The dwindling community
of Kisans has only about 700 members left at present.
They live in the villages of Dhulabari and Dhaijan of
Jhapa District. Their language is Dravidian, and their
script is Uraun. The traditional name of these people
is Kuntam. At present, however, they are known by various
other names, such as Kuda, Kora, Mirdha, Kola, Morbha,
Birhor, and Nagesia. The men have the tradition of marrying
their maternal cousins (maternal uncle's daughters). A
widow may also be allowed to marry the younger brother
(brother-in-law) of her deceased husband. The Kisans have
their own king. Their ancestral deity is Samalai Mahaprobha.
The Kisans both practice cremating or burying their dead.
Animist and nature worshippers as they are, the Kisans
had the infamous practice of killing their women accused
of being witches. Though likely to be compared with the
Uraun farmers of Orissa and Bihar in India, many characteristics
of the Nepalese Kisans' ways of life, however, do not
conform to them. The Kisans are farmers.
Kumals are found in large
numbers in the districts of Dolkha, Dhading, Sankhuwasabha,
Palpa and Parbat. They are also found scattered in almost
all the other districts of Nepal. They share physical
characteristics and ways of life with the Tharus, Danuwars,
Darais, Majhis and Botes. The main occupation of the Kumals
is pottery. Their language is more accentuated to the
Tibeto-Burman family. Their
preferred inhabitation is on riverbanks, inner valleys
and tropical areas. They relishpork and buffalo. The Kumals
seek assistance from the Dhami and Jhankri shamans. They
either bury their dead or consign them to the flow of
Kushbadias are also known
as Kuhbadias. They are found in Banke and Bardia districts.
Their facial features subscribe to some lesser Mongoloid
strains. They ascertain their origin in east Bhairahawa.
Carving stone grinding slates and wheels and weaving ropes
and making brooms are their major professions. They worship
Masounia as their principal deity. They strongly resemble
the Tharus in their ways of life, language and dress patterns.
Kushbadias bury their dead. After the burial, they sit
around the cemetery and drink potent moonshine.
Kusundas are probably the
most endangered species of the aboriginal ethnic groups
of Nepal They prefer to live separately and alienated
from other people. They select secluded forest areas for
their inhabitation. Sparsely found in the districts of
Gorkha, Kaski, Salyan, Pyuthatn, Dang, Dailekh and Surkhet,
the Kusundas resemble the Chepangs in their observances.
Kusundas are also known as Ban Manchhe (wild people) and
Ban Raja (kings of the forests). The have their own language.
Some Kusundas call
themselves Chhatyals. Others do not address themselves
by their ethnic surnames. The Kusunda language and culture
are on the brink of extinction. Instead of making their
livelihood from agriculture, they prefer to forage for
tubers for their food. They do not drink milk of bovines.
Cow dung is almost taboo.
Gangais are mostly concentrated
in Jhapa and Morang districts of Nepal. They are also
known as Ganesh or Mandal. Because of their flat nose,
plain face, wheatish complexion and rough curly hair,
anthropologists have compared them to the Lepchas. While
the Gangais of Morang speak Maithili, the Gangais of Jhapa
speak Rajbanshi. They also differ in their dress preferences.
Mahabir and Thakur are their ancestral deities. They live
in joint families. One group called Babu Gangais takes
pork while the Besaram Gangais shun it. The Gangais are
Middle in height and stout
in build, the main habitats of the Gurungs are the districts
of Kaski, Lamjung, Gorkha, Syangja, Manang and Tanahu
in the Gandaki Zone while they are also scattered in Okhaldhunga,
Sankhuwasabha and Taplejung in East Nepal. Animal husbandry
is their main occupation. They speak languages related
to the Mon-Khmer and Tibeto-Burma lineages. The Gurung
history is ancient. Ghale is an address befitting high
ruling class. Gurungs are predominantly Buddhist. Their
institutions of Lhosar, Rodi Ghar and Rodi dance have
high esteem in the Nepalese culture. They both practice
cremation and burial of their dead. Gurungs call themselves
Tamu. Their languages have no script.
Chimtans are the inhabitants
of one of the Panch (five) Gaun or villages between Kagbeni
and Tukuche in the
district of Mustang. Their village is known as Chimada
or Chimang. They call themselves Thakalis, and have affinity
of language and culture with the Thakalis. Though Buddhists,
they also practice shmanism. There are two branches of
Chimangs-1) Bhamphobe and 2) Dhyalkipal Phobe. Commerce
is their main profession with farming, horticulture and
animal husbandry as side businesses.
