Nepal is a country located in South Asia. With an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi) and a population of approximately 27 million, Nepal is the world’s 93rd largest country by area and the 41st most populous country. It is a landlocked country located along the Himalayas and bordered to the north by China and to the south, east, and west by India. Nepal is separated from Bangladesh by the narrow Indian Siliguri Corridor and from Bhutan by the Indian state of Sikkim. Kathmandu is the nation’s capital city and largest metropolis.
Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: Mountain, Hill and Terai. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal’s major, north to south flowing river systems.
Nepal is popular for mountaineering, having some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest (the highest peak on earth, lies on the Nepal-China border). Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.
The overwhelming majority of the Nepali population follows Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Nepal is home to the famous Lord Shiva temple, the Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to Hindu mythology, the goddess Sita of the epic Ramayana, was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja.
Lumbini is a Buddhist pilgrimage site and UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Kapilavastu district. Traditionally it is held to be the birthplace in about 563 B.C. of Siddhartha Gautama, a Kshatriya caste prince of the Sakya clan, who as the Buddha Gautama, founded Buddhism.The holy site of Lumbini is bordered by a large monastic zone, in which only monasteries can be built. All three main branches of Buddhism exist in Nepal and the Newa people have their own branch of the faith. Buddhism is also the dominant religion of the thinly populated northern areas, which are mostly inhabited by Tibetan-related peoples, such as the Sherpa. The Buddha, born as a Hindu, is also said to be a descendant of Vedic Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts. The Buddha’s family surname is associated with Gautama Maharishi. Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been minimal in Nepal due to the cultural and historical intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Moreover, traditionally Buddhism and Hinduism were never two distinct religions in the western sense of the word. In Nepal, the faiths share common temples and worship common deities. Among other natives of Nepal, those more influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai and the Gurkhas. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies. Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu. The Machendrajatra festival, dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated by many Buddhists in Nepal as a main festival. As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal, some important priests in Nepal are called “Tirthaguru Nemuni”. Islam is a minority religion in Nepal, with 4.2% of the population being Muslim according to a 2006 Nepali census. Mundhum, Christianity and Jainism are other minority faiths.
The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (28 December), Prithvi Jayanti (11 January), Martyr’s Day (18 February), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During Swanti, the Newars perform the Mha Puja ceremony to celebrate New Year’s Day of the lunar calendar Nepal Sambat. Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu.
The staple Nepali meal is dal bhat. Dal is a lentil soup, and is served over bhat (boiled rice), with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients). It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items. Mustard oil is a common cooking medium and a host of spices, including cumin, coriander, black pepper, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, chilies and mustard seeds are used in cooking. Momo is a type of steamed dumpling with meat or vegetable fillings, and is a popular fast food in many regions of Nepal.