Thursday, October 30, 2014

5 foot-tapping Tharu dances

Barka Naach
Based on the story of Mahabharat, the Barka Naach is the biggest and most difficult dance performed by the Tharus. It hovers around the song Barkimar which tells the story of Mahabharat. In Tharu language barki means big and mar is a battle.

The dance is performed during the Dashain festival and harvesting season. Tharus believe that the dance brings better harvest and cures diseases and illnesses.

Barka Naach clip uploaded by Nathuram Chaudhary.


Sakhiya Naach
Sakhiya Naach is based on the story of Lord Krishna’s life. The dance is performed during the Dashain festival. In Tharu language sakhi means a friend. As it is danced with friends, it might have got the name Sakhiya. 

Sakhiya Naach clip uploaded by Ganga Dagaura.



Sakhiya dance clip uploaded by Lovely Ramu.



Hori Naach
Hori Naach is performed during the Holi festival. It is performed by Rana and Katharia Tharus. The men and women dance throughout the month of Holi.

Hori Naach clip uploaded by Jacques Trevisan.



Maghuata Naach
Performed during the Maghi festival, Maghauta Naach starts from first of Magh and is performed till the third of Magh. It is performed by the women folks.

Dance clip uploaded by Punaram Chaudhary.



Dhumra Naach
Dhumra Naach is performed during the Shukrati/Deepawali festival. It is performed to appease the Chora Devta, a mischievous deity thought to be responsible for infant mortality.

Dhumra Naach clip uploaded by Subash Chandra Chaudhary


Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Tharus and Chanarbhoga, the erstwhile winter palace of Sen kings

If you travel to Eastern Nepal, make sure to visit Semnath and Chanarbhoga shrines which lie to the south and north of the East-West Highway’s Rupani-Sambhunath section in the Saptari district.
Temple remnants at Chanarbhoga
Artefacts at Semnath
Semnath, also called Sambhunath, is worshipped as Lord Shiva by the locals. However, Bhulai Chaudhary, the Central Advisor of Tharu Kalyankarini Sabha denies it being Lord Shiva. According to him, the shrine is that of Semnath, a Tharu deity. It is like a pillar and unlike other Shiva shrines, people sacrifice goats and pigeons here to appease the lord. Nowhere in the world the devotees offer animals and birds to Lord Shiva. According to him, Semnath was later Sanskritised to Sambhunath. 

Lord Semnath
Another interesting offering made to Semnath is a pair of brinjals stuck to both ends of a long stick. People vow to offer the brinjals to Semnath in order to get rid of warts on their bodies. And interestingly many people have been able to cure the skin ailment!

The columns and idols at Semnath are similar to the ruins at Chanarbhoga, the shrine on the Chure hills to the north of East-West Highway. Locals believe that the artefacts at Semnath were brought from Chanarbhoga.

According to Bouli Chaudhary, in an article in Tharu Sanskriti, Semnath and Debnath were brothers. One day, Semnath’s maternal aunt hit him with larna, a flat ladle-like kitchen equipment used for stirring while roasting food items, he turned into a stone. He then instructed a local, in his dream, to take him away from Chanarbhoga.

Amrit Lal Chaudhary, 60 years, from nearby Khoksar village echoes a similar story. As Semnath took the form of stone and was swept away by the floods, shepherds tried sharpening their knives on it. But it bled whenever they sharpened their tools on it. Later, a man from the current Sambhunath area dreamt of Semnath instructing him to take him away from the site.   

So when the villagers came in hordes to take him to their village in a bullock cart, the stone didn’t even move an inch from the place. However, as instructed by Semnath, when they brought a small toy cart and loaded in it, the cart started rolling. It came to a halt at the place where the current temple of Semnath is situated.

Some old people whom I interviewed in the area told me that the dent on the top of the pillar worshipped as Semnath represents the hitting by larna. Likewise, the yellow colour on top of the pillar resulted as Semnath ran through the fields of mustard before he turned into a stone.   

Chanarbhoga, though visited by the surrounding villagers only once a year, has significant cultural and religious value. People vow to sacrifice goats and pigeons to Chanarbhoga to get their wishes fulfilled. Bhulai Chaudhary says that Chanarbhoga might be the Shira Than (which lies to the north of the village) of the Tharus. The Tharus worship the deity at Shira Than and sacrifice goats and pigeons so that they and their cattle are not attacked by any wild animal and evil spirit in the jungle.

Though not much has been written about Semnath and Chanarbhoga, some historians relate them to the Sen kings who once ruled the area. Hari Kant Lal Das from Rajbiraj says that the ruins in the Chure hills are remnants of Ekagarh, the winter palace of the Sen kings. According to him Chandrabhoga was their clan deity. He claims that Sambhunath (Semnath) was the erstwhile Ambarpur, the winter capital of the Sen kings.

As the area has not been excavated, not much can be said about the place. However, looking at the affinity of Tharus to the place, one can imagine the ties between Semnath, Chanarbhoga, Sen kings and the Tharus.

If you want to know more about Semnath and Chanarbhoga read my earlier blog posts and the Op-Ed published in The Kathmandu Post.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

माछाको उत्पत्तिको कथा

धेरै पहिलाको कुरो हो, एउटा हजाम जितियाको (थारु महिलाले मनाउने चाड) बेला घरघर गई महिलाहरुको नङ काट्नमा व्यस्त थिए । त्यसै क्रममा उसको भेट चनवा नामक महिलासँग भयो । तिनी साह्रै सुन्दरी थिइन् । चनवा र श्रीमान लोरी अमिर त्यस गाउँमा नयाँ नयाँ आएका थिए ।

चनवालाई देखेर हजाम मूर्छा परेछन्, सात पटक माटो खाएछन्,(सात चोटि पिसाब गरेछन् र सात पटक दिसा गरेछन्) । उनी ब्यूझिएपछि, चनवाको बारेमा त्यस गाउँका राजा, राजा महोरेलाई भन्ने अनि उनलाई चनवाकी श्रीमानलाई मार्न लगाएर तिनीसित बिहे गर्न उक्साउने योजना बनाए ।

जब राजाले योजना सुने, उनले लोरी एकदम बलिया छन् भने । त्यसपछि हजामले राजालाई एउटा उपाय बताए । उनलाई मरणपूरका राजालाई चिठ्ठी लेख्न लगाएर त्यो चिठ्ठी पुर्याउन लोरीलाई पठाउन सुझाए । त्यस पत्रमा चिठ्ठी ल्याउनेलाई मार्न अनुरोध गर्न लगाए ।

राजा खुशी भए र चिठ्ठीमा लेखे, “लोरीको टाउको, मरणपूरको तरवार।”

लोरीलाई बोलाइयो र त्यो पत्र मरणपूरका राजालाई पुर्याउन लगाइयो । लोरीलाई राजाको योजनाबारे केही थाहा थिएन । अनपढ भएकाले भित्र के लेखेको छ भन्ने पनि थाहा भएन । राजाले एकदम महत्वपूर्ण काम गर्न पठाउँदैछन् भनेर मख्ख पर्दै घर आए । तर चनवा पढेलेखेकी थिइन् र चलाख पनि । उनले चिठ्ठी पढ्ने अनुमति मागिन् र आफ्नो श्रीमानलाई मार्ने दाउ थाहा पाईन् । उनले तत्कालै अर्को पत्र लेखिन् र राजाले दिएको चिठ्ठीसँग साटिदिइन् । साटिएको पत्रमा उनले लेखिन्, “मरणपूरको टाउको, लोरीको तरवार।”

मरणपूर धेरै टाढा भएकोले चनवाले लोरीलाई काम चाडो होस् भनेर राजा महोरेकहाँ गई घोडा माग्न लगाइन् । लोरी घोडा माग्न राजाकहाँ पुगे । त्यो देखेर हजामले मरणपूर नै नपठाई लोरीलाई मार्ने नयाँ योजना बनाए ।

मंगल नाम गरेको एउटा घोडा १२ बर्षदेखि पोखरा सागर (महासागर)को हिलोमा गाडिएको रहेछ । त्यो घोडा एकदम जंगली थियो र आफ्नो मालिक बाहेक कसैलाई आफूमाथि चढ्न दिंदैन थियो । त्यो घोडा लोरीको हजुरबुवाको रहेछ तर लोरीलाई त्यो कुरो थाहा थिएन । लोरीलाई त्यही घोडा लिएर जानु भनी हजामले राजालाई भन्न लगाए । अब लोरीलाई घोडाले मार्छ भनी दुबै मख्ख परे ।

जब लोरी घोडा नजिक गए, घोडाले उनको गन्धले नै आफ्नो मालिकको नाति आएछन् भन्ने थाहा पायो र खुशी भई उफ्रन थाल्यो । लोरीले घोडा एकदम फोहर भएकोले त्यसलाई पोखरी ताल (ताल) लगे र नुहाइदिए । घोडाको खुट्टामा टास्सिएका किरा र जुकाहरुलाई एक एक गर्दै लोरीले निकाल्दै फाले । आरामले रगत चुस्दै बसेका किराहरुलाई के भएको थाहा भएन र उनीहरु भगवानकहाँ गुनासो गर्न पुगे ।

भगवानले उनीहरुलाई भने, “तिमीहरु आ–आफ्ना आकार अनुसारका माछा बन्नेछौ र कलियुगमा मानिसहरुले तिमीहरुलाई खानेछन्।”

त्यहीबेलादेखि माछाहरु उत्पन्न भए । यता चनवा र लोरी खुशीसाथ बस्न थाले ।

(चितवनका सोम्ला महतोबाट अल्रिक मुलर बोकरद्वारा संकलित)      

साभार — दि भ्वाइसेस् फ्रम चितवन ः सम एक्जाम्पल्स अफ दि थारुज् ओरल ट्रेडिशन 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tharus, superstitions and a jackal’s horn

I never imagined it would be such a useful item when I clicked the image of a jackal’s horn.

