From the northeast swept in
the Mongolians in their continuous movement down from the cold
grasslands of Mongolia across the breadth of Asia and into the
Subcontinent of South Asia. They moved steadily westward until
they met the other great migration from the west – Aryans
on a march that had begun in the Central Asian steppes.
A diagram showing the
population – majority areas would hence show the two races,
wedged into each other somewhere in Central Nepal, with solid
bulks forming the rear to the east and the west.
This description of course,
only gives a most superficial view of the rich cultural diversity
of the country. For, just as there are so many different Nepali
faces, there are many traditions that go a long time back into
history – a result of centuries of internal migration along
with still-ongoing arrival of people from both north and south.
At one level, the diverse
religious beliefs of Nepalese echo this variety in Nepali life.
There are communities whose shamanistic way of life is no different
from those of Mongolian nomads, while there are others whose scruple
in following the Manu Dharma (the Hindu canon dealing with the
Hindu way of life) would earn them the admiration of even the
most orthodox South Indian Brahmin. Similarly, Buddhists from
the world over come seeking an uncorrupted religion as practiced
for more then a millennium, and there are those that come to marvel
at the syncretism of Buddhism and Hinduism in the inner cities
of Kathmandu Valley.
Besides the so many religious
practices, there is more to Nepal’s claim to a rich heritage.
There is hardly a cultural tradition common to different parts
of the country. Even people from the same ethnic background, although
they share the same outward characteristics, will have evolved
their own culture depending on where they live.
This is even truer for
languages. Two examples stand out. The northern part of Nepal
bordering Tibet is inhabited by the Bhotia people, who share many
affinities with Tibetan speaker would feel comfortable using his
native tongue in any communities would be able to communicate
with each other, so differently have the languages developed.
Even more amazing are
the Rais, an ethnic group of the eastern Nepal mid-hills. The
Rais’ traditional homeland is crisscrossed by rivers, which,
in earlier times, effectively, barred intercourse among them.
As a result, 12 different languages developed. The Rais are, therefore,
a community which, even as it possesses a homogeneity that runs
throughout, cannot communicate within the group without resorting
to the lingua franca, Nepali.
It is all these differences
and varieties that have contributed to the entity that are a Nepali.
Outward differences there may be many, but there is no underlying
strain that is stronger than that comes of being a Nepali.