If you think this is going to be like one of those clichéd and boring buzz feed lists about Nepal: Everest, Trekking, Buddha & Pokhara, you are partially correct. But Nepal is so much more than just that!!!
To be born in this melting of diverse cultures and traditions, we consider ourselves lucky that we got to see and live Nepal firsthand. We got an insiders’ perspective and got an insight into the various nuances of “Nepali-ness”, which is as much a state of mind as it is a physical reality.
This is our small attempt to show you that Himalaya and Buddhisms are not the only things that shape Nepal.
1. The Food
Every culture gives so much importance to food. We eat, thus we are. In Nepal, we understand that very well. In fact, we take that a bit too serious. In other parts of the world, you start a conversation by asking “How are you?”. Here in Nepal, “Khana Khayo?” is a casual “Hello”, literally translates as “Did you eat?”.
We ask you that because we care. Our culture understands food as happiness and as an important deal of our well-being. Food is an epitome of the culture and it has an intrinsic relationship! Yet, unfortunately, just little attention is paid to understand, explore, and promote Nepali food culture, which actually really defines who we are.
“Momo” and “Dal-Bhat” are now synonymous with Nepali cuisine. But food in Nepal is much more than just those two dishes. Nepalese cuisine has had influences from Tibetan, Chinese and Indian cuisines. But moderation is the mantra of Nepalese food. We have had our own tweaks and twists to other influences to make them our own, to add a bit of “Nepali-ness” to the food.
Have you tried the overwhelming Newari cuisine? Rich and diverse in taste, texture and flavors. This is probably the one of the few cuisines in the world that boasts of at least 20 different dishes of just buffalo!! Newari cuisine definitely lacks no imagination. From savory to sweet, sour to spicy it’s rich palete caters to everyone’s appetite. And of course, there is the earthy Tharu cuisine, which is deeply rooted in the heartland of Terai. Tharu cuisine , distant cousin to the French cuisine, as both of them relish in the delicacy of “Ghonghi” known as “Escargot” in French. There is also the lavish and elaborative Thakali cuisine which has evolved adopting from both the mountains and the plains. And for those of you, who want to explore more, there is the very little known Kirant cuisine from eastern Nepal which offers a variety of flavors ranging from burnt inner feathers of a chicken to the wild lichen.
2. The People
After travelling extensively in nooks and corners of Nepal, we could not help but be impressed at the people in Nepal, co-existing with the harsh environment and in this immense ethnic diversity. We have been fortunate enough to perceive the beautiful and colorful ethnic mosaic that is precariously balanced. From the lap of Himalaya to the vast Terai plains, the tribal variety is phenomenal.
Much has been said about the diversity of people in this land. Therefore, we are not going to bore you with the demographics. However, one never misses to notice the charm of the simplicity and honesty of people living in Nepal. You will be greeted with smiling faces everywhere you go. A joyous “Namaste” will be your permanent companion, greeting the divine in you.
Tolerance is the second religion here. When it comes to the religious beliefs, Nepalese are significantly flexible, pragmatic and more importantly tolerant. A Hindu will bow in respect passing by a Buddhist Stupa and vice versa. Patience and good humor are the virtues of people in Nepal. Quick to smile and fierce to fight, Nepalese are renowned for their bravery around the world. The stories of bravery and courage reverberate in far-away lands.
3. The Music & Festivals
Nepal is the land of festivities. It feels like there is one festival or the other every single day. We have festivals for cows. A festival for dogs; festivals for crows, snakes, frogs and not to forget our festival of colors and lights.
Nepalese surely know how to celebrate life. Every aspect of nature and life is part of our culture and festivity here. As we have a humongous ethnic diversity, it’s no surprise that our musical heritage is equally diverse and prosperous. The music that echoes in the high mountains is deep and entrancing while the music in the south is joyous and full of rich rhythm.
Eastern classical music is deeply rooted in Katmandu valley where it flourished in the Durbars of Maharajas in the medieval period. The devotional hymns in the praise of the numerous deities that resonate in the temples and monasteries are perfectly tuned in classical Ragas. Classical music here is contemplative and pensive capable of evoking a meditative state in the listener and player singer alike. The beauty of our music is that a song can be performed simply and in all humility, or with the grandest elaboration retaining the core of both meaning and melody.
Get ready to discover the real Nepal!
Travel to Nepal and discover the beauty of our country. Forget everything you might have read from other travel agencies about what makes Nepal “Nepal”. Of course, Himalaya and Buddhism are part of Nepal. But they are really just a tiny part. In fact, not even 10% of the population of Nepal follows Buddhism!
Travel to Nepal to explore the real Nepal. But not just to see what you might think Nepal is all about. Otherwise you will miss so much – the taste, the sounds, the hospitality and the unique aura that surrounds our beautiful country. Get ready to discover the people, the music and the food of Nepal 🙂