After decades of rivalry between the medieval kingdoms, the Kingdom of Nepal was re-unified in the latter half of the 18th century, when Prithvi Narayan Shah, the ruler of the small principality of Gorkha, formed a unified country from a number of independent hill states. Prithvi Narayan Shah dedicated himself at an early age to the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley and the creation of a single state, which he achieved in 1768.
The country was frequently called the Gorkha Kingdom. Chauhan (1996) claims that it is a misconception that the Gorkhali took their name from the Gorkha region of Nepal and that the region was given its name after the Gorkhali had established their control of these areas. In addition, he says that Gorkhali take their name from the legendary eighth-century Hindu warrior-saint Guru Gorakhnath. A more detailed description of Chauhan's thesis is available under the first three sections in the entry on the Gorkha Kingdom.
The Parbate Brahmins and the ruling dynasty among the Gorkhali people trace their ancestry to the Hindu Rajputs and Brahmins of Northern India who entered modern Nepal from the West following Muslim advances. The actual historical process however by which this migration took place and the history of the Gorkhalis' ultimate conquest of Nepal span a couple of centuries and are drastically different from what Chauhan proposes. More importantly, Chauhan's overall thesis claiming the existence of a Gurkha identity way before the Shahs came to the Nepali hills is not supported by historical evidence available in Nepal. In Nepal the warrior people are not referred to as 'Gurkhas', they are called 'Gorkhalis', meaning the 'inhabitants of Gorkha.' Their famed battle cry is 'Ayo Gorkhali', meaning 'the Gorkhali has come.'
The etymology of the geographical name 'Gorkha' is indeed related to the Hindu mendicant-saint Gorakhnath. In the village of Gorkha is situated a temple dedicated to Gorakhnath as well as another dedicated to Gorakhkali, a corresponding female deity. The Nepali geographical encyclopedia 'Mechi-dekhi Mahakali' ('From Mechi to Mahakali') published in 2031 Bikram Era (1974-75 AD) by the authoritarian Panchayat government to mark the coronation of King Birendra Shah agrees with the association of the name of the place with the saint but does not add any further detail. The facts regarding when the temples were built and the place named after the saint are lost in the sweeping winds of time. We may guess that these developments took place in the early part of the second millennium of the Common Era following the rise of the Nath sect. In fact, the pilgrimage circuit of the sect across the northern Indian sub-continent also spans a major part of present-day Nepal including Kathmandu Valley. The Newars of Medieval Nepal have a couple of important temples and festivals dedicated to the major Nath teachers. Immediately before the rule of Gorkha by the Shahs, Gorkha was inhabited by both Aryan and Mongoloid ethnic groups and ruled by the Khadkas, who were probably of Khas origin. Dravya Shah defeated the Khadkas in 1559 AD and commenced Shah rule over the principality. Prithvi Narayan Shah belonged to the ninth generation of the Shahs in Gorkha. He took the reins of power in 1742 AD.
After the death of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Shah dynasty began to expand their kingdom into what is present day North India. Between 1788 and 1791, Nepal invaded Tibet and robbed Tashilhunpo Monastery of Shigatse. Tibet sought Chinese help and the Qianlong Emperor of the Chinese Qing Dynasty appointed Fuk'anggan commander-in-chief of the Tibetan campaign. Heavy damages were inflicted on both sides and the Chinese army pushed the Gurkhas back to the inner hills close to the Nepali capital. However, a comprehensive defeat of the Gorkhali army could not be achieved. After a series of successful battles, the Chinese army suffered a major setback when they tried to cross a monsoon-flooded Betrawati, close to the Gorkhali palace in Nuwakot. A stalemate ensued, and with their resources low and a looming uncertainty regarding how long they would be able to hold on in addition to the need to continue their expansion drive on the western frontier, the Gorkhalis signed a treaty in Chinese terms that required, among other obligations, Nepal to send tributes to the Chinese emperor every five years.
After 1800, and particularly following the defeat of the Gorkhalis by the British in the war of 1814-16, the heirs of Prithvi Narayan Shah proved incapable of maintaining firm political control over Nepal. A period of internal turmoil followed until Jung Bahadur Rana, a scion of Kunwar nobility, consolidated power following the Kot massacre of 1846.
Rivalry between Nepal and the East India Company—over the princely states bordering Nepal and India—eventually led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1814–16), in which Nepal was defeated. The Treaty of Sugauli was signed in 1816, ceding large parts of the Nepali territories of Terrai and Sikkim, (nearly one third of the country), to the British, in exchange for Nepalese autonomy. As the territories were not restored to Nepal by the British when freedom was granted to the people of British India, these have become a part of the Republic of India, although the people of Sikkim decided in a public referendum in 1975 to merge the kingdom in India and become a state in the Republic of India.
