32 Interesting Facts About Nepal, The Root Between Two Stones

A temple in Nepal with eyes painted on the side

In this post, we look at some interesting facts about Nepal. Let’s get started.

Flanked by the mighty Himalayas, Nepal emerges as a captivating tapestry of natural grandeur, cultural diversity, and spiritual significance.

Nepal is often referred to as the “Roof of the World” for its high mountains. This enchanting nation beckons travelers with its awe-inspiring landscapes, towering peaks, serene valleys, and ancient temples.

General Facts

1. Nepal is sandwiched between China to the north and India to the south, east, and west. This is why it is sometimes called the “Root between two stones”. The country boasts a diverse landscape that includes the towering Himalayan mountain range, hills, and valleys.

2. Nepal is one of only three Hindu-majority countries in the world (the other two are India and Mauritius) and the only Hindu kingdom in the world. Over 80% of the population practice Hinduism, but Buddhist beliefs are also common. It is home to various ethnic groups, contributing to a rich collection of traditions, festivals, and customs.

Some colorful prayer flags flying from a pole with snow covered mountains in the background
Buddhist prayer flags in the Nepalese Himalayas

3. Nepali is the official language of Nepal. Almost 12 million people in Nepal speak Nepali. Meanwhile, 3 million people speak Maithili and 1.5 million speak Bhojpuri. More than 120 languages are spoken in Nepal.

4. Nepal is home to some of the most rugged and challenging mountain terrains in the world. Approximately 75% of the nation is covered with mountains. A lot of the Nepalese people live in lower valleys and plains, but the majority of the population lives in rural areas.

5. Nepal is one of the oldest civilizations in the world, with evidence suggesting Neolithic humans moved into the region at least 9,000 years ago. The first recorded tribes in the country were the Kirat people. It is believed they arrived in Nepal 4,000 to 4,500 years ago.

6. Nepal is famous for its iconic mountain range – The Himalayas. The most famous mountain across the range is Mt. Everest, which sits on the border between Tibet (China) and Nepal. Mt. Everest is the highest mountain in the world, standing 8,849 meters (29,032 feet) above sea level.

Interesting Facts about Ancient Nepalese History

The side of a traditional Nepalese building with carved window frames
Traditional Nepalese architecture

7. The medieval era in Nepal was dominated by the Malla kingdoms. These petty kingdoms ruled different parts of the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding regions. This period witnessed the construction of numerous temples, palaces, and monuments.

8. Nepal is the birthplace of the Buddha. As a result, the country is primarily peaceful and locals live in harmony. It is said the Lord Buddha was born in Nepal in 623 BC.

9. The capital of Nepal was once underwater. Both in geological studies and mythology, it is confirmed that Kathmandu was a lake. The Nepalese people believe the lake was drained by Tibetan Saint Manjushri, to allow the local people to develop a civilization.

10. For thousands of years, the Gurung people of central Nepal have had a tradition of harvesting honey from cliffs in the foothills of the Himalayas. They use minimal protective gear, ropes, ladders, and bamboo baskets to harvest the honey. 

11. Since 1757 AD, Nepal has been home to the Kumari, a living goddess. The Kumari is a young prepubescent girl selected from the Newar community in Kathmandu Valley. She is believed to be the earthly embodiment of the goddess Taleju. As a side note, when I traveled to Nepal years ago, I met her briefly during a traditional street parade!

12. In the 12th century, the Himalayan people started to follow a unique burial tradition called Sky Burial. In this tradition, a funeral is held before the dead body is left in a specific Sky Burial site. The body is then eaten by scavenger animals and birds.

Fun Facts about Nepalese Culture

The Nepalese flag flying on a flagpole, shaped like two red triangles, with blue border and white designs
The unique shape of the Nepalese flag

13. Independence Day has never been celebrated in Nepal. This is because the country has never been occupied by another nation. Therefore, locals have never had to free themselves from occupation.

14. The national flag of Nepal is the only triangular flag in the world. The national flag was created in 1928 and consists of two red pennons connected by a blue border. The only other countries that have unusually shaped flags are Switzerland and Vatican City (both square).

