C | Culture
We might be familiar with Nepal being a land of diversity because of its geographical landscape, but probably thought they were talking about the geography. from the highest peaks in the world to the lowest valleys, but that’s not the only aspect where Nepal shows its diversity. Nepal is home to people from a large pool of origins from the tips of the Indian subcontinent to deep inside the Asian mainland, people from different lineage have made Nepal their home, maybe from prehistoric times or maybe just recently. This large gene pool also means a wide variety of culture populating this small area.
Culture is a big part of the lives of the general Nepali populace. Although a lot of the aspects to the traditional culture have been modernized with the passage of time, at its core the values and the meaning behind them have remained intact. There are many varieties in terms of the aspects of Nepal’s culture. They’re all unique from the rest of the world, sometimes even from each other. So let’s take a dive into that
Well, religion has been a major deciding factor in the type of culture that’d develop in a country and how the development will go on about. Although declared a secular state in 2006, the populace is mostly Hinduism followers although it has been mixing with Buddhism, which kinda originated here, throughout the history of the country, which can be observed through the architectures and the traditions of the two religions. There has been influx of other religions since ancient times like the Kirants to the more recent than the rest like Jains and Sikhs having their own communities where they follow their culture and practices. Nepal houses the populace of the world’s leading religions Islam and Christianity too, with their own Nepali-fied version of the practices and tradition.
The intermingling of the religions and culture, especially the ones of Hindus and Buddhist, has created a hybrid sort of culture and traditional practices in Nepal, where the people seem to be following the beliefs, philosophy and the ways of more than one religious practice. The effects of the religious views of the people can be directly seen in the physical world, from the way that they greet, to the monuments and shrines that have been built for their beliefs and the way of the lives of the people being revolving around those practices and beliefs.
One of the most agreed upon tradition in Nepal is the prohibition on the slaughtering of cows. The cow is the national animal of Nepal and also happens to be the symbol of motherhood, charity and pity. Due to this reason, it’s illegal to slaughter cows on Nepal.
There is a rule, which is kinda similar to the custom of a lot of countries, especially in the east, which is to remove your shoes when entering a house or temples. Although the rule is lax for some of the modern houses, it stands in a strict level especially entering protected sanctions or special areas of temples, where the shoes are to be removed, so as not to taint a pure intent with stained soles. There are also hindu temples where non-hindus are not given access to like the inner areas of the Pasupatinath temple for example.
There is a belief in the right hand being pure and it’s the hand that’s used to eat, give stuffs, and receive stuff. It’s part of the etiquette to use the right hand and on occasions can be considered disrespectful to use the left hand for the aforementioned purposes.
Dance and Music Culture
One of the most showing part of a country’s culture are the theatrics and the folklore and the ways they tell the stories passed on to them throughout the ages. Yeah, there are other ways to do this but the story truly comes alive when it is shown, hence dances and the folk music of the country is an important part of that country’s culture.
The dances in Nepal are said to originate from the Tandav dance performed by Hindu deity Shiva, who is said to reside in the Himalayas of Nepal. The dances and folksongs now have become varied with the altitude and ethnicity of the people, from the Ghatu Dance of the Gurung people from the Gandaki region, and the Lakhe dance of the Newars from the Kathmandu Valley and the Maruni Nritya of the people of Sikkim and Darjeeling, which technically are kinda outside Nepal.
The songs are no different as the folk songs with Tamang Selo of the, well Tamang people, the Yakthung of the Kirant people, the Dhime Baja of the Newar community and a much more. However the most popular folk music is the Lok Dohori. It is a part of the rural courtship tradition. Translated to “both side”, Dohori is a debate in a musical form, with quick and witty replies.
According to the latest census conducted in 2011, there are 123 languages spoken in Nepal. However the official language of the country i.e. Nepali is the mother tongue of 44.6% of the people of the country followed by Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Nepal Bhasa, Magar and so on. The language of the people changes with the community as it can be observed that almost all of the distinct community of people has their own distinct language with their own dialects.
Festivals and Celebration Culture
Nepal historically has been a hindu nation. So a majority of its national festivals are that of the Hinduism practices. Although with the spread of Buddhism in the land, it has also become a major belief which gives and adds to the distinct festivals and traditions of the country. The major festivals of the country are the hindu festivals of Dashain and Tihar, celebrated as Dasherra and Diwali in India and locally known as Moni and Sunti, in the local language of the capital valley of Kathmandu, which was historically known as Nepal, before the annexation.
Along with that, the major festivals of the Buddhist community Buddha Jayanti is also celebrated as a national festival, Nepal being the birthplace of Gautum Buddha, and all.
Major local festivals in the country include the various Jatras of the Newari community of the vallry including the month long celebration of the Machhindranath Jatra, which is a monsoon festival of a sort, the Indra Jatra, Bisket Jatra, Gai Jatra and many more. All these jatras have their own stories and origins that get reenacted at some point in the year in the valley.
Going outside the valley, there’s the Chasok Tangnam of the Eastern Nepal, which is a Harvest Festival of the Limbu Community.
Over at the north, the Sherpa community all over celebrates the Dumji Festival, honoring Guru Rinpoche, and the day being the day of this birth from a lotus flower.
Architecture and Archaeology
The most famous form of architecture to come out of Nepalese culture is the Pagoda Styled building. The multi-storied style makes up most of the temples and ancient palaces of the country. Some notable buildings of this architecture includes the Taleju Bhawani of Basantapur Durbar Square and the Changu Narayan Temple of Nagarkot. This style was brought to foreign lands during the Lichhavi through Araniko who introduced it to China.
The next style of architecture is the stupa style, which is a hemisphere dome topped by pinnacle with Buddha’s eyes painted on the outside. These stupas are believed to contain the relics of saint or ashes of Buddha, well atleast the ones in Baishali are.
Along with these, there are the different monasteries, palaces, and Chaityas with their own historical and architectural legacy and different styles of architecture like the Shikhar style, which makes them a special part of the Nepalese culture.
Many of these are part of antiquity. Some of the best architectural wonders of Nepal are from time far gone that were extracted from writing and eye witness accounts of writers of that era, and also from what remains of those iconic relics today. Some of the most important ruins of archaeology include the ones found on Lumbini and Janakpur among many others. These are a part of the Nepalese culture that shaped the Nepalese society from their time.
So, in the end, Nepal is a nation built on diversity. The intermixing and harmonizing of cultures from all over the general area. All that came together to create this culture that has evolved into a wonderful blend of all those and then some.