People and language
The population of Nepal is around 26.62 million according to a recent survey from the Central Bureau of Statistics in Nepal. This population comprises of 101 ethnic groups speaking over 92 languages. Nepali is the official language of the state, spoken and understood by the majority of the population. However, multiple ethnic groups have their own mother tongues, and English is also widely spoken in government and businesses. Education is primarily in Nepali and English, making these the two languages that can bring together the Nepali people, and the Nepali and foreign tourists.
The distinction in caste and ethnicity in Nepal is understood more easily with a view of customary layout of the population:
Northern Himalayan People:
In the northern region of the Himalayas are the Tibetan-speaking groups namely Sherpas, Dolpa-pas, Lopas, Baragaonlis, and Manangis. The Sherpas are mainly found in the east, in the Solu and Khumbu region; the Baragaonlis and Lopas live in the semi-deserted areas of Upper and Lower Mustang; the Manangis live in Manang district area; while the Dolpa-pas live in Dolpa district of west Nepal.
Middle Hills and Valley People:
Several ethnic groups live in the middle hills and valleys. Among them are the Magars, Gurungs, Rais, Limbus, Tamangs, Sunuwars, Newars, Thakalis, Chepangs, Brahmins, Chhetris and Thakuris. There are also occupational castes namely: Damai (tailor), Sarki (cobbler), Kami (blacksmith) and Sunar (goldsmiths).
Ethnic Diversity in the Kathmandu Valley:
Kathmandu Valley has become the cultural melting-pot of Nepal, where people from varied ethnic backgrounds have migrated over the years to live side by side. The natives of the Kathmandu Valley are the Newars. Newari culture is an integration of both Hinduism and Buddhism. The Newars of Kathmandu Valley were traders or farmers by occupation in the old days.
The main ethnic groups in Terai are Tharus, Darai, Kumhal, and Majhi. They speak north Indian dialects like Maithili and Bhojpuri. Owing to the fertile plains of Terai, most inhabitants live on agriculture. There are, however, some occupational castes like Majhi (fisherman), Kumhal (potter) and Danuwar (cart driver).