Normally, domestic consumption of electricity in Nepal comes to 220 Volts/50 cycles. Climatic conditions in Nepal may bring in fluctuation in electric supply leading to load shedding. However most Nepal hotels have UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) or a backup generator to deal with this electric crisis. It is advisable to carry voltage converters and plug adapters with you while travelling in Nepal for using electric goods. Voltage converters and plug adapters are easily accessible at shopping malls in the cities of Nepal.
Drinking water from taps can be risky. Hotels and lodges usually furnish safe water in a thermos flask in guest rooms. Bottled mineral water is available in every hotel and shops. If you are travelling in rural areas, carry iodine tablets with you. Drinking water containing iodine tablet will give you absolute protection from viruses, bacteria and parasites. At a reasonable price, you can also purchase iodine crystals from the local shops.
Nepali currency is termed as Rupee. Rupees come in the form of bank paper note with Rs.1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 inscribed on the notes. Nepali coins also come in 25 paisa, 50 paisa, 1 rupee, 5 rupee and 10 rupee coins. You can have your money exchanged at banks and hotels. Prior to any transaction, it is advisable to inquire about the commission and charges that will be deducted for the money exchange at Nepal currency exchange rate. Banks are usually open from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm Sundays through Thursdays and from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm on Fridays. Saturdays are holidays. Credit Cards: all major cards are accepted for tourist services. There is usually a 5% mark-up on top of the price.
Communication system has improved impressively after the advent of modern technology in Nepal. Since the past few decades, Nepal Government has been providing reliable postal services. Many private courier service companies have opened up to provide high quality services. Cell phones in today's time have made communication very easy in Nepal. While trekking in the remote parts of the Himalayas, you can have access to telephone facility but sometimes bad weather may disturb telephone connections. In most of the cities you can easily get internet access but in the trekking trails this service is available only in limited places.
Nepali is an official language of Nepal, with over 30 other languages spoken as mother tongues in different parts of the country, and as well there are many regional dialects. English is spoken. Many in the travel and tourism industry speak German, Spanish, Japanese, French and Italian.
From April to the end of October, it is warm in Kathmandu. In Nepal clothing for travelling purpose should be comfortable and light. You can also wear longer shorts provided that it is weather- friendly. In the months of November to the end of March, days are usually warm and evenings are cool. Put on your summer clothes during the day time but in the evening and night it is advisable to carry a light jacket. Winter season starts from December to February. One must be equipped with sufficient winter wears to stay protected from the cold.
Climate factors are very important in deciding on a visit to Nepal and because of its varying topography Nepal encounter climatic extremes depending upon the altitude of the place. However, in general Nepal has four climatic seasons:
Autumn (September-November), the start of the dry season, is in many ways the best time of the year in Nepal. As the monsoon ends the country-side is green and lush and Nepal is at its most beautiful. Rice is harvested and there are some more important and colorful festivals to enjoy. At this time of the year the air is sparkling clean, visibility is unexcelled and the Himalayan views are as near perfect as you can ask. Furthermore the weather is still balmy, neither too hot nor too cold. For obvious reasons, this is also the peak tourist season.
Winter (December-February) the temperatrues and visibility are still good, though it can get very cold. Trekkers need to be well prepared, as snow can be encountered on high-altitude treks. Heading for the Everest Base Camp at this time of the year can be a real feat of endurance and the Annapurna Circuit trek is often closed by snow on the Thorang La pass. There's sometimes a brief winter monsoon, lasting just a day or two in January.
Spring (March-May), the tail end of the dry season, is the second-best time. The weather gets warmer so high-altitude treks are no longer as arduous, although by the end of the dry season, before the monsoon breaks, it starts to get too hot for comfort. Visibility is not good as earlier in the dry season since the country is now very dry, and dust in the air reduces that crystal Himalayan clarity. In compensation, Nepal's wonderful rhododendrons and many other flowers are in bloom so there's plenty of color to be seen along the trekking trails.
Summer (June-August) are not the best months as it is extremely hot and dusty. Mid-June to August, when the monsoon finally arrives, is the least popular time to visit Nepal. The rains wash the dust out the air, but the clouds obscure the mountains so you're unlikely to enjoy more than a rare glimpse of Himalayas. Although it doesn't rain all day it usually does rain everyday and the trails will be muddy and plagued by leeches. Despite this, it is possible to trek during the monsoon, although high rivers may further complicate matters and it's certainly not as pleasant as other times of the year. Landslides sometimes block roads during the monsoon but many visitors still come to Nepal form India as the weather is even less pleasant down on the plains. However the latter part of the monsoon (the months of August-September) is a time of festivals which will certainly enliven a visit to Kathmandu.
Rafting is one of the best ways to explore the typical cross section of natural as well as ethno-cultural heritage of the country. There are numerous rivers in Nepal which offer excellent rafting or canoeing experience. You can glide on calm jade waters with magnificent scenery all about or rush through roaring white rapids, guided by expert river-men employed by government authorized agencies. One can opt for a day off river running or more. The Trishuli River (Grade 3+) is one of the most popular of Nepal’s raftable rivers. The Kali Gandaki (5 - 5+) winds through remote canyons and deep gorges for five days of intense rapids. The Bhote Koshi (4 - 5) IS 26km of continuous white water and the raging Marshyangdi is four days of uninterrupted white water. The Karnali River (4 - 5) provides some of the most challenging rapids in the world. The Sun Kosi (4 - 5), 270km, requiring 8 - 10 days to complete, is a big and challenging river. Adventures are provided with world-class services by rafting agents. Agencies here provide life jackets, camping gear and the standard rafting paraphernalia needed by world-class rafters. An extremely popular sport in Europe, canyoning is now available in Nepal. Canyoning gives you the freedom to explore some of the most ruggedly beautiful, yet forbidden places in the world.
Meditation, Yoga and Ayurveda
Nepal provides the solitude and environment for meditation which is unparalleled in this part of the world. Nepal has much to offer to those interested in meditation, yoga and Ayurveda. There are guided and residential courses for meditation and yoga and the effects are far-reaching and cumulative.
The mountain 'fly-bys' are simply breathtaking. Mountain fly-bys have become a popular tourist attraction in Nepal.