Factionalism among the royal family led to a period of instability after the war. In 1846, Queen Rajendralakshmi plotted to overthrow Jang Bahadur, a fast-rising military leader of Indian Rajput ancestry who was presenting a threat to her power. The plot was uncovered and the queen had several hundred princes and chieftains executed after an armed clash between military personnel and administrators loyal to the queen. This came to be known as the Kot Massacre. However, Bahadur emerged victorious eventually and founded the Rana dynasty; the monarch was made a titular figure, and the post of Prime Minister was made powerful and hereditary, held by a Ranas.
The Rana regime, a tightly centralized autocracy, pursued a policy of isolating Nepal from external influences. This policy helped Nepal maintain its national independence during the British colonial era, but it also impeded the country's economic development and modernisation. The Ranas were staunchly pro-British and assisted the British during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and later in both World Wars.
In December 1923, Britain and Nepal formally signed a "treaty of perpetual peace and friendship" superseding the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 and upgrading the British resident in Kathmandu to an envoy. Slavery was abolished in Nepal in 1924.
Popular dissatisfaction against the family rule of the Ranas had started emerging from among the few educated people, who had studied in various Indian schools and colleges, and also from within the Ranas, many of whom were marginalised within the ruling Rana hierarchy. Many of these Nepalese in exile had actively taken part in the Indian Independence struggle and wanted to liberate Nepal as well from the internal autocratic Rana occupation. The political parties such as The Prajaparishad and Nepali Congress were already formed in exile by leaders such as B.P. Koirala, Ganesh Man Singh, Subarna Sumsher Rana, Krishna Prasad Bhattarai, Girija Prasad Koirala and many other patriotic-minded Nepalis who urged the military and popular political movement in Nepal to overthrow the autocratic Rana Regime. Among the prominent martyrs to die for the cause, executed at the hands of the Ranas, were Dharma Bhakta Mathema, Shukraraj Shastri, Gangalal Shrestha and Dasharath Chand. This turmoil culminated in King Tribhuvan, a direct descendant of Prithvi Narayan Shah, fleeing from his "palace prison" in 1950, to newly independent India, touching off an armed revolt against the Rana administration. This eventually ended in the return of the Shah family to power and the appointment of a non-Rana as prime minister. A period of quasi-constitutional rule followed, during which the monarch, assisted by the leaders of fledgling political parties, governed the country. During the 1950s, efforts were made to frame a constitution for Nepal that would establish a representative form of government, based on a British model.
In early 1959, Tribhuvan's son King Mahendra issued a new constitution, and the first democratic elections for a national assembly were held. The Nepali Congress Party, a moderate socialist group, gained a substantial victory in the election. Its leader, Bishweshwar Prasad Koirala, formed a government and served as prime minister. After years of power wrangling between the kings (Tribhuvan and Mahendra) and the government, Mahendra dissolved the democratic experiment in 1960.
Declaring the contemporary parliament a failure, King Mahendra in 1960 dismissed the Koirala government, declared that a "partyless" panchayat system would govern Nepal, and promulgated another new constitution on 16 December 1962.
Subsequently, the Prime Minister, Members of Parliament and hundreds of democratic activists were arrested. In fact, this trend of arrest of political activists and democratic supporters continued for the entire 30-year period of partyless Panchayati System under King Mahendra and then his son, King Birendra.
The new constitution established a "partyless" system of panchayats (councils) which King Mahendra considered to be a democratic form of government, closer to Nepalese traditions. As a pyramidal structure, progressing from village assemblies to a Rastriya Panchayat (National Parliament), the panchayat system constitutionalised the absolute power of the monarchy and kept the King as head of state with sole authority over all governmental institutions, including the Cabinet (Council of Ministers) and the Parliament. One-state-one-language became the national policy, and all other languages suffered at the cost of the official language, "Nepali", which was the king's language.
King Mahendra was succeeded by his 27-year-old son, King Birendra, in 1972. Amid student demonstrations and anti-regime activities in 1979, King Birendra called for a national referendum to decide on the nature of Nepal's government: either the continuation of the panchayat system with democratic reforms or the establishment of a multiparty system. The referendum was held in May 1980, and the panchayat system won a narrow victory. The king carried out the promised reforms, including selection of the prime minister by the Rastriya Panchayat.
