Kathmandu - General Information

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Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal and the largest metropolitan city, the other two sister cities are Patan or Lalitpur and Bhaktapur. The short form of Kathmandu is KTM, in terms of area Kathmandu valley is only slightly smaller than Singapore. Kathmandu is surrounded by four major mountains, namely: Shivapuri, Phulchowki, Nagarjun and Chandragiri, the city stands at an elevation of approximately, 1,400 meters in the bowl-shaped valley in central Nepal. The total population of Kathmandu is 949,486 people. Kathmandu is not only the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal but also the headquarters of the Central Region among the five development regions constituted by the 14 administrative zones of Nepal located at the central part of the country. The central region has three zones, Bagmati, Narayani, and Janakpur. Kathmandu falls in the Bagmati Zone. Kathmandu, as the gateway to Nepal Tourism, is the nerve of the country’s economy. With the most advanced infrastructure among urban areas in Nepal, Kathmandu’s economy is tourism centric accounting for 3.8% of the GDP.


English and Hindi are understood by most of the people, and a significant number of the population speaks any of the foreign languages like: French, German, Chinese, Hebrew, Korean etc. The literacy rate is 98% in the city.


Among urban areas in Nepal, Kathmandu being the premier cultural and economic hub of Nepal is considered to have the most advanced infrastructure. The sister cities of Patan, and Bhaktapur are integral to Kathmandu, from the point of view of tourism, economy and cultural heritage. Even the cultural heritage recognition under the World Heritage list of the UNESCO has recognized all the monuments in the three urban agglomerates as one unit under the title “Kathmandu Valley-UNESCO World Heritage Site”.


The city of Kathmandu was named after a structure in Durbar Square called Kasthamandap, which is a Sanskrit word, Kastha is “wood” and Mandap is “covered shelter.” In 1596, King Laxmi Narsingh Malla built this unique temple, which is also called Maru Sthal. The entire structure contains no iron nails or supports and is made entirely from wood. Legend has it that the timber used for this two-story pagoda was obtained from a single tree. Kantipur is the other name for Kathmandu, “Kanti” is an alternate name of the Goddess Laxmi, and “pur” means the place where such a goddess resides. Thus, the name Kantipur demonstrates the ancient belief that it is the place where the Laxmi dwells.

The history of Kathmandu dates back to ancient times. Traced between the period 167 BC and 1 AD, archaeological explorations indicate that Kathmandu and the two other sister towns in the valley are the oldest towns. Excavations conducted at Hadaigaon and Lubhu in southern part of the valley, in Kathmandu, have unearthed brick walls and Stone Age tools. The geological setting of the valley points to the existence of a lake near Chobar gorge on the Bagmati River, below the present Pashupatinath Temple, which was a pilgrimage place during the period of the Buddha. Manjushree Bodhisatva, a Buddhist Saint, drained this lake by cutting open an outlet in the southern rim of the valley. People started cultivating here and building their homes as the valley that was created was fertile. Manjushree is also said to have worshipped the Swayambhunath on the hillock where the present Swayambhunath temple is located. He is also the founder of the city of Manjupatan, which today falls within the present Kathmandu Metropolitan area, located between Swayambhunath and Gujeswari near the airport. Dharmakara a disciple of Manjushree was declared the ruler of that city by him. It is also said that Krakuchanda Budhha, Kanak Muni Buddha and Kashyapa Buddha visited the Kathmandu valley to worship Swayambhu and Gujeshwari, following the establishment of this city. The king of Gaur, Prachanda Deva built the Swayambhu stupa encasing the eternal flame and his nephew Gunakadeva was anointed as the king of Nepal. Singhakhetu, the last ruler of his dynasty brought prosperity to the kingdom. Subsequent to the rule of the Gunakadeva dynasty, rulers from India, particularly from Bengal and then Madras province ruled Kathmandu. Dharma Dutta of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu is cited as the builder of Pashupatinath Temple. This was followed by the reign of Abhir dynasty of eighth rulers and Kiratis said to be originally of the northeastern hill region of India. Their succession of 29 rulers reigned here until the Lichavis came into power.


