Paris Polyphylla in Nepal, how to share
Tharus of Nepal
India for them
To familiarize ourselves with India's neighborhood, we take a tour of the Terai lowlands in southern Nepal - where the ethnic Tharu community piques our curiosity. Although the area shares borders with India, the Tharu people prefer to stay in their forest areas and lead a distinctive lifestyle, free from the influences of neighboring India or the
Mountain groups of Nepal.
To reach the Terai region in Bharatpur in southern Nepal, we cross the green and quiet streets of a village that is lit on both sides by yellow mustard fields. Along with lentils, beans, wheat, bananas and even rice during the monsoon season, mustard is a very common crop in the region. According to Mahesh Gurung, a naturalist who is also our tour guide, "everything grows on this fertile soil."
If the land of the land is rich, so is the culture. Around these fields, adjacent to the Chitwan National Forest area, there are unfenced houses made of earth and bamboo; decorated with brightly colored hand-painted patterns, and under the roof are hanging ears of corn that are left there to dry for better preservation. “This is typical Tharu architecture. Ornate food vessels, brightly painted verandas - the designs are rooted in religious activities and passed down from generation to generation, occasionally introducing contemporary elements, ”he says.
The Tharu and Darai communities in Nepal are among the most important ethnic groups in the region. Although they are historically different, there are similarities in their traditions and cultures.
The Tharu people prefer to live in nature. "Even their gods include a large number of deities who live in the forest - including some trees and streams," says Gurung as he shows us a stone idol that was erected on the way into the forest.
The Tharus have lived in and around Chitwan for centuries and practice shifting agriculture for their staple food, rice, as well as mustard, corn, lentils and also collect forest products such as wild fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and raw materials for building their houses.
“We are the people in the forest. Our life is simple; We have continued the traditions of agriculture and shifting cultivation, ”says Suha, a 55-year-old farmer who also accompanies us when we explore his village. The community lives mainly from cattle and agricultural products that they sell in the market. However, their traditional fishing activities are limited to the nearby narrow streams as the park is restricted to preserve wildlife.
Descendants of Indian Rajputs
Legend has it that the Rana Tharus, like the Darais, who come from Darbhanga in Bihar in the East Indies, are descendants of Indian Rajputs from Rajasthan in the west of the country who fled to Terai during the Mughal Empire. However, some stories tell their migration from the Thar desert. When the first protected forest areas were established in Chitwan, the Tharu communities had to move from their traditional areas. Nepalese soldiers destroyed the villages within the park boundary, burned houses and beat people who tried to plow their fields.
Over the decades, the community has developed a unique culture in its own localities that is not influenced by the neighboring areas.
Environmentally friendly huts made of earth and bamboo, painted by their owners in natural colors
Up and close with the community
Suha and his wife invited us to their house to share a bowl of chhang - the traditional white rice wine that Nepalese and Tibetans consume by brewing a mixture of rice, millet and barley. A little later, another bowl of the drink was accompanied by a meal served by young women in traditional red outfits. The platter consisted of Tharu specialties - a juicy fish curry, seasonal vegetables, sticky rice and small freshwater snails prepared in a hot sauce, locally called ghunghis.
Ghunghis are edible snails that are collected from nearby bodies of water that are then abandoned overnight to get rid of any sticky material in them. However, it is difficult for the debutants to eat - suck the snail from its shell that has 80 pc of its mouth closed. “The tail end of the snail is cut so that it is easier to suck the meat out of the shell. They are boiled and later cooked like curry and add spices like coriander, chilli, garlic and onions, ”says Gurung.
Despite having their own dialect known as “Naja”, the Tharus speak a mixture of local dialects such as Nepali, Mughali, Urdu and Maithili. Tharu communities in different parts of Nepal and India do not share the same language but speak several endemic languages - variants of Hindi and Urdu are spoken in western Nepal and neighboring parts of India; and in eastern Nepal they speak a variant of Nepali and Maithili.
Originally, however, Tharus' mother tongue was divided into two categories - Rana Tharu and Dangaura Tharu languages, which belong to the Indo-Aryan language family that has also found its way into many books, literatures, documentaries and radio programs.
Home stays and artifacts
To underline the wealth of the community, hotels and forest huts in the area offer special home visits and stays. “Aside from safaris, adventure activities and nature conservation, we also try to familiarize our guests with the lifestyle in neighboring villages. We take them around the village in traditional ox carts where they can experience farming activities with the locals and understand their lifestyle, cuisine and culture. These activities not only enable people to get closer to the community, but also to empower the Tharu, ”says Pradyot Rana, manager of a nearby hotel, Jagatpur Lodge by Annapurna.
In Nepal, as in India and some other countries, ox carts have been used since ancient times when they were the only means of transport that carried both people and goods. These traditional carts are still in use in some villages and rural areas.
“The community is culturally rich and so that our guests understand the Tharus better, we also have a facility where they can cook with the locals, followed by a cultural program in which the Tharu men dholak (drum), latthi (rod) and thekara (stick dance), sing and dance.
This folk dance is especially performed during the Faguwa Festival (Festival of Colors). Similarly, women sing the ‘Jhamata’ dance and sing songs in their mother tongue that are usually performed during the Jitiya festival. In fact, the Tharu culture is so broad that there is a Tharu Cultural Museum in the village displaying ornaments and rakshi (traditional Nepalese distilled alcoholic beverages) distillery utensils.
Tharu Community Home stays provide a great opportunity for the community to showcase their culture and lifestyle by providing hospitality services that are unique to them.
Travel from Kathmandu is at 7am, while many daily flights connect Kathmandu to Bharatpur in just 20 minutes. It is then necessary to count about forty minutes on the road to reach the boundaries of the national park.
Among the many hotels in the area, Anapurna's Jagatpur Lodge has an environmentally friendly approach and offers many activities. You will be warmly welcomed by an attentive team of members of the local community and the nature guides will share their passion and knowledge of the fauna and flora. From the terrace you can even spot a crocodile in the sun at the water's edge, deer or even single horned rhinos.
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