Newar – The Indigenous Population of the Kathmandu Valley

For those who have known me for years see me as a Nepalese but that is just my nationality and Nepal being my home country. Most of us have a community and your religious beliefs revolve around it. I am a Newar, community residing in almost all over Nepal and abroad. So give you a fair idea of my community, I am going to stick to this theme for ”MyFriendAlexa”

The Newars are regarded as the original inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley, but their origins are shrouded in mystery. They speak a Tibeto-Burmese language (Nepal Bhasa commonly mispronounced as Newari), which indicates they originated in the east, but their physical features range from distinctively Mongoloid, again suggesting to the east, to Indo-Aryan, which of course points to India. In balance, it seems most like that the Kathmandu valley has long been a cultural and racial melting pot, with people coming from both east and west. This fusion has resulted in the unique Newar culture that is responsible for the valley’s superb art and architecture.

The Newars outside Kathmandu Valley, especially the new generation (which sadly includes me as well), have lost their ancestors’ language because the trend of speaking Nepali at their home became more common. In most of the cases, Newars can be recognized only by their family/ caste names.

The Newar golden age peaked way back in the 17th century when the valley consisted of small city-states, and Nepal was a vitally important trading link between Tibet and the north Indian plains. It was during the Malla reign, particularly in the 1600’s and 1700’s, that many of the valley’s finest temples and palaces were built.

Religiously, Newars can be classified as both Hindu and Buddhist. Different castes worship different deities at different occasions, and more or less intensively. Further down in the caste hierarchy no distinction is made between Buddhists and Hindus.

We are very rich in traditional, classical and folk music as in dances. Various music and dance events take place in different parts of Newar societies on the occasion of different festivals. Different musical instruments are in practice in the festival, feasts, and ceremonies.  We are also known for an immense variety of cuisines which are prepared on many occasions. Being a Newari, I find the feasts that we very exquisite and fascinating hence I shall cover the cuisines in the coming posts.

Sadly, Kathmandu Valley is no longer the homeland of only the Newars. People migrated from all over Nepal and India and have made them a minority in their traditional homeland. The growing intrusions of foreign cultures and languages into Newar society might, in the long run, eliminate both their language and culture.

 


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53 thoughts on “Newar – The Indigenous Population of the Kathmandu Valley

  1. I realise I know so little about this neighbour of ours. It is rather sad that despite there being such a hie and cry over individuality, all of us are forgetting our roots and moving towards a homogenous society. We need to retain our traditions while respecting modernisation. It was good to read your post.

    Like

  2. Hello Asmita!
    First timer to your blog and what a fascinating post I chance upon.
    This is the first I have heard of a community called Newar and so nice to know that your community has your own language. Very informative post, thanks for sharing!:)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hey Appy, its fun to know more about a culture and tribe which is as sweet as you! Thank you for sharing the cultural details along with the socio-geographical lineage of Nepal. I am looking for next post up to read more about the region.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love everything about your post- I have many Newar friends. They are helpful, creative and fun. However i feel indifferent about this line in your post- ‘

    “Sadly, Kathmandu Valley is no longer the homeland of only the Newars”

    I think so it is a good thing that Kathmandu is becoming a more inclusive city and accepting many cultures- no need to be sad about that Asmita 🙂

    God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for writing about yourself. We all so easily lump people under an umbrella without going into the details of their actual origin. What a pity your culture is being ‘lost’ but frankly most people face this problem as globalisation has become the way of the world.

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  6. It is rather sad that the number of original inhabitants of a place are losing their identity. The world is turning into a homogeneous entity. That wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the rich traditional heritage is not lost in this change. I’ve not read much about Nepal so this was a fascinating bit of writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I, being from the Newar community know very less about it compared to the older generation. Sigh. We’ve cut down on a lot and there’s probably a lot more to it.

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  8. Asmita, Thanks to #MyFriendAlexa , I got to read your blog. I have been to Nepal and its a beautiful country. I am sure there will be some Newaris who will keep the culture and traditions alive.

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  9. Asmitaji, this is my first visit here and loved the blog. Its very informative. I had no idea about Newar and now when I leave this post, I can say I learnt something new. Thanks for enlightening me with this. Looking forward to connecting with you off the blog as well.

    Liked by 1 person

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  15. Thank you for the insight into your culture. I am always mesmerised by how different cultures have melted together to evolve over time. It is interesting to read about the rich heritage of Newaris. Would love to explore it first hand some day

    Liked by 1 person

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