Nepal is a multi-ethnic society with more than 40 types of different races, tribes, & ethnicity constituting a population of more than 26 millions. A promising Nepali social researcher Dipesh Upadhyay calls Nepal a land of refugees.
Dr. Stephen Bezruchka in his seminal travel book Trekking in Nepal also agrees that Nepal’s terrain was, “settled by peoples fleeing invaders from all directions” (p140). Nepal’s remote & inaccessible landscape has offered shelter to the victims of invasions & social turmoil not only from India in the south, & China & Tibet in the north, but from Bhutan & Burma as well. Thus people in Nepal can be variously categorized according to altitude, religion, and ethnicity.
The Hindus constitute the famous four caste people, but they take somewhat different names & forms in Nepal than India. These people carry a surname according their profession. Although Buddhists do not have systematic caste systems, some Buddhist Newars of Kathmandu have been carrying their surnames like Bajracharya, Gurubacharya, Tamrakar, Tuladhar which denoted their professions during medieval Nepal.
Brahmins (or Bahun in Nepali)
These are the uppermost caste in the Hindu hierarchical caste system. Brahmins are mostly teachers, priests, & government officials.
The Hindu people of the warrior Aryan caste. The Shah Kings, the Ranas, & the high-profile army positions are still occupied by the Chetris in Nepal.
The ethnic people from the Kathmandu valley. Most are the Hindus, but some are also Buddhist by generations.
Shrepa people are the original inhabitants of the Nepal’s side of Himalaya – different from Tibetans.
Magar, Gurung, Tamang, Rai, Limbu
These are the original inhabitants of mountain region.
Madhesis, Tharu, Rajbansi, Danuwar, Majhi
The people of the Terai regions constituting both Hindus & Muslims of Aryan descent. These people consider themselves to be original inhabitants of the Terai.
Manangi & Dolpo
These are tribal people living in the isolated pockets in the valleys beyond Himalaya but inside Nepal.
Although their concentration varies, the Brahmins, Chetris, & Newars are found everywhere in Nepal. The people of other castes & tribes sometimes make fun of these three castes by calling them the “mobile castes”.