Nepal -- Geography --
Official Name: Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal
Languages: Nepali (official), Maithili, Bhojpuri, Taru, Tamang, Nepal Bhasa, Magar, Avadi etc.
Currency: Nepalese Rupee
Religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Kirant etc.
Population: 29 519 114 (2008)
Land Area: 147 181 sq km
Landforms: Nepal is a landlocked country in South Asia. It is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the north and by India to the south, east and west.
The Himalaya mountain range runs across Nepal's northern and western parts, and eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest,
are within its territory.
Nepal -- History --
By 250 BC, the region came under the influence of the Mauryan Empire of northern India, and later became a vassal state under the Gupta Dynasty in the fourth century AD.
By the early 12th century, leaders were emerging. Initially their reign was marked by upheaval, but the kings consolidated their power and ruled over the next 200 years; by the late 14th century, much of the country began to come under a unified rule. This unity was short-lived; in 1482 the region was carved into three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.
Rivalry between Nepal and the British East India Company over the annexation of minor states bordering Nepal eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815–16).
In 1846 the king was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary. In 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognized by the UK.
India sponsored both King Tribhuvan as Nepal's new ruler in 1951, and a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party, thus terminating Rana hegemony in the kingdom.
In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) started a bid to replace the royal parliamentary system with a people's socialist republic. This led to the long Nepal Civil War and more than 12,000 deaths. On June 1, 2001, there was a massacre in the royal palace; it left the King, the Queen and the Heir Apparent Crown Prince Dipendra among the dead. Following the carnage, the throne was inherited by King Birendra's brother Gyanendra. On February 1, 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full executive powers to quash the violent Maoist movement.
In response to the 2006 democracy movement, the king agreed to relinquish the sovereign power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives on April 24, 2006. Using its newly acquired sovereign authority, on May 18, 2006, the newly resumed House of Representatives unanimously passed a motion to curtail the power of the king and declared Nepal a secular state, abolishing its time honoured official status as a Hindu Kingdom. On December 28, 2007, a bill was passed in parliament, to amend Article 159 of the constitution - replacing "Provisions
regarding the King" by "Provisions of the Head of the State" - declaring Nepal a federal republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy. The bill came into force on May 28, 2008 as a constituent assembly meeting in the capital, Kathmandu, overwhelmingly voted to abolish royal rule. On July 21 2008 the first president of Nepal - Ram Baran Yadav - was elected.
Nepal -- Economy --
Nepal's gross domestic product (GDP) for the year 2007 was estimated at just over US$ 29.29 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 83rd-largest economy in the world. Agriculture accounts for about 38% of Nepal's GDP, services comprise 42% and industry 20%. Agriculture employs 76% of the workforce, services 18% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 6%. Agricultural produce—mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India—includes tea, rice, corn, wheat, sugarcane, root crops, milk, and water buffalo meat. Industry mainly involves the processing of agricultural produce, including jute, sugarcane,
tobacco, and grain. Its workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. The spectacular landscape and diverse, exotic cultures of Nepal represent considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this hospitality industry has been stifled by recent political events. The rate of unemployment and underemployment approaches half of the working-age population. Thus many Nepali citizens move to India in search of work; the Gulf countries and Malaysia being new sources of work. Nepal receives US$50 million a year through the Gurkha soldiers who serve in the Indian and British armies and are highly esteemed for their skill
and bravery. The total remittance value is worth around 1 billion USD, including money sent from Persian Gulf and Malaysia, who combined employ around 700,000 Nepali citizens. A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries. Poverty is acute; per-capita income is less than US$ 470. The distribution of wealth among the Nepalis is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 40.6% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.
The government's budget is about US$1.153 billion, with expenditures of $1.927 billion (FY06/07). The Nepalese Rupee has been tied to the Indian Rupee at an exchange rate of 1.6 for many years. Since the loosening of exchange rate controls in the early 1990s, the black market for foreign exchange has all but disappeared. The inflation rate is 6.4% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s.
Nepal's exports of mainly carpets, clothing, leather goods, jute goods and grain total $822 million. Import commodities of mainly gold, machinery and equipment, petroleum products and fertilizer total US$2 bn. India (70%), the US (8.9%), and Germany (4.1%) are its main export partners. Nepal's import partners include India (56.2%), the United Arab Emirates (22.8%), China (13%), Saudi Arabia (5.1%), and Indonesia (2.9%).
