Many of Tibetans in Nepal have settled around Bodhnath, a stupa that long has had a Tibetan connection. Walking around Bodhnath you momentarily leave Nepal and find yourself in Tibet. NEPAL IS A PATCHWORK OF ETHNIC GROUPS, EACH WITH THEIR OWN RELIGION, LANGUAGE, AND DRESS.
But if most of these ethnic groups are obscure to the nonspecialist, the one that everyone has heard of is the Tibetans.
Why are there Tibetans in Nepal?
In October 1950 the Chinese People’s Liberation Army rolled into Tibet, sweeping aside the poorly equipped Tibetan forces. For the Chinese, Tibet was in this way “liberated” for most Tibetans, their country had been invaded. And with their religious and other individual rights suppressed in their own country. Many have made their way to the more tolerant soil of Nepal.
How Many Tibetans Live in Nepal
There are probably around 100,000 Tibetans in Nepal. Many of them have settled around Bodhnath, a stupa that long has had a Tibetan connection. Walking around Bodhnath you momentarily leave Nepal and find yourself in Tibet. The many new temples here are known as gompa and were built with help of donations from overseas.
The Bodhnath Stupa is the active place of worship; although you may enter. It is always polite to ask permission of one of the many maroon-cloaked monks. Don’t forget to remove your shoes and hat before entering the main chapel. If you wish to take photographs, a small donation or a gift – the white kata scarf is the customary Tibetan gift for monks – is appreciated.
Entering a gompa when a service is in progress is unique. The mysteriously atmospheric experience that you will never forget. The interior is dark, shifting with flickering pools of luminescence thrown off by innumerable candles. In Tibet, those candles are made of yak butter. it makes the air heavy with a slightly rancid, slightly sweet smell, but in Nepal, vegetable ghee is usually substituted. Add to this the rolling drone of meditating monks kneeling on cushions and muttering a tape-loop mantra, and you have a heady concoction.
If you’re lucky, your visit to Bodhnath may coincide with a ceremony that requires a musical accompaniment. Such performances are not melodious; but the crashing of cymbals. Pounding of drums and the booming of the three-meter (10-ft) radung – something like a cross between a Swiss horn and a didgeridoo – combine to create a haunting cacophony of sound.
The weaving of colorful Tibetan carpets, a tradition near extinction in Tibet, has found a new lease of life in Nepal