The Newar people or Newar are the historical inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and its surrounding areas in Nepal and the creators of its historic civilization.
The valley and surrounding territories constituted the former Newar kingdom of the Nepal Mandala. Unlike a common-origin ethnic group, Newars are a good example of a nation-community with relic-identity of a previously existing country. Newar community within it consists of various strands of ethnic, racial, caste and religious heterogeneity, as Newars of today are descendants of the diverse group of people that have lived in Nepal Mandala since prehistoric times. Indo-Aryan immigrants like the Licchavis and Mallas that arrived at different periods eventually merged with the local indigenous Newar population by adopting their language and customs. These immigrants retained their Indic heritage and brought with them their Sanskritic languages, social structure, Vedic religion and culture which has profoundly altered the history of Newar civilization. Newar rule in Nepal Mandala ended with its conquest by the Gorkha Kingdom in 1768.
Today, Newars are a linguistic and cultural community of primarily Indo-Aryan and Tibeto-Burman ethnicities following Hinduism and Buddhism with Nepal Bhasa as their common language. Unlike other ethnic or caste groups of Nepal, they are a linguistic and cultural community that transcends religion, caste, ethnicity and cultural distinctions. Scholars have also described the Newars as a nation. They developed a division of labour and a sophisticated urban civilization not seen elsewhere in the Himalayan foothills. They are known for their contributions to art, sculpture, architecture, culture, literature, music, industry, trade, agriculture and cuisine, and left their mark on the art of Central Asia.
According to Nepal's 2011 census, there are 1,321,933 Newars in the country. They are the nation's sixth-largest ethnic group, representing 5% of the population. Recent mass migration into the Kathmandu Valley has resulted in the Newars becoming a minority in their homeland. Despite the high level of development, Newar culture and language are both under threat today.
For about a thousand years, the Newar civilization in Central Nepal preserved a microcosm of classical North Indian culture in which Brahmanic and Buddhist elements enjoyed equal status. Snellgrove and Richardson (1968) speak of 'the direct heritage of pre-Islamic India'. This was the direct result of the years of migration of people from both north and south who brought with them not only their genetic and racial diversity but also greatly moulded the dominant culture and tradition if Newars.
The different divisions of Newars had different historical developments. The common identity of Newar was formed in the Kathmandu Valley. Until the conquest of the valley by the Gorkha Kingdom 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, which began with the Battle of Kirtipur in 1767, 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.