Nepal has a long-standing
feudal tradition with the priestly class of Brahmins
and the warrior class of Chhetris dominating the
caste-based hierarchy. Nepalese also divide themselves
into Paharis, Madeshis and Bhotias: hill people,
plains folk and those from the northern border
respectively. The sure-footed Sherpas and Tamangs
live a largely nomadic life in the upper Himalayas.
Madeshis are largely of Tibetan-Burmese origin
including groups such as the Rais, Limbus, Jirels,
Gurungs, Thapalis and Chepangs.
are mostly Indo-Aryan groups like the Tharus,
Rajputs, Rajvashis, Dhimlas and Dhangars. Across
communities males dominate and male life expectancy
is, not surprisingly, higher.
The Newaris, who
make up about 4% of the population, are thought
to be among the earliest inhabitants of this mountain
country. They practice a synthesis of Buddhism
and Hinduism and Tibetan influences can be seen
in their language and art. Newari cuisine and
art stands apart from the others. Strong flavours,
heavy spice and buffalo meat figure prominently
on the table. Newari wall hangings called Paubha
paintings are simpler versions of the Tibetan
For a long time
the inhabitants of the terai, tribes such as the
Tharus, Safars, Yadavs, Rajvanshis and Dhimlas
and the resident fauna, were protected by marauding
hordes of malarial mosquitoes. With the coming
of the road (east-west highway), quinine and insect
repellent, the terai is now accessible like never
before. With the coming of airplanes and canned
oxygen, so too are the great Himalayas. Consequently
all of Nepal, people, animals, and the land alike,
is dealing with the angst of 'development'.
There is a sizeable
population of Indians and Tibetans in Nepal too.
In many cases, they settled generations ago and
are now indistinguishable from the indigenous