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Nepal's People and Ethnic Groups

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 Groups
High Himalayas

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.

dolpa people
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.

manang bas
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 as well.

olangchung people
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 Groups
Middle Hills and Valleys

brahmin and
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 (8848m)

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 of mountaineering.

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, and cleanliness.

occupational castes
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 urban areas.

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 people.

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.

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