Authentic | Tailor-Made Holidays

+977 9841675418 (Whatsapp/Viber)

Culture of Nepal

Published: 22nd Jan, 2020

Culture of Nepal is a diverse as its geography. Matter of fact, the geography of the country dictates the Culture of Nepal. Any destination you visit in Nepal has its own culture, language, and people following it. The most exciting aspect is that after every one-hour drive inside the country you will encounter people belonging to different ethnic groups.

culture of Nepal

A country pea sized in a world map is home to 126 ethnic groups who speaks as many as 123 different languages. From the lowlands bordering India, passing through subtropical forest and terraced hills till the soaring Himalayan region, Nepal boasts mosaic of customs and beliefs that will amaze every traveler.

Nepal culture gives weight to caste and status, which are strictly defined system of hierarchy and deference. Furthermore, caste determines an individual status, even their career and marriages.

Every culture of Nepal is combination of its religion, language, festivals, and cuisines.

1) Religion in Nepal

Religion of Nepal encompasses a variety of beliefs and customs. However, Hinduism the main religion of Nepal constitutes about 81 percentage of the population. Nepal is the most religious Hindu country throughout the world. After Hinduism, Buddhism is the second religion which constitutes 9 percentage of the population, followed by Islam (4.2 %), Only about 1% of the population follow Kirat and Christianity.

a) Hinduism

Hinduism is the main religion in Nepal. Nepal is famous as a Hindu Pilgrimage site, such as sacred Pashupatinath temple also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Nearly every Hindu makes a visit to Pashupatinath temple once in a lifetime. Furthermore, the Hindu believes in Karma- the cycle of life and death. The Hindu believes if you do well during this lifetime, you will have a good karma and reincarnation will be on a higher level. Similarly, if you do bad, this will result in a bad Karma and reincarnate at a lower level.

b) Buddhism

After Hinduism, Buddhism is a next populous religion in Nepal. About 12,000 of 120,000 Tibetans exiles around the world live in Nepal are devout Buddhist and their arrival in Kathmandu has rejuvenated a number of Buddhist religious sites, most notably the Stupa of Boudhanath and Swoyambhunath.

Furthermore, the Sherpa’s living in the high central and eastern Nepal also follow Tibetan Buddhism. Different beautiful gompas (monasteries) or Buddhist temples occupy different areas of Kathmandu valley and also found in the mountainous region of Nepal, which are mostly inhabited by Buddhists. Other most notable Buddhist religious site in Nepal is Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Buddha.

Further, Nepal is also popular as a Buddhist pilgrimage site with Lumbini at its center and other UNESCO World Heritage Sites inside Kathmandu valley such as Boudhanath Stupa, Swoyambhunath Stupa, Namo Buddha among others. Hence, Nepal can be said as one of the best cultural destinations in the world.

When it comes to religious beliefs, Nepalese are admirably flexible. Above all, Nepalese are most religious tolerant and there is no religious tensions at all in Nepal.

If you are interested in a religious Nepal tour, you can contact the local tour operator in Nepal.

2) Ethnic Groups in Nepal

The geography of the country also dictates the location of different ethnic groups of Nepal following a different religion and speaking different languages.

a) Terai Region

This region runs through the Nepal-India border at 60 meters above the sea level. A large number of groups straddle the India-Nepal border.

Among them Tharu are the most visible group in the Terai region of Nepal. One million of the Tharu speakers inhabit the length of the Terai. The best place to encounter this group during your Nepal tour is in Chitwan. These clans have been traditionally living in a thatched hut or a traditional long house.

b) Hilly Region

This region is the best place in Nepal to experience village life. The Newars dominate the central hills around the Kathmandu valley, while the Magars and Gurungs inhabit the hills of the Kali Gandaki northeast of Pokhara. Moving west Bahuns and Chhetri are the dominant group.

Furthermore, Rais and Limbus inhabit eastern hills of Nepal. They are easily distinguishable by their Mongolian features and their traditional religion is distinct from either Buddhism or Hinduism.

Other ethnic groups living in the hilly region of Nepal are Gurungs, Thakalis, Magars etc. who follow Hinduism or Buddhism as their religion.

c) Himalayan Region

The Sherpas, the Dolpas, the Lopas, the Baragaonlis, the Manangis inhabits the northern mountainous part of Nepal. Most of them follow Buddhism as their religion.

