Nepal is located between south of Tibet and north of India. It is a
country of high Himalayan Mountains, including Mt. Everest, the highest mountain
in the world. Eight of the ten highest mountains in the world are right in
Nepal. Nepal offers many exciting activities like trekking, mountain climbing,
white water rafting, jungle safaris and even things like elephant rides! Even if
Nepal is small for its size it has a lot of diverse terrain from the tall rocky
Himalayas, deep valleys to humid jungles. Nepal is one of the richest countries
in the world in terms of bio-diversity due to geographical position and altitude
variation. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu. It is also the largest city in
Nepal. Nepal has a nearly rectangular shape. It is about 900 km long east to
west and about 200 km wide north to south.
There are over twenty eight
million people that live in Nepal. There are many ethnic groups in Nepal with
their own culture and languages. Some major ethnic groups are Sherpa, Rai, Limbu,
Gurung, Brahmin, Chhetris, Yadavs and Newars. The world famous brave warriors
“Gurkhas” are from Nepal too. The main religions in Nepal are Hinduism and
Buddhism. Hindus and Buddhists make over 95% of the population.
Nepali is the national language of
Nepal, however, there are other different languages spoken by different ethnic
groups like Newari, Limbu, Gurung, Tamang, Maitheli, Bhojpuri and others. Newari
is the language popular in Kathmandu and surrounding area. Bhojpuri and Maitheli
are popular in Terai region and Limbu, Gurung, Tamang languages are popular in
hill side. Nepali culture is influenced by Indian and Tibetan cultures, so they
have similarity in kinds of food, clothing and languages. Folklore is an
important part of Nepali culture. It tells many stories about love, affections,
battles, demons, and ghosts.
Historically, two very
important places in Nepal are Lumbini and Janakpur. Lumbini meaning “the lovely”
in Sanskrit, is the birth place of Lord Gautama Buddha and it is a very
important Buddhist pilgrimage site. It is located about 25 kilometers east of
the municipality of Kapilavastu. Janakpur is the birth place of Sita who was the
queen of King Rama in the epic story of “Ramayana”.
There are many temples and
pilgrimage sites in Nepal which are of great importance to Hindus and Buddhists.
In Kathmandu, one of the very popular temples is “Pashupati Nath”. It is a very
holy pilgrimage site to Hindus. It hosts Lord Shiva, one of the main deities in
Hinduism. Another very important temple is Swayambhu meaning “self-manifested”.
Swayambhu is located towards west of Kathmandu and it is situated in a hillock.
It hosts five divine Buddhas and four Taras. Tara is a goddess of compassion.
Swayambhu Nath Temple
Pashupati Nath Temple
Most festivals in Nepal are celebrated on
Lunar Calendar dates, although Nepal
has its own Solar calendar system known by “Bikram Sambat”. The year as per
“Bikram Sambat” is 57 years ahead of English year. The Nepalese new year based
on Solar Calendar falls on April 13 or 14 of English year.
Some important festivals that Nepalese people celebrate during the year
are Dashain, Tihar and the Indrajatara festival. Dashain is a fifteen day
festival and it takes place between September and October. This festival is
known for the importance of family gathering and to strengthen community ties.
On the first day they set up a special worship room and this room is used to
worship the astha-matrikas and the nava durgas. On the seventh day the town
Fulpathi sends and offering of flowers to the King of Nepal. The eighth day is a
day of sacrifice. In Katmandu valley, people go to the goddess “Nava Durga”
temples for worshipping. Tenth day is called “Vijaya Dashami” and it signifies
the day of victory over evil. To worship the goddess, women prepare “tika” which
is a mix of rice, yogurt and vermillion. As a symbol of blessing, the elders put
this “tika” on the forehead of younger relatives and they also give some money
to them. This continues for five days.
Tihar is a five day festival celebrated approximately 15 days after
the end of Dashain. In the first four days they worship different deities
symbolically represented by crow, dog, cow, and oxen. Third day known as “Laxmi
Puja” is also dedicated to worship goddess “Laxmi” who represents wealth and
prosperity. Newars celebrate their new year on fourth day.