The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked country in the Himalayas, between Tibet and India. It contains eight of the world’s 10 highest peaks as well as the birth place of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism.
Within its narrow territory, Nepal boasts an extreme diversity in topography and one of the most spectacular sceneries in the whole of Asia, ranging from the subtropical, alluvial Gangetic plains of the Terai, to the alpine peaks of the Greater Himalaya Range, including the world’s highest point, the majestic Sagharmata.
Between Nepal’s topographical extremes, one can find rolling hills, Garden of Eden-like valleys, treeless wasteland steppes, and snow-covered mountains, which are inhabited by an almost unparalled diversity of flaura and fauna. Wildlife reserves and national parks harbor an amazing variety of wildlife, including species such as the elusive royal bengal tiger, the one-horned rhinoceros, leopard, red panda, and yak. Avifauna is abundant, with more than 850 species recorded, and includes beautiful species of pheasant, Jerdon’s Baza, lammergeyer and snowpatridge.
Oak, pine and conifer forests grow on the slopes of Nepal, and above the tree line, during spring, rhodondendrons cover the mountains in an extravagance of colour. Orchids are widespread through the sub-tropical regions, while many species of medicinal plants, often used in traditional rural remedies and homeopathic medicine, can be found at higher elevations.
Nepal is a melting pot of people from more than 100 multiple ethnic groups living in different regions, who speak about 93 different languages and dialects, and each have their own unique lifestyles, customs, folklore and traditions. Groups originally came from India, Kashmir, North Burma, Yunnan and Tibet. The multitude of ethnicities in Nepal is divided into castes. Brahmans, for example, are of the priestly and teacher caste, whereas the and the Chetris and Thakuris traditionally are leaders and warriors and occupy high government positions; Magars have served for centuries in the the Gurkha regiments of the British and Indian armies. The natives of Kathmandu valley, the Newars, are mainly traders and farmers; traditional Nepali art and architecture is dominated by that of the Newari community as they are known for their skilled craftsmen. Probably the most famous among Himalayan people are the Sherpas, who live in the higher Himalayan elevations and are known for setting mountaineering records and firsts, and who are often indispensable part of mountain expeditions as leaders, guides and porters.
Hinduism and Buddhism are the two major religions in Nepal, and have co-existed peacefully through the ages. Buddhists visit Hindu shrines, while many Hindu idols are found within Buddhist temples, and some gods and goddesses are shared by Hinduism and Buddhism. Some ethnic groups still practice a religion based on ancestor worship, while others are animists.
Perhaps nowhere on earth myth features so prominently in the beliefs of the people as it does in Nepal. Rivers and valleys, mighty snow-clad mountains, the stars and planets, some of which are the embodiment of the very gods and goddesses themselves, all have a legendary myth of their own. Also folklore is an integral part in Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in daily reality.
Tales of love, battle, demons, ghosts and gods, reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs and are enacted through lively dance and music.
Because of its mountainous terrain, much of Nepal remains isolated from the rest of the world. Its rich cultural heritage and diverse traditions are kept alive by Nepal’s colourful mosaic of ethnic groups. With its incredible variety and abundance of wonderful flora and fauna, the country is a paradise, a treat to nature lovers. Nepal is a must-see land of adventure and spirituality, an enchanting experience!