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Nepal

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Nepal

Nepal Nepali: नेपाल  is a landlocked nation in South Asia. It is bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by India. Kathmandu, the nation's capital, is its largest city.

Nepal had been a monarchy throughout most of its history. Prithvi Narayan Shah, a nobleman, unified the many small kingdoms in the Himalayan valley in 1768. Since then, the country had been ruled by a dynasty of kings, until a civil war between monarchist forces and the Communist Party of Nepal led to the abdication of King Gyanendra and the establishment of a federal democratic republic in 2008.

Nepal is a country of highly diverse geography, culture, and religions. The mountainous north contains eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized. Although Hinduism is practiced by a majority of the population, the nation also has a strong Buddhist tradition, as the birthplace of Siddharta Gautama.

Etymology

The word 'Nepal' is believed by scholars to be derived from the word 'Nepa:' which refers to the Newar Kingdom, the present day Kathmandu Valley. With Sanskritization, the Newar word Nepa became Nepal. The Newars of present day Nepal, refer to all the inhabitants of Kathmandu valley and its peripheries (called 'Nepa:') before the advent of Shah dynasty. The Nepal Sambat calendar, named after this Newar kingdom and devised 1100 years ago, is a national calendar used in Nepal and testifies to its antiquity.

Ne Muni

Many historians and local traditions say that a Hindu sage named 'Ne' established himself at the valley of Kathmandu during prehistoric times and that the word 'Nepal' came into existence as the place protected ('pala' in Sanskrit) by the sage 'Ne'. The etymology of the name Nepal means, 'the country looked after by Ne'.

He used to perform religious ceremonies at Teku, the confluence of the Bagmati and Bishnumati rivers. He is said by legend to have selected a pious cowherd to be the first of the many kings of the Gopala Dynasty. These rulers are said to have ruled Nepal for over 500 years. He selected Bhuktaman to be the first king in the line of the Gopal (Cowherd) Dynasty. The Gopal dynasty ruled for 621 years. Yakshya Gupta was the last king of this dynasty. However,this mythology can be challenged as no such name as Ne exists in Nepali or other Sanskrit derived languages.

According to Skanda Purana, a rishi called 'Ne' or 'Nemuni' used to live in Himalaya. In the Pashupati Purana, he is mentioned as a saint and a protector. He is said to have practiced penance at the Bagmati and Kesavati rivers and to have taught his doctrines there too.

Language

All the languages spoken in Nepal are national languages. Nepali is the official language of Nepal, with almost 60 percent of the population speaking it. This language, which is believed to be language with the closest derivation from Sanskrit, was originally called Khaskura, but became known as Nepali during the 20th century. Nepal's constitution, however, guarantees that, irrespective of what the official language is, all languages spoken in Nepal can be used for official purposes and documentation.

In the capital Kathmandu, Nepal Bhasa (the Newar language) and Nepali are the most widely used languages.

History

Prehistory

Kathmandu Valley

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that people who were probably of Kirant ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago.

Ancient

Terai News writes, 'Nepal has been highlighted for the last several centuries in Indian Sanskrit literature like ‘Skand Purana’. ‘Skanda Purana’ has a separate volume known as ‘Nepal Mahatmya’, which explains in more details about Nepal.' Nepal is also mentioned in Hindu scriptures such as the Narayana Puja and the Atharva Siras (800-600 BC). Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose in the region. From one of these, the Shakya confederation, arose a prince named Siddharta Gautama (563–483 BC), who later renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ('the enlightened one'). The 7th Kirata king, Jitedasti, was on the throne in the Nepal valley at the time. By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Dynasty in the fourth century AD. In the fifth century, rulers called the Licchavis governed the majority of its area. There is a good and quite detailed description of the kingdom of Nepal in the account of the renowned Chinese Buddhist pilgrim monk Xuanzang, dating from c. 645 AD.

The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late eighth century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By the late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukayas, Nepal's religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

Medieval

By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ('wrestler'). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years; by the late 14th century, much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the region was carved into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.
Hindu temples in Patan, capital of one of the three medieval Newar kingdoms

After centuries of petty rivalry between the three kingdoms, in the mid-18th century Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Gorkha King set out to unify the kingdoms. Seeking arms and aid from India, and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms, he embarked on his mission in 1765. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify the Kathmandu Valley three years later in 1768. However, an actual battle never took place to conquer the Kathmandu valley; it was taken over by Prithvi Narayan and his troops without any effort, during Indra Jatra, a festival of Newars, when all the valley's citizens were celebrating the festival. This event marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal.

Modern

There is historical evidence that, at one time, the boundary of Greater Nepal extended from the Tista River in the east to Kangara, across Sutlej River, in the west. A dispute and subsequent war with Tibet over the control of mountain passes forced the Nepalese to retreat and pay heavy reparations. Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16). The valor displayed by the Nepalese during the war astounded their enemies and earned them their image of fierce and ruthless 'Gurkhas'. The war ended in the Treaty of Sugauli, under which Nepal ceded recently-captured portions of Sikkim and lands in Terai to the Company.

Factionalism inside the royal family had led to a period of instability. In 1846 a plot was discovered revealing that the reigning queen had planned to overthrow Jung Bahadur Rana, a fast-rising military leader. This led to the Kot Massacre; armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Jung Bahadur Rana emerged victorious and founded the Rana lineage. The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted them during the Indian Sepoy Rebellion in 1857 (and later in both World Wars). The decision to help British East India Company was taken by the Rana Regime, then led by Jang Bahadur Rana. Some parts of the Terai Region were given back to Nepal by the British as a friendly gesture, because of her military help to sustain British control in India during the Sepoy Rebellion. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognized by the UK.

Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.
In the late 1940s, newly emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, with the assertion of Chinese control in Tibet in the 1950s, India sought to counterbalance the perceived military threat from its northern neighbour by taking pre-emptive steps to assert more influence in Nepal. India sponsored both King Tribhuvan as Nepal's new ruler in 1951 and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the monarch scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a 'partyless' panchayat system was made to govern Nepal until 1989, when the 'Jan Andolan' (People's Movement) forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament that took seat in May 1991.

