Sunday, November 29, 2015

The story of Gopichand

Gopichand and Biruwa were brother and sister. As Gopichand grew up, he became a gudariya (a hermit). His sister got married to a rich person and went to live with her in-laws.

Since Gopichand became a gudariya and went from house to house to beg alms, his mother advised, “Go to beg alms anywhere in the world, but don’t ever go to your sister’s.” “She won’t even look at you, let alone treat you well.”

However, Gopichand thought that his sister would recognise him and treat him well. So he decided to visit Biruwa. When he went to Biruwa’s house, she denied to recognise him and said, “Why my brother would turn into a hermit?” “He is so rich that he doesn’t have any worries at all.”

Although Gopichand tried to convince her that he was her brother, she pretended not to recognise him and instead hit him with kharra barhni (broom). She gave him a roti (chapati) of rice bran and showed him a corner in the stable to sleep.

Being treated so badly by his sister, Gopichand cried the whole night in the stable. He prayed to the Lord and said, “My sister didn’t recognise me and gave me a roti of rice bran on a broken clay pot piece (khapata) and a small clay tumbler (fuchchi) of water.” “Hey mother Earth, please split apart so that I can put these things with you. I will ask for them when I will need them.”

As he prayed, the earth split wide and he put the roti and water tumbler inside the crater. The earth then again closed to normal.

In the morning Gopichand went to Biruwa and said that he was leaving. Bidding farewell, he at once left for his home.

When Gopichand reached his home, he asked for his mother Sunaina. When he met her, he explained everything – the bad treatment from her sister, being given roti made from rice bran, water in a clay pot and made to sleep in the stable. She said, “I had told you earlier – go to beg alms anywhere in the world but never go to your sister’s place. However, you didn’t listen to me.”

He then asked her to prepare 18 bhar (loads) of eatables consisting sweets, beaten rice, curd and all sorts of delicacies. He also requested his friends and relatives to accompany him to his sister’s house.

This time when he reached Biruwa’s house, she saw the bhars and welcomed him. She was happy that her brother had arrived. She brought a pot of water to wash his feet and mattresses to rest.

However, Gopichand said he would not wash his feet with the water. His friends washed their feet but he did not.  He said he would show what happened when he visited Biruwa as a sage. He said, “I will show you how I was treated.”

He then took all to the stable. Reaching the place where he has put the roti and water, he asked, “Hey mother earth, please split wide open and let me have my meal that I asked you to keep for me.”

To their amazement, the earth split and he got the bran roti and water back. He asked Biruwa, “Not tell me who gave me this?” “I am the same Gopichand whom you beat with broom.” 

Biruwa was ashamed in front of Gopichand’s friends. She cried and asked him to forgive her. But Gopichand did not budge.

He went back to his home and never visited Biruwa again.

Narrated by: Sangita Chaudhary, Terhauta VDC, Ward No. 1, Saptary District
Collected by: Manisha Chaudhary and Suman Chaudhari

Gudariya: A beggar
Kharra: A broom made from bamboo twigs
Barhni: A broom made from wild grass
Khapata: A piece of clay pot
Fuchchi: A clay tumbler used for drinking water
Bhar: Load of eatables carried on both ends of a bamboo staff

The story of Tilmajhni and Chaurmajhni

Once upon a time there were two sisters – Tilmajhni and Chaurmajhni. Chaurmajhni always got favours from her mother but her step-sister Tilmajhni neither got good food nor good clothes.

One day, the step-mother asked Tilmajhni to get inside a granary (kothi) of sesame (til) thinking that she would have to eat the sesame seeds and will die eventually inside the kothi. In the same way, she put her daughter Chaurmajhni inside a kothi of rice thinking that she would eat rice every day and would get fat.

On the contraty, Tilmajhni ate the sesame seeds and got fatter day by day. However, Chaurmajhni got ill after eating rice every day and got thinner day by day.

After one to two months, when she took out both the daughters, she was surprised to find that Tilmajhni had turned fatter but her daughter Chaurmajhni had turned thinner.

