Nepal Trekkings

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General Information

The lure and romance of Nepal comes from its very remoteness. Nestled high in the Himalaya the kingdom was closed to the outside world until 1951. Since then it has become one of the premier tourist destinations of the world. Apart from Nepal’s world-renowned physical attractions – frozen peaks, broad valleys, lush jungles and exotic wildlife – it is a country with an ancient, rich and diverse cultural heritage. With a recorded history of almost 3000 years, and legendary beginnings dating back further still, the legacy and influences of the past are a constant presence in modern life. Traditional architecture mingles with the modern, busy streets divert around sacred shrines, festivals celebrate gods and heroes and suited-businessmen offer katak’s to departing visitors.

The lives of all of Nepal’s numerous ethnic groups and castes are strongly influenced by religion. Whether Hindu, Buddhist, Shamanist or, as is common, an amalgam of belief, daily and life-long routines - morning puja, making offerings at a shrine on the way to work and the bigger events of birth and death – are a vibrant aspect of Nepalese life. Architecture follows styles that provide for household shrines, deities are painted in vibrant color and festivals are an integral part of life.

Capital city: Kathmandu
Area: 147,181 sq km
Population: 29.5 million
Language: Nepali
Currency: Nepalese Rupee (NPR)
Time zone: GMT +5.75
Dialing code: +977
People:  Hindu (75%), Buddhists (20%), Others (5%)

Getting there:

Thai flies daily between Kathmandu and Bangkok with connections throughout the world.
From Europe there are daily flights via the Middle East on Emirates, Gulf Air and Qatar Airways as well as connections via Delhi on Lufthansa and KLM.
There are daily flights from Delhi on Jet Airways, Kingfisher, Nepal Airline Corp, JetLite, Indian Airlines.
Nepal Airlines Corp (NAC) has twice weekly flights to Osaka via Shanghai and to Hong Kong.
China Eastern Airways is due to begin operating between Beijing and Shanghai and Kathmandu early 2004.

Climate:

Nepal's weather is generally predictable and pleasant. There are four climatic seasons: March to May (spring), June to August (summer), September to November (autumn) and December to February (winter). The monsoon is approximately from the end of June to the middle of September. About 80% of the rain falls during that period, so the remainder of the year is dry. Spring and autumn are the most pleasant seasons; winter temperatures drop to freezing with a high level of snowfall in the mountains. Summer and late spring temperatures range from 28ºC (83ºF) in the hill regions to more than 40ºC (104ºF) in the Terai. In winter, average maximum and minimum temperatures in the Terai range from a brisk 7ºC (45ºF) to a mild 23ºC (74ºF). The central valleyes experience a minimum temperature often falling below freezing point and a chilly 12ºC (54ºF) maximum. Much colder temperatures prevail at higher elevations. The Kathmandu Valley, at an altitude of 1,310m (4,297ft), has a mild climate, ranging from 19-27ºC (67-81ºF) in summer, and 2-20ºC (36-68ºF) in winter.

Temperature Chart ( In Celsius)
  Months
Kathmandu
Pokhara
Chitwan
 
Max.
Min.
Max.
Min.
Max.
Min.
  January
19
2
20
8
24
7
  February
20
4
21
8
26
8
  March
25
8
27
11
33
12
  April
30
11
30
16
35
18
  May
30
16
30
19
35
20
  June
30
20
30
20
35
23
  July
20
21
30
21
33
24
   August
29
20
30
21
33
24
  September
27
19
29
20
32
22
  October
23
15
27
18
31
18
  November
23
4
23
11
29
12
  December
20
2
20
8
24
8
 
Rainfall Chart (In mm.)
  Months
Kathmandu
Pokhara
Chitwan
  January
25
15
10
  February
25
15
10
  March
75
30
10
  April
50
50
15
  May
100
300
200
  June
225
575
300
  July
375
800
500
  August
360
700
450
  September
175
575
400
  October
50
220
100
  November
10
20
5
  December
10
5
5
 
