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Nepal Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of Nepal
With more than 30 different ethnic groups and a wide range of religions and language dialects, Nepalese society is rich in diversity. With Indian, Tibetan, Chinese and Mongolian influences, Nepalese food, clothing, customs and music vary, depending on what area you're travelling in and what ethnicity people belong to or identify with. Hinduism is the dominant religion, followed by Buddhism. Standing alongside these religions, there are also small populations of people who follow Islam and Christianity. Simultaneously, animist beliefs and belief in spirits is common throughout Nepal, particularly within rural communities. Like India, the caste system exists in Nepal, as does the custom of arranged marriage. As one of the least urbanised countries in the world, life differs greatly between the rural and city-dwelling populations, with rural people largely living a very simple, traditional life - slow-paced, village-based, in connection to their family and local community. Visitors will be charmed by the hospitality of Nepalese people, who are generally very friendly and welcoming of travellers.
Geography and Environment of Nepal
Landlocked Nepal shares borders with China and India and is home to a wide range of landscapes and habitats. Possessing the world's highest mountain, much of Nepal's land is dominated by hills and mountain ranges. Much of the rest of the country is known as the Terai region, characterised by forests, plains, marshes and scrub. While Kathmandu is a busy city with a population of upwardly mobile residents, most of Nepal's people are rural-dwellers, with more than 80% of Nepalese people living in small towns or villages.
History and Government of Nepal
Nepal has been inhabited by people for more than 2,500 years, with evidence suggesting tribes of mountain-dwelling people moved to the area from China and other Central Asian regions. Due to a lack of archaeological evidence, little is known about the early periods of history in Nepal, with legend and folklore providing the backdrop to this kingdom of mystery. Ruled early on by the Kirati Dynasty, Nepal continued to be ruled by a succession of dynasties until the Malla Dynasty emerged in the 12th century. During this time, the kingdom expanded rapidly and widely before evolving into small communities with local rule. By the 15th century many temples and palaces had been built in Nepal, some of which are still in existence either as functioning temples or UNESCO World Heritage sites. The kingdom of Nepal was unified by King Shah in 1768, and went on to sign commercial treaties with Britain in 1792 and 1816 after hostilities with the British East India Company.
Nepal held its first elections in 1959, but with the king dissolving parliament and banning political parties soon after, Nepal's monarchy retained power. After decades of pro-democracy movements, Nepal was finally declared a democratic republic in 2008, with Nepal's monarchy being removed from power after ruling for more than 240 years. Nepal celebrated its Year of Tourism in 2011, with arrivals increasing year upon year since 2006 due to increased infrastructure, expansion of air travel and the enduring popularity of the Himalayas and mighty Mount Everest.
Nepal at a glance
- Kathmandu (population 700,000)
- 29.5 million
- (GMT+05:45) Kathmandu
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type D (Old British 3-pin), Type M (see D)
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