Nepal is one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world. With a wide range of travel activities to choose from – once is not enough. Apart from innumerable gifts of grandeur beauty and natural destinations, Nepal holds a number of other amazing facts that you might not know of. Listed below are the 10 of the most Interesting Things about Nepal –
1) The Himalayas
Himalayas is the greatest mountain chain in the world, stretching over some 3,500 km of which, 800 km of the Himalayas is in Nepal. This magnificent range of mountains stand as a natural boundary between Nepal and Tibet.
There are 31 Himalayan peaks over 7,600 meters out of which – 22 lie in Nepal. What’s even more fascinating is that Nepal hosts eight of the world’s 14 highest peaks in the world.
They are –
Mt. Everest (8848 m)
With a towering height of 8848 m, Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world, is Nepal’s crown Jewel. With over 5,100 ascents attempts, and more than 3,200 climbers reaching the summit – Everest Summit is a dream for many.
Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay were the first to reach Mount Everest, in 1953. Each year, over 100,000 trekkers travel to the Khumbu region to witness Everest with their own eyes.
Mt. Kanchenjunga (8,586 m)
Mount Kachenjunga is the third highest peak in the world standing with an elevation of 8,586 m as a part of the glorious Himalayas.
Mt. Lhotse (8,516 m)
Mt. Lhotse is the fourth highest peak in the world at 8,516 m, after Mount Everest, K2, and Kanchenjunga.
Mt. Makalu (8,485 m)
Mt. Makalu is the fifth highest Peak in the world with its height 8,485 m. It is considered one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb and reach the summit.
Mt. Cho Oyu (8,201 m)
Mt. Cho Oyu is the sixth highest mountain in the world with height 8,201 m. It is located on the Tibet-Nepal border.
Mt. Dhaulagiri (8,167 m)
Mt. Dhaulagiri is the seventh highest peak in the world, standing tall at an elevation of 8,167 m in Nepal Himalayas.
Mt. Manaslu (8,163 m)
Mt. Manaslu is the eighth highest peak in the world, standing 8,163 m tall, located in the Nepalese Himalayas.
Mt. Annapurna (8,091 m)
Annapurna is an enormous Himalayan Massif, the tenth highest mountain in the world at 8,091 m.
2) Gurkhas – The Elite Soldiers and their knife”Khukuri”
“Better to die than be a coward”
The name “Gurkha” derived from the town of Gorkha from which the Nepalese kingdom had expanded.
Gurkhas soldiers have a fearsome reputation, associated with unrivaled bravery, and loyalty, and a very sharp knife – the khukuri. The words Gurkha and Khukuri go together and, are inseparable from the legacy of one another.
With the motto “Better to die than be a coward,” the Gurkhas always protected Nepal and therefore, Nepal doesn’t have independence day, for it had never been colonized.
Nepalese who joined the British East India army after the Anglo-Nepalese War and later enlisted with the British and Indian armies became known as Gurkhas.
The UK still maintains Gurkha recruiting centres in Nepal, most notably in Pokhara, Most Gurkhas are Rais, Limbus, Gurungs and Magars in roughly equal number, although Gurkha regiments do accept recruits from other ethnic groups. The selection process of Gurkha soldiers is known as one of the most difficult recruitment processes in the world and is fiercely contested. Young hopefuls have to run uphill for 40 minutes carrying a heavy basket on their back filled with rocks weighing over 70 kilos.
The Khukuri is the national weapon and utility knife of the Nepalese people, made from high-grade steel. An average Khukuri is 14-16 inches long, reverse-curved blade, far-famed as the traditional, iconic weapon of the Gurkha warriors who have wielded it in battle world-wide, for some 200 years.
3) The Nepali Flag
Nepal is the only country with a non-rectangular flag in the world, despite all other countries. Nepal’s flag is maroon colored with two triangular parts of red with blue border line and it bears the symbols of moon and sun in white.
The Flag of Nepal is based on geometric and mathematical principals outlined in the Constitution of Nepal and the flag ratio is 3:4. Together, the two symbols, sun and the moon represented in the flag are meant to symbolize the longevity of the country and express that the country of Nepal will exist in the world till the sun and moon bestow their light on earth. In addition, the moon is supposed to represent the royal ancestry of Nepal while the 12 pointed sun is supposed to reflect the Rana dynasty of Nepal. The blue border on the flag of Nepal signifies peace and harmony while, red represents the color of national flower and bravery of Nepalese people.
4) Culture and Ethnic Diversity
Nepal is an enigmatic cultural mosaic of diverse ethnicity with rich tradition and novelty. As stated by King Prithivi Narayan Shah, Nepal is a common garden of four castes and 36 ethnic groups where people have lived in perfect harmony and peace for centuries and it will definitely not be an exaggeration to call Nepal a melting pot of races and tribes. Art, culture and religion are a part of life of the Nepalese people as they manifest them in various forms: religion, festivals, foods, drinks, language, music, dance, songs, folklore, literature and philosophy.