Modern History:
In 1846 Jung Bahadur Kunwar was the first Prime Minister followed by succession of Rana prime ministers, which lasted till 1950. With the parliamentary government functioning only as a facade, Rana rule from Kathmandu was mainly governance by a landed aristocracy. With the Ranas adopting isolation of the country with absolute total control over domestic affairs, even though there was stability in the country, political and economic development was on the back burner. This was possible due to the support of the army.


While the real power rested with the Ranas, during all this period, Shahs as Monarchs were figurehead monarchs. After the establishment of the Nepali Congress Party in 1946, diplomatic relationship was established with the US. The country’s first constitution, the Government of Nepal Act, was promulgated in 1948. But Prime Minister Padma Shamsher Rana resigned in the wake of opposition to the new constitution from conservative Ranas and Mohan Shamsher becomes prime minister, constitution is suspended. The Ranas fell into conflict with King Tribhuvan by 1950 as they suspected Nepali Congress Party’s conspiracy against Rana power was instigated by the King. King Tribhuvan then sought for asylum in India and was granted asylum, at this stage, government troops rebelled and over 140 Ranas joined the dissidents. During this period a Treaty of Peace and Friendship and Treaty of Trade and Commerce was signed with India.


In 1934 a widespread earthquake occurred, where many parts of the city were damaged. However, they were later built to their original form. From the 1980s, the city has witnessed a building boom with farmlands within the city limits getting converted into urban building developments with the old core area getting encircled by high-rising buildings of business houses, wide boulevards and upscale residential suburbs. However, in January 1951, the tide turned in favor of monarchy of Shahs, when the Ranas were forced to surrender all executive powers: financial management, appointment of government officials, and command of the armed forces to the Monarchy. Mohan Shamsher capitulated and King Tribhuvan was restored to the throne. Several prime ministers took executive control ending with the king assuming direct rule. On September 9, 1953 the first local elections to a municipal council were held. 50% of the total votes cast went to the candidates nominated by the illegal Communist Party of Nepal. Out of the total 19 seats, 6 were won by communists, 4 by Nepali Congress, 4 by Praja Parisad, 1 by Gorkha Parishad and 4 by independents.


Janak Man Singh was the chairman of the council amongst the elected communists. However, his term became short after a jurisdictional dispute emerged between the municipal council and the national government, and a no-confidence vote removed Singh from his office and the national government from entering the municipal council office. He was also arrested when attempting to enter the office and was sent to jail.


After King Tribhuvan died in 1955, Mahendra resumed the power. It was during this period that Nepal joined the United Nations, National Police Force was formed. In this period many events occurred such as the signing of border treaty with China, the USSR opening an embassy at Kathmandu and the United States opening an embassy at Kathmandu in 1959. A new constitution was also promulgated in 1959, overruling constitution of 1951. With the Nepali Congress winning absolute majority, the first general elections were also held in 1956. The Tribhuvan University was also founded in this year. King Mahendra abolished the multiparty democracy and brought in the Panchayat Raj into force, in December 1960. King Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev adopted a new constitution in 1962, the third since 1951, and established he centrally controlled partyless council system of governance called panchayat. This system served as the institutional basis of the king’s rule. Although it functioned only at the king’s order, the palace claimed it a democratic administration. It was then established at the village, district, and national levels. The absolute powers of the monarchy remained solid, even with successive changes in executive wing of government in Kathmandu and constitutional revisions. The Land Reorganization Act and Mulki Ain, new legal code, were also promulgated.


King Mahendra was succeeded by his son King Birendra, after his death in 1972. King Birendra was crowned in 1973. The first general elections to Parliament were held on May 12, 1991, under the new constitution, following restoration of multi-party democracy. G.P. Koirala became the prime minister after Nepali Congress won a narrow majority. The leader of CPN-UML, Madan Bhandari defeated the president of Nepali Congress and interim prime minister, K.P. Bhattarai in the polls. Nepali Congress won a majority of the seats in the Local elections held in 1992. In 1993, a mysterious car crash killed Madan Bhandari which resulted in violent demonstrations by communists to overthrow Koirala’s government. It was during this year when hundreds were killed due to a devastating flood.


