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Nepal is the land locked country and located between & 26’22 and 30’27’ North latitude and 80’4’ and 88’12’ east longitude. It is a Himalayan country situated in the middle of the China in North and India in the south. It is surrounded 3 parts East, West & South by India and north by China shaped in rectangle and average length of country is 885 kilometers and average width is 193 kilometer and total area is 147,181 kilometers.
Within a short distance, Nepal’s topography changes from the alluvial Gangetic plains suitable for agriculture to the frozen wastes of the Himalayan mountains. Between the two extremes lie the middle hills and the lesser mountains consisting of the Churia range and the Mahabharat lek as they are known. There are several inner Himalayan valleys with desert conditions such as the upper Kaligandaki and Bheri valleys located at altitudes above 3,600m.
Total Population is 28.50 millions Countries have divided to three geographical regions:
The Himalayan Region
The Mountain region
The Tarai Region
Currency: NPR (Nepalese Rupees)
Exchange Rate: 1 USD= NPR 101.00 Approx
The Himalayan Region:
The Upper Himalaya ranges from 4,000m above sea level to 8,848m above sea level. It occupies 15% of the total area of the country and within this region lie eight of the fourteen highest peaks in the world exceeding 8000m. They are: Mount Everest, Kanchenjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri, Manaslu and Annapurna. The high Himalaya is extremely cold, windy and inhospitable while the region immediately below them are inhabited but the land is far less fertile than the lower Himalayas. Thus, cultivation is minimal in this region. However, it is the mountains that attract the bulk of tourists who arrive in Nepal for trekking and mountaineering.
Middle Hills & Lower Himalaya
The middle hills and Lower Himalaya form the largest part of the country and also has the largest population. Occupying 68% of the country, it enjoys a temperate climate and the land here is far more fertile than in the upper Himalayan region. At the high end, the Mahabharat range reaches an altitude of around 4000m above sea level while the Churia range is lower in comparison. In this region lies the capital, Kathmandu and some of the popular tourist destinations such as Pokhara and Tansen.
The plains of Nepal are known as the Tarai and they occupy 17% of the land, stretching from the far-west to the far-east covering the entire southern part of the country. The lowest altitude in this region is known to be 70m above sea level. With a sub-tropical climate, the land here is exceedingly fertile and produces the bulk of the food grains for the country’s population. Along this belt lie the Chitwan National Park, Bardia National Park, Shukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve and the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve which harbor an amazing variety of wildlife including endangered species such as the elusive Royal Bengal tiger, the One-horned rhinoceros and Gangetic dolphins along with rare species of birds.
Nepal experiences 4 seasons:
Spring (Mid Feb - April),
summer (May - Aug),
autumn (Sep - Nov) and
winter (Dec – Mid- Feb).
The climate changes rapidly from the sub-tropical Tarai to the cool dry temperate and alpine conditions in the northern Himalayan ranges within a short span of 200 km. In the Tarai, which is the hottest part of the country, summer temperatures rise above 45°C. The climate here is hot and humid. In the middle hills, the summer climate is pleasant with temperatures around 25°C - 27°C.
The winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C in the Tarai and sub-zero to 12°C in the mountainous regions, hills and valleys. The northern Himalayan region has an alpine climate with temperatures reaching below -30°C. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant climate with an average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C - 27°C and 2°C - 12°C
Nepal’s biodiversity is a reflection of its unique geographic position and variations in altitude and climate. The protected areas add up to 28,585.67 sq km (19.42% of total land cover) of land. There are nine national parks, three wildlife reserves, three conservation areas, one hunting reserve and nine buffer zones. Share of Bio-resources is: Amphibians: 1.0%; birds: 9.3%; reptiles: 1.6%; mammals: 4.5%
Nepal has 185 different mammals found in various parts of the country. The Asiatic Elephant was once found in great numbers in the Bardia National Park in western Nepal, but are now fewer. This park falls on a traditional elephant migratory route from the western Tarai to Corbett National Park in India. The Greater one-horned Rhinoceros can be found in the parks along the Tarai. There are very few wild buffalo left near the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the eastern Tarai, but recent reports say their numbers are growing. The Royal Bengal tiger is an elusive animal found in the national parks. The Gangetic dolphins are found in the Narayani and Karnali rivers along with the Royal Bengal and one horned rhino are endangered species. Rarely seen is the leopard and bear. High in the Himalaya are found the even more elusive snow leopard. Other mammals that live in high altitudes are the Yak, blue sheep, tahr and musk deer. The jungles of the southern tarai have sloth bear, monkeys, langur, chital or spotted deer, barking deer and many other species. In the Sukla Phanta Wildlife Reserve in the south west corner of Nepal there are herds of swamp deer, while the endangered blackbucks are found in the Bardia region. The Nepal Government has made an effort to preserve the blackbuck by declaring an area of 15.95 sq.km. in Bardia as Blackbuck Conservation Area where they are now thriving. Nepal has an amazing variety of mammals such as hyenas, jackals, wild boar, antelope, wild cats, Red panda, otters, wolves and others. Most animals are found in the Chitwan National Park while the Red Panda is encountered in the Langtang National Park and Kanchenjunga Conservation Area. Otters are found in the Rara lake in the Rara National Park. In the Dhorpatan Hunting Reserve are found the blue sheep and tahr.