Mountain flight appeals to all categories of travelers. For those who are restricted by time or other consideration from going trekking, these flights offer a panoramic view of the Himalaya in just one hour. Even those visitors who like rigors of trek still don't miss the opportunity to "conquer" the mountain in one fell swoop.
While the Himalaya make up Nepal's northern region, the southern low land known as terai is covered with dense tropical jungles teeming with diverse wildlife and exotic birds. Here you will find some of the most exciting safari destination in the world. You will be going into the deep jungle on elephant back or four-wheel drive vehicle to view wild animals in their natural habitat. Other thrills are canoe rides on the Jungle Rivers, nature walks, bird watching excursions, and village tours.
Among the 14 national parks and wild life reserves in the kingdom, The Chitwan National Park (932 Sq km) is the most popular safari destination. More than 43 species of animals are found in Chitwan. The endangered one horned rhino, royal Bengal tiger, gharial crocodile, four horned antelope, stripped hyena and the Gangetic dolphin are the main attractions here. The best part is that it is close to Kathmandu and easily accessible (only 165 km overland), and Bharatpur airport adjoining the park is mere 25 minutes flight away. Many adventurers also choose to go down by raft. However jungle safari is an experience that is remembered for a long time.
MICE tourism is the new buzzword in international tourism market and relates to various forms of tourism business concerned with groups of business individuals rather than individual business travelers. MICE stand for: meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions.
Nepal is one of the best destination for MICE activities in Asia. Nepal offers everything one could possibly look for to hold a successful world-class event- great location, excellent infrastructure, comprehensive high-tech facilities, trained manpower. Logistically speaking, Nepal has best chain hotels like Soaltee Hotel, Radisson, Hyatt which are well equipped with conference and meeting halls. Specially designed with world-class convention facilities, the hall comes with state-of-art audiovisual presentation equipment, simultaneous interpretation capabilities, motorized screens and theatrical lighting. International airlines like Thai Airways, Qatar Airway, Gulf Air, Jet Air, Jetlite, Silk Air, Ethiad Air, Air Arabia, Pakistan International Airlines, Druk Air, Biman Bangladesh, GMG Bangladesh, Indian Airlines, Korean Airlines, Air China, China Southern Airlines make regular flight to Kathmandu connecting it with major cities of the world. Throughout the year, the climate remains moderate in Kathmandu unlike many capital cities of South Asia. After hectic business schedule, the nightlife in Kathmandu is what people always want to enjoy- upbeat music, exciting dance, choicest booze, tasty food, dazzling casino. For pre and post conference tour, Nepal is a perfect destination because everything that one must see and feel in Nepal is close to its capital Kathmandu. Whether it is a jungle safari that Hollywood actress Goldie Hawn or Supermodel Kate Moss enjoyed or the hiking Prince Charles or Pop star Mick Jagger or Former US President Jimmy Carter did, everyplace is an hour flight from Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley is the UNESCO World Heritage Site having seven monuments within a radius of 20kms. A meeting or convention at the World Heritage Site holds a great importance because Nepal is one of the few countries where two national parks are enlisted as World Heritage Site.
Apart from organizing various programs pertaining to MICE activities, it also provides comprehensive information on facilities and services; suggests ideas for various programs such as activities for spouses and pre/post event options; co-ordinates with the organizer and other government agencies to ensure the successful planning and staging of meetings and events; set up and facilitating arrangements with industry members; provides promotional materials and information for the Corporate Meeting; provides advice on venues and local market conditions; supplies visitor guides, brochures, maps, posters and videos.
Seto Machindranath Snan, January. Seto (white) Machendranath enjoys a week long festivals in which he is bathed, oiled perfumed and painted. The goddess Kumari visits him at his elaborate temple near Asan tole. If he is pleased by the music, offering and attention of his devotee, the people of the valley can look forward to satisfactory rainfall in the planting season.
Swasthani, January - February, The three eyes of Goddess Swasthani watches over us. By worshipping Swasthani, Parbati attained Lord Shiva as her husband.
Manghe Sankranti, January. In the holy month of Magh the sun enters the southern hemisphere, and the days begin to grow longer and warmer. Lord Vishnu the Preserver is thanked for his efforts. Traditionally on Maghe Sankranti (the 1st day of Magh) people take an early morning bath in a holy river, visit the shrine of Vishnu, and present flowers, incense and food to him. They read the Bhagwad Gita, also known as The Song of the Gods, rub mustard oil over their bodies, and enjoy the feast of rice cooked with lentils, yams or taruls - a must - and laddu, sweets made of sesame and sugarcane paste.
Basanta Panchami and Saraswati Puja, January. Basanta or spring ushers is the loveliest time of the year. Crowds gather at Kathmandu Durbar Square while the head of state and other dignitaries welcome the season as the band plays the traditional songs of spring. A different celebration occurs at Swayambhu and at Nil Barahi Shrine near Lazimpat. Saraswati, the goddess of learning, arts and crafts is worshipped at her temples. Artists, musicians, teachers and students bring flowers, unbroken rice and other gifts to please her.
Maha Shiva Ratri, February. During Mahashivarati Lord Shiva's followers throughout the Indian sub continent, crowd at the Pashupati temple to worship this occasion. Colorful sadhus the wandering sages who emulate Shiva, rub ashes over their bodies give lectures to disciples meditate or practice Yoga. Devotees pray to Shiva at midnight and may queue for up to six hours to look at the image. Bonfires are lit, neighbors and friend share food, and devotees enjoy a night of music dance and song throughout the Pashupati complex and the streets.
Losar, February. Sherpas and Tibetans welcome their New Year with feasts, family visits and dancing. Families do their finest clothes and jewelry and exchange gifts. Buddhist monks offer prayers for good health and prosperity, and perform dances at the monasteries. Colorful prayers flag decorates the streets and rooftops; the colors seems especially brilliant at the Boudha and Swayambhu stupa. Crowds of celebrants at Boudha bring in the New Year by throwing Tsampa (roasted barley flour) into the air.
Holi or Fagu Purnima, March. Fagu purnima is one of the most colorful and playful festivals of Nepal. The chir (wooden pole) flags are erected on the first day of Fagu at Kathmandu Durbar Square to declare the festival.