Tibeto-Burmans, or from the north, and Indo-Aryans from the south are the two major groups who have inherited many customs from both the sides. Sherpas are the major inhabitants of Himalayan region having access to Tibet for trade and social intercourse. They are highly influenced by Tibetan culture and civilization. The Brahmins and Chettris inhabit throughout the country mainly involved in agriculture and animal husbandry. But the Newars, who are more in business, are mainly concentrated in the Kathmandu Valley and other small and big towns across the country. The Tamangs Rais, Limbus, Chepangs are mainly found in the eastern hills. The Magars, Gurungs, and Thakalis inhabit the central hilly region growing different crops and keep animals for their livelihood. Terai is mainly inhabited by Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals. Despite all these cultural and ethnic diversities, Nepalese have set perfect example of harmony in diversity.
5) 7 UNESCO World Heritage sites
Nepal has 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites and Seven out of ten world heritage sites of Nepal is situated in and around Kathmandu. The following are national heritage enlisted in World Heritage Site by UNESCO:
1. Pashupatinath Temple
Pashupatinath Temple is one of the most important pilgrim destinations of Lord Shiva, for all of the Hindu pilgrimages, situated just 3 KM from the Tribhuvan International airport in Kathmandu.
2. Kathmandu Durbar Square (Basantapur)
Kathmandu Durbar Square, popularly known as Hanuman Dhoka Palace, is situated at the center of the Kathmandu valley. It is one of the three medieval kingdoms of Kathmandu valley, once ruled by Newari Malla kings. The Durbar square consists of various temples, palaces, courtyards and statues from the 17th century.
3. Bhaktapur Durbar Square
Bhaktapur Durbar Square is situated in the middle of Bhaktapur. The square contains a lot of temples and historical places of significance. Furthermore, it houses the best collections of the medieval arts of Nepal.
4. Patan Durbar Square
Patan city is one of the oldest cities in Kathmandu valley and it is also known as Lalitpur. Patan Durbar Square is one of the main attraction of this city which is situated 8 km south-east of Kathmandu city. Some of the major attraction points of Patan Durbar Square are: Krishna Temple, Golden Temple, Royal Palace, Museum, Keshav Narayan temple and Sundari Chowk.
5. Changunarayan Temple
Changunaryan Temple in the Changu village is believed to be as one of the most ancient temples of Kathmandu valley which was built in the 3rd century and covers the sixteen hundred years in the history of Nepal. Temple showcases a fifth-century stone inscription and is the oldest discovery of Nepal.
6. Swyambunath “The Monkey Temple”
Swayambhunath is, a significant milestone of the Valley to observe the religious harmony in Nepal. It is also called as the Monkey temple due to the presence of a numerous monkeys around the temple.
7. Boudha Stupa
Boudhanath is one of the largest stupas in South Asia, standing 36 meters with a highly unique three level mandala style structure.
Other World heritage sites of Nepal, outside the Kathmandu Valley
Lumbini is the birthplace of Gautam Buddha and home to thousands of pilgrims and travelers every year.
Chitwan National park
Chitwan national park is a shelter to rare mammals like one-horned rhinos and Bengal tigers and numerous bird species, including the giant hornbill. It gives you the thrill and wildlife experience like no other
Sagarmatha National Park
Sagarmatha is an exemplary area extending over an area of 1,148 square kilometers. Home to rare species like the snow leopard, musk deer and red panda, it is the protected area in the Himalayas with snow-capped mountains, lush valleys and trails, and Mount Everest.
6) Yeti – The Abominable snowman
The yeti – popularly known as the Abominable Snowman, is a mythical beast said to stalk the Himalayas. The Yeti is said to be muscular weighing between 91 to 181 kilograms and covered with reddish-brown or dark grayish hair.
It is a mysterious bipedal creature said to live in the eternal snows of Asia. It is believed to walk upright on two bare feet leaving tracks in snow and said to be spotted in the Nepalese Himalayas by many who have trodden the secluded path in the Himalayas.
Despite running lots of expeditions into the remote Himalayan regions of Russia, China and Nepal, the existence of the Yeti remains disputed.
Even Sir Edmund Hillary himself led a search to find the Yeti in 1958. The lack of concrete evidence despite decades of search has led man nowhere but to conclude that, these are rare and mysterious creatures, either real or myth.
7) The Living Goddess Kumari
Kumari is a Nepali word literally meaning ‘virgin goddess,’ the only living goddess worshipped by Hindus and Buddhists. Kumari are believed to be embodiment of Goddess Taleju, having powers of prescience and the ability to cure the sick, fulfill specific wishes, and bestow blessings of protection and wealth. The Kumari wears red tika on her forehead artistically, called bhrigu, representing the cosmic energy of the earth. This brightest and most glowing tika is a sign of prosperity and a bright future for the country.
