The Newar Classical Nepal Bhasa: are the indigenous people of Nepal's Kathmandu Valley. The valley and surrounding territory have been known from ancient times as Nepal Mandala.
Newars have lived in Nepal Mandala since prehistoric times, and immigrants that arrived at different periods in its history eventually merged with the local population by adopting their language and customs. Newars are a linguistic and cultural community of mostly Tibeto-Burman and some Indo-Aryan ethnicities. Scholars have also described the Newars as being a nation.
Scholars in this field have consensus that prehistoric Newar (Newari) were originally interconnected to the ancient Kirat people (Kiratis). Stone Age, prehistoric Kirat tools found by Dr A. Y. Shetenko (Leningrad Institute of Archaeology) date back to 30,000 years ago, matching prehistoric tools unearthed in China's Gobi Desert and Yunnan.
According to Nepal's 2001 census, the 1,245,232 Newars in the country are the nation's sixth largest ethnic group, representing 5.48% of the population.
Origin of the name
The terms "Nepal" and "Newar" are phonetically different forms of the same word. Nepal is the learned Sanskrit form and Newar is the colloquial Prakrit form. A Sanskrit inscription dated 512 AD found in Tistung, a valley to the west of Kathmandu, contains the phrase “greetings to the Nepals” indicating that the term "Nepal" was used to refer to both the country and the people. The term "Newar" referring to "inhabitant of Nepal" appeared for the first time in an inscription dated 1654 AD in Kathmandu. It is discussed whether 'Nepal' may be a sanskritization of 'Newar', or 'Newar' may be a later form of 'Nepal'. According to another explanation, the words "Newar" and "Newari" are vulgarisms arising from the mutation of P to V, and L to R. Similarly, according to the National Archives of India, Nepal is also said to be the same word as Newar Napa.
The temple of Pashupatinath.
The different divisions of Newars had different historical developments. The common identity of Newar was formed in the Kathmandu Valley. Until the Gorkha conquest of the valley in 1769, all the people who had inhabited the valley at any point of time were either Newar or progenitors of Newar. So, the history of Newar correlates to the history of the Kathmandu Valley prior to the establishment of the modern state of Nepal.
The earliest known history of Newar and the Kathmandu Valley blends with mythology recorded in historical chronicles. One such text, which recounts the creation of the valley, is the Swayambhu Purana. According to this Buddhist scripture, the Kathmandu Valley was a giant lake until the Bodhisattva Manjusri, with the aid of a holy sword, cut a gap in the surrounding hills and let the water out. This apocryphal legend is supported by geological evidence of an ancient lakebed, and it provides an explanation for the high fertility of the Kathmandu Valley soil.
According to the Swayambhu Purana, Manjusri then established a city called Manjupattan (Sanskrit "Land Established by Manjusri"), now called Manjipā, and made Dharmākara its king. A shrine dedicated to Manjusri is still present in Majipā.
No historical documents have been found after this era till the advent of the Gopal era. A genealogy of kings is recorded in a chronicle called Gopalarajavamsavali. According to this manuscript, the Gopal kings were followed by the Mahispals and the Kirats before the Licchavis entered from the south. Some claim Buddha to have visited Nepal during the reign of Kirat king Jitedasti. The Licchavi dynasty ruled for at least 600 years, followed by the Malla dynasty in the 12th century AD.
Newar reign over the valley and their sovereignty and influence over neighboring territories ended with the conquest of the Kathmandu Valley in 1769 by the Gorkhali Shah dynasty founded by Prithvi Narayan Shah. Systematic brutal suppression of the Newar people was pursued for generations during early dynastic rule in order to discourage them from any political aspiration.
Prior to the Gorkha conquest, the borders of Nepal Mandala extended to Tibet in the north, the nation of the Kirata in the east, the kingdom of Makwanpur in the south and the Trishuli River in the west which separated it from the kingdom of Gorkha. Newars developed a division of labour and a sophisticated urban civilization unseen elsewhere in the Himalayan foothills between Kashmir and Assam.
Gilded statue of Vairochana Buddha installed in a shrine on the east side of Swayambhu Stupa, Kathmandu.
Main article: Newar Buddhism
Newar practice both Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the 2001 Nepal Census, 84.13% of the Newars were Hindu-Buddhist and 15.31% were purely Buddhist.
Out of the three main cities of the Kathmandu Valley which are historically Newar, Patan is the most Buddhist containing the four stupas built by Indian emperor Ashoka, Bhaktapur is primarily Hindu while Kathmandu is a mix of both. Generally, both Hindu and Buddhist deities are worshipped and festivals are celebrated by both religious groups. However, for ritual activities, Hindu and Buddhist Newars have their own priests and cultural differences.
Main article: Nepal Bhasa
Newars are bound together by a common language and culture. Their common language is Nepal Bhasa ("Newari" according to Statistics Nepal) or the linguistic progenitor of that language.
Nepal Bhasa already existed as a spoken language during the Licchavi period. Inscriptions in Nepal Bhasa emerged from the 12th century, the palm-leaf manuscript from Uku Bahah being the first example. Nepal Bhasa developed from the 14th to the late 18th centuries as the court and state language. It was used universally in stone and copper inscriptions, sacred manuscripts, official documents, journals, title deeds, correspondence and creative writing.
In 2001, there were approximately 825,000 native speakers of Nepal Bhasa. Many Newar communities within Nepal also speak their own dialects of Nepal Bhasa, such as the Dolakha Newar Language. Nepal Bhasa is of Tibeto-Burman origin but has been heavily influenced by Indo-Aryan languages like Sanskrit, Pali, Bengali and Maithili.