One of the most backward
ethnic groups of Nepal, the Chepangs inhabit in the remote
and sparse contours, outback and rolling precipices of
the districts of Makwanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha and Dhading.
They have their own distinct language, which belongs to
one of the Tibeto-Burman strains. Like the Kusundas, the
Chepangs also shun farming and prefer to forage for tubers
for their food. However, they are born hunters. Their
clan priests are called Pandes. It is felt that their
religion and culture are influenced by the Tamangs.
Scattered in the districts
of Baglung and Myagdi, the Chhantyals have their own language
quite akin to the Thakali. Their population is about 20,000.
As inhabitants of the Magrant region, the Chhantyal culture
and habits resemble those of the Magars. However, the
Bhalanja section of Chhantyals considers the Kusundas
as their ancestors. The Chhantyals are animists and profess
shamanism. In religious practices, they are closer to
the Magars. Previously believed to be employed in the
Nepalese mines, Chhantyals are mostly concerntrated in
farming at present.
Chhairottans are considered
the inhabitants of the Chhairo village, one of the Panch
Gaun villages of the Mustang district. They resemble Marphalis
and Thakalis in facial features, language and dress codes.
Chhairottans are Buddhists though they also practice shamanism.
Farming and animal husbandry are their major professions.
The original Chhairottans have migrated from their stronghold
of Chhairo village, which is now occupied by a few Thakali
households and some ten Tibetan refugee families.
Jirels are mostly concentrated
in the villages of Jiri and Jugu of the Dolkha district.
Many Jirels also live in the sindupalchok district. they
speak a particular Tibeto-Burman dialect, which is akin
to Sharpa. Other Sherpa influences are also evident in
the Jirels' lifestyle. Jirels call themselves Jiripas.
They both profess Buddhism and shamanism. They address
the Buddhist Lama as Pomba and the shaman as Phomba. Being
farmers, they cultivate millet and live happily on the
produce. Jirels either bury or cremate their dead on the
recommendations of the Buddhist Lama.
Though they live in the
wide expanse of Nausaya Bigha areas of the district of
Dhanusha, Jhangads are also found spread from Sarlahi
and Sunsari to Morang districts. The Dravidian Jhangads
are a backward and minority group. They speak Kurukh Mundari.
They are largly farmers and laborers. There are some differences
between the Jhangads of Madhya Pradesh of India and those
in Nepal. Jhangads of Nepal worship nature. They conclude
their religious ceremonies by playing diga and feasting
on pork and alcohol. Negroid or bury their dead. Pigs
are their only domestic animals.
Thintans are the inhabitants
of Thini village situated between Tukuche and Kagbeni
of the district of Mustang. Thintans are from among the
larger Panch Gaunle or
five-village confederation. though they resemble Thakalis
in many ways, thintans have closer linguistic and cultural
affinities with Chimtans and Shyangtans. Thintans have
six branches-Omthin, Tapothin, Chhothin, Chakithin, Dhangyangthin,
and Langlangthin. The latter seem to have vanished now.
Though some thintans have adopted Buddhism, the old still
adhere to Bon-po. Thintans are inherently traders, and
practice farming and horticulture on the side .
The inhabitants of Dolpa
are Dolpos (though they do not call themselves as such).
Dolpa is located at the4 head of the Bheri river to the
north of the Dhaulagiri Range and to the south of the
Tibetan Plateau. Dolpos live at the altitude of 13 - 14,000
feet, and they have 40 settlements in all. Their physical
features and habits largely resemble those of the Lhopas,
though the women have their own unique dress styles. They
are farmers, but their chief occupation is also animal
husbandry. They practice both Bon-po and Buddhism. They
practice sky burial. Their dead are cut into pieces which
are fed to the vultures. Dolpos practice polyandry, and
their language and dress choices are similar to the Lhopas
Tangbes, also called Tangbedanis,
come from the village of Tangbe, which is a part of the
Bahara Gaunle (12 villages) confederation in Mustang district.
Like the Bahra Gaunle people, their ways of life are akin
to the Lhopas. They are Buddhists. Tangbes were traditionally
salt traders. Since the decline in this trade many years
ago, most Tangbes are engaged in farming and other vocations.
Some Tangbe families are also found in Pokhara.
