The Abode Of Himalaya: An introductory guide to Nepal
Nepal once the mighty Hindu Kingdom is now one of the youngest democracies of the world. After successfully overcoming many obstacles this Himalayan kingdom is now emerging as one of the most visited countries in South Asia. Nepal is home to the World's highest mountain peak "Sagarmatha" Popularly known as Mount Everest. Prithvi Narayan Shah who is also one of the greatest kings of Nepal and is also known for the unification of present-day Nepal described Nepal as " A cultural buffer between two boulders(India and Tibet)".Nepal acted as the melting pot of Indian and Tibetan cultures, at the same time it moulded its own distinct culture. The capital 'Kathmandu' was the centre of trade and cultural exchange in ancient times. To know about a country the most important part is to learn about its history, so let's have a brief look at history about this ancient land.
Dating back to 1500 BCE Nepal is one of the oldest living cultures on our earth. Some scholars even link with the people Mighty Indus-Saraswati Civilisation which sprawled across all over the northern and western India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. Some scholars claim that today's Thimi was once an important town of this mighty civilisation on the basis of the grid plan of the city. It is also believed that the mighty civilisation declined by 1900 BCE leading to migration towards Ganga valley, Kashmir, Himachal, Uttarakhand and Nepal. By the end of 1000 BCE, south Asia sprawled with 16 Mighty Kingdoms and Oligarchy known as "Mahajanpada".The Sakya clan founded the Sakya Ganrajya(Republic) in Southern parts of modern Nepal which emerged as one of the most important mahajanapada with its capital in Kapilvastu which is identified as modern-day "Tilurakot".In 5 the century BCE Birth of Lord Buddha in Lumbini marked the beginning new cultural age. After the decline of the Sakya republic, Kirata's who were predominately worshiper of lord Shiva and nature and established their own kingdom in the middle Himalayan region during 4-5 century BCE. At the staring of 2nd century BCE, the region was merged in the mighty Mauryan Empire which spread across all over South Asia, parts of Iran and Myanmar. Ashoka the great visited Lumbini and Kathmandu valley and also ordered the construction of Stupas, monasteries and guest houses for the monks and people on pilgrimage. By the starting of 5, the century CE Licchavis established their firm grip in whole over Nepal. They are known for their stone statues which even remained intact after 1500 years. Under their rule, the trade and culture flourished which led to the establishment of many new monasteries, temples and cultural institutions. In the 14th century, Malla's came as a ray of hope after the 500 years long dark ages. They established the mighty city-states of Bhaktpur, Lalitpur and Kantipur. They started the golden age of Nepal under which thousands of temples and monasteries were built, trade flourished, literacy spread, and new cultures interacted. In 18
th century under the leadership of the great Prithvi Narayan Shah more than 100 Himalayan states were merged into the Gurkha kingdom leading to the political unification of the country. He even claimed himself as the descendent of great Rajasthani Rajputs and proclaimed the Kingdom of Nepal as "Asal Hindustan" or real land of Hindus due to North India being ruled by Mughal rulers. Even after an insignificant defeat from Britishers in early 19 th century, Nepal was able to remain independent from clutches of Colonial rule. After several protests and revolutions against the monarchy, the country becomes a full-fledged republican democracy in 2015.
Destinations: At a glance
From an unrivalled collection of world-class palaces and pagodas to rugged trails of Everest and Annapurna this county have some of the most diverse destinations to offer.
1.Kathmandu Valley: The Cultural Capital
Hundreds of sky soaring pagodas, vast palaces, peaceful monasteries, grand stupas,brick-paved streets selling colourful handicrafts and Thangkas, intricate woodcarvings and oiled bricks, in many ways Kathmandu valley is Nepal of your imaginations. The Kathmandu Valley consists primarily of three ancient city-states, Kathmandu, Patan(also known as Lalitpur) and Bhaktpur showcasing country's glorious culture and heritage acting as an open-air architectural museum of magnificent medieval temples, pagodas, pavilions and shrines. This valley is now home to the group of seven Unesco world heritage sites which consists of Durbar squares (Palaces) of three ancient cities, two Buddhist stupas (Boudhanath and Swambhunath)and two ancient Hindu temples(Pashupatinath and Changu Narayan temple). This valley is stuffed with ancient stupas, hidden courtyards and millennium-year-old sculptures at every crossroad, also offering you one of the best shopping experience in the whole of Asia. Apart from the trio, there are dozens of other charming villages to explore from hidden gems of Kirtipur and Dakshinkali in sleepy south to Dhulikhel in the north offering you the panoramic vistas of Himalayas.
2.Pokhra: Nature's Bliss
Far far away from the turmoil and conflicts going between the mighty kingdom of Kathmandu valley, this place remained in peace and tranquillity for hundred of years. This place offers you the most spectacular views of 8,000+Meters Himalayan peaks from just the elevation of 800 meters. This city may lack the historical depth of the Kathmandu valley but it more than makes up with its seductive reflections of Himalayan peaks on the Phewa lake with spectacular sunrises. Apart from the spectacular views, this city is also base for all adventures sports like trekking, paragliding, cycling etc.
3.The Terai: Religious Melting Pot
Whenever you think about Nepal the first picture which comes on your mind is Snow-capped Himalayan peaks, not the hot subtropical flatlands of Terai. This region is home to about half of Nepal's population relying on agriculture and industries. This narrow stretch is also held some of Nepal's most fascinating and diverse attractions including the birthplace of Lord Buddha at Lumbini, Birthplace of Devi Sita in Janakpur and famous National parks such as Chitwan and Bardia which are home to rare one-horned Rhinos, Royal Bengal Tigers and Grand Asian Elephants. This region is dominated by the Tharu and Maithali tribes which are known for mud thatched houses and vibrant Maithali art similar to famous Madhubani paintings, respectively.
4.Erstwhile Kingdoms: the remnants of past
Apart from the powerful kingdoms of the Kathmandu mandala, there were several mighty kingdoms outside the valley. Some of them even challenged the dominance of Kathmandu valley while some other even ending the mighty Malla rules by conquesting the Kathmandu valley. Gorkha(halfway between Pokhra and Kathmandu) became the capital of the first and largest Empire of Nepal under the leadership of the great Prithvi Narayan Shah. He led to the unification and consolidation of greater Nepal. Today there are two handsomely carved palace cum forts surrounded by lavish snowcapped mountains. Either You can take a 15 min trek to pay homage to godess Bhimkali the royal goddess of Gurkha dynasty situated over a beautiful fort on the hillock in Gurkha and take a journey in the past of Nepal in the Peacock window museum surrounded by well-manicured gardens in lower Gurkha. Or you can explore the medieval capital of Tansen popularly known as Palpa which was the seat of power of the second most powerful kingdom of Nepal until the rise of Gurkhas. Today it is centre of cottage industries producing the famous traditional Nepali cloth and brass jugs known as Karuwas. You can visit a handful of heritage in Tansen like Tansen Durbar, Sitalpati, Nanglo west restaurant, or Ranighat palace popularly known as "Taj Mahal of Nepal".
So guys are you ready for the virtual journey of one of the most beautiful countries of our planet? From Sky soaring Pagodas to the crystal clear waters with the backdrop of Himalayas, Nepal is also one of the most diverse countries of the world. Will continue the journey of Nepal in the Abode of Himalaya-series starting with the magnificent Kathmandu valley. Recharge your internet data plans so that you can read my journeys and experience through one of the most amazing countries.
Will meet you soon at Kathmandu Valley.
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Pic credits- Wikipedia(PIC1,3,4,5,6)