Nepal or officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal is located in the Himalayas, the mountain range the separates the Tibetan Plateau from the Indian subcontinent. The Himalayan mountain range is the highest in the world and the portion along the northern part of Nepal includes Mount Everest, the highest peak in the world.
Although Nepal is the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama who later became Buddha Gautama and the one that started the Buddhist religion, Hinduism is the religion of the majority of the population in Nepal. While Buddhism is only second to Hinduism, many of the Nepalese do not distinguish between the two religions and even follow both and share temples and traditions. However, three different Buddhist traditions exist in Nepal – Theravada Buddhism, Buddhism of Kathmandu (Mahayana and Vajrayana) and Himalayan Buddhism. Nepal used to be a monarchy ruled by the Shah dynasty in the 17th century before it became a republic on May 28, 2008.
:: Background of Nepal ::
It is believed that the first settlers of Nepal were the Kirata people and they were also the rulers of the area from almost 2,500 years before its southern regions came under the influence of the Mauryan Empire of Northern India in 250 B.C.E. Siddharta Gautama, born on 563 B.C.E. and lived until 483 B.C.E. was a prince from the Shakya clan. In the 4th century C.E. Nepal was a nominal vassal of the Gupta Empire and the Kathmandu Valley and central Nepal were ruled by the Licchavis until late in the 8th century before being followed by either the Thakuri or the Newari era.
The medieval period of the history of Nepal began in the early 12th century when leaders came from the far western part of Nepal. The kings who came from this dynasty whose last names ended with malla ruled for 200 years. The kingdom was later divided into two dozen small states before another Malla dynasty led by Jayasthiti started in Kathmadu during the latter part of the 14th century. After again being under a untified rule, Nepal was divided into Bhaktapur, Kathmandu and Patan in 1482.
Rivalry ensued among the three kingdoms until a Gorkha king, Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to unify Nepal into one kingdom with the aid of India and succeeded in his mission in 1768. It has to be noted that there was no battle in Kathmandu because it was taken while the citizens of Kathmandu were celebrating Indra Jatra, a festival of the Newars.
There were battles fought during this time, as Nepal seeks to enlarge its territory, including the rivalry with the British East India Company, which led to the Anglo-Nepalese War in 1515 to 1816. This war showed the bravery and competence of the Nepalese soldiers, the Gurkhas, which exacted serious losses to the British army. The Treaty of Sugauli ended with the war with the British.
There was also factionalism inside the royal family and in 1846 the reigning queen hatched a plot to overthrow Jung Bahadur Rana, a popular military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre were hundred of princes and chieftains were executed. The Rana dynasty was born during this period after Jung Bahadur Rana won the siege.
The Ranas were pro-British and assisted the kingdom in its war with India during the Sepoy Rebellion of 1857. The Nepalese also aided the British during the first and second world wars, and Britain rewarded Nepal with the return of some parts of the Terai Region. A formal agreement of friendship between Britain and Nepal was signed in 1923 and the Britain recognized the independence of Nepal.
By the 1940s the dissatisfaction with the Rana dynasty had escalated. While neighboring country China invaded Tibet, India used the opportunity to gain more influence in Nepal by sponsoring King Tribhuvan who ruled from 1911 to 1955 to become the new ruler and to form a new government to overthrow the Rana dynasty. King Tribhuvan was succeeded by King Mahendra who ruled Nepal until 1972. He instituted the partyless panchayat system that was in effect until 1989 until his successor, King Birendra who ruled from 1972 to 2001 was forced to accept constitutional reforms and established a multiparty parliament by May 1991 because of the People’s Movement or Jan Andolan.
Power struggle continued in Nepal, with the Communist Party of Nepal becoming active in 1996, trying to establish a people’s socialist republic by force. This started the Nepal Civil War resulting in 12,000 deaths including the massacre of King Birendra, Queen Aiswarya, Crown Prince Dipendra and others.
King Birendra’s brother, Gyanendra assumed the throne and in 2005 removed the entire government force to assume full executive powers in a bid to nullify the Maoists. Although it was difficult since the Maoist were entrenched in the countryside, they did declare a 3-month ceasefire to negotiate by September 2005. The previous actions of the King when he fired all of the government staff and the newly-acquired sovereign authority of the House of Representatives voted to restrict the powers of the King by declaring Nepal as a secular state. On December 28, 2007Article 159 of the constitution was amended, replacing the “Provisions regarding the King” with the “Provisions of the Head of State”. Nepal became a federal republic thus abolishing the monarchy when the bill took effect on May 28, 2008.