Nepal has two indigenous species of crocodile: the fish eating gharial with the long narrow snout and the marsh mugger which is omnivorous, eating anything it can catch. A very successful breeding project has brought the gharial back from extinction. Some of the snakes found in Nepal are: cobras, kraits, vipers and the Indian Python. Other reptiles found in the country are turtles and monitor lizards. Some of these reptiles can be seen in the Chitwan National Park and Bardia National Park.
Nepal has 874 recorded species of birds. Amazingly, half of these birds can be seen in Kathmandu valley alone. However, a keen bird watcher can travel the length and breadth of Nepal doing little else but bird watching. In Nepal, bird watching is possible from the tarai in the south, in the middle hills right up to the Himalayas in the north.
There are four major areas that are rich in bird life within the Kathmandu valley, and one can begin right from the banks of the Bagmati River that flows through this city or the Manohara River that flows down Bhaktapur. Birds sighted along these rivers are: egrets, herons, kingfishers, ibisbill, Wood sandpipers and plovers etc. The Chobar gorge is also a good area for birds as its isolation from human habitation encourages their presence. Phulchowki is a popular site, with a Red-headed Trogan, a very rare bird sighted there in April 2000. Phulchowki is 2,760 m in height and 18km south-east of Kathmandu, and can be reached via Godavari. The hillside is covered with forest featuring outstanding flora as well as a rich variety of birds. About 90 species have been recorded in this area including the endemic Spiny Babbler, which was thought to be extinct until it was spotted in Nepal. Other birds found are: Cutia, Mountain Hawk Eagle, Rufous Bellied pied woodpeckers and the Black-throated parrotbill, to name a few. Migratory water fowl also arrive in the winter, staying in the Tauda lake until spring.
Other birding sites in the valley are the Shivapuri National Park, 12km north of the city, and Nagarjun in the north-west. Shivapuri can be reached two ways, either from Sundarijal or Budhanilkantha. Koshi Barrage together with Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in the eastern Tarai is one of the best habitats for water fowl and waders and harbors an amazing variety of birds. The Koshi has about 26 varieties of ducks alone. Birds can be viewed during walks or by boat, gliding through the waters in the stillness of the early morning and evenings. 485 species have been sighted here, including Black ibis, Honey kites, ospreys, Black headed orioles, Peregrine falcon, partridges, ruddy shelduck, storks, vultures, eagles, etc.
Chitwan is in the lowlands of Nepal, known as the Tarai. Chitwan National Park is one of the best known sites in Nepal for bird-watching. In Pokhara, the forests around the banks of Phewa Lake and Begnas Lake are ideal for bird watching, particularly in the less inhabited areas. In winter, around Phewa Lake you find egrets, herons, pipits, buntings plus gulls, terns, ducks and falcons. Begnas Lake has slopes and wet fields surrounding it, where ducks, pheasant-tailed Jacana, Happie Grey Bellied tesias, and bulbuls are seen.
Bardia National Park is covered with Sal forest and riverine forest and grassland much like Chitwan, but this park has the mighty Karnali river flowing through the park. Boating on the Karnali is a great way to watch herons, cormorants, orials, and many more. The higher regions of Nepal along trek routes are good for birdwatching too. A rare bird known as Jerdon's Baza was sighted in Nepal.
