Nepal, a country of amazing extremes and diversity, is home to most of the world’s highest mountains, ancient and mystical cities, forested high hills and mountains and plains where majestic tigers and awesome rhinoceroses glide and lumber through thick jungles among the treetops of which flit various species of monkeys and birds, many of which are unique to Nepal.
The UNESCO has honoured Nepal’s Valley of Kathmandu with the recognition of seven World Heritage Sites: the separate Durbar (Palace) Squares of the neighbouring cities of Kathmandu, Bhaktapur and Patan, the immense stupa of Bouddha Nath (the largest such stupa in Asia), the inspiring hilltop hybrid Hindu/Buddhist shrine of Swoyambhu Nath, the Pashupati Nath Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva and one of Hinduism’s most prominent places of worship and pilgrimage, and beautiful Chhangu Narayan Temple on the periphery of the Valley. All of these stupendous places are located within a radius of 20 square kilometres.
Nepal has long been the focal subject of internationally-read authors, historians and researchers of many nations. Writers on Eastern cultures, ethnic customs and traditions, exotic religions and even political histories have found Nepal to be an exciting and inexhaustible source of information dating back thousands of years.
Nepal’s demography presents an amazing kaleidoscope of a variety of peoples who, however, all come under the name of “Nepali”. The legendary Gurkha warriors from the mid-western and eastern hills, the famous mountaineering Sherpas of the Khumbu (Everest) region, the dusky, flamboyant Tharus of the southern plains with their love of music and dance, the Newari metal-wood-and –cloth artisans of the Kathmandu Valley, the Hindu priests and Buddhist lamas and the simple, homespun farmers of the hills and the lowlands. All of these comprise the unque human patchwork quilt of this unique country called Nepal.
Religion may have seemed to be “the opium of the masses” to some political demagogues of Europe but to the people of Nepal, it is a way of life, a constant source of strength and continuity, and a tribute to all humanity. A cynical British colonial bureaucrat once wrote home to his wife that “Kathmandu has more temples than people.” He obviously could not see the wood for the trees. Much of Nepal’s traditional architecture was inspired not only by mere cultural symmetry with other Asian countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Thailand but also by what they saw in the inner perceptions of religious Faith.
Taking physical geography as a guide, of course, Nepal is largely recognized and defined by the presence within her borders of the highest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas, with the Mother of All Mountains, Everest, standing in all her glory on the northern frontier. Flowing down southwards between the numerous ranges of mountains is an amazing network of snow-melt white-water rivers. Add to all this the incredible diversity of unique flora and fauna found nowhere else in the world, the tremendous contrasts in terrain and altitudes, and the warmth and hospitality of the Nepali people.
That is NEPAL.