Chaitra Dashain, March - April. Red vermilion powder, family blessings, and goat and duck sacrifices are essential to praise the victory of Ram, hero of the epic Ramayan, over the evil king Rawan. Mother goddess Durga the source of all power, must be supplicated too, for her powers helped Ram achieve his victory.
Ghode Jatra, April. Visitors are often amazed by the fine horses of the Nepalese army, and Ghode Jatra is a time for the most graceful of these animals to perform before the public eyes. Legend relates that this "Horse Festival" was begun after the Kathmandu people buried a demon under the soil of Tundi Khel Ground. They say that he may rise again and cause worry to the world if he is not trampled on horse each year. So every spring, this victory over evil is celebrated in the valley by organizing palanquin procession and a grand display of show jumping, motorcycling feats, and gymnastics.
Biska Jatra, April. During this important festival, the old kingdom of Bhaktapur and its surrounding areas replays a drama passed on over the centuries. Images of wrathful and somewhat demonic deities are placed on tottering chariots. They are offered blood sacrifices, flowers and coins, men brimming with youthful vigor and rice beer drag the chariot across bricks paved street of the town and wherever these chariots stop, lamps are lit and devotees overflow into the rounding alleys. Other gods and goddess too are put into the palanquins and carried around so that they may see the sights. At Bode Village, there is tongue - boring ceremony in which the dedicated may reserve a place in heaven.
Red Machhendranath Jatra, May. Until a few decades ago, before a Kathmandu valley became a purely commercial hub, it was an agricultural land. The tradition of worshipping the Rani God, "Red Machhendranath" continues till this day. Patan's street and palace complex are made even more evocative by waving lamps and candle lights, women busily cooking feast and men gathering strengths to pull the chariot, its four wheels - representing the powerful Bhairab - receive rice and vermilion powder, the king of the serpent also is asked for blessings, and his jeweled vest is shown to the public.
Buddha Jayanti, May. Lord Buddha was born in Nepal, and the religion he preached is second most popular in the country. On a full moon day of May, the valley celebrates his birth. On this day, people reach the stupa before dawn and give offerings to the many Buddha images in Nepal.
Gunla, July - August. The valley Buddhists observe Gunla. The month long festivities celebrates a "rain retreat" initiated twenty-five centuries ago by Buddha. It is a time for prayer, fasting, meditation and religious music.
Janai Poorrima and Rakshya Bandhan, August. On Janai Poornima, a full moon day, high cast high class Hindu chant the Gayatri Mantra and change their sacred thread (janai), while a rakshya bandhaan, a red or yellow protection cord, is tied around the wrist of other Hindus and Buddhists.
Gai Jatra, August. The gai, or cow is holy to Hindus. She represents Laxmi, the goddess of wealth. Satirical jokes, fancy costumes and colorful processions are the order of the day as people recall how an eighteenth century king rallied his people to cheer his upon the death of her son. Those who have experienced the death of close ones during the past year share their sorrows and take comfort in the fact that the 'gai' has safely transported the departed soul on their afterlife journey.
Teej, September. Pashupati, the temple of Shiva, is drenched in crimson during teej as women in their fine red saris crowd the temple grounds. This unique women's festival is marked by fasting, folk songs, and dancing as the women recall Parbati's devotion to her husband Shiva. Married women visit their father's homes.
Indra Jatra, September. As the end of the monsoon nears, farmers look forward to a rich harvest: Everybody is grateful to God Indra his help. For eight days, Kathmandu Durbar Square is the focus of the great Indra Jatra celebration.
Dasain, October. Dasain is the longest and the most favorite festival of Nepal. Everyone stays home with their family. Animals are sacrificed in the night of Kaal Ratri to the goddess Durga to celebrate her victory over evil. On the day of Dashami everyone wears new clothes and goes to honor their family elders, where they receive large red tikas of vermilion paste on their foreheads. In the following days of dashain, families and friends unite, feasts are consumed, blessings are imparted and gifts are exchanged, 'kite flying' is entertained.
Mani Rimdu, November. Mani Rimdu is a Sherpa festival celebrated during the fall at Tengboche Monastery in the Everest Region. For five days, Lamas and Sherpas gather for "the good of the world". There are plays, masked dances, prayers and feasting. Demons are quelled and the pious rewarded. The days are colorful and the trip to the Everest region is very rewarding indeed if they can be organized during the days of the festival.
Tihar, November. Tihar, known as festival of light, is the time of candlelight, tinsel decorations and festive colored sweets. On different days there are offerings and small celebration for cows, dogs, crows and oxen. On the night of Laxmi Puja, garlands are hung and lamps are lighted to invite Laxmi, goddess of wealth, into the home. Mha Puja, the New Year day according to Nepal's era, is the day of the self, when the soul gives blessing to their body for remaining healthy and happy for the rest of the year. Bhai tika, the last day of Tihar, is the day when sisters make offering to their brothers. The rituals of breaking the wall nuts, putting on garlands of Makhmali flowers and encircling brothers into rings of mustard oil protects them from Yama the lord of Netherworld.
Bala Chaturdashi, December. This simple festive day takes place in the ancient forest surrounding the temple of Pashupatinath. It is one of the oldest traditions of the valley. Families who have lost a loved one in the last year keep an all night vigil in the forests, lighting oil lamps and singing songs. Following the ritual morning bath, people walk through the forest, scattering seven types of grains along the paths and over the linga of the Lord Shiva to give merit t their late kinsmen and to cleanse the sins of a mythological man called Bala who had been transformed into a demon.
Bibah Paanchami, December. All the people of the Hindu world know the story of the marriage of the hero Ram and the Princess Sita, as told in the epic Ramayan. King Janak, Sita's father proposed the test of strength for the suitors of his daughter: to string the great bow lord Shiva. Warrior, Kings and chieftains came from a far, but no man could even lift the bow but when Ram tried to string it, the bow shattered into pieces. Ram and Sita were married in Janakpur, now in southern Nepal, and their marriage is celebrated to this day. Each year’s idols of Ram and Sita are brought in procession and their Hindu wedding ceremony is reenacted during a week long religious fair.