The largest number of seats went to the Communist Party of Nepal during the Constituent Assembly election on April 10, 2008. On May 28, 2008 Nepal became a secular democratic republic and the King was requested to vacate the palace in 15 days, which was to be re-opened as a museum for the public. A year after the Maoist-led government was overthrown and a new coalition government with major political parties except the Maoists was created, with Madhav Kumar Nepal becoming Prime Minister. He was with the Unified Marxist-Leninist Communist Party of Nepal. He served as Prime Minister from May7 25, 2009 up to February 3 2011, succeeded by Jhala Nath Khanal who assumed office on February 3, 2011.
:: Geography of Nepal ::
Nepal is located in South Asia along the Himalayas. It has a rich and ancient culture influenced by its closest neighbors, India and China. It is a landlocked country, bordered on the north by the People’s Republic of China and on the east, west and south by the Republic of India. Geographically, Nepal is 28° 00’ North of he Equator and 84° 00’ East of the Equator.
Nepal has a total landmass of 147,181 square kilometers, making it 93rd largest country in the world in terms of landmass. Out of the total landmass, 97% or 143,351 square kilometers is land and the remaining 3% or 3,830 square kilometers are inland water system. In comparative area size, Nepal is only slightly larger than Arkansas, in the United States.
The north of Nepal is bordered by the People’s Republic of China for 1.236 kilometers and on the south, east and west by India for 1,690 kilometers. Nepal does not have a coastline so it has no maritime claims.
Different regions of Nepal have different climatic conditions, where some areas experience extreme weather patterns. The Tarai land or the wetland plains in the south are covered with forests and rich agricultural fields. For about 500 meters, the area enjoys full tropical climate while a subtropical climate extends for 1,200 meters. Snow occasionally falls and warm temperate climate prevail from 1,200 to 2,400 meters along the slopes of the mountains. Going upwards toward the treeline, about 3,600 meters, the area falls under the cold zone. Upwards to 4,400 meters, the climate changes to sub-artic or alpine zone and full arctic climate prevails beyond that.
Summer monsoon comes from the Bay of Bengal and the rain decreases as it travels to the west from the east. Eastern Nepal gets the highest precipitation with about 98.4 inches of rain annually, while Kathmandu receives about 55.1 inches of rain a year. Western Nepal gets about 39.4 inches of rain annually. On the windward slopes of Annapurna Himalaya, annual precipitation can reach as high as 216.5 inches while in the rainshadows beyond the high mountains rainfall can drop to as low as 6.3 inches a year.
Generally there are two seasons in Nepal. The wet season is from June to September and the dry season is from October to June. In between, the country can experience drought during the hot months of April and May. The terrain has adapted to the weather extremes as most of Nepal’s native vegetation covering the hillsides are drought-resilient. While the monsoon rains are welcome by the farmers to irrigate the fertile agricultural lands, above-normal rainfall can also occur, causing flooding and landslides. There are times too when monsoon rains fail, so drought also part of the landscape.
Nepal has a combination of different terrain. There is the Tarai of the flat river plain of the Ganges located in the south. There is also the central hill region and the rugged Himalayas located in the north. The Great Himalayas run from the northwest to the southeast, along the border with China. In this region alone, nine of the ten highest mountains in the world are found. Mount Everest, which stands at 8,846 meters, is the highest point in Nepal. The lowest region is the Kanchan Kalan, which is about 70 meters above sea level.
Nepal is not rich in mineral resources but there are still small deposits of quartz, lignite, copper, cobalt and iron ore. Water and hydropower is available. Forests are covered with timber although this is getting depleted. One of the major attractions of Nepal is its numerous mountains and its beautiful sceneries.
The Tarai plains are very fertile and comprise 16.07% of arable land. Areas planted with permanent crops comprise about 0.85% and about 83.08% used for non-agricultural endeavors.
The effects of the summer monsoon coming from the east from the Bay of Bengal to the west create low pressure areas in Nepal, which can bring torrential rains and severe thunderstorms, flooding and landslides. However when the monsoon fails, Nepal can also experience sever drought and famine.