Over the past few years a conservation group has worked specifically in the Lumbini area to conserve the Sarus Crane. Wetlands have been constructed in the Lumbini area to provide refuge for Sarus Cranes and other wetland birds. In Chitwan, endangered vultures are being protected from contaminated food by establishing what is known as the Vulture Restaurant which feeds them safe carcasses. Nepal’s national bird is the Impeyan Pheasant known as Daphe in Nepali.
Butterflies have been studied in Nepal for over 150 years, with much of the original study and collection done by the British, including one or two British Residents (i.e. British Consuls of the day). After 1950 the Japanese became involved in collection through scientific expeditions, and this resulted later in the establishment by Tribhuvan University of the Natural History Museum at Swayambhu in 1974. Butterfly
The record books state that Nepal has 11 out of the 15 families of butterflies in the world, or over 500 species, and still today in the 21st century new species keep turning up. It is said that you never really know with Nepal's butterflies; they just may turn up unexpectedly . From 1974 to 1981, only a period of seven years, a further 24 specimens or sub-families were added to the records, and in 1981 two alone, the BLUE DUCHESS and the SIKKIM HAIRSTREAK were discovered, with this last one known only from a single specimen from Sikkim, with this one female found in 1981 in Godavari, Kathmandu Valley ; and later in 1986 an entirely new race of the CHINESE HAIRSTREAK turned up. The original collectors were not allowed outside the Kathmandu Valley, so much of their research documented only the valley. Only after 1950 when Nepal opened up to expeditions and limited tourism, did the butterfly collectors venture outside the valley.
Nepal is divided into 5 regions based on altitude, and the seasons are specified as Spring, Pre-monsoon, Summer-monsoon, Post-monsoon, Autumn and Winter. In winter below 3,000 metres.
Within the Kathmandu Valley, the climate which is quite mild with day temperatures reaching 18ºC in mid-winter, there are butterflies all the year round. The best seasons for butterfly watching are late March/April, mid May/ mid June, late August/September. There are forested areas in the valley which are still remarkable places for butterflies, and they include open country near Chobar and there is very little activity except for the very common Oriental Species, with the distribution of butterflies in Nepal being quite specific with about 10% of the butterflies being Palaearctic species above 3,000 metres, and about 90% Oriental species Swyambhu; the base of the hills and forest streams at Godavari, Nagarjun, Budhanilkantha and Sundarijal; the forested hilltops of Phulchowki, Jamachowk and Shivapuri, and the open scrubby bush areas of Nagarkot , Suryavinyak and Chandragiri.
There are about 20 Kathmandu Valley species on the endangered or vulnerable list. Outside the valley in the areas of the National Parks scattered throughout the country, the butterflies too are in profusion, and in undisturbed areas away from settlements are the ideal places to sit and watch.
Records from 2006 show that Nepal has 6,391 flowering plant species representing 1,590 genera and 231 families whereas in 1997, they recorded 4,259 species representing 1,447 genera and 194 families. Nepal’s share of flowering plant species is 2.76% of the global total compared to earlier records of 2.36%. Nepal’s share of pteriodophytes is 5.15% compared to earlier records of 4.45%.
There are 2,532 species of vascular plants represented by 1,034 genera and 199 families in the protected sites. Some 130 endemic species are found in the protected sites.
For ecology and vegetation purposes Nepal could be divided into four floristic regions i.e. (a) western (b) north-western (c) central, and (d) eastern, and bio-climatically these are broken down into twenty regions from humid tropical climate to the arid, alpine regions. But for the purpose of identifying Nepal’s flora for the special interest tourist, the following shows the zones from the point of view of altitude i.e. Tropical zone (below 1,000 m), Sub-tropical Zone (1,000 to 2,100 m), Temperate Zone (2,100 to 3,100 m), Sub-alpine Zone (3,100 to 4,100 m), the Alpine Zone (4,100 to 4,500 m), and the Alpine Steppe region.
There are 399 endemic flowering plants in Nepal of which about 63% are from the High Mountains, 38% from the Mid Hills, and only 5% from the Tarai and Siwaliks. Similarly, the central region contains 66% of the total endemic species followed by western (32%) and eastern regions (29%).
