Nepal India Relations – Similarities and Misconceptions

Nepal and India are two countries in South Asia that share almost everything and have lots of things in common but yet both are different. Both both countries are like two completely different versions of the same model.

There are many countries in the world where there are open borders like in Europe, two such countries are in Asia also, they are Nepal and India. Open Border with no Visa requirements for individuals of both countries shows the friendship and brotherhood of two countries as well as the “Trust”.

To find the similarities and misconceptions between these two countries we have to look at different factors and compare these nations before the time of their official dates of foundation of these countries till now.


There were hundreds of small kingdoms all over present-day Nepal ruled by different kings and dynasties. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the principality of the Gorkha united various principalities and the states of the Himalayan region into the Kingdom of Nepal. Before the unification of Nepal, only Kathmandu valley was called Nepal which used to be a lake.

According to Swayambhu Puran, God Manjushri cut a gorge called Chobhara with a sword and made it habitable. But according to Gopal Vanshaawali, Lord Krishna cut the gorge with his Sudarshan Chakra and made Kathmandu valley habitable. Later after many dynasties, during the unification campaign of Nepal, Prithvi Narayan Shah of the Shah dynasty conquered Kathmandu valley defeating the Malla Kings of Kathmandu valley.

Image credit: Pixabay/Azael_Pitti

During the unification campaign, Nepal fought the Anglo-Nepalese War with British East India Company in 1814-1816 and the subsequent peace treaty laid the foundations for two centuries of amicable friendly relationship between Britain and Nepal. Brigades of Gurkhas continue to serve even inside the British Army to the existing day.

In 1951, the Nepali monarch ended the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers and instituted a cabinet system that brought political events into the authorities. The arrangement lasted until 1960, it was when the political parties had been banned again,  but also changed into reinstated in 1990 with the status of a multiparty democracy within the framework of a constitutional monarchy. Now Nepal is a federal democratic republic country after the King of Nepal gave up the throne in 2008.

How did Nepal get its name?

The word Nepal is believed to be derived from the name of Sage Ne Muni. Nepal was protected by Sage Ne and the word “pal” translates to “protection”. It is believed that the name of Nepal means the place protected by Sage Ne.

Though the word Nepal, only used to represent the Kathmandu Valley before the unification of the Kingdom of Nepal by Prithivi Narayan Shah who was the King of Gorkha. Later on, the capital of Gurkha Kingdom was shifted to Kathmandu valley which made the Gurkha Kingdom to be called Nepal.

Check also: Nepal Flag – History, Meaning, Facts and More

Before the time of Official date of Foundation:

The human settlement in present-day countries Nepal and India is in existence from the time of Vedas as both regions were mentioned in early texts of Hindus, which are Vedas and in many other holy texts of Hindus. The mention of different regions of these two countries shows the well-civilized existence of humans.

Many Emperors ruled Indian Subcontinent but from time to time these empires collapsed and formed hundreds of independent nations. At the time of the unification campaign started by the King of Gurkha Prithvi Narayan Shah, there were already hundreds of states in the Indian Subcontinent and the British also entered inside Subcontinent.

The colonial era was starting in the Southern part of Subcontinent whereas the unification of Nepal was at its peak in its northern part. The collision of two power, the British and the Gurkha Kingdom, lead a peaceful Sugauli Treaty and halt the unification campaign turning Nepal into an ally of British.

Nepal lost its one-third land to the British East India Company but remain independent and without being a colony. The Sugauli Treaty became the reason for the size of today’s Nepal. The Kingdom of Nepal was only one sovereign state at that time whereas every other state in Indian Subcontinent was colonized by the British.


India is a country in South Asia. In the world, India is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and India has the most populous democracy in the world. This country is bounded by the Arabian Sea on the southwest, the Indian Ocean on the south, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. India shares land borders with China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north, Pakistan to the west; and Bangladesh & Myanmar to the east.

India has been attacked and colonized by various rulers and empires at various periods. This has changed the various factors of India and made Nepal and India different in some cases. Nepal, on the other hand, was always ruled by Hindu Kings. Different rulers from the world who ruled in India have somewhat shaped present-day India.

During the Vedic period, it was believed that those Kings who conquer the whole Indian subcontinent will get the title of an Emperor. The Suryabanshi King Bharat is believed to have conquered all the Indian Subcontinent and on his name, the present-day name of India as Bharat is used in the Hindi language.