In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people's socialist republic. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On June 1, 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace; it left the King, the Queen and the Heir Apparent Crown Prince Dipendra among the dead. Prince Dipendra was accused of patricide and of committing suicide thereafter, alleged to be a violent response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife. However, there is speculation and doubts among Nepalese citizens about the person(s) responsible for the Royal Massacre. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by King Birendra's brother Gyanendra. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement. In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire to negotiate their demands.

In response to the 2006 democracy movement, the king agreed to relinquish the sovereign power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 18, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, abolishing its time-honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, a bill was passed in parliament to amend Article 159 of the constitution - replacing 'Provisions regarding the King' by 'Provisions of the Head of the State' - declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on May 28, 2008 as a constituent assembly meeting in the capital, Kathmandu, overwhelmingly voted to abolish royal rule.

Recent events

The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on April 10, 2008 and have thus formed a coalition government which includes most of the parties in the CA. But the Nepali Congress notably is not in the government. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted that the elections themselves were markedly peaceful and 'well-carried out.'

The Maoists had insisted on the abolition of the monarchy, with Nepal remaining democratic, but becoming a federal state with an elected head. The newly elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on May 28, 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to end Nepal's 240 year old monarchy, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissent note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from May 28 to 30. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, in order to re-open it as a public museum. He did not, however, grant Royal Assent to the acts of either the interim parliament or the Constituent Assembly, especially that which declared a republic. Some have argued that as the interim constitution is repugnant to the 1992 constitution, which had never been legally abolished, making the republic – from either a de jure or royalist, divine right perspective – invalid, keeping Gyanendra as king.

Geography

Geography of Nepal is uncommonly diverse. Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (500 mi) long and 200 kilometres (125 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi). See List of territories by size for the comparative size of Nepal.

Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, Siwalik region and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are vertically intersected by Nepal's major, north to south flowing river systems.

The southern lowland Plains bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani, and the Karnali. This region has a hot, humid climate.

The Hill Region (Pahad) abuts the mountains and varies from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,300–13,125 ft) in altitude. Two low mountain ranges, the Mahabharat Lekh and Shiwalik Range (also called the Churia Range) dominate the region. The hilly belt includes the Kathmandu Valley, the country's most fertile and urbanised area. Unlike the valleys called Inner Tarai (Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka), elevations above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) are sparsely populated.

Mount Everest

The Mountain Region, situated in the Great Himalayan Range, makes up the northern part of Nepal. It contains the regions of highest altitude in the world; the world's highest mountain, 8,850 metres (29,035 ft) height Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) is located here on the border with Tibet. Seven other of the world's ten highest mountains are located in Nepal: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu.

Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to the altitudes. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,940 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,900–7,875 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,875–11,800 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,800–14,400 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,400 ft).

Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in the winter and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. In a land once thickly forested, deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.

Nepal is popular for mountaineering, containing some of the highest and most challenging mountains in the world, including Mount Everest. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb; so, most climbers prefer to trek to Everest through Nepal.

Until the Sugauli Sandhi (treaty) was signed, the territory of Nepal also included Darjeeling, and Tista to the east, Nainital to the south-west and Kumaun, Garwal and Bashahar to the west. However, today these areas are a part of India. As a result, Nepal shares no boundary with Bangladesh now and the two countries are separated by a narrow strip of land about 21 kilometres (13 mi) wide, called the Siliguri Corridor‎ or Chicken's Neck. A huge majority of Nepalese still live there (almost 2 million). Efforts are underway to make this area a free-trade zone. The border dispute between India and Nepal has often been a cause of tension between the two countries.

Subdivisions

Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts, grouped into 5 development regions. Each district is headed by a permanent chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries. The 14 zones are:

* Bagmati
* Bheri
* Dhawalagiri
* Gandaki
* Janakpur
* Karnali
* Kosi
* Lumbini
* Mahakali
* Mechi
* Narayani
* Rapti
* Sagarmatha
* Seti

Neotectonics of Nepal

The collision between the Indian subcontinent and the Eurasian continent, which started in Paleogene time and continues today, produced the Himalaya and the Tibetan Plateau, a spectacular modern example of the effects of plate tectonics. Nepal lies completely within this collision zone, occupying the central sector of the Himalayan arc, nearly one third of the 2400km-long Himalayas.

The Indian plate continues to move north relative to Asia at the rate of ~50mm/yr. Given the great magnitudes of the blocks of the Earth's crust involved, this is remarkably fast, about twice the speed at which human fingernails grow. As the strong Indian continental crust subducts beneath the relatively weak Tibetan crust, it pushes up the Himalaya mountains. This collision zone has accommodated huge amounts of crustal shortening as the rock sequences slide one over another. Erosion of the Himalayas is a very important source of sediment, which flows via great rivers (Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra) to the Indian Ocean.

Structural and Neotectonic pattern of Nepal

The main structures of Nepal consist of several north-dipping thrust faults; the more important ones are the main frontal thrust (MFT), the main boundary thrust (MBT) and the main central thrust (MCT) (F. Jouanne et al.,2004). These thrust faults lie to the south of the South Tibetan Detachment System(STDS) which is a system of low angle normal faults and is also an important aspect of Nepal Himalayan tectonics.
Geological Map of Nepal Showing Major Tectonic Thrusts.

