Nepal is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia with an area of 147,181 square kilometer and a population of approximately 27 million. Nepal is the world’s 93rd largest country by land mass and 41st most populous country. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. Specifically, the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Sikkim border Nepal, while across the Himalayas lies theTibetan Autonomous Region. Nepal is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Indian Siliguri corridor. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest metropolis.
The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the world’s ten tallest mountains, including the highest point on Earth, Mount Everest, called Sagarmatha in Nepali. It contains more than 240 peaks over 20,000 ft above sea level. The southern Terai region is fertile and humid. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, is located in this region. Lumbini is one of the holy places of one of the world’s great religion, and it remains contain important evidence about the nature of Buddhist pilgrimage centre from as early as the 3rd century. Hinduism is practiced by about 81.3% of Nepalese, making it the country with the highest percentage of Hindus, Buddhism is linked historically with Nepal and is practiced by 9%, Islam by 4.4%, Kirat by 3.1%, Christianity 1.4% and animism 0.4%.
In the mid-18th century, Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha king, set out to put together what would become present-day Nepal. He embarked on his mission after seeking arms and aid from India and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, notably the Battle of Kirtipur, he managed to conquer the Kathmandu Valley in 1769. A detailed account of Prithvi Narayan Shah's victory was written by Father Giuseppe who was an eyewitness to the war.
Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 KM long and 200 KM wide, with an area of 147,181 km2. It lies between latitudes 26° and 31° north and longitudes 80° and 89° east.
Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Mountain, Hill and Terai. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems. The southern lowland plains or Terai bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major Himalayan rivers: the Koshi, the Narayani, and the Karnali as well as smaller rivers rising below the permanent snowline. This region has a subtropical to tropical climate. The outermost range of foothills called Shiwalik or Churia Range cresting at 700 to 1,000m (2,297 to 3,281 ft) marks the limit of the Gangetic Plain, however broad, low valleys called Inner Terai (BhitriTaraiUptyaka) lie north of these foothills in several places.
The Hill Region known as Pahad in Nepali abuts the mountains and varies from 800 to 4,000m in altitude with progression from subtropical climates below 1,200m (3,937 ft) to alpine climates above 3,600m. The Mahabharat Range reaching 1,500 to 3,000m (4,921 to 9,843 ft) is the southern limit of this region, with subtropical river valleys and "hills" alternating to the north of this range. Population density is high in valleys but notably less above 2,000m (6,562 ft) and very low above 2,500m where snow occasionally falls in winter. The Mountain Region known as Parbat in Nepali language is situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the highest elevations in the world including 8,848m height Mount Everest, Sagarmatha in Nepali on the border with China. Seven other of the world's eight thousand meter peaks are in Nepal or on its border with China: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu
Climates and Seasons:
Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200m(3,937 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400m (3,937 to 7,874 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600m (7,874 to 11,811 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400m (11,811 to 14,436 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400m(14,436 ft). Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.
Nepal is popular for mountaineering, having some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.
Elevation and Zones:
The dramatic differences in elevation found in Nepal result in a variety of biomes, from tropical savannas along the Indian border, to subtropical broadleaf and coniferous forests in the Hill Region, totemperate broadleaf and coniferous forests on the slopes of the Himalaya, to montane grasslands and shrublands and rock and ice at the highest elevations. At the lowest elevations is the Terai-Duar savanna and grasslands ecoregion. These form a mosaic with the Himalayan subtropical broadleaf forests, which occur from 500 to 1,000 metres (1,600 to 3,300 ft) and include the Inner Terai Valleys. Himalayan subtropical pine forests occur between 1,000 and 2,000 metres (3,300 and 6,600 ft). Above these elevations, the biogeography of Nepal is generally divided from east to west by the Gandaki River. Ecoregions to the east tend to receive more precipitation and to be more species-rich. Those to the west are drier with fewer species. From 1,500 to 3,000 metres (4,900 to 9,800 ft), are temperate broadleaf forests: the eastern and western Himalayan broadleaf forests. From 3,000 to 4,000 metres (9,800 to 13,000 ft) are theeastern and western Himalayan subalpine conifer forests. To 5,500 metres (18,000 ft) are the eastern and western Himalayan alpine shrub and meadows.
Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts, grouped into five development regions. Each district is headed by a permanent chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries. The five regions and 14 zones are:
- Eastern Region (Purwanchal): Koshi, Mechi and Sagarmatha
- Central Region (Madhyamanchal): Bagmati, Janakpur and Narayani
- Western Region (Pashchimanchal): Dhawalagiri, Gandaki and Lumbini
- Mid-Western Region (Madhya Pashchimanchal): Bheri, Karnali and Rapti
- Far-Western Region (SudurPashchimanchal): Mahakali and Seti.
