The culture of Nepal is rich and unique. Nepal's cultural
heritage has evolved over the centuries. This multidimensional heritage
encompasses the diversity of the ethnic, tribal and social groups of Nepal, and
manifests itself in music and dance; Art and crafts; folklore and folk tales;
languages and literature; philosophy and religion; Parties and celebrations;
food and drink.
Nepal was declared a secular country by Parliament on May 18,
2006. The religions practiced in Nepal are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam,
Christianity, Jainism, and Sikhism, Bon, ancestor worship and animism. Most
Nepalese are Hindu or Buddhist. Both have coexisted in harmony throughout the
Buddha is widely worshiped by Buddhists and Hindus from Nepal.
The five Dhyani Buddhas; Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and
Amoghasiddhi represents the five basic elements: earth, fire, water, air and
ether. Buddhist philosophy conceives these divinities as manifestations of
Sunya or absolute emptiness. Mahakala and Bajrayogini are Buddhist deities of
Vajrayana also worshiped by Hindus.
Nepalese Hindus worship the ancient Vedic gods. Bramha the
Creator, Vishnu the Conservative and Shiva the Destroyer are venerated as the
supreme Hindu Trinity. People pray Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol of Lord
Shiva in most Shiva temples. The Shakti, dynamic element of Shiva's female
counterpart, is highly revered and feared.
As per the 2011 census, 123 languages are spoken in Nepal.
Nepal’s linguistic heritage has evolved from three major language groups:
Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, and indigenous. The major languages of Nepal
(percent spoke as mother tongue) are Nepali (44.6%), Maithili (11.7%),
Bhojpuri (6%), Tharu (5.8%), Tamang (5.1%), Nepal Bhasa (3.2%), Magar (3%) and
Nepal's ethnic diversity is giving way to several sets of
customs. Most of these customs date back to Hindu, Buddhist and other
traditions. Among them, the rules of marriage are particularly interesting.
Traditional marriages require agreements reached by the parents after the child
has reached the age.
Nepalese do not eat cow meat. There are many reasons for
this, especially that Hindus revere cows. The cow is also the national animal
of Nepal. Another interesting concept among Nepalese is the division of the
pure and the impure. "Jutho" which refers to food or material that is
directly or indirectly affected by another person's mouth is considered impure
by the Nepali. During menstruation, women are considered impure and thus kept
isolated until their fourth purification bath of the day.
However, food habits differ by region. Nepalese cuisine has
been influenced by Indian and Tibetan cuisine styles. The authentic Nepalese
taste is found in the Newari and Thakai kitchens. Most Nepalis do not use
cutlery but eat with the right hand. Regular Nepalese food is dal (lentil
soup), bhat (boiled rice) and tarkari (curry vegetables), often accompanied by
achar (brine). Curry meat is very popular, but it is reserved for special
occasions because it is relatively more expensive. Momos (fried or steamed
dumplings) deserve to be mentioned as one of the most popular snacks among
Nepalese. Rotis (flatbread) and dhedo (cooked flour) also make meals in some
Several of the festivals of Nepal last from one to several
days. Dashain is the longest and the most important festival in Nepal.
Generally, Dashain falls in late September to mid-October, right after the end
of the monsoon season. It is “a day of Victory over Demons”. The Newars
celebrate the festival as Mohani. Tihar or Swanti and Chhath are other
important festivals of Nepal. New Year’s Day of the lunar calendar Nepal Sambat
occurs at this time.
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