Kathmandu has gone through a turbulent history and political instability, marred by outbreaks of violence and protest, which have often caused a massive damage to building and cause many people to lose their lives. A dreadful royal massacre occurred on June 1, 2001, at the Tribhuvan Sadan in the Naryanhiti Royal Palace, when the crown prince Dipendra apparently gunned down his immediate family consisting of his father King Birendra, his mother Queen Aishwarya, his younger brother Prince Nirajan, his sister Princess Shruti and five other close relatives at the Narayanhiti Royal Palace. He turned the gun on himself and died two days after the massacre. Following this tragedy King Birendra’s brother, Gyanendra was then appointed the King of Nepal.

The city is positioned in the northwestern part of Kathmandu Valley. It covers an area of 50.67square kilometers. The average elevation is 1,350 meters above the sea level. To its south is the Lalitpur sub-metropolitan city, Kritipur municipality in south-west, Madyapur Thimi municipality in east and different Village Development Committees of Kathmandu in north, west and north-east.


Bagmati, Bishnumati, Dhobikhola, Manohara, Hanumant and Tukucha are the major rivers among the eight rivers that flow through the city. The mountains from where these rivers originate are in the elevation range of 1,500-3,000 meters and have passes, which provide access to and from Kathmandu and its valley. It fall s in the central development region and is the headquarters of the region.


Bagdwaar, is the main source from where the river Bagmati originates, in the northern hills of Kathmandu valley about fifteen kilometers northeast of Kathmandu, where three steams come together. The natural vegetation is dictated by the climatic conditions and accordingly five vegetation zones have been defined for Nepal, out of which Kathmandu and its valley fall under the Deciduous Monsoon Forest Zone. The dominant tree species under this zone comprises oak, elm, beech, maple and so forth with coniferous trees at higher elevation.

In view of several geographical factors the climatic conditions vary to a large extent. There are five major climatic regions which have been deciphered in Nepal, out of which Kathmandu falls under the Warm Temperate Zone, the climate is fairly pleasant, uncommon of the region. This zone is followed by the Cool Temperate Zone with elevation varying between 2,100 meters and 3,300 meters. Under Koppen’s climate classification, portions of the city with lower elevations features a mild form of a humid subtropical climate while portions of the city with higher elevations generally feature a subtropical highland climate. In the Kathmandu valley, which is representative of its valley’s climate the average temperature during the summer season varies from 28-30°C. During the winter season the average temperature is 10.1°C. The city generally experiences warm days followed by cool mornings and nights. During winters, temperatures have dropped to 3°. The rainfall which is mostly monsoon based, which decreases substantially from eastern Nepal to western Nepal, has been recorded as about 1,400 millimeters for the Kathmandu valley and an average of 1,407 millimeters specifically for the Kathmandu city. On an average humidity is 75%.


Kathmandu faces a serious problem of air pollution. The factors leading to air pollution in the city is due to human generated degradation produced by industry, extensive traffic, congestion of building in the city, frequent burning associated with the temples. Its location in the Kathmandu valley means that it is subject to mountain-valley circulations which may cause air pollution circulating away from the city to return at night, increasing pollution levels in the city in the evenings.

Trade in Kathmandu is an ancient profession that flourished along the trade route between India and Tibet. Lhasa was an important trading place for trading caravans of merchants, the other trades in which people have been involved since ancient times are farming, metal casting, woodcarving, painting, waving and pottery are the other traditional occupations. Kathmandu plays an important role to help the economy of the country, as most of the important industrial and commercial centre of Nepal and the headquarters of most companies, banks and organizations in the country are located here. New Road, the Durbar Square, Ason and Putalisadak are the Major economic hubs in Kathmandu. The city has an economic output worth more than NRS 170 billion per year. Kathmandu has a major role in the export of handicrafts, artworks, garments, carpets, pashmina, paper etc. and trade accounts for 21% of its finances. Manufacturing comes next in importance and accounts for 19% of the revenue that Kathmandu generates with generates with garments and woolen carpets being the most notable manufacturers.


USA, Germany, Japan, the UK and Canada are the top five countries importing Nepali handicrafts. But recently the exports of these products have decreased by 8.1%. Agriculture, education, transport, hotels and restaurants are the other sectors in Kathmandu which helps improve the economy. The poverty line is US $ 400 per capita income.