The thrust faults trend generally 120°N in western Nepal, curving to 90°N in the eastern part of the country (Upreti & Le Fort 1999). These thrust faults, with generally southerly transport directions (Brunel 1986; Pecher 1991; Mugnier et al.,1999), are inferred to branch off the major basal detachment of the Himalayan thrust belt called the main Himalayan thrust (MHT) that localizes the underthrusting of the Indian lithosphere beneath the Himalayas and Tibet (Zhao et al., 1993). All the cross-sections made through the Himalayan belt advocate a mid-crustal ramp, below a large-scale antiformal structure of the Lesser Himalayas and to be north of a synformal structure(Schelling & Arita 1991; Srivastava & Mitra 1994; Pandey et al. 1990; DeCelles et al. 1998; Mugnier et al. 2003). Geological, geophysical and structural data indicate that there are lateral variations in the geometry of the MHT (Zhao et al.,1993; Pandey et al.1995,1999), but direct knowledge of the geometry of the MHT is sparse and therefore the validity of the profiles is still in debate. The thrusts are generally younger from north to south (24-21 Ma for the MCT, less than 2 Ma for the MFT) (Hodges et al. 1996; Harrison et al. 1997). On the basis of these faults, the structure of Nepal is generally subdivided into five tectonic zones:

1. Gangetic Plain (Terai) (area on the south of MFT)
2. Sub-Himalayas (Siwaliks)(area between MFT and MBT)
3. Lesser Himalayas (area between MBT and MCT)
4. Higher Himalayas (area between MCT and STDS)
5. Tibetan-Tethys (area north of STDS)

Present-day deformation of Nepal

The modern deformation of the Himalayas is characterized by big earthquakes. Almost half of the continuing convergence between India and Eurasia is absorbed by underthrusting of the Indian lithosphere, beneath the Himalayas and Tibet along the MHT, as proposed by seismic investigations (Zhao et al.1993). Three of the big Nepalese earthquakes (1905, 1934 and 1950, with magnitudes around 8) were caused by the mid-crustal ramp along MHT (Pandey & Molnar 1989). The territory of Nepal is characterized by very intense microseismic activity, most of which follows approximately the topographic front of the Higher Himalaya (Pandey et al.,1999). Most of the earthquakes cluster between the MCT and MBT (Fig: Seismicity in the Himalayas of Nepal). Earthquake focal mechanisms indicate that the intermediate magnitude earthquakes are shallow depth (10-20km) beneath the Lesser Himalayas, demonstrating the activation of thrust planes gently dipping to the north (Ni and Barazangi, 1984). Detailed analysis of the Uttarkashi earthquake (Cotton et al. 1996) in the west of Nepal indicates that this event was initiated to the south of the Higher Himalayas front at 12±3 km depth corresponding to the southward propagation of a rupture along this segment of the MHT. A detailed study of the microseismic clusters suggests segmentation of the Himalayan arc (Pandey et al. 1999) and two major discontinuities segment the microseismicity belt at 82.5°E and 86.5°E. The projection along cross sections of the microseismic event (Fig:Cross-section and Projection of Microseimic Activity) reveals a noticeable change in shape of the clusters between central Nepal (rounded clusters are located in the vicinity of the flat-ramp transition of the MHT) and western Nepal (clusters are elongated and nearly horizontal) (F. Jouanne et al.,2004). Similarly, vertical displacement rates, expressed with reference to the Gangetic plain, indicate current uplift of the high Himalayas at 6 mm/yr, but also suggest active displacement along frontal thrusts inducing localized uplift (B. Antoine et al., 2004). There is change in maximum elevation between central (8500m) and western (7500m) Nepal and also a big difference in incision between eastern-central Nepal (6000m) and western Nepal (4500m)(B. Antoine et al., 2004). This is reflected in gentler relief in western Nepal and confirms the segmentation of geology and deformation observed with microseismicity and GPS measurements (Fig:Cross-section and Projection of Microseimic Activity).

Conclusion: To summarise, the neotectonic deformation of Nepal is characterised by three major thrust faults (MCT, MBT and MFT) which are inferred to be the splay thrust of MHT that marks the underthrusting of the Indian lithosphere beneath the Himalayas. Likewise, there is a sudden change in geometry of the MHT between central and western Nepal, which is also marked in the Himalayan relief. The MHT is the main structure responsible for recent uplift and continuing deformation in Nepal. This hypothesis is reinforced by the observation that Quaternary displacement along the Main Frontal Thrust, southern emergence of the MHT and the convergence rate estimated across the Himalayas by GPS are both estimated at 18-20 mm/yr, which suggests that nearly all the displacement between India and Tibet is today transferred along the MHT (B. Antoine et al., 2004).

Government and politics

Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people's movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.

Nepal's legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had 60 members: ten nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives, and the remaining 15 elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.

The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, on the recommendation of the prime minister, according to the constitution; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991.

The movement in April 2006, brought about a change in the nation's governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.

On December 10, 2007, the interim parliament passed a bill that would make Nepal a federal republic, with the Prime Minister becoming head of state. The bill was passed by the Constituent Assembly on May 28, 2008.

On April 10, 2008, the first election in Nepal for the constitution assembly took place. The Maoist party led the poll results but failed to gain a simple majority in the parliament.

On May 28, 2008, lawmakers in Nepal legally abolished the monarchy and declared the country a republic, ending 239 years of royal rule in the Himalayan nation. The newly elected assembly, led by the former communist rebels, adopted the resolution at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority. King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave the former Royal Palace in central Kathmandu by the Nepalese Constituent Assembly. He left the former Royal Palace on June 11.

On June 26, 2008, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala tendered his resignation to the Nepalese Constituent Assembly, which is also functioning as the Nepalese Parliament; however, a new Prime Minister has yet to be elected by the Nepalese Constituent.

Assembly.

On July 19, 2008, the first round of voting for the election of the country's president and vice president took place in the Constituent Assembly. Parmanand Jha became the first vice president of Nepal. However, the two presidential frontrunners, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav of Nepali Congress and the Maoist-backed candidate Ram Raja Prasad Singh, both failed to gain the minimum 298 votes needed to be elected, with Yadav receiving 283 votes and Singh receiving 270. 578 out of 594 CA members registered in the voter list had cast their votes, of which 24 were invalid.

On July 21, 2008, the second round of voting was held. Yadav received 308 of the 590 votes casted, securing his election as president.

