Thursday, April 21, 2011

About Nepal

Let’s know about Nepal

Nepal is unique in the region of South Asia that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka because it is the only country of any size to have maintained its independence. Nepal was never a British colony.

The Kathmandu Valley is the political and historical heartland of Nepal. There were cultures centered there as early as the eighth or seventh century BC . Indian inscriptions dated to the fourth century AD refer to a kingdom called "Nepala" in the Himalayan Mountains. The birth of modern Nepal can to be traced to the eighteenth century. The Gurkhas, a warlike people, are thought to have been princes fleeing Muslim persecution in western India. They established themselves in the mountains of what is now western Nepal in the mid-sixteenth century. In 1768, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ninth king in the Gurkha dynasty, conquered the Kathmandu Valley, where the capital of modern Nepal, Kathmandu, is located.

Disputes over its southern border led Nepal (ruled by Gurkhas) into conflict with the British in India. Defeat during the Anglo-Gurkha war (1814–1816) saw Nepal's expansion halted and its borders fixed in their present locations. From 1816 to 1951, Nepal did not allow foreigners to enter—its borders were closed.

By the mid-twentieth century, the Nepali National Congress called for the establishment of a democratic government. A new constitution was proclaimed in 1990. This created a true parliamentary democracy, legalized political parties, and made provisions for a popularly elected legislature. The first general election under the new system was held in May 1991. As of 1998, King Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev continued to rule as a constitutional monarch, but without much power.

Nepal is a landlocked state on the northern mountain rim of South Asia, the region that includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Sri Lanka. Its inhabitants number 21.5 million people, living in an area of 56,139 square miles (145,391 square kilometers), roughly the size of Iowa. Nepal extends 500 miles (800 kilometers) in a generally east-west direction, but it is only approximately 80 to 140 miles (125 to 225 kilometers) wide in the north-south direction. The country is surrounded on the east, south, and west by India. China lies to the north.

Nepal is truly a mountain kingdom, with a quarter of its land over 9,800 feet (3,000 meters) in altitude. The only lowland of note lies in the extreme south, where the country extends into the plains near the Ganges River. The Terai is a narrow belt of land that was at one time a swampy, malaria-infested forest about 25 miles (40 kilometers) wide, but is now home to over a third of Nepal's population, much of its agriculture and industry, and several government wildlife reserves.

North of the Terai, the land rises to an elevation of 2,450 to 4,900 feet (750 to 1,500 meters), before descending to a series of east-west running valleys known as duns . From the duns, the terrain rises steadily toward the main ranges of the Himalayas. The Nepal Himalayas contain eight peaks over 26,200 feet (8,000 meters), including Mount Everest, the world's highest mountain at 29,028 feet (8,848 meters). Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, and Annapurna are among the better-known peaks of this group.

The Kathmandu Valley lies north of the Mahabharat Lekh ranges at around 4,300 feet (1,300 meters) above sea level. It is the cultural and historical heart of Nepal, containing the modern capital of Kathmandu, and the cities of Patan and Bhaktapur.

Nepal's climate and vegetation reflect the country's wide range of elevations. The Terai experiences an average temperature in June, the warmest month, of 95° F (35° C), while winter temperatures drop to 50° F (10° C). Rainfall is received during the summer monsoon, with amounts varying from 80 inches (200 centimeters) in the east to 40 inches (100 centimeters) in the west. As one moves northwards into the mountains, temperatures decrease and rainfall increases. Above 13,100 feet (4,000 meters), the climate is alpine, with short summers and long, severe winters. The higher elevations are under snow year-round.

The peoples of southern Nepal are like their Indian neighbors. Caste (social classification) remains the prime factor in relations. (For more information on castes, see the chapter on India in Volume 4.) There is considerable freedom of movement and intermarriage across the border between Nepal and India.

The term "Newar" is used to describe the inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley regardless of their ethnic origin. Peoples of Mongoloid descent include the groups who traditionally have served as Gurkha soldiers. Technically, there is no single ethnic group called Gurkha, the name being derived from soldiers of the Kingdom of Gorkha whose ruler conquered the Kathmandu Valley in the eighteenth century.

The northern mountain belt is inhabited by the Sherpas who are closely related to the Tibetans.



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