Tharus have a strong belief in dhamis and baidhwas (the shamans). In evil powers and spirits. According to Tharus the horn, actually muscles, protrudes out on the lead jackal’s head like a wart when it is howling in packs during a full moon night.

Indian golden jackal at Koshi Tappu Reserve. Image from Flickr by Michael Bamford. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The hunter, after killing the jackal, keeps the so-called horn in a silver casket containing vermillion. It is believed that a person owning a jackal’s horn never loses in gambling and the horn wards off the evil spirits. Some also believe that the horn brings with it immense wealth, victory over enemies, success in ventures and examinations, and grants invulnerability to the bearer in lawsuits. The Tharus believe that the owner is able to see in the dark and seduce women.    

While the horn sellers claim they obtained it from the leader of a jackal pack, they deceive the buyers by selling a false one – one made out of molar tooth of jackal or dog, inserted through a small hole in jackal’s skin. They smear blood or turmeric around the area to make it look natural.

So are you convinced with my belting out so far? I am not a believer of superstitions and would advise you too not to believe those nonsensical sayings.

However, if you want to have a look at the precious image of a so-called jackal’s horn, here’s the rare item.  

Monday, July 14, 2014

5 reasons you should visit a Tharu homestay

Artists performing Tharu dance at Bhada Homestay
(c) Tharuwan.com
Far from the madding crowd. Serene and tranquil environs. Clean streets and mud houses. That’s what a Tharu homestay looks like in Dalla of Bardia district in Western Nepal. 

When I first stepped in the village, it was sparkling clean. Each house was designated a number starting from one and the identical houses had well-kept garden plots in their front. The rooms were well-kept, neat and tidy, handicraft items nailed to the walls, few hanging down from the rooftop and the mud rice-barns lined to the walls.

The food served was delicious, the home-made alcohol intoxicating – a little bit sour but nice to taste, the snails cooked in linseed paste was greasy but really tasty.

Now let me list down the reasons why you should visit a Tharu homestay, one by one.

Experience the clean and tranquil environment
Tharu villages are generally far from the main roads. They like to live in peace. Once you are in a Tharu village, you will no more hear the honking of horns or experience the fast-paced city life. It’s a peaceful feeling especially when all return from fields in the evening. All house-owners sweep the surrounding as they return from work, tend to their cattle and fowls and lit fires in the cow-sheds to drive away the mosquitoes and burn the wastes collected from sweeping.

Get closer to the nature
All Tharu villages have plenty of trees in the surrounding. Mango orchards, bamboo plantations, ponds and gardens with fruit trees are essential parts of a Tharu village. From early morning till the evening, you will get to hear the chirping of birds, mooing of cows and crowing of roosters that are soothing to the ears.   

If you inform them in advance, they will also arrange for a bullock-cart to pick you up from the road-head. Riding on the cart, adjusting to the jolts on the way, you will feel like returning to medieval ages. And to keep you in company will be the smell of wild flowers and fresh tilled soil.

Explore and learn about Tharu culture first hand
In a homestay, you get to live with a family. You learn from their daily activities – how they do their daily chores, what type of clothes they wear, what type of food they cook and the list goes on. If you land there during major festivals like Maghi and Hori, you will be more than surprised and envy the rich culture.

Tharus are labelled as honest and humble people. Get close to them and they will share their experiences. All, with a wide smile.

Learn from the ages-old designs
Be it the small clay figurines made by the Tharus during their festivals or the motifs inspired by nature on their walls, you will be inspired.  The unique jewelry designs and the tattoos inked on their arms, legs and chests, they all will leave you mesmerized.

Have a look at the tilling equipment, the mud cook-stove, the mud rice barns, the thatched roofs, the intricately woven handicraft items and the fishing equipment. Don’t tell me you won’t be inspired. 

Savour the delicious food
If you inform the hosts that you will have their traditional dinner, they will arrange all – snail curry, mouse chutney, sidhara (dried fish), sticky rice, fish curry, bagiya and a plethora of other traditional dishes along with nigar, the home-brewed alcohol.

The Tharu homestays to visit

Dalla in Bardia district
The Tharu homestay at Dalla of Bardia is the first of its kind. WWF coerced and supported the community to establish the homestay. Now it’s a win-win situation for both the community and conservation.

In Dalla, the local people, besides restoring forests, also started restoring wildlife habitat by restoring grasslands and building water holes. As a result, wild animals can be seen in the vicinity including the rhinos and the elusive tiger.

Bhada in Kailali district
Learning from the Dalla experience, the Tharu leaders established homestay at Bhada village of Kailali district. Located 17 kilometres east of Dhangadhi, the homestay has eighteen houses. You can experience the bullock cart ride from the Chaumala of East-West Highway to the village.
If you know Nepali, click the link to find the details or you can contact Mr Laxmi Narayan at 9749028004 as mentioned in the site Tharuwan.com.

Agyauli, Baghkhor (Amaltari) in Nawalparasi district  
After crossing Kawasoti on the East-West Highway, you will come to a small town called Danda. The homestay is seven kilometres south from Danda. Twenty houses have been allocated for homestay and here you can go for a canoe ride in the Narayani River or an elephant ride in the buffer zone forest. You will surely get to see rhinos in the forest and in the evening you can enjoy the traditional Jhumara and lathi dances performed by local artists.

Inarbaruwa in Chitwan district
Tharu women have initiated a homestay in Inarbaruwa of Madi Baghauda village development committee of Chitwan district. Currently, they can cater to 25 tourists out of eight houses allocated for the purpose.

To reach the homestay, you will need to head southwards from Bharatpur.  You can enjoy the Jhumra, Chhekra and Jhamta dances performed by local artists in the evening. Nearby are the religious places like Goddhak Baba, Someshwor Kalika temple and Baikuntha Lake. 

Kunti in Surkhet district
If you walk two kilometres southward from Birendranagar in Surkhet, you will reach a beautiful Tharu village. Nearby is the famous Kakrebihar and you will experience the clean and tranquil environment. The villagers are planning to host tourists in each of their 20 houses. 

Sishahaniya in Dang district
A model Tharu village is being turned into a homestay in Sishahaniya of Dang district.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Melange of bright colours in the land of Ranas

Photos: Solveig Boergen
Text: Sanjib Chaudhary

Solveig Boergen travelled to Kanchanpur district of far-western Nepal to shoot the lifestyle of adorable Rana Tharus and the picturesque landscape in October 2012. I have only one word for the images – awesome!

As the sun peeks from the window of the mud house, an old Rana lady is busy preparing meal. The mighty rays illuminate the surrounding and the dark corner of kitchen turns into a portrait painted in ochre.

The lady in her bright blouse sits on a rope cot and makes clay figurines for her grandchildren to play with in the upcoming festival. She draws inspiration from the nature, the tattoos on her arms and the bright colours of her blouse.


Like William Wordsworth's Solitary Reaper, the lady reaps the paddy alone. Her bright costume stands out in the sea of yellow. When her friend joins her, it seems like a competition between the traditional dress she is wearing and the modern dress her mate is adorning. Both the colours burn bright in the yellow field.



It's the marriage season and the ladies show off their ornaments. The silver white looks strikingly beautiful on the bright dress and black shawls.






Like the beautiful patchwork in their dresses, the colours chosen by Ranas form a melange of vivid colours inspired by nature.





