Geography of Nepal is uncommonly diverse. Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (500 mi) long and 200 kilometres (125 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi).
Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, Siwalik region and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems.
The southern lowland Plains bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali. This region has a hot, humid climate.
The Hill Region about the mountains and varies from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,300–13,125 ft) in altitude. Two low mountain ranges, the Mahabharat Lekh and Shiwalik Range (also called the Churia Range) dominate the region. The hilly belt includes the Kathmandu Valley, the country's most fertile and urbanised area. Unlike the valleys called Inner Tarai (Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka), elevations above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) are sparsely populated.
The Mountain Region, situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the regions of highest altitude in the world; the world's highest mountain, 8,850 meters (29,035 ft) high Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) is located here on the border with Tibet. Seven other of the world's fourteen highest mountains are located in Nepal: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.
Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,940 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,900–7,875 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,875–11,800 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,800–14,400 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,400 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.
Physical features also include terraced fields, dense forests, wind-swept desert like environment, and grasslands. The country is well endowed with perennial rivers, lakes and glacial lakes that originate in the Himalaya. Twenty percent of the land in the country is used for agriculture, where 0.49 percent is used for rice farming.
Climatic conditions of Nepal vary from one place to another in accordance with the geographical features. In the north summers are cool and winters severe, while in south summers are sub tropical and winters mild.
The variety in Nepal's topography provides home to wildlife such as Bengal tigers, rhinos, monkeys, bears, yaks, leopards and different species of insects, birds and reptiles. Nepal is home to almost 10 percent of the world's bird species among which 500 species are found in the Kathmandu Valley.
The country has managed to preserve some endangered species of Asia in its extensive parks and protected natural habitats. The most abundant natural resource in Nepal is water. Other resources found here are quartz, timber, lignite, copper, cobalt, iron ore and scenic beauty.
Nepal is popular for trekking, mountaineering, cultural tours, river rafting, bird watching, wildlife tours, and Eco-tourism and botanical studies.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Nepal has 4 seasons:
Spring (Mar - May),
Summer (Jun - Aug),
Autumn (Sep - Nov),
Winter (Dec - Feb).
Nepal’s climate is varied ranging from the sub-tropical Terai to the cool dry temperate and alpine climate in the northern Himalayan ranges. In the Terai, the hottest part of the country, summer temperatures may rise as high as 40°C (104 Fahrenheit). The climate is hot and humid. In the mid mountain region, the summer climate is mild with temperatures around 25°C - 27°C (77-80.6 Fahrenheit).
The winter temperatures range from 7°C to 23°C (44.6-73.4 Fahrenheit) in the Terai and subzero to 12°C (50 Fahrenheit) in the mountain regions and valleys. The northern Himalayan region has an alpine climate. The valley of Kathmandu has a pleasant equable climate with average summer and winter temperatures of 19°C - 27°C (66.2-80.6 Fahrenheit) and 2°C - 12°C (35.6-53.6 Fahrenheit) respectively.
Nepal has seen many rulers and ruling dynasties. The earliest rulers were the Kirantis who ruled from 9th century B.C. to 1st century A.D. Legends and chronicles mention that the Indian Emperor Ashoka had come to Nepal and visited Lumbini, the place where the Buddha was born, and where he erected a huge stone pillar to commemorate his visit to that spot.
The Kirants were replaced by Licchavis who, according to the earliest evidences in inscriptions of the 5th century A.D. found in the courtyard of Changunarayan temple which is about 15km northeast of Kathmandu, ruled this country from 1st century to 9th century A.D. This period is noted for the many temples and fine sculptures built around the Kathmandu valley.
The Licchavis were followed by the Thakuris, then came the Malla dynasty. The Mallas ruled focusing mainly on the Kathmandu Valley which has been the residence for most Nepali rulers from time immemorial. No other part of Nepal is as rich in cultural heritage as Kathmandu. Thanks to the exceptionally talented craftsmen, who dedicated themselves to construct the many temples and statues. We have seven world heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley itself.
In the 14th century A.D. King Jayasthiti Malla established a rigid social order. His grandson tried in every way to protect his country from suspected enemy states. Unfortunately, all his efforts were fruitless, everything went beyond his control and the country eventually divided up into 50 small feudal states including the three major ones in the valley.
Then came the Shah dynasty. King Prithvi Narayan Shah, who annexed small principalities including three states in the Kathmandu Valley and unified Nepal in a single kingdom. Recognizing the threat of the British Raj in India, he dismissed European missionaries from the country and for more than a century, Nepal remained in isolation. During the mid 19th century Jung Bahadur Rana became Nepal's first prime minister to wield absolute power. The Ranas were overthrown in a democracy movement of the early 1950s.
Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic state on May 28, 2008, during the first meeting of the Constituent Assembly. It was previously a multiparty democracy since 1990.