Yomari Punhi, December. As the new rice brought in, the farmers of the valley prepare for Yomari Punhi, an offering to the gods in thanks for the abundant harvest. The yomari is the special cake made from the flour of new rice. A shell of dough is filled with melted raw sugar and sealed. It is presented to god as offering. Thus each year, when the storerooms are full and farmers toil has been rewarded, the Gods are thanked for their benevolence and generosity.
To fly directly to Nepal, Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA) in Kathmandu is the only international airport in Nepal. The TIA has direct air links with Hong Kong, Lhasa, Dhaka, Doha, Abu Dhabi, Banglore, Shanghai, Dubai, Bangkok, Karachi, Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Varanasi & Paro etc. Apart from Nepal Airlines, various other airlines such as Thai Airways, Qatar Airways, Ethiad Airline, Oman Air, Fly Dubai, Air Asia, Pakistan International Airlines, Indian Airlines, Druk Air, Air China, Biman Bangladesh carry most of the travelers to Kathmandu.
You can also travel overland to Nepal from India or Tibet. There are several entry points at Nepal-India Border namely Kakarbhitta, Birgunj, Belhiya (Bhairahawa), Nepalgunj, Dhangadi, Sunauli and Mahendranagar whereas the entry point at Nepal-China Border is Kodari.
All visitors except Indian nationals must hold a passport and valid visa. Visa can be obtained at the Nepalese diplomatic missions and consulates abroad. Visa is also issued at the entry points. It can be extended at the Department of Immigration in Kathmandu. Children under 10 years need not pay any visa fee. People willing to get entry Visa at the airport or any of the land entry points are required to fill a visa form with passport size photograph.
Beside Tribhuvan International Airport (TIA), Tourist entry visa can also be obtained from the following entry points of Nepal:
- Kakarvitta, Jhapa (Eastern Nepal) - Birganj, Parsa (Central Nepal) - Kodari, Sindhupalchowk (Northern Border) - Belhiya, Bhairahawa (Rupandehi, Western Nepal) - Jamuna, Nepalgunj (Banke, Mid Western Nepal) - Mohana, Dhangadhi (Kailali, Far Western Nepal) - Gaddachauki, Mahendranagar (Kanchanpur, Far Western Nepal)
15 days (Multiple Entry): US$ 25 or equivalent convertible currency 30 days (Multiple Entry): US$ 40 or equivalent convertible currency 90 days (Multiple Entry): US$ 100 or equivalent convertible currency
Tourist Visa Extension - Visa extension fee for 15 days or less is US $ 30 or equivalent convertible currency and visa extension fee for more than 15 days is US$ 2 per day - Tourist visa can be extended for a maximum period of 150 days in a single visa year (January - December).
Gratis (Free) Visa - Gratis visa for 30 days available only for tourists of SAARC countries. - Indian nationals do not require visa to enter into Nepal.
Transit Visa Transit visa for one day can be obtained from Nepal's immigration offices at the entry points upon the production of departure flight ticket via Tribhuvan International Airport in Nepal, by paying US $ 5 or equivalent convertible currency.
For further information: Department of Immigration Maitighar, Impact Building Kathmandu Tel: 00977-1-4221996 / 4223590 / 4222453 website: www.immi.gov.np
Note: Nepal government gives on arrival visa to all nationalities except the following countries: Nigeria, Ghana,Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Cameroon, Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan
Nepal is a land of geographical extremes, ranging from near sea-level elevations in the southern Terai to the world's highest mountain. The country contains variety of ecosystem; treeless sub-alpine pastures and dense forests of the high valley, oak and rhododendron woods of the middle hills, and tall sal forest of the south. Along the southern border of Nepal are preserved much of the low land jungles and grassland that once covered this part of the sub continent. Here one can see the birds and mammals found nowhere else. Although animals habitat has been somewhat depleted as a result of agriculture, deforestation and other causes, through Nepal's extensive and effective park and reserve system, the country still has more varied flora and fauna than any other area in Asia.
The culture of Nepal is rich and unique. The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage encompasses the diversities of Nepal's ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it manifests in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks.
Bronze and Metal
From the beginning Nepal produced beautiful art work in metal. The cooper coins of the Lichhavi from the 5th century of the Christian era shows the highly developed metal art of Nepal. In the temples of Kathmandu valley there are copper statue made from the lost wax process (cine-per-due) that can be dated back to the 2nd and 3rd century AD.
The Chinese travelers, Wang Hsuan Tse, when testified the existence of highly developed metal craft skills in Nepal saying he was surprised to find crocodile headed cooper pipes, which drained the monsoon (waters) from the open balconies of the palaces. The palaces also had the copper roofs. Copper utensils where used and exported in India. The Tibetans after the emergence of Buddhism in Tibet needed many Buddhist icons most of which were obtained from Nepal. A beautiful tall one cast image of Buddha made in Patan in the year 591 AD is displayed in the Cleveland Museum in the U.S.A. in and around Kathmandu there are thousands of figures from the 7th century onward. During the medieval period they sculpted various Hindu Buddhist deities to fulfill the local needs as well as to meet the demand of the Tibetans.
The metal work even today is done by the century old cine-per-due or lost wax process. Firstly the object s shaped in beeswax, every detail of the brow, hair, and ornaments are made in the wax model. Then the second process covers the wax model in soft thin clay and dried in the shade. (Drying in the sun will cause the clay to crack). After drying, a second coat of hare clay mixed with rice husks is applied. A small hole is left at the bottom. When the mould dries completely, it is then heated on the fire so that the wax melts and comes out of the hole, but the clay has taken the impression and then the melted metal or bronze is poured through the same hole and it takes on the shape of the original wax model now in clay. The mould is then broken and the figure takes the form of the original wax model now in clay. The mold is broken and the figure takes the form of the object originally designed. The bronze is cleaned and chiseled, gilded with gold and the finally the eyes, face and hair are painted on. One mold casts only one piece, that is why they are quiet expensive.
At the Industrial Estate of Patan and in many homes around the Mahaboudha area the properly cast bronzes and copper statues are produced. They are mostly carved solid, but some are hollow inside. The artists can be observed preparing the wax models, coating the clay, taking the wax out, casting, chiseling and painting, at the workshops around Mahaboudha, Patan.