Tourism is the other important sector which generates the highest income to the country, it is also sometimes referred to as the “third religion” of Nepal. Nepal was open as a tourist destination for outsiders in the 1950s. Establishment of air services and the opening of the Tribhuvan Highway between Kathmandu and Raxaul at the border with India in 1956 were started. The Tourism Development Board, Department of Tourism and Civil Aviation Department, was started in Kathmandu to promote tourism. Nepal also became the member of several international tourists associations. Building diplomatic relations with other nations was the other important factor to promote tourism. In Nepal and in Kathmandu, the hotel industry, travel agencies, training of tourist guides and targeted publicity campaigns are the chief reasons which contribute to the remarkable growth of this industry.


Tourism is a major source of income for most of the people of the city with some several thousands of visitors annually. There are various religious places within and around the city. A large number of Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims from all over the world visit these religious places like: Pashupatinath temple, Swayambhunath stupa, Boudhanath stupa, Budhanilkantha temple etc. However, the number of tourists visiting Nepal has declined recently, with political instability in the county. But with the country turning into a Democratic Republic, the visitor’s ratio has shown a rising trend. The Himalayas and the rich cultural heritage of the country, attributes to the growing tourism.


Thamel a major tourist hub in Kathmandu is packed with guest houses, restaurants, shops and bookstores catering to the tourists needs. Another alternative to Thamel is the Freak Street, also known as Jochhen Tole. This was the original traveler’s haunt made popular by the hippies of the 1970s.

The hotel industry got a boost after the change over the political scenario of Nepal in 1950. Currently there are several five star hotels, four star hotels, three star hotels and many budget hotels all over the city. Hotels like the Hyatt and the Solti are also famous for the casinos, as well as to entertain their customers and make huge profits on this account.


Arts: “A massive treasure house of art and sculpture” is how Kathmandu is described. These treasures are made of wood, stone, metal and terracotta, and found in abundance in various temples, shrines, stupas, gompas, chaityas and palaces. We can also see these objects in street corners, lanes, private courtyards and in open ground; mostly in the form of icons of gods and goddesses.


Iconic symbols of the Mother Goddesses such as: the Bhairav, Durga, Gaja-Lakshmi, Hariti-Sitala, Mahsishamardini, Spatamatrika and Sri-Laxmi are the religious art of Nepal and Kathmandu in particular. Buddhist monuments from the Ashokan period have also embellished, apart from the Hindu Gods and Goddesses in general in Nepal. These are and architectural edifices include three major periods of evolution namely, the Licchavi or classical period with motivation from the Gupta period in India; the post-classical period with strong influence or the Palla art form that extended to Tibet as well; and of the Malla period that exhibited explicitly tantric influences coupled with the demonic art form of Tibetan demonology. Stone Art: Heaps of stones were worshipped, at the dawn of civilization, which can still be seen at several places in Nepal. Under the influence of the Mathura Art of India; the first real stone carvings were started. Some of these carvings are still seen in the Pashupatinath temple complex. Nepal Art evolved under the Ikshvaku, Gupta, Pala and Deccan Schools of Art form in the mid of 5th century AD. But the Nepalese sculptors improved on these forms which provide a distinctive style of Nepal.

Metal Art: Under both Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions, metal images made of ashtadhatu are common in Nepal and India. During the Licchavi period bronze in soldi form was widely used for casting metallic sculptures; mostly between the seventh and eight centuries. Pala influence evolved into a distinct form during the medieval period. Durbar Squares of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur are the best places to see these images in the form of large royal figures fixed on top of pillars. Smaller and hollow cast bronze statues were made as icons for worship. While making Tibetan idols for worship, a hole was left in the bronze statues for filling with mantras written on paper or filling with offering of grains, precious stones or miniature icons. These holes are later sealed with copper by a Lama, before formal blessing of the image.

Wood Art: A perfected Newari art form generally carved very artistically out of Shorea, agarth, cedrus and dalbegia, it is the traditional architecture in Kathmandu Valley. These wood arts can be seen in different places of Kathmandu like the temples, palaces, monasteries, and houses. This art form was patronized from the 12th century onwards by the Malla Kings. The only factor affecting the life span of this art is by mild climate, lynches, mosses, insects, borers, dry rots and biochemical defects. Many of the wooden monuments were destroyed in the 14th century earthquake.