Image credit: Pixabay/Antriksh

It is believed that modern humans (Homo Sapiens) arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa more than 55,000 years ago. Those Africans Settled life emerged on the subcontinent in the western margins of the Indus river basin 9,000 years ago, evolving gradually into the Indus Valley Civilisation of the third millennium BCE. Present-day India is formed by the independence movement led by Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters against the British which at the end United all the small kingdoms and states of the Indian subcontinent to become India.

How did India get its name?

India got its name from the Indus river which is locally known as the “Sindhu” river. But India has other names also which are Bharat and Hindustan. India is known as Bharat which is named after Emperor Bharat.

Emperor Bharat was a Suryavanshi King (“Solar Dynasty”), his descendants were King Harishchandra, King Dashrath, Lord Ram, etc. Hindustan was also a name given to India which means “Land of Hindus“. The words Hindu, Hindustan and India are all derived from the river Sindhu which were spelled differently by different travelers, Invaders when they entered Indian Subcontinent.

Though after the British East India Company left the subcontinent they split the colonized area of Indian Subcontinent into two states; India and Pakistan. Every state colonized by the British were forced to choose to become a part of India and Pakistan. Later on, Pakistan split into Pakistan and Bangladesh. Nepal is the oldest country in South Asia which was officially founded in 1768, September 25.

Nepal India – Relations

The relationship of Nepal with all three new nations of the Indian Subcontinent was friendly. Before the formation of these three countries, there was no need for permission or a visa for Nepalese to enter British Colonised Indian Subcontinent states and vice versa.

But after the formation of these three countries, the rivalry of India and Pakistan closed the borders for individuals of either country to pass. As Nepal has no direct land contact with Pakistan and Bangladesh, there became no provision for Nepalese to enter these nations and neither them to enter Nepal without a visa.

But newly formed India and Nepal were able to carry on a similar old relationship as there was between Indian Subcontinent states which requires no permission either visa to enter either country. As the same relationship was not with newly formed Pakistan and Bangladesh as these countries were now of Muslim majority whereas the Hindu Kingdom of Nepal had Muslim as the minority.

The friendship of India and Nepal remained the same and without any issues while crossing the border for Nepali or Indian to go into either nation. As there are hundreds of religiously important pilgrimages of Hindus in both countries which have been visited by families of Hindus from all over the Indian Subcontinent from centuries.

The majority of people still follow their Sanatan (Hinduism) Religion which is one of the reasons that makes the border open for citizens of both countries.

Nepal India – Similarities

  • In Nepal most of the people are Hindu, same with India, most of the people living in India are Hindu too.
  • Nepal and India both are multilingual, multicultural, multiethnic countries.
  • As we know, Nepal is situated between India and China. Though China is a border or neighboring country of Nepal still the Nepalese people more likely to have the same or similar culture to the Indians. Though both India and Nepal have some ethnic groups who have similar cultures as Tibetan people of China.
  • Nepal is rich in cultural heritage and has numerous sites of religious importance as well as India also has hundreds of important cultural and religious heritage related to Hinduism and Buddhism.
  • Hindi is also spoken in Nepal whereas Nepali is also spoken in India.
  • The festivals and cultures of both Nepalese and Indians are similar.
  • The religious history of both countries is the same and is incomplete without each other. As Ayodhya is incomplete without Janakpur and Bodhgaya is incomplete without Lumbini.
  • People of India and Nepal look similar as most of the people are with Aryan and Mongol facial structures in both countries.
  • There is geographical diversity in both countries as India has almost every kind of ecosystem of the world from mountain to sea but though being a small country Nepal can have almost all kinds of ecosystems except sea and desert which are not available in Nepal.

Similarities in the Religions of Nepal and India:

In the context of religion, both Nepal and India are multi-religious and secular countries. Though both countries have the highest number of Hindu population. Both both countries stand as the center of belief for the followers of Hinduism. Most of the places in Nepal and India are with important Vedic history and are related to Hinduism and even Buddhism.

The founder of Buddhism, Lord Gautam Buddha, was born in Lumbini, Nepal and he got enlightenment in Bodhgaya, India. Nepal and India are the lands of origin of two big religions of the world that are Hinduism and Buddhism. Both countries are known for meditation, yoga and spiritual enlightenment.

Nepal also has Kirant, Islam, Christianity, and other religions which is similar to India, though India has more religions in comparison to Nepal such as Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Baha’i faith, Judaism and other tribal religions. The majority of the people follow Hinduism and the second majority is Buddhism in Nepal whereas the second majority is Islam in India.

