Customs of Nepal
Marriage and Family
Marriage customs vary among the different castes. Traditional marriages are arranged by parents, although sometimes with the consent of the marriage partners. Marriage is sacred, divine, and considered to endure beyond death. For the Nepalese, chastity (sat, or satitwa in urban areas) is the most important virtue a woman can bring to a marriage. Sherpas might live together before getting married. Weddings are times of great celebration and feasting. They are elaborate and may last up to three days. In the southern region, called the Tarāi, a dowry is common.
Land is inherited and divided equally between the sons of a family. Inheritance laws have been reformed, and women are gaining some property rights; however, women—especially among Hindus—generally have few rights or privileges in society. They are responsible for the household and farming—except for plowing—and do not socialize in public as much as men. While many women work outside the home, it is more common in urban areas than in rural areas. Women in rural areas often marry before they are 18 years old. They join their husband’s extended family at that time and are expected to care for his parents. Some men have more than one wife.
Most families in rural areas live in modest, two-level houses made of stone and mud with a few small windows. The upper level is used to store food. Houses in the cities are built from bricks, stone, or reinforced concrete. Urban apartment buildings cannot have more than five stories. Those who live in apartments often share water and bathroom facilities with others. In the south, where the caste system is most dominant, a few higher-caste people can afford to live in large, well-built houses, but the majority of lower-caste people live in poverty.
Many higher-caste people in
Millet and maize are staples for most Nepalese, although rice is a staple in the Tarāi. Roti (flat bread) may be prepared with different grains; wheat is preferred, but a Brahman will also eat a maize roti. Millet and buckwheat are more often eaten by poorer people. Hill people eat dhedo (porridge) made of maize meal, millet, or buckwheat.
In most homes, men and guests are served first, followed by children, then women. Chopsticks are used in some northern districts, but elsewhere food is eaten with the hand. Because of the Hindu principle of jutho (ritual impurity), food is not shared from the same plate or eaten with the same utensils. When drinking water from a communal container, the lips do not touch the container. Higher caste Hindus are careful that their food is not touched by people outside their caste or religion; food prepared by any caste lower than one’s own is considered jutho and cannot be eaten. Therefore, at social gatherings involving more than one caste, the Brahmans, who are the highest caste, prepare the food. Only roti can be prepared by a lower-caste person.
Namaste is the traditional greeting in
Men do not touch women in public—even between married couples physical affection is reserved for the privacy of the home. However, members of the same sex often express friendship by walking arm in arm or hand in hand.
Relatives and friends get together often, and even unexpected visitors are made welcome. Hosts are patient with late-arriving guests because individuals are considered to be more important than the demands of a time schedule. Hindus believe that being kind to strangers can enhance their status in the next life, and they will not turn away someone in need. Some people may, however, be shy about inviting strangers they consider wealthier than themselves into their homes.
Tea with sugar and milk is usually offered to guests; it is usual to decline refreshments initially before accepting them. Shoes are removed when entering a home, a Hindu temple, or a Muslim mosque. Guests invited to a meal usually bring small presents for the children, especially during holidays or for special occasions, but they are not opened at the time they are received. Gifts may include food or drinks from guests without a regular income. In the south, members of the opposite sex do not usually mix at social gatherings, although this custom is not as prevalent in the north.
Several cinemas in Kathmandu show films from
Holidays and Celebrations
Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas