Kathmandu: Despite a deepening political crisis that has cast a dark shadow over its floundering peace process; the Himalayan republic of Nepal still has a good cause to rejoice this Christmas with a pat on the back coming from an unexpected benefactor - Google.
For two days starting from Christmas eve, Google replaced its corporate logo on the internet with 17 images that have now become synonymous with the holiday season.
The 17 interactive images featured on the Google doodle, which is also Google`s holiday card, has been designed by Michael Lopez, who spent over six months to create a doodle that would celebrate "the holiday season in the spirit of world unity and peace".
The images, picked from across the globe, are as diverse as the St. Basil`s Cathedral in Moscow, gondolas of Venice, and Kanga, a colourful, popular African garment.
Nepal, despite its tiny size, remains one of the world`s most favourite holiday destinations due to its amazing geographical and religious diversity as well as being home to eight of the tallest peaks in the world, including the 8848-metre high Mt. Everest.
The world`s newest republic is one of the 17 images in the doodle, done mostly in blue. The Nepal image shows three young Sherpa girls singing in front of a Buddhist tower with traditional Buddhist prayer flags fluttering in the wind.
Both Nepal`s two big neighbours - India and China - have also been included in the vignettes. While India is represented by a danseuse who highlights the subcontinent`s rich repertoire of traditional dances, China is represented by its legendary Great Wall.
The other image from Asia is that of Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.
The Google representation comes as a shot in the arm for Nepal`s tourism ministry that is gearing up to celebrate the New Year as the Nepal Tourism Year 2011 with the aim of bringing one million foreign tourists to the lap of the Himalayas.
Nepal`s inclusion among images of holiday associated especially with Christmas comes four years after it became a secular republic from being the only Hindu kingdom in the world.
The first Christian missionaries arrived in Nepal in the 1950s, mostly on invitation to start schools and hospitals.
However, conversions remained a punishable offence till 1990 when a pro-democracy movement clipped the wings of the Hindu king of Nepal, Birendra Bir Bikram Shah, forcing him to become a titular, constitutional monarch and lift the ban on political parties.
It took another pro-democracy movement in 2006 to end the army-backed regime of Birendra`s brother Gyanendra, resulting in parliament declaring Nepal secular and Christmas a public holiday.
In 2007, the Vatican appointed the first Catholic bishop in Nepal.