Who is Newar?
Newar are one among 59 indigenous peoples recognized so far by government of Nepal. They call themselves Nepa or Newa. Newars are found in every part of the country and beyond the boundry, but they are the original habitants of Kathmandu valley, the capital city of modern Nepal. Previously the Kathmandu valley was known by the name ‘Nepal’ and for many people the words ‘Nepal’ continues to mean it. As early as 7th century BC, the Nepal valley was settled by a Tibeto-Burman speaking Mongoloid people who later founded the Kirat dynasty. About the second century AD, the Kirat rule was replaced by the Lichhavi from north Bihar who spoke Prakit but used Sanskrit for sacramental purpose. Newar are also said to be the descendent of Kirat people who inhibited the land in the past.
Newar speak their own mother tongue which belongs to Tibeto-Burman language family, with rich ancient and modern literatures going back to the 14th century. During the Malla period, from 13th century till its downfall in 1769, the then king themselves played significant role in promoting Newar literature. Newars include people of both Mongoloid and Caucasoid extractions. They practice both Hinduism and Buddhism. They have their distinct culture having long history, which is heavily influenced by Buddhism as well as Hinduism with remnants of ancient Kirat culture. They have a distinct way of life, customs and traditions of Newar. They are very famous for the skills of woodcarving. Newars are one of the very few indigenous nationalities who have been urban oriented and made great success in politics, bureaucracy, arts and architecture.
Customary practices of Newar
Guthi is the religious cum social management customary institution of Newar. It by now has been associated with a kind of land tenure system, religious and philanthropic endowments, foundations, trusts, oil-processing cooperatives. The traditional Newar Guthis are basically of three types: clan based, lineage based and territory based. There are many varieties of Guthis which includes Si Guthi realted to death rituals, Dewali Guthi related to worship of the clan deity, Nasa Guthi related to music and so on. Each and every Newar household voluntarily becomes member of one or the other Guthis, often of multiple Guthis. They are called Guthiyars and the headman is called Thakali. If members violate norms and values they would be denied of services or of participation and social boycott as an extreme punishment. Guthi plays a significant role not only in following the death rituals but also following worship and in feasts and festivities and determines the customs, and traditions of Newar communities. According to the latest National Census 2011, the population of Newar is 1,321,933, which make up almost 5 percent of the total population of the country.
Newars have their own mother tongue which is called Nepal Bhasa which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language family. According to the latest national census 2001, as many as 846,557 Newar speak their mother tongue—Nepal Bhasa. Of them, 414,491 are male and 432,066 are female speaking Newari language.