So, she sent Tilmajhni to graze goats so that she would get dark in the sun and get thinner with the work. She kept Chaurmajhni at home and gave her delicious food to eat. She would send khichri (gruel like pudding made from broken rice) with Chaurmajhni on broken clay pots to Tilmajhni. Seeing the food, Tilmajhni would cry every day.

One day the goat (khasi) asked why she was crying. She told everything to the goat and said she was not used to eating such bad food and she would not be able to eat it. The goat took pity on her and said, “Ask the mother earth to split apart and put the khichri inside the earth and cover it with broken clay pots.” She did same. The goat then told her to tap on her ears so that sweets would fall from there. She did the same.

Every day, she used to bury the khichri inside the earth and eat the sweets that fell from the goat’s ears. She again started getting fatter day by day. One day, Chaurmajhni spied on her hiding behind the bushes. When she was about to eat the sweets, Chaurmajhni came out of the bushes and asked for the sweets. Tilmajhni gave her the sweets and asked her not to say a word about it at home. Chaurmajhni promised not to tell about it to her mother.

However, when she came home she told her mother what she saw, word by word. Knowing this, the step-mother readied a knife to kill the goat.

The goat knew about it and told Tilmajhni, “Today, they will kill me.” “But don’t worry. When they will kill me, a bone would get away in the garden and grow into a jalebi (a fruit resembling the sweet of same name) tree. Climb the tree and eat jalebi every day.”

The goat was killed that day. Tilmajhni was sad to lose her goat. However, as the goat had predicted, when the goat was killed a bone flew off to the adjacent garden and grew into a jalebi tree. Every day Tilmajhni would pick the jalebis and take them with her and eat them while grazing the goats.

In spite of getting khichri every day, she never got thin. The step-mother was surprised to see this and she found out the reason. She saw Tilmajhni picking jalebis from the tree. So, she decided to cut down the tree.

Before being cut down, the tree told Tilmajhni, “When they will cut me, a small splinter would fall inside the pond and grow into a sparkling tree.” “Nobody would recognise it, but only you would be able to tell that it is a Jhilmiliya (sparkling) tree. And then you would get to marry the prince.”

When the step-mother cut down the tree, a small splinter fell into the pond and within the night, a tree grew on the bank of the pond. Nobody could recognise the beautiful tree. When the prince came and asked about the tree, Tilmajhni said that it was a Jhilmiliya tree. The prince was happy to hear about the tree and said that he would marry her.

So, the prince married Tilmajhni and she became the queen. Now she had everything – good clothes and lots of jewellery and a big palace to live in.

Chaurmajhni was jealous of her sister’s fate. So she thought of a plan to get rid of Tilmajhni. She borrowed Tilmajhni’s clothes and jewellery. Tilmajhni was naïve so she gave her clothes and jewellery to Chaurmajhni. Then Chaurmajhni said, “Let’s go to a well and see how we look like.”
When they went to the well, Chaurmajhni pushed Tilmajhni into the well and ran away.

Tilmajhni had a baby back at the palace. Chaurmajhni, wearing Tilmajhni’s clothes and jewellery went to the palace. She took hold of the baby and told that king that she was Tilmajhni. However, the baby would cry as it didn’t get its mother’s milk.

Tilmajhni could not see her baby crying. So, every night Tilmajhni would come out of the well feed the baby, put oil and massage the baby and would again get back to the well in the morning.
In spite of being fed at the night, the baby became thinner and thinner. The king became suspicious and decided to check what happened every night. One night he slipped into a thin cloth and watched.

Like every night, Tilmajhni came out of the well and fed the baby. When she began putting oil and black soot (kajar) to the baby, the king caught her and asked, “Who are you? A spirit or a ghost?”

Tilmajhni told everything to the king – how Chaurmajhni had taken her clothes and jewellery and pushed her into the well and pretended to be Tilmajhni.

