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Destination: Nepal


While people have lived for centuries in what is now Nepal, Nepal has only been a country for about 300 years. Independent hill states ruled the area until the late 18th century, when Prince Prithvi Narayan Shah united the states to become what is now Nepal. The nation became a constitutional monarchy in 1950, before slipping into a dictatorship eight years later. Demonstrations in the late 1980s against oppressive rule resulted in multiparty elections in May 1991.

During the sixteen years of democracy, Nepal suffered an ineffective bureaucracy, corruption and an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. In 1996, the Maoists started a war against the central government in Rolpa, a village in Western Nepal. The war grew rapidly and killed over 13000 people in 10 years. In June 2001, the popular King Birendra and much of the royal family were assassinated in the palace by a gunman, apparently then crown prince Dipendra, who is believed to have committed suicide afterwards. Public grief and conspiracy theories about the unknown motivation of the massacre paralyzed the country for several weeks. The late king’s brother, Gyanendra, became the king after that. In October 2002, Gyanendra dismissed Sher Bahadur Deuba’s government and formed several under the leadership of people of his choice. In February 2005, he dissolved the third government that was formed under the leader of his choice, and formed a government under his own chairmanship. Gyanendra, was had been suspected of plotting the Royal Massacre in 2001, became more infamous after his government enforced strict laws and started treating citizen inhumanely. After three weeks of intense revolution in April 2006, Gyanendra was forced to retreat and reinstate the parliament that had been dissolved before he dismissed the Deuba government in 2002. Immediately after democracy was reinstated in April, the Maoists announced a cease-fire. The government, under Girija Prasad Koirala, responded with their announcement of a cease-fire. After about 6 months of peace talks, the head of the government, Girija Prasad Koirala, and the chairperson of Maoist party, Puspa Kamal Dahal, aka Prachanda, signed a peace agreement on 21 October 2006. The Polls for the Constituent Assembly is due to happen by mid-June, and this Assembly is to decide the future of Nepal’s monarchy.
Geography and Population
Although Nepal is a small country of only 147,181 square km it contains the greatest altitude variation on earth, from the lowland Terai, almost at sea level, to Mt. Everest, which at 8848 meters is the highest point on earth. The country is about 800 km. long and from 90 to 230 km wide. A cross-section shows four main areas to the country. Close to the border with India is a low fertile strip of jungle land known as the Terai.

Above the Terai rise the Siwalik foothills and beyond them the higher Mahabharat range. Most of the population of Nepal is found in the fertile valleys, such as Kathmandu Valley and the Pokhara Valley. These are north of the Mahabharat range at an altitude between 1000 and 2000 meters. In the north in the higher altitude Himalayan range form a border between Tibet and Nepal.

Crooked, timeworn streets flanked by irregular, multi-roofed pagodas, stupas and stone sculptures, and into rooms cluttered with horror-eyed masks, spinning prayer wheels, trippy Thangka scrolls and Tibetan carpets. Muttered chants, esoteric tantric hymns and Nepalese music hang in the air, whether it is the twang of a four-stringed saringhi or the plaintive notes of a flute.

Traditional folk musicians, or gaines, gather for an evening of singing and socialising; classical dancing and trance-like masked dances enliven the Kathmandu Valley and Bhaktapur regions; while no wedding would be complete without the raucous damais – Nepal’s modern ensembles.

Religion is the lifeblood of the Nepalese. Nepal was declared a secular state by the parliament following the reinstatement of democracy in April. However, there has been a demand by some people to declare it a Hindu state like it previously was. Though many people are Hindus, there are many who practice a syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. The population that isn’t Hindu or Buddhist is Muslim, Christian, Sikh, or shamans.

While the food acclaimed as ‘Nepali’ and served in restaurants is Dal-Bhat-Tarkari (rice, lentil soup and curried vegetable) with some pickle. Most of the time meals of the affluent Bahun chetris and Newars are Dal-Bhat-Tarkari, this is hardly the makings of Nepali people’s food and is definitely not what all Nepalis eat. Nepal has as many types of food as ehnic groups. Even when you eat the same old Dal-Bhat Tarkari, here can be so many types of vegetables you can eat, cooked in so many different ways. Some famous foods are Sel Roti.

In Kathmandu, food native to any part of the world is available. Along famous trekking routes With any (or all) of these food, you can have a Lassi, locally produced beer, or Chang, which is a brew made from barley, mainly in the mountains.