To the geological world, Shaligram is one of the coiled chambered fossil shells of the extinct Cepalopod Mollusks that came into existence as part of the initial emergence of the Himalayan heights from the depths of the Tethys-sea millions of years ago. The Nepali, however, sees the Shaligram from a religious aspect because of its embodiment of Vishnu, one of the major manifestations in the Hindu Trinity. Puranas like Scanda, Padam and Baraha written around 2000 years ago, give an exhaustive account of Shaligram, which are divided into a wide variety of color, shape and size. They can be found in the north of the Nilgiri range right up to Damodar Kunda, and also in the waters of the Kaligandaki river right up to Tribeni in Dolalghat. However, the most popular belt is on the banks of the Kaligandaki river at Jomsom where pilgrims who pass through on their way to Muktinath search for a wide variety of Shaligrams.
Medicinal plants, Ayurveda and the Himalayas are intertwined in a very special manner and Nepal, with a large section lying in the Himalayan region, has special significance. Medicinal plants are used in traditional rural remedies, Ayurvedic medicines, Homoeopathic medicines, and many of them find a place in allopathic medicine as well.
There are thousands of species easily available and most of them are only available in the Himalayan Zone. The demand for these herbs is high and they can be cultivated on a large scale, but care must be taken to preserve these species of medicinal plants.
Some of the important and well-known medicinal plants are: Alpine & sub-alpine medicinal plants: Aconitum Spp., Picrorrhiza scrophularaeflora, Swertia multicaulis, Rheum emodi, Nardostachys jatamansi, Ephedra gerardiana, Cordyceps sinensis, Dactylorhiza hatagirea.
Tropical and sub-tropical medicinal plants: Terminalias, Cassia fistula, Cassia catechu, Aegles marmelos, Rauwolfia serpentina, Phyllanthus emblica, Ricinus recemosus, Acorus clams, Acacia concinnity, Butte monster.
Temperate zone medicinal plants: Valeriana wallichii, Berberis, Datura, Solanum, Rubia, Zanthoxylum armatum, Gaultheria fragrautissima, Dioscorea deltoidea, Curulligo orchoidies.
Some of the regions where medicinal plants are abundantly found are: the Tarai region of Nawalparasi, Chitwan, Bardia, Dhanusha, Mid-hilly Region of Makhwanpur, Syanja, Kaski, Lamgjung, Dolakha, Parvat, Ilam, Ramechhap, Nuwakot, and the Himalayan region of Dolpa, Mugu, Humla, Jumla, Manang, Mustang and Solukhumbu.
In ancient Rome, Theophrastus, a student of Plato, was intrigued by the sight of a plant with a pair of roots. Orchis was the name he gave them, the Greek word for testicles. Worldwide, there are some 500 to 600 genera and some 20,000 to 35,000 names, the largest of all plant families, and out of this, Nepal has 57 genera (27 Terrestrials and 30 Epiphytic) with a few Lithophytes. Spread over a large area in different ecological zones, from the foothills of the Himalayas to the plains in the Tarai, orchids are quite widespread in Nepal giving nature lovers and horticultural experts a treat.
Some beautiful terrestrial orchids that flower during July-August have a stem with only two leaves and purple flowers while another orchid from the same genera in west Nepal blooms orange-green flowers during February-March.
Greenish fragrant orchid flowers bloom in March-April around the Godavari area and in Shivapuri and Kakani, orchids with white or pale yellow flowers are seen. During September-October, Sundarijal comes alive with green orchids streaked with purple, and on the way to Daman, pale mauve orchids line the banks of the road in November. All of the areas mentioned above are accessible in a couple of hours or less from Kathmandu. Further away in Dhankuta and Hetauda, there are bright yellow orchid flowers while in Khandbari, purple-brown orchids with pale borders are found.
Nepal is endowed with an incredible variety of orchids scattered across the country. Dedrobium is the largest species, followed by Habenaria and Bulbophyllum. Anthogonium, Hemipilia and Lusia are some of the other varieties amongst the nearly two dozen single species families.
During spring, between March and May, the hills burst into brightly colored flowers. These Rhododendron flowers can be seen in all the hilly regions of Nepal above 1,200m. More specifically, the middle mountains vertical belt between 2000 and 4000m serves as the 'wild' preserve of the Rhododendron, or Gurans as it is known in Nepali.
