Customs and tradition varies from one part of Nepal to another. The capital city Kathmandu is regarded as the country’s cultural metropolis since the unification of Nepal in the 18th century. Religion is considered as the prominent factors of Nepali’s everyday life. The festivals the year round adds color to the lives of Nepalis which they celebrate with much pomp and joy. Food plays vital role for the celebration of these festivals.
On May 18, 2006 Nepal was declared a secular country by the Parliament of Nepal. The major religions practiced in Nepal are Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism, Bon ancestor worship and animism. Hindus or Buddhism is mostly practiced by the Nepalese people. These two religions have co-existed in harmony through centuries. Buddha is widely worshipped by both Buddhist and Hindus of Nepal. . The five Dhyani Buddhas; Vairochana, Akshobhaya, Rathasambhava, Amitabha and Amoghasiddhi, represent the five basic elements: earth, fire, water, air and ether. Buddhist philosophy conceives these deities to be the manifestations of Sunya or absolute void. Mahakaala and Bajrayogini are Vajrayana Buddhist deities worshipped by Hindus as well.
Hindu Nepalis worship the ancient Vedic gods. Bramha the Creator, Vishnu the Preserver and Shiva the Destroyer, are worshipped as the Supreme Hindu Trinity. People pray to the Shiva Linga or the phallic symbol of Lord Shiva in most Shiva temples. Shakti, the dynamic element in the female counterpart of Shiva, is highly revered and feared.
Mahadevi, Mahakali, Bhagabati, Ishwari are some of the names given. Kumari, the Virgin Goddess, also represents Shakti.Other popular deities are Ganesh for luck, Saraswati for knowledge, Lakshmi for wealth and Hanuman for protection. Krishna, believed to be the human incarnation of Lord Vishnu is also worshipped widely. Hindu holy scripts Bhagawat Gita, Ramayan and Mahabharat are widely read in Nepal. Vedas, Upanishads and other holy scriptures are read by well learned Brahmin Pundits during special occasions.
The diversity in terms of ethnicity gives room for the various sets of customs. Most of the customs belongs to the Hindu, Buddhists, or other religious traditions. Generally arranged marriage is practiced where the parents of the boy and girls fix marriage when their son/daughter is mature enough to get married. Majority of Nepalese do not eat beef as Hindus worship cow as a God. Cow is also the national animal of Nepal. Further, division of pure and impure ” Jutho” referring to the food or materials touched by another’s mouth directly or indirectly is considered as impure by many Nepalis. Further, Nepalis consider cow dung to be pure for cleansing purposes. Besides, during the menstruation women are regarded as the impure and are kept in seclusion until their fourth day purification bath. Furthermore, Nepal is a patriarchal society where men usually go out for work and women take care of house.
Nepal does not have a distinct cooking style. Food habits varies as per the region. Nepali food has been influenced by Indian and Tibetan style of cooking. In Newari and Thakai cuisines, authentic Nepali taste is found. Majority of Nepali do not use cutlery but eat take their meal with right hand. Generally, people eat Dal (lentil soup), bhat ( bolied rice) and tarkari ( curried vegetables), often accompanied by achar (pickle). Momos is also considered as one the popular snack . Rotis ( flat bread) and dhedo ( boiled flour) are also popular dishes in some regions