In Kathmandu, the capital or in its suburb, to cross a street is to travel across centuries. Shrines, temples, palaces, palace-squares, ageless sculptures and legends that are parts of are parts of every brick and stone and glided masterpiece, make Kathmandu Valley a verifiable living museum.
Nepal, a sovereign independent Kingdom, lies between 80.4' and 88.12' east longitude and 26.22' and 30.27' north latitude. It is bounded on the north by Tibet Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China; on the east by Sikkim and West Bengal of the Indian Union, on the south by Indian States of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and on the west by Uttar Pradesh of the Indian Union. The length of the Kingdom is 885 kilometers east-west, and its breadth varies from 145 to 241 kilometers north-south. Climatically, it lies in the temperate zone with the added advantage of altitude. Except for the some exceptions, are seldom less than 1220 meters above the sea-level.
The country can be divided into three main geographical regions:
a) Himalayan Region: The altitude of this region ranges between 4877 meters and 8848 meters with the snow line running around 48848 meters. It includes 8 of the existing 14 summits in the world which exceeds an altitude of 8000 meters. They represent (1) Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) - 8848 m, (2) Kangchenjunga - 8586 m, (3) Lhotse - 8516 m, (4) Makalu - 8463 m, (5) Cho Oyo - 8201 m (6) Dhaulagiri - 8167 m, (7) Manasalu - 8163m, and (8) Annapurna I - 8091 m.
b) Mountain Region: This region accounts for about 64 percent of total land area. It is formed by the Mahabharat range that soars upto 4877 meters. To its south lies the lower Churia range whose altitude varies from 610 meters to 1524 meters.
c) Terai Region: The low-land Terai region which has a width of about 26 to 32 kilometers and an altitude of maximum of 305 meters occupies about 17 percent of total land area of the country. Kechananakawal, the lowest point of the country with an altitude of 70 meters lies in Jhapa District of the eastern Terai.
All this adds up the one interesting fact that there is no seasonal constraint on travelling in and through Nepal. Even in December and January, when the winter is at its severest, there are compensating bright sun and brilliant views. Winter days often begin in mist which can last until noon. Then suddenly, by magic as it were, the fog disappears bringing in to view snowy peaks, glistening white and fresh against the large blue sky.
HISTORY: Nepal has a long glorious history. Its civilization can be traced back to thousand of years before the birth of christ. Modern Nepal is an amalgamation of a number of principalities which had independent entities in the past. Before the campaign of national integration launched by King Prithvi Narayan Shah the Kathmandu Valley was ruled by the Malla kings, whose contribution to art and culture are indeed great and unique. As the popular legends goes, the original settlers of the Kathmandu Valley were the Gopalas, the Abhiras and the Kiratas, later succeeded by the Lichchhavis, who in turn were succeeded by the Thakuris and Malla. In 1768 A.D. the Shah dynasty ascended the throne of the unified Kingdom. His Majesty King Birendra Bir Bickram Shah Dev, is the tenth king in the Shah dynasty.
The revolution of November 1950 brought to an end of Rana Regime who ruled the country for 104 years since 1846 A.D. After the fall of Rana Regime in February 1951, Nepal saw the dawn of democracy. The parliamentary government under the multi party system was adopted for some years which was followed by Panchayat System since 1960. The popular democratic revolt of 1990 has reinstated the multi party democratic system since April. The new democratic constitution of the Kingdom was promulgated on November 9, 1990.
Nepal is one of the founder members of South Asian association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) of which third summit was held in held in Kathmandu in November 1987.
PEOPLE: Nepal has a population more than 18 million, made of different races and tribes, living in different regions, wearing different customs and speaking different languages and dialects. The Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the west and of the southern slopes Annapurna, Himalchuli, and Ganesh Himal mountains. The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabit the slopes and valleys of the eastern mid hills. The Sherpas also known as "the Tigers of the Snow" live in the Himalyan region up to an average altitude of 4570 m. The newars constitute an important ethnic group in the capital valley Kathmandu. There are Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals in the Terai region. The Brahmans, Chhetris and Thakuris are spread generally over most parts of the Kingdom.
RELIGION AND CULTURE: Hinduism and Buddhism constitute two major religions of Nepal sharing between them some 86.5 and 7.8 percent of the total population respectively. Both these co-religionistic are bound together by a sense of follow-feeling and bonhomie particularly displayed in their worship of common dieties and joint celebration of many festivals belonging to either religion, culture. Kumari, the Virgin Hindu Goddess, for instance, is selected from a Buddhist clan.
A remarkable feature of Nepal is thus the religious homogeneity that exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Apart from the Hindus and Buddhists, Muslim (3.5 per cent) form the third largest relgious group and 2.1 percent of other religions.
The exiquisite architecture and artistic embellishment of the Nepalese pagodas that enshrine the bronze and stone images of great beauty and, more often than not, great antiquity, are a unique feature of Nepal.
The temples and stupas are rich repositories of wood carving, metal work, terra-cotta and stone sculpture. In their uniqueness they add glory and grandeuer to the culture scene of the Kingdom and tell a long history of native genius.
LANGUAGE: Many different ethnic groups have their own languages for dialects, but Nepali, the national language, written in Devnagari script, serves the purpose of the kingdom's lingua franca in Nepal. The educated people speak and understand English as well.
CLIMATE: Nepal's climate varies with its topography. It ranges from from tropical to artic depending upon the altitude. The Terai region, which lies in the tropical southern part of the country, for instance, has a hot, humid climate. The mid-land regions are pleasant almost all year around, although winter nights are cool. The northern mountain region, around an altitude above 3,353 meters has an alpine climate with a considerably lower temperature in winter as can be expected.
Nepal has four climatic seasons. (a) Spring: March - May, (b) Summer: June - August, (c) Autumn: September - November and (d) Winter: December - February. The average temperature and rainfall records in Kathmandu are presented hereunder:
Month Minimum (C) Maximum (C) Rainfall (in milimeters) January 2.7 17.5 47 February 2.2 21.6 11 March 6.9 25.5 15 April 8.6 30.0 5 May 15.6 29.7 146 June 18.9 29.4 135 July 19.5 28.1 327 August 19.2 29.5 206 September 18.6 28.6 199 October 13.3 28.6 42 November 6.0 23.7 0 December 1.9 20.7 1
CLOTHING: Clothing depends on place and time, however, it is recommended to have both light and warm clothing. In the mountain areas or in the Kathmandu Valley warm clothes are generally a must.
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