#1 Exclusive Guide To Nepali Ethnic Groups

Last updated on November 16th, 2022 at 02:56 am

Are you going to Nepal for your next foreign trip? Before going there, you should find out about Nepali ethnic groups, Nepalese culture, traditions, customs, and ethnicity. Let’s talk about Nepali ethnic groups and broaden your knowledge of Nepali people!

Ethnicity is a concept that encompasses more than race. The word is used to classify various ethnic populations based on their cultural representation and identification. Racial, tribal, national, religious, linguistic, or cultural origins can be used to identify someone’s ethnicity.


History Of Nepali Ethnic Groups – Major Ethnic Groups

The early settlement of Nepal was accompanied by large-scale migrations of Asian populations from Tibet and the Indo-Aryan people. It resulted in linguistic, ethnic, and religious patterns. For ages, those of Indo-Aryan origin have held great esteem in Nepal. The royal families (like high caste Hindu families) have Hindu and Indo-Aryan ancestry.

Nepali Ethnic Groups – In Terms Of Origin

Ethnic groups or caste groups are divided into three major ethnic groups: Indo-Nepalese (Indo Nepalese migrants), Tibeto-Nepalese, and indigenous Nepalese.

  • The first major group consisted and inhabited the more fertile medium and low hills, river valleys, Tarai plains, and Indo-Nepalese descent. 
  • People of Tibeto-Mongol ancestry occupied the upper highlands from west to east in the second main group.
  • The third, much smaller group included a handful of tribal communities in the Tarai, such as the Tharus and Dhimals; these could represent vestiges of indigenous communities who lived before the arrival of Indo-Nepalese and Tibeto-Mongol elements.

Indo-Nepalese migrants have come to dominate the country numerically and socially, politically, and economically. They were able to establish early domination over the competition.


Different Ethnic Groups In Nepal – 5 Major Nepali Ethnic Groups

Nepali Ethnic Groups

In the early 1990s, Nepalese society was ethnically diverse and complicated, with phenotypes (physical traits) and cultures spanning from India to Tibet. There were 126 castes and ethnic groups, speaking 123 languages. Out of these, Chhetri is one of the major Nepali ethnic groups. Other ethnic groups include Brahman-Hill, Magar, Tharu, Tamang, Newar, Kami, Musalman, etc.

Interestingly, none of those communities are typically referred to as “Nepali.” This is a term of nationality that relates to everyone in Nepal, not just one ethnic group. 

1. Chhetri

Among various ethnic groups, Chhetri is one of the largest ethnic groups, accounting for 16.6% of the total Nepalese population. Chhetris are Indo-Aryans who belong to the Kshatriya varna and speak primarily Nepali.

The vast majority of the Chhetri are Hindus, with the Buddhists making up the remaining minority. On the other hand, Masto is an ancient religion that involves nature worship. 

The Chhetri, formerly known as Khas, are related to the Khasas of Indian literature and the Medieval Khasa Kingdom. The Thakuri and Khasa subgroups of Chhetri are the most well-known. Early marriage characterizes this ethnic group. However, they do not permit cross-cousin marriage, which is popular in other Hindu cast systems. 

2. Bahun

Local Nepalese known as Bahuns follow Vedic or Brahmin traditions. The Bahun is Nepal’s second major group, accounting for 12.2% of the country’s population. 

This ethnic group’s main identity is derived from the Vedas and Brahmin. The Vedas are a body of literature made up of ancient Sanskrit writings and Hindu teachings. Brahmins are priests and instructors who have the obligation of safeguarding sacred knowledge.

Bahuns are a religious, ethnic group that practice ancient religious rituals such as rites of passage, prayers, and temple responsibilities in the temple. The majority of Bahun are Hindus; however, some Buddhists are among them.

3. Magar

The Magars are one of Nepal’s oldest ethnic groups. This ethnic group makes up 7.1 percent of the Nepalese population, making it its third-largest ethnic group. 

Septs (clans), sub-septs, and gotras are the subdivisions of the ethnic group. The majority speaks the Magar language. Shamanism and Tengriism were two of the major original religions practiced by Magar, but Hinduism is now the most popular religion among the tribe. Besides civil service, Magars are best known for their outstanding military service, particularly in the British Army.

4. Tharu

The Tharu people are indigenous communities to Nepal’s Terai area and are officially acknowledged as citizens by the Nepalese government. The Tharu ethnic group constitutes approximately 6.5 percent of Nepal’s population, making it its fourth-largest ethnic group.

Tharu live in forested areas. The main source of their income is rice, corn, lentils, and mustard. Tharu worships various gods, and praying is a traditional rite performed before entering the jungle. On the other hand, Hinduism is the most widely practiced religion among modern Tharu.

5. Pahari

Nepali, the Paharis’ native tongue and the country’s official language, is closely related to but not identical to Hindi. Both have Sanskrit roots. Buddhism and indigenous folk beliefs have inspired the Pahari’s Hinduism.

The Pahari’s’ caste system was neither as highly graded nor as comprehensive in its sanctions as the Indians’; many Paharis showed visible signs of racial intermixture with the region’s numerous Mongol groups.

Similarly, the Bhote or Bhotia peoples who live in the Himalayan foothills—among whom the Sherpas have drawn the most attention in the climbing world—have evolved regional divisions among themselves, despite being physically and culturally linked to Tibetans.

To explore more about the country and its culture, language, and customs, you can read our blogs on “Nepali religion” and “Nepali culture and traditions.” 


Learn Nepali Through The Ling app

Nepali Ethnic Groups

After getting a deeper knowledge of Nepali ethnic groups, you might want to learn Nepali. You can use the Ling app by Simya solutions.

With its chat system, you will develop great conversational skills. Not only that, but a game-based system with puzzles will assist you in learning challenging languages quickly. Visit the Ling app’s official website or download the app to start an amazing language learning journey with us. 

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