15. The cow is revered in Nepal. This sacred animal’s body represents 330 million Hindu gods and goddesses. Killing a cow in Nepal, even accidentally, is punishable by up to 12 years in jail.

16. Arranged marriages are a tradition in Nepal. Citizens are quite strict about this tradition so you’re unlikely to hear too many love stories. 

17. A small Monastery found in northeast Nepal claims to house a 300-year-old abominable snowman (yeti) scalp. The scalp has never passed inspections but that doesn’t stop the local people from believing the legend.

A Nepalese Sherpa man carrying some luggage, wearing sun goggles, with Mt. Everest in background
A Sherpa porter in front of Mt. Everest

18. In some communities, particularly the Newar people, it’s customary for women to pierce their noses at a young age. A distinctive nose ring, known as a “phuli,” is worn as a symbol of marital status.

19. Of all the places in Nepal that people consider sacred, Mt. Everest is one of the most important. The Nepalese people refer to the mountain as “Goddess Mother of the Earth.” The Everest Sherpas call Mt. Everest Chomolungma and refer to the mountain as the “Mother of the World.”

20. The Sherpa people in the Himalayas are the only group of people who can climb Mt. Everest without oxygen. Living in the Himalayas with thin air for generations increased hemoglobin production, making them better adapted to extreme heights.

21. The oldest Buddhist shrine in the world was found in Nepal. The wooden structure was found in the Mayadevi temple in Lumbini and is believed to date back to the 6th century BC. 

Unusual Facts About Modern Nepal

A Nepalese palace that looks severely damaged
Damage to the Royal Palace from the 2015 Earthquake

22. Modern Nepal was founded towards the end of the 18th century. Originally called the Gorkha kingdom, ruler Prithvi Narayan Shah, formed a unified country. The name Nepal is believed to come from the Tibetan language. Ne means home and Pal means wool. 

23. Nepal is the 21st most populated country in Asia, with a population of 30.9 million. That means Nepal has a bigger population than the likes of Kazakhstan, Jordan, and Israel. Among the countries of the world, it sits in the 50th spot, between Ivory Coast and Venezuela.

24. In 2001, Nepal experienced a tragic royal massacre. Nine royals, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, were killed. The incident was shrouded in mystery but it is believed Crown Prince Dipendra was the man responsible.

25. Nepal is situated in a seismically active region, making it prone to earthquakes. The devastating earthquake in 2015 caused significant damage to infrastructure, heritage sites, and communities, killing almost 9,000 people.

26. Marine fossils have been found at the top of Mount Everest. This reveals that the peak was once part of an ancient seafloor (55 million years ago). 

Some traffic on a busy street in Nepal with lots of electrical wires overhead
A typical street in modern-day Nepal

27. In 2019, Kathmandu was named the best city in South Asia to visit. It was also ranked as the 5th best place in the world to visit. The only cities that ranked higher than Nepal’s capital were Miami (Florida), Novi Sad (Serbia), Shenzhen (China), and Copenhagen (Denmark).

28. Kathmandu lacks formal public landfills. Instead, waste is managed through a combination of informal recycling and disposal in the Bagmati River.

29. Despite being a bustling city, Kathmandu lacks traffic lights at most intersections. Traffic is managed through a combination of honking, hand signals, and an unwritten system of give-and-take.

30. Nepal hosts the annual World Elephant Polo Championship in the town of Meghauli. Teams from around the world compete in this unusual and eccentric sport, which involves playing polo while riding on elephants.

31. Nepal has a unique festival called “Kukur Tihar” or “Day of the Dog.” During this festival, dogs are honored, adorned with flower garlands, and offered special treats as a way of showing gratitude and appreciation for their loyalty and friendship.

32. Nepal has a thriving heavy metal scene. The rock scene in Nepal began in the 60s and 70s when hippies discovered the iconic “Freak Street.” It is believed by many that Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ was inspired by the streets of Nepal.

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