On August 15, 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country's transition from a monarchy to a republic. Prachanda's election makes Nepal one of only three countries that currently have democratically-elected Communist state leaders, the other two being Cyprus and Moldova.

Military and foreign affairs

Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army, which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service (the air force unit under it.) Nepalese Police Force is the civilian police and the Armed Police Force Nepal is the paramilitary force. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. Many of the equipment and arms are imported from India. Consequently, the USA provided M16s M4s and other Colt weapons to combat communist (Maoist) insurgents. As of now, the standard-issue battle rifle of the Nepalese army is the Colt M16.

Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbours, India and China. In accordance with a long-standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each others' countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. Although Nepal and India typically have close ties, from time to time Nepal becomes caught up in the problematic Sino-Indian relationship. Recently, China has been asking Nepal to curb protests in Nepal against China's Policy on Tibet, and on April 17, 2008, police arrested over 500 Tibetan protestors citing a need to maintain positive relations with China.

Terai News writes, 'Being a Hindu Nation Nepal has a permanent relation, especially with the important religious places of the northern states of India. Religion has played a great role in the cultural relations between Nepal and India.'

Economy

Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2005 was estimated at just over US$39 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 83rd-largest economy in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 40% of Nepal's GDP, services comprise 41% and industry 22%. Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%. Agricultural produce — mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India — includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Its workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this hospitality industry has been stifled by recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepali citizens move to India in search of work; the Gulf countries and Malaysia being new sources of work. Nepal receives US$50 million a year through the Gurkha soldiers who serve in the Indian and British armies and are highly esteemed for their skill and bravery. The total remittance value is worth around US1 billion, including money sent from the Persian Gulf and Malaysia, who combined employ around 700,000 Nepali citizens. A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries. Poverty is acute; per-capita income is less than US$470. The distribution of wealth among the Nepalis is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.

The government's budget is about US$1.153 billion, with expenditures of $1.789 billion (FY05/06). The Nepalese rupee has been tied to the Indian Rupee at an exchange rate of 1.6 for many years. Since the loosening of exchange rate controls in the early 1990s, the black market for foreign exchange has all but disappeared. The inflation rate has dropped to 2.9% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s.

Nepal's exports of mainly carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods and grain total $822 million. Import commodities of mainly gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products and fertilizer total US$2 bn. India (53.7%), the US (17.4%), and Germany (7.1%) are its main export partners. Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).

Nepal remains isolated from the world's major land, air and sea transport routes although, within the country, aviation is in a better state, with 48 airports, ten of them with paved runways; flights are frequent and support a sizable traffic. The hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. There were just over 8,500 km of paved roads, and one 59-km railway line in the south in 2003. There is only one reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta in India. Internally, the poor state of development of the road system (22 of 75 administrative districts lack road links) makes volume distribution unrealistic. Besides having landlocked, rugged geography, few tangible natural resources and poor infrastructure, the long-running civil war is also a factor in stunting the economic growth.

There is less than one telephone per 19 people. Landline telephone services are not adequate nationwide but are concentrated in cities and district headquarters. Mobile telephony is in a reasonable state in most parts of the country with increased accessibility and affordability; there were around 175,000 Internet connections in 2005. After the imposition of the 'state of emergency', intermittent losses of service-signals were reported, but uninterrupted Internet connections have resumed after Nepal's second major people's revolution to overthrow the King's absolute power.

Demographics

Perched on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, and the highest mountain peaks in the world. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan via Assam.

Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Brahman and Chetri caste groups came from India's present Kumaon, Garhwal and Kashmir regions, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east (from Yunnan and north Burma via Assam), and Sherpa and Bhutia in the north (from Tibet).

In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East Asian looking mixed people live in the hill region. The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population.

Nepal is a multilingual, multireligious and multiethnic society. These data are largely derived from Nepal's 2001 census results published in the Nepal Population Report 2002.

According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Nepal hosted a population of refugees and asylum seekers in 2007 numbering approximately 130,000. Of this population, approximately 109,200 persons were from Bhutan and 20,500 from People's Republic of China. The government of Nepal restricted Bhutanese refugees to seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang districts, and refugees were not permitted to work in most professions.

Languages Spoken in Nepal.

Despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the southern plains or terai in recent years, the majority of the population still lives in the central highlands. The northern mountains are sparsely populated.

Kathmandu, with a population of around 800,000 (metropolitan area: 1.5 million), is the largest city in the country.

Religion

The main religion of Nepal is Hinduism. Shiva is regarded as the guardian deity of the country. Nepal is home to the largest Shiva temple in the world, the famous Pashupatinath Temple, where Hindus from all over the world come for pilgrimage. According to mythology, Sita Devi of the epic Ramayana was born in the Mithila Kingdom of King Janaka Raja. Buddhism was relatively more common among the Newar. Buddha is said to be a descendant of Sage Angirasa in many Buddhist texts. Scholars like Dr. Eitel connects it to the Rishi Gautama. But, differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been in general very subtle and academic in nature due to the intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Both share common temples and worship common deities; many of Nepal's Buddhists could also be regarded as Hindus and vice versa. Gurkhas from Nepal are Hindu. Among other natives of Nepal, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups, who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies. Most of the festivals in Nepal are Hindu. The Machendrajatra festival, dedicated to Hindu Shaiva Siddha, is celebrated even by Buddhists and it is the Buddhists' main festival. As it is believed that Ne Muni established Nepal, important priests in Nepal are called 'Tirthaguru Nemuni'.

Culture

Nepalese culture is diverse, reflecting different ethnic origins of the people. The Newar community is particularly rich in cultural diversity; they celebrate many festivals, well known for their music and dance.

A typical Nepalese meal is dal-bhat-tarkari. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients).. The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds, etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.

