Nepalese Culture

Nepal Culture

Landlocked by the majestic Himalayas and India, Nepal is a country where religion and tradition abound. Having been tested with devastating natural disasters and military conflicts contributed a resilient character to its identity. This reflects in Nepalese culture to this day, manifesting in every aspect of daily life. Resilience brings along tolerance and kindness in the social community, perhaps the most valuable trait of the Nepalese spirit. An air of calmness and balance prevails in the atmosphere, so you won’t come across overly dramatic or energetic scenes. Nepalese culture will make you connect with your roots and understand the notion of humbleness like you never did before.

Ethnic diversity is important to Nepalese culture. Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Mongolian influences are prevalent in rituals and customs. One of the most distinct is the tantric traditions, sacrifices of five types of animals in the name of the gods. Mountains, where the gods of Hinduism are believed to reside, and the cow are respected in every part of society. Sherpas are essential in many Nepalese villages, as alpine tourism is one of the most significant sources of income for the country. These figures are subject to great respect, and hearing stories about them will be a delightful experience of Nepalese culture.

You will find Nepalese people to be extremely tolerant, humbly helpful, and at the same time, slightly introverted. An unstable economy and overspread poverty has been a problem for Nepali lives for a long time. Still, locals value their land and lives above anything else. The best parts of Nepalese culture will make themselves visible to you almost immediately, as long as you know how to appreciate them.

Eating & Drinking

“Nepalese cuisine is a tantalizing patchwork of different ethnic traditions, all brewed over centuries in the diverse landscape of this beautiful country.”

Two significant characteristics associated with Nepalese food are healthy and simple. It takes the best of South Asian culinary traditions while relying less on fats, and bringing in more local ingredients such as lean meats and whole vegetables. The entire Nepal diet revolves around keeping the body strong for the harsh climate and terrain. The basic ingredients are lentils, potatoes, mustard, rice, and a wide variety of pickled goods that are packed with energy. As for the recipes, they are inspired by the myriad ethnic groups residing in the country’s myriad geographical locations.

You will find that the most hearty dishes come from the people of the Himalayas, who value plentiful soups, whole grains, thukpas, and strong alcohols above anything else. Head down to the Kathmandu valley, and Newari culinary practices will give you a feast of Buffalo meat, cottage cheese, and intense flavorings. What you will see on the streets and the quaint restaurant of Kathmandu, however, is the one and only Khas cuisine. The epic dal dishes that feed your stomach and soul on cold winter days come from the Khas people of the hills. One iconic dish is Dal Bhat, the national dish of Nepal that comes with mouth-watering sides. Momos and Sel Rotis are joyful street food choices and ooze Nepalese culture to the bone.

Nepalese culture has a wide variety of alcoholic beverages boasting traditional significance as well as popularity. Chhyang and Aila are the most prominent ones, being brewed and distilled at Nepali homes for centuries. Everything related to these strong spirits, from serving to drinking, are cultural rituals in themselves. Tongba, served in large wooden containers, is the number one drink among the sherpas of the Himalayas.

Unique Crafts & Shopping

Shopping in the atmospheric markets of Nepal will make you forget about time. The unique mountain culture blended with an intangible Buddhist heritage gives way to craftmanship that is hard to put into words. The myriad products you will see ooze skill and aesthetics, but behind their looks lies a story or tradition that is centuries old. There is much more to Nepal’s shopping scene than prayer flags. Make no mistake, they are the first item that you should get your hands on. Still, you will find a plethora of handicrafts and products that are essential to stimulating Nepalese culture.

When in Kathmandu, there are two scenarios for a day of shopping. Head to the old market of Asan near the Annapurna Temple for the raw and authentic experience you are looking for. A more touristic and modernistic spot is Thamel, where a variety of souvenirs are a dime a dozen. You can find Nepal’s best textile goods such as shawls and caps, as well as its iconic rice paper products. Pokhara is famous for its handicraft shops and outdoor gear stores. It is the best place in Nepal to find more authentic-looking trekking fashion. Beyond the specifics, the most iconic souvenirs to buy in Nepal are Thangka paintings, traditional jewelry, and singing bowls. The last one may the best gift if you want to take a piece of Nepalese culture and soul with you.

  • Takeaway: In Nepal, the first price you will hear is never the final one. Don’t hesitate to bargain with your fellow vendor, and you will most likely get your favorite item for a reasonable price.

Religion & Etiquette

Spirituality and religious philosophies are the significant cornerstones of Nepalese culture. Almost 80 percent of the population identify as Hindu, while a substantial 9% are Buddhists. Buddhism is closely associated with Tibetan culture in the rural parts of the country, while Hinduism is commonly practiced in urban areas. The two religions are very similar in symbolism and conceptualization of main ideologies. The notion of rebirth and devotion to the natural environment are common themes in both religions. This reflects on the daily practices and traditions in the form of rituals and taboos.

As in every religiously conservative society, Nepalese people are strict in their ethical values. Depictions and icons of gods, deities, and holy figures are subject to the utmost respect. You should be careful where you are stepping, as images of these can be anywhere in Nepal. Adopt a formal tone when speaking about them, and always avoid cynical comments. The left hand is considered unclean, and so are the feet, which should never be in contact with food or other people. You may also wish to respect rice, as it is considered a blessing from the Hindu goddess of food.

During your visit, you will most likely come across a number of religious rituals and ceremonies. While most of them are jovial and light, some are not for the faint-hearted. Hindu and Buddhist expression rituals involve dance and chanting patterns that may be too intense for some travelers. Try and appreciate them as they are the most unique experiences of Nepalese culture, but remember that if they are not for you, you can always respectfully walk away.

Festivals & Events

“Nepal’s raging festivals have one of the most majestic backdrops in the world⁠—with the ambient effect of the Himalayas, celebration finds a new meaning in this marvelous country.”

The festivals in Nepal have a cinematic quality unlike anything else. Mythical figures important in Nepalese culture adorn vivid animations, and the mystical heritage finds its soul through countless rituals. Religion and philosophy dominate the themes on most special occasions. Apart from that, the unique ethnic diversity tucked away in the mountains is another major element that contributes to the festive spirit. You will also be mesmerized by the subtle differences between Hindu and Buddhist festivals.

The people of Nepal have their own traditional version of the Holi festival, with an additional day of religious thanksgiving. Come in the fall season, and you will find yourself in a frenzy of lights, excitement, and a never-ending motion: all in the Dashain and Tihar festivals. This is the longest and most anticipated festival in all of Nepal. Heartfelt family traditions come to life in every home, while Nepal’s temple-studded squares get filled with overjoyed crowds. Buddha Jayanti is a spiritual day more than a special occasion, enshrined in everyone’s heart. Devotees make a pilgrimage to Buddha’s birthplace, giving rise to a sight that will move you like no other.

A festival that will lift your spirits and provide a change in the scene is Teej, the women’s festival. Women of all ages gather and celebrate their womanhood. Mehendi tattoos, a symbol of Nepalese culture, are painted on hands and arms, jaw-dropping feasts are relished, and prayers are offered. No matter the weather, fasting woman dance in ecstatic circles for the entire day.

Nepalese culture

Nepal Food Guide

Check out our Nepal Food Guide for the tasty local dishes and drinks you must try.

Nepalese culture

Nepal Travel Advice

Everything you need to know about traveling to Nepal is in our Nepal Travel Advice guide.

Nepalese culture

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Are you traveling alone? Check out our Solo Travels page for detail.

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