There are four major areas that are specified for Rhododendron treks -
1. Milke Danda-Jaljale Himal, a transverse mountain range which separates the two river systems of the Tamur and the Arun
2. Upper Tamur River Valley
3. Makalu Barun National Park
4. The Langtang Valley inside Langtang National Park
Nepal has 30 indigenous species of Rhododendron, and one which is endemic to Nepal and not found elsewhere, is R. lowndesit. It has lemon or creamy yellow flowers, which are short, well-shaped and are solitary or in pairs on the stem. It grows in the drier areas of western Nepal near Muktinath and Phoksundo.
A Rhododendron Trek to the Upper Tamur River begins with a flight to Bhadrapur followed by a drive to Ilam, which is a well-known tea growing region of Nepal. Trekkers can make an interesting side trip to a tea plantation and observe the fascinating process of manufacturing tea. The trek starts on the south-west side of the Kanchenjunga area and the upper valleys of the Tamur River system. Trekkers enjoy grand views of forests resplendent in rhododendron bloom which the region is famous for.
And closer to Kathmandu, Dhunche at 2000 metres is a 5 to 6 hours drive away. Treks to the upper areas of the Langtang Valley begin here. This region boasts of nine species of rhododendron.
People and Culture
According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, the total population of Nepal was 26,427,99 in 2007. The population comprises people of more than 100 multiple ethnic groups who speak about 93 different languages and dialects which are further divided into different castes. The distinction in caste still plays a significant part in a Nepali’ life when it comes to marriage.
Some of the main ethnic groups are: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern middle hills; Sherpas, Manangbas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the Kathmandu valley; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the Tarai 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 almost all the people of Nepal. 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.
Brahmans belong to the priestly caste. There are two different categories of Brahmans viz. 'Kumai Brahmans' and 'Purbiya Brahmans'. The 'Kumai Brahmans' are said to have come from the mountainous regions of Kumaon in northern India, west of Nepal. They are mainly confined to western and central Nepal and the capital city of Kathmandu. The 'Purbiya' Brahmans derive from the eastern part of Nepal and are found scattered across the country with a greater concentration in the eastern part of Nepal and Kathmandu.
Chhetris and Thakuris
Chhetris and Thakuris are traditionally rulers, leaders and warriors. The Brahmans are their teachers and family priests. They are orthodox Hindus. Chhetris and Thakuris are among the most influential and well-to-do social classes. They are mostly in government service, in the army and police force. Some of them have remained farmers and are relatively poor.
The Tamangs live mainly in the high hills in the east, west, north and south of Kathmandu Valley in central Nepal. The Tamangs are divided into several exogamous clans and are Buddhists. There are several gompas or gumbas (Buddhist temples) in most Tamang settlements. All their festivals and ceremonies are performed in accordance to Buddhism. Many of them are engaged in thangka painting.
In the middle hills and valleys along the southern slopes of the Annapurna Himalaya in mid-western Nepal, the Gurungs live together with other ethnic groups like Magars, Brahmans and Chhetris. These sturdy, hardworking people are Mongoloid in features. They are spread out over a large territory from Gorkha in the east through Lamjung, Manang and Kaski to Syangja district. They also have a tradition of 'Rodi', a club for boys and girls of similar age group where they sing and dance to their traditional music.
The Magars are similar to Gurungs in physical features but enjoy a separate identity. Along with the Gurung, the Magars for centuries have served in the British and Indian Gurkha/Gorkha regiments and in the Nepal Army. The Magars celebrate the festival dedicated to the goddess Kali in great pomp (a Hindu festival). Mainly in Gorkha, they sacrifice plenty of goats during the occasion. Magar villages are known for their traditional round and oval houses.
The natives of Kathmandu valley, the Newars, are mainly traders and farmers. With a purpose to trade, they are scattered across the country; with greater concentration in the Kathmandu Valley, Banepa, Dhulikhel, Bhojpur, Bandipur and Tansen. Despite their small population, their contribution to the history, art, architecture and business activities of Nepal is outstanding.
Newars speak their own language, 'Newari' better known as Nepal Bhasa which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family of languages. There are both Buddhist and Hindu Newars. Like elsewhere in the country, religious syncretism is blended into the culture and tradition. They celebrate numerous feasts and festivals throughout the year. Most of the spectacular festivals of the valley like the chariot processions are Newari traditions. The traditional art and architecture of Nepal is dominated by that of the Newari community as they are known for their skilled craftsmen who took their craft as far as the Mongol court in China.