The king was furious. He buried Chaurmajhni alive and they again lived happily ever after.

Narrated by: Sangita Chaudhary, Terhauta VDC, Ward No. 1, Saptary District
Collected by: Manisha Chaudhary and Suman Chaudhari

Kajar: black soot applied on eyes
Kothi: a mud granary
Khichri: rice pudding
Til: sesame
Jhilmiliya: sparkling
Khasi: he-goat
Jalebi: a fruit resembling the sweet jalebi

Friday, November 27, 2015

The story of Hansraj and Bansraj

Hope you liked the two Tharu folk tales collected by Prof. Dr. Ulrike Mueller-Boeker. Here's the story of Hansraj and Bansraj narrated by Sangita Chaudhary and collected by Manisha Chaudhary and Suman Chaudhari. Please let us know if you have documented any Tharu folk tale passed on to you by your grandparents. Please email us the stories at

The story of Hansraj and Bansraj

Once upon a time, there was a king. In his palace was a nest of a sparrow. The king and queen could watch the sparrows’ activities from their bedroom. One day when the she-sparrow died. The he-sparrow was left with two baby sparrows.

The next day the sparrow brought a step-mother to the little sparrows. When the she-sparrow arrived at the nest, she was angry to see two babies.

She said, “You cheated me by saying that you are alone and unmarried.” “I won’t stay with you if you insist on having these two babies.”

So, the sparrow pushed the two children from the nest. Both of them died instantly as they fell on the floor.

The king and queen also had two sons – Hanraj and Bansraj. Seeing the tragic incident, the queen asked the king to promise that he would not marry after her death.

One day the queen died.

The king thought that nobody saw him promising the queen not to remarry, so he married Queen Laxminia bringing home a step-mother to the two young princes.

One day the two boys were playing with a ball. Unfortunately, the ball hit the queen. So, she hid it from the boys. When the children asked for the ball, she didn’t give it them.

When the king arrived, she put unbaked and baked clay pot covers under her bed and as she moved from one side to another, the clay covers made clinking sound. 

On being asked what happened, the queen said that she would tell the problem only if the king promised to grant her a wish. So, the king agreed. She then asked him to call a slaughterer to take both the boys to the dense jungle, kill them and bring back their heart and liver to her.

The king was bound by the promise so he did as he was told. The slaughterer took both the princes to the jungle. However, when he was to kill them, he felt pity on them. So he left them in the jungle and instead killed a fox, took out its heart and liver and presented it to the queen.

In the forest, Bansraj got thirsty and could not walk more. He asked his elder brother Hansraj to bring water for him. Leaving the lethargic Bansraj to his own, Hansraj went in search of water. However, there was no water to be found anywhere.

Luckily, he saw a water-like liquid dripping from a tree. Actually a snake had died on the tree and the liquid was dripping from its dead body. Being desperate in search of water, Hansraj didn’t look up and started collecting the liquid in a leaf container (tholo).   

A crow was seeing Hansraj gathering the liquid. Whenever the leaf container filled, the crow would come and spill the content from the leaf. Hansraj would again start collecting the liquid, but every time the crow would come and spill the content. It happened for three times.

Finally, Hansraj gave up collecting the liquid and came to his brother. Then he saw an egret flying. Thinking that the bird must be flying towards water source, he carried Bansraj and followed the bird.

The egret stopped by a ditch, nearby a flower picker woman’s (malin) hut. When the woman saw the little boy in such a bad condition, she gave water and food to him. She then asked Hansraj why he was carrying the little boy to the jungle. Then Hansraj told her the whole story, about his father, mother and how the step-mother had ordered to kill them.

Hearing the story, the malin cursed the queen and king.

“Hey merciless queen, you won’t have any children of your own.”

“Hey merciless king, your wound on the back would never get cured.”

True to her curse, a wound appeared on the king’s back and it never healed. Likewise, the queen was not able to conceive a child. Meanwhile the malin raised the boys. Both never lost any football match.

