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Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia and is the world's youngest republic. It is bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. With an area of 147,181 square kilometers and a population of approximately 30 million, Nepal is the world's 93rd largest country by land mass and the 41st most populous country. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolitan city.
Nepal is a country of highly diverse and rich geography, culture, and religions. The mountainous north contains eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized. By some measures, Hinduism is practiced by a greater majority of people in Nepal than in any other nation. A minority faith in the country, Buddhism is linked historically with Nepal as the birthplace of Siddhartha Gautama who, as the Buddha Gautama, gave birth to the Buddhist tradition.
Nepal had been a monarchy throughout most of its history. Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Shah dynasty king, unified the many small kingdoms in 1768. Since then, the country had been ruled by a dynasty of kings. However, a decade-long People's Revolution by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) along with several weeks of mass protests by all major political parties of Nepal in 2006, culminated in a peace accord and the ensuing elections for the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the abdication of the last Nepali monarch Gyanendra Shah and the establishment of a federal democratic republic in May 28, 2008. The first President of Nepal, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav was sworn in on 23 July, 2008.
Nepal has some of the most dramatic mountain terrain in the world. The massive Himalayan mountain range was thrust up out of the ocean 50 million years ago when India collided with the rest of the Asian land mass. Today, Nepal is nearly 75% mountain, and it contains eight of the world's 10 highest peaks. And they just keep on getting bigger — tectonic plate movements means that the mountains continue to grow at the rate of several centimeters per year.
At the northernmost reach of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the relatively flat Terai is fertile, low-lying (200m), hot, and humid. This whole area was once covered in dense stretches of malarial forest that supported only wild animals and hungry mosquitoes, but recent years have seen vast deforestation, and today it is the hub of Nepal's growing population. Jutting out from the Terai to altitudes of over 1500m, the forested Chure Hills run parallel to the 3000m Mahabharat Range farther north. Between the Chure and the Mahabarat Hills are the broad basins of the Inner
Terai, cut by the deep, north-south river gorges of Nepal's three biggest rivers — the Karnali, the Narayani, and the Kosi. At altitudes of 500 to 2000m, the Pahar region, north of the Mahabarat, is marked by flat, fertile valleys, including the Kathmandu, Banepa, and Pokhara Valleys. This region has been inhabited and cultivated longer than anywhere else in Nepal. Over 40% of the population lives in this region today.
The mighty Himalayas are inhabited only in scattered pockets. Human settlements are sparse after about 4000m. Nepal's plant life thins out as altitudes increase, with the dense timber forests yielding to alpine pastures of spruce, birch, rhododendron, which stretch to the snowline. Beyond 4900m, nothing but mountains grow. Ten mountains in Nepal are higher than 8000m, including Mount Everest (8848m), the highest point on earth. North of the peaks is the high desert plateau of the Trans-Himalaya.
The Terai is inhabited by tigers, leopards, gaur (wild oxen), elephants, and several species of deer. The Rapti Valley is one of the last refuges of the endangered Indian rhinoceros. The Himalayas are also home to the fantastically rare and surprisingly docile yeti (Homo nivosus abominabilis), of four-toed footprint fame.