Speckled with numerous exemplary works of art and architecture, Kathmandu Valley stands a testimony to ancient Nepal’s inclination toward the aesthetics. Several monuments in the Valley have been listed by UNESCO as World Heritage Sites. Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha, is the only World Heritage Site outside the Valley in South Nepal.
Like architecture, most artwork of Nepal is based on religion. Artworks range from the famous Buddhist Thanka and Newari Paubha paintings to the traditional crafts of woodwork and metal. Other art include literature, theater, music and dance, mirroring the different stages of Nepali society.
Nepali art has been deeply influenced by religion since very early times. Early art of Nepal can be seen as stone sculpture and temple architecture. Other art include Newari Paubha and Tibetan Thanka paintings, wood and metal crafts, ceramics and clay pots, textiles, paper, Tibetan carpet, music and literature. Contemporary Nepali art represents two distinct segments, traditional idealistic paintings and the contemporary western style works. The contemporary painting is specially noted for either nature based compositions or compositions based on Tantric elements or social themes. Nepali painters have also earned international reputation for abstract works based on these themes.
Kathmandu Valley houses a number of museums and art galleries displaying art work of the past and present. Some are: The National Museum at Chhauni, Museums at Kathmandu Durbar Square, Museum of Natural History at Swayambhu, National Library at Puchowk, Kaiser Library at Thamel, National Birendra Art Gallery at Naxal, Asa Archives at Tangal, National Art Gallery at Bhaktapur Durbar Square, National Woodworking Museum at Bhaktapur Durbar Square, Bronze and Brass Museum at Bhaktapur, Nepal National Ehnographic Museum at Bhrikuti Mandap. Museums outside the Kathmandu Valley are such: Dhakuta Museum, Hattisar Museum in Bhimphedi, Mustang Eco Museum in Jomsom, Tharu Cultural Museum in Thakurdwara and International Mountain Museum in Pokhara.
Melting pot of Hinduism and Buddhism In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co – existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites.
Though Nepal is the only Hindu Kingdom in the world, many other religions like Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.
Most of the festivals celebrated in Nepal have religious significance. The dates of most festivals are fixed by famous astrologers after consulting the lunar calendar. The biggest and most popular festivals are: Dashain, a celebration of Goddess Bhagabati’s victory over evil Mahisashur; and Tihar, a celebration of lights dedicated to Goddess Laxmi.