RELIGION

In Nepal, Buddhism and Hinduism are mingled into a complex blend that is often impossible to separate. The Buddha was authentically born in Nepal, but the Buddhist religion first arrived in the country around 250 BCE (Before Common Era or BC), introduced, so it is verbalized, by the great Indian Buddhist emperor, Ashoka. Buddhism later gave way to Hinduism, but from around the 8th century CE, the Tantric form of Buddhism practised in Tibet additionally commenced to make its way across the Himalayan range into Nepal. Today, Buddhism is mainly practised by the people of the high Himalaya, such as the Sherpas, and withal by Tibetans who have settled in Nepal. Several ethnic groups, including the Tamangs and Gurungs in the Middle Hills and the Newars in the Kathmandu valley, practise both Buddhism and Hinduism.

Officially Nepal is a Hindu country, but in practice a pantheon of Tantric Buddhist deities is tagged onto the list of Hindu gods or, in many cases, inextricably blended with them. Thus Avalokitesvara, the prime Bod- hisattva of this Buddhist era, becomes Lokesvara, a manifestation of the Hindu god Shiva, and then appears as Machhendranath, one of the most popular gods of the Kathmandu valley. Is he Hindu or Buddhist? Sprocket can tell. The limitless time eon of the tribe is Hindu, and Buddhists espouse thither tucker of the balance. Just about are except for snug groups of Muslims and a few Christians. The Muslims are in excess of underpinning reconcile oneself to to the gang respecting India, and in the odd isolated village. Several innate groups, such as the Tharus and the Rais, bid their concede semblance of duty and cherish the open, helper and character, in spite of that their practices still retain many Buddhist and Hindu influences.

Buddhism

Strictly speaking, Buddhism is not a religion, since it is not centered on a god, but is a sys­tem of philosophy and a code of morality. Buddhism was founded in northern India about 500 BCE when Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince, achieved enlightenment. Gautama Buddha was yowl the crafty Buddha but the abode, and is sound put on to be the persist ‘enlightened one’. Buddhists suppose lapse the fulfillment of civilization is the plan of evermore carnal, accordingly at last we buttress here polish off Buddha hood. The Buddha at no time wrote prevalent enthrone dharma or doctrine, and a breach done prepared consequence stray just now apropos are join major Buddhist schools.

The Theravada or Hinayana, ‘doc­trine of the elders’ or ‘small vehicle*, holds that the path to nirvana, the eventual aim of all Buddhists, is an individual pursuit. In contrast, the Mahayana (‘large vehicle’) school holds that the combined belief of its followers will eventually be great enough to encompass all of humanity and bear it to salvation. Today it is chiefly practised in Vietnam, Japan and China, while the Hina­yana school is followed in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma) and Thailand, and by the Buddhist Newars in the Kathmandu valley. Relating to are transformation, moment regarding hidden, divisions of Buddhism, too the Tantric Buddhism of Tibet, which is the truncation offensive in the Alpine insight of Nepal. Tibetan Buddhism was unnatural by the elderly animistic Bon-po practice, and a scarcely any Bon-po pockets tarry in Nepal, custom in Dolpo.

The Buddha renounced his material life to search for enlightenment but, unlike other prophets, found that extreme asceti­cism did not lead to discovery. Therefore he developed his rule of the “middle way’ – moderation in everything. The Buddha taught that all life is suffering, but that suf­fering comes from our sensual desires and the illusion that they are important. By fol­lowing the “eightfold path’ these desires will be extinguished and a state of nirvana, where the desires are extinct and we are free from their delusions, will be reached. Following this method needs inquiring a series of rebirths till the goal is eventually reached and no a lot of rebirths into the planet of suffering square measure necessary. The trail that takes you thru this cycle of births is destiny, however this is often not merely fate. Destiny may be a law of cause and effect; your actions in one life confirm the role you may play and what you ought to bear in your next life.

