Nepal is blessed with one of the richest cultures in the world. Culture has been called ‘the way of life for an entire society’. The statement holds particularly true in case of Nepal where every aspect of life, food, clothing and even occupations are culturally guided. The culture of Nepal includes the codes of manners, dress, language, rituals, norms of behavior and systems of belief.
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The culture of Nepal is a unique combination of tradition and novelty. The traditions are followed as they were and new customs are created to keep pace with the changing times. Culture in Nepal is an assemblage of music, architecture, religion and literature. The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is multi-ethnic and multi-lingual. The land is rich with unique cultural groups like Tharu, Yadav, Ahir, Newars, Gurung, Magar and others.
Nepal is a melting pot of many races and tribes. With the population of twenty-six million, Nepal is an assortment of races and tribes, living in different regions, following different costumes and speaking different languages. Nepalese live under diverse environmental conditions from the low, nearly sea level plains at the border of India, northward through the middle hills and up to the flanks of the great Himalayan range where there are settlements at altitude of up to 4,400m. Farming practices are therefore equally diverse along with life styles and social customs.
Nepalese are among the most hospitable hosts. This is the reason for which tourists from far and wide enjoy coming to Nepal time and again. Local Nepalese generally welcome the tourists to their homes for tea, coffee or supper. Nepalese are culturally warm, hospitable and affectionate hosts who place their heart above their head.
The main rituals followed in Nepali society are naming ceremony, rice-feeding ceremony, tonsure ceremony, ceremony of giving Nepali Sari (Guniu), marriage ceremony and funeral rite. The rituals are still prevailing in society and are performed with zeal. Different ritual experts have different roles in these rituals.
Astonishing enough, seven out of the ten world heritage sites in Nepal are termed cultural by UNESCO. Thus, the stupas, monasteries, temples and architecture are all representatives of the rich cultural heritage of Nepal. The following are the cultural world heritage sites of Nepal.
- Kathmandu Durbar Square, Kathmandu
- Patan Durbar Square, Patan
- Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Bhaktapur
- Changu Narayan Temple, Bhaktapur
- Swayambhunath Stupa , Kathmandu
- Pashupatinath Temple, Kathmandu
- Lumbini, Rupandehi
- Bouddhanath Stupa, Kathmandu
Apart from the world heritage sites there are many other cultural sites in Nepal that hold great cultural importance.
Religious practices are an important part of the lives of the Nepalese people. Mythologies of various Hindu gods and goddesses abound in this country and cultural values are based on the philosophies of holy books like the Gita, Ramayana, etc.
In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Though majority of Nepali are Hindu and Buddhist, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious significance. The dates of most festivals are fixed by senior astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Laxmi. Other important religious festivals celebrated by various communities are: Machhendranath Jatra, Indra Jatra, Lhosar, Maghi, Chhat, Christmas, Eid and many more.