The demography of people following the religions in India are; Hindus which is about 79.8% of the total population, Muslims are about 14.2%, Christian is about 2.3%, Sikh is about 1.7% and also there are some unspecified which are about 2%. But in Nepal, Hindu is about 81.3%, Buddhist are about 9%, Muslims are about 4.4%, Kirant is about 3.1%, Christian is about 1.4%, others are about 0.5%, there are some unspecified people too which are of 0.2%.

Similarities in the Festivals of India and Nepal:

It is impossible to believe but it is a fact that there are hundreds of festivals all over the year in both India and Nepal. Each religion and community celebrate their cultures and festivals as these are multicultural countries.

In Nepal and India, there are state-wise, religion-based, and community-wise festivals that seem similar but differently celebrated in each region and community. So, every day is a new celebration for the people in these countries. In simple words, it can also be said that Nepal and India are the land of festivals, where people from different ethnic groups and religions coexist harmoniously.

There are a huge number of festivals celebrated in Nepal and India. There are many Indian and Nepali festivals and celebrations which are completely same and similar such as Makar Sakranti, Holi, Baisakhi, Rakshabandhan, Krishna Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri, Dashain  (In India it is called Dussehra), Christmas, Diwali, Eid, Teej, Shivratri, Ramnawami, Basanta Panchami, Buddha Purnima, etc.

An example of celebrating the same festival in a different culture is Diwali which is celebrated completely differently in Nepal whereas it is celebrated differently in India. Similarly, other festivals are celebrated differently by different groups although they are celebrated with the same name.

Ethnicity and Languages of Nepalese and Indians:

Both countries have diversity in culture and ethnicity. Nepal and India both are multicultural, multiethnic and multilingual countries. About 72% of people living in India are Indo-Aryan, and 25% of people are Dravidian and Mongoloid and other 3%. There are more than 2000 ethnic groups in India.

In Nepal, there are 125 castes/ethnic groups reported in the 2011 national census. According to percentage Chhetri is of 16.6%, Brahman-Hill are of 12.2%, Magar is of 7.1%, Tharu is of 6.6%, Tamang is about 5.8%, Newar is about 5%, Kami is about 4.8%, Muslim is about 4.4%, Yadav is about 4%, Rai is about 2.3%, Gurung is about 2%, Damai/Dholii is about 1.8%, Thakuri is about 1.6%, Limbu is about 1.5%, Sarki is about 1.4%, Teli is about 1.4%, Chamar/Harijan/Ram is about 1.3%, Koiri/Kushwaha is about 1.2%, other is about 19%.

If we talk about the language, there are 22 major languages in India, written in 13 different scripts, with over 720 dialects. Whereas in Nepal, there are 123 spoken languages in which most belong to the Indo-Aryan and Sino-Tibetan language families.

The official language of India is Hindi and English and the official language of Nepal is Nepali. Both Hindi and Nepali are of the Indo-Aryan language family and also written in Devanagari Script.

In India, Hindi is spoken by 43.6% of people of total population, some people do speak Nepali, Bengali is spoken by 8%, Marathi is spoken by 6.9%, Telugu is spoken by 6.7%, Tamil is spoken by  5.7%, Gujarati is spoken by 4.6%, Urdu is by 4.2%, Kannada is by 3.6%, Odia is by 3.1%, Malayalam is by 2.9%, Punjabi is by 2.7%, Assamese is by 1.3%, Maithili is by 1.1%, the other is by 5.6%.

In Nepal, mostly Nepali language is spoken which is about 44.6% of people speak Nepali, Maithili is about 11.7%, Bhojpuri is about 6%, Tharu is about 5.8%, Tamang is 5.1%, Newar is 3.2%, Bajjika is 3%, Magar is 3%, Doteli is 3%, Urdu is 2.6%, Avadhi is 1.9%, Limbu is 1.3%, Gurung is 1.2%, Baitadeli is 1%, other is 6.4%, unspecified 0.2%.

Nepal India – Similarities in Food:

Almost everything is shared between Indian and Nepalese people then why would food stay back to make people more confused? As with all other things, both people prefer the same taste when it comes to food. Here is the list of food, street food, sweet and desert in both countries:

Momos, either made with meat of buffalo, goat, chicken, veg, or cheese, Pulao, Dal Bhat, Roti, Paratha, Popcorn, Chaat, Dhokla, Chowmein, Chicken biryani, Chicken tikka, Chilli chicken, Kheer, masoor dal, Pakoda, Mutton, samosa, bread, egg bread, sabji, Chicken curry, Chapati, Butter chicken, Carrot halwa.

