Nepal has a population of more than
26 million people, made up of over 40 different races
and tribes. The country offers such diversity that the
visitor may experience any lifestyle from the stone
age, in far west and high hills, to the jet age of Kathmandu.
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nepal cultural groups by altitude
The two major groups in Nepalese society are Tibeto-Burmans,
or Mongoloids from the north, and Indo-Aryans from the
south. Many customs are inherited from both sides and
have been developed by the influences of the land, climate
and available resources.
The largest groups can be divided on the basis of geographical
locations by altitude.
Alpine Based Cultural
Sherpa, in literal terms, means people of the east in
the Tibetan language. Originally from Tibet about 500
years ago they have a close affinity with the Tibetan
language, culture and religion. Sherpas major occupations
include agriculture, animal husbandry, trade and have
become famous for trekking and mountaineering. Today
they are know worldwide for their skill and hardiness.
They follow Buddhism as their major religion.
The settlement of these people is considered the highest
of any living ethnic group in the world. These people
live beyond the mountains, west of the Kali Gandaki
river valley. These people practice Buddhist customs.
larke and siar people
Larke is the northern most part of Nepal's Gorkha district
while Siar is the northern part of the Dhading district.
These people mainly speak the Tibetan and Gurung languages
and have ethnic affinity with Gurungs.
The people of Manang are called Manang Bas. Their major
occupations include trade and business. They have their
own language and scripts and maintain their own local
religious practice with 12 villages called Bara Gaule-Baragaun.
The famous pilgrimage spot on the Annanpurna Circuit,
Muktinath, lies in their area. Although Buddhism is
part religion, they follow Bon-Po which pre-dates the
reign of Bhuddha.
lo pas of mustang
The settler of Lo are called Lopas. They carry on trade
between Nepal and Tibet in the Upper and Lower Mustang
areas. Buddhism is their major religion. They have their
own local language and festivals outside typical Buddists
These people are the inhabitants of Olanchung Gola,
the main trading route along Eastern Nepal. Besides
Buddhism, they have their own customs and practices.
Thudam, Topke Gola and Lhomis are other ethnic groups
within Nepal's alpine region.
Temperate Zone Based Cultural
Middle Hills and Valleys
Brahmans, the priestly class of indo-Aryan origin, occupy
the highest position in the Hindu hierarchy. they are
said to have come to Nepal from different parts of India.
Today they are found in every part of Nepal and have
taken p different occupations.
The Chhetris, who like the Brahmins also have on Indo-Aryan
origin, have been traditionally classified as warriors
and administrators. They are recognized for their bravery
and administrative skills. Today, they are distributed
in almost all the parts of Nepal and have been working
in different fields. They are said to have originally
come from northern India during and other the time of
the Buddha. The Khas are generally regarded as Bahuns
and Chhetris who set up their own kingdoms in the far.
Western parts of Nepal. Their language, khas-kura (Nepali)
which had evolved out of Sanskrit, was later introduced
as the state language other King Prithivi Narayan Shah
conquered the Kathmandu Valley in 1778.
The kiratis are among the first group of people ruling
over Nepal. Ancient Hindu texts like Hivat-Khanda, and
mahabharata have mentioned their names. They basically
come from eastern Nepal's Tamakoshi, Bhotekoshi, Arun
and Tomor. These people of Tibeto-Burman Origin worship
their ancestors and at the same time follow Buddhism,
Hindusm, Animism and so on. they are very good farmers
and warriors. They are rich in culture and have several
languages and scripts called the Sri-Jung
Kathmandu, the capital city has been the homeland of
the Newaris. The Newars are inhabitants of a Tibeto-Burman
origin who speak in Newari (their own dialect) as well
as Nepali. The Newars are among the largest indigenous
groups of Nepal and Make up the 7% of the total population
(-800000). Several Newar families follow Buddhism as
well as Hinduism They are usually inclined towards commerce,
trade and farming.
The Newars, who have been divided into 64 occupational
groups by King Sthiti Malla, are a unique testimony
of the richness of Nepali Cultural heritages. They have
excelled in art, literature, Sculpting, casting bronze
and silver and fascinating forms of architecture.
In Tibetan language Tamang means horse traders. It is
believed that they originally came from Tibet. The majority
of Tamangs live in the hills surrounding Kathmandu Valley.
Their social practices and customs are based on Buddhism
and they have their own language, Tamang. They work
mainly as farmers, labours and as porters.
The Magars, having Tibeto-Burman origin, live in the
Kali Gandaki region of the south of Dhaulagiri. They
speak the Tibeto-Burman language and are Hindu by faith
but they also follow Buddhism. They are mostly farmers
but their martial qualities and Physical fitness have
mode them good soldiers Sherpas.
The Sherpas, who are said, have come from Tibet, speak
the Tibeto-Burman language and live in the Himalayan
region of Nepal. They are hardworking. Friendly and
reliable in nature.
The largest Sherpa settlement is in Solu Khumbu of the
foothill of Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak
The Sherpas are adventurous mountaineers of international
repute. Tenzing Norgay was the Sherpa, who with Sir
Edmund Hillary from New-Zealand, successfully climbed
Mt. Everest in 1953. Ang Rita. Babu Chiri (late), Pasong
Lhambu (late) are a few well known sherpas in the field
The Gurungs, originally belonging to the Tibet-Burman
ethnic, group, live mostly in the central region of
Nepal in places like the foothills of Kaski, Lamjung
and Annapurna Himal. The Gurung Villages surrounding
the hills of Pokhara have attracted tourists because
of their beautifully maintained stone houses.
The Gurungs are good rammers as well as warriors. They,
like the Rais, Limbus and Magars, have introduced themselves
internationally as the brave Gorkha-soldiers. They follow
Hinduism or Buddhism.
The origin of Thakali is Thok Khola, a high valley in
central Nepal along the Muktinath region. They have
Mongolian features, a fair complexion and narrow eyes.
Thakalis are divided into four major groups: Gauchan,
Tulachan, Sherchan and Bhattacan. Their religion is
a mixture of Buddhism, Hinduism and Jhankrism. They
are known for their hospitality, good salesmanship,
Certain ethnic groups in Nepal are categorised according
to their occupation. They are Kamis (smiths), Damais
(tailors), Dhibis (washerman) Sarkis (cobblers), Gaines
(professional singers) and Khumbharas (porters). The
origin of these castes has not been investigated yet
by the anthropologists. Hinduism is their major religion
and Nepali their major language. Many have their own
local festivals and practices.
Furthermore, Sunwars, Jirels, Chepangs, Kusundas and
Panchgaule (five villages) are other minor ethnic groups
of the Nepal midland hill regoins. Sunwars are Jirels
are considered to be the off shoots of Magars. Panchgaule
are similar to Thakalis. Kusundas still live in primitive
conditions. They live in caves, under trees and in temporary
huts in the forest. Only a handful of them are settled
into occupational farming. Chepangs, who are believed
to be the offshoots of Kirats, are slowly moving into
Subtropical Based Cultural Groups
Ethnic Groups of Terai Region and Southern Nepal border.
brahman and rajputs
These a people are similar to Bramin and Chhetris of
the middle hills. Their major difference being a high
degree of influence from the neighbouring North Indian
The Tharus are the only people living in the forests
of the Terai along the southem base of the Shivalik
hills. their age-olk religion has been Animism, which
often reflects their mixed belief in Hindusm and Buddhism.
The Tharus, who are said to be descendants of the Rajput
(ruling class) of india, have spread from eastern to
western part of Nepal.)
We have many madesi or Terai people living along the
border between India and Nepal. Htey speak Languages
like Maithili in the eastern Terai, Bhojpuri in the
central Terai and Avadhi in the western Terai.
The King, in Nepal among the Hindus, is traditionally
regarded as the incarnation of Vishnu (the Hindu god
of preservation) and a living symbol of religious harmony.
Among the Buddhists in Nepal, the king is honored as
the Buddhist god of compassion and Public welfare.
Hinduism is among the oldest faiths in the world, deeply
rooted in the Vedas (the holiest among the Hindu scriptures)
whose antiquity goes back to 2000 B.C.
According to Hindu Philosophy the ultimate goal of
one's life is to attain maksha or liberation. There
are three paths recommended to attain the goal : Artha
(economic efficiency), Dharma (righteousness) and Kama
(devotion to family). The three paths are designed to
gradually lead one from Bhukti, to mukti or Makshya,
the state of supreme bliss and detachment.
Rituals are another aspect of religion in Nepal as
most Nepali people are religious. For them rituals elevate
them spiritually and help them to maintain solidarity
among each other.
The recorded history of Buddhism in Nepal began with
the Budda himself. Many archeological ruins found in
Kapilastu and the vicinity indicate that many historical
buildings were built there, 600 years before Christ,
with the passage of time Buddhism underwent many socio-religious
upheavals and vajrayano and other sects were also introduced
This is a dominant ethnic group of far eastern Terai
areas of Jhapa and Morang. Although they follow both
Hindu and Muslims religions, they have their own local
practices. Farming is their major occupation.
They are similar to Santhals of Bihar, India. They are
very much like Tharus and their social life is organised
and disiplined. They believe in Hinduism. Dimals, Bodos,
Dhangars are agriculturist Hindu. Bodos are settled
in an area know as the Mechi Zone and are more known
as Mechain people. Dhangars, who live in one part of
the eastern Terai have their origin in Madhya Pradesh,
India. Dhimals are the Terain counterparts of the Limbus
from the eastern Terai, mainly in Jhapa.
There are Muslims migrated from Northern India. They
speak Urdu and their social practices correspond with
the Muslim religion.
Although these above accounts depict a fundamental
description of Nepalese ethnic groups, it is difficult
to pin point who is "ethnic" and who is "non-ethnic",
who is "indigennous" and who is "non-indigenous"
in a particular place. Past migration histories mean
Nepal seems to be a melting pot. This is especially
prevently in urban areas.