There was resentment against the authoritarian regime and the curbs on the freedom of the political parties. There was widespread feeling of the Palace being non-representative of the masses, especially when the Marich Man Singh government faced political scandals on charges of misappropriation of funds allotted for the victims of the earthquake in August 1991 or when it reshuffled the Cabinet instead of investigating the deaths of the people in a stampede in the national sports complex in a hailstorm. Also the souring of the India-Nepal trade relations affected the popularity of the Singh government.
In April 1987, Nepal had introduced the work permit for Indian workers in three of its districts, and in early 1989, Nepal provided 40% duty concession to Chinese goods and later withdrew duty concessions from Indian goods in such a manner that the Chinese goods became cheaper than the Indian goods. This led to the souring of relations which were already strained over the purchase of Chinese arms by Nepal in 1988. India refused to renew two separate Treaties of Trade and Transit and insisted on a single treaty dealing with the two issues, which was not acceptable to Nepal. A deadlock ensued and the Treaties of Trade and Transit expired on 23 March 1989. The brunt of the closure of the trade and transit points was mainly faced by the lower classes in Nepal due to the restricted supply of consumer goods and petroleum products such as petrol, aviation fuel and kerosene. The industries suffered because of their dependence on India for resources, trade and transit. The Government of Nepal tried to deal with the situation by depending on foreign aid from the US, UK, Australia and China. However, the government's strategy to manage the crisis could not satisfy those people who desired negotiations with India rather than dependence on foreign aid as a solution.
Taking advantage of the uneasiness amongst some people against the government and the strained India-Nepal relations, the Nepali Congress (NC) and the left-wing parties blamed the government for perpetuating the crisis and not taking any serious measures to solve it. In December 1989, the NC tried to utilize B.P. Koirala's anniversary by launching a people's awareness program. The left-wing alliance known as the United Left Front (ULF) extended its support to the NC in its campaign for a party system. On 18–19 January 1990, the NC held a conference in which leaders from various countries and members of the foreign Press were invited. Leaders from India attended the conference; Germany, Japan, Spain, Finland supported the movement; and the Embassies of the USA and West Germany were present on the occasion.6 Inspired by the international support and the democratic movements occurring throughout the world after the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1989, the NC and the ULF launched a mass movement on 18 February to end the Panchayat regime, and the installation of an interim government represented by various parties and people. On 6 April the Marich Man Singh government was dismissed and Lokendra Bahadur Chand became the Prime Minister on the same day. However, the agitating mob was not satisfied with the change of government as they were not against the Singh government per se but against the party-less system. The people became violent and a few people were killed in an encounter with the Army. On 16 April the Chand government was also dismissed and a Royal Proclamation was issued the next day which dissolved the National Panchayat, the Panchayat policy and the evaluation committee and the class organizations. Instead, the proclamation declared "functioning of the political parties" and maintained that "all political parties will always keep the national interest uppermost in organizing themselves according to their political ideology." During this protest a lot of people were killed. after the end of the panchayat rule they were seen as undeclared martyers. One of the undeclared martyr is Ram Chandra Hamal. He was a member of Nepali congress and was killed during his imprisonment.
People in rural areas had expected that their interests would be better represented after the adoption of parliamentary democracy in 1990. The Nepali Congress with support of "Alliance of leftist parties" decided to launch a decisive agitational movement, Jana Andolan, which forced the monarchy to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament. In May 1991, Nepal held its first parliamentary elections in nearly 50 years. The Nepali Congress won 110 of the 205 seats and formed the first elected government in 32 years.
In 1992, in a situation of economic crisis and chaos, with spiralling prices as a result of implementation of changes in policy of the new Congress government, the radical left stepped up their political agitation. A Joint People's Agitation Committee was set up by the various groups. A general strike was called for 6 April.
Violent incidents began to occur on the evening before of the strike. The Joint People's Agitation Committee had called for a 30-minute 'lights out' in the capital, and violence erupted outside Bir Hospital when activists tried to enforce the 'lights out'. At dawn on 6 April, clashes between strike activists and police, outside a police station in Pulchok (Patan), left two activists dead.
Later in the day, a mass rally of the Agitation Committee at Tundikhel in the capital Kathmandu was attacked by police forces. As a result, riots broke out and the Nepal Telecommunications building was set on fire; police opened fire at the crowd, killing several persons. The Human Rights Organisation of Nepal estimated that 14 persons, including several onlookers, had been killed in police firing.