The Newari Music orchestra consists mainly of percussion instruments, though wind instruments, such as flutes and other similar instruments, are also used. String instruments are very rare. There are songs pertaining to particular seasons and festivals. Paahan chare music is probably the fastest played music whereas the Dapa the slowest. There are certain musical instruments such as Dhimay and Bhusya which are played as instrumental only and are not accompanied with songs. The dhimay music is the loudest one. In the hills, people enjoy their own kind of music, playing saarangi (a string instrument), madal and flute. They also have many popular folk songs known as lok geet and lok dohari.

The Newar dances can be broadly classified into masked dances and non-masked dances. The most representative of Newari dances is Lakhey dance. Almost all the settlements of Newaris organise Lakhey dance at least once a year, mostly in the Goonlaa month. So, they are called Goonlaa Lakhey. However, the most famous Lakhey dance is the Majipa Lakhey dance; it is performed by the Ranjitkars of Kathmandu and the celeberation continues for the entire week that contains the full moon of Yenlaa month. The Lakhey are considered to be the saviors of children.

Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life, tales of love, affection and battles as well as demons and ghosts and thus reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs. Many Nepalese folktales are enacted through the medium of dance and music.

The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (December 28), Prithvi Jayanti (January 11), Martyr's Day (February 18), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat.

Most houses in rural lowland of Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework and walls of a mud and cow-dung mix. These dwellings remain cool in summer and retain warmth in winter. Houses in the hills are usually made of unbaked bricks with thatch or tile roofing. At high elevations construction changes to stone masonry and slate may be used on roofs.

Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape, and one of only two non-rectangular flags in use (the other being the flag of the US state of Ohio). According to its official description, the red in the flag stands for victory in war or courage, and is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Red also stands for aggression. The flag's blue border signifies peace. The curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of Nepalese, while the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.

Web References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nepal
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathmandu

The birthplace of the Buddha c. 568 BC, Nepal is a small landlocked kingdom on the southern slopes of the Himalayas. It is surrounded by India to the west, south, and east, and has a border with China (Tibet) to the north. Tourists coming to trek in the mountains and climb the peaks contribute to national income, but Nepal remains one of the world's poorest countries. Historically, it was influenced both by the Buddhist/Mongol culture of Tibet and by the Hindu/Indian culture of the subcontinent. The present royal family established its rule in 1769. During British colonial rule in India a British resident was installed to provide 'guidance' in foreign affairs. In 1959 the country's first elections were held (the Nepali Congress party winning), but in 1960 the king suspended the constitution, and no further elections were held until 1992. In the late 1990s a parliamentary impasse existed: neither the Nepali Congress nor the United Marxist-Leninist (UML) parties had clear majorities enabling them to govern in their own right.

The mountainous heart of Nepal, consisting of the towering Himalayas (including the highest and third-highest peaks in the world, Mt Everest and Kanchenjunga) and the lower Siwalik Range to the south, forms three-quarters of the country. Three main river systems cut the Himalayas, the Karnali (feeding the Ganges), the Gandak, and the Kosi. Kathmandu stands among fruit trees and rice fields typical of Nepal's densely populated uplands. Further south, on the Terai/Ganges Plain, farming settlements grow rice, wheat, maize, sugarcane, and jute which are the country's economic maintstay.

Some 90 percent of Nepalis live by subsistence farming, and many do not live well: more than 40 percent of Nepal's citizens are undernourished. Most industry is concerned with the processing of jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. Recently textile and carpet production has expanded and now provides 85 percent of foreign exchange earnings. The country has limitless hydropower resources. Electricity could be sold to Indian industry south of the border, and various schemes have been proposed, but environmental considerations weigh against them. Restructuring is needed. International aid funds 62 percent of Nepal's development budget and 34 pepercent of total budgetary expenditurercent of total budgetary expenditure.

Fact File

OFFICIAL NAME: Kingdom of Nepal

FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Constitutional monarchy with two legislative bodies (National Council and House of Representatives)

CAPITAL: Kathmandu

AREA: 140,800 sq km (54,363 sq miles) TIME ZONE GMT + 5.5 hours

POPULATION: 24,302,653

PROJECTED POPULATION: 2005 28,172,635

POPULATION DENSITY: 1 72.6 per sq km (447 per sq mile) LIFE EXPECTANCY 58.4

INFANT MORTALITY: (PER 1,000) 73.6 OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Nepali

OTHER LANGUAGES: Indigenous languages LITERACY RATE 27%

RELIGIONS Hindu 90%, Buddhist 5%, Muslim 3%, other 2%

ETHNIC GROUPS: Newar, Indian, Tibetan, Gurung and many smaller minorities

CURRENCY: Nepalese rupee

ECONOMY: Agriculture 93%, services 6%, industry 1 %

GNP PER CAPITA: US$200

CLIMATE: Subtropical in south, with wet season July to October; cold and snowy in north, wetter in east

HIGHEST POINT: Mt Everest 8,848 m (29,028 ft)

Nepal, officially the Kingdom of Nepal, is a landlocked Himalayan country in South Asia, bordered by China (Tibet) to the north and by India to the south, east and west. Nepal is a kingdom of various geographical features, and is culturally rich. More than 80% of Nepalese follow Hinduism, which is higher than the percentage of Hindus in India, making it the single most Hinduic nation in the world. For a small territory, the Nepali landscape is uncommonly diverse, ranging from the humid Terai in the south to the lofty Himalayas in the north. Nepal boasts eight of the world's fourteen highest mountains, including Mount Everest on the border with China. Kathmandu is the capital and largest city. The other main cities include Bharatpur, Biratnagar, Bhairahawa, Birgunj, Janakpur, Pokhara, Nepalgunj, and Mahendranagar. The origin of the name Nepal is uncertain, but the most popular understanding is that it derived from Ne (holy) and pal (cave).

