At once a time machine and a magic carpet, Nepal sweeps you along crooked, timeworn streets flanked by irregular, multi-roofed pagodas, stupas and stone sculptures, and into rooms cluttered with horror-eyed masks, spinning prayer wheels, trippy thangka scrolls and Tibetan carpets. Muttered chants, esoteric tantric hymns and Nepalese music hang in the air, whether it be the twang of a four-stringed saringhi or the plaintive notes of a flute. Traditional folk musicians, or gaines, gather for an evening of singing and socialising; classical dancing and trance-like masked dances enliven the Kathmandu Valley and Bhaktapur regions; while no wedding would be complete without the raucous damais - Nepal's modern ensembles.
Religion is the lifeblood of the Nepalese. Officially it is a Hindu country, but in practice the religion is a syncretism of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs with a pantheon of Tantric deities tagged on. The remainder of the population that isn't Buddhist or Hindu are either Muslim, Christian or shamans.