Nepal - the Himalayan country
The first civilizations in Nepal, which flourished around the 6th century B.C.., were confined to the fertile Kathmandu valley where the present-day capital of the same name is located. It was in this region that Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born on 563 B.C. Gautama achieved enlightenment as Buddha and gave rise to Buddhist belief.
Nepali rulers’ early patronage of Buddhism largely gave way to Hinduism, reflecting the increased influence of India, around the 12th century. Though the successive dynasties of the Gopalas, the Kiratis, and the Licchavis expanded their rule, it was not until the reign of the Malla Kings from 1200-1769 that Nepal assumed the approximate dimensions of the modern state.
The kingdom of Nepal was unified in 1768 by King Prithvi Narayana Shah, who had fled India following the Moghul conquests of the subcontinent. Under Shah and his successors, Nepal’s borders expanded as far west as Kashmir and as far east as Sikkim (now part of India). A commercial treaty was signed with Britain in 1792 and again in 1816 after more than a year of hostilities with the British East India Company.
In 1923, Britain recognized the absolute independence of Nepal. Between 1846 and 1951, the country was ruled by the Rana family, which always held the office of prime minister. In 1951, however, the King took over-all power and proclaimed a constitutional monarchy. Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah became King in 1955. After Mahendra died of a heart attack in 1972, Prince Birendra, at 26, succeeded to the throne.
In 1990, a pro-democracy movement forced King Birendra to lift the ban on political parties. The first free election in three decades provided a victory for the liberal Nepali Congress Party in 1991, although the Communists made a strong showing. A small but growing Maoist guerrilla movement, seeking to overthrow the constitutional monarchy and install a Communist government, began operating in the countryside in 1996.
On June 1, 2001, King Birendra was shot and killed by his son, Crown Prince Dipendra. Angered by his family’s disapproval of his choice of a bride, he also killed his mother and several other members of the royal family before shooting himself. Prince Gyanendra, the younger brother of King Birendra, was then crowned King.
King Gyanendra dismissed the government in October 2002, calling it corrupt and inefective. He declared a state of emergency in November and ordered the army to crack down on the Maoist guerrillas. The rebels intensified their campaign, and the government responded with equal ferocity, killing hundreds of Maoists, the largest toll since the insurgency began in 1996. In Aug.2003, the Maoist rebels withdrew from the peace talks with the government and ended a cease-fire that had been signed in Jan.2003. The following August, the rebels blockaded Kathmandu for a week, cutting off shipments of food and fuel to the capital.
King Gyanendra dismissed the entire government in Feb.2005 and assumed direct power. Many of the country’s politicians were placed under house arrest, and severe restrictions on civil liberties were instructed. In Sept.2005, the Maoist rebels declared a unilateral cease-fire, which ended in Jan.2006. In April, massive prodemocracy protests organized by seven opposition parties and supported by the Maoists took place. They rejected King Gyanendra’s offer to handover executive power to a prime minister, saying he failed to address their main demands: the restoration of parliament. The new parliament quickly moved to diminish the King’s powers. In May, it voted unanimously to declare Nepal a secular nation and strip the King of his authority over the military.
The Black Mountains separate western Bhutan from central Bhutan. This region includes Trongsa ( 2180m, 7153 ft) and the rich broad valleys of Bumthang (2580m, 8500 ft) Shertang La (3573m, 11,72 ft) and Thrumshing la (3800m, 1246 ft), Bhutan’s second highest pass. Central Bhutan is known for its buckwheat and apple production, its sturdy stone houses, and its plethora of monasteries. It’s the ideal place for walking due to its broad valleys and slopping mountains. The beauties of the Bumthang valleys are legendary. The largest city in the country, Kathmandu is in the shape of Khukuri knife and its glorious history dates back to two thousand years. Located in the bowl-shaped Kathmandu Valley, the city is the cultural hub of the country and probably the most sought after tourist destination. The home town of Newars is the meeting point of various ethnic groups. Kathmandu city is the junction for the major routes within and outside the country. Most of the trekking expeditions and tours starts from Kathmandu. The city itself is home to historical monuments, cultural groups, architecture wonders and exotic tourist destinations. The famous Durbar Square of Kathmandu is world famous for its seemingly uncountable monuments.
Bhaktapur is an ancient city and is renowned for its elegant art, fabulous culture, colourful festivals, traditional dances and indigenous lifestyle of Newari community. It is 12 kilometers east of Kathmandu, capital of Nepal, Bhaktapur also known as Bhadgaon is an ancient Newar town in the east corner of the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal. Bhaktapur is a popular day-trip destination for tourists visiting Kathmandu.
Bhaktapur’s main square, Durbar Square, houses the 55-window Palace which was constructed by King Bhupatindra Malla and was home to royalty until 1769. It is now a National Gallery. Close by is the Golden Gate which leads into Mulchok Court which is home to the Taleju Temple. This temple, like others in the main towns of the Kathmandu Valley, is dedicated to the goddess Taleju Bhawani and includes shrines to the both Taleju Bhawani and Kumari. Entrance to the temple is restricted to Hindus and the living goddess strictly cannot be photographed.
Don’t leave Bhaktapur without trying some of their famous yogurt with local honey—Juju –dhau, literally the “King of all yogurts”.
