History

Where is Nepal?

Nepal, a sovereign Independent Kingdom, lies between 80 degree 12' east longitude and 26 degree 22' and 30 degree 27' north latitude. It is bounded on the north by the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China; on the east by Sikkim and West Bengal of the Indian Union on the south by Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and on the west by Uttar Pradesh of Indian Union. The length of the Kingdom is 885 kilometers east-west and its breath varies from 145 to 241 kilometers north-south. Climatically, it lies in the temperate zone with the added advantage of altitude.

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History of Nepal

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.

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People

The population of Nepal was recorded to be about 25 million as of July 2005. Eighty-six percent of Nepalis follow Hinduism, while eight percent follow Buddhism and three percent follow Islam. The population comprises various groups of different races which are further divided into different castes. The distinction in caste and ethnicity is understood more easily with a view of customary layout of the population.

Some of the main groups are such: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangpas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the capital valley of Kathmandu; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.

Nepali is the official language of the state, spoken and understood by 100 percent of the population. Multiple ethnic groups speak more than a dozen other languages in about 93 different dialects. English is spoken by many in government and business offices. It is the mode of education in most private schools of Kathmandu and some other cities.

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Religion

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.

Religious Festivals

Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious significance. The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati's victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Laxmi.

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Natural Resource: The biggest natural museum in the world

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.