Nepal remains isolated from the world’s major land, air and sea transport routes although, within the country, aviation is in a better state, with 47 airports, ten of them with paved runways; flights are frequent and support a sizeable traffic. Hilly and mountainous terrain in the northern two-thirds of the country has made the building of roads and other infrastructure difficult and expensive. There were just over 9.829 km of paved roads, and one 59 km railway line in the south in 2003. There is only one reliable road route from India to the Kathmandu Valley. The only practical seaport of entry for goods bound for Kathmandu is Calcutta in India.
There are 766,400 telephone lines. Landline telephone services are not adequate nationwide but are concentrated in cities and district headquarters. Mobile telephony is in a reasonable state in most parts of the country with increased accessibility and affordability; there were around 337,100 Internet connections in 2007.
Nepal -- Culture --
Nepalese culture is diverse, reflecting different ethnic origins of the people. The Newar community is particularly rich in cultural diversity; they celebrate many festivals, well known for their music and dance. The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chilli, mustard seeds etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best. The Newar Music orchestra consists mainly of percussion instruments, though wind instruments,
such as flutes and other similar instruments are also used. String instruments are very rare. There are songs pertaining to particular seasons and festivals. Paahan chare music is probably the fastest played music whereas the Dapa the slowest. There are certain musical instruments such as Dhimay and Bhusya which are played as instrumental only and are not accompanied with songs. In the hills, people enjoy their own kind of music, playing saarangi (a string instrument), madal and flute. They also have many popular folk songs known as lok geet and lok dohari.
The Newar dances can be broadly classified into masked dances and non-masked dances. The most representative of Newari dances is Lakhey dance. Almost all the settlements of Newaris organize Lakhey dance at least once a year, mostly in the Goonlaa month. So, they are called Goonlaa Lakhey.
Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life, tales of love, affection and battles as well as demons and ghosts and thus reflect local lifestyles, cultures and beliefs.
The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (December 28), Prithvi Jayanti, (January 11), Martyr's Day (February 18) and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat.
Most houses in rural lowland of Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework and walls of a mud and cow-dung mix. These dwellings remain cool in summer and retain warmth in winter. Houses in the hills are usually made of unbaked bricks with thatch or tile roofing.
Nepal -- Political system, law and government --
Nepal has seen rapid political changes during the last two decades. Until 1990, Nepal was an absolute monarchy running under the executive control of the king. Faced with a people's movement against the absolute monarchy, King Birendra, in 1990, agreed to large-scale political reforms by creating a parliamentary monarchy with the king as the head of state and a prime minister as the head of the government.
Nepal's legislature was bicameral, consisting of a House of Representatives called the Pratinidhi Sabha and a National Council called the Rastriya Sabha. The House of Representatives consisted of 205 members directly elected by the people. The National Council had sixty members: ten nominated by the king, thirty-five elected by the House of Representatives and the remaining fifteen elected by an electoral college made up of chairs of villages and towns. The legislature
had a five-year term, but was dissolvable by the king before its term could end. All Nepali citizens 18 years and older became eligible to vote.
Governments in Nepal tended to be highly unstable, falling either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch, according to the constitution. No government has survived for more than two years since 1991.
The movement in April, 2006, brought about a change in the nation's governance: an interim constitution was promulgated, with the King giving up power, and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members after the new government held peace talks with the Maoist rebels. The number of parliamentary seats was also increased to 330. In April, 2007, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal.
On 10 April 2008, there was the first election in Nepal for the constitution assembly. The Maoist party led the poll results, but failed to gain a simple majority in the parliament. On 28 May 2008, lawmakers in Nepal legally abolished the monarchy and declared the country a republic, ending 239 years of royal rule in the Himalayan nation. The newly elected assembly, led by the former communist rebels, adopted the resolution at its first meeting by an overwhelming majority.
King Gyanendra was given 15 days to leave former Royal Palace in central Kathmandu by the Nepalese Constituent Assembly. He left former Royal Palace on June 11. On 26 June 2008, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala tendered his resignation to the Nepalese Constituent Assembly, which is also functioning as Nepalese Parliament; however a new Prime Minister has yet to be elected by the Nepalese Constituent Assembly. On 19 July 2008, the first round of voting for the election
of the country's president and vice president took place in the Constituent Assembly. Parmanand Jha became the first vice president of Nepal. However, the two presidential frontrunners, Dr. Ram Baran Yadav of Nepali Congress and the Maoist-backed candidate Ram Raja Prasad Singh, both failed to gain the minimum 298 votes needed to be elected, with Yadav receiving 283 votes and Singh receiving 270. On 21 July 2008, the second round of voting was held. Yadav received 308 votes
of the 590 votes casted, securing his election as president. In August 2008, Maoist leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was elected Prime Minister of Nepal, the first since the country's transition from a monarchy to a republic.