Most Nepalese are closely related to the peoples of northern India, and others are of Tibetan or mixed Indian-Tibetan descent. Most people live in small villages that consist of two-story houses made of stone or mud-brick. About 90% of Nepal’s people earn their living through farming and related occupations.
Hinduism is the official religion of Nepal. However, the Nepalese have combined the beliefs and practices of Hinduism with those of Buddhism. Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, was born in Nepal in the sixth century BCE. The Nepalese people celebrate the festivals of both Buddhism and Hinduism, and Buddhist shrines and Hindu temples are considered equally sacred. Many of the people of Nepal also worship local gods and spirits and consult shamans (magical healers) in times of illness.
Nepal is a multiethnic and multicultural country in which no less than 123 languages are spoken, mostly belonging to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families. The official language is Nepali (formerly called Gorkhali, after the dominant Gurkha people to which also the Royal family belonged). An Indo-Aryan language, it is spoken by almost 45% of the population and written in the Devanagari script, like most native languages in Nepal. About 63 tongues belong to the Sino-Tibetan language family, spoken by a little over 17% of the population, including Nepal Bhasa, spoken by the Newar people in Kathmandu Valley.
The Gurkhas descended from Rajput warriors from India and founded the Kingdom of Nepal. They initially fought the British in the Anglo-Nepali War (1815–1816), but then became their highly regarded allies. Today still many Gurkhas serve as soldiers in the British or Indian army. The Sherpas, a Himalayan people, have won fame as guides and porters for mountain-climbing expeditions, being accustomed to high altitudes. They are Buddhists and speak a Tibeto-Burman language, mixed with eastern and central Tibetan dialects.