Climate Chart
  Kathmandu
  Month
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
  Chances of dry day
95%
91%
93%
85%
74%
54%
33%
37%
62%
88%
98%
99%
  Hours of Sunshine
5.54
5.39
7.37
9.3
5.43
4.54
2.37
2.23
3.18
5.12
5.12
5.06
                         
  Pokhara
  Month
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
  Chances of dry day
94%
94%
89%
80%
53%
5%
3%
3%
7%
64%
96%
99%
  Hours of Sunshine
5.49
6.23
7.19
8.59
5.17
4.02
2.04
1.34
1.44
4.3
4.51
5.12
 
Religion and Culture

Religion is the lifeblood of the Nepalese, defining art, culture, social position and the ritual of daily life. Religion in Nepal comprises a net of magical, mystical and spiritual beliefs with a multitude of gods reflecting the diverse facets of Nepalese life.
Officially Nepal is a Hindu country, but in practice religion is a complex and unique interweaving of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs with a pantheon of Tantric deities tagged on, all against a background of ancient animist traditions. In very broad terms lowlanders are Hindu, highlanders are Buddhist and the middle hills are a mixture of both. The greatest intermingling is in the Kathmandu valley where there is a hardly a ‘pure’ temple to be found and everyone joins in the major celebrations and worships the most popular deities. For about 95% of people these deities are not a matter of faith, but living beings to be pleased or appeased by devotees.

People:

The majority religion is Hindu, with a substantial number of Buddhists (being the birthplace of Buddha).
Nepalese society is traditional and conservative.
Couples should be aware that public displays of affection are considered inappropriate.
The left hand is considered unclean so the right hand should always be used for giving, taking, eating, shaking hands, etc.
The feet are also considered unclean so it is impolite to kick someone, put your feet up on a chair or table, point your feet at someone or something revered or to touch someone else's feet.
Dress:Cleanliness in appearance and modesty are greatly appreciated.

Caste Groups

Brahmans: are at the top. Traditionally they served as priests and moneylenders, today they are found in government, education and commerce. Chettri are the largest Hindu caste specializing in military and political affairs. The royal family belongs to this caste.

The traditional middle-castes are absent in Nepal, filled instead by ethnic groups. At the bottom are the occupational castes- blacksmiths, cobblers, tailors etc. and at the very bottom, the outcaste sweepers and butchers.

Terai Ethnic Groups
Approximately 25% of Nepal’s population belongs to the Indo-Aryan groups of the Terai. The Maithili comprise Nepal’s largest single ethnic group.

Hill Ethnic Groups
Newar are the indigenous inhabitants of the Kathmandu valley. Originally Buddhist the majority are now Hindu or a tangled mixture of the two beliefs. Newari society is divided into 64 occupational castes, the largest being the Jyapu, peasant farmer.

Tamang are one of the largest ethnic groups whose homeland is central and eastern Nepal. To a greater extent than the Newars they have retained their farmers, porters and craftsmen.

Gurung inhabit the foothills of the Lamjung and Annapurna Himal. There, intensively farmed hillsides surround neat villages of stone houses, linked by a network of trails paved with percisely cut and fitted stone blocks. They speak an unwritten Tibeto-Burman language and, at higher altitudes, retain Buddhist traditions whlist in lower regions they have generally become Hindu.

Magar people inhabit roughly the same region as the Gurung, but farm the lower slopes. Originally followers of an animistic folk religion with a Buddhist veneer most are now Hindu.Along with Gurungs, Magar’s make up the bulk of the Gurkha and Nepalese armed forces.

Thakali, natives of the Thak Khola region near Annapurna are known as shrewd and agressive traders who enjoyed a profitable position as middlemen in the salt trade between Tibet and lowland Nepal. Originally a mix of Tibetan Buddhist and Shamanist, many have converted to Hinduism.

The Kirati, Rai and Limbu can trace thier history at least 2,300 years when they were mentioned in the epic Mahabharata. Said to have once ruled the Kathmandu valley thay have now resettled in the eastern hills following a mixture of animist, Buddhist and Hindu beliefs.

