People And Customs

The population of Nepal is recorded to be about 28 million. 86% of Nepalis follow Hinduism, while eight percent follow Buddhism and three percent follow Islam. The population comprises various groups of different races which are further divided into different castes. The distinction between caste and ethnicity is understood more easily when we see where they live.

Some of the main groups are: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus, and Sunwars who live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangpas, and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna, and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the capital valley of Kathmandu; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis, and Dhimals who live in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris, and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.

Nepali is the official language of the state, spoken and understood by 100 percent of the population. Multiple ethnic groups speak more than a dozen other languages in about 93 different dialects. English is spoken by many in government and business offices. It is the mode of education in most private schools in Kathmandu and some other cities.

Ethnic Distribution

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

The Middle Hills and Valley People
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 long dominated in all-pervading social, religious, and political realms. There are also some occupational castes namely: Damai (tailor), Sarki (cobbler), Kami (blacksmith), and Sunar (goldsmiths). Though there exist numerous dialects, the language of unification is the national language, Nepali.

Ethnic Diversity in the Kathmandu Valley
The Kathmandu Valley, where people from varied backgrounds have all come together, is today a cultural melting pot for the country. The natives of the Kathmandu Valley are the Newars. Newari culture is an integration of both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Newars of the Kathmandu Valley were traders or farmers by occupation in the old days.

The Terai People
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. Owing to the fertile plains of Terai, most inhabitants depend on agriculture. There are, however, some occupational castes like Majhi (fisherman), Kumhal (potter), and Danuwar (cart driver).