Along with casting the Nepalese are experts in repose- hammer beaten brass and copper works. There are life size repose images of Ganga and Jamuna in the three Royal Palaces of the Kathmandu valley. The copper and brass sheets are beaten by hammer into the required shape and then gold is applied. Many tympanums, the royal statues of the three cities supported by the tall monolithic stone pillars are done in this way. The golden gate of Bhaktapur, the golden gate of Patan Durbar and Hanuman Dhoka are best examples of these.
Patan museum has good example of these bronze icons in various styles, and the shop sales the posters and copies of bronze icons, and a number of galleries have beautiful authentic bronzes cast more recently. Also, old households brass and bronze utensils can still be found in Bhaktapur.
Ceramics and Pottery
The pottery industry in Nepal is ancient; mention was made of pottery work in the Vedas probably dating back to 3,000 B.C. pre-history pottery of Nepal consists of red brown or black shades on unglazed surfaces. Excavation on various sites of Kathmandu valley as well as Lumbini, have revealed specimens of ancient pottery ware. They are usually terracotta unglazed, although a few pieces of glazed pottery have found in Lumbini Area. Most of Nepali pottery ware is for utilitarian purposes, such as container jars, water pitchers, lamps, washing bowls, flower vases, and chilims - small objects used in religious worship.
The pottery clay is found in the Kathmandu valley, the Pokhara valley and the southern terai belt of Nepal. In Nepal there are four techniques used which are (1) hand forming (2) forming with coils (3) moulding, and (4) throwing. The hand forming technique is used to make small pottery ware for burning the oil fed lamps in the temples And at the Tihar season (October / November) the festival of light is celebrated, and this time most houses in Nepal will purchase numbers of these lamps to light their houses and gardens.
There are no known brick-built permanent kilns in Nepal except in Bhaktapur where there are commercial kilns, as normally the pottery ware is fired in the courtyard of garden, or in the field.
Black terracotta is another variety of folk pottery. This pottery ware with a black shiny surface is first of all made on the potters wheel and dried in the sun. When leather hard, it is placed on the wheel again and the outer surface is rubbed with a smooth fruit seed, called lekh pangra to give it a shiny surface. It is then fired in an open kiln. When the firing is about to be completed all the openings are closed and the pottery is baked in an insufficient supply of oxygen. This produces a lot of smoke inside and carbon particles get deposited on the outer surface of the potter ware, which gives shiny black surface to the pottery. Other clay products such as bricks and roof tiles are also produced all over Nepal.
The Nepalese potters are waiting to be helped and encouraged to widen their horizons; to learn to use glazes; to build brick kilns. A travel agent can arrange a series of visit to potters in their villages and it is possible to arrange workshop and training programs to tourist and visitors. Speakers and practitioners can be sourced to present workshops, and the main areas where this could be an inclusion in a tour are in Thimi and Bhaktapur.
Both spatial and temporal in nature dance derives its liveliness from music which is merely temporal. In Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva is the Natraj, the supreme king of dancing and when he danced his "Tandab Nritya", the whole planet earth was violently shaken. Since then classical dance have been mainly based on religion and myth. Nepal has had a tradition in which even epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana have been subjected to interpretation in dance.
Elaborate classical grammar which was laid down in the "Natya Shastra" written in the 2nd century B.C. in India, gives much emphasis to the movement of the eyes and the gestures of the hands to which Nepali dance also adheres.
The Newars of the Kathmandu valley are the main exponent of the classical dancing, with mask dances with tantric background, and in particular the lakhe dance, and in Bhaktapur the colorful Mahakali masked dances are performed during the Indra Jatra festival each year.
As well, among the monasteries of Boudhanath Tibetan masked dancing by monks can be seen at certain times of the year during celebration and anniversaries, and in western Nepal Magar performs Sorathi, and in Terai the stick dance is usually seen.
Jewelry is closely associated with culture's aesthetic ideals, with its sensuous contours, even materials from which they are made - all reveals culture's impassioned view about what it is beautiful.
In the Himalayas, jewelry also communicates social status and political power. Its symbols convey ancient cultural values and, particularly in its form as an amulet boxes it serves as a powerful talisman. Himalayan jewelry also reflects the great religious traditions of Buddhism and Hinduism; the Newar craftsman of the Kathmandu valley created amulet boxes adorned with both Hindu and Buddhist iconography for their customers from Nepal, and for exports around the Himalayan region, and Tibet in particular.
Jewelry plays an important role in Buddhist and Hindu iconography, with god and goddess of these traditions richly adorned with abundant jewelry crowns, earrings, necklaces, armlets, anklets, finger and toe rings.
The Newars became the gold craftsmen in Lhasa Tibet, as far back as the 16th century. Amulet boxes and other gold jewelry were created by repose, a metal working technique, which flourished in the Kathmandu valley as early as the 7th century AD. It translates from the French word reposser "to beat again" The technique demanded great skill of the artists, as the material actually worked upon is metal a surface particularly unforgiving of mistakes. A sheet of metal must take the imprint of the craftsman's chisels and punches, beaten again and again against a pitch of wax and resin. Most surviving reposse work from Nepal is in copper or brass, although it is often gilded to look like gold.
Along with the gold the Himalayan stones of coral, amber and turquoise decorate the amulets, the jewelry, the ornaments, rings, earrings, necklaces and even belts. (Modern copies are made in silver and can be found in the jewelry shops scattered through the three cities).
Hunting among the antique, metal and jewelry shops of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur is a shopper's delight.
The Living Goddess
From the immemorial the practice of worshipping an ordinary pre-pubescent girl as a source of supreme power has been an integral part of both Hinduism and Buddhism, a tradition, which continues even to this day virtually in every household. They call this girl Kumari Keti and worship her on all the religious occasions.
The predominance of the Kumari cult is more distinctly evident among the Newars community inside the Kathmandu valley as she has become an inevitable feature of their worship almost in every Vihar and Bahal including the nooks and corners of Newari settlements. However, it was the Vajrayana sect of Mahayana Buddhism that was responsible for establishing the tradition of worshipping a girl from the Sakya community as the royal living goddess.
The selection of a living goddess is highly elaborate tantric rituals. Upon passing the preliminary test, which is merely concerned with their 32 attributes of perfection, the 4 to 7 years old poor girl from the Sakya community are made to confront a goddess in the darkened room. The sight of buffalo head scattered around, the demon like masked dancers, the terrifying noises they encounter scare some of these innocent babies. The one who emerges victorious from these tests is the only girl who is entitled to sit on the pedestal for worship as the Living goddess.