Neighboring country and Nepal Army:
Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbors, India and China. In accordance with a long-standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each other's countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. The Indian Army maintains seven Gorkha regiments consisting of Gorkha troops recruited mostly from Nepal. However, since the Government of Nepal has been dominated by Socialists and India's by more right-wing parties, India has been remilitarizing the "porous" Indo-Nepali border, in order to stifle the flow of Islamist groups. Nepal established relations with the People's Republic of China on 1 August 1955, and relations since have been based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. Nepal has aided China in the aftermath of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, and China has provided economic assistance for Nepali infrastructure. Both countries have cooperated to host the 2008 Summer Olympics summit of Mt. Everest. Nepal has assisted in curbing anti-China protests from the Tibetan diaspora. Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army, which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service. The Nepalese Police Force is the civilian police and the Armed Police Force Nepalis the paramilitary force. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. Much of the equipment and arms are imported from India. Consequently, the US provided M16s M4s and other Colt weapons to combat communist (Maoist) insurgents. The standard-issue battle rifle of the Nepalese army is the Colt M16.
In the new regulations by Nepalese Army, female soldiers have been barred from participating in combat situations and fighting in the frontlines of war. However, they are allowed to be a part of the army in sections like intelligence, headquarters, signals and operations
Road and Airports:
Nepal remains isolated from the world's major land, air and sea transport routes although, within the country, aviation is in a better state, with 47 airports, 11 of them with paved runways, flights are frequent and support a sizable traffic. The hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. In 2007 there were just over 10,142 km (6,302 mi) of paved roads, and 7,140 km of unpaved road, and one 59 km (37 mi) railway line in the south. There is a single reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. More than one-third of its people live at least a two hours walk from the nearest all-season road; 15 out of 75 district headquarters are not connected by road. In addition, some 60% of road network and most rural roads are not operable during the rainy season.The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta in India. Internally, the poor state of development of the road system makes access to markets, schools, and health clinics a challenge.
Language and ethnicity:
Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous languages isolates. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) according to the 2011 census are Nepali (44.6%), Maithili (11.7% ), Bhojpuri (6.0%), Tharu (5.8%), Tamang (5.1%), Nepal Bhasa (3.2%), Bajjika (3%) and Magar (3.0%), Doteli (3.0%), Urdu (2.6%) and Sunuwar. In addition, Nepal is home to at least four indigenous sign languages. Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali has roots in Sanskrit and is written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalese of different ethno linguistic groups. Regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri, Maithili and rarely Hindi are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Many Nepalese in government and business speak English as well. Dialects of Tibetan are spoken in and north of the higher Himalaya where standard literary Tibetan is widely understood by those with religious education. Local dialects in the Terai and hills are mostly unwritten with efforts underway to develop systems for writing many in Devanagari or the Roman alphabet.
Religion and Culture and Tradition:
The overwhelming majority of the Nepalese population follows Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Nepal is home to the famous Lord Shiva temple, the Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to theology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana, was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.
Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site and UNESCO World Heritage Site site in the Kapilavastu district. Traditionally it is held to be the birthplace in about 563 B.C. of Siddhartha Gautama, a Kshatriya caste prince of the Sakya clan, who, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.
The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built. All three main branches of Buddhism exist in Nepal and the Newa people have their own branch of the faith. Buddhism is also the dominant religion of the thinly populated northern areas, which are mostly inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, such as the Sherpa. The Buddha, born as a Hindu, is also said to be a descendant of Vedic Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts. The Buddha's family surname is associated with Gautama Maharishi.Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been minimal in Nepal due to the cultural and historical intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Moreover traditionally Buddhism and Hinduism were never two distinct religions in the western sense of the word. In Nepal, the faiths share common temples and worship common deities. Among other natives of Nepal, those more influenced by Hinduism were the Magar,Sunwar, Limbu and Rai and the Gurkhas. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies.Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu. The Machendrajatra festival, dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated by many Buddhists in Nepal as a main festival.As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal, some important priests in Nepal are called "TirthaguruNemuni".Islam is a minority religion in Nepal, with 4.2% of the population being Muslim according to a 2006 Nepalese census. Mundhum, Christianity and Jainism are other minority faiths.
Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life, tales of love, affection and battles as well as demons and ghosts and thus reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Many Nepalese folktales are enacted through the medium of dance and music.The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (28 December), PrithviJayanti (11 January), Martyr's Day (18 February), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as Dashain in autumn, and Tihar in late autumn. During Swanti, the Newars perform the Mha Puja ceremony to celebrate New Year's Day of the lunar calendar Nepal Sambat.Most houses in rural lowland of Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework and walls of a mud and cow-dung mix. These dwellings remain cool in summer and retain warmth in winter. Houses in the hills are usually made of unbaked bricks with thatch or tile roofing. At high elevations construction changes to stone masonry and slate may be used on roofs.
Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is not rectangular in shape and is considered to be the most mathematical flag in the world. According to its official description, the red in the flag stands for victory in war or courage, and is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Red also stands for aggression. The flag's blue border signifies peace. The curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of Nepalese, while the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.
A typical Nepalese meal is Dal bhat. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar(pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients). It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds, etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best. Momo is a type of steamed bun with or without fillings. Momo have become a traditional delicacy in Nepal. They are one of the most popular fast foods in many regions of the Nepal.