There are eleven Kumari in Nepal, chosen for various towns to protect the towns from evil powers. The three most important Kumaris are each linked with one of the three main towns of the Kathmandu Valley: Patan, Bhaktapur and Kathmandu. Regarded as a Living Goddess, a young Newar girl with no blemishes is selected to represent the Goddess Kumari as an incarnation of Goddess Taleju. The Living Goddess is worshipped with great reverence and even the Kings followed the tradition of receiving tika and blessings from her. A Kumari should not have lost any drop of blood from her body and be in her pre-pubescent period. After the Kumari enters her adolescence and begins her first menstruation, the search of new Kumari starts as she is considered impure.
The Royal Kumari lives in a magnificent three-floored wooden and tile temple, called as, Kumari Chhen or Kumari Ghar where she performs her daily rituals. The Kumari House, located on the southern end of Basantapur Durbar Square is a favorite tourist spot; every day one can see enthusiastic foreigners flocking into the courtyard of the Kumari House.
Kumari is chosen at very young age from as small to three years and bound to leave their parents house until another Kumari replaces her. The children live without their parents from such an early age and on top of that, parents aren’t allowed to visit their daughter and only get see when Kumari shows up in special facilities, about 13 times annually. Nowadays, Kumari in the Kumari house is provided with a personal tutor and education facilities and gets to attend national exams inside the palace under supervision
8) Birthplace of Buddha
Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born in 623 BC in the sacred gardens of one of the holiest places in the world, Lumbini. It is testified by the inscription on the Asoka pillar, the sacared area is the birthplace of Lord Budhha.
A World Heritage site, Lumbini attracts thousands of travellers and worshippers of different faith and religion. Among the ruins of ancient monasteries, the exact spot of birthplace of Buddha is preserved within Maya Devi Temple in Lumbini. Besides, there are numerous temples and stupas, made by nations around the world in Buddha’s commemoration like, Myanmar’s splendid Golden Temple, Vietnam’s pagoda-style Phat Quoc Tu Temple, with dragons on the roof, Thailand’s ornate white marble Royal Thai Buddhist Monastery and Germany’s Lotus Stupa, glorifying the serenity and inexplicable feeling of peace in Lumbini with the eclectic styles of Buddhist architecture.
Though most people in Nepal are Hindu, Buddhist influences are prevalent in most aspects of Nepali culture. There are instances where, both Hindu and Buddhist share same temples for worshipping. Muktinath is one of such places where both Buddhist, as well as Hindu, share this temple for worshipping. There are especially two types of Buddhism having slightly different interpretations of Buddha’s teachings. Tibetan Buddhism is widely followed and the Newar Buddhists practice a particular Newar variant of Vajrayana Buddhism and Theravada Buddhism. There are over 1,200 Buddhist temples in Nepal, some going back as far as 2,000 years.
9) Arniko’s architecture and influence
Arniko, the great Architect from Nepal is remarkably remembered for his work and contribution in Nepal, China and other parts of the Indonesia and Asia. He was born in Kathmandu Valley and believed to be from the Newar community of Patan, by judging from the expertise he possessed in architecture, sculpturing and painting. Many people from his area referred to him as a born genius in artistic works. Araniko was an uncommon genius in painting sculpture and architecture.
Araniko went as a master architect to the court of Kublai Khan in 1260, in China. His artistry was respected and praised all over China. Araniko constructed stupas, great Buddhist temples, Confucian shrines, and Daoist temple. The other famous work by Araniko is the Archway of Yungtang and the design exactly follows the Nepalese style.
10) Nepal’s Biodiversity
With a wide range of flora and fauna, Nepal holds some of the rarest species of wildlife. Also known as the Amazon of Asia, zoologists believe the hidden treasure of Nepal’s rich biodiversity is not yet fully explored.
Nepal has over 360 species of Orchid which constitutes over 2% of the world’s orchids and 6% of the world’s rhododendron species. Nepal provides shelter to over 30 species of wild animals and over 800 species of birds. There are more than 650 species of butterflies and over 6,000 species of moths. The rhinoceros, royal bengal tigers, crocodiles, snow leopard, red panda, Himalayan black dear, and many others exotic animals are found Nepal’s jungles.
Wildlife plays a significant role in the tourism sector. To preserve and protect rare and diverse range of wildlife, there are various national parks such as Chitwan National Park, Sagarmatha National Park, Bardia National Park and others where you are able to indulge in the everyday life of the animals and explore the dense forests, through wildlife safari. You can either go on a jeep safari or an elephant ride through the jungle and you might be able to encounter endangered animals like Bengal Tiger and one horned rhino. Diverse wildlife and beautiful natural destinations has made Nepal one of the best tourist spot for the nature lovers.