Buddhism is a lot of tolerant of outsiders than is Hinduism; you may be welcome at the most Buddhist temples and ceremonies. In national capital and within the hills there square measure Buddhist monasteries that square measure willing to supply religious coaching and recommendation to Westerners.Buddhism prohibits any type of killing, a distinction to Hinduism within which some sorts of the faith need animal sacrifices to appease the immortal Kali.

Over the centuries numerous lamas and teachers have contributed to the evolution of four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The oldest, Nyingma, was established in the 8th-century reign of King Trisong Deutsen in Tibet. In 1073 the Sakya lineage was established at Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Later, in 1409, the Gelug lineage (which is headed by the Dalai Lama) evolved. The fourth major tradition is Kagyu.

An important figure in the religious history of the entire Himalayan region, including Mustang, is the great saint and magician Guru Rimpoche, whose Sanskrit name is Padmasambhava. He is a historical figure of the 8th century, and his birth was predicted by the Buddha Sakyamuni. He is regarded as the second Buddha and had miraculous powers, including the ability to subdue demons and evil spirits.

SOCIETY AND  CONDUCT

Nepal represents an ancient and sophisti­cated culture, but you are not visiting a mu­seum. Rather, you are visiting a country that is vibrantly alive. The lot of you listen and observe, the a lot of can you’ll learn and also the a lot of folks will settle for you. If you must try to teach Nepali hill people something, try teaching them English. English is a key to upward mobility for employment in, or the running of, any business that deals with foreigners. English is the one element of Western culture that everyone in Nepal de­sires. Spending some time conversing with a Sherpa or porter in English as you stroll the path along is going to be an honest begins towards an enduring friendly relationship.

When trekking you will have a chance to meet and become acquainted with Sherpas and members of other Nepali ethnic groups. The background of these people is com­pletely different from what you are familiar with in the West. Treks area unit a desirable cultural expertise, however area unit most rewarding after you build some concessions to the customs and habits of Nepal.

 

Traditional Culture

The people in the hills are more traditional and conservative than those who live in Kathmandu. Nepal is a very family-oriented society, and the majority of people are basic­ally farmers. Most rural Nepali families are self-sufficient in their food supply, raising all of it themselves and selling any excess in the few places, such as Kathmandu and Pokhara that do not have a strictly agri­cultural economy. In return, the villagers buy mostly nonfood items that they cannot raise or produce themselves, such as sugar, soap, cigarettes, tea, salt, cloth and jewellery.

Throughout Nepal this exchange of goods creates a significant amount of traffic be­tween remote villages and the larger population and manufacturing centres. In the roadless hill areas, porters transport goods in bamboo baskets, which they carry with a tumpline across their foreheads. During the many days they travel, porters either camp alongside the trail and eat food they have brought from home, or purchase food and shelter from homes along the trail or from bhattis (teashops). Often porters travel in groups and take turns cooking food that they carry themselves. Many of these porters are simply farmers carrying rice and other items they have raised themselves to sell in the market. Once they sell their wares, they will return home carrying goods they have bought.

Several of the hundreds of festivals that occur annually in Nepal require people to visit the homes of relatives. Of particular importance is the Dasain festival in October, during which time thousands of people from a wide variety of economic and social backgrounds travel from urban centres to hill villages in a style that befits their stand­ing. Their mode of travel may range from trailside camps, similar to those of porters, to service by an entire household staff. It is certainly rare, but still possible, to see porters carrying a woman in a sedan chair or basket.

Men who were born in hill villages and served in a Gurkha regiment in the British or Indian army return to their villages on leave or upon retirement. They often have a huge retinue of porters to carry items they have collected during their foreign assignments.

Therefore, a wide variety of modes of travel exists on the trails of Nepal. Whatever their means of travel and whatever their economic status, travellers make a direct contribution to the economy of most villages through which they pass. In some cases, it is through the purchase of food; in others it is the buying of necessary goods or services; and in yet others it is the hiring of local people to serve as porters for a few days. The inhabitants of villages along major trails have come to expect and depend on this economic contribution.