The god-house Kumari Ghar beside the Kathmandu Durbar Square is a storehouse of magnificent intricate carving where the Living goddess performs her daily rituals. During her tenure in god house, Guthi Sansthan, the government trust bears her entire expenses including that of her caretakers. Under normal circumstances, her day in god-house comes to an end with her first menstruation, but if she turns out to be unlucky, as they say, even a minor scratch on her body that bleeds can made her invalid for worship.
On Indra Jatra, the living goddess in all her jeweled splendor travels through the older part of Kathmandu city in a three-tiered chariot accompanied by Ganesh and Bhairab each day for three days. It is really a grand gala in which people in their thousand throng in an around the Kathmandu Durbar Square to pay their homage to the living goddess. During this festival she also blesses the king in keeping with the tradition in which the first king of the Shah Dynasty, who annexed Kathmandu in 1768, received a blessing from the living goddess.
The god are on the one hand, the demons on the other, representing good and evil; they are the two opposing radical forces in Hindu mythology who have been fighting ever since the creation of beginning itself. In each drama god emerges as victorious, the demon get vanquished, and the dancer have worn masks to stage these dramas. Wearing a mask makes a person a god, another a devil, and this is where drama gets enacted amid the roaring sound of drums and cymbals.
Masked dances are performed in Nepal on almost every major religious occasion, like Gai Jatra, Indra Jatra, Pachali Bhairab Jatra, etc. and the dancers are mainly gardeners from the Newar community. The three cities of Kathmandu valley have a number of organizations of masked dancers, with Bhaktapur city alone with more than one hundred group.
Thimi, on the way to Bhaktapur, is where masks of all kinds are made, and it is possible to watch the mask makers at work mixing cotton and Nepalese rice paper with the clay, placing it in a mould and drying it in the shade, and later painting the eyes, lips and mouth according to the norms set down by religious tradition.
The wooden masks are carved mainly by the Tamangs in Nepal, although the wood is often not seasoned, and at Boudhanath you ac see many old wooden masks which are quiet old and have an antique or art value, and Thimi is the place to see the paper and clay masks, including a master turning a lump of clay into a beautiful masked wall hanging.
Janakpur, a city of Nepal's eastern terai, is a Hindu pilgrimage site with a legendary history, and is the center of Mithila culture in Nepal. It is an age-old culture with its own language and rich literature where women have a predominant role in the field of painting as well as handicraft.
The painting traditions vary from caste to caste. The art of Brahmins and Kayastha (the caste, which once kept records for Brahmins) is closely tied to religious rituals, as shown in the making of aripana, in which the women grind rice with water into a paste called Pithar. Dipping two fingers in to the Pithars they make graceful lace-like designs on the mud floors of their homes or courtyards. These designs are used for worship, for rituals related to marriage, or a particular full or half moon day.
Brahmins women decorate a maraba, a pavilion made out on mud plaster on the occasion of Upanayan ( a boy’s hair cutting ceremony) with images of the gods. Before wedding Kayastha women decorate a wedding chamber called kahbar. The art of the women is transient with the rains destroying the mud and painted designs, or in the spring during a New Year festival the paintings are covered with mud. The practice of painting in papers is fairly new for most Mithila women, although the Kasayastha caste has had tradition of making paintings on paper to wrap gifts for marriages.
Nepali classical music owes its origin to Rig Veda. Later the metrical chanting of its hymns found its expression in the songs of Sama Veda. Since then classical music has associated itself with every sphere of Nepalese classical life. For nearly 3,000 years, the tradition has been handed down from generation to generation.
The classical structure of melody is known as Raga, and there are hundreds of Ragas either played on musical instruments or sung according to season or time. The 24 hours period is divided into 8 segments of 3 hours each, and each Raga has to stick to a particular time in order to produce a desire effect. At time, some branches of these ragas composed of songs are intertwined with dances.
Small groups of itinerant minstrels namely the Damais and the Gaines have become an integral part of the Nepali folk culture. Through the ages of Gaines have been visiting door-to-door singing accompanied by Sarangee, a local violin, their only means of survival. The Damais do the same thing with Sahanai (a recorder), (although they have another source of income from tailoring). The Damais also plays Panchai Baja (Sahanai, Narsinga(horn), Damaha (drum), Dholaki (a recorder) and Tyamko (a small drum)) which they play in a group during wedding which is a feature of village life. Folk music in Nepal thrives throughout the country embracing a wide range of ethnic diversities. Every community dances to the beat of the drum and melody of the flute on important occasions.
The Nepalese handmade paper is called "kancho kagaz" (kancho meaning raw and kagaz meaning paper). This paper is ancient in origin. The craft appears to have been introduced to Nepal from china via Tibet by the Lama Buddhists, some immigrants from India and probably Kashmir also brought the art of Nepal. Papermaking is practiced in the mid northern belt of Nepal, probably the temperate climates being an issue as well. Different ethnic groups in Nepal are engaged in different profession. Gurung, Magar of west Nepal and Rais of east Nepal are usually found in the paper making profession.
Nepali paper is used in making the kites, dolls and toys, calendars, envelop and writing materials, in writing horoscopes, mandalas and thangka painting. The raw material of Nepali paper still grows wild; it has not been cultivated as yet. It is Danphe plant grown in the altitude of 2,000 to 3,500 meters. The common name of the bark is Lokta.
Handmade paper production can be seen very easily on the edges of the Kathmandu valley and north towards the Tibet borders. More enterprising entrepreneurs are now pressing petals, flowers and leaves into the paper and are making wallpapers, lampshades and other designer items.
