The Newar of Nepal
The Newar, one of the most cultured ethnic groups in Nepal, were the country's earliest inhabitants. Though the Newar are scattered throughout Nepal, they are primarily concentrated in the Katmandu Valley. They speak, Newari, a Tibeto-Burman language that has borrowed many words from Sanskrit, Maithili, and Nepali. There are several dialects of Newari, and it is written in the Devanagari script.
While most of the Newar are Hindu, there are also a significant number of Buddhists. Both of these religious groups have "caste systems" (social classes) based on occupations. One modern trend in their society is the breaking up of this caste system. Today, the Newar are at liberty to follow any profession they choose—except the priesthood.
The priests make up the highest caste among both Hindus and Buddhists. The Hindu Newar priests are known as the Deo Bhaju; the Buddhist Newar priests are called Bajracharya.
What are their lives like?
Katmandu Valley is located at the center of the India-Tibet trade route, and most of the Newar are skillful merchants and traders. Many others have found government jobs, and a few are farmers. Some of the farmers use tractors, but many still cultivate the land with short handled hoes called kus. Rice is the staple food of the Newar. It is eaten with soup, vegetables, and some meats.
Unlike many other tribes in Nepal, the Newar are not usually recruited into the military. In recent years, Katmandu Valley has become the major political and administrative region of the nation. This has enabled more of the Newar to find employment in administrative areas and construction work. Tourism is also becoming an important industry.
Most Newar settlements are built on elevated ground surrounded by farmland. The settlements look like small cities. Rows of three-story brick buildings stand along narrow lanes. The settlements have many ornate Buddhist and Hindu temples, which are—besides Mount Everest—the most important tourist attractions in Nepal.
Newar societies are patrilineal, which means that the line of descent is traced through the males. Members of the same family line generally worship the same gods. Marriages are almost always arranged by the parents, and a "mediator" is used to complete the formalities.
The artistic talents of the Newar are displayed in their sculptures and architecture. Inspired by Indian tradition, unique styles of palaces, temples, monasteries, fountains, and residential buildings have developed. They are often decorated with wooden carvings and equipped with stone or metal sculptures. The walls are covered with religious paintings, scrolls, and manuscripts. Drums, cymbals, and wind instruments are played during the religious festivals and rituals.
What are their beliefs?
Hinduism, Buddhism, and traditional ethnic beliefs are all a part of the Newar's religious lives. Since Hinduism is the state religion in Nepal, it has received the strongest support by the government.
The Newar Hindus worship a multitude of gods, the most important of which are Braham, the creator of the universe; Vishnu, its preserver; and Shiva, its destroyer. They also believe in the existence of demons, hostile spirits the dead, ghosts, and witches. Traditional practices include the digu dya rituals, in which frogs are fed after rice planting. Cremation grounds, crossroads, and huge stones are thought to be favorite haunting places. Diseases are believed to be caused by the ill will of the "mother goddess," witchcraft, or evil spells. Treatments include reciting incantations, making offerings to the gods, and using herbs and other medicines.
What are their needs?
Although the New Testament has been translated into the Newari language, very few other Christian resources are available to the Newar at this time. Although three missions agencies are working among the Newar, very little progress has been made. Prayer is the key to reaching these precious people with the Gospel.
- Ask the Lord to call people who are willing to go to Nepal and share Christ with the Newar.
- Pray that the Jesus film and other evangelistic tools will soon be made available in the Newari language.
- Ask God to grant wisdom and favor to the missions agencies that are currently targeting the Newar.
- Pray that the Lord Jesus will reveal Himself to the Newar through dreams and visions.
- Pray that God will give the Newar believers boldness to share Christ with their own people.
- Take authority over the spiritual principalities and powers that are keeping the Newar bound.
- Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will break up the spiritual soil of Nepal through worship and intercession.
- Ask the Lord to bring forth a triumphant Newar church for the glory of His name!
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
- People name: Newar
- Country: Nepal
- Their language: Newari
- Largest religion:
- Christians: <1%
- Church members: 842
- Scriptures in their own language: New Testament
- Jesus Film in their own language: None
- Christian broadcasts in their own language: None
- Mission agencies working among this people: 3
- Persons who have heard the Gospel: 169,300 (27%)
- Persons who have never heard the Gospel: 478,600 (73%)
- Country: Nepal
- Major peoples in size order:
- Major religions:
- Number of denominations: 27
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Bethany World Prayer Center
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