Tajpurias are a minority
group mainly found in the districts of Jhapa and Morang.
Though their language and culture are almost akin to the
Rajbanshis, Tajpuria women do not pierce their nose and
use ornaments as Rajbanshi women do. No. Marrigae takes
between these two
communities. Tajpurias have their own religion. Alcohol
is a must in all religions rituals. They are engaged in
artistic craftsmanship different from the Rajbanshis.
Farming is the major occupation of Tajpurias. Though Rabanshis
and Tajpurias dress similarly, the latter are expect at
hand stitching. they bury their dead.
Tamangs are minly found
in the districts of Rasuwa, Sundhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok,
Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Dhading, Ramechhap, Dolkha and Sindhuli.
The census of 1991 places their population at 4.9% of
the national total. The Tamang language, culture and traditions
are rich. They were already descried as a powerful nation
in historic inscriptions going as far back as the 3rd
century, attesting to their ancient civilization. They
are Buddhists, and their script originates from Tibetan.
Their language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family. The
archives of Tamang religious scriptures are rich, varied
and vast. Their intellectual hierarchy had categorizations
of royal priests, raconteur of history and other scholastic
divisions of labor. They celebrate with equal fervor such
diverse religious occasions as Lhosar, Maghe Sankranti,
Baisakh Purnima and Shravan Purnima. They are fond of
buckwheat delicacies. Their dance culture is equally rich
and varied. There are many Tamang sub clans.
They live in Topkegola
situated at the top of the Mewa River to the west of Walung.
But they are different from the Walungs. Locally, Topkegolas
are called Dhhokpyas. Their major occupation is trade.
They ply their trade between Dhankuta, Dharan and Chinapur
of Sankhuwasabha in Nepal and Sar in Tibet. Their language,
religion, culture and dress styles are in essence similar
to Tibet region of China as are those of the Shingsaba
in the near west, Walungs in the east and the neighboring
The stronghld of the Thakalis
is Thak Khola in Mustand District. They have their own
language, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family, and
is similar to Gurung (Tamu) and Tamang languages. Thakalis
have four major clans-Chhyoki (Gauchan), Salki (Tulachan),
Dhimchen (Sherchan), and Bhurki (Bhattachan), Lha Phewa
is a major festival of the Thakalis, which is renowned
as a 12-year cyclic fair. Thakalis adhere both to Bon
and Buddhism. Their Toranlha festival coincides with the
Fagu Purnima. The Thakalis' estimated number is only some
8,000. They are renowned as a mercantile community.
Thamis are mainly found
in Susma, Chhamawati, Khepachagu, Alamyu, Bigu, Kalinchok,
Lapilang and Lakuri Danda villages of Dolkha District.
Numbering about 30,000 in all, the Buddhist Thamis are
considered the original people of these places. The Thami
language is similar to the language of the Sunuwars, which
again conforms ot the Rai language originating in the
Tibeto-Burman family. Tamang influences are also quite
prominent on the Thamis. Labor and farming are the Thamis'
main occupations. In religious matters, Thamis are much
closer to the Tamangs.
Tharus pervade all along
the east-west lowland Terai belt as well as in the inner
Terai valleys of Chitwan, Dang, Surkhet and Udaipur. They
are considered the first native people of that part of
Nepal. According to the regions of their inhabitation,
each respective Tharu clan has its own ethnic identity,
dialect and culture. Tharus have their own languages but
the respective Tharu languages are thus influenced by
Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili languages, depending on
the regions of their inhabitation. Because of their facial
and physical features, they are considered Mongoloid.
They mainly practice Buddhism. The census of 1991 places
the Tharus at 5.4% of the national total population of
Nepal. their main occupation is farming, and Tharus enjoy
many similarities with the agro-based Jyapus of the Kathamandu
Thudam, formerly in the
district of Talpejung, is now incorporated in the district
of Sankhuwasabha. The unhabitants of Thudam are locally
known as Thudambas. they are quite akin to the Topkegolas.
In fact, Thudams make their living by tenant-farming the
lands of Shingsabas and Walungs and also by looking after
their livestock. Additionally, they are also traditionally
known as exporters of
agro-produces, timber and incense to Tibet, Autonomous
region of China. The religion, language, culture and dress
patterns of the Thudams conform more to the Walungs, rather
than the Shingsabas.
