Sculpture & Decorative Arts

Nepalese sculpture is mostly religious in nature. Many carved artifacts have been found in the Terai region of Nepal, which provide an insight into the Nepali culture and religion from its early beginnings right up to the modern times. Nepali sculpture flourished during the Lichchhavi period (5th-8thcentury) ; and stone, copper and bronze images from this period depict round faces with slanted eyes. Minimalism use of clothes and ornaments can be found, like many Hindu deities are shown wearing only a dhoti(skirt-like lower garment). Buddhist deities were carved to show them wearing longsanghatis (a long saffron-coloured robes that the Buddhists wear hanging from the shoulders) and idols during this period were so beautifully executed that it is not possible to find one specimen with a chiseled mark. Some of the best examples of sculpture during the Lichchhavi period are the images of Sleeping Vishnu in Budhanilkantha, and the Vishnu Vikrant or Dwarf Incarnation found near Lazimpat in Kathmandu. Remarkable sculptures from Lichchhavi period at Changu Narayan. The sculpture arts of 6th-14th and from the early Malla period (11th-14th century) also comprise important art treasures of Nepal.

Woodcarving found in intricate and beautiful windows, doors, temple roof-struts and other artifacts in Kathmandu Valley is an art form which is an integral part of Nepali architecture. As wood is vulnerable to the ravages of time and other art forms, well-preserved specimen only date back to the 14th century and the beginning of the Malla period. Some of the best examples of this are: the old royal palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur and a number of different Viharas (monasteries) around the valley.


Sharma, Rashmi. Nepal and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publications, 2007.

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Nepali handicrafts date back to the 4th century B.C.; the ‘Kautilya Artha Sastra’ of Chanakya Bishnu Gupta (Kautilya) mentions woolen blanket. During the time of the Lichchhavis (3rd and 4th century A.D.), Nepali bronze artifacts were treasured by the Tibetans. Nepali handicrafts like sculptured ornaments, religious idols and statuettes in gold, silver, bronze, brass, stone and wood and embossed with semi-precious stones were very popular in India and China during the medieval period.

Nepali handicrafts are deeply rooted in the socio-religious and cultural lives of the people, and can be divided into two main categories: articles of daily use and artifacts/articles of aesthetic value and religious significance. The ethnic utilitarian handicrafts are like : khallohara (pestle and mortar),amkhora (water pot), anti (wine jar), sukunda (oil lamp), kuruwa (water jar), thaal (plate), kachaura (saucer), kasaudi (cooking pot), chulesi (vegetable cutter), gagri (water pitcher), khukri (gorkha knife) and dhakki (basket). In present times, the Nepali handicraft industry is dependent on tourism and export. Artifacts of aesthetic value like bronze figures, wooden artwork, traditional dolls, metal balls, pashmina shawls and thangka paintings are very popular amongst tourists.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009.


Traditional Nepali Music Imported Music
Newari Music Indian Music

  • Bhajan
  • Filmi/Bollywood music
Khas Music Western Music

  • Rock & Roll
  • Rock
  • Metal
  • Latino
  • Punk
  • Hip-Hop
  • Rap
Gurung Music
Kirant Music
Tamang Music
Magar Music
Sherpa Music
Maithili Music
Bhojpuri Music

Popular Indigenous Music of Nepal

Newari Music: consist of percussion instruments, some wind instruments, but no string instruments. All the castes have their own musical tunes and bands, and there are specific tunes for certain festivals, seasons and even for certain times of the day. Nasadya, the God of artists is revered in all the Newar localities.

Khas Music: belongs to the Khas society where castes like Damai used to play a number of instruments on occasions such as marriages, birth and other important festive occasions. But this tradition is now on decline due to the growing popularity of television, radio and other means of communication.

Musical Instruments: are popular throughout the country, while some are played only locally or on specific occasions. The Sarangi (smallchodophone), played by running a bow over the strings, is made and played by the Gandharvas or Gaines, who are the traditional folk singers of western Nepal. Air or wind blown instruments (aerophones) are found in various shapes, sizes and sound.Sahanai or Panchey Baja are played during weddings. Other instruments played during religious and social functions are Narasingha, Ponga and Muhali. Among the membranophones, Damphu is a double-sided disk shaped drum, with a long wooden handle. The Dhol/Dholak is a double-headed drum popular in the Terai region during public fairs and festivals. Dhimey is a double-headed cylindrical drum with a big wooden body, popular amongst the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley. The most popular drum is Maadal, made of leather with a wooden body is widely used for folk music and dances in the hills.