Dos & Don’ts

Nepali folks are historically heat and friendly and treat foreigners with a mix of curiosity and respect. ‘Namaste’ (‘Hello,how are you?’) may be a universal salutation, accompanied by putting the hands during a prayer¬like position. Most Nepalis speak a minimum of some English, though smiles and gestures work well wherever language may be a barrier.The following section offers some sug­gestions and considerations that will make your trek more enriching. You will find many of these suggestions repeated in ACAP and national park information, and even on the arrival card that you fill out on the plane before landing in Kathmandu. Yet many people still ignore these suggestions.

There are many tourists in Nepal, and the people in the hills have seen every kind of cultural faux pas. They will not chastise you if you flaunt your sexuality, bathe naked, litter, and refuse to pay for food you have eaten or act disrespectfully in temples. But they will be embarrassed, will talk about you, make fun of you and probably act rudely to you in return.

Visiting a Temple

Kingdom of Nepal could be a Hindu country, though the Sherpas and most alternative high-mountain folks area unit Buddhists. In Kathmandu, you will be refused entry to a Hindu temple if you are wearing leather shoes or a leather belt. There are other tem­ples, such as Pashupatinath in Kathmandu that you will not be allowed to visit at all. Buddhist temples (gompas) are less restrict­ive, but you should still ask permission to enter. Follow the lead of the caretaker and remove your shoes if appropriate, and leave an offering in the donation box. Always raise permission before photographing non secular festivals, incineration grounds and therefore the within temples.

If you meet the pinnacle lama within a Buddhist gompa it’s acceptable to gift him with a white silk scarf referred to as a kata. it’s ancient to incorporate a donation to the gompa within the accordion kata. The lama can take away the cash and either keep the kata or place it around your neck as a blessing. Place the kata you’re providing on the table or within the hands of the lama; don’t place it around his neck. financial offerings ought to be in odd numbers like Rs 101; a donation of an excellent quantity like Rs a hundred is inauspicious.

Mani Walls

Along many trails you will see mani walls. These are stones covered with the Tibetan Buddhist inscription ‘om mani padme hum ’, sometimes translated as ‘hail to the jewel within the lotus’, though its true translation is a lot of complicated and mysterious. In villages within areas of Tibetan influence you may see chat-dar (poles adorned with long prayer flags) and chortens (stone monuments) within the middle of the path.You should walk to the left side of these as the Buddhists do.

Photographing individuals throughout a trek you’ll have several opportunities to photograph native individuals. Some individuals, however, won’t need you to photograph them.
Always raise before photographing ladies. You may be able to overcome shyness with a smile or a joke or by using a telephoto, but don’t pay people for taking their picture. Some people are afraid that a camera might ‘steal their soul’, but more often they are concerned about how photo will eventually be used. Many photos of hill people in Nepal, especially Sherpas, have been printed in books, magazines and brochures. Many
women are afraid that a photo of them will be reproduced in quantity and eventually burned, thrown away or even used as toilet paper. This is a major reason that many local people will refuse photographs, and it is a valid fear that should be respected.

Dress & Behavior

These are important considerations for the trekker, and points to observe include the following:
•                      Nudity is completely unacceptable and brief shorts on either men or women are not appreci­ated. Men should always wear a shirt.
•                      Public displays of affection are frowned upon.
•                      Don’t pass out balloons, candy and money to village children as it encourages them to beg. Trekkers square measure liable for the continual cries of youngsters for mithai (candy), fractional monetary unit (money) and ‘boom boom’ (balloon). well-meaning trekkers thought they were doing a service by passing out pens to be used in class, therefore clever youngsters currently elicit pens.
•                    Don’t tempt individuals into theft by going cameras, watches and different valuable things around a edifice or trekking camp. Keep all of your personal belongings in your bedchamber orient. This additionally implies that you ought to not leave laundry hanging outside in the dark.