Solveig can be reached at solveigboergen@gmail.com

Monday, May 12, 2014

A string of pearls

By Sanjib Chaudhary and C. W. Norris-Brown

February is a time of transition in the Terai. Fog covers the area in the morning, bringing an unexpected chill that dissipates as the sun burns through later in the morning. It is dry and dusty. A grey-brown colour seems to permeate where there are no crops planted. As the afternoon sun rises, you can feel the approaching hot season, which even the local Tharus face with dread. The Terai will be scorching in another month or so, and it will seem like forever before the first rains liberate the region from the dryness.

The Terai has always been known for its harshness. Before the 1950s, it was notorious for its malarial jungles and, as such, it formed a buffer region separating the hills region from the storm of events that characterised India’s history in the “plains” to the south. The inhospitality of the Terai (at least before DDT was used to control malaria in the 1950s) was well-known. British records from the 1850s, for example, called the area that “inhospitable region” and all efforts were taken to avoid it at any cost; an area described as “extremely difficult, almost beyond conception”.  With its extremes of heat, dust and bugs when it is hot and a landscape turned into unrecognisable layers of water -- muddy and slippery -- flooding with snakes and mosquitoes when it rains, the Terai is not exactly a place for the common tourist. But it is for this reason that, in spite of deforestation after 1960, it has been able to harbour jungles and wildlife.

Today both India and Nepal’s Terai region are home to a row of reserves, buffer zones, and
corridors that stretch like a string of pearls almost the whole length of the Terai. The well-known Corbett Reserve is India’s oldest, established in 1937. Pilibhit, India’s newest, established in 2008. Chitwan was established in Nepal in 1973, and Banke was recently declared youngest national park in Nepal. From Rajaji and Corbett in India to Shuklaphanta and Bardia in Nepal’s west and neighboring Dudhwa/ Kishanpur and Katerniaghat in India to Chitwan/Parsa, south of Kathmandu in Nepal, and Sohagi Barwa, Valmikinagar, and Sonanadi in India, the harsh Terai jungles that have survived have been transformed into protected areas that have retained the original feeling of the Terai and have been havens for many endangered species. Like a real string of pearls, these reserves, and their buffer zones and forest corridors, are deservingly the pride of the people who have worked so hard over the years to protect them.

What will preserve or break the string of pearls is the human encroachment on the natural system. While the Terai Arc Landscape has earned many laurels as a conservation model, this honour would never have been achieved without the cooperation of the people who live in the Terai. And although this honour has been rightfully claimed by the efforts of many of Nepal’s people, it could never be maintained without including those whose hearts have beaten along with the ebb and flow of the forests: the Tharus. At least until the 1960s, this was their domain -- one they shared with the many animals that inhabited the jungles.


The assimilation of the newly settled people with the local people like Tharus residing in the area for ages has posed challenges to conservation efforts. The Tharus and other indigenous people have been driven out of their original settlements and even the prestigious posts of conservation representatives have been captured by the relatively clever new settlers. With the initiation of conservation efforts like the Terai Arc Landscape, the local people are being woven into a common garland and are being offered opportunities to participate in these initiatives. And yet, as if by a falsity of vision, honours are bestowed without the realisation that the Terai has always been inhabited by Tharus who have been synonymous with the Terai, its jungles, and its animals. As if a cloud lifted, there, where many thought was a need for outside intervention alone, no matter how deservingly, like the frosting on a cake, the indigenous Tharu people float like beautiful butterflies along its surface, keeping up the small but rich farmland that sustains them in their small scattered villages.

It is time for the Tharus to reclaim their role as the hearth and home of the Terai. This will be the
final level in how to focus on conservation when we all, as one community holding Nature in our
hands, realise just how important the Tharus are as the guardians of the pearls.

Dr C.W.Norris Brown is Adjunct Professor with University of Vermont and can be reached at conewango@gmail.com

Friday, May 9, 2014

Stolen Tharu masks

Masks have always been an enigma – the wearer gets into the skin of somebody else and appears to be starkly different than his/her self. Masks have been used during celebrations, festivals, shamanic rituals, worships and traditional dances.

The tribals and indigenous people around the world have been wearing masks during their magical and religious rituals and Tharus are no exception to this culture.   

While masks made of metal, leather, wood and even stone were used by our ancestors, to my knowledge, only wooden masks were used by the Tharus. And the masks were used to entertain and perform dances and rituals. Looking at the Tharus masks unearthed by collectors and auction houses in Europe, the masks were used during religious and shamanic rituals. The masks might have been used to disguise, hunt and tame animals, suggests the tiger mask below.

Bodhi tree shaman exorcism

Tharu monkey mask

Tiger mask

Ritual mask

Kali mask


Professor Dr Shanker Thapa, Central Department of History, Tribhuvan University has also included masks used by Tharus in his presentation “Cultural and folk masks of Nepal”.



European researchers like Gisele Krauskopff are also taking interest in traditional Tharu masks. It was great to meet her during one of my story collection tours to western Nepal. I have written about it in my earlier post “Unveiling the Tharu masks”.

As there is a lot of interest among collectors for the tribal and indigenous masks, Tharu masks have been stolen from Nepal and India and have landed at the auction houses in Europe. The theft and selling of the antique masks need to be stopped immediately and further research on Tharu masks needs to be carried out to unveil the rituals which have not yet seen the light of the day.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tharu jewelry – a rage among designers

While these unique pieces of Tharu jewelry are getting rave reviews in the social media site Pinterest, the young Tharus are forgetting their importance.The intricate yet simple designs are getting noticed, thanks to the advent of social media.



The ornaments mainly made of silver were a must-haves during the wedding ceremonies and special occasions. While the Tharus still wear some of them, most of the ethnic jewelry have gone down the road to oblivion with the modernisation. Read a blog post on silver ornaments of Tharus.

However, the Tharu jewelry continues fascinating all. Blogger Olga writes about Tharu jewelry in her blog post Traditional jewelry of the Tharu women of Nepal

Deb from The Red Camel writes about the Tharu jewelry in detail in the blog The Red Camel Tribal Jewelry and Textiles.

Tharu jewelry, once occupying the central stage in all special occasions, awaits the revival – of its glorious past. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Stamps of Nepal and the Tharus

Philately, the stamp collecting hobby, is engaging and interesting. With the advent of email and social media the postal business is almost nil these days. However, there was a time when we used to run after our relatives and parents for the mail envelopes – with stamps and postmarks. 

After securing the coveted envelopes, our adventure would begin with cutting out the stamp bearing portion, dipping it in water, detaching the stamp from the envelope portion with the help of forceps, drying the stamp between blotting paper and finally arranging them in expensive stamp albums according to the collection theme. Many of my friends arranged the stamps on country basis, however, few of my friends and I would arrange them theme-wise. And the most popular themes used to be butterflies, orchids, animals, sports, famous personalities to name a few.   

We used to exchange the stamps not only with our friends but also with pen-pals from far-off countries. It used to be a lot of fun. Besides, we used to check the stamps with magnifying glass – to find any sort of anomaly or defect in printing – which would make the stamp more valuable and rare.

Among my large volumes of stamps, I found four stamps that were issued in honour of Tharus and their culture.


The first one depicts a couple from inner Terai/Madhes. The stamp was issued in 1973 and is one among the four stamps in the set.


The second stamp shows a Rana Tharu couple and is valued at NRs 5.

By the time the third stamp was issued, the World Association for the Development of Philately (WADP) and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) had jointly conceived and developed the WADP Numbering System - WNS, which was launched on 1 January 2002.

A postage stamp issued by a postal authority is allocated a WNS number on the basis of four specific criteria – design, face value or indication of tariff, colorimetry and format. When any one of the criteria differs on another postage stamp, a different WNS number is given to the stamp.

The WNS number comprises the ISO 3166 Alpha-2 country code (2 letters), a serial number (3 figures) and the year of issue (2 figures), i.e. a total of 8 characters including a dot. For further details refer to the page http://www.wnsstamps.ch/en/wnsnumber .


The third stamp with WNS number NP043.05 was issued on 26 December 2005 and showing the ornaments of Tharus. The stamp has a face value of NRs 25 and was printed by Austrian Government Printing Office.



Likewise, the fourth stamp with the WNS number NP030.07 was issued on 4 June 2007 and portrays Horilal Rana Tharu, one of the 25 martyrs of Jana Andolan II (Democratic Movement II). The face value of the stamps is NRs 2 and was printed by Cartor Security Printing, France.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Buddhi Man Chaudhary – the fable man

Buddhi Man with little children (c) Nepali Folklore and Folklife
During my travel to Dang, I met an extraordinary old man. Buddhi Man Chaudhary from Palase can go on telling fables for weeks. His stock of stories would never finish.

He has no formal education and he has not written down the stories in notebooks. However, he can retell all the stories which he learnt from his grandfather without any flaw.   