Quite akin to the Tharus
in numerous ways, the ancestral strongholds of the Danuwars
are Banke and Bardia districts. They belong to four clans
- loincloth wearer, janai thread wearer, Rai and Adhikari.
The loincloth-wearing Danuwars live between the Chure
and Mahabharat Ranges while the thread wearing ones live
in the Terai plains. Rai and Adhikari Danuwars prefer
the riverbanks. In religious matters, Danuwars are much
colser to the Tharu and Dhimal ethnic groups. Farming
is their major occupations.
Darais are mainly found
in Damauli of Tanahu District and on the banks of Madi
River. Flat-nosed, short in stature and stout in build,
Darais are prominently boatmen and fishermen. The Darai
language is imbued with Bhojpuri, Maithili, Magar and
Gurung languages. Darai women have high place in their
society. Darais marry after having children. They profess
Buddhism, and alcohol accentuates their religious ceremonies.
Duras live on hills of
Dura Danda, Turlungkot and Kunchha Am Danda of Lamjung
District. TheirLanguage is also called Dura. they practice
both Buddhism and Hinduism. Round-faced, flat-nosed and
short in stature, Duras have their own unique traditions
and though their religious and cultural formalities are
quite akin to Gurungs. Their sons are fitted with bows
and arrows on the very day of their naming ceremonies,
a fact that reflects on their martial heritage. They have
no definite history of their origin. Farming is the chief
occupation of Duras.
Dhanuks live in the districts
of Saptari and Dhanusha, and are spread along southern
belt of the Chure Range. There are three clans of Dhanuks-Mandal
Dhanuks, Sur Dhanuks, and Rajbanshi Dhanuks. Sur and Mandal
Dhanuks, being Indo-Aryan Hindu untouchables, do not belong
to the ethnic peoples of Nepal. Because of their facial
and physical features, language and culture, the Rajbanshi
Dhanuks are closer to the Tharus. Hence they are considered
an ethnic group. However, scholars are presently challenging
this claim, of Rajbanshi Dhanuks also of being an indigenous
group. Farming and domestic labor are their chief occupations.
Dhimals live on the peripheries
of the districts of Morang and Jhapa. Because of their
facial features, language and religious practices, they
are called the Limbus of the Nepalese plains. However,
anthropologists place them next to the Meches. But, even
if they are plainspeople, Dhimals have the characteristic
habit of exhibiting the quick temper and unwarranted aggressiveness
of the Limbus of the eastern hills. Dhimals have their
own unique language, dress preferences and culture. They
are fond of music, and in this there is a trace of the
Rajbanshi ethnos. They bury their dead. Farming is their
The name of the county
Nepal itself derives from the Newars. Newars are the indigenous
peoples of the Kathmandu Valley. They are also found in
the neighboring hill settlements as well as in the towns
and cities of the Terai plains. Originally Buddhists,
Newars have increasingly become synceritc, and now a days
some Newars practice both Buddhism as well as Hinduism.
They are prominent in business, agriculture and craftsmanship.
Their population exceeds 1.3 million. Newars have their
own language, called Nepal Bhasha, which belongs to the
Tibeto-Burman family. The Newar language has incorporated
the rich corpus of Newa literature from historical times.
Newars are considered a highlydeveloped nation state of
many communities. They have a hierarchical clan system
patterned after their respective
occupations. The written history of the Newars is 2,5000
years old during which they developed their impeccable
culture and arts into a great civilization. Newars maintained
their unique kingdom even during the various reigns of
the Gopala, Kirat, Licchavi and Malla dynasties. The Shahs
finally amalgamated the Newar nation state in their unification
The minority group of Paharis
is mainly found in the villages of Khopasi, Saldhara and
Palanchok of Kavrepalanchok District. However, they consider
Dailekh District as their ancestral place. They are also
scattered in Lalitpur of Kathmandu Valley and elsewhere.
Paharis have their own Pahari language, which is quite
akin to the Tamang and Newar languages. Paharis consider
ginger and soybeans as delicious and supreme. They practice
Buddhism. Traditionally weavers of bamboo trays and baskets.
Paharis are increasingly drawn to farming and labor these
The strongholds of Fris
are the districts of Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Makwanpur
and Lalitpur. In Lalitpur, they are found in the settlements
and villages of Bhadikhel, Sikarpa, Fhade, Lele, Tomphel
and Godawari. In Makwnapur, they live in Betani and Kulekhani.