Musical Instruments of Nepal

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Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009. VIDEO VIDEO of Newari Music


Nepal art and culture is unique, exotic and strongly influenced by the religious beliefs of the country. The earliest examples of Nepalese art in painting form can be traced back to manuscript illustrations found on palm leaves and the earliest known manuscript is the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita of 1015 A.D. The wooden covers which protect the manuscript were usually more lavishly decorated than the actual manuscript.

Thangkha (Pauva) Art : Thangkas are traditional paintings depicting religious themes and deities prepared on a piece of fine cotton or silk cloth which is coated with a mixture of glue, chalk and indigo and varnished with the white of a duck’s egg mixed with water. The paintings are framed with three stripes of Chinese brocade of blue, yellow and red which represents the rainbow separating sacred objects from the material world. Images of Buddhist figures, mandala design, the wheel of life design or depiction of scenes or stories are themes frequently depicted in thangkha paintings. These paintings have generally been painted by traditional ethnic castes like the Chitrakars, Shakyas, Vajracharyas and Tibetan Lamas.

Mithila Art: Janakpur in central-south Nepal is the centre of this school of art. Maithili art is a folk painting dominated by religious themes andwomenfolk of Mithila paint the walls of their houses with pictures of different flowers and objects of socio-religious themes in bright colours. Today, this ancient art is being painted on paper as a form of prayer. Like thangkhas, Mithila art is heavily influenced by Tantric cults and their paintings are full of Tantric symbols like the Mandala in Tibetan art.

Sharma, Rashmi. Nepal and SAARC. New Delhi: Regal Publications, 2007.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009.

For more information:


In Nepal, drama owes its origin to ancient myth, folklore and religious practices. Early performances in the valley were held on a dabu or dabali, a 60cm (2foot) stone platform, while every chowk (street junction) and bahil (courtyard) might have been used as a stage for narrating tales of the gods and the demons. Post the unification of Nepal under the Shah Dynasty in 1767, the Kathmandu Valley performance absorbed some of the theatrical traditions of India, including romantic Parsi theatre popular in north India.

In 1846, when the Rana assumed power and controlled the monarchy, all public performances were banned, as well as public education. Religious performances continued among the indigenous communities of the Tarai plains and the hills. Ironically during the late nineteenth century, the Ranas imitating European architecture and styles, imported the concept of proscenium theatre for their private entertainment.

Despite the restrictions of the Rana, Moti Ram Bhatta adapted and staged Shakuntala in 1892, becoming the first recognized Nepali playwright and director. Manik Man Taludhar, Nepal’s first commoner theatre professional to be trained in Calcutta (present day Kolkata), returned to stage the playIndar Sabha in 1900.

Bal Krishna Sama from the Rana family is recognized as the father of modern Nepali theatre. In opposition to his Rana clan’s stand on performing art, he is recognized for inaugurating a golden age of the Nepali theatre with his work, Tansenko Jhari (rain in Tansen,1923 ), and he went on to write fifteen plays-comedies, tragedies and historical dramas which are influential till date.

Major developments occurred after the arrival of street theatre troupes like Sarwanam (1981), proscenium theatre practitioners like Arohan (1981), and the indigenous Maithili drama troupe, Janakpur-based Mithila Natya Parishas (1980).

With the restoration of multi-party democracy in 1990, theatre workers became development activists, performing plays under ‘awareness’ campaign banners. This sponsored work tended to restrict artistic progress , but in 2000, with the opening of a chapter of the International Theatre Institute and the consequent links made with international companies, Nepali theatre has found encouragement for a new wave of experimentation.

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Mahakali Dance: is one of the popular dances of Newar community in Nepal. This dance is based on the religious story from a Hindu Puran: ‘Mahakali Mahalaxmi’. This dance demonstrates the great joy and happiness after the victory of mother goddess over the demons.

