Basic facts about the religion, caste, and ethnicity of Nepalese people

With distinct climatic conditions and geographic differences, Nepalese people have unique features in terms of human social diversity and their customs. Above them, eighty percent of Nepalese follow Hinduism, while rest of the population worships Buddhism and other local religions. The population constitutes various groups of different races that are further divided into different caste systems. The distinction in caste and ethnicity is understood more easily with a view of traditional hierarchy and stratification of the population. Looking at the existing myriad layers which are prevalent in caste system, Nepal sustains the features of multiethnic society.

Basically, some of the ethnic groups are: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region of Nepal; Rais, Limbus, and Sunwars who live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangis, and Lopas who live near the mountains of EverestAnnapurna, and Mustang respectively; Newari community have strongholds in Kathmandu, the capital city of Nepal; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis, and Dhimals are found in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris, and Thakuris generally are over all parts of the country. In this respect, ethnic heterogeneity and mutual coexistence are foundational layers of Nepalese people.

Traditional Dress during dashain

Multiple ethnic groups speak more than a hundred languages in different dialects whereas Nepalese language is spoken throughout the country as the official language. English is spoken by many in government and business offices. It is the mode of education in most private schools of Kathmandu and some other cities as well.

In the northern region of the Himalayas are the Tibetan – speaking groups namely Sherpas, Dolpas, Lopas, Baragaonlis, Manangis. The Sherpas are mainly populous in the east in the Solu and Khumbu region; the Baragaonlis and Lopas live in the semi-deserted areas of Upper and Lower Mustang; the Managis live in areas of Manang district; while the Dolpas live in Dolpa district of West Nepal, one of the highest settlements on earth at 4,000 meters.

Playing Musical Instrument during Wedding Ceremony in Nepal

Several ethnic groups live together in harmony in the middle hills and valleys. Among them are the Magars, Gurungs, Tamangs, Sunuwars, Newars, Thakalis, Chepangs, and the majority of Brahmans and Chhetris. The Brahmans and Chhetris have dominance in all spheres of social, religious and political life. There are also some occupational castes namely: Damai (tailor), Sarki (cobbler), Kami (blacksmith) and Sunar (goldsmiths).

Kathmandu Valley represents a cultural backbone of the country where people from varied backgrounds have come together to present a melting pot. The natives of Kathmandu Valley are the Newars. Newari culture is an integration of both Hinduism and Buddhism.

The main ethnic groups in Terai are Tharus, Darai, Kumhal, Majhi and other groups that have roots in India. They speak north Indian dialects like Maithili and Bhojpuri. There are, however, some occupational castes like Majhi (fisherman), Kumhal (potter) and Danuwar (cart driver).

Overall, with the presence of hundreds of caste divisions and their mutual interdependence preserves Nepalese’s uniqueness. The different ethnic groups have different living customs within the nation.

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