Their religious practices, language and culture are closer
to the Newars and Paharis. According to their legends,
the Fris were once chefs at the kitchen of the king of
Bhaktapur. found filthy, they were exiled for 12 years
during which they intermarried with Tamangs, and were
thence called Fris. There is a strong fundation that because
of similar legends and other factors, Fris are indeed
The Bankariya ethnic group
is found in the villages of Handi Khola, Chourabesi, Sunkhola
and the Chure Range of Makwanpur District. Like Chepanges,
Bankariyas are also nomadic, and forage for tubers for
their food. Believed to be only about 400 even in the
best of times, there are now only about five families
huddled in sheds in the deep of jungles. They are close
to Chepangs in religious practices and languages. They
gather wild asparagus and barter it for cereals in nearby
villages. They like to fry and eat wild red ants.
Baramos are from Gorkha
while they are also found in Dhading, Makwanpur and Lalitpur
and Tanahu districts. They claim to be close to the Sunuwars
of east Nepal, and seem to have close affinity with the
Jirels also. The Baramo language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman
family. In religious practices, they are close to the
Magars. Many Baramos trace their language and culture
to Burma (Myanmar) and the Burmese. They are mostly engaged
The inhabitants of the
Bahra Gauns (12 villages) above the Thak Khola (river)
and to the south of Lho Manthang in Mustang District are
called the Bahara Gaunles. They resemble Lhopas in facial
features, language and clothes. They also build their
houses in the styles of the Lhopas of Lho Manthang. They
practice both bon and Buddhism. There are 18 settlements
in Bahra Gaun. Though they also work as indentured laborers,
their main professions are farming and trade. The indigenous
people found in and around the sacred Buddhist temple
of Muktinath (the temple is popularly known as Chhume
Gyatsa in the Tibetan speaking world) are also included
among the Bahara Gaunles.
Botes inhabit the banks
of the Madi, Seti and Kali Gandaki Rivers of the districts
of Tanahu and Kaski. The Bote religious practices, language
and cultures are quite close to those of Danuwars, Darais
and Majhis. Their economic activities are similar to those
of the Majhi community. Botes are of two kinds-Pani (water)
Botes and Pakhe (land) Botes. While the former are engaged
in boating and fishing, the land-based Botes are farmers
and laborers. They have their own language. They are primarily
animists and use alcohol in their religious rituals; hence
their religion seems different from Hinduism.
The villagers of Byas village
to the north of Darchula and the foothills of the Byas
Himal are called Byasis. Also called Souka, these Mongoloid
animists call themselves Range. They have their own unique
language and ways of life. Their 12th century scripts
are found in the caves. Their dress is called chyungwala.
The ancestral god of the Soukas of Rolpa is Namjung, who
is a principal deity of Bon. Their major festival is called
Dhhyoula. Byasis conduct the trade between Taklakot in
Tibet and Darchula. They do not celebrate Hindu festivals.
The Front of their houses are festooned with Buddhist
prayer flags called dharchyo. According to linguists,
the Souka language is somewhat close to the Magar language.
The Bhuji area in Baglung
is considered as the ancestral place of the Bhujels. Nowadays
they are scattered all over the Kingdom of Nepal. 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. In religious
matters they have affinities with the Magars while in
language they are closer to the Chepangs. They are known
as either Bhujel or Gharti in one place or the other.
They are engaged in farming and in domestic chores.
In Nepal, Bhutias are spread
from Mahakali in the far west to the Kanchanjunga Range
in the extreme east. They are found in Bajura and Darchula
of the far western development region, and also in Humla,
Dolpa, Surkhet and Mugu in the mid-Western region as well
as in Mustang, Manag, Kaski and Tanahu of western region,
and finally in the Himalayan heights of the middle regions
and the east. They are also found in towns and large cities
in the mid-ranges. In general, Bhutias are those people
who do not belong to any of the particular or distinct
stocks of indigenous people of the Nepal Himalaya. They
resemble Tibetans in most of their ways of living. However,
their statistics are not yet properly maintained. Trade
and animal husbandry are the main occupations of the Bhutias.