Mountain Ethnic Groups

Bhotia is the term used throughout the subcontinent to describe the northern mountain peoples with close ties to Tibet. They speak a variety of Tibetan-based dialects and are followers of Vajrayana Buddhism with Shamanist Bon influences. Inhabiting the high valleys they live by a mixture of farming, herding and trade. There are dozens of Bhotia groups including the Dolpo-pa, Lo-pa, Manang-pa and the famous sher-pa of the Solukhumbu region. Although the name Sherpa has become synonymous with ‘porter’’, properly speaking  the sher-pa are a group tracing their origins to eastern Tibet from where they immigrated about 400 years ago.

At the bottom are the occupational castes- blacksmiths, cobblers, tailors etc. and at the very bottom, the outcaste sweepers and butchers   

POLITICAL INFORMATION

Nepal: A Brief History

Nepal’s recorded history began with the Kirantis, who arrived in the 7th or 8th century BC from the east. Little is known about them, other than their deftness as sheep farmers and fondness for carrying long knives. It was during this period that Buddhism first came to Nepal; it is claimed that Buddha and his disciple Ananda visited the Kathmandu valley and stayed for a time in Patan. By 200 AD, Buddhism had waned, and was replaced by Hinduism, brought by the Licchavis, who invaded from northern India and overthrew the last Kirat king. The Hindus also introduced the caste system (which still continues today) and ushered in a classical age of Nepalese art and architecture.

By 879, the Licchavi era had petered out and was succeeded by the Thakuri dynasty. A grim period of instability and invasion often referred to as the ‘Dark Ages’ followed, but the Kathmandu valley’s strategic location ensured the kingdom’s survival and growth. Several centuries later, the Thakuri king, Arideva, founded the Malla dynasty, kick-starting another renaissance of Nepali culture. Despite earthquakes, the odd invasion and feuding between the independent city-states of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur, the dynasty flourished, reaching its zenith in the 15th century under Yaksha Malla.

The rulers of Gorkha, the most easterly region, had always coveted the Mallas  with wealth. Under the inspired leadership of Prithivi Narayan Shah, the Gorkha launched a campaign to conquer the valley. In 1768 – after 27 years of fighting – they triumphed and moved their capital to Kathmandu. From this new base the kingdom’s power expanded, borne by a seemingly unstoppable army. Until progess was halted in 1792 by a brief and chastening war with Tibet.

Further hostilities followed in 1814, this time with the British over a territorial dispute. The Nepalese were eventually put to heel and compelled to sign the 1816 Sugauli Treaty, which surrendered Sikkim and most of Terai(some of the land was eventually restored in return for Nepalese help in quelling the Indian Mutiny of 1857), established Nepal’s present eastern and western boundaries and, worst of all, installed a British ‘resident’ in the country.

The Shah dynasty continued in power until the ghastly Kot Massacre of 1846. Taking advantage of the intrigue and assassinations that had plagued the ruling family; Jung Bahadur seized control by butchering several hundred of the most important men while assembling in the Kot courtyard. He took the more prestigious title Rana, proclaimed himself prime minister for life, and later made the office hereditary. For the next century, the Ranas and their offspring luxuriated in huge Kathmandu palaces, while the remainder of the population eked out a living in medieval conditions. In 1948, the British withdrew from India and with them went the Rana’s chief support. Around the same time, a host of insurrectional movements emerged. Sporadic fighting spilled onto the streets and the Ranas, at the behest of India, reluctantly agreed to negotiations. King Tribhuvan was an appointed ruler in 1951 and struck up a government comprised of Ranas and members of the newly formed Nepali Congress Party.But the compromise was short-lived. After toying with democratic elections- and feeling none too pleased by the result King Mahendra(Tribhuvan’s son and successor) decided that a ‘party less’ panchayat system would be more appropriate for Nepal. The king selected the prime minister and cabinet and appointed a large proportion of the national assembly, which duly rubber-stamped his policies. Power, of course, remained with only one party – the  king’s.