3)Languages In Nepal

Nepali is an official language of Nepal, formerly called Khas-Kura then Gorkhali. According to the 2011 national census, the percentage of Nepali speaking people is about 44.6%. The second most spoken language is Maithili which is 11.67%.

Nepal has as many as 123 languages spoken by different ethnic groups. Among these 81.3 percentage of population are Indo-Aryan speakers which include Nepali, Maithali, Tharu languages.

The Tibeto – Burman group is a part of other Nepal’s language form. Belonging to these groups is Tamang, Newari, Magar, Limbu language, etc. However, only few portions of population speaks these languages.

4)Festivals Of Nepal

Festivals are an expressive method to celebrate heritage, culture and traditions. Furthermore, it is to cheer special moments and emotions in our lives with our friends and family. Festivals of Nepal play an important role to add structure to our social lives, and connect us with our families and foundations. Moreover, festival an important part of culture of Nepal

Nepal’s colorful holidays, and festivals occur virtually year-round and a visiting Nepal anytime is almost certain to coincide with at least one of them, particularly in Kathmandu Valley. As Kathmandu is multi-cultural city of Nepal. Furthermore, it is a melting pot of different ethnic groups, hence every ethnic group celebrates their own festival here.

Generally, August and September are a festival galore.

Some of the major festivals in Nepal are:

a) Dashain

This is one of the greatest and longest festival in Nepal. This festival falls during September or October. This is the period when the sky is clear, the air is clean and is start of peak tourist season in Nepal. This festival lasts for 15 days, finishing on the full-moon day of late September or October. Although this festival is a quiet family affair, there are colorful events to see both in Kathmandu and other parts of the country. This festival celebrates the victory of goddess Durga over the forces of evil personified by the buffalo demon. On the first day of this festival, starts with preparation of a sacred jar of water and plantation of barley seeds in the soil.

Children Enjoying Swing During Dashain Festival, Culture of Nepal
Children Enjoying Swing During Dashain Festival

Although Dashain, is a Hindu festival it is also celebrated by Buddhist and activities takes place at a Buddhist shrine in Patan and Bhaktapur.

The seventh day of Dashain – ” Fulpati” is very important. Fulpati meals ” Sacred Flowers” and a jar containing flower is carried from Gorkha to Kathmandu. Maha Astami or ” Black Night” follows Fulpati and this is the start of sacrifices and offerings to goddess Durga. The next day is Navami and the 10th day of the festival, Vijaya Dashami, is again a family affair, elders put tika (red mark) on the younger foreheads and give their blessings.

The masked dances in the towns of Kathmandu Valley marks the conclusion of this festival.

b) Tihar

Tihar is the second biggest Hindu festival. This 5-day festival take place in late October or early November.

This festival honors certain animals, starting with offerings of rice to the crow ” messenger of death“, the second day, honors dogs with tikas and garlands of flowers. Similarly, third day cows have their horns painted silver and gold. Fourth day, honors bullocks.

Children Enjoying Fireworks During Tihar Festival, Culture of Nepal
Children Enjoying Fireworks During Tihar Festival

Deepawali, the third day of the festival is the most important day when goddess Lakshmi (goddess of wealth) comes to visit every home that has been suitably lit for her presence. No-one likes to turn down a visit from goddesses of wealth so homes throughout the country are brightly lit by candles and lamps. This effect is highlighted by the full-moon which falls on the day of Deepawali.

The fourth day is also the start of the New Year for the Newar ethnic groups of Kathmandu. The fifth day is ” Bhai tika”. On this day brothers and sisters meet at put tickets on each other foreheads. Sisters offers small gift of fruit and sweet to the brothers while brothers give money to the sisters in return.

c) Indra Jatra

This important festival falls during the first week of September or the last week of September. Indra Jatra is colorful and exciting festival, which combines homage to Lord Indra (God of rain) with an important annual appearance by Kumari (the living goddesses). Further, this festival marks the end of the monsoon.

The day before this festival, three golden temple chariots assemble in Basantapur Square, outside Kumari Bahal (house of Kumari). On the festival day, in the afternoon, with the Durbar Square packed with colorful and cheerful crowds, two boys emerge from the Kumari’s house. They play the role of Lord Ganesh and Bhairab and will each ride in the chariot as an attendant to the goddesses. Finally, the Kumari appears either walking on a rolled-out carpet or carried by attendants so that her feet do not touch the ground.

