People and Customs of Nepal
Perched on the southern slopes of the Himalaya, state of Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, terraced hillsides and the highest mountain peaks in the world. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and North Burma and Yunnan via Assam.
Among the earliest inhabitants were the Kirat of east mid-region, Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Bahun and Chetri caste groups migrated eastward from Kumaon, Garwal and Kashmir, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to North Burma and Yunnan and Tibet, e.g. the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east, and Sherpa and Bhotia in the north.
In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryans of northern India. Indo-Aryan and East Asian looking mixed people live in the hill region. The mountainous region is sparsely populated above 3,000 meters, but in central and western Nepal ethnic Tibetans inhabit even higher semi-arid valleys north of the high Himalaya. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population.
Nepal is a multilingual, multireligious and multiethnic society.
Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous languages.
Nepal has 92 different spoken languages. The major languages of Nepal are Nepali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, Tharu, Tamang, Newari/Nepal Bhasa, Magar, Awadhi, Rai, Limbu, Bajjika and Sherpa. The remaining 80 languages are each spoken as mother tongue by different ethnic groups.
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is considered the language closest to Sanskrit and written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official, national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Hindi along with regional dialects Awadhi, Bhojpuri and Maithili are spoken in the southern Terai Region. Hindi is also widely understood by Nepalese who have worked, studied or traveled in India. Many Nepalese in government and business speak English as well.