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Nepal

Discovering Nepal and the mysterious Himalayas

Nepal is bound by two of Asia's biggest countries, namely China's Autonomous Region of Tibet and India. Its capital, Kathmandu, has an incredible cultural heritage, the Kathmandu valley being one of seven places that are classified UNESCO World Hertiage Sites. It's a country where both Buddhism and Hinduism have contributed to its cultural wealth.

Nepal is known for its breathtaking landscape and famous Himalayan treks , including the legendary 8,850m of Everest.

After having been devasted by the April and May 2015 earthquakes , the country is slowly getting back on its feet. This article was written before these catastrophic events took place.

Films to watch

Himalaya

A Franco-Nepalese fictional film, directed by Eric Valli and released in 1999. The 7 month shoot took place in the mountains of Tibetan Nepal and its cast was drawn from actors/inhabitants from the Dolpa region. This poignant, moving story is one of the best films I saw during my childhood.

Mustang: A Kingdom on the Edge, a 2011 documentary by Steve Chao

Chao documents the fight to preserve ancient culture, despite Chinese influence and an instrusive modern world. A fascinating look at Mustang, the ancient Tibetan kingdom that is now part of Nepal. Home to a Tibetan resistance movement, mounted after the Dalai Lama fled into exile, this region has always been protected by its remoteness and for centuries the only way in and out was on horseback.

A photographic record

An Ode to Beauty by Matthieu Ricard (2015)

In this dual French-English book, Ricard, an academic and Buddhist monk, takes us on a photographic journey through the Tibetan region where he has lived for over 40 years. Matthieu Ricard has spent much of his career documenting life in the mountains of Kathmandu, where he has managed to photograph some incredible scenes.

For almost half a decade, he's had access to spiritual masters, monastery life, local art as well as being able to freely tour the stunning lands around Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal.

He also wrote Monk Dancers of Tibetand translated The Life of Shabkar: The Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin, written by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol and which includes a foreward by the Dalai Lama.  

Authors who specialise in Nepal

Michel Peissel is a French ethnologist and author who's written a dozen books based on his travels in the Himalayas, with an emphasis on Nepal, Tibet and Bhutan.

His most famous books:

- Mustang: a Lost Tibetan Kingdom London Collins-Harvill, 1968

- Tibet, the Secret Continent London: Cassell Illustrated, 2002

- Tibetan Pilgrimage New York: Abrams 2005

Tiger for Breakfast, Dutton, New-York, 1964

Gérard Toffin, an ethnologist and director at the CNRS (French national centre for scientific research) has spent most of his career studying Nepal and the Kathmandu valley. Gérard Toffin continues to produce papers on Newari culture in the Kathmandu valley, analysing the political, social, religious and cultural evolution of contemporary Nepal.

His best known translated works include:

-Living Masks of the Newars. The Itinerant masked dances of the Kathmandu Valley. The booklet can be accessed on the Asianart site, USA (September 2015).

- Newar Society. City, Village and Periphery, Lalitpur, Social Science Baha/Himal Books, 2007

- From Monarchy to Republic: Essays on Changing Nepal Vajra Books 2013. 

Northern bank of Lake Pokhara

Mylène Wei
20 contributions
Updated 12 October 2015
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