When promised land reforms failed to appear, people in some districts started to organize to enact their own land reform and to gain some power over their lives in the face of usurious landlords. However, this movement was repressed by the Nepali government, in Operation Romeo and Operation Kilo Sera II, which took the lives of many of the leading activists of the struggle. As a result, many witnesses to this repression became radicalised.
In February 1996, one of the Maoist parties started a bid to replace the parliamentary monarchy with a people's new democratic republic, through a Maoist revolutionary strategy known as the people's war, which led to the Nepalese Civil War. Led by Dr. Baburam Bhattarai and Pushpa Kamal Dahal (better known as "Prachanda"), the insurgency began in five districts in Nepal: Rolpa, Rukum, Jajarkot, Gorkha, and Sindhuli. The Maoists declared the existence of a provisional "people's government" at the district level in several locations.
On 1 June 2001, Crown Prince Dipendra allegedly went on a shooting-spree, assassinating 9 members of the royal family, including King Birendra and Queen Aishwarya, before shooting himself. Due to his survival he temporarily became king before dying of his wounds, after which Prince Gyanendra (Birendra's brother) inherited the throne, according to tradition. The massacre shattered the aura of mythology that still surrounded the Royal Family, exposing their far too human intrigues. Meanwhile, the Maoist rebellion escalated, and in October 2001 the king temporarily deposed the government and took complete control of it. A week later he reappointed another government, but the country was still very unstable because of the civil war with the Maoists, the various clamouring political factions, the king's attempts to take more control of the government, and worries about the competence of Gyanendra's son and heir, Prince Paras.
In the face of unstable governments and a Maoist siege on the Kathmandu Valley in August 2004, popular support for the monarchy began to wane. On 1 February 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and took to exercising his executive powers without ministerial advice, declaring a "state of emergency" to quash the Maoist movement. Politicians were placed under house arrest, phone and internet lines were cut, and freedom of the press was severely curtailed.
The king's new régime made little progress in his stated aim of suppressing the insurgents. The European Union described the municipal elections of February 2006 as "a backward step for democracy", as the major parties boycotted the election and the army forced some candidates to run for office. In April 2006 strikes and street protests in Kathmandu forced the king to reinstate the parliament. A seven-party coalition resumed control of the government and stripped the king of most of his powers. As of 15 January 2007 a unicameral legislature under an interim constitution governed Nepal.
The Nepalese Constituent Assembly came to fruition on 24 December 2007 when it was announced that the monarchy would be abolished in 2008 after the Constituent Assembly elections; and on 28 May 2008, Nepal was declared a Federal Democratic Republic.
The Kingdom of Nepal was of roughly trapezoidal shape, 800 kilometres (500 mi) long and 200 kilometres (125 mi) wide, with an area of 147,181 square kilometres (56,827 sq mi). Nepal was commonly divided into three physiographic areas: the Mountain, Hill, and Terai Regions. These ecological belts run east-west and are bisected by Nepal's major river systems. Nepal is roughly the same size as the US state of Arkansas or the country of England.
The Madhesi Plains bordering India are part of the northern rim of the Indo-Gangetic plains. They were formed and are fed by three major rivers: the Kosi, the Narayani (India's Gandak River), and the Karnali. This region has a hot, humid climate.
The Hill Region (Pahad) abuts the mountains and varies from 1,000 to 4,000 metres (3,300–13,125 ft) in altitude. Two low mountain ranges, the Mahabharat Lekh and Shiwalik Range (also called the Churia Range) dominate the region. The hilly belt includes the Kathmandu Valley, the country's most fertile and urbanised area. Unlike the valleys Called Inner Tarai (Bhitri Tarai Uptyaka) elevations above 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) are sparsely populated.
The Mountain Region contains the highest region in the world. The world's highest mountain, Mount Everest (Sagarmatha in Nepali) at 8,850 metres (29,035 ft) is located on the border with China. Eight more of the world's ten highest mountains are located in Nepal: Lhotse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Kanchenjunga, Dhaulagiri, Annapurna and Manaslu. Deforestation is a major problem in all regions, with resulting erosion and degradation of ecosystems.
Nepal has five climatic zones, broadly corresponding to altitude. The tropical and subtropical zones lie below 1,200 metres (3,940 ft), the temperate zone 1,200 to 2,400 metres (3,900–7,875 ft), the cold zone 2,400 to 3,600 metres (7,875–11,800 ft), the subarctic zone 3,600 to 4,400 metres (11,800–14,400 ft), and the Arctic zone above 4,400 metres (14,400 ft). Nepal experiences five seasons: summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and spring. The Himalaya blocks cold winds from Central Asia in winter, and forms the northern limit of the monsoon wind patterns.
