Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tamang Culture

Their traditional area is the hilly region between the Budhigandaki river and the Likhu river. At present, they live in large numbers in the districts of Rasuwa, Nuwakot, Dhading, Makawanpur, Sindhuli, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Lalitpur, Sindhupalchok and Kavrepalanchok in the Central Development Region. They are also scattered all over the country, and outside Nepal they are found in large numbers in Darjeling, Sikkim, Asam and Nagaland of India and in Burma and Bhutan. The total population of Tamang in Nepal, according to the census of 2001, is 1,282,304, ie 5.6 per cent of the total population of the country. The Tamang language occupies fifth place in the country in terms of the number of speakers speaking any one language and first place among the Tibeto-Burman languages. The word Tamang has been found to be used in a document of the thirteenth century. That document found by David Jackson (2976:53) mentions that King Bumlde Mgon built the Shrin fortress in Mustang to suppress the ethnic group Tamang of Lower Glo (Mustang). Although the word Tamang was used as early as the thirteenth century to denote an ethnic group, following the expansion of the Gorkhali kingdom the use of the word was prohibited. The Tamang were addressed in a derogatory manner as ‘Bhote' and ‘Murmi'. The Tamangs have, however, continued to call themselves Tamang.

Following the Gorkhali conquest of Nepal in the 18th century, the land owned by the Tamangs was taken away from them and distributed to the ruling Brahmin and Chhetri courtier-class. The Tamangs were then retained as bonded laborers and near-slaves to work these very lands. During the Rana rule, the Tamangs were used as menial labor by the rulers and the courtier-class. They were also prohibited from joining the British Gurkha regiments in India, although the men belonging to other Tibeto-Burman communities - the Gurungs, Magars, Rais and Limbus were permitted. Tamangs were also prevented to join Nepal's own government administration and the military. Historically, the Tamang people settled in the strategically important districts surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Feeling threatened by this encirclement, the Kathmandu rulers brought them forcibly under central rule and exploited them enough so that they could never rise, as they have not been able to this day. The psychology of the Tamangs took a beating during centuries of economic deprivation, political discrimination, and social marginalization.

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