Nawa Varsa Nepali New Year (Bisket)
Venue: Bhaktapur
Date: The 1st day of the 1st month of the year Baishakh (mid Apr)

Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day symbolizes love, affection for living mother and memory for dead mother. It is also the day of ‘Looking at Mother’s Face’. For the living, it is a reminder to pray for their souls. In this day, a special Mela is organized at Mata Tirtha. There are two pools at Mata Tirtha, the lower one is bigger and used for bathing. The smaller, upper one is called the pond f “Looking at Mother’s Face”, for it is believed, or was believed, one could see the face of one’s mother in the pool’s reflection.

Venue: Mata Tirtha, Kathmandu.
Date: Apr/May

Mani Rimdu
3 days long festival
Venue: The monastery of Thame, one day walk to the west of Namche Bazaar the main hub-bub of the highest Sherpaland. Tengboche Monastery.
Date: Apr/May

The Teechi
The Teechi (often pronounced “Teeji”) festival is an annual event indigenous to Lo-Manthang (Upper Mustang). The name is an abbreviation of the word “Tempa Chirim” which translates as “Prayer for World Peace”. This festival commemorates the victory of Lord Buddha’s incarnation “Dorjee Sonnu” over a demon called Man Tam Ru a vicious creature feeding on human beings and causing storms and droughts. The Teeji festival usually takes place during the last week of May and lasts fro 3 days. Dances performed by the monks of Lo Manthang’s “choedhe” monastery during the celebration display. The harassment of Ma Tam Ru Ta (in a dance called “Tsa Chham” on the first day), the birth of Dorjee Sonnu as the demon’s son (on the second day called “Nga Chham”), the attempt to return the demon tolord Buddha’s realm (on the third and final day). The Teeji festival dances are all organized by the Choedhe Monastery, which is that of the Sakya sect of Lo Manthang. The monastery abbot is Khempo Tasi Tenzing Rimpoche. Altogether about 65 monks from Lo Manthang, Nhenyul and Chhosyer live in the monastery.

Venue: Mustang Region
Date: May
Rato Machendranath
Rath Jatra About a month long festival of Buddhist rain god. Until a few decades ago, before the Kathmandu Valley became a purely commercial hub, it was an agricultural land, which depended upon the rainy monsoon for its important rice crop. Today, though traditional farming practices have reduced, the pre monsoon season still sees great worship made to Red Machhendranath-the rain god. Patan’s streets and palace complexes are made even more evocative by warering lamp and candle lights, women busily cooking feasts, and men gathering strength to pull the chariot of their red deity. As Lord Machhendranath views his followers from the high seat of his chariot, its four wheels-representing the powerful Bhairab-receive rice and vermilion powder, the king of serpents is asked for blessing, and his jeweled vest is shown to the public.

Venue: Patan City, the old section, Bungmati
Date: Begins on 1st day of bright fortnight of Baishakh (May/Jun)
Sithi A day choosen for cleaning ponds and wells combined with the worship of the mother earth and Kumara, the six headed god of warfare.

Venue: Jaisideval in down town Kathmandu
Date : The 6th day of dark Jestha (Jun)

It is a festival designed to celebrate the death of a demon. Gathan-muga signals the end of the rice planting season and the beginning of the autumn festival season. The festival itself (known variously as Gathemangal and Ghantakarna) represents a ritual detoxification of the city. Evil sprits that might have sneaked in during the rice-planting season on the farmers or on their tools are banished outside the urban limits to preserve the city’s harmony. Effigies of the Ghantakarna demons are erected at street intersections in the morning. Girls hang dolls

on them and people wear iron rings on their fingers to ward off evil sprits. A man wearing war paint all over this body goes about begging for money. At the end of the day, the effigy is taken down. The painted man is made to sit on it holding a fire torch and the neighborhood kids drag it away to the riverbank. Householders then place pots of cooked rice at the crossroads as food for the evil sprits. Iron nails are also hammered into the door lintels to keep them out, because the spooks are terrified of iron.

Venue: The crossroads more colorful in the countryside.
Date: The 14th day of dark Shrawan. (Jul/Aug)

Gaura Parba
Towards the end of rainy season far-westerners of Nepal start gathering for Gaura. Gaura festival generally falls on Bhadra Astami. Married women play the main role and worship Shiva-Parvati for the longevity of their husband and peace, prosperity and happiness of their family. It is a group of women working together whose collective efforts not only make this festival service for centuries but also serves an example of unity to the young generation.