Who are the Newar People?

By Ferdinand Bada on March 11 2020 in World Facts

The Newar people have a unique culture. Editorial credit: Pim Horvers Photography
The Newar people have a unique culture. Editorial credit: Pim Horvers Photography
  • 1.3 million people exist in the community today.
  • The Newar people practiced agriculture and trade as their main economic activities.
  • Art, dance, and music are integral parts of the Newar people's culture.

Introduction

Also known as the Newa or the Nepami, the Newar people refers to a community of people hailing from the Kathmandu Valley and surrounding areas in Nepal. To this day, the community is regarded as being responsible for the area’s culture and civilization. Presently, the community numbers around 1.3 million people, which is equal to about 5% of the population of Nepal. This share of the population makes them the nation’s sixth-largest group based on figures from the 2011 census. The community has held on to the culture and practices of the past, which is why they generally regard themselves as Nepal’s culture keepers. They speak both Nepali and Newar while their two major religions are Hinduism and Buddhism. Some of the cultures that are similar to the Newar people include Nepal Mandala peoples and Burman peoples.

Religion

Data regarding the Newar people shows that about 85% of them practice Hinduism while the rest are mostly Buddhists. The Kathmandu Valley has three major cities namely Patan, Bhaktapur, and Kathmandu. Of the three cities, Buddhism is mostly practiced in Patan while Bhaktapur is predominantly Hindu. The third city, Kathmandu, is a blend of both. Despite having different priests for their religious activities, both groups worship deities of the other group. For this reason, it can be a bit difficult to determine the exact number of Hindus and Buddhists. Hindu religious leaders are called Rajopadhyaya Brahmins while Buddhist leaders are known as Vajracharyas.

Economy

Historically, the people of Newar practiced agriculture, trade, and the industry as their main economic activities. In the past, each town and village had a specialty in the product it produced. These products and specialties included weavers, potters, dyers, and artisans. For years, the merchants from the valley were in control of the trade between India and Tibet. Some of the major export products between India and Tibet were rice and jewels.

Art, Dance, and Music

Most of the art in Nepal actually comes from the Newar people even though most of it has a religious aspect. An example of Newar art that is known worldwide is their religious paubha painting. The oldest such painting, which is called Vasudhara Mandala, dates all the way back to 1365 AD. Other forms of culture have to do with stonework, woodwork, metalwork, and repoussé art. Aside from religious art, there have been artists who have produced western work such as Raj Man Singh Chitrakar who is widely acclaimed as the starter of watercolor painting in Nepal.

The Dhime dance and the masked dance are some of the most common dance forms in Nepal. Traditionally, their music is mostly religious and festive. Sitala Maju is an example of a popular seasonal song. Some of the common musical instruments include naykhin, dhimay, bhusya, and mwahali (short trumpet). Some of these instruments are still in use today.

Government

There have been proposals to establish the Newa Autonomous State within Nepal. If approved, the state is going to include areas that are dominated by Newar people such as Nuwakot, Kathmandu, Lalitpur, and other regions.

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