After a long and rich history, during which the region splintered and coalesced under a variety of absolute rulers, Nepal became a constitutional monarchy in 1990. However, the monarchy retained many important and ill-defined powers. This arrangement was marked by increasing instability, both in the parliament and, since 1996, in large swathes of the country that have been fought over by Maoist insurgents. The Maoists, alienated from mainstream political parties, went underground and started a guerrilla war against both monarchy and mainstream political parties. They have sought to overthrow feudal institutions, including the monarchy, and establish a Maoist state. This led to the Nepalese Civil War in which more than 13,000 people have died. On the pretext of quashing the insurgents, who now control about 60% of the country, the king closed down the parliament and sacked the elected prime minister in 2002 and started ruling through prime ministers appointed by him. He then unilaterally declared a state of emergency early in 2005, and assumed all executive powers. Following the 2006 democracy movement, the king agreed to relinquish the sovereign power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 19, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state. As of September, 2006, a complete rewrite of the country's constitution was still expected to happen in the near future.

History of Nepal

Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least 9,000 years. It appears that people who were probably of Tibeto-Burman ethnicity lived in Nepal 2,500 years ago. Indo-Aryan tribes entered the valley around 1500 BC. Around 1000 BC, small kingdoms and confederations of clans arose. One of the princes of the Shakya confederation was Siddhartha Gautama (563–483 BC), who renounced his royalty to lead an ascetic life and came to be known as the Buddha ('the one who has awakened'). By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan empire of northern India, and later became a puppet state under the Gupta Dynasty in the 4th century. From the late 5th century, rulers called the Licchavis governed the area. The Licchavi dynasty went into decline in the late 8th century and was followed by a Newari era, from 879, although the extent of their control over the entire country is uncertain. By late 11th century, southern Nepal came under the influence of the Chalukya Empire of southern India. Under the Chalukyas, Nepal's religious establishment changed as the kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

Hindu temples in Patan, the capital of one of the three medieval kingdoms Nepalese royalty in the 1920sBy the early 13th century, leaders were emerging whose names ended with the Sanskrit suffix malla ('wrestler'). Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power over the next 200 years. By late 14th century much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived: in 1482 the kingdom was carved into three – Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhadgaon – which had petty rivalry for centuries.

In 1765, the Gorkha ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah set out to unify the kingdoms, after first seeking arms and aid from Indian kings and buying the neutrality of bordering Indian kingdoms. After several bloody battles and sieges, he managed to unify Nepal three years later. However, the actual war never took place while conquering the Kathmandu Valley. In fact, it was during the Indra Jaatra, when all the valley citizens were celebreting the festival, Prithvi Narayan Shah with his troops captured the valley, virtually without any effort. This marked the birth of the modern nation of Nepal. A dispute and subsequent war with Tibet over control of mountain passes forced Nepal to retreat and pay heavy repatriations to China, who came to Tibet's rescue. Rivalry with the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the brief but bloody Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16), in which Nepal defended its present day borders but lost its territories west of the Kali River, including present day Uttaranchal state and several Punjab Hill States of present day Himachal Pradesh. The Treaty of Sugauli also ceded parts of the Terai and Sikkim to the Company in exchange for Nepalese autonomy.

Factionalism among the royal family led to instability after the war. In 1846, a discovered plot to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader by the reigning queen, led to the Kot Massacre. Armed clashes between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen led to the execution of several hundred princes and chieftains around the country. Bahadur won and founded the Rana dynasty, leading to the Rana autocracy. The king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British, and assisted the British during the Sepoy Rebellion in 1857, and later in both World Wars. In 1923 the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognised by the UK.

In the late 1940s, emerging pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana autocracy. Meanwhile, China occupied Tibet in 1950, making India keen on stability in Nepal, to avoid an expansive military campaign. Thus India sponsored Tribhuvan as Nepal's new king in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party. After years of power wrangling between the king and the government, the democratic experiment was dissolved in 1959, and a 'partyless' panchayat system was made to govern Nepal. In 1989, the 'Jan Andolan' (People's) Movement forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and establish a multiparty parliament in May 1991. The Nepali Congress Party won the country's first democratic elections, with Girija Prasad Koirala becoming prime minister.

Current events

Map of Nepal. According to officials, on June 1, 2001, the Heir Apparent Dipendra went on a killing spree in the royal palace, in response to his parents' rejection of his choice of wife. His parents were killed and he died 3 days later. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by Birendra's brother Gyanendra. But many Nepalese believed that the family was killed by Gyanendra, the present king but this issue was forgotten gradually with time. In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy waned. On February 1, 2005 Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers in the name of combating the Maoist movement.In September 2005, the Maoists declared a three-month unilateral ceasefire which was not reciprocated by the royal government; the latter vowed to defeat the rebels by force. A few weeks later, the government stated that parliamentary elections would be held by 2007 even after the failed municipal elections.

The Maoists, through support from the seven parliamentary parties (SPA) , arranged a mass uprising against the reign of King Gyanendra. The royal government used various means to quell the uprising. Frustrated by lack of security, jobs and good governance, thousands of people took to the streets to demand that the king renounce power outright, but the royal government turned even more ferocious and continued its suppression including daytime curfews amid a Maoist blockade. Food shortages took effect. Soon there was a plan to march over one million people into the city center and encircle the royal palace. The security forces turned brutal. Thousands were injured and 21 people died in the uprising.

Foreign pressure continued to increase on King Gyanendra to surrender power. On April 21, 2006 Gyanendra announced that he was giving up absolute power and that 'Power was being returned to the People'. He called on the seven party coalitions to name a Prime Minister and that elections would be held as soon as possible. Both the U.S. and India immediately called on the SPA to accept this proposal. Many Nepalese protesters, however, still carried out rallies in numerous cities and vowed to continue the stir until they would achieve complete abolishment of the monarchy. The SPA felt the pressure of these protests as some took place directly outside the deliberations of Gyanendra's offer. Finally after 19 days of tumultuous protests, on April 24 midnight, the king called for the country's parliament to reassemble on April 28. Parliament has since reassembled and stripped the king of his power over the military, abolished his title as the descendent of a Hindu God, and required royalty to pay taxes. Furthermore, several royal officials have been indicted, and the Nepalese government is no longer referred to as 'His Majesty's Government', but rather as the 'Government of Nepal'. An election of the constituent assembly to rewrite the constitution has been declared unanimously to be held in the near future, with the possible abolition of the monarchy as part of constitutional change.

