Culture and Customs

Culture and Customs in Nepal : Culture, Customs and traditions in Nepal are differ from one part to another. A conglomeration lies in capital city Kathmandu where cultures are blending to form a national identity of the country. Kathmandu Valley has served as the country’s cultural metropolis since the unification of Nepal in the 18th Century. A prominent factor in a Nepali’s everyday life is religion. Adding color to the lives of Nepalese are festivals the year round which they celebrate with much pomp and joy. Food plays an important role in the celebration of these festivals as well.

Religion: Nepal was declared a secular country by the Parliament on May 18, 2006. Religions practiced in Nepal are: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Bon, ancestor worship and animism. The majority of Nepalese are Hindu and Hinduism and Buddhism have co-existed in harmony through centuries.

Buddha is widely worshipped by both Buddhists and Hindus of Nepal. The five Dhyani Buddhas; Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi are worshiped by both Hindus and Buddhists. Buddhist philosophy conceives these deities to be the manifestations of absolute void. Mahakaala and Bajrayogini is Vajrayana Buddhist deities worshipped by Hindus as well.

Hindu Nepalese worship the ancient Vedic gods. Bramha the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, are worshipped as the Supreme Hindu Trinity. People pray to the Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva in most Shiva temples. Shakti, the dynamic element in the female counterpart of Shiva, is highly revered and feared. Mahadevi, Mahakali, Bhagabati, Ishwari are some of the names given. Kumari, the Virgin Goddess, also represents Shakti. Other popular deities are Ganesh for luck, Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for wealth and Hanuman for protection. Krishna, believed to be the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu is also worshipped widely. Hindu holy scripts Bhagawat Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat are widely read in Nepal. Vedas, Upanishads and other holy scriptures are read by well learned Brahmin Pundits during special occasions.

Customs: The diversity in Nepal in terms of ethnicity again makes room for various sets of customs. Most of these customs go back to the Hindu, Buddhist or other religious traditions. Among them, the rules of marriage are particularly interesting. Traditional marriages call for deals arranged by parents after the boy or girl come of age.

Nepalese do not eat beef : There are several reasons for this, one being that the Hindus worship cow. Cow is also the national animal of Nepal. Another interesting concept among Nepalese is division of pure and impure. “Jutho” referring to food or material touched by another’s mouth directly or indirectly, is considered impure by Nepalese. Nepalese consider cow dung to be pure for cleansing purposes. During menstruation women are considered impure and hence, are kept in seclusion until their fourth day purification bath. Nepal is a patriarchal society so; usually men go out to work while women are homemakers. However, in cities, roles can differ. Most Nepalese abide by the caste system in living habits and marriage. Rural Nepal is mostly agrarian, while some aspects of urban life carry glitz and glamour of the ultra-modern world.

Some tips on the common etiquettes practiced by Nepali people should be useful to visitors to know and practice when you travel to Nepal which are:

  • The form of greeting in Nepal is “Namaste” performing by joining both palms together. It literally means “the divine in me salutes the divine in you”.
  • As a mark of respect Nepalese usually take their shoes off before entering someone’s house or place of worship.
  • Food or material that has been touched by another person’s mouth is considered impure or “jutho” and, therefore, is not accepted unless among close friends or family in Nepal.
  • Touching something with feet or using the left hand to give or take may not be considered auspicious in Nepal.
  • Women wearing skimpy outfits are frowned upon especially in the rural parts of the country.
  • As a part of the tradition some Hindu temples do not allow non Hindus to enter.
  • Leather articles are prohibited inside some temple areas.
  • Walking around temples or stupas is traditionally done clockwise.
  • To avoid conflict photography is carried out after receiving permission from the object or person.
  • Public displays of affection are considered scandalous.
  • Nodding of head means “Yes” while shaking of head mean “No”. A slight dangling of head from left to right means “OK” in Nepal.

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