I listened to three of his stories and was overwhelmed by the brilliance of his stories. Two of his stories were related to the Tharus, tigers and their relationship. The thirds story resembled the fables of Panchatantra, the famous story collection compiled by Vishnu Sharma. Each Panchatantra story teaches an important life lesson.

I asked Buddhi Man whether he knew about Panchatantra. But he didn’t even know the “P” of Panchatantra. His collection of stories was handed over to him by his ancestors. 

Although he is witty and sharp, he is aging day by day and there is a dire need to transcribe his stories so that they are not lost for good. The stories would be an important addition to Tharu folklore.   

Below is the story of a monkey, a tiger and a jackal told by him.

A jackal lived with his family in a burrow dug in a hill. The jackal had a wife and many little kids.

As the rainy season approached his wife said, “What have you thought about the rainy season?” “How will we save our kids from the incessant rains?”

The male jackal scouted the woods for a safe place to stay in the rainy season. Luckily he came across a tiger’s den. The tiger had gone for hunting and would not return for the next 12 days. The place was safe and cosy. No water would ever fall in the den, even it rained cats and dogs. It would also save the kids from cold.

The jackal decided to lodge his family in the den. “I have found a nice den,” he said. “But it’s a tiger’s den. If we stay there, the tiger will eat all of us.”

His wife was brave and clever. She took all her kids to the den and started living there. She told her husband, “Let the tiger come, I would think of an idea to chase him away.”

After 12 days the tiger returned. When the jackal saw the tiger coming at a distance, it panicked. But his wife said, “Don’t worry just do what I say.”

Listening to his wife’s idea, the jackal shouted with all his might, “O bravest woman in the world, I can see a tiger coming towards us.”        
 
When the tiger heard the jackal shouting, he thought that someone more powerful than him had occupied his lair. So, in order to save himself, he ran away towards the jungle.

While the tiger was running for his life, he met a monkey on the way. The monkey asked him why he was running. The tiger narrated the story, to which the monkey convinced him to return home and check upon the occupant.

The tiger returned to his den. The jackal was afraid and thought of running away with his family. But his wife came up with another bright idea.

The jackal once again shouted, “What are the kids crying for?”

His wife replied, “They are asking for tiger meat, go and fetch a tiger.”

Hearing this, the tiger was terrified and ran for his life.

On the way, he again met the monkey. The monkey suggested, “If you don’t feel embarrassed, let’s tie our tails together.” “If it attacks you, you can climb the tree with me.”

When the tiger and the monkey came near the den, the jackal said, “Now there’s no option left, let’s run away.”

His wife told him not to worry. She shouted, “This useless monkey, I told him to come with two tigers, but it came with only one.” “It won’t be enough for my kids. I will need to look for another tiger.”  

The tiger thought the monkey was working for the strange creature and it was dragging him to his death. He better thought to run away rather than becoming a feast for the kids.

As the tiger ran without looking back, the monkey was killed. The jackals lived happily in the den thereafter.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

In the shadow of other anthropologists: Ashok Tharu

Republished from Tori's blog Field Notes

I’ve begun a series of interviews with scholars and anthropologists who have also conducted research in Dangaura Tharu communities. I ask them about their own research experiences, and about observations or opinions about Tharu culture. This was an idea I had before beginning fieldwork, inspired by David Shorter’s analysis on the role that anthropologists have played in constructing Yoeme identity—a Native American group found along the border of southwestern US and Mexico. I was unsure of the possibility of doing this, but as I will demonstrate in these summaries, circumstances have both compelled and allowed me to conduct these interviews. These blog posts are not transcriptions of these interviews, but rather summaries of them, augmented with information from other interactions with these scholars. 

In the course of interviewing Man Pari Chaudhary—an elderly Dangaura Tharu woman of Banke district who had taught a particular oral epic for years—she off-handedly commented to me that Ashok Tharu had come and asked her about this same song years ago. Only she had been able to talk to him in her own Dangaura Tharu language (she was speaking to me in Nepali—a second language for her) and that had been so much easier for her.

While Ashok Tharu would be called a folklorist or cultural activist in academic circles in the States, Ashok once described his work to me as that of a cultural mason or carpenter (loksanskritik karmi). In his sixties, he has spent years researching various aspects of his own Dangaura Tharu culture, with a special attention to oral texts such as folk stories and epic songs. Ashok is the son of a jimindar, or Tharu landlord, and educated in India near Lucknow, thus could be considered part of a Dangaura Tharu elite. Yet he describes himself as being part of an indigenous group that has been oppressed and exploited by more dominant groups in Nepal.

I had been wanting to interview Ashok for a while, but decided to hold off until I got to know him and his work a little better. We had traveled in Banke and Bardiya together in November, where he introduced me to a number of musicians (and I became overwhelmed in the course of the week on the diversity of Dangaura Tharu performing arts), and he had recently helped me with a focus group interview in Dang.

I finally put together a series of questions to ask him. My questions consisted of his own research work—especially for his book on oral epics, which he refers to as “folk literature”—as well as his opinions and ideas concerning culture. For this interview, he took me to a hotel/restaurant owned by a friend of his in the town of Gorahi, the district headquarters of Dang. There, we appropriated one of the larger private dining rooms for the interview. With the door ajar, and the windows open, noise from hotel and restaurant clientele were still picked up on my recorder, but they weren’t distracting.

The desire to work with local culture was sparked in Ashok about twenty-five years ago, after he read a poem the Nepali historian Narendranath Yogi. He was part of a cultural discussion group when Giselle Krauskopff came to Dang to research the Dangaura Tharu (this would have been in the early 1980s). A teacher at the local school at the time, he found her research in Dangaura Tharu social structures through the lens of guruwas—shamans or traditional healers—to be so interesting that he left his teaching job at the local school to work with her full-time. Here, he did not describe himself as a “research assistant” but rather as a “collaborator”—asserting himself as a researcher in his own right. Since then, he has been associated with a variety of groups and organizations—including Nepal Folklore Society, and (formerly Royal) Nepal Academy—through which he has conducted research and cultural work.

I specifically asked about his book, Tharu Loksahityama Itihas, Kalaa, ra Darshan (Philosophy in Tharu Folk Literature, Art and History). I asked why he wanted to write such a book and when he started the research for this work. Ashok said that the idea’s genesis took place in 1989, and it came because, in his view, folk knowledge was not being transferred from the older generation to the younger generation, thus this knowledge was being lost. He found that many people could sing Tharu epics, but not everyone understood or knew what the meanings were. He hoped that, after reading the book, the new generation could understand these things again. This would be one way to transfer “intangible heritage” and “wisdom” (Ashok used these English terms) from the older to the newer generation.

It took Ashok five or six years to do the collection work (I could feel my stomach flip and sink as he said that—how would I ever collect the data I needed to write a dissertation in just twelve months?), and then another five to do the analysis (and my stomach sunk still lower). He not only conducted research in Dang district—his home district, and the district of origin for the Dangaura Tharu—but traveled to Kailali as well to talk to Dangaura Tharu living there. He commented that, after King Mahendra’s land reforms in 2022 VS/1962 AD, many Tharu from Dang moved to the districts of Banke, Bardiya, Kailali, Kanchanpur and Surkhet. This he described not just as a physical migration, but a migration of “intangible heritage” as well.

I asked him how did he collect these songs? He didn’t have an audio recording device, so he would often transcribe the lyrics as the person sang or dictated the words to him. He said the biggest challenge to doing this work was, he would sometimes travel very far, only to have the person he had come to meet refuse to talk to him because they didn’t know him. So, he would have to travel back without having collected any information. Also, during the majority of his time of research, he was unemployed; often, friends would pay his transportation fees. (After hearing that people sometimes refused to talk to Ashok, someone from their own ethnic group, I felt better about my own challenge as a faceless, white, female researcher trying to arrange interviews with some members of Tharu community in which I as residing). 

How had his book been received? He said he had two reactions: for those who were not educated, the book was too philosophical and literary for them, but for those who were educated and academic, they really liked it. He mentioned people like Tulsi Diwas, the renowned Nepali folklorist. I also thought of Sushil Chaudhary, employed by INSEC, a human rights organization. When I asked him a question about the paiya naach, he answered my questions by summarizing a portion of Ashok’s book for me, before commenting that the book was really good—I should read it.

