Kathmandu is the largest municipality and the capital of Nepal. It's also the only city in the country with the Mahanagar (Metropolitan City) municipal status. Kathmandu has a population of 985,000 in 2019.
Kathmandu makes up the core of the largest urban agglomeration in the city in the Kathmandu Valley, which also includes Kirtipur, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Madhyapur Thimi, and smaller regions. Informally, the city is called KTM or the tri-city.
Kathmandu accounts for 1/12 of Nepal's total population, and it's the main gateway to the country's tourism industry. The city has a history going back more than 2,000 years.
City Size and Population Density
The city proper has a population density of 20,288 people per square kilometer (52,550 residents per square mile). This great population density is made possible by the rather small surface area the city has available, which comes to a total of approximately 50 square kilometers (19 square miles).
Kathmandu is a very ethnically and culturally diverse city. The Newar are the largest ethnic group at 30% of the population, followed by the Matwali at 25% -- which includes the Tamang, Gurung, Sunuwar, Magars, and others -- the Khas Brahmins at 20%, and the Chettris at 18.5% of the population. The Tamangs were initially from the surrounding hills of the region. Many hill ethnic groups from Terai (the marshy forests and grasslands on the outer foothills of the Himalaya) have also migrated to the area.
Hinduism and Buddhism are the two primary religions in the city. Nepal remains the only official Hindu state in the world.
Nepali is the most commonly spoken language, as well as Nepal Bhasa and English. Hindi is also spoken and understood by most of the educated population.
The Nepal Earthquake
In April 2015, Kathmandu was devastated by the Nepal or Gorkha earthquake. This 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 9,000 and injured over 23,000. It triggered an avalanche on Mount Everest that killed 19, which was the deadliest day of the mountain's history. The earthquake destroyed many landmarks and centuries-old structures in the region, including parts of the Kathmandu Durbar Square, the Changu Narayan Temple, and the Swayambhunath Stupa. The Swayambhunath or Monkey Temple is one of the oldest religious sites in the country. While it's considered a Buddhist temple, it's revered by Hindus and Buddhists alike.
Disaster experts knew the earthquake's damage to the area was coming. The valley is located on a fault line, and the city has an annual growth rate of 6.5% combined with one of the highest urban densities on earth and 1.5 million people living in the valley. Rampant code violations and haphazard urbanization in the region have been blamed for the high death toll.