Anthropological and Ethnic Study Tours
Those interested in learning about the History of the various ethnic groups in Nepal may consider an Anthropological Study Tour. The country comprises over 100 castes and ethnic groups. The main ethnicities are Khas, Mongoloid, and Mixed. The Khas people originate from the mountain dwellers of the Himalayas, and in Nepal the term describes people who are Bahun, Chhetri, Damai, and Kami. The term Mongoloid describes people who are Tamang, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Thakali and Kirat. The Newar people are considered ‘mixed’ and are of Indo-Aryan descent.
In Nepal, 81% of the population is hindu, 9% is Buddhist, and 4.4% is Muslim. The Kathmandu valley alone has over 2700 religious shrines. Certain animist practices also survive, and most people celebrate holidays of both Hindu and Buddhist origins, and are free to practice a blend of the two traditions.
There are over 90 languages spoken in Nepal. Nepali is the most common language spoken as a mother tongue by 80% of the population. After Nepali, Tharu is mother tongue to 5% of the population, Tamang to 4%, Newari to 3%, and Gurung to 1.5%.
The caste system can also be studied in Nepal. Indigenous groups do not belong to this system, but those who belong to the core hindu societies do. The caste model consists of four social classes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, and Sudra. Originally, Brahmin people were priests, educators, and scholars. Kshatriya were soldiers and administrators. Vaishya were merchants, farmers, and artisans, and Sudra people were labourers and service providers. Although the rules of interaction between the castes are not as rigid as they used to be, and although it has been illegal since 1962 to discriminate against the “untouchable” castes, discrimination still continues to this day.
Because of its wide variety of peoples, religions, and languages, especially for its size, Nepal is a wonderful place to conduct anthropological and ethnic studies. Especially in smaller villages and rural areas, some regional traditions have been passed on for hundreds of years, and can therefore be appreciated first hand by anthropologists and enthusiasts.