Terra Cotta: This art form has been traced back to the 300 BC in Nepal. It was perfected between the 16th and 18th centuries. Archeological findings have unearthed hand-pressed moulds at Dhum Varahi at the bounds of Kathmandu, which are preserved in the museums in Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur. The fine examples of terra cotta art are Mahabuddha and Mayadevi temples in Patan, the gateway of the Taleju temple in Hanumandhoka complex, and the male and female figures decorated in bands around temples, called Nagabands. Clay is the basic ingredient of this art form.


Paintings: There are basically two kinds of paintings the religious and the non-religious. The religious category is further subdivided into three forms of painted manuscripts, Thankas or Paubhas and Pattas or metal strips.


There are a number of museums and art galleries in and around Kathmandu city, Patan and Bhaktapur, including the National Museum and the Natural History Museum of Nepal. Nepal’s art and architecture is a dazzling display from medieval to the present, which is a heady combination of two of the ancient and greatest religions of the world – Hinduism and Buddhism. There are various Museums and Art Galleries like: the National Museum, the Natural History Museum, Hanumandhoka Palace Complex, the Tribhuvan Museum, the Mahendra Museum, the Birendra Museum, National Library, the Kaiser Library, the Asa Archives, the Patan Museum, the National Art Gallery, the Pujarimath Museum, the Bronze and Brass Museum, the NAFA Gallery, the Srijana Contemporary Art Gallery, the J Art Gallery, the NEF-ART Gallery, the Moti Azima Gallery, and the Nepal Art Council Gallery.

National Museum: In the historical building which was constructed in the early 19th century by General Bhimsen Thapa lies the National Museum, it is located in the western part of Kathmandu near the Swayambhunath stupa. Housing an extensive collection of weapons, including locally made firearms used in various wars and leather cannons from the 18th – 19th century and medieval and modern works in wood, bronze, stone and paintings and also art and antiquities of historic and cultural significance, it is the most important museum in the country. The museum was established in 1928 as a collection house of war trophies and weapons, and the initial name of this museum was Chhauni Silkhana, which literally means “the stone house of arms and ammunition”.

Natural History Museum: Situated in the southern foothills of Swayambhunath hill the Natural History Museum contains an ample collection of different species of animals, butterflies and plants. For the display of diverse life species from prehistoric shells to the stuffed animals, birds, crocodiles and many others, this museum is famous.


Tribhuvan Museum: This is a museum dedicated to the king Tribhuvan as the name suggests, it displays a variety of objects including his personal belongings, letters and papers and memorabilia related to events he was involved in and a rare collection of photos and paintings of the Royal family members. It is located in the Hanmuan Dhoka palace.


National Bronze Art Museum: Some of the finest collection pieces of bronze created by Valley artisans can see seen at this museum, and the number of items is about 900. The art-work ranges from Malla to the later period, with a good representation of both Hindu and Buddhist religions. The oldest work of art here is believed to be from the 11th century AD.


National Art Gallery: In the palace of 55 windows is the National Art Gallery. It is said that this palace was the first to bring glass into use, much desired by the ancient rulers. In this palace you can see beautiful paintings of erotic motifs, paubhas and animals.

Hanuman Dhoka Palace: This museum is also located in Basantaur Durbar Square, and it contains three separate museums of historic importance, including the Birendra museum. The Birendra museum is dedicated entirely to the king Birendra, where his belongings and other items like the royal dress worn during various state and historic occasions, medals and honorary titles received from other head of states and many other interesting items are on display.

Kathmandu you can say is the core place for art in Nepal; here you can see the work of contemporary artists in the country and also collections of historic artists in display. For the fine arts and crafts Patan an ancient city is well-known. Derived from a great number of national, Asian and global influences, art in Kathmandu is vibrant, demonstrating a fusion of traditionalism and modern art. The idealistic traditional painting known as “Paubhas” in Nepal and most commonly known as Thangkas in Tibetan, which are usually highly colorful and bold and closely linked to the country’s religious history and the contemporary western style painting, including nature based compositions or abstract artwork based on Tantric elements and social themes of which painters are well known for are the two commonly divided areas of art. Internationally, the British based charity, the Kathmandu Contemporary Art Centre is involved with protecting arts in Kathmandu.


There are various remarkable art galleries in and around the Kathmandu city. Operated by the Arts and crafts Department of the Royal Nepal Academy is housed in Sita Bhawan, is the NAFA Gallery. The Sita Bhavan, a neo-classical old Rana palace, is divided into two galleries, the permanent Birendra Art Galery which displays works of successful contemporary painters and sculptors, and a temporary gallery featuring artwork of upcoming Nepalese artists of the country.


