Culture of Nepal

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Senior offering Dashain Tika on great Nepali Hindu festival at a traditional home.

The culture of Nepal is intertwined with the culture of the border Indian subcontinent and Tibet. The cultural heritage of Nepal has evolved over the centuries. This multi-dimensional heritage bounds the diversities of Nepal's ethnic, tribal, and social groups, and it expresses in music and dance; art and craft; folklore and folktales; languages and literature; philosophy and religion; festivals and celebration; foods and drinks. Its culture is enormously diversed and mostly influenced by Indian culture and Tibetan culture.

Dance and music[edit]

Women in cultural costume at Ubhauli Kirati festival 2017 at Gough Whitlam Park, Earlwood
Nepali traditional Pahadi dress used for dance

Legends state that dances in this country originated in the abode of Lord Shiva — the Himalayas, where he performed the tandava dance.[1] This indicates that dance traditions of Nepal are very ancient and unique. With altitudes and ethnicity, the dances of Nepal slightly change in style as well as in the costumes. The Dishka, a dance performed at weddings, includes intricate footwork and arm movements.[2] Accompanying music and musical instruments change in tune with the themes, which revolve around topics like harvesting of crops, marriage rites, war stories, a lonely girl’s yearning for her love, and several other themes and stories from everyday life in the villages. The famous Tharu stick dances, and the crazy peacock dance are two highlights, but there are plenty of other surprises. Expect to be invited to join in the dancing, as the evening reaches its climax.[3]


As per the 2011 census, 123 languages are spoken in Nepal. Nepal's linguistic heritage has evolved from three major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, and indigenous. The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) are Nepali (44.6%), Maithili (11.7%), Bhojpuri(6%), Tharu (5.8%), Tamang (5.1%), Nepal Bhasa (3.2%), Magar (3%) and Bajjika (3%) Kirat-Sunuwar, Limbu, Rai, Gurung.[4]

Nepali, written in Devanagari script, is the official national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalese ethno-linguistic groups. Extinct languages of Nepal include Kusunda, MaWalinga and Waling

Religions and philosophy of Nepal

Procession of Nepali Hindu Wedding; Groom being carried by a bride brother or relatives
A Buddhist monastery in southern Nepal.

The 2011 census identified 81.6% of the population being Hindu. Buddhism was practiced by about 9% of the population. About 4.2% practice Islam and 3.6% of the population follows the indigenous Kirant religion. Christianity is practiced officially by less than 1.0%.

Hindu and Buddhist traditions in Nepal go back more than two millennia. In Lumbini, Buddha was born, and Pashupatinath temple, Kathmandu, is an old and famous Shiva temple of Hindus. Nepal has several other temples and Buddhist monasteries, as well as places of worship of other religious groups. Traditionally, Nepalese philosophical thoughts are ingrained with the Hindu and Buddhist philosophical ethos and traditions, which include elements of Kashmir Shaivism, Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, works of Karmacharyas of Bhaktapur, and tantric traditions. Tantric traditions are deep rooted in Nepal, including the practice of animal sacrifices. Five types of animals, always male, are considered acceptable for sacrifice: water buffalo, goats, sheep, chickens, and ducks. Cows are very sacred animals and are never considered acceptable for sacrifice.

Festivals and celebrations[edit]

Senior offering Dashain Tika to junior
Costumed Hindu girls of Kathmandu during festival time in Nepal

Several of the festivals of Nepal last from one to several days. As a predominantly Hindu and Buddhist nation, most of the Nepalese festivals are religious ones. The festivals of Nepal have their roots in Hinduism as 82% of the population of the country is Hindu. Buddhism, the second-largest religion of the nation which accounts for 9% of the population, has influenced the cultural festivals of Nepal. Dashain or Dusshera is the longest and the most important festival of Nepal. Generally Dashain falls in late September to mid-October, right after the end of the monsoon season. It is "a day of Victory over Demons". The Newars celebrate the festival as Mohani, Tihar or Diwali, Holi, Saraswati Puja, Rakshabandhan, Bhai Dooj, Janmashtami, Gai Jatra, Nag Panchami, Teej, Chhath, Kartik Poornima, Maghe Sankranti,or Makar Sankranti Maha Shivratri and Chhechu are widely celebrated important festivals of Nepal. New Year's Day of the lunar calendar Nepal Sambat occurs in November. Several Jatras take place throughout the year and public holidays are declared in some regions.

Other important festivals include Buddha Purnima (the celebration of the birth of Buddha)[5] Maha Shivaratri (a festival of Lord Shiva) and during Maha Shivaratri festivities, some people consume excessive drinks and smoke charas.[6] Sherpas, mostly located at higher altitudes and in the Mount Everest region, celebrate Mani Rimdu, for the good of the world.

Most festivals include dancing and music, and a variety of special foods are consumed during festivals and on special occasions.

The Sagan ceremony is the ritualized presentation of five food items (boiled egg, smoked fish, meat, lentil cake and rice wine) to a person which is done to bring good fortune as per Tantric tradition.

Architecture and archeology[edit]

Statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, gilded bronze, Nepal, 16th century CE
A 1905 painting of Nepalese woman

Nepal Sampada Sangha (Nepal Heritage Society) has compiled an inventory of 1,262 significant architectural and archeological sites in Nepal outside Kathmandu Valley.[7]

The government declared Volleyball as the national game of the country. Before it use to be "Dandi Biyo"

A Cabinet meeting held at the Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal’s residence in Baluwatar took the decision. The Ministry of Youth and Sports had put the proposal to declare volleyball as the national game.Nepal Volleyball Association had been demanding that the sport, which is played in all 75 districts of the country, should be the national game.

National Sports Council’s former Member Secretary Yubaraj Lama had initiated the process of deciding the national game, while the current Member Secretary Keshab Kumar Bista had recommended for the national game.[8]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Shanmuganathan, Thilagavathi (2014). "A pragmatic analysis of Lord Shiva's dance". International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2014 (229): 95–115. doi:10.1515/ijsl-2014-0019. ISSN 1613-3668.
  2. ^ Gubhani, Juhee. "Re-Visiting the Question: Are Rājopādhyāyas Newārs of Nepal?" (PDF).[dead link]
  3. ^ McDonnaugh, Christian. "The mythology of the Tharu: aspects of cultural identity in Dang, West Nepal" (PDF).
  4. ^ "Major highlights" (PDF). Central Bureau of Statistics. 2013. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 July 2013. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
  5. ^ "Buddha jayanti". Weallnepali. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  6. ^ "Mahashivaratri". weallnepali. Retrieved 2015-06-01.
  7. ^ Bhandari, Bishnu, ed. (1997). Inventory of heritage sites in Nepal. Kathmandu: IUCN Nepal. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved April 15, 2011.
  8. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Kramrisch, Stella. "The Art of Nepal and Tibet." Philadelphia Museum of Art Bulletin 55.265 (1960): 23-38.
  • Hutt, Michael. Nepal: A guide to the art and architecture of the Kathmandu Valley. Kiscadale Publications, 1994.
  • Pal, Pratapaditya. Art of Nepal: a catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art collection. Univ of California Press, 1985.

External links[edit]