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Nepal Textbook Fact Checker: Relearn These 9 Things About The Country

Do you think you know Nepal? It may be surprising to know that you have learned false information about the country in which you have lived. After all, you have read so many books to amalgamate several facts about the country.

And, since your teachers taught you, you never bothered to check if it was right or wrong either. But, now it is time for you to question some of the information and facts that you have been poorly taught.

Here are some facts to relearn from your school time.

1. Daura suruwal, Dhaka topi and gunyu choli are not the national dresses

Models wearing plain cotton daura suruwal and brocade daura suruwal outside a bridal clothing store in Bangemudha. Photo: Nasana Bajracharya

You might be surprised to know that daura surwal and Dhaka topi and gunyu choli are not the national dresses of Nepal, because you imagine the set is a real Nepalese outfit. Of course, they are the traditional dress of Nepal, but not the “national dress” yet. Of course we believed them the national dress in the past, they were removed from status after Nepal became a federal republic in 2011.

But, they are still the attire worn by some communities in Nepal, such as the Khas Aryas, and are popularly considered official dresses from the country.

2. Kabaddi is not the national game, nor dandi biyo

Many of you have learned that your national game is kabaddi. Although kabaddi is one of the most loved and played games by Nepalese as a hobby or competition, it is not Nepal’s national game. In addition to this, some of you have also learned that dandi biyo, a game that is played by hitting two sticks, is the national game. This is also wrong.

Volleyball is the national game of Nepal, as declared in May 2017.

3. There are only 4 World Heritage sites in Nepal

At school, everyone is taught that there are seven World Heritage sites in the Kathmandu Valley and three outside the valley. But, the point is that the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) only inscribed four World Heritage sites for Nepal: Kathmandu Valley, Lumbini, Chitwan National Park and Sagarmatha National Park.

This means that the three Durbar Squares, Pashupatinath Temple, Swoyambhu Stupa, Buddha Stupa and Changunarayan which you have been taught as different heritage sites only count as one World Heritage Site.

4. Neither momo nor dal-bhat are national food

thakali khana
File: A Thakali khana ensemble

As much as you would like to believe, the hard truth is that momo is not your national food. Even though nationally or even internationally people may think of momo as an identity of Nepal and Nepalese cuisine, momo still does not officially hold the title. It is one of the most popular foods in Nepal, but it is not Nepalese food and is originally from Tibet.

Now you might be wondering if it’s not momo, what’s your national food? You might think dhindo, gundruk, or dal bhat are the national food, but again, you are wrong. These are only authentic local traditional Nepalese food, because officially there is no Nepalese food to date.

5. Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world

Mount Everest is the tallest mountain in the world, you’ve all learned it, you’ve said it again, and proudly boasted of being the country in the knees of Mount Everest. While this is partially true, you might want to get a few more facts here.

Before we get angry, let’s clarify here that Mount Everest is not the tallest mountain in the world, but it is the world’s highest mountain above sea level, peaking at 29,031.69 feet ( 8,848.86 meters). But, technically, if you consider the height of the mountains from their base to the top, Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in the world with a height of 9,966 meters (32,696 feet). Mauna Kea is a dormant volcanic mountain that originates in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, which is why it can only be seen 4,207.3 meters above sea level.

Mount Everest is also not the highest point in the center of the Earth. You all know that the earth is not a perfect sphere, it is a little thicker at the equator due to the centrifugal force created by the constant rotation of the planet. For this reason, from different points different mountains are the highest. And, in this regard, the highest point in the center of the earth is not Mount Everest but the summit of Ecuador. Mount Chimborazo with a height of 6,268 meters (20,564 feet) above sea level, it is located only one degree south of the equator where the bulge of the earth is greatest. It also makes Mount Chimborazo the closest point on earth to the stars.

6. Bhimsen Thapa was not the first prime minister

Bhimsen Thapa painting Fact-checking Nepal
Painting by Bhimsen Thapa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In schools, you were taught that Bhimsen Thapa was the first Prime Minister of Nepal. Despite attempts at correction, people still consider him to be the first prime minister of Nepal. But, the point is, he was not the prime minister because he never held the post of prime minister.

Technically, Bhimsen Thapa was a mukhtiyar, military troop leader, or commander-in-chief. But many (poorly) translate ‘mukhtiyar’ as the equivalent of the prime minister in terms of office and position, due to the influence of British writers and the intervention of international political powers.

But again, Bhimsen Thapa was not the first mukhtiyar either; he was the second person to hold this title after King Rana Bahadur Shah.

7. Dharahara in Sundara is not the first

Two Dharaharas. Courtesy of Sushil Bickram Thapa / Facebook

Many of you have learned in the schools that Bhimsen Thapa built Dharahara in Sundhara. For a very long time, many believed that it was the first and only Dharahara Thapa built. But, there was another Dharahara before that. Bhimsen Thapa built the ancient Dharahara in 1824 (1881 BS) in his residence, Janarala Bagh, which is located southeast of Dharahara, you know, near Botebahal of Kathmandu. It collapsed in two in the earthquake of 1834 and was never built.

8. Pratap Malla has not started Gai Jatra

For a long time you have heard that the Gai Jatra, one of the famous festivals of the Newa community, was started by Pratap Malla to console his grieving queen. But, there is not much information to confirm that the holiday was celebrated by the 17th century King of Kantipur.

Historian and writer Gautama Vajra Vjracharya said that Pratap Malla was not the one who started the Gai Jatra. It is argued that in the 17th century every good deed was associated with the monarch and that this holiday was just another example. Historian Dinesh Raj Pant also adds that Pratap Malla could not have been the one who started the festivals as Gai Jatra is celebrated more vigorously in Patan and Bhaktapur than in Kathmandu, his kingdom.

9. Swasthani Brata Katha was first written in Nepal Bhasa

Nepalese Hindu devotees take holy water from the Bagmati River on the shore of Pashupatinath Temple during the Madhav Narayan festival in Kathmandu, Nepal. Nepalese Hindu women observe a fast and pray to Goddess Swasthani and God Madhavnarayan for the longevity of their husbands and the prosperity of their families during the month-long festival.

Swasthani Barta Katha is very familiar to many of you. For a month, women and men quickly take and follow all strictly complete rituals of reading Swathani Barta Katha. For a long time, it was popular in the Nepalese language and, therefore, considered to be an original Nepalese script. But it has been learned that it was first written in Nepal Bhasa, as early as 693 Nepal Sambat or around 1573 AD by Jayanta Dev. But, from the beginning of the 19th century only, you see Nepalese versions of Swasthani, which coincide with the rise of the Shah’s rulers in Kathmandu and the influence of the British Empire in India.

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