The Kingdom of Nepal is one of the most diverse and beautiful places on earth and it is rich in history home to more than 80 different groups of people and generally unaffected by the modern ways of the western world. With the world’s 10 highest mountains, lush tropics, arctic tundra, high deserts, compressed into 147,100 square km., there is always another mesmerizing place for us to take you to quickly.
And unlike other Asian destinations, you can visit Nepal any time of year. If fascinating cities and ancient architecture is what you seek, take a journey back in time to today’s Kathmandu, the Kingdom’s capital and travel crossroads. Shop at its bazaars, visit its countless temples, walk the grounds of ancient palaces, or have a cup of tea at one of the many tea stands that offers people watching like you have never known it. When you’re ready for something more rural, we can take you south to the Terai, Nepal’s agricultural home where farming is still carried out by hand and fields plowed by ox and to Royal Chitwan National Park where Bengal tigers, elephants and rhinos rule the land.
Western Nepal is the most remote and least-known region of the Kingdom, and of course, the Himalayas which separate Nepal from neighboring India, Bhutan and Tibet.
Nepal is among the few countries in the world where Seven World Heritage Sites are situated within 20 kms. of radius.
Nepal’s recorded history began with the Kiratis, who arrived in the 7th or 8th century BC from the east. Little is known about them, other than their deftness as sheep farmers and fondness for carrying long knives. It was during this period that Buddhism first came to the country; indeed it is claimed that Buddha and his disciple Ananda visited the Kathmandu Valley and stayed for a time in Patan. By 200 AD, Buddhism had waned, and was replaced by Hinduism, brought by the Licchavis, who invaded from northern India and overthrew the last Kirati king. The Hindus also introduced the caste system (which still continues today) and ushered in a classical age of Nepalese art and architecture.
By 879, the Licchavi era had petered out and was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty. A grim period of instability and invasion often referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ followed, but Kathmandu Valley’s strategic location ensured the kingdom’s survival and growth. Several centuries later, the Thakuri king, Arideva, founded the Malla dynasty, kick-starting another renaissance of Nepali culture. Despite earthquakes, the odd invasion and feuding between the independent city-states of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the dynasty flourished, reaching its zenith in the 15th century under Yaksha Malla.
The rulers of Gorkha, the most easterly region, had always coveted the Mallas’ wealth. Under the inspired leadership of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Gorkha launched a campaign to conquer the valley. In 1768 – after 27 years of fighting – they triumphed and moved their capital to Kathmandu. >From this new base the kingdom’s power expanded, borne by a seemingly unstoppable army, until progress was halted in 1792 by a brief and chastening war with Tibet.
Further hostilities followed in 1814, this time with the British over a territorial dispute. The Nepalese were eventually put to heel and compelled to sign the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, which surrendered Sikkim and most of Terai (some of the land was eventually restored in return for Nepalese help in quelling the Indian Mutiny of 1857), established Nepal’s present eastern and western boundaries and, worst of all, installed a British ‘resident’ in the country.
The Shah dynasty continued in power during the first half of the 19th century until the ghastly Kot Massacre of 1846. Taking advantage of the intrigue and assassinations that had plagued the ruling family, Jung Bahadur seized control by butchering several hundred of the most important men while they assembled in the Kot courtyard. He took the more prestigious title Rana, proclaimed himself prime minister for life, and later made the office hereditary. For the next century, the Ranas and their offspring luxuriated in huge Kathmandu palaces, while the remainder of the population eked out a living in medieval conditions.
The Rana’s antiquated regime came to an end soon after WWII. In 1948, the British withdrew from India and with them went the Ranas’ chief support. Around the same time, a host of insurrectional movements, bent on reshaping the country’s polity, emerged. Sporadic fighting spilled onto the streets and the Ranas, at the behest of India, reluctantly agreed to negotiations. King Tribhuvan was anointed ruler in 1951 and struck up a government comprised of Ranas and members of the newly formed Nepali Congress Party.
But the compromise was shortlived. After toying with democratic elections – and feeling none too pleased by the result – King Mahendra (Tribhuvan’s son and successor) decided that a ‘partyless’ panchayat system would be more appropriate for Nepal. The king selected the prime minister and cabinet and appointed a large proportion of the national assembly, which duly rubber-stamped his policies. Power, of course, remained with only one party – the king’s.
Cronyism, corruption and the creaming-off of lucrative foreign aid into royal coffers continued until 1989. The Nepalese, fed up with years of hardship and suffering under a crippling trade embargo imposed by the Indians, rose up in popular protest called the Jana Andolan or ‘People’s Movement’. In the ensuing months, detention, torture and violent clashes left hundreds of people dead. It all proved too much for King Birendra, in power since 1972. He dissolved his cabinet, legalised political parties and invited the opposition to form an interim government. The panchayat system was finally laid to rest.
The changeover to democracy proceeded in an orderly, if leisurely, fashion, and in May 1991 the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal shared most of the votes.
Since then, Nepal has discovered that establishing a workable democratic system is an enormously difficult task – especially when it is the country’s first such system. The situation has been further exacerbated by a wafer-thin economy, massive unemployment, illiteracy and an ethnically and religiously fragmented population that continues to grow at an alarming rate.
The fractured political landscape in Nepal was torn apart in June 2001 with the massacre of most of the royal family – including King Birendra – by Crown Prince Dipendra. Civil strife erupted again in Kathmandu, with a curfew imposed to quell street violence.
