Lohorung language on verge of extinction

Lohorung language on verge of extinction

Published: February 23, 2020 10:15 am On: Nepal

RASTRIYA SAMACHAR SAMITI

Itahari, February 22

Indigenous Lohorung language, spoken by the Lohorung community in Province 1, is on the verge of extinction.

The Nepal Language Commission has listed Lohorung as ‘endangered’ language.

There are very few people who can fluently speak the language. Family of Balkrishna Lohorung Rai, 62, is an example. Balkrishna, originally from Pangwa village in Sankhuwasabha district, which is densely populated by the people of Lohorung community, can fluently speak his mother tongue. He is an ardent activist, who has been working to promote and preserve Lohorung language.

However, he can only speak his mother tongue with his wife Urmila. ‘’I have two sons. But, they can’t speak the language as we do. They can just understand few words and sentences,’’ he said.

Mohan Kumari Rai, 55, is another fluent Lohorung speaker. Professionally a primary school teacher at Kaseni Secondary School of Belbari, Morang, Mohan Kumari can talk in her mother tongue only with her nonagenarian fatherin-law, Amar Bahadur Rai.

‘’I also talk in my mother language with my husband Chakra Bahadur Rai occasionally.

But, he is not a fluent speaker,’’ she said. Mohan Kumari was born and raised in a Lohorung-majority village, Diding Danda in Sankhuwasabha. She has five siblings, two brothers and three sisters, none of whom are fluent speakers of the language.

Based on Nepal’s census-2011, there are only 3,633 Lohorung speakers in the province. This number has not increased due to social and economic factors, said Bigyan Rai, a fluent Lohorung speaker from Itahari, Sunsari. “Lohorung people are getting married with people from other communities.

This has adverse impact on their mother tongue,” he said.

Besides, marriage, migration is another reason for declining population of Lohorung speakers, said Balkrishna, who teaches his mother tongue to younger people of the community.

‘’These days people from our community migrate to urban areas of Nepal and abroad for job and permanent settlement. This has decreased the number of people speaking the indigenous language spoken for centuries,” he said.

Dictionary, digital content and school textbooks in Lohorung could save the language from going extinct, according to Mohan Kumari. She added Lohorung language needs strong support from the local government and early education in mother tongue would help to preserve the language.

Balkrishna said bringing out a well-researched dictionary and sufficient digital content could help preserve minority indigenous languages like Lohorung.

A version of this article appears in print on February 23, 2020 of The Himalayan Times.

घाँटु बारे मगर लाेक कथा

घाँटु देवी

संकलनः मीन श्रीस मगर

(विद्यावारिधिः मगर संस्कृति)

उहिले सत्य युगको कुरा हो; देवदेवीहरूले मानिसलाई पनि आफूझैं देवतामा रुपान्तरण गर्दथे । तान्त्रिक विद्यामा पोख्त मानिसहरूले देवतासँग कुराकानी गर्ने क्षमता राख्दथे । त्यो युगमा मगरात भनिने मग्वर, धवलस्रोत, गण्डीगुल्म आदि राप्ती तथा गण्डकी प्रश्रवणक्षेत्रका मगर बस्तीहरूमा शक्तिशाली तान्त्रिकहरूको निकै ठूलो प्रभाव रहेको थियो । अलौकिक शक्ति प्राप्त ती तान्त्रिकले असामान्य गतिविधिहरू गर्दथे । तान्त्रिक शक्ति प्रयोग गरेर कुनै पनि जीवजन्तुलाई मार्ने र पुनः जीवित बनाउन सक्ने क्षमता उनीहरूमा हुन्थ्यो । बेलाबेलामा उनीहरूले आफ्ना अद्भूत क्षमता अर्थात घातक आभिचारिक (black magic) क्षमता प्रदर्शन गर्दथे ।  ती तान्त्रिकहरू बाघ लगायतका विभिन्न जीवजन्तुहरूमा रुपान्तरण हुने गर्दथे । धवलागिरी, हिमचुली, अन्नपूर्ण, माछापुच्छ्रे आदि हिमालहरू देवताको बासस्थल मानिने हुँदा ती हिमालहरूबाट उत्पन्न भएका नदीहरू कालीगण्डकी, बडीगाड, उत्तरगंगा, राप्ती आदिलाई ज्यादै पवित्र मानिन्थ्यो । ती हिमनदीका प्रश्रवणक्षेत्रमा बसोबास गर्ने मगर तान्त्रिकहरू निकै शक्तिशाली मानिन्थे ।