Although Nepal shares no boundary with Bangladesh, the two countries are separated by a narrow strip of land about 21 kilometre (13 mi) wide, called the Chicken's Neck. Efforts are underway to make this area a free-trade zone.
Situated in the Great Himalayan Range in Northern part of Nepal, Mount Everest has the highest altitude of any mountain in the world. Technically, the south-east ridge on the Nepali side of the mountain is easier to climb, so most climbers travel to Everest through Nepal. The Annapurna mountain range also lies in Nepal.
Nepal was divided into 14 zones and 75 districts, grouped into 5 development regions. Each district was headed by a fixed chief district officer responsible for maintaining law and order and coordinating the work of field agencies of the various government ministries. The 14 zones are:
Agriculture sustains 76% of the population and accounts for about 39% of the GDP; services comprise 41%, and industry 22%. Nepal remains isolated from the world’s major land, air and sea transport routes though air traffic is frequent. 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 8,500 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 Kolkata in India. Internally, the poor state of development of the road system (22 of 75 administrative districts lack road links) makes volume distribution unrealistic.
Aviation is in a better state, with 48 airports, ten of them with paved runways. There is less than one telephone per 19 people; landline telephone services are not adequate nationwide but 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 175,000 Internet connections in 2005, but after the imposition of the "state of emergency", intermittent losses of service were reported. Uninterrupted Internet connections have resumed after the brief period of confusion as Nepal's second major people's revolution took place to overthrow the King's absolute power.
Its landlocked location and technological backwardness and the long-running civil war have also prevented Nepal from fully developing its economy. The country receives foreign aid from India, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the European Union, China, Switzerland, and Scandinavian countries. The government's budget is about US$1.153 billion, with expenditures of $1.789bn (FY05/06). The inflation rate has dropped to 2.9% after a period of higher inflation during the 1990s. The Nepali 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. A long-standing economic agreement underpins a close relationship with India.
The distribution of wealth among the Nepali is consistent with that in many developed and developing countries: the highest 10% of households control 39.1% of the national wealth and the lowest 10% control only 2.6%.
Nepal's workforce of about 10 million suffers from a severe shortage of skilled labour. Agriculture employs 81% of the workforce, services 16% and manufacturing/craft-based industry 3%. Agricultural produce—mostly grown in the Terai region bordering India—includes 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. The spectacular landscape and deep, exotic culture of Nepal represents considerable potential for tourism, but growth in this export 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. Poverty is acute. 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.
Nepal's GDP for the year 2005 is estimated at just over US$39 billion (adjusted to Purchasing Power Parity), making it the 83rd-largest economy in the world. Per-capita income is less than US$300. 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 (53.7%), the US (17.4%), and Germany (7.1%) are its main export partners. Nepal's import partners include India (47.5%), the United Arab Emirates (11.2%), China (10.7%), Saudi Arabia (4.9%), and Singapore (4%).
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 and a National Council. The House of Representatives consists 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.
The executive comprised the King and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet). The leader of the coalition or party securing the maximum seats in an election was appointed as the Prime Minister. The Cabinet was appointed by the king on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Governments in Nepal have tended to be highly unstable; no government has survived for more than two years since 1991, either through internal collapse or parliamentary dissolution by the monarch on the recommendation of prime minister according to the constitution.
The movement in April 2006 brought about a change in the nation. The autocratic King was forced to give up power. The dissolved House of Representatives was restored. The House of Representatives formed a government which had successful peace talks with the Maoist Rebels. An interim constitution was promulgated and an interim House of Representatives was formed with Maoist members. The number of seats were also increased to 330. The peace process in Nepal made a giant leap in April 2007, when the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) joined the interim government of Nepal. The peace process seems to be in jeopardy after Maoists decided to leave coalition government on 18 September 2007, demanding the declaration of a republic before the scheduled constituent assembly.
Nepal's military consists of the Nepalese Army which includes the Nepalese Army Air Service (the air force unit under it). The Nepalese Police Force is the civilian police and the Armed Police Force Nepal is the paramilitary force. Service is voluntary and the minimum age for enlistment is 18 years. Nepal spends $99.2 million (2004) on its military—1.5% of its GDP. Most of the equipment and arms are supplied by India.
