Our flag of the week at the International House is the Nepalese flag. Nepal is a landlocked country located in South Asia. Lying along the slopes of the Himalayan mountain ranges, 75% of Nepal is covered by mountains. The capital of Nepal is Kathmandu.
Nepal is the only country in the world that has a non-rectangular flag. While the basic design of the flag dates back for centuries, the present iteration was established under the new constitution on December 16, 1962. The origins and intended meaning of the flag remain unclear. Some suggest that the two pennants represent the Shahs and the Ranas, the two most powerful ruling dynasties. Some say that the moon and sun represent pride and peace. Dayaram Shrestha, a prominent academic and professor in Nepal, says that the symbols represent permanence: “As long as we have the sun and moon, Nepal will always be there.”
The first civilizations in Nepal flourished around the 6th century BCE in the fertile Kathmandu Valley. In the 5th century BCE, Siddhartha Gautama was born and achieve enlightenment as Buddha, making present-day Nepal the birthplace of Buddhism. Around the 12th century, Hinduism became increasingly influential in Nepal.
Parts of present-day Nepal were ruled by various dynasties: the Gopalas, the Kiratis, the Licchavis, and the Malla kings. In 1968, King Prithvi Narayan Shah unified the kingdom of Nepal. The dynasty signed commercial treaties with the British East India Company in 1792 and again in 1816 after acing hostility. In 1923, British recognized the absolute independence of Nepal.
Nepal favored isolationist policies until 1951, when a parliamentary democracy was introduced. This democracy was suspeneded by Nepalese monarchs in 1960 and 2005. Following the Nepalese Civil War in the 1990s and 2000s, Nepal was proclaimed a secular republic in 2008.
Today, the official language of Nepal is Nepālī. Other languages include Magar, Gurung, Rai, Limbu, Sunwar, Tamang, Newari, Sherpa, and Thakali. The majority of the population practices Hinduism, but a small percentage follows Buddhism as well.
Nepal is home to eight of the ten highest mountains in the world. The tallest mountain in thew world, Mount Everest (know in Nepal as Sagarmāthā), lies on the border of Nepal and Tibet.