Different People of Nepal
Nepal is a melting pot of many races and tribes. People in Nepal commonly welcome you Namaste as a traditional salute (means I salute the divine in you) which is wisely used in the most part of country. Nepal has population of around twenty-seven million, made up of an assortment of races and tribes, living in different regions, wearing different costumes and speaking different languages and dialects. They live under quite diverse environmental conditions from the low, nearly sea level plains at the border of India, northward through the middle hills and valleys and up to the flanks of the great Himalayan range where there are settlements at altitude of up to 4,800m. Farming practices are therefore equally diverse along with life styles and social customs.
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.
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. Sherpa’s major occupations include agriculture, animal husbandry, and trade and have become famous for trekking and mountaineering. Today they are known 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 Buddha.
Lo Pas of Mustang
The settlers 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 Buddhists as well.
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 High Himalayas region.
Middle Hills and Valleys
Brahmin and Chhetris
Two large groups distributed in scattered patterns all over the country, which are considered the two highest castes in Nepal. They have sharp Indo-Aryan features and an olive complexion. Brahmins are believed to have migrated from India while Chhetris are from the present day Khasa people from Khasi. These people follow Hinduism as their main religion and socially they have many sects. They are divided into two major streams, the Purba and Umai. The Kumain people are of the origin of Kumo, Northern India; Uttar Pradesh. Their social practices depend upon Hindu religious epics. They speak Nepali, the national language of Nepal and use a script with basis in Sanskrit.
Kirati mainly consists of Rai and Limbu people. Literally Rai or Limbu means headman. They are decendents of the Kirati’s who first formed the kingdom in the Kathmandu Valley. They now mainly live in far eastern Nepal. Kirati people are well known for their courage and bravery and are often recruited into armies abroad like the more famous Gurkhas.
Newars are mainly settled in Kathmandu Valley and in major trading centers throughout the kingdom. They have Mongolian features and their own language and script, Newari, believed to have its origin from Tibeto-Burmans. Hinduism and Buddhism are their main religions. They have complex social systems and practices and are comprised of many castes. Trade and farming are their main occupations.
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, labors and as porters.
Their origin is basically found in hill regions of western Nepal. Their religion is Buddhism and their language, Magar Kura, depicts their affinity to the Tibeto-Burmese tongue and culture. Farming, military service, weaving, hunting, and fishing are their major occupations.
They are famous for their innocence, simple mindedness, and bravery while serving in military forces. They are mostly settled along the higher slopes of the Annapurna areas and the Kali Gandaki River above the Baglung district. They are farmers of rice and grains and also sheep. They are ethnically related to Magars, Thakalis and Kiratis in eastern Nepal. The Gurung people love music and they have their own language.
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.
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.
Ethnic Groups of Terai Region and Southern Nepal Border
Brahman and Rajputs
These people are similar to Brahmin and Chhetris of the middle hills. Their major difference being a high degree of influence from the neighboring North Indian people.
This is the largest and oldest ethnic group of the Terai belt found living in close proximity to densely forested regions. They are dark in complexion and have smart, trim bodies. They follow the Hindu religion and their practices are dependent on many typical Aryan practices. Farming and business are their main occupations. Danwars, Majhis and Darais are very similar to Tharus, physically and culturally. Nevertheless, they speak their own languages which are of Sanskrit origin.
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 organized and disciplined. 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. However, the globalization motives and innovations effect to the Nepalese society which made many changes day by day in addition of several infrastructural developments new roads building, modern public education, democracy since 1990 and Federal Democratic Republic since in on 23 May 2008, and even rapid innovation of information technology, Internet access are making massive changes brought among new generation. More and more Nepalese, especially young folks speak Nepali and fluent English language, dresses western style clothes most of the time and generally relate to the outside world.
