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Religion & People

In Nepal, Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions. The two have co-existed down the ages and many Hindu temples share the same complex as, Buddhist shrines. Hindu and Buddhist worshippers may regard the same god with different names while performing religious rites. Nepal has been declared as a secular country by the Parliament on May 18, 2006. Religions like Hindusim Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, and Bon are practiced here. Some of the earliest inhabitants like the Kirats practice their own kind of religion based on ancestor worship and the Tharus practice animism. Over the years, Hinduism and Buddhism have been influenced by these practices which have been modified to form a synthesis of newer beliefs.Buddhism was introduced in Kathmandu valley by Emperor Ashoka of India around 250 BC. Later, around 8th century AD, the ancestors of the Sherpa's emigrated from Tibet bringing with them a from of Buddhism. Known as Ningmapa Gurung's, Tamang's, Serpa's and Newar's in kathmandu valley also follow Mahayaa Buddhism and the famous temple of Swayambhu in Kathmandu and the “Golden Temple” or the Hiranya Varna Mahabihar in Patan are visited mainly by Buddhist Newar's.A few people have adopted a complex blend of both Hinduism and Buddhism known as Bajrayana, which is mainly practiced in Kathmandu valley. A remarkable feature of Nepal is thus the religious homogeneity that exists, particularly between the Hindu and Buddhist communities. Apart from the Hindu's and Buddhists, Muslim (3.5%) forms the third largest religious group. There has also been an increase in the number of Christian' in Nepal in recent years, which number around 40000 although their proportion in the population is less than 1 percent and 1.2 percent of other religion.

The population of Nepal was recorded to be about 25 million as of July 2002. Eighty-six percent of Nepalis follow Hinduism, while eight percent follow Buddhism and three percent follow Islam. The population comprises various groups of different races which are further divided into different castes. The distinction in caste and ethnicity is understood more easily with a view of customary layout of the population.Some of the main groups are such: Gurungs and Magars who live mainly in the western region; Rais, Limbus and Sunwars who live in the eastern mid hills; Sherpas, Manangpas and Lopas who live near the mountains of Everest, Annapurna and Mustang respectively; Newars who live in and around the capital valley of Kathmandu; Tharus, Yadavas, Satar, Rajvanshis and Dhimals who live in the Terai region; and Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris generally spread over all parts of the country.Nepali is the official language of the state, spoken and understood by 100 percent of the population. Multiple ethnic groups speak more than a dozen other languages in about 93 different dialects. English is spoken by many in government and business offices. It is the mode of education in most private schools of Kathmandu and some other cities.The Sherpa's live mainly in the mountain of eastern and central Nepal, in particular in the Solu Khumbu region at the foot of Everest. The Sherpa's are probably the best known Nepalese ethnic group originally from Tibet, they settled in the area about 500 years ago. The Sherpa's also known as “the tigers of the snow” live in the Himalaya region up to an average altitude of 4570m.Brahmin's and Chhetri's are simply the two highest castes; the Brahmin's and Chhetri's are spread generally over most parts of the Kingdom. The progeny of Brahmin men and hill women were considered Chhetri and a number of high status families from other hill groups have also adopted Chhetri status, so some do have Mongoloid tribal ancestry. All Brahmin's and Chhetri's are Hindu. The Newar's constitute and important ethnic group in the capital valley Kathmandu. The Newar's of the Kathmandu valley are a good example of the result of this Himalayan melting pot. The Gurung and Magars live mainly in the west and on the southern slopes of Annapurna, Himalchuli and Ganesh Himal mountains. The Magars and Gurungs also often work as Gurkha soldiers. The Rais, Limbus, and Sunuwars inhabit the slops and valleys of the eastern mid hills and many have migrated to the eastern Terai. Larger number of people find employment with Gurkha regiments. Tamangs are one of the largest Tibet – Burman ethnic group in Nepal. Around half the Himalayan zone of Nepal is inhabited by Tamangs.Many Tamangs have been influenced in their dress by both western and Newari styles. Traditionally, women wear a colorful wraparound skirt, a blouse, jacket and scarf. On important occasion they wear chunky gold or brass ear and nose rings set with semiprecious stones. Men wear loincloths or the traditional Newari pant, short – sleeved jackets and topis. Both men and women wear several miters of cloth wrapped around the waist.The Thakali's live mainly Kali Gandaki valley in central Nepal, the Thakalis are a Tibeto Burman people who have become the entrepreneurs of Nepal. Originally Buddhist, many pragmatic Thakali's have now adopted Hinduism. The actual number of Thakali's is very small.Tharu's, Yadavs, Satar, Rajvanshi's, and Dhimals are spread generally in the Terai region. Tharu's are one of the larges ethic group in Nepal.