Large numbers of Magars
live in Palpa, Tanahu, Myagdi, Pyuthan and Rolpa. They
are also found in Arghakhanchi, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung,
Dolpa, Surkhet, Sindhuli and Udaypur. Research scholars
opine that the Sen kings and Thakuris of the Magrant districts
are also Magars. These facts make the Magars as one of
the most pervasive ethnic groups of Nepal. Their
language belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family, and they
have their own unique dress codes and culture, which are
doomed to extinction. They are Buddhist by religion. The
Magar priest is called Bhusal. According to the census
of 1991, the present Magar population stands at 7.2% of
the national total.
Manangays are those people
residing in the upper regions of the Marsyangdi River
in the Manang District. They are locally called Nesyangbas.
Though resembling the Tibetans in language, culture as
well as in physical features. they prefer to call themselves
Gurungs. The occupations of the Nesyangbas of the Manang
Valley are international trade in which they have earned
much acclaim, cultivation of wheat, paddy, potato, and
animal husbandry of sheep and goats. They practice Bon,
Buddhism and shamanism. Lhosar is their major religious
festival, and archery is their main cultural event of
Majhis are mostly found
in the districts of Kavrepalanchok, Sindhupalchok, Ramechhap,
Sindhuli, Dhankuta nad Okhaldhunga. They are also found
living along large riverbanks. Like the Darai language,
the Majhi language is a mixture of Tibeto-Burman strains
as well as Bhojpuri and Maithili. They are engaged as
boatmen. they also
prospect for gold in the river sand. The river is their
benevolent deity. The Majhis dance for three days in the
memory of their recent dead. Many knowledgeable Majhi
claim of Kipat ownership of riverbanks and the adjacent
Marphalis are the inhabitants
of Marpha situated between Tukuche and Kagbeni in the
district of Mustang. They are one of the Panch Gaunle
confederations, and resemble the Thakalis in every conceivable
way. In fact, they consider themselves Thakalis. Their
clan names are Hirachan, Lalchan, Juharchan and Pannachan.
Proffessing Buddhism, Marphalis are engaged in commerce,
agriculture and horticulture.
The indigenous Mugalis
are from the Mugu Karan area of the Mugu District of Karnali
Zone. There are 12 Karan consisting of the 13 villages
of Mugu, Dolphu, Maha, Chyute, Krimi, Mangri, Wongri,
Katick and Daura and another village of Mugu where Mugalis
live. They are Buddhist. They are similar in language,
dress and culture to the Tibetans in the north. Lhosar
is their principal festival. The Mugalis of 12 Karan are
farmers whereas those Mugu are traders.
Being residents of the
Mechi River banks and the neighborhoods in the district
of Jhapa, they are aptly called the Meches. They are
closer to the Botes in civilization. According to historians,
Meches were nomadic until a few decades ago. They became
settlers when the land range and forest frontiers of their
free roaming became demarcated and restricted. Ai Bali
Khungri and Batho Barau are their principal deities. They
also worship the deities of the forest. Their language
derives from the Tibeto-Burman family. Meches are also
called Bodos. They are at present engaged in farming.
Rais belong to Kirant confederation.
Since ancient times, Rais are living in the districts
of Solukhumbu, Okhaldhunga, Khotang, Bhojpur and Udayapur.
Rais speak many dialects of the Tibeto-Burman family.
They have their own unique religion. Their principal scripture
is Mundhum. Sitakhau Budo, Walmo Budi, Jalpa Devi and
others are their local deities. Rich in culture, the Sakela
(Chandi) Dance and the sharing of newly harvested foods
in Nwagi are their principal festivals. Rais bury their
dead. Pork is used for auspicious and holy occasions.
They consider Sumnima and Paroohang as their primordial
parents. There are many Rai clans. Their houses are scattered.
Short in stature, round in face and stout in build, Rais
are expert in farming and textile weaving. Following the
unification of the Kingdom of Nepal Rais were given rights
of kipat autonomy and ownership of land in the Majh (middle)
Kirant. The Rai language, though it has no script, is
rich in texture.
The name Raute comes from
the shed they fabricate. Such makeshift is called Rauti.
Rautes are the most confirmed nomadic tribe of Nepal who
forage for tubers and fruits and hunt animals for their
living. They are indigenous of the dense forests in the
districts of Dailekh, Jajarkot, Surkhet, Salyan, Achham,
Jumla, Darchula and Baitadi. The national census figure
show their number to be 2878, but most field researchers
have estimated their number only about 900. They seldom
live in one place for more than two months at the most.
Therefore, they have not taken up farming yet. The speak
Khamchi language of the Tibeto-Burman family, and worship
nature. They intermarry within their close clans.