Rais and Limbus
The Rais and Limbus jointly known as Kirants are said to have ruled the Katmandu valley from around 7th century BC to the time they were defeated around 300 AD. After their fall they moved to the area now known as Patan and later to the east of Nepal occupying the Arun valley up to the Sikkim border. They have strong Mongoloid features and speak a Tibeto-Burman language. Today the Rais are found mostly in the hilly regions of eastern Nepal mainly around Dhankuta, Terhathum, Bhojpur and Arun and Dudh Koshi valleys. The Limbus are spread out in the extreme east of Nepal, mainly in and around Taplejung, Khotang and the Arun Valley. The Rais are neither Hindu nor Buddhist but worship their own deities and ancestors. They are divided into many sub-groups each of which speaks a different dialect. The Limbus follow a mixture of Shaivism and Animism. Among the Rais and Limbus marriages are monogamous. Many have served in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian and British armies.
The most famous among the Himalayan people are the Sherpas because of their natural mountain climbing skills which has made them an indispensable part of mountain expeditions as leaders, guides and porters. As an individual or in groups, they have set records of many 'firsts' in the mountaineering world. They live in the high Himalayan region of eastern Nepal, in the vicinity of Mt. Everest, along the Arun Valley, the Dudh Koshi River and its tributary areas. Sherpas are strongly Buddhists and observe a number of festivals during the year including Lhosar which is their New Year and also the most important of festivals. In the higher regions like Thyangboche, Chiwang and Thame, they celebrate an interesting festival called Mani Rimdu which has become a major tourist attraction. With strong Mongoloid features, they are said to have originally come from Tibet and resemble them in their traditional costumes and religious beliefs. The sherpas have adapted to the high altitude where they live.
The Tharus are the indigenous ethnic group of the Tarai with a concentrated population in the middle and west of Nepal. Most of the Tharus have Mongoloid but dark features which distinguishes them from the other Mongoloid people. They are aboriginal Tarai settlers and are said to be partially immune to malaria. The Tharus have their indigenous dialect, known as 'Naja'. But they speak a mixture of local dialects, such as Prakriti, Bhojpuri, Mughali, Nepali, Urdu and Maithili. They live in long houses accommodating large extended families. They are divided into three major groups: the Desaura, Dangaura and Rana Tharu. The Tharus believe in animism but celebrate some Hindu festivals as well. Each village has its own local gods and goddesses protecting the people. Some Tharus are believed to have immigrated from Rajasthan while others claim they originated in Dang. During festivals Tharus dress up in spectacular costumes and large silver ornaments.
'Thakalis' are believed to have originated from Thak Khola, the valley of the Kali Gandaki river in western Nepal. They are famous for their neatly tended kitchens and are mostly engaged in running hotels, inns, and restaurants. They are encountered mainly in the Around Annapurana Trek, one of the most popular trekking routes in Nepal. The religion of the Thakali is a mixture of Buddhism, shamanism, Bonpo and Hinduism. Lha Feva is the most significant festival for the Thakalis. Although they have Mongoloid features they are quite distinct from the other ethnic groups. They once played an important part in the salt trade with Tibet.
Manangé or Manangba
Manangé people resemble Tibetans but are believed to be originally of the Gurung ethnic group and most use the surname Gurung. They live in the lower hills and valleys of Manang in the upper reaches of the Marsyangdi River towards the north in central Nepal. The Manang district encloses three distinct areas of Neshyang, Nar and Gyasumdo; all of them culturally interrelated. Skilled traders, they have been travelling in south-east and far-east Asia for centuries dealing in jewelry, herbs and whatever fetches a good price. Later they switched to importing clothes and electronic goods from Hong Kong and Bangkok. They are strongly Buddhist and celebrate Lhosar as their New Year. They also celebrate interesting events like the Archery Festival known as ‘Metha’ which lasts for weeks involving competition between various villages around Manang and the horse racing festival known as ‘Yartung’ which is also celebrated in Mustang.
The Dolpa or Dolpo settlements are concentrated in the remote and fascinating region which is confined by the Dhaulagiri massif in the south and east; the Sisne and Kanjiroba in the west and Tibet on the north. They generally settle at altitudes of 3,660 m to 4,000 m. They are probably the highest settlements in the world. The people of Dolpo have mongoloid features and bear a close resemblance to Tibetans. They share the same religion, Buddhism and also speak Tibetan. Their homeland is famous for the pristine turquoise lakes and beautiful landscape. They trade with Tibet and transport their barter goods on yak caravans often travelling for extended periods. Their lifestyle was portrayed in the film “Caravan”.