Once when the boys were playing, the queen was watching the match. Again the ball hit on her forehead. She said the boys on purpose hit her. But other spectators took the boys’ side and said that it was a mere accident.

When the king asked the boys about their father, they told their father’s name and said that they were Hansraj and Bansraj. The king could not believe in his eyes, so he called an astrologer. The astrologer told that they were his son. He also told that the slaughterer had not killed the children. Instead, he had brought the heart and liver of a fox.

The astrologer then also cursed the king.

“Hey merciless queen, you won’t have any children of your own.”

“Hey merciless king, your wound on the back would never get cured.”

Earlier the mother of the children had burned a sack of bamboos and buried the ashes in the backyard. Out of it grew a bamboo.

When a dom (who makes baskets out of bamboos) came to cut the bamboo, a sound came from it, “Stay away you untouchable.”

He again went to cut the bamboo. Again the same sound came from the bamboo but he could see nobody in the vicinity. He went away two times. However, he cut the bamboo on the third attempt.

When he cut the bamboo the same voice said, “Make baskets out of the top and bottom, and make a bansi (flute) out of the middle part.” “Don’t play the flute. I will tell all when the right time comes.”

The dom did the same.

After learning the truth from the astrologer, the king brought both the sons to home. When the dom came to sell the flute, the king bought it. The dom told him about the flute and said not to play it. So the king slid it in the char (inside of a thatched roof).

Every night after everybody slept, the dead queen would come out of the flute, clean the house, take care of the children, kick the king on the back while he was sleeping and would again slip inside the flute.

The king wondered who cleaned the house every night.

One night the king decided keep an eye on the intruder. Like every night the queen came out of the flute, cleaned the house and cooked the meal. Then she bathed the children and fed them. The king was watching everything. As the queen, like every day, kicked the king on the back, he caught hold of her.

He asked, “Who are you?”

The queen said, “I am neither an evil spirit nor a ghost.” “I am Hansraj and Bansraj’s mother.”

The king recognised her instantly and asked her not to leave. The queen then stayed with the king and the princes. The Queen Laxminia was put in dungeon by the king.

Narrated by: Sangita Chaudhary, Terhauta VDC, Ward No. 1, Saptary District
Collected by: Manisha Chaudhary and Suman Chaudhari

Malin: A woman who grows and sells flower
Dom: An ethnic community in southern plains of Nepal who make baskets and other items out of bamboo (considered untouchable earlier)
Bansi: A flute
Char: Inside of a thatched roof

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The regulations of Chitwan National Park have reversed the traditional rights of the Tharus – Prof. Dr. Ulrike Mueller-Boeker

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Mueller-Boeker (c) Thomas Entzeroth. Used with permission.

Prof. Dr. Ulrike Mueller-Boeker heads the Human Geography Unit at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Focused on development-related research, her fields of competence include the analysis of institutional dimensions of livelihood strategies; the impact of globalisation processes; local resource-use conflicts (i.e., concerning land, forests and water), labour migration patterns; nature conservation, and development and participation processes focusing on South Asia, Central Asia and Switzerland.

Her book The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal: An Ethnoecological Approach, published in 1999, documents the knowledge of Chitwan Tharus about their natural environment.

Sanjib Chaudhary from Voice of Tharus spoke to her about her research and her opinion about the marginalisation of Tharus in Chitwan. Here’s the excerpt of the interview: 

Voice of Tharus (VOT): Welcome to Voice of Tharus. Your book The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal: An Ethnoecological Approach details the lifestyle of the Tharus living in Chitwan and how they have been marginalised in their own land. Can you tell our readers about the book and how you compiled it?

Ulrike Mueller-Boeker (UMB): The focus of the publication was on the knowledge of the Chitwan Tharus about their natural environment. The attempt was made to see the environment through the eyes of those who live and act within a very specific environment. And I wanted to document how Tharus make use of the natural resources. The beauty of their material culture fascinated me. But I realised that their practices were conflicting with the Chitwan National Park. I tried to show how the autochthonous population was cut off from the natural resources of their territory, and how the regulations of the national park have reversed their traditional rights. Finally, I wanted to gather and document the history and the social fabric of the Tharu community.  I also aimed to document oral knowledge for future generations.