Nepal is a famous for this unique art, which is of a mostly religious nature, although there is some secular art from the very beginning of her civilization. The excavation in Nepalese terai have brought to light many terracotta art works that have been scientifically dated to 3rd and 4th century BC or even earlier. The terracotta art from Lumbini, and Kapilvastu the famous Buddhist sites, prove that the terracotta art was highly developed during this period
The National Museum at Chaunni in Kathmandu has many terracotta pieces in display. An excavation at Dhumbarahi in the east of Kathmandu within the Ring Road, has yielded many terracotta figurines, animals and miniature toys with various kinds of clothes and ornaments. It has been ascertained that in certain areas of Handigaon and Chandol there were big terracotta centers in the Lichhavi period. During a medieval period a caste “Prajapati” known as Kumale developed the terracotta art. Hundreds of goddess and gods from this medieval period can be seen in the art in and around Kathmandu. The famous temple of Mahabouddha of Patan, built around 1,600 AD is a perfect example of Nepalese terracotta and brickwork. This terracotta art is different from the ceramic art of china and Japan. Archaeological findings at Lumbini and Kapilvastu have proved that around 600 BC the Nepalese made the special kind of pottery with black polish, smoothed and glazed. These disappeared around 2nd century BC. The medieval Chaityas were also made of terracotta, the potters of Bhaktapur made lattice windows from terracotta, and Tympanum and struts to support the roof were also made from clay.
The National Museum has on display many figures of terracotta with multiarms and heads, and the temple of Rani Pokhari right at the center of the pool has wonderful collection of figures of Astamatrikas, Varaha, Vishnu, Surya, and Varaheni.
A huge standing terracotta Vishnu in the Aryaghat of Pashupati is another masterpiece of art. At the Kumari Ghar the official residence of Kumari, the living goddess in Kathmandu, there are some perfect examples of Nepalese terracotta art. Hundreds of terracotta piece depicting the ruler game hunting in the jungle, the wild animals, the peacock dancing are some of the best art of Nepal. This art still continues in Nepal today, with the potters of Thimi and Bhaktapur working very hard to develop the art and to gain international recognition. They have started many ceramic industries making household objects. The whole process can b watched in Thimi and Bhaktapur along with scores of souvenirs shops.
Lumbini and Kapilvastu are south of Nepal close to the border with India, referred to as the Terai area. They can be reached by bus, air or guided tour. And of course visitors need no remainder that any one of these terracottas cannot be taken out of the country. Seek some advice and find a master potter, who could craft you a copy.
"Painting is the mother of all forms of art", so say a Hindu scripture, whereas the pre-historic cave paintings of Dordogne in France and Altamira in Spain are considered 12,000 years old, the history of painting in Nepal are dates back to the Lichhavi period in the beginning of the Christian era. The wall paintings and inscriptions in Chabahil near Pashupatinath are dated to the 5th century, and inscription in Kathmandu and Gorkha are some other example.
Some of the oldest most refined and beautiful Thangka paintings found in Nepal dates back to 12th century and even earlier. The majority of these paintings came from Buddhist manuscripts like Pranjaparamita, and are preserved in National archives, in temple and monasteries, and in private collection and museums abroad. The national Art Gallery of Bhaktapur, the National Archives and the Kaiser Library have good collections of these manuscripts.
Wall paintings, fresco and murals paintings are found in Kathmandu valley in all of the three palaces of Kathmandu, with whole rooms painted without an inch uncovered, showing both religion and secular themes. The kumari ghar of Kathmandu and the temple of Kirtipur show wonderful examples of wall paintings with gods, divinities and the rulers and aristocrats of the period. As far as the Lichhavi period the temples of Jayabagishwari, the temple of Chandiswari at Banepa, and the wall of Tika Bhairaba were painted every twelve years, and this tradition still continues today.
The ruler, and the rich and aristocratic painted nine planets, twenty-eight constellations, all in different posses such as seated, standing, walking, eating, sleeping according to the birth name of the constellation and the planets, but these horoscope charts are not easily found as the tradition in Nepal is to burn them along with the body at cremation, or tear them up and throw them in the water with the ashes.
Thangka painting in Nepal was used to describe the complicated tantric philosophy, which also worked as a visual aid to a layman. “Ushnisa Vijaya”, a coming of age ceremony (77 years, 7 month and 7 days) in the Newar community is another occasion when the elderly person is depicted in the center of Thangka riding in a palanquin through his neighborhood or locality. Thangkas are also painted to commemorate the building of a temple or stupa, and are used in worshipping the divinities in their various manifestations. When he come to his holiness the Dalai Lama or other reincarnated lamas in the monasteries ordering Thangka these painting still adhere to old iconographic rituals and they have their special masters who have been trained by their fathers or other masters. But the commercially motivated ones obviously fall into the different category.
The two kinds of Thangka paintinga are Newari Thangka and the Tamang Thangka, which has been influenced by the Tibetan school. The Newari Thangkas are the more refined and defined and are always much brighter in color. The Newar thangkas have gods; Buddhist gods dominating the whole canvas, while the Tamang Thangkas mostly depict mandalas, the life of Buddha and the wheels of life. Throughout Kathmandu and the valley, thangka schools and painters can be visited and time can be spent learning, listening and watching the artists at their work. Westerners can learn painting, and spend time learning this meditative art, which will pervade their whole being, and bring them closer to their own truth.
In annals of the art and architectural treasure of Nepal wood has been the most common material used for carving. Although it is difficult to trace its exact origin, Nepalese craftsmen in wood exist even before the 6th century. The description of Chinese traveler, Wang Hsuan Tse, in his travelogue, who visited Kathmandu in 673 AD about the sculpted and painted wooden houses in Kathmandu bears ample testimony to it. Its practice was evident in the Lichhavi era, and it reached its real stature during medieval Nepal. This was the period when the Malla kings of the three cities of Kathmandu valley committed themselves in producing distinctive features in craftsmanship. Be it palace or temple, a place for public assembly or a window frame of a small house nothing was left uncarved. Those were the days when the three cities of the Kathmandu valley had a splendor of their own. But this unique heritage suffered a major setback when the valley was razed to the ground by a number of tremors including the devastating one in 1934. Today most of what we see is a recreation, a mere shadow of its antiquity but thankfully, there are still more carvings in the valley from the 14th century, which do reverberate with the memory of their glorious past.
Beside the struts, windows of various designs, the peacock window, the Desemaru Jhya, meaning the unparallel one, fake the lattice window have added to the beauties of Nepalese temples and added to the beauty of Nepalese temple and monasteries. They beautiful carvings in their pillars and door frame lintels and cornices. There are intricate carvings of number of animals and birds including the story of Ramayana, the legendary Hindu epic - all of them contributing to their secular nature. These temples have erotic carvings at the bottom of their roof struts, a symbol of tantric cult that was widely practiced in Nepal during the 13th century.
