Culture in Nepal

Nepal's culture is greatly influenced by its music, architecture, religion and literature. The various temples, churches, monasteries and other religious buildings are on the every corner of Nepal. Nepal has about thirty-six different ethnic groups and multiple religions and languages. Its music is similarly varied, with pop, religious, classical and folk music being popular. Musical genres from Tibet and Hindustan have greatly influenced Nepalese music. Usually, women, even of the musician castes, do not play music except for specific situations, such as at the traditional all-female wedding parties. Nepal is constitutionally a Hindu kingdom with legal provisions of no prejudice against other religions. The Hindu inhabitants in the country has been constantly over 80 percent since the 1950s.

The second largest religion of Nepal is Buddhism, it is practiced by about 11 percent, while Islam comprises of about 4.2 percent of the population. The Kirat religion makes up nearly 3.6 percent of the population. Nepal has many customs and beliefs that might be difficult to understand and not so easy to obey but this is the way of life to them and you should respect it when you are in their territory. Do not feel offended if any Nepalese hesitates to shake hands with you because it hasn't been very long since the western traditions were introduced to them. Most Nepalese greet one another by a "Namaste", a common act done by putting the palms together in a prayer like gesture. It is customary to eat and deal with food with your right hand. They use their left hand to wash themselves after being to the toilet. Note that most Nepalese eat with their hands, forks and spoons are not very common. Note that men and woman should always dress appropriately. Men should not walk or trek bare-chested, shorts are acceptable but it's recommended to rather wear long pants. Woman are recommended to wear long skirts that cover the ankles, because exposure of a woman's legs can draw unnecessary attention. Showing affection between men and woman in public is not acceptable.

Religions in Nepal
Like their various art forms, Nepal culture is also intrinsically intertwined with their many religious beliefs. Hinduism and Buddhism are the two major religions of Nepal and observers of these various faiths enjoy a sense of fellow-feeling by worshiping many of the same gods. Many customs and traditions stem from deity worship related to these two faiths. Various festivals related to religious beliefs are celebrated across the country and deeply influence the lives of many of the people living here. Dress, grooming and decorative jewellery is also influenced by religion. Foreigners may find it difficult to comprehend why Nepalese people hold to their beliefs and traditions but the religious nature of the culture has to be thoroughly explored in order for them to better understand various matters. For the Nepalese people, it is a way of life – not a choice of how to live.

Nepal is primarily a Hindu country with about 90% of the population claiming to adhere to the faith. However, members of the Buddhist faith are often so closely linked to those of the Hindu faith that it can be difficult to tell them apart. Thus in Nepal, religion serves to bind many people together instead of having the dividing effect that can be seen in other countries with adherents of other faiths. Religion in Nepal is, to a large degree, a matter of national identity. Religious beliefs influence culture, art, music and architecture and many other facets of life. About 5% people are Buddhists, 3% are Muslim, 2% belongs to Christianity. Because of the high ratio of Hindu believers and the large role that this religion plays in the everyday lives of the people, Nepal was constitutionally declared as a Hindu state in the early 1990s. However some feel that the number of Hindu practitioners is hard to estimate because there is a sort of 'interfaith' which is commonly practiced in the country between Hindus and Buddhists. Many Hindus worship at Buddhists temples and visa versa which has led to a sort of intermingling of the two faiths and much more mutual respect that would be found elsewhere in the world. Because of this intermingling, the differences between members of the two faiths in this country are very less. Often times those who claim to belong to the Hindu faith could just as easily be adherents of Buddhism. When one considers the geographical distribution of the various religious groups, they will find that Hindus account for at least 87% percent of the general population in every region. There is a concentration of Buddhists in the eastern hills, the central Tarai and Kathmandu Valley. Very often religion is dictated by tribal origins and members rarely deviate from the faith that they were raised with. Hinduism is regarded by many as being the oldest formal religion known today. It is said that the origins of the religion go back to pastoral Aryan tribes. Hinduism had no single founder and a collection of hymns from northern India, known as the Vedas, form the basis for the theological and philosophical teachings of the faith. Buddhism is said to be derived from Hinduism as its founder, Siddhartha Gautama, was originally a Hindu. When one considers the religious history of the country, it is not difficult to understand why Nepal is primarily a Hindu country. Not only is it the oldest religion to be practised here, but it also permeates every aspect of life for the people of the country. Modern times have seen an increase in other religions in Nepal, but the general population has chosen to remain with the faith practised by their forefathers.

Music of Nepal
The music of Nepal is just as motley, ranging from folk music to music associated with religious activities, classical music and a collection of contemporary styles. Songs and music videos from Nepal can be downloaded on the Internet and are a great way to immerse yourself in Nepali culture. The music of Nepal is an integral part of this diverse country's culture. Nepalese music has been largely influenced by musicians from Hindustan and Tibet. Due to its close association with Indian culture, Nepal too has various musician castes. Women only play music in certain circumstances such as for

all-female wedding parties. Damai are a caste who are tailors and musicians. Damai are mostly involved in panchai baja, a type of wedding band. Instruments used for such celebrations include horns, shawms, cymbals and drums. The band has to perform a particular tune or piece of music for each specific section of the traditional wedding ceremony. On the other hand you get the gaine who were fishermen at first but have become traveling minstrels. The gaine will play musical performances for audiences and are paid with food and/or other needed goods. A sarangi is the instrument of choice for the gaine. It is a handcrafted musical instrument with four strings. The Newars are likely the best known musicians of Nepal who perform folk and classical music along with dancing. Practically all important events, feasts, ceremonies and festivals are accompanied by the music and dancing of Nepal's Newars. The masked dances of the Newar people tell intricate stories about the gods as well as great heroes. Songs and musical instruments are associated with particular aspects of the Newars' life. Newar music features strong percussion with added flutes or shawms along with powerful, nasal singing. There are a large number of musical instruments in Nepal, 108 to be exact. Nepalese musical instruments are classified into four groups, these are: Membranophones, idiophones, chordophones and aerophones. All these instruments contribute to the unique sounds of Nepal's music.

Languages in Nepal
Nepal is a country of great diversity with 36 ethnic groups, several language groups and many religions. Nepal has many ethnic groups and language groups are just as abundant. There are more than a hundred languages spoken in Nepal. The chief language of Nepal is Nepali, the other languages are spoken to a larger or lesser degree in specific areas of the country. Due to the extensive number of languages spoken in Nepal we will provide details on just a few after which we will present you with a list of Nepal's languages. Nepali is classified as an Indo-Aryan Language and is spoken as a mother tongue by approximately half of Nepal's population and as a second language by others. Other names for Nepali include Gorkhali/Gurkhali ("language of the Gurkhas") as well as Parbatiya ("language of the mountains"). Nepali was originally known as Khaskura ("speech of the Khas")an was spoken by rice farming Khas who settled in the Karnali Bheri basin. Today it is spoken throughout Nepal as well as in parts of Bhutan and India. Bahing or Rumdali is classified as part of the Kiranti languages and is spoken by the Bahing people living in Okhaldhunga. This language has been described as complex and slight differences between words are often difficult for people of similar dialects to understand. Maithili is one of the Indo-Aryan languages. Many view it as a dialect of Hindi and not a separate language. It however received official language status in 2003 and is thus used in education etc. Limbu, a Tibeto-Burman language, spoken by the Limbu ethnic group. Limbus call themselves Yakthung and the Limbu language Yakthung Pan. Most Limbus can also speak Nepali fluently.

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