For the book I did several months fieldwork in Chitwan, supported by an excellent team of informants and field assistants. We went together into the forest to collect useful plants; we took semi-structured interviews in several villages (including Padampur – today grassland and part of the Chitwan National Park), I participated in festivals and so on. I really enjoyed this time and the kindness and honesty of the people.

VOT: The spraying of DDT and migration of hill people to Chitwan have led to the dwindling presence of Tharus in Chitwan. Can you elaborate a bit about it?

UMB: Chitwan – once the thinly settled, malaria-infested refuge of the Tharus – has developed within less than half a century into a wide-open region for immigrants and colonizers. Oral history and old travel reports reveal that the Tharus lived relatively undisturbed in this malaria affected lowland region. This undisturbed past was termed satjugi and frequently the statement rang out: “Satjugi, everything had been better”.

It was only in the 1950s that the malaria eradication and resettlement programmes of the government were implemented and immigrants from the hills came in a large number. Following Nepal’s opening to the outside world, Chitwan’s function as a buffer zone lost its significance. Chitwan was promoted into a development region with the aim of easing pressure on the thickly populated hill regions and providing new productive tracts of farmland for the growing population.

Tharus frequently expressed (in the 1980s) that they feel pained by the confrontation with these predominant immigrants. The general consensus - even among the wealthy Tharu landlords - was: "The Pahariyas look down upon us, they are doing much better than we are!" At the same time, Tharu elite families started to adopt typical Hindu religious practices. Nevertheless, they pointed out that they could never correspond to the Hindu ideal. The Tharus' attitude towards the Bahuns and Chhetris, as the representatives of Hinduism, was thus extremely ambivalent. On the one hand, they were collectively regarded as bloodsuckers of the poor, while, on the other hand, they were collectively idealised as the more pure and the more competent people that can cope better with a modern way of life. The intra-ethnical hierarchies and economic differences were completely ignored.

Today, many Tharus have changed their livelihood strategies; some have been able to get income alternative opportunities in tourism or as migrant workers. And the Tharu ethnicity became channelled into a Tharu movement!

VOT: In your view, did the amalgamation of different culture benefit the Tharus of Chitwan? Do you think it had more demerits than benefits?

UMB: First of all, within the Tharu community a pronounced intra-ethnical hierarchy exists; and different people had different means to cope with change. Landless Tharus (partly “enslaved” by Tharu landlords) may give different answers than small-scale farmers or jamindars. It would be interesting to ask different economic Tharu groups, what has changed in their lives in the last 30 years.  Without any doubt, “development” came to Chitwan and also Tharus benefit from better infrastructures and income opportunities.

VOT: You are from Germany but can you tell us how you became interested in researching about the Tharus?

UMB: Yes, I am from Germany, but I am living in Switzerland (and being a migrant worker) since many years. It was in 1976 that I visited Chitwan the first time. I felt attracted by the beauty of the Tharu villages and the amiability of the people. At the same time, I was shocked about how ruthlessly the national park was implemented. It needed some years that I was able to realise my wish to do research there.

VOT: Can you highlight any interesting incident during your research in Chitwan?
UMB: Once I hired a Tharuni as speaker of Tharu terms. It was an extreme hot evening, and I offered her a (warm) soft drink. But she did not drink it and explained, that she will give it to her children. In the meanwhile her husband joined us. I felt a bit puzzled and asked him what he wants. Slowly it became clear that both were urgently waiting for the payment in order to purchase food for the family dinner. I realised what a hand-to-mouth existence means. 

VOT: How did you come with the idea of writing the book The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal? Have you written more about the Tharus based on the research?

