Nepal General Information
Location: Between India and Tibet/China
Area: 1, 47,181 sq km
Population: 30 million
Capital city: Kathmandu (3 million)
People: Brahmins, Chhetris, Newars, Tibetans, Gurungs, Magars, Tamangs, Bhotias, Rais, Limbus, Sherpas
Religion: 75-80% Hindu, 15% Buddhist, 3% Muslim, rest others
Time: GMT +5:45 minutes
Electricity: 220V, 50 Hz
Officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is a landlocked central Himalayan country in South Asia. Nepal is divided into 7 states and 77 districts and 744 local units including 4 metropolises, 13 sub-metropolises, 246 municipal councils, and 481 villages. It has a population of 26.4 million and is the 93rd largest country by area. Bordering China in the north and India in the south, east, and west, it is the largest sovereign Himalayan country. Nepal does not border Bangladesh, which is located within only 27 km (17 mi) of its southeastern tip. Neither does it border Bhutan due to the Indian state of Sikkim being located in between. Nepal has a diverse geography, including fertile plains, subalpine forested hills, and eight of the world's ten tallest mountains, including Mount Everest (8848m), the highest point on Earth. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and largest city. Nepal is a multiethnic nation with Nepali as the official language.
Nepal is a historical and ancient country. There are references about Nepal in the early Hindu texts of Mahabharata and Puranas, as many sages used to visit Nepal from the Gangetic plain of India for spiritual activities in the Nepal Himalayas. Buddha was born in the city-state of Lumbini in 500 BC in Nepal. The recorded history in Nepal starts from the fifth century, the Changunarayan temple in Kathmandu dates back to the same period. The Lichhavi King Amsuvarma (602 AD) married his daughter Bhrikuti with the Tibetan king Shrong tsong Gompo and Buddhism traveled from Nepal to Tibet. The Buddha statues she brought from Nepal to Tibet are seen in Jokhang Temple of Lhasa even today.
After the Lichhavis started the glorious Malla period from the 12th century onward and continued till 1768. All the great art and architecture of Kathmandu are from the Malla period. During the Malla period, there were many tiny city-states outside Kathmandu, each with their own King and a standing army. They were quarreling all the time. The British in India were trying to take advantage of this situation. It was at the same time that the King Prithvinarayan from Gorkha started to unify the country and the conquest of Kathmandu valley concluded the project in 1768.
In 1846, in a bloody court massacre, the general killed all the important figures of the state and took power from the king for the next century or more. They were the Ranas. Nepal remained closed to the outer world till 1950.
In 1950 there was a popular revolt against the Ranas which toppled them and established democracy. Before democracy was well established it was now the King's turn to snatch the power, he dismissed the parliament and elected prime minister. Nepalese had to wait till 1990 to see democracy again. But soon after the democracy was re-established, there started a communist guerrilla war and which has just ended and we have now all-party coalition government. Now the country is heading for making a new constitution.
Almost rectangular in size and landlocked between India and Tibet, Nepal is a small country measuring 1, 47,181 sq km in area. Nepal is roughly the size of England with a rough average of 800km in length (east-west) and 200km in width (north-south). From the south to the north, Nepal can be divided into three main physical belts, each of which extends east to west across the country.
The Terai Plain
The Terai which is the extension of the Genetic Plain forms the border with India. It is the home to Tropical flora and fauna, the famous wetlands and is a fertile land for agriculture. The world-famous Chitwan National Park is located in the Terai region.
The 2nd region lying north to the Terai is the mid-hills of Churia and Mahabharat hill ranges.
The Churia Range, which is sparsely populated, rises to an altitude of more than 1200 meters. The Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys come under this Mahabharat range.
Between the Mahabharat range and Himalayas is another mountain range about 80 km in width and 2400m -4200m in elevation, this is the habitat of the famous Sherpas and Tamangs.
The Himalaya region
North to the mid-hills lies The Great Himalaya Range, ranging in elevation from 4200 to 8848 meters and contains many of the world's highest peaks--Everest, Kanchenjunga I, Lhotse I, Makalu I, Cho Oyu, Dhaulagiri I, Manaslu I, and Annapurna I - all of the above 8000 meters. Except for scattered settlements in high mountain valleys, this entire area is generally uninhabited.
Beyond the Himalayan ranges, there are few Nepali villages like Mustang which are the ideal places to observe Tibetan culture in its intact form.
In Nepal altitude generally increases as one travels from south to north.
Flora and fauna
Nepal has it all –tropical, temperate and alpine flora and fauna. The species of flora and fauna available in such a small country is really mind-boggling.
Nepal has 6500 known species of trees, shrubs and wildflowers. Nepal bags more than 300 species of orchids.
In May and April, you see the whole hill in bloom with rhododendron while there will be grand scenery of wildflowers in rain shadow zones of Dolpo and Mustang during summer days. Similarly, there are more than 800 species, almost 10 % of the world's bird species found in Nepal. This number is greater than total birds found in the USA and Canada combined.
Nepal also boasts to be the home of Bengal tiger. The Rhinos, Elephants, Deers, wild bison and crocodiles just to mention the few. Many National parks and conservation areas are established to protect the habitat of this fauna and flora.
World heritage sites
There are a total of 10 world heritage sites declared by UNESCO in Nepal. Out of that, the seven are in Kathmandu valley within a periphery of 30 km, which makes Kathmandu a unique destination, an open museum of art.
World heritage sites (Cultural)
- Kathmandu Durbar square
- Patan Durbar square
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square
- Swoyambhunath Stupa
- Bouddhanath Stupa
- Changunarayan Temple
- Pashupatinath Temple
- Lumbini Garden
World heritage sites (Natural)
- Everest National Park (1148sq km)
- Chitwan National Park (932 sq km)
- Nepal boasts a few of the world’s most popular trekking trails such as Annapurna Circuit trekking and Everest Base Camp Trek.
- Nepal is one of the best arenas for Extreme & Adventure Sport tourism such as mountaineering, cannoning, paragliding, mountain biking, kayaking, rafting, bungee jumping, high altitude marathon, etc.
- Karnali in Simikot is one of the best rivers in the world for kayaking and most of the upstream Nepalese rivers offer the best rapids for white-water rafting.
Facts about the Himalayas
- The word ‘Himalaya” in Sanskrit means abode of snow.
- The geological age of the Himalaya is approximately 70 million years. It is the youngest Mountain Range in the world.
- According to Hindu mythology, God Shiva resides in the Himalaya.
- Nameha Barwa peak is the easternmost and Nanga Parbat is the westernmost peak of the Himalaya.
- Kumbhakarna is the new name of mount Jannu (7,710 m).
- Gosainthan (8046 m) is the Nepali name for Shisha Pangma.
- The ideal height gain per day for mountaineers is 1,000 ft above 10,000 ft.
- The Himalayas are the source for rivers such as the Indus, the Yangtze and the Ganga-Brahmaputra. All three are the major river systems of the continent of Asia.
- The Himalayas are the third-largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. There are approximately 15,000 glaciers located throughout the range.
- The Himalayas are alive geographically! The Indo-Australian plate is still moving at 67 mm per year, and over the next 10 million years it will travel about 1,500 km into Asia.