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Gap year in Nepal

Nepal


Nepal At a Glance

A gap year in Nepal provides gap year travellers a unique experience in a country that was, until recently, one of the last Himalayan kingdoms and is situated in the midst of the highest mountain ranges in the world.

The country stretches some 500 miles from east to west and 120 miles from north to south. Acting as a kind of buffer between the two most populous countries in the world, India to the East, South and West, and China to the North, Nepal is a landlocked country, divided into three geographic areas running east-west.

The Northern Himalayan range is covered with snow throughout the year and contains eight of the highest mountains in the world, including Mount Everest.

The middle range (the Hills) include wonderful upland scenery wIth high peaks, hills, valleys and lakes.

The Southern Terai region is a plain of alluvial soil consisting of dense forest area, national parks, wildlife reserves and conservation areas.

23.2 million people of more than 60 different castes or ethnic groups live in the country with an increasing percentage crowded into the capital, Kathmandu, and its ancient rivals Patan and Bhaktapur.

Nepal is amongst the poorest countries in the world and economically it has not managed to keep up with its growing population it a fascinating gap year destination for volunteering abroad. Economic activities include carpet making, readymade garments, handicrafts and, above all, tourism. Although this latter has suffered badly during The past few years of unrest, over half a million visitors are welcomed annually in Nepal, most of them bound for mountain trekking or visits to the National Parks in the southern Chitwan region.

The currency in the country is the Nepalese Rupee. Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape. The blue border on the flag of Nepal signifies peace. The red stands for victory in war or courage, and is also colour of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. While the curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of the Nepalese, the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese Ghurkha warriors.

The welcome received by visitors in Nepal is legendary and the universal greeting of "Namaste" along with the hordes of smiling children, will remain an indelible memory for all gap year travellers who visit this land of mountain beauty.

History

Gap year travellers will have a lot to discover with records of people living in the Kathmandu Valley for at least 2,500 years. Around 1000 BC, various local groupings formed and it was from one of these that a prince, Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 BC), renounced his regal life to search for enlightenment. Thus was Buddhism, one of the largest world religions, founded.

History and religion in Nepal has evolved over the centuries and for gap year travellers interested in the subject there is much to learn. The region has long had links to India and became a vassal state under the Gupta Dynasty. By the late 11th century, the south of the country came under the influence of the Chalukaya Empire of southern India and the religion changed as the Nepalese kings patronised Hinduism instead of the prevailing Buddhism.

By this time, the diverse parts of Nepal were starting to consolidate and during the 14th century much of the country was beginning to come under unified rule. This was not to last, as in 1482 the region was carved into what became three kingdoms: Kathmandu, Patan, and Bhaktapur.

In the mid-18th century Prithvi Narayan, a Gorkha King, started another attempt to unify the kingdoms. With help from neighbouring Indian kingdoms, he managed to unify the Kathmandu Valley in 1768.

The 19th Century saw disputes arise between Nepal and the British East India Company which led to the Anglo-Nepalese War (1815-16). Although the war proved a disaster to Nepal, who lost Sikkim and part of the Terai in the south to the East India Company, it was during this period that the bravery of their soldiers, the ruthless and fearless Ghurkhas - was noted. This started the long tradition, still very strong today of these soldiers fighting in British regiments.

The mid-19th Century saw the foundation of the Rana lineage. The king became a titular figure and the Ranas were given hereditary rights to the office of Prime Minister. The Ranas were strongly pro-British and in 1923, the United Kingdom and Nepal formally signed an agreement of friendship, in which Nepal's independence was recognized by the UK.

In the late 1940s, pro-democracy movements and political parties in Nepal were critical of the Rana rule. At around this time, with Chinese movements into Tibet, India was anxious to balance the perceived military threat from China by taking asserting more influence in Nepal. India therefore sponsored King Tribhuvan as Nepal's new ruler in 1951 and helped set up a new government, mostly comprising the Nepali Congress Party. This effectively ended the Rana's period of influence in the kingdom, although the family have enjoyed substantial power in politics and business even in recent times.

King Tribhuvan scrapped the democratic experiment in 1959, and a panchayat system was set up to govern Nepal. However, in 1989 the monarchy was forced to accept constitutional reforms and to establish a multiparty parliament. In 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal ("Maoist") started a bid to form a people's socialist republic which led to a ten-year period of unrest during which more than 12,000 people were killed. During this period, in 2001, virtually the entire Royal family were wiped out in a massacre in the royal palace. The king's son, Dipendra, was accused of the massacre, alleged to be a violent response to his parents' refusal to accept his choice of wife, and he died from apparently self inflicted wounds shortly after.

Following the massacre, King Birendra's brother, Gyanendra, took the throne. In February 2005, Gyanendra dismissed the entire government and assumed full powers to quash the Maoist movement. However, in response to calls for democracy during 2006, the king had to relinquish power back to the people and reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives who then passed a motion to curtail the power of the king. On May 28th 2008, a bill declaring Nepal a Federal Republic, and thereby abolishing the monarchy, came into force and the newly constituted Nepal was born. The constitution allows for an elected President with the Prime Minister running the government through a two-house parliamentary system.


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