Nepal’s indigenous population consists of two major groups, the Indo-Nepalese, whose ancestors migrated into the country from the south, and the Tibeto-Nepalese, whose ancestors entered Nepal from the north. Although intermingling between the two groups has occurred, cultural, linguistic and religious differences exist both between and within the two groups. The Indo-Nepalese group comprises people who speak Sanskrit-derived languages and are strict adherents to Hinduism. Nepali, the official language, is derived from Sanskrit. Differences within the Indo-Nepalese group are marked more by caste (a system of social hierarchy) than by ethnicity.
The Tibeto-Nepalese group comprises many different ethnic groups including Thakali, Newar, Bhutia, Sherpa, Gurung, Magar, Tamang, Rai and Limbu people. Although most of the Tibeto-Nepalese speak Nepali, each ethnic group also has its own language.
While the majority of Nepali people practice Hinduism, the official religion, a strong shamanist element remains in the religious practices of many Tibeto-Nepalese ethnic groups. Buddhism is also important within the country. Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Lumbini, in present-day Nepal. There is a small Muslim population mainly located in the Terai.
Nepal’s society is predominantly rural, with over 80% of the population living in rural areas. Social life in the village revolves around the family, which is headed by the father. Family land holdings are often extremely fragmented. Villagers pool resources and labour to implement projects such as irrigation ditches. Rice is the food staple in most parts of the country, but barley, millet, and potatoes are also important foods in the Himalaya. Once one gets above 3000 metres or so, yak meat becomes available, and definitely a culinary experience to indulge in.
A revival of artistic and intellectual expression occurred in Nepal after the overthrow of Rana rule in the early 1950s. Nepali works of poetry and literature emphasize patriotism and national pride. Hindu and Buddhist religious values inspire the expression of Nepali artists. Favorite recreational activities of the Nepali include music and dance. Religious ceremonies involve the use of drums and musical instruments preserved since ancient times.
Himalayan Trexplorers’ itineraries are crafted in such way as to allow ample time for exploration of the different villages we pass through, and to present our customers with plentiful contact with local people and culture, as opposed to over-focusing on the mountains and racing towards the end.