I commented that Ashok had told me numerous times that, for him, these oral epics on which he focused contain a Tharu philosophy of life, the key to a distinct Tharu cultural identity. What did he mean by that? Ashok’s answer was that, these works not only contain folk wisdom, but folk history, folk culture (many epics contained descriptions of material culture, farming techniques, or “cultural actions”) thus provided a distinct Tharu view of the world. However, not all Tharu viewed these epics this way; they just saw music and dance as entertainment, or a way to have fun, rather than “a philosophical thing.” Hence, many Tharu people had left of some performances, because they saw “no utility” in them. His job, as he sees it, is to inform the Tharu people that these cultural performance traditions are “Tharu self-things”—if they leave off performing them, they leave off the thing that make them a distinct people, and gives them an identity. I thought back to the workshops I had seen him conduct, where his arguments hinged on ILO 169, and UNESCO’s “intangible cultural heritage.” He often pointed to my presence, and that of Govinda Acharya—two people not of Tharu origin who saw Tharu culture as worth their time and energy to study.


Ashok Tharu and I at the opening of the exhibit on Astimki art at Nepal Academy of Fine Arts, Naxal, Kathmandu. Usually painted on the inside wall of the village leader's house during the festival celebrating the birth of Krishna, Ashok worked with local artists to reproduce this art form on paper specially for this exhibit. He is currently working on an article concerning Astimki art, funded by the Academy, and these art workshops were part of his research.
Photo courtesy of a bystander, 26 June 2013.

Being a western-educated ethnographer (and a (A)TCK who has experienced the instability of culture in some rather stark ways), I asked Ashok “But doesn’t culture change?” This Ashok did acknowledge. He gave me the metaphor of a river: a river flows for twelve months, but in Asar, Saun, Badau (June, July, August—the monsoon season in Nepal) the river floods. During this time, the river is very dirty, but in Asoj (September), the river becomes clean again—all that dirt that came in the floods goes to the side, and the water is clean again, and goes forward again. The river changes, but the good things continue and the bad things get put aside. Such it is with culture—good things continue and bad things get put aside.

I thought back to another conversation we had where he used this same metaphor, but a little differently. Then, he had said that a river winds through several geographic areas, carrying a variety of things from many places. There were things that were now part of Tharu culture that had not been there before. Take Christianity for an example. There were lots of Tharu congregations now—some villages had more than one—and while this religion had come from another place, many Tharu had adopted it as their own. Another time, he had commented that many Tharu now celebrate bhai tikka—a day during the festival of Tihar where sisters return to their natal home to bless their brothers—but this is a recent adoption. However, this tradition strengthens the relationship between brothers and sisters and reifies the daughter’s relationship to her natal home after getting married; therefore, this was a good adoption of high-caste Hindu culture in Ashok’s opinion.

However, from other conversations we had had, Ashok also seemed to understand that too much change could mean a loss of identity. Take all these performances I was looking at. Younger Tharu could not sing, dance, act or express the way that the older generation could. Some learned more from popular culture than their own traditions, and were better at a Pahadi (hill—the Tharu live in the flat Tarai area of Nepal) style of dancing and singing than a Tharu style. They couldn’t even pronounce their own Tharu words right—according to Ashok, the Tharu language has no dental sounds, only retroflex. But since Tharu children attend Nepali schools from a young age, their mouths become accustomed to making dental sounds and they employ these indiscriminately in pronouncing their own Tharu words. Hence the Tharu language is also becoming “broken.”

Ashok’s cultural activities are not unique. I thought back to the “cultural orientation” during the Fulbright orientation when I first arrived in August of last year, given by a former Nepali Fulbright scholar, centered around structural inequality—a very different orientation of Nepal’s culture than the “ek bhasa, ek desh, ek bhesh [one language, one country, one dress]” that I was used to sitting through. Nepal is a country with significant cultural diversity; one pair of scholars estimates there to be over 100 distinct cultural groups, each with their own language (not just a dialect of the Nepali language). But with a 250+ year of Hindu rule, and an especially intense time of Hindu monarchial hegemony between 1960 and 1990—the country only emerged as a democracy in 1951—this cultural diversity was heavily downplayed in an attempt to create a pan-Nepali identity, based around high-caste Hindu norms. After two people’s movements demanding democratic rights (1990 and 2006) and a ten-year Maoist civil war (1996-2006—where the Maoists were quick to capitalize on the marginalization of various groups, creating ethnic fronts in addition to their People’s Liberation Army), the political climate within Nepal now heavily emphasizes distinct ethnic identities. Many groups are now seeking to regain cultures they believe to have been lost or taken away from them during previous nation-building projects.

Read the original post at:

http://tori-fieldnotes.blogspot.com/2013/04/in-shadow-of-other-anthropologists.html

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ashtimki painting and the Tharus’ version of evolution of life

(c) Ujyaalo Online/ Santosh Dahit
Ashtimki, the painting that adorns the walls on the day of Krishna Janmasthami, the birthday of Lord Krishna, depicts the Tharus’ version of evolution of life. The painting not only represents an art form, but the Tharu folklore, the oral history handed over from generation to generation. 

The canvas and colours
The Ashtmiki is painted on the walls, especially at the house of a Tharu elder called Mahatawa. It is painted by male artists with support from their female counterparts. The girls and women are also learning to paint these days in order to keep the tradition alive. The colours used in the painting are sourced naturally: the red clay, bean leaves, burnt wild grass are used as red, green and black respectively.   

The painting components and depiction of evolution
The Ashtimki is painted in three stages. The artist starts painting from the bottom. Firstly, a water source is drawn and fish are added to it. Then a boat is drawn with the creator Gurbaba and his disciples. It is believed that during apocalypse, the Gurbaba along with his disciples and books sails to a safer haven and creates a new world. Then the artist adds crab, tortoise, crocodile and other water creatures to the water source. According to Tharu folklore, fish evolved first. In the folk epic Gurbabak Jarmauti, the fish is named Raini machharya. According to the epic, the Gurbaba with the help of a crab and earthworm brought Amarmati (clay) from the netherworld and created this world. 

A kadam tree takes the centre stage on the second part of the painting. On the tree, Lord Krishna is shown playing flute. Kadam is the favourite tree of Krishna, as believed by Tharus. Along with Him, monkeys share the tree. According to Gurbabak Jarmauti, the children of Sidhhapurush resembled monkeys. 

On the right and top of the water resource, a lily leaf is drawn and near it Baramurwa (twelve headed demon, the Raavana) is added representing the bad and devil. In the middle a palanquin called doli, used during the marriage ceremonies, is sketched. Two palanquin carriers are shown carrying Draupadi, the wife of Pandavas in the doli.  Above it five Draupadis are added, in a line. Some Tharus say that the doli represents the marriage of Ram and Sita.  And the characters above the doli are Kauravas, the sons of King Dhritarashtra.  

The third and topmost part of the painting has five Pandavas just above the five Draupadis (or Kauravas). Then sun is added on the top right corner and moon on the top left corner.
Beautiful triangular shapes border the rectangular painting. Even elephant, horse, camel, peacock, chicken and trees are added to the painting.   

The rituals related to Ashtimki
The painter fasts till the drawing is complete, while the females worship the painting starting with the Mahatawa’s (Tharu elder) wife. All the characters in the painting are worshipped and a tika, vermillion is applied to them, except the Baramurwa representing the bad and evil. After the worship, they break the fast and eat fruits. Gathering at the Mahatawa’s house, they sing Ahtimkia, the song talking about creation and different religious events, the whole night.

In the morning, all the worshipping materials including the oil lamps are submerged in a nearby river. The worshippers wish the end of disease and wounds inflicting them, to be washed away by the water, along with the submerged materials. They then bathe in the river, return to their homes and offer the rice and vegetable curries prepared to fire as prasad, the offering.

Need to popularise the Ashtimki
The Ashtimki painting has the potential to compete with Mithila painting, Thanka and Mandala art forms.  The stories associated with the painting make it more valuable and sellable in the national and international markets. More research is needed to find further facts about the tradition. Promotion at different events through different media is necessary to popularise the art that talks about the Tharus’ version of evolution of life on earth. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

थारु अष्टिम्कीको महत्व

सरिता चौधरी

(c) Ujyaalo Online/Santosh Dahit
लोकसाहित्यमा रहेको इतिहासको महत्वपूर्ण अध्याय मध्य एक हो थारु अष्टिम्की जसबाट थारु जीवन, जीवनपद्धति र चिन्तन शैलीका बारेमा पनि धेरै कुरा बुझ्न सकिन्छ । थारु लोकसाहित्य लोककलामा थारुहरूको इतिहास ब्याप्त रहेको हुन्छ । थारु जातिमा रहेको लोककला, लोकसाहित्य र लोकदर्पणले मानव सभ्यताको संरक्षण, सम्बर्धन र जातीय अस्तित्वको बोध गर्दछ । त्यसमा पनि अष्टिम्की चित्रकला त्यसभित्रको लोकदर्शणले मानिसलाई धर्मप्रति आस्थावान् गराइदिएको छ जसले थारु संस्कृतिको इतिहासलाई गति प्रदान गरेको छ । 

