Nepali Language: Origins, History, And Interesting Facts

Nepali (नेपाली) is the official language of Nepal, and one of the most widely spoken Indo-Aryan languages in the world, spoken by about 28 million people in Nepal, India, and Bhutan, and is one of the 22 scheduled languages in India according to the constitution of India.

It’s also one of the official languages of Bhutan, where it’s spoken by nearly 25% of the population, and one of the two official languages of India’s Sikkim state. Nepali language is also spoken in other Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Uttarakhand. It is also spoken in Myanmar by the Burmese Gurkhas.

The Nepali language descended from Sanskrit in approximately 1000 AD, and its grammar and phonology are closely related to Hindi and other Indo-Aryan languages. If you’re interested in learning more about the history and origins of this fascinating language, keep reading to find out more about Nepali language.

Origin Of Nepali Language

There are different theories on where Nepali language originated. While some linguists believe that it is derived from Sanskrit – a sacred Hindu language – others contend that it is based on Hindustani, or Urdu. This is because of how similar these languages are in both sound and written form to Nepali. The most popular theory is the theory of a linguistic intrusion from West or Northwest Himalayas into Central Himalayas at the present day regions of Western Nepal during the rule of Khasas, an Indo-Aryan speaking group, who migrated from Northwest. The oldest discovered inscription in the Nepali language is believed to be the Dullu Inscription, which is believed to have been written around the reign of King Bhupal Damupal around the year 981.

But several archaeological and historical investigations shows that modern Nepali language descends from the language spoken by the ancient Khasha people. The Khasha are said to rule over a vast territory comprising what is now western Nepal, parts of Garhwal and Kumaon in northern India, and some parts of southwestern Tibet. That’s why the initial name of Nepali language was Khasa Kura, which literally means Khas language. There are proofs to prove this theory. King Ashoka Challa, who believed to have proclaimed himself Khasha-Rajadhiraja (emperor of the Khashas) in a copper-plate inscription found in Bodh Gaya, and several other copper-plates in the ancient Nepali language have been traced back to the descendants of the King.

Copper Inscription by King of Doti, Raika Mandhata Shahi, at Saka Era 1612 (1747 BS) in old Khas language using Devanagari script

The earliest examples of the modern Nepali language are the Ashoka Challa inscription dating back to 1255 and manuscript named Svastanivratakatha that dated back to 1648. Some other such early literary texts in modern Nepali language includes the anonymous version of the “Khandakhadya” (dated 1649), the “Bajapariksha” (1700) and “Jvarotpatticikitsa” written by Banivilas Jytoirvid (1773) and “Prayascittapradipa” written by Premnidhi Pant (1780).

The 1670 Rani Pokhari inscription of King Pratap Malla is also one of the early example of modern Nepali language which also indicates the significant increment of Nepali speakers in Kathmandu valley. The currently popular variant of Nepali is believed to have originated around 500 years ago with the mass migration of a branch of Khas people from the Karnali-Bheri-Seti eastward to settle in lower valleys of the Karnali and the Gandaki basin that were well-suited to rice cultivation. Over the centuries, different dialects of the Nepali language with distinct influences from Sanskrit, Maithili, Hindi and Bengali are believed to have emerged across different regions of the current-day Nepal and Uttarakhand, making Khasa the lingua franca.

It’s History In Nepal

The institutionalisation of the Nepali language is believed to be started with the Shah kings of Gorkha Kingdom. It all started in 1559, when a prince of Lamjung, Dravya Shah established himself on the throne of Gorkha Kingdom with the help of local Khas and magars. He also raised an army of Khas people.

Then later in the 18th century, his descendent Prithvi Narayan Shah raised and modernised an army of Chhetri, Thakuri, Magars and Gurung people among others and set out to conquer and consolidate dozens of small principalities in the Himalayas. Since Gorkha had replaced orginal Khas homeland, Khasakura(Khas language) was redubbed as Gorkhali-language of the Gorkhas.

When Prithvi Narayan Shah conquere Kathmandu Valley, the region which was called Nepal at that time. After the overthrowing of the Malla rulers, Kathmandu was established as Prithvi Narayan’s new capital. The Khas people originally referred to their language as Khas kurā (“Khas speech”), which was also known as Parbatiya (or Parbattia or Paharia, meaning language of the hill country). The Newar people used the term “Gorkhali” as a name for this language, as they identified it with the Gorkhali conquerors. The Gorkhalis themselves started using this term to refer to their language at a later stage. The census of India prior to independence used the term Naipali at least from 1901 to 1951, the 1961 census replacing it with Nepali.

Why Is It Unique?

The Nepali language is unique in many ways. As you know now, it is the official language of Nepal, and is also spoken in parts of India and Bhutan. It is a member of the Indo-Aryan family of languages, and is closely related to Hindi and Punjabi. Nepali has a rich literary tradition, and is the first language of many famous Nepali writers. The Nepali alphabet is also unique, with 48 letters-13 vowels and 35 consonants.