The chariot moves off. The procession then continues out of the Durbar Square towards Hanuman Dhoka where it stops in front of the huge Bhairab. Kumari greets the Bhairab and then beer starts to pour from Bhairab mouth! Getting a sip of this beer will bring a good fortune.

This is the most spectacular festival of Kathmandu.

d) Teej

This Festival of Women falls during late August or the first week of September and lasts three days. Women celebrate this festival in honor of their husband and in the hope of a long and happy married life.

The festival starts with feasting and talking, right through until midnight after which women commence 24 hour fasting. During the day of festival, woman from all over the valley visit Pashupatinath temple, dressed in traditional red and gold saris. They take a ritual dip in the sacred Bagmati river that runs through Pashupatinath Temple to recognize the reunion of Goddess Parvati and Lord Shiva.

The women must offer their husbands small item of food which have previously been offered to the gods. The fast commencing during the evening is broken after the full day observance. Women during fasting even do not drink water.

If you are planning Nepal tour, during August, September, you are likely to experience this festival.

e) Gai Jatra

This festival falls during August, September, and is dedicated to those who died during the preceding year. The Newar ethnic group believes that after death, the cow will guide you to Yama “The God of Underworld“. On this day the cow is led through the street of Valley’s towns or, if the cow is not available, small boys dress up as cows. On this day visit Bhaktapur street is the best place to see the festival.

f) Janai Purnima

This festival falls during July, August. On this day all high caste men (chhetri and brahmans) must change the janai (Sacred Thread), looped over their left shoulder and tied using their right arm. The three cords of sacred thread symbolize body, speech, and mind. Young men first put on the thread in an important ritual that officially welcomes them into their religion. From that day they were the sacred thread for rest of their lives!!!, changing it on occasion of Janai Purnima.

If you are doing Nepal tour during this festival and you are curious, you ask the priest to put you a Rakshya Bandhan (yellow thread) around your wrist. The threads go around the right wrist for the women and left to the men. This sacred thread has to be worn at least for a week, but preferably for three months until the Festival of Lights ” Tihar”.

g) Buddha Jayanti (the Buddha’s Birthday)

This festival falls during May, June. Siddhartha Gautama (the Buddha) was born in Lumbini and a great fair is held here on his birthday. In Kathmandu Valley Swayambhunath Stupa is the center for celebration, although events also takes place at Bodnath and Patan.

A constant procession of pilgrims makes their way around Swayambhunath. The stupa’s collection of rare thankas (Tibetan paintings) and mandalas (geometrical representations of the world) are in display on the south wall of the stupa courtyard on this special day every year. You can also witness colorful monk dances.

5)Nepali Cuisines

Nepali cuisines plays an important part in expressing culture of Nepal.

The Nepalese food is a combination of Indian and Tibetan culinary. The traditional Nepali food is Daal-Bhaat. This food includes white rice with sauce of lentils . Alongside Daal-Bhaat, vegetable curry or known as ‘tarkari’ and meat things are additionally served. The food, however, varies as per the different regions, ethnic groups, climate, and festivals. In the rugged mountainous region, the rice is a luxury and hence they substitute it with Dhindo, a thick porridge produced using buckwheat or millet.

Dal - Bhat - Tarkari , Nepalese Traditional Food
Dal – Bhat – Tarkari , Nepalese Traditional Food

Gundruk (dried, matured leaves of verdant vegetables) are likewise very well known. In the Kathmandu valley, mo: mo or Tibetan dumplings are very popular fast food. The fillings can be meat or vegetables; which is a delicacy in Nepal. The food during celebrations is additionally very extraordinary. Sel roti, a ring-formed sweet bread, is popular during Tihar Festival. Another famous food would be Yomari, a sort of dumpling with a sweet filling.


The Culture of Nepal is very exciting and diverse. It is absolutely something that you should not miss during your Nepal tours. With the assorted ethnicity and topography, you must experience The Culture of Nepal first-hand once in their lifetime!


Our team have first-hand knowledge of our destinations and are on hand to give you all the impartial advice you need. If you're struggling to know which is the best destination or style of holiday for you, or you can't find what you're looking for on our website, please get in touch and we'll be happy to inspire you.

Yakky Tours
Authentic | Tailor-Made Holidays