Before Nepal’s emergence as a nation in the latter half of the 18th century, the designation ‘Nepal’ was largely applied only to the Kathmandu Valley. Thus, up until the unification of the country, Nepal’s history is largely the history of the Kathmandu Valley. References to Nepal in famous Hindu epics such as the Mahabharata, Puranas and also Buddhist and Jain scriptures, establish the country’s antiquity as an independent political and territorial entity. The Vamshavalis or chronicles, the oldest of which was written during the 14th century, are the only fairly reliable basis for Nepal’s ancient history. The Vamshavalis mention the rule of several dynasties the Gopalas, the Abhiras and the Kiratas over a stretch of centuries. However, no exact historical evidence has yet authenticated the rule of these legendary dynasties.
The documented history of Nepal begins with the Changu Narayan temple inscription of King Manadeva I (C 464-505 A.D.) of the Lichavi dynasty. The Lichavis are said to have migrated into Nepal from north India in around 250 A.D. The first Lichavi king of historical importance was Manadeva 1. Another important Lichavi monarch was Anshuverma who opened trade routes to Tibet.
After the fall of the Lichchhavis came the Malla period during which the foundation of the city of Kantipur (later Kathmandu) was laid. The early Malla rule started with Ari Malla in the 12th century and over the next two centuries grew into a large empire before disintegrating into small principalities which later became known as the Baisi (i.e. the twenty-two principalities).
The divided rulings of Mallas were defeated and united by King of Gorkha – Prithivi Narayan Shah of Shah Dynasty. King Prithvi Narayan Shah was successful in bringing together diverse religio-ethnic groups under one national. The modern era of united Nepal started with the unification of the country. Nepal’s culture is greatly influenced by its music, architecture, religion and literature. Your first sight of Nepal may leave you speechless, the great quantities of temples, churches, monasteries and other religious buildings, the hurly-burly in the streets and the number of people and animals socializing on every corner of the narrow cobble-stone lanes.
Nepal has about thirty-six different ethnic groups and multiple religions and languages. Its music is similarly varied, with pop, religious, classical and folk music being popular. Musical genres from Tibet and Hindustan have greatly influenced Nepalese music. Usually, women, even of the musician castes, do not play music except for specific situations, such as at the traditional all-female wedding parties.
The architecture of Nepal is another art that has become an important part of the country’s culture. Nepal’s architecture can be divided into three broad groups, the stupa style, the pagoda style and the shikhara style.
The Hindu inhabitants in the country have constantly made up over 80 % of the total population since the 1950s. The second largest religion of Nepal is Buddhism. It is practiced by about 11 %, while Islam comprises of about 4.2 % of the population. Kirat religion makes up nearly 3.6 % of the population.
Nepal has many customs and beliefs that might be difficult to understand and rules and regulations that might not be so easy to obey but this is the way of life to them and you are requested to respect these norms when you are in the country.
Do not feel offended if any Nepali person hesitates to shake hands with you because it hasn’t been too long since western traditions were introduced to the people here. Most Nepalese greet one another by a “Namaste”, a common act done by putting the palms together at chest height in a prayer like gesture.
It is customary to eat and deal with food with your right hand. They use their left hand to wash themselves after using the toilet and hence the left hand is considered impure and is also not used in puja (worship) ceremonies. Note that most Nepalese eat with their hands and forks and spoons are common only in urban areas.
Men and woman should always dress appropriately. Men should not walk or trek bare-chested. Shorts are acceptable but full length trousers are more preferable. Women are recommended to either wear full length trousers or long skirts that at least reach the ankles. These basic precautions are recommended to avoid unwanted attention from locals.
Showing affection between men and woman in public is not acceptable, especially in rural areas of the country. Please avoid kissing, hugging, cuddling or even holding hands in public.