enough to satisfy the captivated
Roughly rectangular in shape, the Kingdom of Nepal
is sandwiched between China to the north and India
to the south. Nepal contains the world’s
tallest peaks, while the fertile plains to the
south, known as the Terai, lie at almost sea level.
In between the plains, which are interspersed
with tropical jungles teeming with wildlife, and
the high mountains, lie lush hills and valleys.
More than 80% of the people live off the land,
while tourism, carpets and garments are its main
Nepal’s 23 million people belong to dozens
of ethnic groups. If the Newars are indigenous
to the Kathmandu Valley, the sturdy Sherpas, known
for their climbing skills, inhabit the Everest
region. Brahmins and Chhetris are scattered across
the hills and valleys while the Tamangs live in
the hills surrounding the Kathmandu Valley. Also
inhabiting the hills are the Gurungs, Limbus,
Magars and Rais of the Gurkha fame. The Terai
is home to the Maithili, Bhojpuri and Tharu people.
Nepal’s different communities speak different
languages and dialects, but Nepali is the national
language, and it serves as the lingua franca of
its people. In this linguistic diversity, there
are six languages - Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri,
Tharu, Tamang and Nepal Bhasa - which are spoken
by more than half a million people as a mother
tongue. In the urban areas and places frequented
by tourists, people understand Hindi and English.
The majority of the people follow either Hinduism
or Buddhism, which since ages past have co-existed
in harmony in Nepal. Some of the most sacred pilgrimage
sites for Hindus are located here, while the Buddha
was born in Lumbini, which lies to the southwest
Straddling the trans-Himalayan trade routes, Nepal
has been exposed to varied cultural influences
throughout history. The kingdom’s diverse
heritage is mainly religious in character. In
the Kathmandu Valley, which is a center of cultural
excellence, the traditional art, architecture,
music, dance and festivals are all expressions
of religious devotion. Art consists of scroll
paintings, murals, carvings and statues depicting
sacred themes. Folk music and dances are linked
to the agricultural cycle.
Because of its differing elevation, Nepal offers
varied climatic conditions - from the tropical
heat in the Terai to the freezing cold in the
mountains. In the mid-hills, particularly Kathmandu,
the climate is temperate with warm summers and
cool winters. Temperatures range from a maximum
of 37 to a minimum of 8 degrees Celsius in the
plains, 28 to 2 degrees in the Kathmandu Valley,
and between 16 and -6 degrees in the mountains.
From June to August is the rainy season.
Light, loose garments are recommended in spring
and summer, while woolens and jackets or similar
warm clothing are needed from November to February.
Banks here accept major international currencies
as well as the Indian rupee. The Nepalese currency
is the rupee (Rs.), which is made up of 100 paisa.
The Nepalese rupee comes in denominations of Rs.
1,000, 500, 250, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5, 2 and 1.
When traveling outside the major city areas, carry
smaller notes. At the time of going to press,
the exchange rate was US$ 1 = Rs. 70.
When visiting a temple, always circumambulate
it in a clockwise direction. Entrance to some
temples is restricted, so look out for such signs.
Refrain from touching the images or the offerings,
and don’t climb on the statues to pose for
photographs. Always ask for permission to photograph
or film personal ceremonies. If you have been
invited to a Nepalese home, it is customary to
take your shoes off before entering the room.
Showing affection in public is frowned upon in
NEPAL OCCUPYING ONLY 0.1%
OF THE EARTH - IS HOME TO
- 2% of all the flowering
plants in the world
- 8% of the world's population
of birds (more than 848 species)
- 4% of mammals on earth
- 11 of the world's 15 families
of butterflies (more than 500 species)
- 600 indigenous plant families
- 319 species of exotic orchids