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PEOPLE AND RELIGION

Ihi Ceremony, Nepal

Village - Nepal for its size Nepal is a populous country made up of more than 18 million, all a heterogeneous mix of different races and tribes, wearing different costumes, speaking different languages and dialects and living in different regions of the country. The Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the west. The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabit the slopes and valleys of the eastern mid hills. The Sherpas also known as "the Tigers of the Snow" live in the Himalayan region up to an average altitude of 4570 m.

The Newars constitute an important ethnic group in the capital valley Kathmandu. There are Tharus, Yadavas, Satars, Rajvanshis and Dhimals in the Terai region. The Brahmans, Chhetris and Thakuris are spread generally over most parts of the kingdom.

Art and Religion
Nepalese expressions of art both classical and modern are a part and parcel of daily life. Unique craftsmanship is easily found in the architecture of temples, shrines, fountains and the design of religious objects. Understanding the various religious creeds as well as the representations of gods and goddesses gives one a better understanding of Nepalese art.

The only country that is a Hindu state, boasts tremendous religious tolerance of the many faiths practiced within its borders. Hindus predominate and make up 80-85% of the population. The next largest religious groups consist of Buddhists, 15-18%, and Muslims, 2% of the population.

Common to all of these religions is the integration of religious expression within everyday life. In contrast with Western religions, these religions involve codes for individual behavior and daily rites of worship. In the morning, people gather at temples, sanctuaries or river banks to offer prayers and puja. Puja is the spreading of rice, grain, coins, flower petals, sweets, incense, fruits, burning wicks and/or red "sindur" paste over statues, carvings, stones or tree roots which are all forms of deities.

A historical look demonstrates that artistic expression reflects the religious and ethnic diversity within the valley. Nepalese art became prominent in the 13th century through the work of BALBAHU, also known as ARNIKO, an architect for the king of Tibet and possibly the Emperor of China. Nepalese art is recognized for its candour, simplicity and harmony balanced with intricacy and decoration. The Malla dynasty promoted all forms of artistic expression from the 14th to the 19th centuries. Tibetan forms of expression influenced art in the valley beginning in the 17th century. Tantric and Buddhist themes introduced greater differentiation between Nepalese and Indian art.

Literature
Literature appeared in the valley during the 18th century. Poetry is the predominant form of writing from this period, but most authors are unknown. The following centuries brought more poets and writers inspired by religion as well as social problems. Musical lyrics celebrate the beauty of nature and life, or convey a legend.


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