भाद्र कृष्णाष्टमीको दिन (कान्हाको जन्मदिवसको रुपमा दंगौरा थारु यूवतीहरूद्वारा पूजन गरिने अष्टिम्की अति नै महत्वपूर्ण मानिन्छ) अष्टिम्की पूजन गरिने भगवानको विराट स्वरुपलाई माटाको डेहरीरूपी क्यानभाषमा चित्राङ्कण गरिन्छ । यूवतीहरू कान्हासँग आवद्ध हुन आफ्नो मनमष्तिस्कलाई अष्टिम्की पूजनद्वारा समर्पित गर्ने गर्छन् । थारु लाकसाहित्यमा रहेको अनुपम ज्ञानको स्रोत अष्टिम्की कृष्ण जन्माष्टमीको दिन पूजन गरिने भित्ते चित्रले सृष्टिको कालखण्डलाई मूर्तरुप दिन खोजेको छ । अष्टिम्की कुनै नविनतम् नभएर यूगौंयुगान्तर चली आएको संस्कृति हो । मटावाँको घरमा भाद्र कृणाअष्टमीको दिन अष्टिम्की पूजनको लागि अष्टिम्की भित्ते चित्र कोर्ने गरिन्छ । जुन थारु यूवतीहरूद्वारा पूजन गरिन्छ ।

अष्टिम्कीको दिन बिहानै घर लिपपोत गरी शुद्ध गरिन्छ भने अष्टिम्की चित्रकारद्वारा पनि स्नान गरी निराहार ब्रत बसी माटोको डेहरीमा कान्हाको विराट स्वरुपलाई चित्राङ्कन गरिन्छ । त्यसैगरी ब्रतालु यूवतीहरू नुहाई धुवाई गरी विभिन्न प्राकृतिक वस्तुबाट रङ निर्माण गर्छन् । जस्तै पवैंको रातो रङ, लौकाको खप्ती जलाएर कालो रङ आदि ।

सर्वप्रथम कान्हाको विराट रुपलाई चित्राङ्कन गरी सृष्टिको विकासक्रमलाई अगाडि बढाइन्छ । चित्रलाई तीन खण्डमा बाँडिन्छ । सृष्टिको विकासक्रमलाई चित्रको पिंधबाट अगाडि बढाइन्छ । सर्वप्रथम जलासयको निर्माण गरी त्यसभित्र माछा निर्माण गरिन्छ । जलासयमा डुंगा निर्माण गरिन्छ जसमा प्रथम थारु प्रजापति “गुर्वावा” थारु लोकग्रन्थ सहित आफ्ना प्रेरितहरूसँग डुंगामा आसिन हुन्छन् । थारु लोकग्रन्थ “गुर्वावक जर्मौटी” अनुसार हरेर कल्पमा जब जब यो सृष्टिको जलप्रलय हुन थाल्दछ तब गुर्वावाले आफूरचित ग्रन्थहरू र आफ्ना शिष्यहरूलाई यही डुंगामा आसिन गराएर पुनः नयाँ सृष्टि आरम्भ गर्दछन् । जलासयभित्र गंगटा, माछा, कछुवा, गोही आदि जलचरहरु चित्रित गरिन्छन् ।

यी जलचरहरूले तेस्रो यूग अर्थात अगभग ५८–२८ करोड वर्ष पहिलेको पुराजैवीक यूगको स्मरण गराउँछन् । जुन युगमा उक्त जीवहरूको उत्पत्ति भएको थियो । भूगर्भशास्त्रअनुसार ३९ करोड वर्ष पहिले शुरु भएको पुराजैविक युगमा माछाको उत्पत्ति भएको थियो । थारु लोकग्रन्थ गुर्वावक जर्मौटीमा उक्त माछालाई “रैनी मछर्या” भनिएको छ । यसैकालमा पुराणमा मत्स्य युग मानिएको छ । वैज्ञानिकहरूका अनुसार यस यूगलाई डिमोनियम उपयुग भनिएको छ । गुर्वावक जर्मौटी अनुसार गुर्वावाले गङ्गटा र गँड्यौलाकै सहयोगबाट पाताललोकबाट “अम्मरमाटी” (माटो) मगाएर स्थल मण्डलको निर्माण गरेका हुन् । वैज्ञानिकहरूका अनुसार गङ्गटा र गँड्यौला उत्पत्ति भएको यूगलाई क्याम्ब्रियन र सिलुरियन उपयुग मानिन्छ । यस युगमा विभिन्न जीवजन्तुको उत्पत्ति भएको कारणले महत्वपूर्ण मानिन्छ ।

पिंधको मध्य भागमा कदम्बको वृक्ष चित्रित गरिन्छ जसमा कान्हा आसिन भएर बाँसुरी बजाइरहेको हुन्छन् । थारु लोकका अनुसार कदम्ब कान्हाको प्रिय वृक्ष थियो । सो वृक्षमा कान्हामात्र नभएर बाँदरपनि चित्रित गरिन्छ । थारु लोकग्रन्थ अनुसार गुर्वावक जर्मौटीका अनुसार सिद्धपुरुष र मानसी पुत्रीको  तर्फबाट जन्मेका सन्तान बाँदर स्वरुप थिए । जुन काल ७–१४ करोड वर्ष पहिलेको पाँचौं युग अर्थात् सिनोर्जाइक युग थियो । डार्विनको विकासवादको सिद्धान्तअनुसार मानिसको विकास बाँदरस्वरुपबाट भएको मानिन्छ ।

जलासयमाथि दायाँतर्फ गोलो आकारको पुरैनको पात चित्रण गरिन्छ । पुरैन कमलको सानो रुप हो । सृष्टि पुरैनको पातनेर बरमुर्वा (बार शिरयुक्त रावण) चित्रित गरिन्छ । रावणको यो भयानक रुपलाई भने पूजन गरिदैन । सृष्टिमा सत्य र दयाका पात्रका साथसाथै असत्य निर्दयी हिंसात्मक स्वभाव भएका दानवीय स्वरुपको पनि सृष्टि गरिन्छ जसले असत्य र हिंसाको बाटो त्यागेर सत्यको बाटोतिर लाग्न प्रेरित गरेको देखिन्छ । रावणलाई अष्टिम्की चित्रणमा जोड्नुको औचित्य तीन युग सत्य, त्रेता, द्वापर र कलीमा भगवानका प्रतिद्वन्द्वी असत्यवादका प्रतिमूर्ति कार्यमा रहेको चित्रण गर्दछ ।

मध्यखण्डमा विवाहमा दुलहाको तर्फबाट दुलही अन्माउँदा प्रयोग गरिने थारु परम्परागत डोली चित्रित गरिन्छ जसलाई दुईजना डोल बोक्वाहरूले बोकेका हुन्छन् । त्यस डोलीमा पाण्डवहरूले अन्माउँदा गरेको द्रोपतीको चित्रण गरिन्छ । डोलीमाथिको पंक्तिमा पाँचवटी द्रोपतीहरू र सो माथि पाँच पाण्डवहरू चित्रित गरिन्छ । एउटी द्रोपतीका लागि अलग अलग स्वभावका पाँच पतिहरूसँग समन्वयात्मक वैवाहिक जीवन विताउनु चुनौतिपूर्ण भएको मनोविज्ञानले संकेत गर्दछ अष्टिम्कीले । शीर्षस्थानको दायाँतर्फ सुरुजभरार (सुर्य), बाँयातर्फ जोन्ह्या (चन्द्रमा) चित्रित गरिन्छ । सुरुज भरारलाई थारुलोकले जीवनदाता देवताको रुपमा हरेक प्रकारको गीत गाउँदा समरौटीको मंगलचरणमा स्मरण गरिन्छ ।

अष्टिम्की चित्रण पश्चात् थारु यूवतीहरू स्नान गरी श्रृगारले सु–शोभितभई थालमा पूजन सामग्री चामल, घुन्यासरको फूल, ज्यामिर, पालाको बत्तिलिई मटावाँ (गाउँ प्रमुख) को घरमा अष्टिम्की टिक्न (पूजन गर्न)  घर–घरबाट लामबद्धभई निस्कन्छन् । सर्वप्रथम मटावाँकी पत्नीबाट पूजन आरम्भ हुन्छ । पूजनका लागि फूलपाती र जल राखिन्छ साथै अष्टिम्कीमा सिन्दुरले पूजन गरिन्छ । अष्टिम्की चित्रमा चित्रित सबैलाई सिन्दुरले टिक्ने (पूजा गर्ने) गरिन्छ भने रावण पूजिदैन केवल असत्यको प्रतिक राखिन्छ । जल आचमन गरी थालको प्रसाद चढाइन्छ । सबै थारु पूवतीहरुद्वारा पूजन गरिन्छ । ब्रतालुहरू पूजनपछि घर फर्की फलाहार गरी पुनः मटावाँको घरमा फर्की अष्टिम्कीया गीत गाइन्छ । रातभर जाग्राम बसी ब्रहमाण्डको सृष्टिदेखि कंश बधसम्मको दुई समूहमा विभाजित भई बाद्यवादन रहित गीत गाईन्छ । रातभरि पालाको बत्ति निभ्न दिइदैन ।