Chepang and Kusundas
These backward ethnic communities belong to a well-defined traditional area in the south of Dhading, the west of Makawanpur and east of Chitwan along the steeper slopes of the Mahabharat range of middle Nepal. Although nomadic people, a few of these tribal people have started deriving subsistence from agriculture otherwise they are hunter gatherers. They have the ability to survive by hunting and searching for roots to eat. Though, they are economically backward, they have a rich and unique cultural tradition. In recent time there has been an attempt to get them to settle down in one place.
One of the vanishing tribes of Nepal, the population of Rautes is down to 658. This nomadic tribe lives in the mid-western part of Nepal. They are known for making wooden bowls which they barter with other goods especially foodstuff like grains. They also use the wooden bowls to keep grain and maize. They make temporary residences near the forest where they search for food. They are hunter gatherers who hunt monkeys most of the time.
The amazing diversity that is seen in the Nepali society also means there is much diversity in the customs and beliefs of each different ethnic group. The major division is along religious lines where the two major players are Hinduism and Buddhism. Then there are Jains, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and ethnic groups that follow their own unique religious beliefs and customs. Even among the Hindus and Buddhists there are groups like the Newars who besides following religious customs, have unique rituals such as the Bel Biwa where a young girl is symbolically married to a Bel fruit. Newars are divided into two religious groups: Hindus and Buddhists.
Among all the customs and rituals, the rules of marriage are particularly interesting. In traditional families, marriages are arranged by consenting parents after the boy or girl comes of age. Child marriage and polygamy still exist in Nepal although abolished by law. Each ethnic group has a different set of rituals for the wedding ceremony while many in general follow the Hindu customs. For many it is customary to elope before being officially accepted by the parents and among some it is even normal to wait for the girl to get pregnant before the official ceremony. Nepali customs are as diverse as the people themselves.
marriageable age has been legally set at 18 for women and 21 for men, but such laws are not strictly adhered to. Even today, most marriages are arranged by parents, but love marriages are becoming common especially among the educated people. In the villages, child marriages are still practiced and in Kathmandu especially among the Newar community, two siblings getting married off simultaneously is also common. Weddings are elaborate often lasting days. Ceremonies include bringing the bride to the groom’s house in a procession accompanied by music played by a brass band. Originally, the band consisted of an ensemble playing ‘Panche Baja’ comprised of Nepali folk instruments. But more and more Nepalis are opting for the brass band which is deafeningly loud.
pasni (rice-feeding) ceremony is one of the important occasions for a child. In the presence of family and priest, the seven month-old child is dressed in finery and fed rice presented on a coin by all members of the family. He is shown several objects on a tray: a heap of earth, paddy (unhusked rice), bricks, toys, rings, a pen and ink-pot, and a book. It is said his parents can tell the child s future profession from the object he first picks up.
Nepali is the official language of Nepal, with over 93 other languages and dialects spoken as mother-tongues in different parts of the country. Nepali is of the Indo-Aryan family of languages brought from central Asia by the Aryans. The original Old Indo-Aryan language gave rise to Sanskrit from which Nepali derives. Nepali uses the Devanagri script (the script of the city of the gods, sometimes known as Nagari) which derived from the Brahmi script of ancient India.
Most ethnic groups have their own languages and some like the Rais have many dialects spoken in the various regions where they live. Newars, Rais, Limbus, Lepchas all have their own script which are still in use. One of the most well-known script is the Ranjana Lipi used by the Newar people. They have used various other scripts over the centuries. In the tarai regions, various languages like Maithili, Hindi and others are spoken. Most people can speak Nepali, which is the lingua franca of Nepal.
English is widely spoken in the cities and with more and more schools teaching in the English medium, a large population of the younger generation can speak English. Both English and Nepali are used for official purposes.
Foreign students can study Nepali (spoken and Devanagari script), Newari, Sanskrit and Tibetan languages at the Bishwa Bhasha Campus (at Bhrikutimandap) of Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu. They may pursue BA and MA studies in the Nepali language at the Department of Nepali Studies, Tribhuvan University in Kirtipur.