Nepal , an independent sovereign and now a secular country from January 2007 lies between two huge nations, India in the South, east and west and China in the north. It was officially declared the ‘Federal Democratic Republic’ on may 28, 2008. Though It only spreads about 147, 181 sq. km. in area, it rises up to 60 meters at the lowest point and up to 8848 meters at the highest point (Mt.Everest) due to its geographical position. Unlike other countries, it has 6 seasons with two additional sessions and they are pre-monsoon and rainy seasons. Rainy season lasts from mid July till mid September and those who are interested to see Nepalese festivals, they can visit Nepal even in these rainy months.
According to the national census of 2011, Nepal’s population is estimated to be 26.49 million of which the large portion of 1.4 million live in Kathmandu, the capital city of the country.
Though the majority of people follow Hinduism there is a religious harmony between people of all religions. Hinduism is practiced by about 80 percent of Nepalis whereas Buddhism is practiced by 15 percent. Besides these two major religions other existing religions are Christianity, Islam and Kiratism.
Nepal was divided into 22 small independent kingdoms until it was unified by the Gorkha king Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1769 AD. The Kathmandu Valley had three independent kingdoms known as Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Patan. The three Durbar squares of these three cities are still standing there to tell the glorious stories of those days, which have now been listed on Nepal’s Unesco World heritage sites.
Nepal was badly hit by the earthquake in April 2015 with the loss of almost 10 thousand people making hundreds of thousands homeless. The poverty line of Nepal has been forced to increase by additional 2 percent after the devastating earthquake, hence it stands at 27.2 percent.
Although a small country, it offers such a diversity that one can find different culture and unique tradition of 40 major ethnic groups with over 50 languages and dialects.
Among many interpretations one of the popular interpretations about Nepal according to Newar, the original inhabitants of Kathmandu is that it comes from a Newari word ‘Nepa’ which means the middle land and it is true because it lies between mountains in the north and plain land in the south. Similarly, Kathmandu has derived its name from the wooden temple ‘Kasthamandap’ said to be built from a single tree in the 12th century A.D. The temple is now in the process of reconstruction after it was leveled to the ground on 25th April, 2015 by the earthquake.
Tourists’ interest places in Nepal
Located 200 km west of Kathmandu is famous for its natural beauty with Fewa lake, Machchapuchhere mountain and Annappurna range. This is also a trekking start point for those looking for easy trekking in Nepal. Pokhara is a home for Gurung people. Sarangkot, which is only a half an hour drive from Pokhara is highly recommended for those interested to view a beautiful Sunrise and mountains including Fistail and Annapurna range. It can be reached by car (7 hrs) or flight (25 mins).
It lies 165 km south of Kathmandu, which boasts of Chitwan National Park spreading over 965 sq. km. A visitor may see one horned rhinos and royal Bengal tiger during elephant back safari or jeep rides inside the park. it is here, one can see almost the 500 species of birds.
Situated some 300 km south west of Kathmandu is the birthplace of Lord Buddha who spread the message of peace to the World by preaching – “All life is suffering and the cause of suffering is desire”. One can get to Lumbini by taking a 40 minute flight or 8 hours journey by car.
The Kathmandu Valley
Comprising of the three main cities known as Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan is the home for thousands of temples. Each city has its own unique Durbar square (old palace complex) as there lived three kings in the three cities until 1768 – 1769 AD and these Durbar squares have now become part of Nepal’s Unesco World Heritage Sites.
The biggest Buddhist Stupa of Nepal built in the 5th century AD is also known as Little Tibet as a visitor can see more Tibetans than locals in the area. There are several Buddhist monasteries in the premises of Boudhanath.
The holiest Hindu temple of Lord Shiva is situated on the bank of the Bagamati river where one can also see the cremation ceremonies taking place. This is the place where a visitor can also find “Sadhus” (so-called holy men). Upon paying a small donation, one is allowed to take pictures of them.
Situated on the top of a hill and also known as ‘Monkey temple’ provides a birdwatch view of the Kathmandu Valley. On a clear day one can also see the mountains in the north from here. The Stupa is associated with a story of the legendary Chinese monk “Maha Manjushree” who is considered the founder of the Kathmandu Valley.
The old city of the Kathmandu Valley was founded in 299 AD. It is also known al ‘Lalitpur’ which literally means the “city of fine arts”. One can make a visit to the “Patan museum” to witness both the Hindu and Buddhist artifacts.
The ancient city of Bhaktappur was founded in the 12th century AD by the then Malla King Ananda Dev. Though the youngest city of the Kathmandu Valley, it looks the oldest as it has been well preserved as a medieval town. It may take visitors back to centuries.
The capital city of Nepal is the place where east meets west. A visitor can explore the old part of Kathmandu by walk or rickshaw from Kathmandu Durbar square to experience the day to day lifestyle of the people of Kathmandu.
It is situated 40 km north of Kathmandu at an altitude of 2158 meters. Nagarkot is famous for watching Sunrise, Sunset and panoramic view of Himalayas. The original inhabitants of the area are known as Tamang.
List of major festivals of Nepal in 2017/18 till March:
Yomari Punhi 03 December
Christmas 25 December
Tamu Lhosar 30 December
Shree Swasthani Brata 01 January 2018
Maghe Sankranti 15 January 2018
Sonam Lhosar 18 January 2018
Saraswati Pooja 22 Jan 2018
National Martyr’s day 30 January 2018
Shree Swasthani brat ends 31 January 2018
Maha Shivaratri 13 February 2018
Gyalpo Lhosar 16 February 2018
Holi (Festival of colour) 01 March 2018
Ghode Jatra 17 March 2018
Ram Nawami 25 March 2018
Poornima brat 31 March 2018
Climate in Nepal
Basanta Ritu (spring) – Mid March to mid May
Grishma Ritu (Summer) – Mid May to mid July
Barsha Ritu (Rainy) – Mid July to mid September
Sharad Ritu (Autumn) – Mid Sept to mid November
Hemanta Ritu (Pre-winter) – Mid November to Mid December
Shishir Ritu (Winter) – Mid December to mid March