The work of contemporary painters and sculptors, both solo and group shows, are regularly organized and exhibited at the Srijana Contemporary Art Gallery, located inside the Bhrikutimandap Exhibition grounds. Classes in the various schools of art is also run in the morning and evening. Another art gallery to be noted is the Moti Azma, which is located in a three storied building in Bhimsenthan. It houses an impressive collection of traditional utensils and handmade dolls and items typically of a medieval Newar house, giving an important sight into Nepalese history. The J Art Gallery is also located in Kathmandu, near the Royal Palace in Durbarmarg, Kathmandu and displays the artwork of eminent, established Nepalese painters and the Nepal Art Council Gallery, which is located in the Babar Mahal, on the way to Tribhuvan International Airport which contains artwork of both national and international artists and contains extensive halls regularly used for art exhibitions.

In Patan, lies the National Library of Nepal, it is the largest library in the country with excess of more than 70,000 books, mostly in English, but also with many in Nepali, Sanskrit, Hindi and Newari. The library possesses a collection of rare scholarly books in Sanskrit and English, which dates back to the 17th century AD. The other Libraries in the city are Kaiser Librar, located in the Ministry of Education building Kaiser Mahal. This library has a collection of around 45,000 books, which were the personal collection of the Field Marshal Kaiser Shumsher Rana. Books regarding history, law, art, religion, philosophy etc. and a Sanskrit manual of Tantra believed to be over 1000 years old can be found here. The Asa Archives is also one of the major places and it specializes in medieval history and religious traditions of the Kathmandu Valley. This place is located in Kulumbbhula, and it has a valuable collection of some 6,000 loose-leaf handwritten books and 1000 palm-leaf manuscripts, mostly in Sanskrit or Nepal Bhasa and a manuscript which dates back to the 1464.

Kathmandu is said to be the home for the Nepalese theatre, it has a number of theatres of note including the National Dance Theater in Kantipath, the Ganga Theatre, the Himalayan Theatre and the Aarohan Theatre Group, which was founded in 1980 and the M. Art Theatre. Attracting artists from all over the world, the Gurukul School of Theater organizes the Kathmandu International Theatre Festival. Established by the Durbar Conservation and Promotion Committee, a mini theatre is also located at the Hanumandhoka Durbar Square. Kathmandu is also the centre of production for the Nepalese Film Industry. There are a number of cinemas showing Nepali, Indian and Western movies including the Biswajyoti Cinema Hall, Ranjana Cinema Hall, Kumari Cinema Hall, Jai Nepal Cinema Hall, Tara Cinema Hall, Gopi Krishna Cinema Hall and the Kalanki Cinema Hall.

Kathmandu also is the centre for music and dance in Nepal. Throughout the year various musical performances are organized in the cultural venues of the city. The Asian Himalayan Music School is one of the most prestigious musical training schools. Bhanchha Ghar in Kamaladi, Bhojan Griha in Dillibazar and the Nepali Chulo in Durbar Marg are some of the places where traditional Nepali music and performance can be seen and heard. The city also attracts monks from Tibet and across the Himalayan region who in coordination with their rituals will perform music at their monasteries.

Jazzmandu is another musical festival which makes Kathmandu internationally renowned. This is the only jazz festival in the entire Himalayan region which was established in March 2002. This festivals helps in attracting musicians from countries across the world such as Australia, Denmark, United States, Benin and India.


The Nepali food specially consists of Dal-bhat-tarkari which is a typical Nepalese meal. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), and served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients). The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.

A large number of restaurants in Kathmandu care catering in Nepalese cuisine, Tibetan cuisine and Indian cuisine in particular and many others to accommodate both for the Nepalese and the tourists from all over the world. Momo is one of the most popular foods in Kathmandu, it actually originated from Tibet, and there are a lot of street vendors selling momo’s. Tea is the national drink of Nepal, and is widely served in Kathmandu. The national Gorkha beer brand and other international brands like the Sanmiguel, Carlsberg, Tuborg and Coca Cola etc. can also be found in restaurants, cafes and shops of Kathmandu. The well-liked Himalayan drinks of Chhaang and Tongba, typically made from fermented millet or barley, and rakshi, a modern type of Newari wine can also be widely found in Kathmandu. Fresh vegetables and fruit are widely sold in Kathmandu, along with western convenience foods and potato chips and candies which are available at almost every shop round the corner.