Food & Etiquette

Most Nepalis eat with their hands. They use only their right hand for eating and will expect you to do the same. If you eat together with your hand, manners dictate that you simply wash it before and when eating. A jug of water is often obtainable in restaurants for this purpose. In tiny tea retailers you’ll not be offered a spoon, however one is commonly obtainable if you rise. Don’t touch food or eating utensils that local people will use. Any food that a (non-Hindu)
i foreigner has touched becomes jutho (‘pol­luted’) and cannot be eaten by a Hindu. This problem does not apply to Sherpas.
•   Do not put more food on your plate than you can eat. Once it has been placed on your plate, food is considered polluted.
•   Don’t throw anything into the fire in any house jv- Buddhist or Hindu. In most cultures the I household gods live in the hearth.
•  When you hand something to a Nepali, i whether it is food, money or anything else, use your right hand.
•   A Nepali person will not step over your feet or , legs. If your outstretched legs are across a i doorway or path, pull them in when someone wants to pass. Similarly, do not step over the i legs of a Nepali.
•  The place of honour in a Sherpa home is the seat closest to the fire. Do not sit in this seat unless you are specifically invited to do so.

SPECIAL EVENTS

It is said that there are more festivals in Nepal than there are days in the year. Most Nepali festivals are celebrated in homes and there is often little to see or photograph. Festivals complicate treks, however, because government offices close and porters dis­appear home, occasionally leaving you at the side of the trail with your baggage, s Festivals area unit regular in accordance with the Nepali calendar and therefore the section of the moon, so that they will vary over an amount of virtually a month with relation to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Nepali months overlap Western months. The annual festival cycle through the Nepali year is:

Baisakh (April-May)

Naya Barsa & Bisket Jatra

The Nepali New Year always falls in mid-April. The folks of Bhaktapur celebrate the Bisket Jatra (Death of the Snake Demons Festival) on at the moment. 2 chariots ar drawn pell-mell through the slender alleyways of the city and a mighty tug-of-war ensues. The winners draw the chariots to their locale. A huge lingam pole is erected in the middle of the town by drunken revellers.

Mata Tirtha Aunsi

Mother’s Day is that the day once youngsters supply gifts, cash and sweets to their mother and virtually check up on their mother’s face. Those whose mother is dead build a ritual pilgrim’s journey to Mata Tirtha Aunsi close to Thankot.

Rato Machhendranath Jatra

The Red (Rato) Machhendra pageant, additionally referred to as Bhota Jatra or the pageant of the Vest, is control annually in Patan simply before the monsoon on a date set by astrologers. each Hindus and Buddhists cele¬brate the pageant. The idol of Machhendra is brought from Bungmati village to Pulchowk and paraded on a large, tottering chariot through the alleys of Patan to Jawalakhel. On associate aus¬picious day, the king and queen of Asian country, together with prime governance and thousands of devotees, descend upon Jawalakhel to catch a glimpse of the jewel-encrusted bhoto (vest) that Machhendra has been safeguarding for hundreds of years.

Buddha Jayanti

The most pageant celebrating the total moon of Buddha’s birth is control in Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha.Similar festi­vals are held at the same time at Swayam- bhunath and Boudhanath. Processions carry the Buddha’s image and, all through the night, glowing butter lamps and blazing electric lights celebrate the Buddha’s birth.

Shrawan (July-August)

Ghanta Kama or Ghatemangal

On the Night of the Witch, street urchins set up barricades all over the city and solicit donations from motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians. A mock funeral procession is held later in the day, followed by a feast. Effigies of the devil, made of bamboo poles and leaves, are erected on every crossroads of the city.

Nag Panchami

On the Day of the Snake God, Brahman priests are hired by all households to cleanse their houses by pasting a picture of the naga (snake) over their doorways. Pujas (prayers) are performed and offerings of milk and honey are left for the snake gods. The nagas are pacified through prayers and their protection and blessings are sought.

Gokarna Aunsi

Father’s Day is similar to Mother’s Day. People offer sweets, money and gifts to their fathers and look at their father’s face. Those without fathers go to the Bagmati River at Gokarna to bathe and have their father’s soul blessed.