Also when it is about sweet Indian and Nepalese people share the same taste, like Barfi, Kaju katli, gulab jamun, ladoo, kulfi, ras malai, jalebi, boondi laddoo, etc. Surely, it is almost impossible to differentiate between Indian and Nepalese in terms of choice of their tastes. Slaughtering cows in Nepal is completely prohibited and illegal and it is illegal in 20 out of 29 states of India also.

As we know the traditional diversity makes the food different in different regions of both countries, but food that is eaten daily by individuals of Nepal and India are Rice, Roti, Dal, Bhaat or Chaawal, Tarkari and Sabji with drinks like Milk, tea, coffee, Chhach, Lassi, etc.

Nepal India – Similarities in Dress:

As most of the people of India and Nepal share the same religion and culture that is why their dress is also similar. The dresses of people living in Nepal and India are now affected by westernization and most of the men were pants, t-shirts, coats, and shirts, whereas women also wear pants, t-shirts, shirts, skirts, one-piece and tops in both countries.

Now people do not wear their traditional clothes due to the misconceptions of modernization and imitation and attraction of western culture. Traditionally, the Hindu Brahmin of Nepal and India both were kurta, dhoti, and women wear a sari, kurta surwal. For both Nepalese and Indian, the family is an important thing and preserving their culture is important.

Even though there is an attraction to western culture, the younger generation still prefers to wear their traditional dresses such as sari, lehenga, ghagra choli, dhoti, kurta, Daura suruwal, sherwani, etc in festivals and functions such as marriages, etc. Daura Suruwal is the main attire for men in Nepal at weddings whereas Sherwani is mostly worn by Indian men at a wedding. And clothes for women are Sari and Blouse which is the same in both countries.

Why India and Nepal are considered similar, but no such misconceptions when it is either Pakistan or Bangladesh or Bhutan with India?

This is a big question that can give you all your answers by showing clear differences between all these 5 South Asian countries as well as others. Ironically, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India were British Colony or can be considered a single country that was British India or Pre-Independence India.

Although being separated from the same nation these two other countries create no misconceptions among people about their similarities but only Nepal and India have such cases. The main reason for this is religious and cultural similarities.

Pakistan and Bangladesh both are Muslim majority countries but India and Nepal are Hindu majority countries with similar lifestyles and cultures. There is no objection or need for the visa to enter either country for citizens of both countries.

Both Indian and Nepalese can live or work in either country as much as they want to. There are no restrictions for citizens in most of the cases. Many Nepalese visit India for the pilgrimage of religious places such as Varanasi, Kashi, Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gaya, Rameshwaram, etc and a sacred bath in the Ganges.

Similarly, Indians also visit Nepal for the pilgrimage of religious places such as Pashupatinath, Manakamana, Baraha Kshetra, Bouddhanatha, Lumbini, Muktinath, Swargadwari, etc. So the misconceptions between both countries are created due to similar culture, religious beliefs, traditional practices, and non-restrictions to respective citizens of both countries in residential and work purposes. The main reason is also the similarities of both countries and one being tiny in front of another.

Although, Bhutan and Nepal are very much similar to each other as both countries were not colonized by the British and ruled by Kings while other countries were colonized. Both are small countries, independent from the British colony, and also have an open border with India.

But people in Bhutan are Buddhist and it is a Buddhist kingdom. Many Bhutanese refugees were forced to leave Bhutan and take asylum in Nepal because of their Nepalese ancestry. Even though Bhutan also has an open border with India, Bhutan is not much considered similar to India as much as Nepal. The similarity of Nepal and India has created misconceptions but there are no such misconceptions in people between Bhutan and India.

It is an important thing to know that misconceptions are such that they affect the identity of Nepal and its places as being a small country. India is 22 times bigger than Nepal in terms of area. Most of the people in the world don’t know about Nepal but they know about its places such as Lumbini or Mount Everest.

They think these places are in India or as if the whole of Nepal is a part of India. It is an interesting fact that Nepal is such a nation that has never been colonized while almost all the nations were colonized around Nepal and in the world at some point in time. Nepal has always been able to keep its flag high and remained independent and sovereign.

Nepal India – Common Misconceptions: 

Nepal and India are like the countries in the European Union, where there are borders, the sovereignty of each nation though they seem to be culturally similar but diverse and unique. Similarly, Nepal and India for the outside world, they look similar, but if we go deep we can find the difference and uniqueness. Generally, the misconceptions of Nepal and India are; one which hurts the overall identity of Nepal and another one that hurts the sentiments of people related to specific places of Nepal.