Lakhey Dance: is one of the classical dances of Nepal performed once a year during the festival of Indrajatra which is celebrated for nearly a week during the end of September or first part of October. ‘Lakhey’ according to popular belief refers to man eating demons living in the dense forest. Earlier, Lakhey dancers used to select victims for human blood sacrifices.

Monkey Dance: is performed by teenagers wearing traditional customs and sticks in their hands. According to the religious epic Ramayan, monkeys performed a dance to express joy and happiness after victory of Ram over the demon King Ravana.

Bajrayogini dance: is one of the classical dance forms of Nepal named after the goddess Bajrayogini performed particularly in Buddhist temples on special occasions. This dance demonstrates a beautiful blend of wrathful feelings and peaceful motions to depict a strong sense of protection and preservation.

Tappa Dance: is a popular folk dance in the Rapti zone, especially Dang district. This dance starts in a slow key and the tempo gets faster and faster towards the end based on the rhythm or beating of the Madal (hand drum).

Sorathi Dance: is popular dance of Gurung. The central figure in this dance (a male dancer represented as a Jaisinge Raja-the name of a King) dances in turn with other female dancers, that represent the sixteen queens of the Raja and two other male dancers with their drums. Madals are used to provide the background music and settings.

Newari (Dhime) dance: is performed by the Newar community during harvest seasons, and its origin can be traced back to the Malla period of 13thcentury. Dhime is their musical instrument (like a drum which is played on both sides with hand and sticks), and has great cultural significance.

Tamang Selo: is performed by Tamang community, which is the largest Tibet-Burman ethnic group of Nepal. It is performed by both men and women, accompanied by ‘damphu’, a traditional instrument. Young dancers take this opportunity to choose their life partners during Tamang Selo.

Other forms of dances popular in Nepal are: Kawan (Skeleton) Dance, Arya Tara Dance, Chandi Dance, Peacock Dance, Bhojpuri, Ghatu, and Pancha Buddha dance amongst others.


Photo Source URL: VIDEO- folk dance VIDEO of Tamang Selo

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The Nepali film industry is referred to as Kollywood (or Kaliwood). History of Nepali films can be traced back to D.B. Pariyar’s Satya Harishchandra, which was the first Nepali language film to be made. It was produced from Kolkata, India and released on September 14, 1951. Aama (mother wasfirst Nepali film to be made and produced in Nepal by the Information Department of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal (now Government of Nepal); and released on October 7, 1964. It was directed by Hira Singh Khatri, with Shiva Shanker Manandhar and Bhuwan Thapa in the lead. In 1966, Maitighar (the birth home of a girl) by Sumonanjali Films Pvt. Ltd. was the first Nepali film to be produced under private banner, with Indian actress Mala Sinha in the lead role.

After the government eatablished the Royal Nepal Film Corporation in 1971, Mann Ko Bandh directed by Prakesh Thapa was the first film to be produced by the Corporation. It was followed by Kumari (the first Eastman Colour Nepali film) in 1977, Sindoor in 1980 and Jeevan Rekha in series. The success of these films acted as a catalyst for private parties to enter into filmmaking as an industrial endeavor. Later the Film Development Board (FDB) was established by the government of Nepal in accordance with Motion Picture Act amended on 20th November 1991. Most Nepali films are shot on 16mm film, and use Bollywood (Indian film industry) style songs and narratives. VIDEO clip of first Nepali film Aama



First Story Book Tantrakhyan (1518 A.D.)
First Song Walangata Simule Swambaraya (In reign of Pranmol malla, 1523-1550 A.D.)
First One-act Play Ekadashi Brata (1633A.D.) by Sidhhinarasingha Malla
First Drama Mooldev Shashidev by Jagat Prakash Malla (1645-1673 A.D.)


Before the Gurkha (Gorkha) conquest of Nepal in 1768, Nepali writings were in Sanskrit and Newari as well as in Nepali (the latter being the language of thr Gurkha conquerors), consisting of religious texts, chronicles and gift deeds. The extant material in Nepali, apart from memoirs (c. 1770) of the Gurkha king Prithvi Narayan Shah, has more historical than literary interest. In 19th century can be earmarked as the time when literary writing in the Nepali language originated.