बिहान ३/५/७ थरीका तरकारी र प्रसादको रुपमा भात पकाउने गरिन्छ । पुनः श्रंगारले सु–शोभित भई अष्टिम्की पूजन स्थलबाट चामल बाहेक अन्य पूजन सामग्री टपरीमा उठाई स्थानीय जमुनामा सेलाउन लगिन्छ र पुनः जमुनाको किरानामा पूजन सामगी्रमा सिन्दुरले पुजा गरी जल आचमन गरी धुपदिपले पुजा गरी जमुनामा सर्वप्रथम मटावाँकी पत्नीद्वारा सेलाई अन्यले सेलाउने गरिन्छ । सेलाउँदा रोग ब्याधी, घाउ खटिरा पनि पानी सँगसँगै जाओस् भनी कामना गरिन्छ । ब्रतालुहरू नुहाइधुवाई आ–आफ्नो घर फर्की अग्नि देवतालाई प्रसादको रुपमा रहेको भात तरकारी हवन गरिन्छ । जसमा घ्यूको हवन गरी जल आचमन गरिन्छ ।

अष्टिम्कीबारे अन्य लेख

संस्कृतिमा समृद्ध थारु अष्टिम्की त्यसको प्रमाण

थारु महिलाको स्वतन्त्रताको दिन ‘अष्टिम्की’ पर्व

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Maghi and the Tharus

Sesame seeds, puffed rice, jaggery, yam, ghee (clarified butter), sweet potato, fish, meat and homemade liquor constitute the cuisine of Maghi, the festival celebrated on the first day of the tenth month Magh (mid January) of the Hindu calendar. While rest of the populace call it Maghe Sankranti, Tharus call it Maghi, Khichara and Tila Sankarait, and celebrate it as their biggest festival.

Celebrated since time immemorial
Although there are no written evidences stating the origins of Maghi, the Tharu elders say that it is being celebrated since time immemorial. The festival marks the beginning of a new year and culmination of the hard work in the fields. By the end of Poush (December – January), the month preceding Magh, the farmers are done with their field work and harvesting rice. With very less work to do in the field and chilly winter on the wane, Tharus celebrate the festival with pomp.       

Beginning of the new year and election of leader
Tharus residing in Dang, Banke, Bardia, Kailali and Kanchanpur districts of western Nepal term Maghi as the beginning of the new year. In the Dang Valley, the festival is celebrated singing and dancing the whole month. In the adjacent Deukhuri Valley, people sing and celebrate the festival.

The day preceding Maghi, pigs are sacrificed. On the day of Maghi, people take dips in nearby water resources, meet and greet the elders and relatives, and eat special foods comprising dhikri (rice flour dumplings), fish, ghonghi (water snails) and homemade rice wine. On the following day they eat khichri (rice porridge) and from the third and fourth days onwards they meet to elect the leader of the community.

Washing of sins and partaking sticky rice
 In Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts, the festival is called Khichara and is celebrated for two days. The first day (the last day of the ninth month Poush) is termed Machhuwari. Tharus collect fish from the nearby water resources which has limited to buying from nearby markets these days. They also buy pork, mutton, sheep meat, chicken and ducks.

At night, fish and chichar (sticky rice/steamed Anadi variety of rice) is eaten and women make poka. To make a poka, handful of chichar is wrapped in the leaves of bhorla/manahan (wide leafed wild creeper) and tied tightly with ropes made from patuha (Saccharaum spp.).

On the second day, they take holy bath in nearby water sources.  People believe that taking dips in the Narayani River and Devghat, the river confluence, early in the morning before the sunrise will wash their sins. After the bath they eat hot poka along with the meat and fish cooked on the previous day. The poka is heated on ghaura, embers of rice husk, hay and straws. It is generally followed by drinking homemade rice wine. The day time meal consists of dal, bhat, tarkari, achar (lentils, rice, curry and pickles), meat and fish.

Gift of sesame seed sweets
In the eastern Nepal, Tharus call the festival Tila Sankarait. Early morning they take bath in the nearby rivers and spend the day eating til khichari (sesame and rice porridge), gud khichri (jaggery and rice porridge), tiluwa laddoo (sweets made of sesame seeds and boiled jaggery), laai (sweets made of puffed rice and boiled jaggery), vegetables, meat and fish.

The married daughters and sisters expect their parents and brothers to send a gift of tiluwa laddoo and laai in this festival. It holds a special place in their hearts.

A nice account of Maghi celebrations posted by Avenues Television.


With inputs from Mr Krishna Raj Sarbahari Chaudhary (ksarbahari@gmail.com) from Dang, Dr Phanindra Kumar Chaudhary (pkctharu@yahoo.com) from Chitwan and Mr Bhulai Chaudhary (chaudharybhulai@yahoo.com) from Saptary.         

Monday, January 13, 2014

Think beyond identity, culture and nature

Satire #2

“How many roads must a man walk down before you call him a man?”

When Bob Dylan scribbled the song, I am sure he must have had a poor fellow in mind. Let’s say he was either a Red Indian or a hard working man belonging to an indigenous, aboriginal, or a tribal group per se. At every step of life he needs to prove that he is a human being and belongs to the same planet.

The need to prove the identity
Now, take the example of Tharus. How many times do they need to prove that they are Nepalis?

It starts right from the moment they are born. Getting registered at the Village Development Committees (some are fortunate enough to be born in municipalities), the first and foremost question faced by the parents is – “For how many years have you been living in this place?”  Give me a break. The officer-in-charge should be slapped in the face with the reply – “Talk about generations, not years”.

Ones who inhabited the place – tilled the soil for ages – are asked about the origins. However, those who migrated to the land only a few decades ago claim to be the sons of the soil. Phew! What an irony.

Same story repeats when they attain an age to receive the citizenship. Again the roots are questioned. To my amazement even silly questions like “Did you come from India?” are posed. Now, let me know, which race evolved from the bottom of this part of the earth? At a time, all the people came here from one or another place. And to be precise most of them came by and large through what is India right now.   

When they land in Kathmandu for higher studies or employment, they are again enquired about the identity. Tharus are still considered Madhesis by the people of hill origin, even though the state has tagged them as Indigenous Peoples. It might be due to their complexion resembling to Madhesis or by intention. Whatsoever be the level of their intellect – whether the person is a mason or a PhD holder by education – they still get the kicks despising their own brothers from the south by terming them “Madise”, an extremely derogatory and heart pinching word for the Madhesis and Tharus. Not to mention, the famous real incident turned diatribe, “Manu makhu marsya kha”, is still alive and kicking in the valley. Meaning, they are not humans but Madhesis.

While the Kathmanduites easily assimilate Indians from Darjeeling, Assam and even the people of Nepalese origin from Burma as their own brothers, they don’t hesitate to raise questions against the rightful citizens from the Terai. That’s a sheer pity. And a hammering blow to the so-called equal and equitable society builders.       

The culture and tradition lovers
The other day I was amusing myself with the rest of my team during a cultural performance by a Tharu dance group. My colleagues were clapping to each step of the dance being performed. The reason; it was entertaining and the troupe was doing it with finesse. They had traditional clothing on and the costume design and jewelleries seemed to belong to the medieval days. And to show that they still belong to the jungles, they had adorned themselves with peacock plumes and applied black paint on their faces. 

My question. Are Tharus and other tribals the objects of amusement? Is it necessary to prove that they are indigenous peoples? By dancing and singing?

It’s just like rich countries asking the poor countries to save forests while they plunder the earth, earn billions and return the favour by paying back few thousand dollars. While others study, rise up the self esteem ladder in the society, the Tharus and other indigenous minorities are busy saving their culture. Being mere dancers and gaines, the singers.

The so-called stewards of nature
I don't understand the tactics of conservationists and conservation organisation when they term the aboriginals, tribals and indigenous peoples the custodians of nature. By adorning them with the sobriquet, do they mean to abstain them from the modern day development? Do they want them to stay in the jungle for ever while the rest of the world leapfrogs to a different era?

The conservationists term them as guardians of nature in respect of their contribution to saving the surrounding (jungles) and the animals living in the vicinity. My question is how long will they keep guarding the beasts which are adamant to kill them any time?

