The Kingdom of Nepal was the only nation in the world that had Hinduism as the state religion. It was till 2007 when the elected representatives of the new parliament in Nepal abolished the monarchy and pronounced the country as a secular nation which was renamed as the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Nepal is a tourist destination, especially for the Westerners, who wish to learn and experience the rich oriental heritage.
The capital, Kathmandu, is a quiet city placed in a valley, surrounded by a circle of mountains. An aerial view of Kathmandu:
There are many tourist attractions in Kathmandu, among them the most famed one is the Mount Everest, the 8848-meter high rooftop of the world. Thanks to a mountain flight, I went to the marvel as close as a few kilometers. The sky was clear, so the mesmerizing views of the peak and of the snow-capped adjacent mountains were clearly visible. There are tour operators in Kathmandu, offering flights to the mount at a cost of USD 200. The flight is an hour’s outing in the early morning hours when the likelihood of clear sky will be higher.
Visa is available on arrival for most of the nationalities, including the Indians. As a people, the Nepalese is closer to the Indians in terms of culture, food habits, lifestyles, etc. There are historical as well as clannish linkages between the peoples of India and Nepal. English and Hindi are the common languages spoken in Nepal, with the Nepalese language, Gorkhali, being the most spoken among the natives. There are many Indian restaurants in Kathmandu, and the Indian currency is accepted in Nepal. The economies of the two countries are also interlinked, with the Nepalese currency, also called Rupee, being pegged to the Indian Rupee.
Another must-see tourist attraction is the 5th century built Pashupatinath temple. It is one of the most significant Hindu temples of Lord Shiva in the world, housed on the bank of the Bagmati River. The temple is considered as the seat of the national deity, Lord Siva. The temple complex has a string of temples and ashrams that have well-carved portraits of different Hindu deities and other important Hindu cultures. The temple is named in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites list. During my visit, I had seen a cremation along the bank of the river which runs beside the temple.
The Budha Stupa, a world heritage listed site, is another attraction in the city. Boudhanath Stupa, or Bodnath Stupa, is the largest stupa in Nepal and the holiest Tibetan Buddhist temple outside Tibet. It houses relics of Buddhist monks and nuns from centuries-old times. It is situated in the town of Boudha and is a centre of Tibetan culture in Kathmandu. Of late, the Tibetan people settled in Nepal came under severe restrictions thanks to the Chinese government pumping in millions of USD for developmental works in Nepal. India made a few foreign policy blunders in the recent times vis-a-vis Nepal, and that drove Nepal closer to China. But, will Nepal go the Sri Lanka way of a well-laid debt trap by the Chinese? Only time will tell.
If you visit Kathmandu, do take a trip to Bhaktapur cultural city — a place of century-old architectural wisdom. Bhaktapur when translated to English reads, “city of devotees.” It is located in Bhaktapur District in the Bagmati Zone. It is listed in the UNESCO’s World Heritage roster. Bhaktapur, established in 12th century, is famous for its art and architecture. It is a city steeped in culture that survived natural disasters such as earth quakes and invasion attempts over the centuries.
Basantpur city houses many immaculate temples of Hinduism. I visited the the Mahabudha temple in Basntpur.
The Rudravarna Mahavir temple in Patan city, a city of fine arts, is another tourist attraction.
If you wish to capture the beauty of a sunset in the backdrop of oranging mountains, go uphill to Nagarkot, a sleepy village in Kathmandu, which is 7200 feet above the Mean Sea Level. Naagarkot is well equipped to receive tourists, with the place bustling with throngs of tourists. The overlooking view of the snow-covered Langtang range of mountains, which with an elevation of 7205 meters is the 106th highest peak, is fantastic. A view downward from the place is another wonder — cascading views of houses on the hills.
A holiday in Nepal will be worth taking out. And Kathmandu assures that a part of your holidays will be holy-days.