About 1830 there arouse a school of Nepali poets who wrote on themes from the Hindu epics Ramayana and Bhagavata-Purana that was heavily influenced by classical Sanskrit themes and poetic metres than Nepali. In the mid-century, Bhanubhakta’s Nepali version of Ramayana achieved great popularity for colloquial flavor of its language. In the early 20th century, Lekhnath Paudyal also tended to the colloquial and used the rhythms of popular songs in some of his poems.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, the advent of modern literature began in Nepal with the work of Balkrishna Sama, who wrote lyric poetry and plays based on Sanskrit and English models and some short stories. Sama and Lakshmiprasad Devkota, discarded the earlier Sanskrit-dominated literary tradition and adopted some literary forms of the West, notably prose poetry, tragic drama, and the short story. Themes such as love, patriotism, problems of injustice, tyranny and poverty faced by Nepal in the 20th century were dealt with these writers.

Modern Nepali Drama, of which Sama was the chief practitioner, was influenced by Western playwrites like Henrik Ibsen in its depiction of contemporary social problems. In works of Visvesvaraprasad Koirala and Bhavani Bhiksu, the Nepali short stories also centred on modern-day Nepal’s social problems and the need for reform.


Nepali cuisine is as diverse as the country itself. Extensive use of spices and flavourings such as ginger, garlic, coriander, pepper, cumin, chilies, cilantro, mustard oil, ghee and occasionally yak butter is used. Daily staple Nepali cuisine consists of cooked rice (bhat) or a thick paste of maize or millet powder called dhedo, with some dal, or lentil soup, and vegetable curry and pickle, which is eaten twice a day. Between the two big meals snacks such as bread, chura (beaten rice), roti (flat roti made of wheat flour), curried vegetables, milked tea and other snacks are eaten.

Nepali Specials

Gundrook-Dheedo: is a sugar free dish made of wheat, maize and dried green vegetable. It is high on nutrition level and very popular in Nepal

Alu/Aloo Tama: means ‘Potato Bamboo Shoots’, which is a unique and classic Nepali dish. It is unique in the sense that bamboo shoots are used in very little quantity, unlike other Asian dishes.

Vegetable Pulao (Fried Nepali Rice): is served during parties and events in Nepali households. It has flavor of turmeric and cumin to it, and is served with curd and Manchurian.

Masu: is spiced or curried meat (usually chicken, mutton, buffalo or pork) with gravy. It is a main course dish served with rice.

Vegetable Thupka (Egg Noodles): is a seasonal dish which is part of Tibetan New Year celebration ‘Losar’.

Chatamari: is a flat bread made from rice flour with or without toppings (meat, vegetables, eggs and sugar).

Momos and Chhoyela: momos are dumplings filled with meat. Chhoyela are small pieces of meat steamed or barbecued and mixed with paste of garlic and other spices.


Traditional Nepali Food

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Tongba: is a special homemade wine of Limbu community.  It is made from fermented millet seeds that are put in wooden or plastic mug which is filled with hot water, and one sips through a bamboo straw as more hot water is added to make Tongba go down easily with greater impact and taste. It is usually consumed during winter season.

Rakshi: is a millet-based distilled alcoholic drink which is an important requirement at many religious rituals and social events. It is a homemade drink having antiseptic qualities.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009. VIDEO

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Nepali costumes differ significantly with climate and regions. Tradionally, men wear a long shirt, or daura, and trouser, or suruwal. Daura-Suruwal is typically termed as ‘Labeda-Suruwal’ and the dress has several religious beliefs, like the daura has eight strings that serves to tie itself up around the body, since eight is the lucky number in Nepali mythology. Moreover, the daura has five pleats or kallis, signifying Pancha Buddha or Pancha Ratna, and the closed neck of the Daura signifies the snake around the Lord Shiva’s neck.



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Womenfolk wear blouse, or cholo, and cotton sari (Guneu). According to status, gold and silver ornaments are worn by Nepali women. Typical signs of married women are red/green glass bangles, potey (long red/green bead-necklace with or without gold decoration) and sindoor. Hindu tradition and culture forbids widows of this luxury.

Cultural Treasures of Nepal. Nepal Tourism Board.2009.