Nepal has close ties with both of its neighbours, India and China. In accordance with a long-standing treaty, Indian and Nepalese citizens may travel to each other's countries without a passport or visa. Nepalese citizens may work in India without legal restriction. Although Nepal and India typically have close ties, from time to time Nepal becomes caught up in the problematic Sino-Indian relationship. India considers Nepal as part of its realm of influence, and views Chinese aid with concern. Some Indians consider Nepal to be part of a greater pan-Indian state, an attitude that has caused Nepalese antagonism towards India. In 2005, after King Gyanendra took over, Nepalese relations with India, the US, and the UK worsened. These three foreign countries were vociferous opponents to the crackdown on civil liberties in Nepal.
Nepal has a total population of 27,676,547 as of July 2005, with a growth rate of 2.2%. 39% of the population is up to 14 years old, 57.3% are aged between 15 and 64, and 3.7% above 65. The median age is 20.07 (19.91 for males and 20.24 for females). There are 1,060 males for every 1,000 females. Life expectancy is 59.8 years (60.9 for males and 59.5 for females). Total literacy rate is 53.74% (68.51% for males and 42.49% for females).
Groups are the Brahman-Hill 12.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, Nepali White 2.8%. Nepali is the national language with 47.8% of the population speaking it as their first language. Other languages include Maithili 12.1%, Bhojpuri 7.4%, Tharu (Dagaura/Rana) 5.8%, Tamang 5.1%, Nepal Bhasa 3.6%, Magar 3.3%, Awadhi 2.4%, other 10%, unspecified 2.5%. Differences between Hindus and Buddhists have been in general very subtle and academic in nature due to the intermingling of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs. Both share common temples and worship common deities and many of Nepal's Hindus could also be regarded as Buddhists and vice versa. Gurkhas are from Nepal. Buddhism was relatively more common among the Newar. Among the other natives of Nepal, those most influenced by Hinduism were the Magar, Sunwar, Limbu and Rai. Hindu influence is less prominent among the Gurung, Bhutia, and Thakali groups, who employ Buddhist monks for their religious ceremonies.
The northern mountains are sparsely populated. A majority of the population live in the central highland despite the migration of a significant section of the population to the fertile Terai belt in recent years. Kathmandu, with a population of around 800,000 (Metropolitan area: 1,5 million) is the largest city in the country.
Nepalese culture is diverse and it reflects people of different ethnic origins. A typical Nepalese meal is dal-bhat, a kind of a lentil soup served with rice and vegetables. However, the Newar community has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian and vegetarian items as well as alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil and a host of spices, such as cumin, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chili, mustard seeds, vinegar, etc. are used in cooking. The cuisine served in the festivals is considered as the best diet cuisine.
Folklore is an integral part of Nepalese society. Traditional stories are rooted in the reality of day-to-day life—tales of love, affection, battles, and demons and ghosts; they reflect and explain local lifestyles, cultures and belief systems. Many Nepalese folktales are enacted in dance and music. The Newar community is very rich in cultural diversity. Most of the festivals observed in the Kthmandu valley are in the Newar community. The Newars are also well known for their music and dance. The Newar Music consists mainly of percussion instruments. Wind instruments such as flutes and similar instruments are also used. String instruments are very rare. There are songs pertaining to particular seasons and festivals. Paahan chare music is most probably the fastest played music whereas the Dapa the slowest. The dhimay music are the loudest ones. There are certain musical instruments such as Dhimay and Bhusya which are played as instrumental only and are not accompanied with songs. The Newar Dance can be broadly classified as masked dance and dance without the use of masks. The most representative of Newari dance is Lakhey dance. Almost all the settlements of Newar have Lakhey dance at least once a year. Almost all of these Lakhey dances are held in the Goonlaa month. So, they are called Goonlaa Lakhey. However, the most famous Lakhey dance is the Majipa Lakhey dance. It is performed by the Ranjitkars of Kathmandu. The dance takes place for a week during the week containing the full moon of Yenlaa month. The Lakhey are considered as the saviors of children. Likewise, in hills people enjoy their own kind of music, playing saarangi (string instrument), madal and flute. They also have many popular folk songs like lok geet and lok dohari.
The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main holidays include the National Day (birthday of the king) 28 December, Prithvi Jayanti, (11 January), and Martyr's Day (18 February) and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashai in autumn, and tihar late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community celebrates its New Year as per local calendar (Nepal Sambat).
Most houses in rural Nepal are made up of a tight bamboo framework with mud and cow-dung walls. These dwellings remain cool in summers and retain warmth in winters. Dwellings in higher latitudes are mostly timber based.