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 .

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.