UMB: It was a coincidence of theoretical interests, feeling attracted by a region and people, and last but not least a political statement (against state policies – not the migrants - and especially the national park). In addition to the book, I published several articles in scientific journals or edited books.

VOT: What are your personal views about the Tharu? Do you have any advice for the young generation?

UMB: Judge others based on their competences, behavior and credibility. It does not matter to which ethnicity or caste they belong.

VOT: Are you continuing with your research and writing? Can you share with us your future plans?

UMB: After the Tharu research, I did research in Kanchenjunga area and Far West Nepal on conservation issues, people’s livelihoods, migration etc. The last 15 years I was steering a huge international project (NCCR North-South) and was heavily engaged in capacity building and supervision. Recently I did a small research on recruitment agencies in Nepal and now – together with a Nepalese colleague on state restructuring.

I invest also time in the documentation of my work and material, and perhaps come-up with a photo book.  But I guess that this will happen after my retirement (in three years).  

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Why farmers strike watch-towers with sticks before climbing up

The story about the watch-tower (mach) [Slightly edited for clarity]

A watch-tower. (C) Ulrike Mueller-Boeker

During the Golden Age (satjug) a farmer went to his watch-tower (mach) to sleep. As usual, he first knocked his stick against the gedahi (one of the crosspieces) in order to awaken the mach. Then he climbed up into the blind and went to sleep.

In Terai, people keep a vigil on their crops from a watch-tower. Watch-towers are built high enough so that the wild animals don’t climb up and harm the farmers. The watch-tower is built of eight crosspieces of bamboo or wood.

One day a tiger came and wanted to kill the farmer. The lachar, the eight brothers of the mach, thought: 'The tiger is going to eat our master!' The tiger wanted to jump up into the mach, but the latter ducked.

When the tiger jumped at a spot lower down the mach, the latter stretched itself. This went on a number of times, until the mach managed to trap the neck of the tiger in a fork in one of the pieces of wood and killed it.

The next morning the farmer woke up and spotted the dead tiger, and said, 'Oh, the tiger is dead. If I hadn't awakened the mach, the tiger would surely have killed me.'

Since that time, every farmer, before climbing up into the mach, strikes the gedahi with a stick in order to awaken the mach so that it will protect him and his fields from the wild animals.

Narrated by: Buddhi Ram Mahato, Chitwan district
Collected by: Ulrike Mueller-Boeker
Courtesy: The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal
Used with permission from Ulrike Mueller-Boeker

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The history of fish (and women)

In the next few posts, you will get to read some Tharu folk tales passed down from generation to generation. Here's the first one collected by Ulrike Mueller-Boeker. 

School of fish. Image by Alexandru Stoian. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The history of fish (and women) [Slightly edited for clarity] 

A long time ago a barber (hajam) was going about his work during jitiya parab (women's festival). As he was going from house to house to cut the nails of women, he suddenly saw a strikingly beautiful woman named Chanawa. She and her husband Lori Amir were new to the village. When the hajam caught sight of Chanawa, he lost consciousness.

Then he ate soil seven times, pissed seven times and shat seven times. When he came back to consciousness, he got the idea to go to the king of the village, Raja Mahore, in order to tell him of Chanawa's beauty, and to suggest that he might kill the woman's husband and then take Chanawa as a wife.

When the king heard the plan he said that the woman's husband was very strong. The hajam proposed to the king that he should write a letter to the king of Maranpur (Murder City) for Lori to deliver. In this letter the king would write that Lori was to be killed in Maranpur. The king was pleased with this proposal, and he wrote the letter: 'Head of Lori, sword of Maranpur'.

Lori was summoned by the king and the letter was handed to him with the instruction to take it to the king of Maranpur. Lori did not see through the king's plan: he thought that he simply had to deliver an important letter.

Lori was unable to read and write, but his wife Chanawa could. She asked permission from her husband to read the letter. When she had read the words, she understood that her husband was to be killed in Maranpur. She proceeded to alter the letter by switching the words head and sword: 'Head of Maranpur, sword of Lori'. She advised her husband to return to the village of King Mahore and ask him for a horse to convey him more quickly to Maranpur, the way being long.

