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People of Nepal

Nepal boasts a population of more than 26 million people made up of over 40 diverse races and tribes that we call ethnic groups living in different regions with diverse culture, languages and dialects. Such is the diversity of Nepals population that travelers can experience a range of lifestyles from the Stone Age in the far west and mountain regions to the quickly modernizing lifestyles in Kathmandu.

The two major groups in Nepalese society are Tibeto-Burman (Mongols) from the North and Indo-Aryans from the South. So Nepal is a mixing pot of cultures and customs from the North and South. Here is a brief overview of the main ethnic groups of Nepal:

Brahmans and Chhetris: These form two of the largest groups in Nepal and also form the two highest castes in Nepal. Brahmans and Chhetris reside in most places of Nepal. Originally Brahmins come from India. The Brahmans are the traditional Hindu priest caste and Chhetris are a group from the Rajputs in India. Many Brahmans are business people, landowners and government workers whereas Chhetris are farmers, soldiers and business people.

Newars: The original inhabitants and a specific ethnic group that resides in Kathmandu valley. Like all ethnic groups they have their own languages, culture and specialty local food. Newars have a rich cultural and heritage and are skilled artisans. Most of the Newar people are business men, government officers and many other highly regarded profesions.

Gurungs: Hailing from the higher slopes of Annapurna these people are famous for their innocences, simple mindedness and bravery. Gurungs are Mongoloid in feature and trace their ancestry to Tibet. The Gurung people often serve in the Nepalese army and police as well as in the Gorkha regiments of both the British and Indian armies.

Thakalis: This group originally came from the Kali Gandaki valley and their religion is a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism. Thakalis are famous for their hospitality and cleanliness. They are traditionally excellent businessman and hoteliers who have built up hotels, inns and other business through out Nepal.

Sherpa: Sherpa are the people from the east and are closely related to Tibetian people. They originated from Tibet about 50 years ago. They are the most famous ethnic group of Nepal who are considered to live in the highest altitude villages. The Sherpa people are renowned for their trekking and mountaineering abilities.

Tamangs: The most important group in the hills, chiefly Buddhist and mostly living in the foothills surrounding Kathmandu valley originally came from Tibet. You will see many Buddhist temples in Tamang villages. They are renowned as horse traders. They speak a Tibeto-Burman language among themselves.

Magars: Coming from Nepals hilly region, Magars are best known for their services as Gurkhas in the British army. Their main occupations are military, farming, weaving, hunting and fishing. They are either Hindu or Buddhist followers.
Tharus: The largest and oldest ethnic group found in the Terai is the Tharu. They have their own tribal religion based on Hinduism. They are dark in appearance and normally taller than other Nepali people. Farming and business are their main occupations.

Kirati: Living in far eastern Nepal, Kirati consists mainly of Rai and Limbu. They are descendants of those who originally formed the kingdom of Kathmandu and are well known for their coverage and bravery. Rai people are very independent and individualistic and they speak at least 15 different languages. Most Limbu people live in the east region of the Arun River.

As well as the diverse range of ethnic groups, Nepal also has a vast range of castes. Different castes have their own festivals and practices. This caste system is an ancient system and people are normally categorized according to their occupation.

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