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Nepal, the small Himalayan kingdom locked between two enormous countries India and China, is a country where time has stood still for centuries. It is home to the perfect blend of the multicultural and multiethnic milieu of 26.4 million people, about 100 ethnic groups, chiefly of Indo-Aryan, Indo-Nepalese Tibeto-Mongolian origin. Nepal is a country with a diverse linguistic and cultural vibrance.
The city life has slowly transformed into hubs of economic activity and has all the elements with similar traits of any other global city. Despite that, they still manage to retain the age-old rituals, traditions, and even festivities of a bygone era. The spectrum of people inhabiting this mountain kingdom coexists peacefully despite the diversity attributed to their topography. There are three main physical and cultural zones running east to west: the north, including the Himalayas, the Middle Hills, and the Terai. People of Nepal living in these zones have managed to retain their very own flavor of life. Each group exhibits and maintains its uniqueness that is a treat to anyone visiting this unique country.
From religious festivals to food, from the language spoken to means of livelihood, from the traditional attires to the social taboos, all have been retained in these zones in their puritan forms. It is as if Nepal carries within itself a piece of life that has been untouched by urbanization. Nepal is a traveler’s heaven as you can breathe in a new way of life with every mile you traverse.
Populations in the northern frontiers, including the higher altitude of the Himalayas, are a mix of the Tibetan, Thakalis, Tamangs, and Sherpas communities. Each is unique and retains its very own indigenous flavor. The Tibetan people who inhabit the high altitudes of the Himalayas are known as Bhotiyas. They speak in Tibetan-based vernaculars and are mostly Tibetan Buddhists by faith. These are the people who reside near the Trans Himalayan trade routes. Yak herding, barley cultivation, and tourism are their means of livelihood.
Thakalis have been long regarded as the entrepreneurs of Nepal. Pivotal to the salt trade between the subcontinent and Tibet, they have now ventured into becoming hoteliers and lodge owners, especially in the Annapurna Circuit. Tamangs form one of the largest groups in Nepal. Found in the hills north of Kathmandu, they have roots that run deep into Tibetan culture. Originally said to be horse traders and cavalrymen, they had come to invade Nepal from Tibet but eventually became settlers in these high climes. Rich cultural heritage is evident from the Tibetan souvenirs, carpets, and thangkas that find a very respected place in Kathmandu’s historical backdrop.
Tibetans are devout Buddhists, and their arrival in the valley has rejuvenated several important religious sites. Most notable among them being the stupas at Swayambhunath and Boudhanath. Though they are displaced and are officially stateless, Tibetans inhabiting the Nepalese soil have been welcomed. Also, they play an important role in tourism and the Tibetan carpet industry. As tourism in Nepal started to hover around Mount Everest, the Sherpa name became synonymous with mountaineering and trekking. The Sherpas clan evolved as high-altitude mountain guides as well as owners of travel agencies and trekking lodges.
Amongst the people of Nepal who inhabit the middle hills and the terai regions, the Newari people dominate the central hills around Kathmandu. The Newars are excellent farmers and merchants, as well as skilled artists, famed across Asia. On the other hand, Magars and Gurungs inhabit the other tourist hotspot of Pokhara. Westward regions are inhabited primarily by the Bahun, Chhetri, and Gurkhas, who are well known for their bravery, tenacity, and loyalty. Furthermore, their very own superpower, a huge and sharp knife – the khukuri became very well known. The Kirati, Tharus, Maithili, and Madhesi tribes also make an integral part of the cultural fabric of Nepal.
Such is the demography that Nepal offers you more than mere touristic sights to behold. You can sit back for a moment and be a spectator and behold this beautiful carnival of Nepal’s true tourist attraction; its warm and graceful population. When you look back on your trip to Nepal, you can be assured that along with the geographic beauty that you will remember, the memories of the warmth extended to you by the Nepalese people will certainly tug at your heartstrings.
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