Lori went to the king and asked for a horse. When the hajam heard this, he got a new idea of how Lori could be killed without being sent to Maranpur.

A horse named Mangal had been stuck for 12 years in the swamp of Pokhara Sagar (ocean). It was a very wild horse, one that only let its master ride it. The horse had belonged to Lori's grandfather, which Lori, however, did not know. The hajam now suggested that the king charge Lori with retrieving this horse from the ocean. The horse would kill Lori as soon as he approached it. The king, therefore, directed Lori to fetch the horse Mangal.

When Lori approached the horse, it became very happy, for it smelled that the grandson of his own master had come. The horse neighed with delight! The hajam heard the neighing and thought that now Lori would be killed. But Lori freed the horse from the sagar and took it first to Pokhari Tal (lake), the horse being very dirty. In the feet of the horse were living many worms and maggots which caused the horse much pain. Lori began to remove the worms.

The worms swam about in the water, not knowing what was happening to them. Then they went up to God and complained of their fate. The God decided: You will become fish of various types and sizes, according to your present size. Humans will eat you during Kalijug (the current age). There have been fish since that time!"

Narrated by: Somla Mahato, Chitwan district
Collected by: Ulrike Mueller-Boeker
Courtesy: The Chitwan Tharus in Southern Nepal
Used with permission from Ulrike Mueller-Boeker

Read an earlier version of the story published in this blog.

Read this story in Nepali

Monday, November 9, 2015

The photos tell all – the daily life of Rana Tharus

Solveig Boergen, a German photographer, travelled to far western Nepal to photograph the Rana Tharus. Her amazing photographs feature the daily life of Rana Tharus. Speaking to Voice of Tharus, she said that she would like to return to the land of Rana Tharus to document cultural events, a wedding or other festivities.

Voice of Tharus (VOT): Welcome to Voice of Tharus. Can you tell a little bit about yourself to our readers?

Solveig Boergen (SB): I am a German photographer who came to Japan in 1991. After the 2011 earthquake in Japan, our family of four moved to Thailand and then to Nepal where we lived until 2013.

While in Nepal, I encountered many families in the Himalayas who have never had their pictures taken and so the idea for my project 'Portraits for Nepal' was born.

On this Facebook page I show some of the images that I took, edited and delivered to many families over the time we spent in Nepal.

VOT: Your love for photography took you to far western Nepal. Can you tell how the idea of photographing the Rana Tharus came to your mind?

SB: When I was planning for my Master's thesis in the late 80s, I was fascinated with a matriarchy in China, the Naxi minority and had hoped to be able to write about them. Unfortunately, I did not find enough material in Chinese about them in those days and had to work on another topic, but the interest for matriarchal societies stayed with me and when we moved to Nepal, I tried to find out if there are similar minorities living in the Himalayas.

VOT: How was your experience photographing the Rana Tharus?

SB: It took me quite some time to find a connection with the Rana Tharu community, but after I had found this very informative blog by Sanjib Chaudhary, I found the courage to write to him and he kindly helped me to find my way to the beautiful Rana Tharu people who live very hidden in the jungles close to the border to India.

We spent only a few days with them but due to their kindness learned so many things about their culture and customs.

VOT: Your photographs have helped the Rana Tharus reach global audience. Can you share with our readers what are your plans on sharing the pictures to a wider audience?

SB: I am hoping to show these images here in Japan if there is interest and am working on creating a book too. This will be an ongoing project as I really would like to travel back and capture more scenes.

VOT: Do you plan to return to the land of Tharus once again? If yes, what would be your focus in the next photo commission?

SB: I am certainly very interested in going back. Last time, my focus was on observing daily life. Next time, I would be very interested in documenting cultural events, a wedding or other festivities.

If there is interest, I would be very happy to guide a group of photographers who want to get a glimpse into the fascinating life of the Rana Tharus.