Nepal is a country nestled in the Himalayan mountain ranges. It is often referred to as a "yam between two boulders," meaning that it has a strategic location between India and China. Until recently, it was one of the last Hindu monarchies in the world. However, because of internal turmoil and the Maoist uprising, the king was forced to abdicate. The nation is currently in a state of trying to become a full-fledged democracy.
The population of Nepal is roughly 31 million and is composed of over 102 separate castes and ethnic groups. These people have generally lived in peaceful harmony for centuries and the sense of community is very strong.
Nepal has a varied geography with virtually every kind of climate, from warm lowlands and valleys to the cool Middle Hills and heights of Everest. Seven of the tallest peaks in the world are located in Nepal, which has made the country a destination for trekkers, climbers, and adventurers. The natural beauty of the country has led to Nepal being called Shangri-La, the last paradise on Earth.
The Terai is home to some of the rarest and most endangered animal species, including the white rhino and the Bengal tiger. The country is also a haven for ornithologists, with new birds being discovered every year. The rhododendron is the national flower, and one of many thousands of beautiful plants that dot the landscape.
Nepal has over 127 spoken languages. Nepali, the official language, is closely related to Sanskrit and is a member of the Indo-Aryan language family. Nepal Bhasa, the "Nepal language", a Tibeto-Burman language, is still spoken by the original speakers, the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. In Nepal, regional dialects often vary considerably, and it is not unusual for inhabitants of one village to be unable to understand their neighbors just a few kilometers away.
Many of the more unique languages are currently in danger of becoming extinct due to the slow disappearance of certain smaller ethnic tribal groups. The Endangered Languages project is presently documenting the rate of decline and providing valuable information concerning these changes.
In earlier times, Nepali was written in an old indigenous Brahmi-derived script called Bhujimol, but today it is written mostly in Devanagari. The oldest extant Nepali text is a bilingual Khas-Tibetan inscription from the fourteenth century. Literary texts first appeared in the seventeenth century. Official documents were mostly written on Lokta paper in order to ensure longevity. This paper, made from the inner bark of the Lokta bush, is impervious to insects and other pests.
A stone inscription that is set into the wall of the palace in Durbar Square has writings in fifteen languages. It is believed that if anybody deciphers this entire inscription, milk will flow from the spout, which lies just below the unscripted stone wall.
Being one of Earth's more exotic locations, Nepal or elements of its culture have been shown or used in books, films, television programs, and video games throughout the years. Movies and games such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Lost Horizon, Himalaya, The Expendables 2, Monsters, Inc., Uncharted 2: Among Thieves, and Tomb Raider: Legend are just a sampling of some of the many works which feature Nepal.
Khukuris, which are curved Nepalese knives, have been featured in everything from Dracula, Game of Thrones, and Resident Evil: Extinction to Team Fortress 2, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and Halo: Reach. Phurbas, three-sided daggers used in rituals, have been used as elements in The Shadow and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves.