Country Profile: Nepal
Total 147,181 km2
(and largest city) Kathmandu
Nepali- Recognised regional languages Maithili, Nepal Bhasa, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Awadhi, Sherpa, Kiranti and other 100 different indigenous languages.
EthnicityBrahman-Hill 12.5%, Chetri 15.5%, Magar 7%, Tharu 6.6%, Tamang 5.5%, Newar 5.4%, Muslim 4.2%, Kami 3.9%, Yadav 3.9%, other 32.7%, unspecified 2.8%
ReligionsHindu 81%, Buddhist 11%, Islam 4%, Kirant 4%
Economic SummaryGDP: $29.04 billion
Of labour force (11.11 million); note: severe lack of skilled labor; agriculture 76%, industry 6%, services 18%
Main IndustriesTourism, Carpet, Textile; Small rice, jute, sugar, and oilseed mills; Cigarettes, Cement and brick production.
Agriculture accounts for much of Nepal's economy, with produce grown including tea, rice, wheat, corn and milk. Its exports of textiles and jute total around $822 million, and its trading partners include India, China and Saudi Arabia. The country receives foreign aid, but there is future possibility for the growth of the tourism industry due to the country's varied and beautifully diverse landscape.
Nepal, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked country in South Asia and is the world's youngest republic. It is bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India. Kathmandu is the nation's capital and the country's largest metropolitan city. Nepal is a country of highly diverse and rich geography, culture, and religions. The mountainous north contains eight of the world's ten highest mountains, including the highest, Mount Everest. The fertile and humid south is heavily urbanized. Although Hinduism is practiced by a majority of the population, the nation also has a strong Buddhist tradition, as it is the birthplace of Gautama Buddha.
Nepal had been a monarchy throughout most of its history. Prithvi Narayan Shah, a Shah dynasty king, unified the many small kingdoms in 1768. Since then, the country had been ruled by a dynasty of kings. However, a decade-long civil war by the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) along with several weeks of mass protests by all major political parties of Nepal in 2006, culminated in a peace accord and the ensuing elections for the constituent assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of the abdication of the last Nepali monarch Gyanendra Shah and the establishment of a federal democratic republic in 2008. The first President of Nepal, Dr Ram Baran Yadav was sworn in on 23 July, 2008.
Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous language isolates. According to the 2001 national census, 92 different living languages are spoken in Nepal. The major languages of Nepal are Nepali (57%), Maithili (10%), Bhojpuri (7%), Tharu (4%), Tamang (5%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (3%), Magar (2%), Awadhi (2%), Rai (2.79%), Limbu (1%), and Bajjika (1%). The remaining 81 languages are each spoken as mother tongue by less than one percent of the population. Nepal's constitution, however, guarantees that, irrespective of what the official language is, all languages spoken in Nepal can be used for official purposes and documentation.
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is considered the language closest to Sanskrit and written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official, national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Hindi -- along with regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili -- are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Hindi is also widely understood by Nepalis who have worked, studied or traveled in India. Many Nepali in government and business speak English as well. In the capital Kathmandu, Nepali, Nepal Bhasa and English are the most widely understood languages.
The Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly election held on April 10, 2008 and have thus formed a coalition government which includes most of the parties in the CA. But the Nepali Congress notably is not in the government. Although acts of violence occurred during the pre-electoral period, election observers noted that the elections themselves were markedly peaceful. The Maoists had insisted on the abolition of the monarchy, with Nepal remaining democratic, but becoming a federal state with an elected head. The newly elected Assembly met in Kathmandu on May 28, 2008, and, after a polling of 564 constituent Assembly members, 560 voted to end Nepal's 240 year old monarchy, with the monarchist Rastriya Prajatantra Party, which had four members in the assembly, registering a dissent note. At that point, it was declared that Nepal had become a secular and inclusive democratic republic, with the government announcing a three-day public holiday from May 28 to 30. The King was thereafter given 15 days to vacate the Narayanhiti Royal Palace, in order to re-open it as a public museum. He did not, however, grant Royal Assent to the acts of either the interim parliament or the Constituent Assembly which had never been legally abolished, making the republic invalid, keeping Gyanendra as king.
Nepalese culture is diverse, reflecting different ethnic origins of the people. The Newar community is particularly rich in cultural diversity; they celebrate many festivals, well known for their music and dance. A typical Nepalese meal is dal-bhat-tarkari. Dal is a spicy lentil soup, served over bhat (boiled rice), served with tarkari (curried vegetables) together with achar (pickles) or chutni (spicy condiment made from fresh ingredients).. The Newar community, however, has its own unique cuisine. It consists of non-vegetarian as well as vegetarian items served with alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. Mustard oil is the cooking medium and a host of spices, such as cumin, coriander, black peppers, sesame seeds, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi, bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, pepper, chillies, mustard seeds, etc., are used in the cooking. The cuisine served on festivals is generally the best.
The Nepali year begins in mid-April and is divided into 12 months. Saturday is the official weekly holiday. Main annual holidays include the National Day, celebrated on the birthday of the king (December 28), Prithvi Jayanti (January 11), Martyr's Day (February 18), and a mix of Hindu and Buddhist festivals such as dashain in autumn, and tihar in late autumn. During tihar, the Newar community also celebrates its New Year as per their local calendar Nepal Sambat. Nepal's flag is the only national flag in the world that is non-quadrilateral in shape, and one of only two non-rectangular flags in use (the other being the flag of the US state of Ohio). According to its official description, the red in the flag stands for victory in war or courage, and is also color of the rhododendron, the national flower of Nepal. Red also stands for aggression. The flag's blue border signifies peace. The curved moon on the flag is a symbol of the peaceful and calm nature of Nepalese, while the sun represents the aggressiveness of Nepalese warriors.
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