Some of the current environmental issues Nepal face are deforestation, as people depend on wood for fuel due to lack of alternative fuel sources, being one of the poorest countries in the world. It is also facing contaminated water due to human and animal wastes, agricultural runoff and effluents from various industries. There is also the issue of wildlife conservation and like other nations, Nepal also has to contend with increasing vehicular emissions.
Nepal is party to climate change, climate change-Kyoto Protocol, biodiversity, endangered species, desertification, laws of the sea, ozone layer protection, hazardous wastes, wetlands, tropical timber 83 and tropical timber 94 issues. It has signed but has not yet ratified marine life conservation.
:: People of Nepal ::
According to July 2011 estimates, the population of Nepal is 29,391,883, a very big jump from the 9 million inhabitants in Nepal in the 1950s. Majority of the population is living in Kathmandu, the largest city and the capital of Nepal. The annual population growth based on 2011 estimate is 1.59%, with 0.61 migrants/1,000 population. The 2011 estimated birth rate is 22.17 births/1,000 people and 6.81 deaths/1,000 people. The fertility rate for 2011 (estimate) is 2.47 children for every woman.
People aged 15-64 comprise 31.1% of the total population of Nepal, with 8,607,338 males and 9,344,537 females. The younger population aged 0-14 has 5,177,264 males and 4,983,864 females. There are 597,628 males and 681,252 females aged 65 years and over in Nepal, according to 2011 estimates.
The median age of the population of Nepal is quite young. Of the total population, the median age is 21.6 years; 20.7 for the males while it is estimated that the 2011 median age for women is 22.5 years.
Sex distribution in Nepal is more male-dominated, with 0.96 male for every female in the total population based on the 2011 estimate. At birth there are 1.04 male for every female, that same for those under 15 years of age. There are 0.92 males for every female aged 15 to 64 and 0.88 males for every female in the 65 years and over range.
For every 1,000 live births, mortality rate is about half with 44.54 deaths, basically the same for males and females.
Life Expectancy at Birth
Life expectancy at birth is just above fifty. For the total population the life expectancy at birth is just 66.16 years with 64.94 for the makes and slightly higher for the females, which according to 2011 estimates is about 67.44 years.
HIV/AIDS is becoming a problem in Nepal According to estimates done in 2009 there is 0.4% prevalence among adults. There are 64,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Nepal and have seen 4,700 deaths due to the disease.
Nationality (noun) (adjective)
People born in Nepal are Nepalese by birth. It is both a noun and an adjective; singular or plural.
There are quite a few ethnic groups in Nepal with the Chhettri being dominant at 15.5% followed by the Brahman-Hill at 12.5%. The Magar group is at 7%, Tharu at 6.6% and Tamang and Newar at 5.5% and 5.4%, respectively. There are also Muslims which comprise 4.2% of the ethnic population; Kami and Yadav each comprise 3.9%. Other ethnic tribes comprise 32.7% and there are also an unspecified group representing 2.8% based on the census done in 2001.
Based on the 2001 census, Hinduism is practiced by 80.6% of the population of Nepal. Buddhism is a far second with 10.7%. Muslim is practiced by 4.2%, Kirant by 3.6% and other religions like Mundhum, Christianity and Jainism are followed by 0.9% of the population. Shiva is the considered the guardian god of Nepal and this is were the Lord Shiva temple, the Pashupatinath Temple can be found. The Buddha Gautama was born in Lumbini but was raised in Kapilavastu in India. That is also the place where he attained all his achievements in philosophy.
The official language, Nepali is spoken by 47.8% of the population while 12.1% speak Maithali. Bhojpuri is spoken by 7.4% of the population, while 5.8% speak Tharu (Dagaura/Rama). Other languages spoken are Tamang (5.1%), Newar (3.6%), Magar (3.3%) and Awadi (2.4%). Some other languages are spoken represent about 12.5%. Many government and business people speak English.
People aged 15 and over can read and write with literacy placed at 48.6% of the total population. Males are more literate that the women with 48.6% versus only 34.9% of women, also based on the census done in 2001. Children stay in school for an average of 9 years with the males studying for 10 years and the females staying for 8 years, according to 2003 data.
:: References ::