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 Nepal/s most scared
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 Nepal/s southern plains, which makes Nepal
a scared pilgrimage destination for Buddhists
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.
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.
Nepal has a population of more than 23 million
consisting of more than 70 ethnic groups having
different cultures and speaking above 70 languages.
According to some recently calculated figures
(based on the 1981/1982 census) 80% of the people
are Hindus, 15% are Buddhists and around 3% are
Muslims. The rest are divided into other religions.
Whatever might be the figures, the perfect harmony
maintained beautifully by people despite the religious
differences is truly remarkable in Nepal. The
distribution of the different ethnic groups reflects
the geographical diversity of the country. The
majority of Nepal's population is of Indo-Aryan
origin the remaining are of Tibetan and Bhotiya
inhabitants of Northern Nepal (such as Sherpas,
Dolpas and Lopas of Mustang) and the Mongoloid
inhabitants of the central belt (such as Newars,
Tamangs, Rais, Limbus, Sunuwars, Magars and Gurung
The four main divisions
of castes in Hindu Nepal are Bahun, Chhetri, Vaishya
and Shudra. The family names of some Hindu castes
may reflect locality as well as caste specific
occupation. For instance, in Newari Society potters
are known as Kumal (kumale), while masons are
known as dakarmis. The common surnames of East
and central Nepal are Gotame, Sharma, Regmi, Acharya,
Nepal, Upadhyay, Aryal, Bhandari, Adhikari and
Paudyal; those from West Nepal include Pant, Joshi,
Bishta, Bhatta, Pandey, Awasthi, Lohani.
Everything 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:
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
Historical - The
historical festivals are celebrated to keep alive
memories of events of importance. Gaijatra, was
introduced by Jaya Prakash Malla.
Agricultural - Since
Nepal is an agricultural country there are different
festivals like Laxmi Puja which mark the different
seasons of harvesting, planting etc.
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.
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.
One of the interesting ways to understand
the beauty and richness of Nepali culture is through
its festivals. During festivals in Nepal, cultural
dances, songs and performances are practiced.
These cultural treasures make the festivals interesting
and entertaining. People find more joy participating
in performances and watching others perform and
so, no festivals are idle gatherings. Instead,
they are lively and purposeful.
Of the many sites, ten of them have been
incorporated into the list of World Heritage Sites
by UNESCO. The list includes both natural as well
as cultural sites. Of the eight cultural heritage
sites, seven of them which glorify the Kathmandu
Valley, are within the distance of 20 kilometres.
Kathmandu Durbar Square, Patan Durbar Square,
Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Swayambhunath Stupa,
Pashupatinath Temple, Bouddhanath Stupa, Changu
Narayan Temple are within the valley whereas the
birht place of Lord Buddha, Lumbini is the only
cultural Heritage site outside the valley. Everest
(Sagarmatha) National Park and Chitwan National
Park are the two natural heritage sites.
Besides those many included in the World
Heritage Sites, Nepal has other heritage and pilgrimage
sites as well that are very important to the people
and their distinctive and respective cultures.
These range from the Nuwakot Palace to Gorkha
Palace, from Mukti Nath to Dev Ghat dham. Most
of these sites are remotely located, and have
communities grown around them. These sites are
important from historical as well from religious
points of view. Most of these sites are also proven
to be very good trekking routes, as in Muktinath
and Gosaikund. Tours to these sites are highly
encouraged not only for religious purposes but
also for witnessing and appreciating the various
cultural and traditional ethos of this small but
diverse country. Most of these sites are open
throughout the year for tourism because they are
considered living museums.
Nepal is a premier destination for Hindu, Buddhist,
Sanskrit and Tantric studies. Community education
and historical surveys are also very popular.
Study of the ancient Bon religion is also gaining
ground, besides studies in animism and shamanism
that are still extant in Nepal. Serious studies
of Nepal are also quite an experience. Most of
Buddhist studies are done in monasteries located
in remote areas of the country. Sanskrit studies
are normally taken up in Kathmandu and the Terai
lowlands. Study visits have to be pre-arranged.
Most of the monasteries allow students only on
special requests. Sanskrit learning also must
be pre-arranged. Visits to the places of learning
can be done through direct contact.
Nepal and its heritage sites, historical
landmarks and pilgrimage destinations as well
as the peoples and their communities are all open
museums The three Durbar Squares of the Kathmandu
Valley have all been open-air museums for decades.
Most of the museums in Nepal are dedicated to
the arts and craft of the past centuries. There
is also a museum of natural history, and some
others that are dedicated to contemporary arts.
The most important museum in Nepal is the National
Museum. It is located at the western end of the
Kathmandu Valley. This museum holds a large collection
of weapons, art and antiquities of historical
and cultural importance. Another famous museum
is the Hanuman Dhoka Palace. One museum of historical
significance is the Kapilvastu Museum located
at Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha. This
museum has a unique collection of coins, pottery,
toys and other artifacts.
The art and craft of Nepal are basically based
on the religious themes taken from Buddhism and
Hinduism. Nepalese art has been influenced and
promoted since the earliest recorded times by
the Newars. The history of arts in Nepal is divided
into five major periods prior to the Gorkha dynasty.
These are Pre-Licchavi, Licchavi, transitional,
Early Malla and late Malla periods. Pre-Licchavi
art is represented by the many terra-cotta figures
being discovered and excavated. The Mallas contributed
immensely to the arts and architecture of the
Kathmandu Valley. Buddhist thanka and Newar paubha
paintings have been executed in Nepal since time
immemorial. Cave paintings by Buddhist monks are
found in very remote areas such as the Sagarmatha
region and Mustang. Watching the Nepalese arts
and craft can be a cultural walk in historical
MUSIC & DANCE
Music and dances have always been an
integral part of Nepali culture. The many forms
of dances and music differing from one region
to another are one of the best sources of entertainment,
which has its own uniqueness and beauty. Nepali
music, unlike western music, does not have any
written notations. It is based on melody and improvisation.