At a height of 2,900 meters above sea level, the hill top is visited for viewing beautiful sunrises and sunsets and visitors take delight in the layout of the Kathmandu valley. Ganesh Himal, Gauri Shanker and Everest can be seen from here. Visitors can extend their sojourn to explore the countryside.
The old Newarese Township lies beyond the eastern rim of the Valley with comfortable lodgings for external trips. Also, mountain bikers can enjoy an excellent ride.
Pokhara, the city of lakes, is blessed with extreme natural beauty. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Nepal. It is also called the Switzerland of Nepal. It is located at an altitude of 827m, 200 km west of Kathmandu valley. The best viewpoint of Pokhara is Sarangkot (1600m) and Thulakot (in Lekhnath a part of famous Royal Trek from where lakes Phewa, Begnas, Khaste and Dipang and whole annapura range is seen to the west of the city.
The city is famous for the adventure opportunities it offer that include sightseeing white water rafting, kayaking and mountaineering. Most of the visitors are here for the start or end of a trek to the Annapurna Base Camp and Mustang. It is considered by many to be the most beautiful place in the whole wide world.
ROYAL CHITWAN NATIONAL PARK
This is one of the most popular national parks in Nepal. The park is situated in the sub-tropical lowlands of southern Nepal, lying between two mountain ranges, the Shivalik and the Mahabharat range...
This is the flood plain of three rivers, the Rapti, the Rapti, the Reu and the Narayani. The forest is dominated by Sal trees (shorea robusta) and tall grasses.
This is the natural habitat of endangered animals like tigers, one-honored rhinoceros, gharial crocodile, gaur (the world’s largest wild cattle), four species of deer, leopards, and wild dogs, fishing cats, python and Gangetic dolphin. There are over 50 species of mammals and 450 species of birds in the park.
Before 1950, this area used to be the hunting reserve for the ruling class of Nepal. The hereditary prime ministers of the Rana family, who ruled Nepal for 104 years, often used to invite people from England and India as their guests and huge-numbers of tigers and rhinos were killed. Today the tourist can elephants and view the wild animals at close range.
LUMBINI: THE BIRTHPLACE OF LORD BUDDHA
Shakyamuni Buddha was born in Lumbini, in southern Nepal, twenty-five hundred years ago. Since his time, Nepal has been a sacred ground for Buddhists as the birthplace of the Buddha. Lumbini is a small town in the southern Terai plains of Nepal, where the ruins of the old city can still be seen. Shakyamuni Buddha was born to a royal family.
Lumbini has been a holy ground for Buddhists all over the world. The restored garden and surroundings of Lumbini have the remains of many of the ancient stupas and monasteries. A large stone pillar erected by the Indian Emperor Ashoka in 250 BC bears an inscription about the birth of the Buddha.
An important part of Lumbini is the temple of Maya Devi. It has a stone image of Maya Devi giving birth to Lord Buddha as she holds onto a branch. It has been well worn by the strokes of barren women hoping for fertility. To the south of the south of the temple is a pool where Queen Maya Devi is said to have bathed and give her son his first purification bath.
A quiet garden, shaded by the leafy Bo tree (the type of tree under which Buddha received enlightenment), and a newly-planted forest nearby lend an air of tranquility which bespeaks Buddha’s teachings. Lumbini is now being developed under the Master Plan of the Lumbini Development Trust, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to the restoration of Lumbini and its development as a pilgrimage site. The plan, completed in 1978 by the renowned Japanese architect Kenzo Tange, will transform three square miles of land into a sacred place of gardens, pools, buildings and groves. The development will include a Monastic Zone, the circular sacred Garden surroundings the Ashoka pillar and Maya Devi temple, and Lumbini Village, where visitors will find lodges, restaurants, a cultural centre and tourist facilities.
An important archeological site near Lumbini, Kapilvastu evokes the ancient palace where Lord Buddha spent his formative years. Scattered foundations of the palace are abundant, and archaeologists have by now discovered 13 successive layers of human habitation dating back to the eighth century BC. A must for archeological and historical buffs!
Besides its religious and historical significance, Lumbini offers cultural insights into the village life of southern Nepal. If possible, try to coincide your visit with the weekly Monday bazaar when villagers come from miles around to buy grains, spices, pottery, jewellery, saris and various other items. It may appear as a scene out of the Arabian Nights, with colorful merchandise spread out under the mango trees and the air perfumed with incense. It’s a chance to bargain for souvenirs while witnessing local life in Lumbini. Wooden ox-carts loaded with hay by. Villagers dry crow –during for fuel, and tea stalls serve sweet milk tea.
Today, Lumbini is beginning to receive traveler’s and archaeologists’ attention after centuries of neglect. Serious preservation work has only just been started in the latter half of the twentieth century and Lumbini as a slice of history is worth seeing and worth preserving.
One can avail flight from airports of India like Kolkata or Bagdogra.
From Siliguri one can drive to Kakarbhitta (Nepal - India border) 32 kilometers by road. Buses to Kathmandu are available from Kakarvitta, Bhadrapur and all the towns of Nepal. Private vehicles and shared vehicles are also available. From kakarbhitta one can drive 25 kilometers to Bhadrapur for availing flight. One can avail the Bus / Coach to Kathmandu or can drive to Kathmandu from Kakarbhitta. Its overnight journey.