Prince Gyanendra, the brother of King Birendra, ascended to the throne. He has had to face many challenges, in particular the Maoist rebellion against the government, which has claimed over 5000 lives since it began in 1996. Numerous peace talks and ceasefires failed to hold.
Nepal’s bumpy trek into democracy continued when in 2002 (and again in 2003) Gyanendra dissolved the government and appointed his own cabinet. The country has seen more than a dozen governments since 1991, and in 2003 prime minister Lokendra Bahadur Chand resigned, continuing the political uncertainty facing Nepal.
The most recent ceasefire negotiated between Maoist rebels and the government ended on August 27, 2003, sparking renewed fighting and bomb blasts in Kathmandu. The lasting peace and greater prosperity that the Nepalese people look forward to, remains someway off while the fighting continues.
Later the Licchavis ruled the valley for long period and they left very good examples of their love for arts and crafts in the forms of Temples and other structures. In other words Licchavis were the people who raised the enthusiasm for arts and crafts in the heart of the inhabitants and the examples of the same can be seen embodied in the heart and soul of the people living here It was during the period of the Licchavis, Araniko, the master of wood carving went to China to spread the essence that was born in Nepal in the form of Pagoda architecture. The first stone inscription for the history dated 464 AD. was from the one of the king of this period.
After the downfall of the Licchavis, Mallas, who came from the Indian territories were the ones to give continuance not only to the political history of this country but also to the continuance of the spread of the arts and crafts through the addition of more temples and other structures. They brought all the practices of Hindu religion and irrigated with their own customs in the valley. Social as well as family life got a chance to breathe ethical air as they based the system of the whole society on the Hindu principle of living a pious and meaningful life. Still it is worthy to note that their influences can be seen in each and every corners of this city and also in the life of every person. Their love for the art proved the model city till the date.
The rule of the Mallas was followed by rule of the Shahs from Grouch of which the foundation was laid by Prithivi Narayan Shah in 1768 AD with his energetic work of unification of this country lying in the lap of the mighty Himalayas. The country that remained divided for centuries got a chance to merge into one creating a unified Nepal . It had been a tough task as the people were divided not only politically but the main factor behind such diversity was the ethnicity, culture, tradition, heritage and way of life.
The process of unification was started from Gorkha in 1745 AD. Many worthy sons of this country added their service to the pious work of unification and the fragrance of the same has been enjoyed by many since the unification. Now the country is divided into different administrative regions and the country is practising the multiparty democracy after the advent of Democracy in the year 1990 AD. Now the Nepal has changed in to Republic of Nepal where King was thrown by the Nepalese and New government is ruling the Government.
|Art & Architecture|
Nepal’s artistic beauty is worthy of explanation. Inspiration for arts and crafts obviously came from India and Tibet. But the most important are the indigenous arts and crafts of this Himalayan Kingdom. From the time of the Licchavis there was the great change in Arts and architecture. Propagation of stone sculpture was tremendous during this era. The Religious sites were decorated superbly. The temples and Stupas of Kathmandu valley are the examples of the great effort of the medieval artisans. Wood carving in the temples depicting the forms of Gods and Goddesses as well as the life of the then people is another feature of the Nepal arts and woodcarvings.
|People & Religion|
Nepal is the museum of the human races or even said as the anthropological pilgrimage. The population of the country is 23 million with the density of 156.27 per square kilometres as the National Census 2001 AD roughly the majority of the peoples are the Indo-Aryans and the remainder is of Mongoloid origin.
The peoples in the Himalayan are called Tibeto-Mongoloid by races and Tibeto-Buddhist by religion. They speak Tibetan language and their own dialects. Their life is based on the Trans- Himalayan trade and Cis- Himalayan trade. Because of the poor economy and the prevalent system in their society some of them are forced to practice the polyandry system. It was believed that the people called the Sherpas of the North East Nepal were the migrants of the eastern Tibet. In the midhill region the peoples are living with agriculture. Newars are the main ethnic group of Kathmandu. Magars, Gurungs, Rai and Limbus form the warrior class and are famous throughout the world as Brave Gurkhas. Terai had been poorly inhabited for long time because of the fear of so-called disease Malaria .It was covered with the dense forests for many years and now mass deforestation has made this region better place to live. During the course of time people from mid-hills started migrating to this region as they found the land there rich enough for cultivation.
Nepal is regarded as the only Hindu Kingdom. Officially, large numbers of the population are regarded the followers of Hinduism. It is believed to be the world’s major oldest religion and was guided by the oral tradition for long time. For Hindus, the Himalayas have been described in the Epics as the playground of the Gods and Goddesses. They believe in the numbers of Gods and Goddesses. Sacrifice of the animal is interesting feature of the Hindu practice. They think that they should make the ferocious God and Goddess happy with the sacrifice of the animals. They have lots of different aspects and faiths that their lives generally guiding so they all the time try to be close with the gods and goddess.
Buddhism occupies second place in the country. It is dominant in the northern side of the country. The lord Buddha, who was Prince of the southern part of the present Nepal, founded it over 2500 years ago. To get rid from the sufferings from this world was the key concern for him, who then set to achieve the solution, had meditated and became Enlightened. He became the Buddha and then started to preach about his achievement as four noble truths to get rid from the suffering. The goal of the life in Buddhism is to attain Nirvana or the state of supreme bliss.
The practices of Animism and Shamanism are another type of practice, which is very rare with the modern attack in the society. Now the increasing numbers of the Christianity belief shows its influence upon Nepalese. In fact Hinduism and Buddhism exist side by side along with others and showing the perfect harmony of the religious practices.