The Malla period has a lot to do in the origin of the fairs and festivals that are observed in Kathmandu. Subsequent to the Gorkha conquest in 1768-69, this was further given an urban cultural touch, not limiting it to the Newari festivities. The culture of Parbatiyas and the new migrant communities were also cordially merged. The festivals such as the Ghode Jatra, Indra Jatra, Dashain or Durga Puja, Shivratri and many more are observed by all Hindu and Buddhist communities of Kathmandu with great devotion. Social regulation in the codes enacted built-in the Hindu religious traditions and ethics. As devotees of Hindus and protectors of Buddhist religion, the Shah Kings followed these traditions and ethics followed by previous kings. Though Christian Missionaries did try to spread the message of Christ, Christian proselytizing was not allowed by the Shahs in the Himalayan Kingdom.


From ancient to modern period – in the exclusive worship of goddesses and deities such as the Ajima, Taleju, Degutaleju, Kumari and so forth in Kathmandu and the rest of the country, cultural continuity has been maintained for centuries. The artistic edifices have now become places of worship in everyday life of the people and thus a roaster is maintained to observe the annual festivals, which is intimately linked with the daily life of the people. 133 festivals are held in a year in Kathmandu.


Some of the traditional festivals observed in Kathmandu now are: Bada Dashain, Tihar, Maghe Sankranti, Naga Panchami, Janai Poornima, Teej, Indra Jatra, Ghanta Karna, Buddha Jayanti, Sri Panchami, Maha Shivaratri, Phagu Poornima, Ghode Jatra, Chaite Dashain, Nava Varsha, Seto Machindranath and Matatirtha Aunsi, apart from those mentioned earlier.


The two most important religions in Kathmandu and the rest of Nepal are Hinduism and Buddhism, although there are minorities of Kirats, Sikhs, Jains, Muslims, Baha’ais and Christians.


Hinduism: Some temples of in the city are of national importance to Hindus, and most of the temples in Kathmandu and the surrounding districts are centuries old. The Pashupatinath Temple, Changu Narayan Temple and the Kasthamandap are of particular importance. Bajrayogini Temple, Dakshinkali Temple, Guhyeshwari Temple and the Sobha Bhagwati Shrine are the other famous Hindu temples in Kathmandu and the surrounding valley.


Many Hindu temples are located on the banks of the river Bagmati, it flows through Kathmandu and is considered a holy river both by Hindus and Buddhists. The importance of the Bagmati also lies in the fact that Hindus are cremated on the banks of this holy river, and Kirants are buried in the hills by its side. According to the Hindu tradition, the dead body must be dipped three times into the Bagmati River before cremation. As the Bagmati River is believed to purify the people spiritually the chief mourner who is to light the funeral pyre takes a holy river-water bath immediately after cremation. The other relatives who join in the funeral procession also take bath in the Bagmati River or sprinkle the holy water on their bodies at the end of cremation.


Buddhism: Kathmandu is the only place where Buddhism is still practiced in Sanskrit. For centuries Kathmandu and its historic stupas have been of major importance to Newar Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism, and it also helps attract thousands of pilgrims annually. A significant role was played by Princess Bhrikuti and Araniko of Kathmandu Valley in spreading Buddhism in Tibet. Besides, the clan of Shakyamuni Buddha is believed to have settled in Kathmandu Valley. So, the valley imposes a large role for Buddhist pilgrims. There are now over 50 Buddhist monasteries in the area, and since the 1960s, the permanent Tibetan Buddhist population of Kathmandu has risen significantly.


Some of the major Tibetan monasteries are: The International Buddhist Academy, Kopan Monastery, Amitabha Monastery and Tharlam Monastery. The International Buddhist Academy provides an academy for non-monastic Buddhist study and teaches the key Classic Indian Buddhist treatises studied by all Mahayana and Tibetan traditions. Kopan Monastery is located near the Boudhanath on the outskirts and belongs to the Foundation for the Preservation of the Mahayana Tradition, an international network of Gelugpa Dharma Centers. Kopan has become especially noted for teaching Buddhism to visiting Westernforeigners. These courses generally combine traditional Lam Rim teachings with informal discussion, several periods of guided meditation, and a vegetarian diet. Today the monastery houses about 360 monks.