  • A common misconception is Nepal must be newer than India:
  • The overall identity of Nepal is not much popular in the world which is mainly due to being a small nation in front of a big nation that is almost similar. It is a less popular nation in the world but ironically, Nepal is the oldest country in South Asia which was officially founded in 1768.
  • Another misconception is India is the only Hindu majority nation or the only country with Hindu population:
  • The world has given present-day India most of the credits of Hindu historical and religious importances even though Nepal was the oldest and the last Hindu Kingdom that lasted in the world. Nepal became a secular nation in 2007. Most of the people in the world do not even know there exists another country with the majority of the population of Hindu and which carries Vedic history. Although there are some countries like Pakistan, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Myanmar, etc where there were Hindu Kings at one point in time. But Nepal shares the common Hindu Vedic History as India. As Nepal became a secular country, it impacted mostly on the religious importance of Nepal for Hindus all over the world. Nepal has the potential to become a country for religious tourism for both Hindus and Buddhists all over the world.
  • Another misconception is Nepal is perceived as a part of India:
  • Nepal is seen as a part of India by some people who know about the cultural similarities of other Indian states with Nepal. Saying Nepal is a part of India is the same as saying Mexico is part of the United States. The people of Nepalese ancestry living in neighboring states and cities of India such as Sikkim, Darjeeling, Uttarakhand, etc are one of the factors which create such misconceptions. Though Nepal lost one-third of its land during the anglo-Nepal war with British East India Company and when they left India, it was a deal to give back all the lands to those Kingdom whose land was conquered by British. So Nepal could claim back those lost regions of Nepal but due to weak diplomacy, leaders couldn’t take those regions back. In these neighboring states people who had Nepalese ancestry live, they moved due to business purposes and to fight in the war at the time of the unification campaign of Nepal. Most of the Rai, Limbu, Gurung, etc live which share common ancestry with Nepalese people of the same caste.
  • Another misconception is created due to the Nepalese people serving for Indian Army:
  • Another reason for the misconceptions of Nepal as part of India is due to the Gurkha army. Nepalese people from Nepal can enroll and serve in the Gurkha Brigades of the Indian Army. People from Nepal and neighboring Indian states who have Nepalese ancestry can be a part of the Gurkha Brigade in the Indian army. This leads to a misconception to Indian people as Gurkha Brigades are fighting for India against enemies of India under the Indian army maybe because Nepal is a part of India. But the fact is Nepalese people can serve in the Indian Army, British Army as well as in Singaporean Police. They are recruited because of the bravery and loyalty of Nepalese people.
  • Another misconception is due to the similar looks of Nepalese and Indians:
  • The facial structure of Nepalese who live in the Terai region and the Brahmin, Kshetris, Vaisya, and Sudra people of Terai and Hilly regions look similar to North Indian people of states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand as most of the people share a common ancestry and have an Aryan face. Whereas the other hilly and Himalayan region people of Nepal like Sherpa, Rai, Limbu, Gurung, Newar look similar to Tibetiyan people as they share common ancestry too. Not just Tibetiyan, but people of North East India from states like Assam, Mysore, Arunanchal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura and West Bengal (Darjeeling) also have the similar facial structure to hilly and mountainous people of Nepal. So it is hard to differentiate between a Nepali and Indian by just looking at the face. The Terai and Hilly Brahmin, Kshetris, Vaisya and Sudra are mostly asked if they are an Indian in foreign lands and most of the people do not know about Nepal, if they say, “I’m from Nepal.”

The other misconceptions related to Nepal and India which hurts the sentiments of Nepalese people related to specific places of Nepal are:

  • Another misconception is due to less publicity of the country than its places:
  • The most popular tourist attractions such as the mountains of Nepal which are in the Himalayas range are seen as the mountains between India and China. Nepal is completely invisible to the people who know nothing about Nepal. Eight of the 10 highest peaks are in Nepal including the world’s highest mountain Mt. Everest which is about 8848 meters.
  • Another misconception that is created by Indian media and publication houses against Nepal:
  • Lumbini, the birthplace of Lord Gautam Buddha, is also another place that creates misconceptions because many Indian authorities and publications spread misleading information regarding the birthplace of Gautam Buddha. The Government of Nepal has applied various efforts to correct the misleading information and the official stand of the Government of India is that the Buddha was born in Nepal.

These were some of the misconceptions that are related to Nepal and India. These misconceptions not just hurt the sentiments of Nepalese people but also hurt the economy of Nepal as Nepal is dependent on the tourism industry. Some of this cultural and natural heritage of Nepal are also enlisted in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. The Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Lumbini, Pashupatinath, etc are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

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