Article – Kontrast Project Team
KONTRAST Project owe a lot to the country of Nepal. Today our clothes are dyed and manufactured in Nepal, and a it is a country we go back to again and again. We thought it would be interesting to introduce you to the country we hold so dear, and maybe inspire some of you to take a trip as well.
Nepal is a country in South Asia with a population of around 27 million people. It is a landlocked country wedged between the high Himalayas and the Indian plains. The geography is greatly diverse with eight of the world’s tallest mountains, fertile plains and even jungle. Multiethnic as it is, it has round 125 ethnic groups and castes, and their official language is called Nepali. It has an ancient culture that has consisted first and foremost of many different kingdoms. Until the 1950s it was closed off for the rest of the world, which made it a mysterious country that attracted many adventurers and explorers in the years after it opened.
Since the 50s, Nepal has abolished its monarchy tradition and has created a multi-party system, as well as had a decade-long Maoist insurgency. There has been a lot of political instability throughout the years, and in July 2016, a new political coalition led by Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kumar Dahal took over. This was the ninth government to be formed in eight years. As it borders to both China and India, it has been influenced and pressured by these two super-powers, and it is still geo-politically influenced today, in particular by its «big-brother» India.
When it comes to religion, the majority of Nepalese follows Hinduism, but there are also many Buddhists. In several places they even share the same temples. In general, Nepal has attracted numerous people interested in spirituality and religion throughout the centuries. The fact that Siddartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, was born in Nepal close to the Indian border (563 BC) has also made it a special country with regards to deities and spiritual figures.
Nepal is first and foremost known for its extreme and beautiful nature, and it has as mentioned attracted explorers and tourists for many decades. Trekking in Himalaya is very popular, but does also have a darker side to it. Tourists come and hire sherpas and local Nepalese people to assist them in hiking and climbing for an extremely low cost, and many sherpas have died over the years trying to secure the trail for tourists. There are more and more responsible tourists and traveling agencies who make sure that there are less negative effects both environmentally (tourists have been known to leave trash everywhere in the trails) and for the local people, but the growing tourism is still taking its toll on the environment.
Nepal is a developing country with many social issues. Early childhood marriages, lack of schooling in rural areas, low-quality health care systems, and discrimination of women are still common today. This is partly due to the fact that it was closed off until the 1950s, and that the majority of people are living in rural areas, as well as a corrupt government. The fact that the caste system is still an important part of the Nepalese culture also limits development in a variety of areas.
The country has been depending on foreign aid for many decades, and government corruption has been delaying developmental initiatives. An example of this is that after the earthquake in 2015, there has been an influx of 1.4 billion dollars, but a lot of this money has been left with the corrupt government. This has made the rebuilding efforts extremely slow and inefficient. Local Nepalese people are the ones that have been tirelessly rebuilding their own communities.
Nepalese people are known to be friendly and warm. Our Nepalese friends are some of the nicest and funniest people we know. Nepal is colorful, chaotic and serene all at once, and we really recommend you to take a trip there if you have not been. If you have been, then we assume you feel the same way as us – you want to go back 🙂
Adventures in Nepal. Discovering the country and the people – Marit Bakke and Olav Myrholt, Himalayan Post (P.) Ltd (2017).