Kirant Mundhum: Kirant Mundhum is one of the indigenous animistic practices of Nepal, and it is practiced by the Kirat people. Some animistic aspects of Kirant beliefs, such as ancestor worship is also found in Newars of Kirant origin. Ancient religious sites believed to be worshipped by ancient Kirats, such as Pashupatinath Temple, Wanga Akash Bhairabh, Ajima are now worshipped by people of all Dharmic religions in Kathmandu. Kirats who have migrated from other parts of Nepal to Kathmandu practice Mundhum in various parts of city.


Sikhism: The Gurudwara at Kupundole is the primary place for practicing Sikhism in Kathmandu. An earlier temple of Sikhism is also present in Kathmandu when went non-operational.


Jainism: A small Jain community of Kathmandu practices Jainism. A Jain temple is present in Gyaneshwor, where they practice their faith.


Bahai: There are approximately 300 Baha’is in Kathmandu valley, according to the records of the Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Nepal. They have anational office located in Shantinagar, Baneshwor. The Baha’is also has classes for children at the National Centre and other localities in Kathmandu.


Islam: Although there is a minority of Muslims in Kathmandu, Islam is practiced. About 4.2% of the populations of Nepal are Muslims.


Christianity: Proselytizing is forbidden, even though Nepal’s constitution provides freedom of religion. In this context, the Christian population is a minority but is growing slowly. Even though efforts were made in the 19th century to bring Christianity to Nepal, Christian churches have been established only after 1950, after multiparty democracy was instituted. The Bible was translated to Nepali language in 1914. There are about 170 Christian churches in Kathmandu. Christian missionary hospitals, welfare organizations, and schools are also operating in the city. On return to Nepal, Nepali citizens who served as soldiers in Indian and British armies, continue to practice Christianity.


Local: Kathmandu metropolitan is divided into five sectors, which is further divided into 35 administrative wards. The five sectors namely are Central Sector, the East Sector, the North Sector, the City Core and the West Sector. Through its 177 elected representatives and 20 nominated members, the council administers the Metropolitan area of Kathmandu city. Biannual meetings are held to review, process, approve the annual budget and make major policy decisions. Kathmandu is also the metropolitan city for the surrounding Kathmandu District. The city of Kathmandu forms this district with some 57 Village Development Committees.


National: The Parliament of Nepal had a two chamber parliament, during the time when the 1990 constitution was in effect. This included the House of Representatives which had 205 members elected for five year term in a single-seat constituencies and the House of the State which had 60 members, 35 members elected by the Pratinidhi Sabha, 15 representatives of Regional Development Areas and 10 appointed members. The parliament has had a chaotic history due to ongoing political unrest, since 2002, which was dissolved by King Gyanendra, on the basis that it was unable of handling the Maoist rebels, but in April 2006, in response to major pro-democratic protests, it was announced that Parliament would be reestablished. The old parliament however was dissolved and replaced by the 330-member interim legislature of Nepal, on January 15 2007.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC: Nepal became a Republic on May 2008 after 10 long years of Maoists rebel activities. Under public pressure, monarchy in the modern history of Nepal ended in April 2009 when King Gyanendra had to end his rule. The revolution had resulted in the death of more than 10,000 people and displacement of 100,000 people. On April 2006, after holding discussions with the Maoist rebels, the parliament decided to the condition of holding general elections to the parliament.


Police: Police Force in Kathmandu was established in 1864, but enforcement was loosely based, the first police head quarters were established in Kathmandu. Under the administration of the Nepali Police Force, Kathmandu Police is the law enforcing body in the city. Under the royal insistence the police force was developed and India was the advice seeker for the Nepalese government. Toran Shamsher J.B. Rana was the first Inspector General of Police in Nepal and the Police Act was passed in 1956.


The different departments of Nepal Police are intelligence division, motor transport and radio sections; counter intelligence branch, criminal investigation branch, the human resource department, the community department and narcotics department. It also operates missing person’s squad and offers services for the protection of women and children. Today you can see a number of police stations in each part of the city. Police uniform is light blue with a policeman cap and it is common to see them wear a face mask, for protection from the pollution.

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