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Know -Nepal

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The rich cultural heritage of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, has evolved over centuries. This multi-dimensional cultural heritage encompasses within itself the cultural diversities of various ethnic, tribal, and social groups inhabiting different altitudes, and it manifests in various forms: music and dance; art and craft; folklores and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebrations; and foods and drinks.



Dance and music

Legends state that dances in the Indian subcontinent originated in the abode of Lord Shiva - the Himalayas and the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal - where he performed the tandava dance. This indicates that dance traditions of Nepal are of very ancient origin. With altitudes and ethnicity, the dances of Nepal slightly change in style as well as in the dance costumes. Accompanying music and musical instruments also change in tune with the themes, which revolve around topics like harvesting of crops, marriage rites, war stories, a lonely girl’s yearning for her love, and several other themes and stories from everyday life in the villages.

Languages and literatures

As per 2001 census, at least 92 different living languages are spoken in Nepal, though other studies list 123 living languages[2]. Nepal’s linguistic heritage has evolved from three major language groups, namely, Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, and indigenous. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) are Nepali (49%), Maithili (12%), Bhojpuri (8%), Tharu (6%), Tamang (5%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (4%), Magar (3%), Awadhi (2%), Bantawa (2%), Limbu (1%), and Bajjika (1%). The remaining languages are each spoken as mother tongue by less than one percent of the population, for example Dura. Nepali, written in Devanagari script, is the official, national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalese of different ethno-linguistic groups. In the southern Terai Region, (5 to 10 mile wide stretch of flat plains, which is a northward continuation of Gangetic plains of India), Hindi is also spoken. Extinct languages of Nepal include Kusunda and Waling. Among notable Nepalese literary writers is Parijat.

Religions and philosophy

The 2001 census identified 80.6% of the population as Hindu and Buddhism was practiced by about 11% of the population (although many people labelled Hindu or Buddhist often practice a syncretic blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and/or animist traditions). About 4.2% of the population is Muslim and 3.6% of the population follows the indigenous Kirant religion. Christianity is practiced officially by less than 0.5% of the population.

Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Nepal go back to more than two millennia. In Lumbini, Buddha was born, and Pashupatinath temple, Kathamandu, is an old and famous Shiva temple of Hindus. Nepal has several other temples and Buddhist monasteries as well as places of worship of other religious groups. Traditionally, Nepalese philosophical thoughts are ingrained with the Hindu and Buddhist philosophical ethos and traditions, which include elements of Kashmir Shaivism, Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, works of Karmacharyas of Bhaktapur, and a variety of tantric traditions. Tantric traditions are deep rooted in Nepal, including the practice of animal sacrifices. Five types of animals, always male, are considered acceptable for sacrifice: water buffalo, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks.

With a multiplicity of groups, Nepal has several cults, and gods and goddesses, which co-exist with the major religions. In its long cultural history, Nepal has always remained a land of religious harmony.


Festivals and celebrations

Several of the festivals of Nepal last from one day to several days. Dashain is the longest and the most important festival of Nepal. Generally Dashain falls in late September to mid October, right after the end of the monsoon season in Nepal. It is "a day of Victory over Demons". Tihar is another important festival of Nepal.

Other important festivals include Buddha Jayanti (the celebration of the birth of Buddha); Maha Shivaratri, a festival of Lord Shiva, and during Maha Shivaratri festivities, some people consume excessive drinks and smoke charas. Sherpas, mostly located at higher altitudes and in the Everest region, celebrate Mani Rimdu, for the good of the world. Most festivals include dancing and music and eating all kinds of local delicacies. A variety of foods is consumed during festivals and on special occasions. If one has to taste Nepali food, Newa cuisine is a must have; a festive meal, like one served during a marriage, is a real treat, and include vegetarian as well as non-vegetarian dishes.
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