The different Raaga`s
are the bases of classical music in Nepal. Different
raagas are meant for different times of a day
or different seasons. These raagas are generally
named as Basanta (spring), Malshree (autumn),
Sinyamein (summer), Deepak (monsoon) etc.
Communities of people like the gaine`s and badi`s,
who pass on their talents from one generation
to the other, still entertain people with their
songs and dances in some parts of Nepal. The Gaine`s
also make good sales-men as they sell Sarangi`s
(the musical instrument they make for sale and
to play themselves). Music, in Nepal, has also
been widely used for religious purposes. Bhajans
and Charya songs and dances are very fascinating.
Dances are almost
always associated with festivals in Nepal. There
are many forms of popular dances, and their flavor
changes as one moves up from the lowland Terai
to the doons and valleys to the high hills and
mountains. Every dance is performed for some spiritual
purpose. The choreography include simple wood
stick dances in the south to the intricate details
of the trance-induced dances of the Kathmandu
Valley to the furious mask dances to the north.
Basically, the dances are divided into Hindu and
Buddhist cultures. Dance events are also a form
of social gatherings. The hilly regions have very
simple dance forms which involve the shaking of
the hips and hands, and easy for anyone to learn.
It is worthwhile for visitors to take part in
The different dances
(folk and classical) are a talent of displaying
different emotions. In these Nepali dances even
a flicker of an eyelid and the movement of a hand
would have a meaning. Dances are performed not
only for entertainment, but also for different
social and religious purposes. Classical dances
like the Gan Payakhan (a panel of eight mother
goddesses) of, Patan, the Nava-Durga dance of
Bhaktapur, The Bhairav dance of Halchowk are among
the wide range of classical dances in Nepal. These
dances and songs are performed by different public
and private organizations committed to preserve
them like 'The Royal Nepal Academy', 'Rastriya
Naach Ghar' etc.
INTERESTING NEPALI CUSTOMS
Nepal is full of cultural wonders.
Some of these cultural practices might seem strange
to a person without prior-knowledge about what
one should expect to see. So, we now see some
general cultural practices practiced in Nepal.
Tika and kohl lined eyes.
Tika, a mark on the forehead, symbolizes
the blessings of god. The colours of the tika
varies according to the occasion and type of temple
one visits. The black gajal or kohl is used to
line the eyes of children to keep away evil eyes.
Most Nepali`s do not feel comfortable with the
display of love in presence of others. Public
display of love would embarrass the onlookers
and could put the lovers in a very awkward position.
Child marriage, polygamy and polyandry, though
illegal now, once fed Nepali newspapers with interesting
stories. The marriageable age has been legally
set as 18 for girls and 21 for women. Even today,
most people do not have love marriages, the decision
is usually made by the parents. Yet, the divorce
rate is considerably low.
Since Nepal is a country rich in ethnicity, there
are different costumes worn by different ethnic
groups. But generally, the men wear Daura suruwal`s
and women wear sari`s.
FOR PURIFICATION AND CLEANING
Touching a pig
Certain castes of people, in Nepal, are not supposed
to touch pigs. If they happen to touch a pig,
they are supposed to purify themselves by taking
a holy-dip in a river or by going to a temple.
The golden temple of Kwabaha is known for this
Cleansing the house with
Before almost every religious ceremony, the house
is first mopped and then the house is cleansed
by painting the floor with a mixture of red clay
Soap is considered impure
In certain orthodox families soap is considered
to be impure because they believe that it is made
of pigs fat. So, they further purify their hands,
after washing it with soap, by touching fire or
by rubbing a piece of yellow clay.
Drinking water, in orthodox Nepali homes, is served
in a water-pot with a little faucet. The faucet
allows the drinker to drink the water without
touching it with his/her lips.
A female having her menstruation periods is restricted
from coming in physical contact with men and religious
places until she takes four complete purification
baths on the fourth day of her periods. In far-western
Nepal there is a special hut for women having
A sarki (shoemakers)
It is believed that as a shoemaker a Sarki always
wishes to get cowhide (cows are considered to
be holy and killing of a cow is punishable by
law). Thus, Sarkis or shoemakers in Nepal are
considered to be of the so called lowest of castes
and are treated as untouchables.
There are different types of Nepali food depending
on the region the kind of food belongs to but
most Nepali`s have Dal (lentil soup), bhat (steamed
rice) and tarkari (curried vegetables). It is
often accompanied by aachar (pickles). Curried
meat is popular, but since meat is expensive people
save it for special occasions.
Tibetan influences increase
as you go north and perenial favorites like momo`s
(steamed or fried dumplings stuffed with meat),
are widely available. As we move towars the south
Indian influences are seen in the food.
Most Nepali`s do not use
cutlery to eat they eat with their right hand.
A few Nepali food
Daal - Bhat :
The taste of Daal and Bhat vary, depending on
the cook. It always tastes wonderful with aachar.
It is often available in restaurants.
Chapatis (Roti) :
They are flat pancake-like breads made of wheat
or rice flour. They are available in restaurants
and can be eaten accompanied by Daal and curry.
most average Nepali people have this as a meal.
It is made of different kinds of flours, ranging
from wheat to millet, which is boiled until thick.