It is still written in it’s original form, from left to right. But just like other languages that evolved over time, Nepali continues to evolve as well. Its grammar may be changing as new words are introduced into the language. Due to globalization, there are more Nepali speakers living outside of Nepal who have had different life experiences which have helped shape the way they speak and write in their own vernacular styles.

There is an increasing number of writers in Nepal whose works have been translated into English for people around the world to read. As a result, we now see many versions of what constitutes standard Nepali (e.g., based on region or dialect) in addition to regional differences within Standard Nepali itself. What’s not yet clear is how these changes will influence traditional forms of storytelling and creative writing among future generations, as well as how older forms might change when reinterpreted by younger authors.


Nepali is a tonal language. This means that one’s voice has to rise or fall depending on which syllable in a word they are pronouncing. For example, if you were to say MAA with a flat tone of voice, it would mean mother. However, if you were to pronounce it with an upward inflection at the end (almost like saying hey!), it would mean horse. The same applies for all other words—if you want to be understood by your audience (and not confuse them), then it is important that you pronounce each word correctly with its correct tone!

Major Dialects

The Nepali language (नेपाली भाषा) is spoken by millions of people in Nepal and roughly 13 million around the world. It belongs to the Indo-Aryan family of languages, which also includes Hindi and Urdu. These are all derived from Sanskrit, so there’s a relationship between them all.

Dialects of Nepali include Acchami, Baitadeli, Bajhangi, Bajurali, Bheri, Dadeldhuri, Dailekhi, Darchulali, Darchuli, Gandakeli, Humli, Purbeli, and Soradi. These dialects can be distinct from Standard Nepali. Mutual intelligibility between Baitadeli, Bajhangi, Bajurali (Bajura), Humli, and Acchami is low. The dialect of Nepali language spoken in Karnali Province is not mutually intelligible with Standard Nepali. The language is known with its old name as Khas Bhasa in Karnali.

Writing System & Scipts

The Nepali language uses a combination of the Devanagari script (देवनागरी) and its own variant of script. The Devanagari-based Nepali alphabets are used for all classical Hindu texts as well as a significant amount of poetry in Nepal. In addition to these two scripts, there are numerous other scripts that have been used to write various dialects of Nepali over time. The most popular script among modern writers is called Prachalit (प्रचालित). This particular style has been adopted by most modern writers due to its widespread use since it’s development.

How Sanskrit Influenced Nepali Language?

Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language that was spoken in ancient India. It is the predecessor of many modern languages, including Hindi and Bengali. Nepali is also related to Sanskrit, as it descended from the Prakrit language. Prakrit was commonly spoken in North India during the 1st millennium CE.

Nepali shares many features with Sanskrit, including a complex system of grammar and a large vocabulary. There are differences between Nepali and Sanskrit, such as Nepali not having inflections. These differences are caused by influence from neighboring Indian languages like Punjabi and Maithili.

The geographical location of Nepal has had an effect on its development, too; for example, its evolution was influenced by Tibeto-Burman languages through migrations into Nepal over time. In fact, linguists believe that Nepali developed among people who migrated from the east or west. It is believed that this migration happened because there were cultural exchanges with other countries at that time.

Who Speaks It?

According to the 2011 census, Nepali is spoken as a first language by around 16 million people in Nepal. It is also spoken in Bhutan, India, Myanmar, and other countries where Nepalese live in large number. In total, there are around 30 million Nepali speakers worldwide. There are several regional accents, but these have no effect on grammar or vocabulary.

Interesting Facts About Nepali Language

1. Nepali is the official language of Nepal and one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.

2. It is also spoken in parts of Bhutan, Myanmar and India.

3. Nepali developed from Sanskrit and Prakrit and is therefore related to other Indo-Aryan languages such as Hindi and Punjabi.

4. The script used for Nepali is Devanagari, which is also used for Hindi, Marathi and Sanskrit.

5. Nepali was first written using a version of the Brahmi script, but this has now been replaced by Devanagari.

6. All native speakers of Nepali are bilingual or multilingual because it is not their only language.

7. A large proportion of people who speak Nepali live outside Nepal so some scholars say that it is wrong to call it a national language, especially since more than half of the country’s population does not speak it.

8. Some linguists have suggested that Nepali should be considered an Eastern Indic language because its roots lie in North India.

9. One of the main dialects of Nepali is Newar, which is spoken mainly in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley.


1. What language do Nepali speak?

The most common languages spoken in Nepal are Nepali, Maithali, Bhojpuri, Newari, Tharu, etc.

2. Is Nepali same as Hindi?

Nepali is same as Hindi in its written form because both languages are written in Devanagari script. But both of these languages are different in speaking.

3. How to say Hello in Nepali?

You say say Hello in Nepali by saying “Nasmaste”.

4. What language is Nepali language similar to?

Nepali language is quite similar to all Indo-Aryan languages like Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, etc.

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