Demographics of Nepal
Perched on the southern slopes of the Himalayan Mountains, the Kingdom of Nepal is as ethnically diverse as its terrain of fertile plains, broad valleys, and the highest mountain peaks in the world. The Nepalese are descendants of three major migrations from India, Tibet, and Central Asia.
Among the earliest inhabitants were the Newar of the Kathmandu Valley and aboriginal Tharu in the southern Terai region. The ancestors of the Brahman and Chetri caste groups came from India, while other ethnic groups trace their origins to Central Asia and Tibet, including the Gurung and Magar in the west, Rai and Limbu in the east, and Sherpa and Bhotia in the north.
In the Terai, a part of the Ganges Basin with 20% of the land, much of the population is physically and culturally similar to the Indo-Aryan people of northern India. People of Indo-Aryan and Mongoloid stock live in the hill region. The mountainous highlands are sparsely populated. Kathmandu Valley, in the middle hill region, constitutes a small fraction of the nation's area but is the most densely populated, with almost 5% of the population.
Nepal is a multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-ethnic society. These data are largely derived from Nepal's 2001 census results published in the Nepal Population Report 2002. 
Nepal's diverse linguistic heritage evolved from four major language groups: Indo-Aryan, Tibeto-Burman, Mongolian and various indigenous language isolates. According to the 2001 national census, 92 different living languages are spoken in Nepal (a 93rd category was "unidentified"). The major languages of Nepal (percent spoken as mother tongue) are Nepali (49%), Maithili (12%), Bhojpuri (8%), Tharu (6%), Tamang (5%), Newari/Nepal Bhasa (4%), Magar (3%), Awadhi (2%), Bantawa (2%), Limbu (1%), and Bajjika (1%). The remaining 81 languages are each spoken as mother tongue by less than one percent of the population.
Derived from Sanskrit, Nepali is related to the Indian language Hindi and written in Devanagari script. Nepali is the official, national language and serves as lingua franca among Nepalis of different ethnolinguistic groups. Hindi is also widely spoken, especially in the southern Terai Region. Many Nepalese in government and business also speak English.
Religion is important in Nepal; the Kathmandu Valley alone has more than 2,700 religious shrines. The Nepal constitution describes the country as a "Hindu Kingdom," although it does not establish Hinduism as the state religion. Nepal's constitution continues long-standing legal provisions prohibiting discrimination against other religions and proselytization. Nevertheless, Nepal remains the only officially Hindu country in the world and the king is deified as the earthly manifestation of the Hindu god, Vishnu.
The 2001 census identified 80.6% of the population as Hindu and Buddhism was practiced by about 11% of the population (although many people labelled Hindu or Buddhist often practice a syncretic blend of Hinduism, Buddhism and/or animist traditions). About 4.2% of the population is Muslim and 3.6% of the population follows the indigenous Kirant Mundum religion. Christianity is practiced by less than 0.5% of the population.
Buddhist and Hindu shrines and festivals are respected and celebrated by most Nepalis. Nepal also has Muslim (4.2%), indigenous Kirant (3.6%) and Christian (0.5%) minorities. Certain animist practices of old indigenous religions survive.
Nepal’s 2001 census enumerated 103 distinct caste/ethnic groups including an "unidentified group". The caste system of Nepal is rooted in the Hindu religion while the ethnic system is rooted in mutually exclusive origin myths, historical mutual seclusion and the occasional state intervention.
The major caste/ethnic groups identified by the 2001 census are Chetri (15.8%), Hill Brahmin (12.7%), Magar (7.1%), Tharu (6.8%), Tamang (5.6%), Newar (5.5%), Muslim (4.3%), Kami (3.9%), Rai (3.9), Gurung (2.8%), and Damai/Dholi (2.4%). The remaining 92 caste/ethnic groups (including the world-famous Sherpa) each constitute less than 2 percent of the population.
|CASTE/ETHNIC GROUP||POPULATION||PERCENT OF TOTAL|
|Chamar, Harijan, Ram||269,661||1.19|
Population: 26,469,569 (July 2003 est.)
0-14 years: 39.7% (male 5,424,396; female 5,080,171)
15-64 years: 56.7% (male 7,692,134; female 7,320,059)
65 years and over: 3.6% (male 468,697; female 484,112) (2003 est.)
total: 19.7 years
male: 19.6 years
female: 19.9 years (2002)
Population growth rate: 2.26% (2003 est.)
Birth rate: 32.46 births/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Death rate: 9.84 deaths/1,000 population (2003 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2003 est.)
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.97 male(s)/female
total population: 1.05 male(s)/female (2003 est.)
Infant mortality rate:
total: 70.57 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 72.27 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 68.95 deaths/1,000 live births (2003 est.)
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 59 years
male: 59.36 years
female: 58.63 years (2003 est.)
Total fertility rate: 4.39 children born/woman (2003 est.)
noun: Nepalese (singular and plural)
Religions: Hinduism 86.2%, Buddhism 7.8%, Islam 3.8%, other 2.2% (1995).
note: Only official Hindu state in the world
Languages: Nepali (official; spoken by majority of the male population), about a 90 other languages and major dialects;
note - many in government and business also speak English (1995)
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 45.2%
female: 27.6% (2003 est.)
People - note: Refugee issue over the presence in Nepal of approximately 96,500 Bhutanese refugees, 90% of whom are in seven United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps. Presence and activity of Tibetan refugee population in Nepal also raises sporadic diplomatic conflicts with the People's Republic of China.