As Nepal being a very broad diversified home land of several ethnical groups it has common social family structure. In general living in joint family system at a home, respecting and following own socio-traditional conducts generation to generation. Showing physical affection openly in public is restricted; gents and ladies socialize separately both before and after marriage with family gatherings. Normally marriage is arranged by parents with help of marriage consular called Lahmi. Among new generations love marriage is also popular now a day. There is no way to say that Nepalese society remained untouched by global changes, mainly in major cities and towns of young generation hugely influenced by information technology of world and adopted several fascinating ways. 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.
In general mostly Nepalese people are involved in their traditional occupation agriculture. Most of the people those who are living out of town they belongs their own family farm land where they grow both main crops and different cash crops seasonally. About 76% of total population in Nepal still belongs to traditional agriculture system as their main source of economy and rest of do other jobs as cottage industries, general manufactures, goods trading, government officials, hospitality tourism and others. All together still about 33% of total populations are dependent in agriculture.
In normal way Nepalese people’s food habit can be marked as a rice culture social adoption. Nepalese main course of meal known as Dal-Bhat-Tarkari traditionally which is perfect combination of carbohydrate, protein, vitamin, mineral, and fat. The real wholesome Dal-Bhat-Tarkari is being eaten all over Nepal generally and it is habitual way of twice a day. Besides morning and late afternoon; tea, coffee other drinks and light food snacks are also eaten normally. Dall is well cooked lentil soup from different beans, Bhat is boiled rice, Tarkari is curried vegetables, pickle of seasonal vegetable or fruits, salad and curried or fried meat as a non-vegetarian food can be eaten commonly. Well refined mustard oil, ghee are used for the typical Nepalese cooking propose of curry items for taste and flavor spices are used such as cumin seed, coriander, black pepper, sesame seed, turmeric, garlic, ginger, methi (fenugreek), bay leaf, clove, cinnamon, pepper, chilies, mustard seed and salt added by taste.
In the mountain area, where rice is growing very less, millet, barley, bark wheat and maize are growing commonly in suitable climate so people of there mostly eat Dhindo with Gundruk or different vegetable curry, meat curry, home made pickle, yoghurt and milk as a their main course but they also like to have Dall Bhat time to time. This authentic tradition of food habit is very common all over Nepal’s mountain areas. There are also several common continental food items available in cities abundantly as well as many countries food items are prepared by several restaurants and fast food stalls of around main hub of tourists.
There are many specific dressing style in Nepal as a country is being home of multi cultural and lingual groups people. Most Nepalese ethnic groups have their own unique style of dress according to region and culture. Among gents Daura Suruwal Dhaka Topi,T- shirt, Shirt Pant, different casual wears and ladies Kurta Salwar, Saries Blouse (Cholo) T- shirt, Shirt Pant, different casual wears are commonly worn by Nepalese people all over the country. In the cities particularly, young hearts both men and women often dress in western style clothing, while elder women mostly wear Saries Blouse (Cholo), Kurta Salwar modestly.
Nepal is multi religious country in the world so different ethnic groups live with their own way of religious practice, lifestyle, language, culture and tradition with ever peace of harmony in society. About 80% of total populations are Hindu religion follower who lives all over Nepal’s east to west border, about 10% Buddhist religion people live bellow Himalayan region to mid hill, valleys and in towns and 4% Muslim religious people and rest of other religious people live in different parts of the country. In Hindu community every ritual ceremony is handled by priest (pundit), by Lama (monk) in Buddhism community as well by Mullah in Muslim community.
In term of vast range geographical varied land orientation features of the country Hinduism among Indo-Aryan communities influence in the lower elevation and the Buddhism among Tibetan-origin in the Himalayan region and other different parts of the Nepal. In Nepal moreover traditionally, Buddhism and Hinduism both were never two distinct religions for societies they believe these two religion have inter relation since then so that share faiths and worship common deities in temples, monasteries and mostly pilgrimage by both communities people. Though Nepal has number of religious group they always live in peace and harmony. There is not any record of religious conflict in Nepal yet. All Nepali has respected the national feeling of ‘unity in diversity’ and establishing own reorganization to the world.
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