A multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious country, Nepal is a diverse nation with people of different castes living together in harmony, peace, and tolerance.
Statistically, about 81.3% of the population is Hindu, while Buddhists– Theravada and Tantric- are the second largest group (10.7%). Most Nepali Buddhists are Tibetan refugees or otherwise ethnically Tibetan. Likewise, Muslims (4.4%), Kirant (1.4%), Christians (0.9%), and others comprise the rest of the population.
Correspondingly, there is a strong animistic and shamanic tradition prevalent within Nepal. However, the extent of animistic or shamanic beliefs and practices vary extensively throughout the country. Similarly, Nepal harbors about 102 distinct ethnic identities.
Ethnic groups in Nepal can be broadly divided into three categories- Indo-Nepalese, Tibeto-Nepalese, and indigenous Nepalese. Sub-ethnic/caste groups include Sherpas, Gurung, Newar, Chhetri and many others.
Nevertheless, despite the heterogeneity, Nepali culture, in broad terms, largely remains similar between different cultural groups. Family and religion are very important aspects of the Nepali culture.
Contemporary Nepal and a brief synopsis of Nepali History
Where Nepali traditions and opulence in the art, literature, and architecture are concerned, the indigenous Newari people of the Kathmandu valley are in limelight.
The Newars (indigenous Nepalese) have resided in the Kathmandu Valley since the 4th Century AD. Alongside the Gorkhalis (who invaded the valley in 1768), the Newars have been central to the eventual development of the modern state of the country.
Likewise, the Kingdom of Nepal, formed in 1798, became the world’s only Hindu monarchy. It was ruled exclusively by a hereditary prime minister until its abolishment in 2008.
After that, Nepal’s government structure shifted from rule by the hereditary monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 1951. Reforms in 1990 further de-centered monarchical rule, creating a multiparty democracy within the preexisting constitutional monarchy.
Notably, Nepal is one of few states in contemporary Asia to have outlawed the death penalty. Nepal is also the first state in Asia to extend full rights to LGBTQ citizens, with the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2008, providing a Third Gender category to citizens who are not “male” or “female”.
But the real history of Nepal doesn’t come from its government; instead, it comes from its spirituality. Nepal is a deeply spiritual country, with temples seemingly around every corner of its streets and alleys.
Nepal is the land where Lord Buddha was born; the little country gave rise to one of the most important religious figures in the history of humankind.
The Culture of Nepal and its Chronicle
Situated between two large countries- India and China, the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal remains a transit point between its neighbors.
Cultural interactions from both countries pass through Nepal, and as a result- the essence of both neighboring cultures can be marked in Nepalese culture.
With unity in diversity being one of the unique significant features of Nepali culture, the Nepali nationality is composed of different ethnic groups, an indication of strong religious tolerance.
Hindu temples stand side by side the Buddhist Stupas. Many of the same shrines are regarded as sanctums of Sanctorum by both the Hindu and the Buddhist people.
Many of the same idols and deities are worshipped by different sects of people in their way.
The Nepali culture is also marked by the intellectual, spiritual and moral values of life. The cultural flavor indicates the way of life for the people, and also presents an aesthetic sense of imagination, emotion, and wisdom, their sense of devotion as well as dedication.
Moreover, the culture is also a demonstration of the soil, the climate, as well as the country’s varying geophysical effects.
Many different branches of the Nepali Culture
Nepali culture is deeply ingrained in many forms that are demonstrated in the day-to-day life of the people.
From the food habit and language to literature, the dressing pattern and habitation, all are reflections of the Nepali culture in one way or the other. It is also visible in fine arts such as vocal and instrumental music and folk dances.
Similarly, art, architecture, sculpture, and paintings also demonstrate the Nepali culture, with all heritages being the best expressions.
Most Nepali architectural designs also resemble the structure of the mountains that flank the country’s northern border. The roofs of the houses look much like the slope of the hills.
The cultural diaspora of Nepal is as intricately influenced by its terrain and landscape as the landscape and terrains are influenced by its occupants.
Spiritualism in Nepal
Since a large part of the Nepali culture is an amalgamation of the different philosophies of Hindu and Buddhist teachings, spiritualism is a consequence of all relating factors of Nepal’s facets, like its landscape, its populace, and its history.
All around Nepal, the air is perfumed with incense burning in the temples and the monasteries. Daily offerings are placed in shop fronts and street shrines.
The very surroundings in Nepal seem to beat in time with the chanted mantras that filter down each of its streets. Spirituality and everyday life are completely enmeshed.
Kathmandu is the beating heart of Nepal’s spirituality. The valley presents many major Buddhist and Hindu shrines and temples that embody the spiritual teachings of the Gods.
From Pashupatinath Temple to Swayambhunath and the Bouddhanath, the valley is a vibrant mix of tradition and modernization.
On the other hand, Nepal’s hiking trails are the veins and arteries that extend the spiritual lifeblood to every corner of the country.
The Contribution of the Himalayas
From Hindu villages of the foothills to ethnic cultural settlements scattered throughout the mountain valleys, trekking through the mountains of Nepal presents a spiritual side at each destination one visits.
There are Hindu tika blessings gently pressed on the foreheads by the locals, and Buddhist prayer wheels spun for good fortune in each village.
The trails are lined with fluttering prayer flags, with Mani walls carved with prayers erected at many turns of the trails. Gompas and chortens scatter the terrain, and the cairns and holy sites of worship are embodied in their natural elements.
There is truly something about Nepal that does change you; it is impossible to escape the feeling of Nepal where religion and the gods are so carefully sewn into the fabric of everyday life.
While Nepal’s prayer flags scatter messages of love through the breeze, its culture flows through the rivers and deep valleys. As such, Nepal’s deep spirituality lives on in the hearts and smiles of its people.
Spiritualism is a major component of Nepal’s many hallmarks. It is displayed through the country’s many attributes based on its cultural environment and its history relating to mysticism and legends.
Visiting Nepal in Search of Spirituality and to Find Oneself
Where visiting Nepal is concerned, elements of religious and spiritual aspects are among the first ones that come up as top reasons. For most people who hear about the country, Nepal comes across as a very spiritual and a very religious country, surrounded by mountains and Gods.
In retrospect, Nepal might not be Venice, nor is it Paris, but what pulls in thousands of visitors to Nepal nonetheless is the retreat Nepal offers.
It presents people the chance to find themselves, whether it be in the sprawling cities full of temples and Gompas steaming with vibrant life, or in the isolated mountain peaks that harbor serenity and spiritual ambiance in the very essence of its natural landscape.