The Nepalese wood carvers always used Shorea Robusta (Sal), and Michelia Champaca (Chapwood) to carve their best windows and doors, and now are also using Adinga cardifolia (Haldu) and Sisso Dalbergia (Rosewood), and many wood carvers today are still using the original tools and methods, and following patterns and designs handed down through the family. The carvers can be seen throughout the city of Patan and Bhaktapur. And to see these carvings in their original locations, each durbar square has some absolutely beautiful examples, still vibrating with the sounds of the original carvers.
Based on historical evidence Ayurveda has been practiced in Nepal since the beginning of time. The Himalaya stand for purity, clarity and harmony, which is the goal and aspiration of every living creature. Nepal is one of the richest countries with diverse flora ranging from tropical to alpine within a small geographical area. Much of the flora is used for medicinal purposes. Nepal has a great tradition of Ayurveda, and it is considered to be part of the cultural and scientific heritage of the country.
Ayurveda is a Sanskrit word that means 'the science of life' or 'a natural way of living'. Ayurveda, is thought of as a life science, and includes Yoga, meditation and the natural and spiritual sciences. It looks at every person as a unique individual, and seeks to understand and to correct the imbalances and restore the innate intelligence and harmony of the person.
The objectives of Ayurveda are the development of awareness, which leads to a state of desirelessness; the promotion of health and the achievement of longevity; the prevention of disease; and the curing of disease. The Ayurvedic practitioner first of all ask a series of question to identify the person's type, after which it is possible to diagnose the problem, and suggest a series of activities and practice together with ayurvedic medicines. Neither stand-alone, each patient is treated in both ways.
In order to understand Ayurveda in more depth, it is possible to visit Nepal to be treated by ayurveda practitioner, or to meet the practitioners to understand the philosophy on a more intellectual level. Excursion can be organized to visit practitioners, to meet the rural people collecting the herbs, and to meet traditional healers such as Shamans and Jhankris.
Nepal has a long roughly rectangular shape with an extension of around 885 km east - west and 145 - 241 km north - south. Altitude ranges from near sea level to 8848 m above it. The contrasting topography of Nepal can be divided into three different geographic regions based on the altitude.
Himalaya Region: with an inclusion of 8 of the 14 highest summits in the world, this region ranges from 4877 m and 8848 m here, the culture and religion are in compliance to that of Tibet.
Hilly Region: Lying as a broad belt between the Terai and the Himalayas, the Hilly region is the most densely populated part of Nepal. It covers 64% of the total area of Nepal including Kathmandu and Pokhara.
Terai Region: This narrow strip of subtropical Gangetic plains extends through the entire southern part of the country. It has an altitude of less than 100 m above sea level, mostly covered with forest and fertile farming fields.
Since Nepal was declared federal democratic republic nation, the people of Nepal living in various society got right to establish their own religion belief so thereafter Nepal is known as multi religious to the entire world. Due to its huge diversified land division people living in the various regions in different ethnic groups they follow their own way of religious practice, lifestyle, language, culture and tradition with ever peace of harmony in society. About 80% of the total populations follow Hindu religion, about 10% are Buddhist, 4% are Muslims and rest of other religions. Traditionally Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal are interrelated in many aspects. Religious tolerance is widely accepted here. Hence, temples and monasteries stand side by side.
Nepal has a population of about thirty million, made up of an assortment of races and tribes living in different regions, wearing different costumes and speaking different languages and dialects. They live under diverse environmental condition, from the low plains at the borders of India, northward through the middle hills and valleys up to the flanks of great Himalayan range where there are settlements at altitudes of up to 4,800 meters.
The Himalayan settlements of Tibetan speaking people are found perched precariously on mountain ledges and slopes. Life here is a delicate balance of hard work and social merry making, tempered by a culture steeped in ancient religious traditions. The best known of the high mountain people are the Sherpas who inhabit the eastern mountains of Nepal.
The midlands are inhabited by various Tibeto-Burman and Indo- Aryan people, such as Brahmins, Chhetris and Newars.
The Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Sunwar, Jirel, Gurung Thakali and Chepang are another Tibeto-Burman speaking Mongoloid people living in middle hills. They each have their own social and distinct cultural pattern. The Dun valley and the Terai are in habitated by Brahmans, Rajputs, Tharu, Dhanuwar, Majhi, Darai, Rajbanshi, Satar Dhimal and Dhanger.
Though Nepal is a veritable mosaic of dozens of ethnic groups, they are bound together by ideas of peace, democracy and nationalism.
With the passing of every new century, Nepal witnessed many rulers and dynasties play contributing roles in molding Nepal to present day's Modern Nepal. Kiratis ruled Nepal from 9th century B.C. to 1st century A.D. Later Lichchavis took over Kiratis from 3rd to 13th century and then were followed by Thakuris belonging to Malla dynasty. Then Shah Dynasty held the reign. King Prithvi Narayan Shah is solely responsible for today's modern day Nepal for he is the one who united different kingdoms into one single nation in 1769. In 1846, the Kot massacre led by Jung Bahadur Rana back seated the power of monarchy and made the Rana regime more powerful.
In 1950 King Tribhuvan with the support from India restored monarchy. A coalition government comprising the Nepali congress party and the Ranas was thereafter installed with the promise of free elections in 1952. In 1960, King Mahendra, son of King Tribhuvan tactically established Panchayat system (a five councils system) by engineering a coup, declaring a new constitution, imprisoning all the leaders of the then government and enforcing a ban on all political activities. People's movement of 1990 opened up a new chapter for a decade of democracy in Nepal which led to multiparty democracy with constitutional monarchy. Democracy came with a heavy price leading to incompetent political leaders, political conflicts, Maoist insurgency, corruptions and downfall in national economy. The Royal family massacre in 2001 left whole world in complete shock. King Gyanendra was crowned Nepal's king after his brother, King Birendra's assassination.
King Gyanendra handed over the political power to the Nepali people in 2006 and democracy was once again restored in Nepal.
“Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.”
- Henry David Thoreau
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