Rajbanshis live in the
Nepal-India borderlands of the districts of Jhapa and
Morang of east Nepal. Anthropologists opine that they
are the kiths and kin of the peripheral Koch people of
the adjacent states of West Bengal and Asom (Assam) in
India. Though having Mongoloid features-they consider
themselves as a branch of the Kirants-their language is
akin to Bengali and Assamese. They wear clothes conforning
to their climate and weather. They worship Thaku Brahmani
and also practice shamanism. Consumption of alcohol is
a must for worshiping the gods. They play with mud and
water during their major festivals. The groom's side makes
monetary payment to the bride's family during their marriage.
This custom also prevails among some other ethnic groups
of Nepal. Their principal occupation is agriculture. Rajbanshis
were the indigenous people of Jhapa and Morang before
the hill migrants of Nepal overwhelmed them. Most of the
Rajbanshis bury their dead but now-a-days some of them
have adopted cremation formalities.
The districts of Dang and
Surkhet are the native strongholds of the Rajis. Their
numbers have dwindled. They speak a unique dialect of
the Tibeto-Burman variant. They live in joint families.
Farming is their newly embraced occupation, but have not
given up their tradition of foraging for tuber and other
forest products and fishing. They bury their dead. Marriages
take place within their own clans. They practice shamanism,
and worship such amorphous deities as Sunpal, Deopal and
Rajuwali. Rajis use and consume alcohol and pork during
their ceremonies and festivals.
Larkes live in Larke, which
is in the north of Gorkha District and to the west of
Siyar. Larkes are locally known as Nupribas. 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. Traditionally
traders with Tibet, they also occasionally do farming.
Their language is Bhote. Some Larkes use Gurung as their
The word limbu means an
archer, or bearer of bow and arrows. The Limbu peole belong
to the Kirant confederation. Their ancestral and original
stronghold spans from Arun River in Nepal to the Kingdom
of Sikkim in the east. In Nepal, Limbus live and work
in the districts of Sankhuwasabha, Tehrathum, Dhankuta,
Taplejung, Panchthar and Ilam. Their scripture is called
Mundhum. Fedangba, Shamba and Yewa-Yema are their priests.
They celebrate the dance festivals of Kelangma popularly
known Chyabrung (two-sided drum) and Yarakma (Paddy dance)
as major events. Limbu have their own script called Sirijunga.
There are many books written in the Limbu language. Their
faith is onshrined in the evergreen Cynodondactylon (Dubo)
grass the rocks. They bury their dead. The population
of the Limbus, according to the census of 1991, is 2.4%
of the nationla total.
The ancient Lepchas are
believed to have originated from the foothills of Mount
Kanchanjunga, which they revere as their deity. Lepchas
presently live in the Ilam District of Nepal, and in Sikkim,
Darjeeling and Kalimpong of India. They consider themselves
of royal stock. Their language is a derivastion from the
Tibeto-Bruman family. They have their own script, and
their holy scripture is called Astachyo. Animist in origin,
many Lepchas now adhere to Buddhism and Christianity.
In Lepcha society, alcohol is considered "clean".
There is no animosity and caste system among the Lepchas.
The dead are taken out through the broken wall of the
house and are buried. The Lepchas social council is called
Rong Senungthi. Their dance is called Loknen.
Commerce and agriculture are their major occupations.
Lhopas are found in Lho
Manthang of the upper Kali Gandaki region of Mustang District.
They produce weat, paddy and potato, and raise sheep,
yaks and horses, They carry out cross-border trade with
Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Their language, dress
codes and religion are all derived from Tibet with which
they maintain social interactions. They are divided into
three clans-Kutuk, Shelpa and Rigin. It is mandatory for
the second son to be a monk. Polyandry is prevalent among
Lhopas. The Mustang Raja Jigme Parbal belongs to the Lhopa
people. A minor clan called Naka Dorje also has assimilated
into the Lhopa ethnic community.
The Shingsa region is where
the Arun River enters Nepal from Tibet, and is situated
to the north of the district of Sankhuwasabha. The inhabitants
of Shingsa are called Shingsabas or Karbhotes. They enjoy
cultural and social affinity and geographical proximity
with the Sherpas and other northerners. They adhere to
Bon and Buddhism. The village headman is called Pombo.
