The Nepali People and Cultures
It’s interesting to know that the Nepalese people exceed the beauty of this country with their warm and friendly hospitality and the colourful culture they posses and it’s an assortment of cultures at that. Tourists who visit the country find it remarkable how this Himalayan people indulge their guests with pure and kind generosity.
There is a smooth convergence of religions in this Himalayan country. Over 30 different ethnic groups are composed of Nepal’s 23 million people, mostly of Hindu and Buddhist religious backgrounds topped with some pre-historic religions such as tantranism and animism.
Buddhism predominate the higher mountainous regions of the country while Hinduism is most prevalent in the lowlands. Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, is the embodiment of such religious convergence.
Despite the convergence of such, Nepalese from different geographical locations has much uniqueness in every one of them in more ways than one. This uniqueness is what makes them remarkable which tourists can see in their daily tasks.
From the Solu Khumbu region are the Sherpas who are followers of both Buddhist and Pro-Buddhist religion. These people are from the Tibeto-Burman descent, and are experts in mountaineering. Mt. Everest is located in Solu Khumbu. The Sherpas occupy the eastern and central parts of this country.
The highly-skilled hunters of the mid-hills in the east of Nepal are the Kirats or Limbus and Rais. These ancestor worshippers became powerful during the 7th century BC and established an empire along the plains of Kathmandu for a long time. Like the Sherpas, the Kirats speak Tibeto-Burman languages. These two ethnic groups, the Kirats and Rais, have recently converted to Hinduism.
In Kathmandu itself are the Newars who are culturally inclined to animistic practices and tantrism, although this group also practices Hinduism and Buddhism that can easily be notice in their celebration of religious festivals. The Newars are also known for their architectural prowess by the magnificent cities they have built in Nepal. Nepalese commerce and industry are dominated by this group in most of the Kathmandu area.
The Tamangs that inhabit the surrounding Kathmandu Valley are so-called for the occupation they had in the early days. Tamang means “horse soldier”. Today, Tamangs are mostly farmers. They have their own unique language and practice Lamaism inherited from the Tibetans of China. This group is one of the largest groups of Tibeto-Burman origin.
The Magars of the western and central hills of Nepal are of Indo-Aryans descent. They settled in this region and built their own kingdoms. They became a powerful group until the 18th century. Because of their battle usefulness the British and Indian armies adopted them in their regiments. It is said that this ethnic group resembles much of the Chetris culturally.
Like the Magars, the Gurungs lived in the western and central hills of this Himalayan country but much closer to the east. This ethnic group uses a particular language different from the rest of the Nepalese people. They are of Tibeto-Burman stock and are followers of shamanism. They also served in Indian and British armies.
In the far-west, the Khas, who are the mixture of the Bahuns and Chhetris, formed their kingdom together. The Bahuns were essentially priests in the early days who up to today occupy important positions in government as well as in the academy. The Chhetris, on the other hand, were warriors of the group. Together they are Hindus with Nepali as their language. This group worked as farmers around the area.
Mainly the Tharus, as well as the Danuwar, Darai, Dhimal, Majhi and Rajbansi settled in the lowland plains or Terai. The Tharus’ culture adapts to their geographical location which is mainly hot. They practice animism. They are closely identified to the Mongoloid race because of their features. In the recent years, migration had been increasing so much so that the culture is not as much distinctive as it was in the time past. The population in the urban areas had also increased in recent years making it harder to distinguish the different groups because of the merger of cultures.
The Nepalese people, in general, are known to be of high integrity, warm and obliging. It is by essence their custom to exude hospitality to all their visitors. Their religion is their way of life. The caste system is very obvious in the Nepalese culture and varies in some ways from place to place. This practice of the caste system may have been adopted from their neighbor country India. There is a total of 103 caste/ethnic groups in Nepal and, more frequent than not, their languages and culture differs; Brahmin, Chhetri, Newar, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Tamang, Thakali, Rai, Limbu and Tharu are just a few of them. The major caste/ethnic groups identified are as follows: Brahmin (15.9%), Chhetri (15.8%), Tharus (33%), Magar (7.1%), Tamang (5.6%), Newar (5.5%), Muslim (1.3%), Rai (3.9), Gurung (2.8%), and Sherpa (2.4%) and (6.7%).