Following Gyanendra's relinquishing of absolute power, the Nepalese government and Maoist rebels agreed on a ceasefire. In August 2006, both parties came to an agreement on the issue of arms accountability, agreeing to ask the United Nations to oversee and keep track of the weapons cache of both sides. The government and the Maoists are trying to come to an agreement on the future of the monarchy. As of 21 November 2006, Maoists and the Seven Party Alliance have signed a peace deal. This will reportedly end the Nepalese Civil War, which has claimed more than 13,000 lives to date.

Geography

Topographic map of Nepal The arid and barren Himalayan landscape. Nepal is of roughly trapezoidal shape, 650 kilometres (400 mi) wide and 200 kilometres (125 mi) broad, with an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi). Nepal is commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are bisected by Nepal's major river systems. The Terai Plains bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani (India's Gandak River), and the Karnali. This region has a hot, humid climate.

The Hill Region (Pahad in Nepali) abuts the mountains and varies from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,300–13,125 ft) in altitude. Two low mountain ranges, the Mahabharat Lekh and Shiwalik Range (also called the Churia Range) dominate the region. The hilly belt includes the Kathmandu Valley, the country's most fertile and urbanised area. Despite its geographical isolation and limited economic potential, the region always has been the political and cultural centre of Nepal. Unlike the valleys, elevations above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) are sparsely populated. The Mountain Region contains the highest region in the world. The world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) at 8,850 metres (29,035 ft) is located on the border with China. Eight of the world's fourteen highest mountains are located in Nepal. Kanchenjunga, the world's third highest peak, is also located in Nepal. Deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.

Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to altitude. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,940 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,900–7,875 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,875–11,800 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,800–14,400 ft), and the arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,400 ft). Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in winter, and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns. Although Nepal shares no boundary with Bangladesh, the two countries are separated by a narrow strip of land about 21 kilometre (13 mi) wide, called the Chicken's Neck. Efforts are underway to make this area a free-trade zone. Mt Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, and is situated between Nepal and Tibet. The South-east ridge on the Nepalese side of the mountain is technically easier to climb, which is why so many keen climbers are pouring in through Nepal to climb Mt Everest. Also other Mountains including Annapurna I, II, III and IV are located in the Annapurna Mountain Range in Nepal.

Economy of Nepal

A one-rupee banknote - Agriculture sustains 76% of the population and accounts for about 39% of the GDP; services comprise 42%, and industry 21%. Hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. There were just over 8,500 km of paved roads, and one 59 km railway line in the south in 2003. Aviation is in a better state, with 48 airports, ten of them with paved runways. There is less than one telephone per 19 people; landline services are not adequate nationwide but concentrated in cities and district headquarters; mobile telephony is in a reasonable state in most parts of the country with increased accessibility and affordability. There were around 175,000 Internet connections in 2005, but after the imposition of the 'state of emergency', intermittent losses of service were reported. Uninterrupted internet connections have resumed after the brief period of confusion as Nepal's second major people's revolution took place to overthrow the King's absolute power.

Its landlocked location and technological backwardness and the long-running civil war have also prevented Nepal from fully developing its economy. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, European Union, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian Countries. The government's budget is about US$1.153 billion, with expenditures of $1.789bn (FY05/06). The inflation rate has dropped to 2.9% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s. The Nepalese Rupee has been tied to the Indian Rupee at an exchange rate of 1.6 for many years. Since the loosening of exchange rate controls in the early 1990s, the black market for foreign exchange has all but disappeared. A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India. The distribution of wealth among people is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.

Terraced farming on the foothills of the Himalayas. Nepal's workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. Agriculture employs 81% of the workforce, services 16% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 3%. Agricultural produce——mostly grown in the Terrai region bordering India——includes rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane, tobacco, and grain. The spectacular landscape and deep, exotic culture of Nepal represents considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this export industry has been stifled by recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepalese move to India in search of work, the Gulf countries and Malaysia being new sources of work. Poverty is acute. Nepal receives US$50 million a year through the Gurkha soldiers who serve in the Indian and British armies and are highly esteemed for their skill and bravery. The total remittance value is worth around 1 billion USD, including money sent from Persian Gulf and Malaysia, who combined employ around 700,000 Nepalese.

Nepal's GDP for the year 2005 is estimated at just over US$39 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 83rd-largest economy in the world. Per-capita income is around US$1,402, ranked 163rd. Nepal's exports of mainly carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods and grain total $822 million. Import commodities of mainly gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products and fertilizer total US$2 bn. India (53.7%), the US (17.4%), and Germany (7.1%) are its main export partners. Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).

Government and politics

Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people's movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government. Nepal's legislature was bicameral consisting of a House of Representatives and a National Council. The House of Representatives consists of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had 60 members, 10 nominated by the king, 35 elected by the House of Representatives and the remaining 15 elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature had a five-year term, but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepalese citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote. The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal have tended to be highly unstable; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991, either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch.

Military and foreign affairs

This article has been nominated to be checked for its neutrality.Discussion of this nomination can be found on the talk page.Main articles: Military of Nepal and Foreign relations of Nepal Namche Bazaar in the Khumbu region close to Mount Everest. The town is built on terraces in what resembles a giant Greek amphitheatre. Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service, (the air force unit under it), and the Nepalese Police Force. On May 19, 2006 The House unanimously passed the proposal to rename Royal Nepal Army (RNA) as the “Nepali Army”. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. The Nepali Army has 90,000 soldiers, who are currently engaged in the civil war against the Maoist insurgents.

Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbors, India and China. In accordance with a long-standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each others' countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. Although Nepal and India typically have close ties, from time to time Nepal becomes caught up in the problematic Sino-Indian relationship. India considers Nepal as part of its realm of influence, and views Chinese aid with concern. Some Indians consider Nepal to be part of a greater pan-Indian state, an attitude that has caused Nepalese antagonism towards India. Moreover, there is a growing anti-indian sentiment among some Nepali youths. In 2005, after King Gyanendra took over, Nepalese relations with India, the U.S., and the UK have worsened. These three foreign countries have been vociferous opponents to the crackdown on civil liberties in Nepal. China mainly seeks cooperation with Nepal on the issue of Tibetan independence, including the degree of freedom that Nepal gives the thousands of Tibetan refugees living in its territory and the approximately 2,000-3,000 Tibetans that seek to escape Tibet through Nepal each year. Outside of Asia, Nepal has especially friendly relations with Germany, Japan and has historical military links with the United Kingdom.

Administrative divisions

Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts grouped into five development regions. Each district is headed by a fixed chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries.

The 14 zones are:
1 Bagmati 8 Lumbini
2 Bheri 9 Mahakali
3 Dhawalagiri 10 Mechi
4 Gandaki 11 Narayani
5 Janakpur 12 Rapti
6 Karnali 13 Sagarmatha
7 Koshi 14 Seti

Demographics of Nepal

The Shaivaite Pashupatinath temple. Nepal has a total population of 27,676,547 as of July 2005, with a growth rate of 2.2%. 39% of the population is up to 14 years old, 57.3% are aged between 15 and 64, and 3.7% above 65. The median age is 20.07 (19.91 for males and 20.24 for females). There are 1,060 males for every 1,000 females. Life expectancy is 59.8 years (60.9 for males and 59.5 for females). Nepal is the only country in the world where males outlive females. Total literacy rate is 53.74% (68.51% for males and 42.49% for females).

According to the 2001 census, Hindus constitute 80.6% of the population. Buddhists make up 10.7%, Muslims 4.2%, Kirant 3.6%, other religions 0.9%. The largest ethnic group is the Chhettri (15.5%). Other groups are the Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8%. Nepali is the national language with 47.8% of the population speaking it as their first language. Other languages include Maithili 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Nepal Bhasa 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5%. Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been in general very subtle and academic in nature due to the intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Both share common temples and worship common deities and many of Nepal's Hindus could also be regarded as Buddhists and vice versa. Buddhists are mostly concentrated in the eastern regions and the central Terrai. Buddhism was relatively more common among the Newar and Tibeto-Nepalese groups. Among the Tibeto-Nepalese, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai peoples. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups, who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies.

The northern mountains are sparsely populated. A majority of the population live in the central highlands despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the fertile Terrai belt in recent years. Kathmandu, with a population of 800,000, is the largest city in the country.

Culture of Nepal

Nepali culture is influenced by the cultures of Tibet, and India, which borders to the south. There are similarities in clothing, language and food. A typical Nepali meal is dal-bhat - boiled dal served with rice and vegetables, and some spicy relish. This is consumed twice daily, once in the morning and again after sunset. Between these main meals, snacks such as chiura (beaten rice) and tea are consumed. Apart meat, eggs, and fish are considered a treat. In the mountainous region the staple diet are based on wheat, maize, millet and potatoes. Millet-based alcoholic drinks known as 'Tongba' and other cereal based alcohol are popular, including chhaang and the distilled rakshi. However, the Newar community enjoys its own special Newari cuisine.

Traditional Nepali folklore retains a strong influence in society and its stories are widely acted out in dance and music. The Newari culture is the richest culture amongst all ethnic groups. Most of the festivals observed in the country are the Newari festivals. The Newar people are well known for masked dance that tell stories of the gods and heroes. The associated music is percussion-based, sometimes with flutes or shawm accompanying the intense, nasal vocal lines. Musical styles are a variety of pop, religious and folk music, among other styles. Musical genres from Tibet and India have had a strong influence on traditional Nepali music. Women, even of the musician castes, are less likely than men to play music, except in specific situations such as traditional all-female wedding parties.

Houses in rural parts of Nepal are made up of stones and clay. The sarangi, a four-stringed, hand-carved instrument is usually played by wandering minstrels. Since the sixties, Nepali rock or rock music, sung to Nepali lyrics, has become popular among youth. Also catching on fast is Nepali rap and Nepali reggae which has blossomed with the advent of the music video industry. There are also many heavy metal bands. Football is the most popular sport, followed by cricket and kabaddi. The Martyrs Memorial Football League is the national football championship.

Television was only introduced to Nepal in the 1980s. Currently there are six television broadcasting channels: Nepal Television - the national television channel; NTV 2 Metro - a city channel owned by the government; and four private channels - Kantipur Television, Image Channel, Channel Nepal & Nepal 1. Also many other networks, particularly those that originate in India, are available with the installation of increasingly popular satellite dishes, although lack of electrification makes this difficult. Radio is listened to throughout the kingdom; as of 2000, there were 12 radio stations.

The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly day of rest. Main holidays include the National Day (birthday of the late king Tribhuvan) December 28, Prithvi Jayanti, (January 11), and Martyr's Day (February 18) and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as Teej, Dashai in autumn, and Tihar late autumn. Most marriages are arranged, and divorce is rare. Polygamy is banned by law; relatively isolated tribes in the north, such as the Dolpo, practice polyandry. Nepal has a rich tradition of ceremonies, such as nwaran (the christening of a child), and the Pasni, the day a child is first fed rice, and bratabandha (the penance ceremony) and gupha for prepubescent boys and girls, respectively. In Newari culture, bel bibaha, preadolescent girls are 'married' to the bel fruit tree, ensuring that the girl becomes and remains fertile. Most houses in rural Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework with mud and cow-dung walls. These dwellings remain cool in summers and retain warmth in the winter. Dwellings at higher altitudes are mostly timber-based. Woman's status in Nepal has been steadily rising. The first lady to have gained the prestigious chartered accountant status is Samikshya Shrestha in August 2004.


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