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Nepal is a land-locked country with a population of around 17 million The country shares borders with India in the south and west, and the Tibetan region of China in the north. Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) the world’s highest peak, towers up to over 29,000 ft. and less than a hundred miles separate the mountains from the Terai or lowland region which is a mere 250 ft. above sea level. The Terai has a tropical climate with rich vegetation and diverse wild life. The Himalayan foothills and the valleys which are heavily populated have a more temperate climate. The glaciers and the peaks of the high mountain ranges are permanently snow-covered and only a few high passes allowed a perilous passage for trade caravans. This is the home of the “Yeti” the Abominable Snowman, which some say is myth but many still believe exists.

Nepal, in so many ways, has yet to emerge from the Middle Ages. It has only been open to foreigners for the last few decades. It has the awesome Himalayas; hand-sculptured valley farms; coy, wayward snow-fed rivers; vast barren glaciers and boundless highland vistas; a fascinating unbroken art tradition sustained and patronised by kings, and warm friendly people. Old fashioned authenticity still exists here in full measure.

The first inhabitants of Nepal were of Mongoloid stock who migrated south into the valleys. They were mainly Buddhists. Around the 2nd or 3rd century BC, Aryans also started migrating into Nepal from northern India. These people were Hindus and gradually took over control of the major valley settlements. It was a combination of these two basic ethnic types and the two religions which produced the characteristics and social patterns of the present-day Nepalese. Social and artistic creativity greatly flowered in Nepal only after the arrival of the Mallas from India in the 13th century. By the 17th century, when the Malla’s love of art and architecture was at its height, the small valley of Kathmandu was split into three separate kingdoms, with their capitals in Kantipur (Kathmandu), Lalitpur (Patan) and Bhaktapur (Bhadgaon). The Mallas became gradually weaker due to internal conflicts and were replaced by the Shahs. It was during the reign of King Prithvi Narayan Shah (1730-75) that Nepal became unified. He came from the Gurkha region famous for its tough fighters who subsequently played an important part as mercenary troops in first the British and then the Indian army. In 1846 the Ranas took over. These dictators of Nepal ruled for over a hundred years till the revolution of 1951 when King Tribhuvan of the Shah clan, backed by Indian influence ousted them from power. Upon his death in 1955, King Tribhuvan was succeeded by his son, who became King Mahendra, father of the present King, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva. Today, Nepal is an independent kingdom.

The country has changed enormously since 1951. In 1955, the first road was constructed through the mountains to link India with Kathmandu. Previously, everything from outside, including the pianos and chandeliers imported from Europe for the Rana palaces, had to be carried on human backs up a crude mountain track. It was the opening of this new road and the airfield at Kathmandu that had a great impact on the Nepalese and their commercial and social relations with the outside world. After 1968, this remote and desirable destination was open for tourists.

The enchantment of Nepal comes with the sight of the Himalayan peaks at dawn, the vivid green of young rice growing in tiny fields which have been painstakingly carved, step-like, into every hillside, rare specimens of colourful Himalayan birds winging their way through rhododendrons, orchids, azaleas, poinsettias and primulas in full bloom. The dark wooded hills and the rolling plains have an awesome collection of animals like the golden-furred tiger, one-horned rhino, leopard, elephant and fawn.

The rich blue of the wooded hills merge through different gradations into the burnished gold of the paddy fields. The colour pattern is picked out by pleasant sunshine streaming down from the blue immensity of the sky. In winter the sun is screened by a tantalising veil of fog in the earlier parts of the morning. Nights are frosty in December and January. But as the day advances, the fog lifts up suddenly bringing to view the vibrant snows crowning the far-off mountain tops, the serried ranks of the mountains enclosing the lush valleys. In the evening, when the sun goes down behind the snowy peaks, myriad insects sing in chorus a moving hymn to nature - and Nepal.

Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal. Its greater importance lies in the fact that it is the artistic and cultural capital as well. Thousands of years of undisturbed cultural development, made possible by the twin influences of Hinduism and Buddhism, has produced a rich array of bewitching creations revealing the genius of the Nepalese people in every form of art known to man - in stone and wood, in brick terracotta, and ivory, and in brass, bronze, silk, wool, oil and tempera, in dance and music, in life, deed and thought.

The tri-city of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhatgaon is virtually an open-air museum of art and architecture. A stroll through any of the main thoroughfares or neatly paved alleys in any one of them, the precincts of the ancient Palace complex in particular, could amount to a travel through time. As your fascinated gaze dwells lovingly on the intricacies of the carvings done on the struts supporting the eaves of the pagodas or on the latticed windows or on the balconies sloping outward or on the massive colonnade marking the entrance to the holy of holies, you get a sudden creepy sensation that Time, the old gypsy man, has indeed taken a stop and rested awhile. For these are not the abandoned relics of the past, subjects of study for the antiquarians. They form part of the living present. They belong to the mainstream of the life of the people.

Destination States

KathmanduLord Buddha the gentle colossus who founded the first universal religion of the world, worked and lived much of his life in Bihar though he was born in Kapilavastu, now in Nepal. Most of the major events of his life, like enlightenment and last sermon happened in Bihar. Significantly, the state’s name originated from ‘Vihara.

Pokhara Assam is a verdant and lush state. Some of India best tea gardens are in Assam. Guwahati is the capital of Assam. Guwahati derives its importance from its location on the bank of the Brahmaputra. Guwahati has a state museum which houses rare sculptures of the former dynasties of the region. In and around Guwahati are several temples.

ChitwanFloating in splendid isolation east of the Indian mainland, well into the Bay of Bengal is an archipelago of emerald isles, stretching out over a length of 700 kms. of natural splendour.
Verdant and lush, these islands are untouched and pristine. Fringing the beaches.

BhaktapurWith an area of 173,877 sq. kms. and a Hindi speaking population of approximately 69 lakh people, Bihar stretches from the foothills of the Himalayas in the north to Orissa in the south. Like in many ancient civilisations, Indian way of life was also clustered around its magnificent rivers.

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