Nepal Parliamentary Building the seat of the Government
PEOPLE AND CUSTOMS
Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, terraced hillsides and the highest mountain peaks in the world. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan via Assam.
Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Bahun and Chetri caste groups migrated eastward from Kumaon, Garwal and Kashmir, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east, and Sherpa and Bhotia in the north.
In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East Asian looking mixed people live in the hill region. The mountainous region is sparsely populated above 3,000 meters, but in central and western Nepal ethnic Tibetans inhabit even higher semi-arid valleys north of the high Himalaya. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population.
Nepal is a multilingual, multireligious and multiethnic society. Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous languages.
Nepal has 92 different spoken languages. The major languages of Nepal are Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Newari/Nepal Bhasa, Magar, Awadhi, Rai, Limbu, Bajjika and Sherpa. The remaining 80 languages are each spoken as mother tongue by different ethnic groups.
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is considered the language closest to Sanskrit and written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official, national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Hindi along with regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Hindi is also widely understood by Nepalese who have worked, studied or traveled in India. Many Nepalese in government and business speak English as well.
Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Kirant Mundhum and Christian are the major religions practiced in Nepal. Although animist and shaman are considered minor religions, they are practiced by various ethnic groups regardless of their main religion or ethnicity. Nepal being a multiethnic and multi-religious county, people are very tolerant about religion and race. As a result, you will often find a Hindu and Buddhist shrine in the same courtyard.
Nepal is culturally a very festive country and has thousands of religious shrines throughout the country. The Kathmandu Valley alone has 2700 shrines. Moreover, there are many, rock, cave, hilltop and tree based shrines found in Nepal.
Nepal population is estimated to be about 29 million as of July 2008. Nepal has 103 different ethnic groups who speak more than a dozen multiple ethnic languages and about 92 different dialects. The ethnic make of Nepal and the mountain ranges are so very diverse and that is what makes Nepal an interesting mosaic of nature and people.
REGIONAL DISTRIBUTION OF MAJOR ETHNIC GROUPS:
Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars (believed to be descendants of the Kirantis) live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangis and Lopas live in the upper hills and across the Himalayan valleys of the country; Newars live mainly in the capital valley of Kathmandu though they are found in major business towns across the country; Tamangs live central to eastern part of the country, Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals live in the Terai region; Brahmans and Chhetris live in Terai and middle hills across the country; Thakuris live mostly in the far western districts nonetheless few are found in other parts of the country.
Please note that the above description of Nepalese who live where is mainly of the most talked population and is an example to give you an idea about the distribution of the population based on the old data. It is impossible to pinpoint where all the Nepalese live. Therefore, we have not mentioned about many other ethnic groups who make their home throughout Nepal. However, in today’s Nepal, the population has moved around and not everyone is confined to the above pockets of the country.
NEPALESE CULTURAL ETIQUETTES OF DOS AND DON'TS:
The form of greeting in Nepal is "NAMASTE" and is performed by putting both palms together.
Before entering a Nepalese home, temple, and stupa remember to remove your shoes.
Be careful not to use your spoon, fork or a hand being used for your eating to touch other's food, plate, cooking utensil or the serving dish.
Do not eat from other people's plate and do not drink from other people's bottle or glass. It is considered impure by the Nepalese.
Never touch anything with your feet. This is considered an offence among Nepalese.
While traveling, you should dress appropriately. Women should specially avoid dressing in skimpy outfits.
Seek permission first before entering a Hindu temple. Many Hindu temples do not allow westerners or non-Hindus to enter. Leather articles are prohibited inside the temple precinct.
Walking around a temple or stupa is traditionally done clockwise.
Take photographs only after receiving permission for the object or person being photographed.
Public displays of affection between man and woman are frowned upon. Do not do something that is totally alien to our environment. Remember, many times, when a person shakes his head from left to right, he may mean "Yes".
Develop a genuine interest to meet and talk to Nepalese people and respect their local customs.
Left to right: Rhododendron and Nepal Map;
top to bottom: Everest, Dhaulagiri, Macchapuchhare (Fish tail), Annapurna South and Hiunchuli, Rhododendron and giant Himalayan Magnolia Annapurna Sanctuary trek, carved stone prayer rock (mani) and chhorten on Everest trek, Annapurna Sanctuary trail scene, Boudha stupa, Maitreya Buddha Swoyambu monastery, Tiji Festival monks in Mustang, Shiva and Parvati in a temple in Kathmandu Durbar Square, gate to Kumari (the house of living goddess), Saraswati temple (goddess of knowledge) Swoyambu stupa complex, Garuda statue at Maju Deva Narayan temple Kathmandu Durbar Square, Nepali woman, elephant safari and Gaida (one horned Rhinoceros, a rare and endangered species).
Come to see the beauty of Nepal and help us save the Himalayas and its natural and cultural resources for the people living today and for the generations to come! Sherpa Travel Inc.