Are they the guards meant to keep an eye on the oxygen tank while the rest of the world enjoys freedom, emitting the sins of development? Or, do they still need to prove that they have been protecting the nature till date?

The supper-less food growers
Another point that I don’t understand is the indigenous peoples remaining poor in spite of growing food for the rest of the richer counterparts. Why do they have to live in abject poverty? The rice that they grow in their fields or piece of leased land adding the expensive seeds, fertilisers and irrigation, sells at a mere less that Rs 20 per kg at the time of harvest. However, when they have nothing remaining in their storage, they need to buy the milled rice at more than Rs 50 per kg.

While they provide food to the rich at a price of penny, they end up paying fortunes to buy the same rice, once grown by them. Even providing the proof that they are the food growers, they don’t get any subsidy. Neither from the naive government nor from the merchants who hoard the rice.

For how long?
While others pretend to be mere onlookers I appeal to all Tharus and other indigenous, tribals and aboriginal groups.

So for how long will you people suffer? Come on wake up, rise for your rights. Catch up with the rest of the world. Think out of the box. And you will see there's a different world beyond. Beyond proving yourself at each step of life, amusing the world with your culture and tradition, saving the forest and animals, and growing food for others.

The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

(The views are solely personal. Any allusion is sincerely regretted)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tharu Ashtimki painter recognised by Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan

Circa 2010. I was in Dang to collect Tharu fables on tiger along with Dr Charles Norris Brown of Vermont University. Luckily, we met Gisele Krauskopff, the French researcher who is famous for her research work on Tharus. Our point of connection was Ashok Tharu, a researcher on Tharu culture.

Ashok took us to Ram Sharan Chaudhary’s house. He was ill and in spite of his sickness he retold a story of Tharus and tigers. It was an enchanting story, showed the relationship between Tharus and tigers, and reconfirmed why Tharus conserve tigers (I will post the story in this blog later, along with other similar stories collected from different districts of Nepal).

While we were listening to Ram Sharan, his daughter Sarita took pains to prepare food and tea for us.

11 January 2014. I was at Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan in Kathmandu. The chief guest of the programme was H.E. the ambassador of India to Nepal, Mr Ranjit Rae. In the programme, he felicitated a young lady from Dang for her contribution to popularising the Tharu Ashtimki art. She was awarded the Leela Kumari Gurung Lalitkala Puraskar.  And it turned out to be the same Sarita, daughter of Ram Sharan Chaudhary.

I was sad to hear that Ram Sharan Chaudhary had already passed away. He had many stories to tell and a sea of knowledge on Tharu culture and tradition. May his soul rest in peace.

Ashtimki is painted on the interiors of Tharu households by Dangauras (Tharus originally from Dang) to celebrate the birthday of Lord Krishna (I will post a blog on Ashtimki painting soon). 

The Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan also felicitated Hom Nath Chaudhary of Nawalparasi with Radha Krishna Bhashik Puraskar for his social work. He works for Janajati Kalyan Ashram which has five offices throughout Nepal.

Likewise, writer Shanti Chaudhary who hails from Bara received Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan Janajati Puraskar and Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan Nari Puraskar.

Congratulations to the winners and thanks to Bhadra Ghale Sewa Sadan for recognising and felicitating the deserving trio.

Thanks to Tharuwan.com for pointing out the third winner Shanti Chaudhary.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

22 village deities worshipped by Tharus

Tharus believe in shamanism. Wizardry, witchcraft, spirits, good souls, bad souls, devils and benevolent gods – all make up the daily vocabulary. Tharus still believe in dhami (in east) and gurwa (in west), the shamans who tame the evils and worship the good souls.

It is the sole responsibility of gurwas to keep all the gods and goddesses happy and save the whole village from catastrophes, disasters and epidemics. They organise mass worship at the maruwa than, the place of worship in each village.

In Eastern Nepal the worship place is called dihabar than and the whole village gathers and worships in Ashadh (June-July). In Western Nepal, westwards from Dang District, the gurwas hold special worship ceremonies at maruwa thans to appease the gods and goddesses.

Krishna Raj Sarbahari, in his book Tharu Shaman and Mantra Techniques, describes in detail the 22 gods and goddesses worshipped in the maruwa thans to keep the village intact from natural calamities and epidemics, and ensure that the crops cultivated yield better.

Tharus worship nature in different forms, naming them as gods and goddesses. The detailed description, translated into English from his book (pages 28-31), enforces the fact.

Daharchandi
She is regarded as the most powerful goddess. The worship commences by offering incense and oil lamp to her. Again after worshipping all the gods and goddesses, alcohol is offered to her. It is believed that Daharchandi and Draupadi are sisters. At the worship place, wooden blades buried half on the earth represent the two sisters.

Jhuthru Masan
Jhuthru Masan
protects the praganna (group of villages). However, if the villagers are not able to make him happy, he turns into ghost and troubles the whole village. He is offered vandhoop, a handful of rice mixed with honey, cow ghee (clarified butter) and blood from eight body parts (forehead, tongue, chest, thigh and little fingers of both the feet) of deshbandhya gurwa. Jhuthru Masan is also represented by a wooden blade.

Murha Masan
A log shaped wooden blade is installed in maruwa representing Murha Masan. It is believed that he controls all ghosts and evil spirits. That is why whenever anybody loses any property or is troubled by evil spirits, a nail is hammered to the deity’s head. He is offered blood, alcohol, milk and water.

Bahira Raksa
He is installed in the southern corner of the western part of maruwa. A pointed stone buried halfway represents Bahira Raksa. People worship him when someone gets lost or does not return home, or cattle are lost in jungle while grazing. It is believed that the lost ones return home or are found after performing a pooja (worship) to Bahira Raksa. A rooster or a pig is offered to him before bringing home a newly-wed bride, with a belief that she won’t elope or run away from her new home. To avoid running away of the newly bought cattle from other villages, a rooster is offered to the god.

Jagannathia
Chidi Gonga
, Patnahiya and Jagannathiya are three brothers. They are provided a space at the southern part of the maruwa. Their main job is to protect all 6 pragannas of Deukhuri Valley covering the area of 14 kosh (1 kosh = 3 km). They don’t have any symbol.

Bheranwa
Bheranwa is also considered as the central pillar (dhori khamba). He is considered as the coordinator and remains at the centre of all gods. He is worshipped to ensure that no gods and goddesses get carried away by others.

Pancho Pando
They are the five Pandavas of the epic Mahabharata. It is believed that they also protect the surrounding area. They are installed on the eastern part of the maruwa. They are offered milk, water, clove and luchui (a kind of bread) cooked in ghee.  

Purvi Bhawani
She is provided a place at the north-eastern corner and doesn’t have any representation. She is supposed to stop epidemics like cholera and other diseases entering the village from east. Like the five Pandavas, she is also not offered blood and alcohol.

Danuwa
Danuwa is situated at the west-northern corner of the maruwa. His responsibility is to play madal (a traditional drum played by beating both the ends) and make Daharchandi. He is offered a wooden madal and sandal.

BaghesworiHer responsibility is to protect cattle. It is believed that she protects the domestic animals from wild animals. She doesn’t have any specific symbol but an earthen tiger and an egg is installed at her place. She sits in between Daharchandi and Danuwa.     

Gavariya
This god remains outside maruwa, in the fields. He is worshipped by digging a hole in the maruwa. He is supposed to protect the crops from pests and calamities.

Kotiya
This god remains outside maruwa, in the southern side of the village. Like Gavariya, he is also provided a space in the maruwa by digging a hole in the western part. He is supposed to protect the villagers from the diseases entering from the south of the village.       

Karaiyakot
Karaiyakot means dense jungle in Tharu language. He is considered the god of hills. However, he is worshipped in the maruwa itself by digging a hole in the western part, instead of worshipping in the hills. It is believed that he descends to Terai from the hills to meet his friends and relatives. If someone is taken ill in the jungle, it is believed to be due to the ghost of Karaiyakot.

Badelwa
This deity takes care of fire and water. The gurwa offers oil to this god, believing that he will take care of the health of the villagers. It is believed that he doesn’t allow oil and foods affect the health of the eater. The newly-wed bride is taken to maruwa to worship him even before stepping into home, so that she does not suffer in the future.   

Kuiya Pani
This deity is present in the water sources (well and river bank) of the village. It is believed that this deity keeps the water clean and keeps the water-borne diseases at bay. The water resources are worshipped as gods. During the holi (festival of colours) festival, the villagers clean the wells.   

It is a common belief among Tharus that if the gurwas fail to worship any of the 22 deities, they trouble the villagers turning into ghosts and devils. While worshipping, 22 oil lamps are offered to all 22 deities (including two sisters Daharchandi and Draupadi, five Pandavas and three Jagannathia brothers).