They migrate to the lower hills during winter. Most are
engaged in farming and some are in trade. The Shingsaba
society had already been formed in Darjeeling in India
as far back as circa 1914. If a Shingsaba husband marries
a second wife, he must leave the house.
The Walung stronghold is
the Olangchungola area at the top of the Tamor River in
the district of Taplejung. Olangchungola is locally known
as Walung, which is comprised of the five major settlements
of Olangchungola, Yangma, Ghunsa, Lungthung, Lelep and
other six or seven minor inhabitations. Trade is the major
occupation of Walungs. Their religion, language, dres
and social patterns are Tibetan in derivation. Walung
has a great monastery. The Futuk festival relives the
scenes of the battle between the Gyabo of Muksum and the
Gyabo of Thudam. Walungs celebrate with great fervor the
social and religious festivals of Lhosar, Neso, Futuk,
Sakadawa, Dhukpachhesi and Ngyungnay.
According to linguists,
the work sherpa means easterner, and this work comes from
the Tibetan language. The ancestral place of these famous
mountaineers is northern side of the Solukhumbu district.
The traditional habitat of the Sherpas also lies in the
valley between the Dudh Koshi and Sun Koshi rivers. The
Sherpa language and script are derived from Tibetan. Sherpas
are Buddhist. Lhosar is their major festival. They cremate
their dead. They greet their guests with khada scarfs,
Chhewa is performed for the dead. Tourism, trade and farming
are the major occupation of the Sherpas.
Satars are one of the most
backward ethnic groups of Nepal. They live in the districts
of Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari. The ancestral stronghold
of the dark-skinned, curly-haired and stoutly built Australoid
Satars or Santhals is the Nepalese Plain and the Santhal
Pargana of West Bengal in India. Santhals also call themselves
Hor. They have their own unique religion and culture.
They are animist. Their ancestral deity is Thakurjiu and
their paternal guardian deity is Maranburu. Bow and arrows
are their traditional weapons. Their favorite meat is
pork. Most Satars are engaged in farming and labor.
Siyars live in the northeastern
parts of Gorkha District. They are called Siyars because
they live on the banks of the Siyar River. They are locally
known as Chumbas. Their main occupations are farming and
trade with Tibet. Some of their habits resemble those
of the Gurungs in the south. They are Buddhist, and they
maintain equal footing with the
Tibet-influenced Nubriba community.
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. They had their kipat
rights on their ancestral lands. Because of their adherence
to the Kirant religion, they are considered closer to
the Rais. However, sociologists opine that they are more
akin to the language and culture of the Magars with whom
they also share similar physical resemblance. Sunuwars,
Surels and Jirels are socially close-knit communities.
Sunwars are mostly engaged in farming.
The minority community
of the Surels, numbering less than 200 at present, lives
in the village of Bahuri situated on the banks of the
Suri River in Dolkha District. Surels consider themselves
Kirants, and their scriptures are also the Mundhum. Thei
language is a variant of the Tibeto-Bueman family. Their
shaman is called Moyambo. Surels are mainly engaged in
farming and labor.
The Buddhist Syangtans
belong to the Panch Gaunle confederation. They live in
the village of Syang situated in the middle of Tukuche
and Jomsom of Mustang District. They, like Thintans, are
also similar to Thakalis. They are divided into the sub-clans
of Sakar. Syangten, Pasing, San, Chi, Jhisin, Kya and
Shren Phobe. Girls are eloped for marriage in this community.
This arrangement is called Raholiboba. Mostly traders,
Syangtans are also engaged in farming and horticulture.
Hayus are another minuscule
community of Nepal. They live along the neighborhoods
of the Maryang River, and they are also found in the districts
of Sindhuli and Ramechhap. However, the village of Ratanchura
in Sindhuli is considered their ancestral home. Short
in stature, flat-nosed and
squinty-eyed, they have their own unique language and
culture. In religious matters, Hayus are closer to Rais,
but they do not perform Chandi Puja as Rais do. Hayus
were nomadic until a few years ago; now they are mostly
engaged in farming and labor.
Hyolmos are from Helambu
area which is situated in the North west of the Sindhupalchok
District, and North East of Nuwakot district and they
have much in common with Tamangs and Sherpas in linguistic,
cultural and other ways of life. Hyolmos also have close
cultural and linguistic affinities with the inhabitants
of the Kerung and Rongsyar areas of Tibet Antonomous Region
of China. Trade, tourism and farming are the major occupations
Janajati Bikas Samiti