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Nepal 's Indigenous Nationalities

Nepal has a population of more than 27 millions, made of different races and tribes. The Gurungs and Magars live mainly in the west and the southern slopes of Annapurna, Himalchuli and Ganesh Himal mountains.

The Rais, Limbus and Sunuwars inhabit also the slopes and valleys of eastern mid hills.

The Sherpas live in the Himalayan region up to an average altitude of 4570 m.

The Newars constitute an important ethnic group in the capital valley of Kathmandu.

There are Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals in the Terai region.

The Brahmans, Chhetris and Thakuris are spread generally over most parts of the Kingdom.

Many different ethnic groups have their own languages for dialects, but Nepali, the national language, written in Devenagari script, serves purposes of the the Kingdom's lingua franca in Nepal. The educated people speak and understand English as well.

Baramu (or Baram)
Baramu people are mostly found in Gorkha and Tanahun districts. They are also found in Dhading, Makwanpur and Lalitpur districts. Their popular myth of origin connects them with Sunuwars, Surel, Jirel, Rais and Limbus, other indigenous nationalities of eastern Nepal. They have their own language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family. They are animists, but they are coerced to state Hinduism as their religion.

Baramu people are mostly found in Gorkha and Tanahun districts. They are also found in Dhading, Makwanpur and Lalitpur districts. The Bhuji and Nishi area in Baglung are considered the ancestral place of the Bhujels. Nowadays they are scattered all over Nepal. Culturally and historically, they are close to the Magars. The religion and culture of these backward people are close to extinction, and Hindu influences have been encroaching on their ways of life.

The Chepangs are found in the remote and sparse contours, outback and rolling precipices of the districts of Makwanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha and Dhading districts. They have their own distinct language, which belongs to one of the Tibeto-Burman strains. It is felt that their religion and culture are influenced by the Tamangs.

Chantyals are found concentrated in some villages of Myagdi, Baglung and Mustang districts. The culture and habits resemble those of the Magars. The Chhantyals are animists and profess shamanism.

Duras live on the hills of Dura Danda, Turlungkot, Kunchha Am Danda of Lamjung District and some adjacent villages of Tanahun district. Their Language is also called Dura but it is near extinction. Animistic practices are common to them.

Free (Phree)
The Freeare living in the districts of Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Makawanpur and Lalitpur. Their languages are close with the language of the Newars. The culture and rituals of Free have more affinity with those of Pahari, although they appear to be influenced by the culture of Newars and Tamangs.

the main habitats of the Gurungs are the districts of Kaski, Lamjung, Gorkha, Syangja, Mustang, Manang and Dhading in the Gandaki Zone while they are also scattered in Okhaldhunga, Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung districts. They speak languages related to the Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burman lineages. Gurungs are predominantly Buddhists.

Percentage of Ethnic Groups in Nepal
2001 Census of Nepal, Source: Central Bureau of Statistics
Chhetri 15.8%
Brahman - Hill 12.7%
Magar 7.1%
Tharu 6.7%
Tamang 5.6%
Newar 5.5%
Muslim 4.3%
Kami 3.9%
Dadav 3.9%
Rai 2.8%
Gurung 2.4%
Dhamai / Dholi 1.7%
Limbu 1.6%
Thakuri 1.5%
Sarki 1.4%
Teli 1.3%
Charmar, Harijan, Ram 1.2%
Koiri 1.1%
Kurmi 0.9%
Sanyasi 0.9%
Dhanuk 0.8%
Musahar 0.8%
Dusadh /Pasan / Pasi 0.7%
Sherpa 0.7%
Sonar 0.6%
Kewat 0.6%
Brahman Terai 0.6%
Baniya 0.6%
Gharti Bhujel 0.5%
Mallah 0.5%
Kalwar 0.5%

Hayus are another endangered indigenous peoples of Nepal, numbering a few hundred families. They live along the neighborhoods of the Maryang River, and they are also found in the districts of Sindhuli and Ramechhap. They are animists or nature worshippers, though they are highly influenced by neighboring Hindus.

Jirel (Jiripa)
The Jirel people are settled in Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk districts. Jirels are close to Sherpa linguistically. The language of Jirels is of Tibeto-Burman family. Jirels follow Buddhist religion and their priest is called Lama.

Kushbadia (Kuhbadia)
Kushbadia people are found in Banke and Bardiya districts. They are nature worshippers . They have their own social organisation.

Sparsely found in the districts of Gorkha, Kaski, Salyan, Pyuthan, Dang, Dailekh and Surkhet, the Kusundas resemble the Chepangs in their observances. They have their own language. The Kusundas are worshippers of nature.

Larke (Nupriba)
Larkes live in Larke, which is in the northern border region of Gorkha district and to the west of Siyar, another northern part of Gorkha district. Their religion and culture are influenced by Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, and there is also much cultural commonality with the Sherpas of Solukhumbu.

Lepchas presently live in the Ilam District of Nepal, and in Sikkim, Darjeeling and Kalimpong of India. They have their own script, and their holy scripture is called Astachyo. Animist in origin, many Lepchas now adhere to Buddhism and Christianity.

Limbus live and work in the districts of Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum, Dhankuta, Taplejung, Panchthar and Ilam. Limbus have their own script called Sirijunga. Limbus have their own distinct culture. They have their own religion called Kirat Dharma.

Magar is the largest group among the indigenous peoples and nationalities of Nepal. They are settled mainly in Palpa, Gulmi, Myagdi, Rukum, Salyan and Rolpa. Magars have their own language which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family and has three divisions called Kham, Kaike and Magarati.

The minority group of Paharis is mainly found in the villages of Khopasi, Saldhara and Palanchok of Kavrepalanchok District. Paharis have their own Pahari language, which is quite akin to the Tamang and Newar languages.

Rais are living in the districts of Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga, Khotang, Bhojpur and Udaypur. Rais speak many dialects of the Tibeto-Burman family. They have their own unique religion

Sunuwars live in the land between the Likhu and Khimti rivers and in the districts of Okhaldhunga, Ramechhap and Dolkha. They have their own unique language and culture.

Surel people settled from time immemorial in the villages of Suri Haleswari, Tinekhu and Khahare in the vicinity of Suri Khola in Dolakha district. The language of Surels belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family and it resembles the language of Sunuwars.

Tamangs are mainly found in the districts of Rasuwa, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Dhading, Ramechhap, Dolkha and Sindhuli. The Tamang language, culture and traditions are rich.

Thamis are mainly found in Suspa, Chhemawati, Khopachagu, Alampu, Bigu, Kalinchok, Lapilang and Lakuri Danda villages of Dolakha district. The Thami language is similar to the language of the Sunuwars.

The Yakkhas are also known as Dewan by other names. The Yakkha area recognized as the traditional land of Yakkha is the southern part of Sankhuwasabha district bordering the district Dhankuta eastern of Nepal. many Yakkhas have settled in Darjeeling of India. the original homeland of the Kirants people speaking the Yakkha language is the histroical five and ten majhiya region in the southwestern part of Pallo or far Kirant area between the Arun and Tamor rivers. Yakkhas adhere to the Kirant religion.

Yolmowa or simply Yolmo are the aboriginal people of Yolmo (Helambu transliterated) region, which comprises the Northwest part of Sindhupalchok, Northeast part of Nuwakot and Southeast part of Rasuwa districts. They have unique culture, language, tradition and other ways of life.

Credit: NEFIN Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities, 2007
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