the hilly region

Situated south of the Mountain Region, the Hill Region (Pahar in Nepali) is mostly between 1,000 and 4,000 meters in altitude. This region begins at the Mahabharat Lekh (Leser Himalaya) where a fault system called the Main Boundary Thrust creates an escarpment 1,000 to 1,500 meters high, rising to the crest of this range generally at about 2,000, occasionally up to 3,000 meters. The abrupt south-facing slope is nearly uninhabited, thus an effective buffer between languages and culture in the Terai and Hill regions. Northern slopes of the Mahabharats are gentler and moderately well populated.

North of this range, valleys as high as 2,000 meters are densely populated by rice-growing, Nepali-speaking Hindus and by Newar merchants who also speak Newari. The increasingly urbanized Kathmandu and Pokhara valleys are part of this region. Hillsides up to about 3,000 meters are instead occupied by indigenous “janjati” ethnic groups natively speaking highly localized Tibeto-Burman languages and dialects. There are Magars and Kham Magars west of Pokhara, Gurungs south of the Annapurnas, Thamangs north of Kathmandu, Rai and Limbu further east. Upland staple crops are maize, millet, barley and potatoes rather than rice. Temperate and subtropical fruits are grown as cash crops. Marijuana is grown and processed into hashish, or was until international pressure forced the government to stop being the middleman operating government monopoly stores in urban centers. There is increasing reliance on animal husbandry with elevation, using land above 3,000 meters for summer grazing and moving herds of sheep and goats to lower elevations in winter. Except for the rice-growing lower valleys, the hills are in chronic food deficit. Many menfolk are employed in the Terai, in India or overseas to earn cash for imported grain. The Hill region ends dramatically where the main Himalayan Range abruptly rises thousands of meters into the realm of perpetual snow.