Cronyism, corruption and the creaming off of lucrative foreign aid into royal coffers continued until 1989 when the Nepalese, fed up with years of hardship and suffering called the Jana Andolan or ‘People’s Movement’. In the ensuing months, detention, torture and violent clashes left hundreds of people dead. It all proved too much for King Birendra, who dissolved his cabinet, legalized political parties and invited the opposition to form an interim government. The changeover to democracy proceeded in an orderly, if leisurely, fashion and in May 1991 the Nepali Congress party and the communist party of Nepal shared most of the votes. Since then, Nepal has discovered that establishing a workable democratic system is an enormously difficult task- especially when it is the country’s first such system. The situation has been further exacerbated by a wafer-thin economy, massive unemployment, illiteracy, and an ethnically and religiously fragmented population that continues to grow at an alarming rate. The fractured political landscape in Nepal was torn apart in June 2001 with the massacre of most of the royal family- including King Birendra. Civil strife erupted again in Kathmandu, with a curfew imposed to quell street violence. Prince Gyanendra, the brother of King Birendra, ascended to the throne, and although relative calm has replaced the widespread civil unrest that immediately followed the massacre, there is still much political uncertainty.

.In February 2005, King Gyanendra dismissed Nepal’s elected government, declared a state of emergency, and announced his assumption of full executive authority. He justified the coup on the pretext of trying to curtail the 10-year-old Maoist insurgency that claimed more than 13,000 lives. The police, the army, and the Maoists were all responsible for numerous human rights abuses during the conflict. After the coup, Maoist leaders reached an agreement with the main political parties to join forces and oppose the King. They organized massive protests and in April 2006, after tens of thousands of people took to the streets, King Gyanendra was forced to return a civilian government.

Chief of these is the Maoist rebellion against the government, which has claimed 1700 lives over the past six years. The first round of peace talks between the rebels and the government took place at the end of August 2001 and a ceasefire was declared – then abruptly ended. Any talk of détente is at risk from the government’s proposed land reforms and budget decisions, and major political challenges. In early September 2001 a tentative alliance comprising 10 left-wing political party emerged, along with calls for a united government of representatives from all political directions, including Mao rebels, and changes to the constitution. Hopes of a settlement were again dashed with coordinated Maoist bombings in November 2001.

In (2006-2008) Nepal’s coalition government and the Communist party to Nepal (Maoist) signed a comprehensive peace agreement to end the fighting. The Nepali Army and Maoists agreed to an arms management pact, under which each side would put away most of its weapons and restrict most of its troops to a few barracks, under the supervision of monitors from the United Nations. They also agreed to participate in elections to create a constituent assembly that would rewrite the country’s constitution, including whether it will remain a monarchy. Elections to the Constituent assembly held on 10, April 2008 and maoists got the absolute seats in the elections. Thereafter, the parliament declared Nepal as Federal Democratic Republic overthrowing the 240 - year old shah dynasty. King Gyanendra left the palace and the was palace then turned into National museum. Soon the coalition government is going to be formed under the initiative of Maoists and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (alias Prachanda) is likely to lead the government as the new premier in Nepal. According to the interim Constituent the president will be the ceremonial head of state and the premier will remain the Executive head of the government.

On July the newly elected president Dr. Ram Baran Yadav became the first president of Nepal through presidental run-off held on 21 July in the parliament, After the abolishment of the institution of monarchy in the country and after the King Gyanendra was dethroned by the constituent Assembly, Nepal has found a farmer’s son become the first president of republic Nepal.

Maoist revolutionary supreme leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, alias Prachanda has been democratically elected as the new prime minister of Federal Democratic Republic Nepal on 15 August 2008.Prachanda who led 10-year long insurgency against the monarchy and under his able leadership the Maoist party scored the major seats in the Assembly election in April, 2008.The coalition government headed by Maoist party was brought down after a 9 month rule and another coalition government headed by UML(United Marxist Leninst) party formed the government with the support of Nepali Congress, Nepal Prajatantra Party, Madhesi Janadikar Forum and other small political parties. This new coalition government was formed under the premiership of Madhav Kumar Nepal and the government is now in full swing.