मुस्ताङको न्हुबिनी हिमालबाट उत्पन्न भएको पवित्र कालीगण्डकी किनारका गुल्मी, वागलुङ, पाल्पा, पर्वत, स्याङ्जा र नवलपरासीका मगर बस्तीहरूका साथै राप्ती प्रश्रवणक्षेत्रका रुकुम र रोल्पा क्षेत्रका मगर बस्तीहरूमा एक भाइ र नौ बहिनी तान्त्रिकहरूको प्रभावशाली अस्तित्व रहेको थियो । कालीगण्डकी किनारको बस्ती (वर्तमान पाल्पाको पीपलडाँडा, रामपुर तथा स्याङ्जाको गराङ्दी) का दस भाउना (एक भाइ र नौ बहिनी) तान्त्रिकहरू तान्त्रिक विद्यामा निपूर्ण थिए । ढ्याङ्ग्रे लामा (तान्त्रिक दाजु) र नौ बहिनी बीच कुनै कारणवस वैमनस्यताको वातावरण सिर्जना हुँदैगयो । उनीहरू बीचमा तन्त्रमन्त्रको युद्ध चल्नेक्रममा नौ बहिनीहरू दाजु ढ्याङ्ग्रे लामाबाट परास्त भई अलपिए । अलप भएको तेस्रो दिन अर्थात कात्तिक ठूली एकादशीका दिन नौकन्या तान्त्रिकहरू सेतीबेणी (गुल्मी, पर्वत र स्याङ्जाको संगम स्थल कालीगण्डकी) का कन्याहरूमा आविर्भाव भएका थिए । आफ्नो शरीरमा नौ कन्या तान्त्रिक आविर्भाव भएपछि कन्याहरूको आँखा बन्द भई कम्पन हुन थाल्यो । उनीहरू विभिन्न भावभङ्गीमा प्रस्तुत हुनथाले । तान्त्रिक कन्या उत्रिएर प्रस्तुत हुने अवस्था वा प्रस्तुतिकरणलाई घाँटु भन्न थालियो । सेतीबेणी अर्थात सेतीघाटबाट प्रारम्भ भएकाले सेतीघाटु भन्ने क्रममा कालान्तरमा सतीघाटु शब्द जनजिब्रोमा प्रचलित हुनपुग्यो । अर्कोतर्फ मृत्युको तेस्रो दिनको घोट संस्कार (शुद्धशान्ति) मा मृतकको आत्मालाई तान्त्रिक विधिबाट जगाएर पितृमा थपना गर्ने तथा नाचगान गर्नेक्रममा नौ कन्या तान्त्रिक उत्रेकाले मगर भाषामा घोट+उ (पष्टी विभक्ति)=घोटु अर्थात घोट सम्बन्धी भन्ने अर्थमा ‘घाँटु’ को विकास हुनगयो । स्याङ्जा राम्चेका मगरहरूले आजसम्म पनि हरेक वर्षको कात्तिक ठूली एकादशीका दिन सेतीबेणीमा गएर घाँटु नाट्य गाथाको थालनी गर्ने र वैशाख पूर्णिमा (चण्डी पूर्णिमा/बुद्ध पूर्णिमा) का दिन प्रदर्शन गर्ने परम्परालाई निरन्तरता दिएको पाइन्छ ।

हिमचुलीका सात बहिनी मायू (देवी) हरू मध्ये एक बहिनी नवलपरासीको देवचुलीमा बसोबास गर्न आउँदा त्यहाँ रहेको दैत्यसँग ठूलो संघर्ष परेको थियो । देवीले दैत्यलाई परास्त गर्न नसकेपछि भुमरीको रुप धारण गरी नजिकैको अर्खला गाउँमा घाँटु नाचिरहेका दुई मगर कन्यालाई उडाएर देवचुली पहाडमा पु¥याई आफू झैँ मायू (देवी) मा रुपान्तरण गराएकी थिइन् । त्यसपछि तीनकन्या मायूको संयुक्त शक्तिबाट दैत्यमाथि विजय प्राप्त भएको थियो । यो घटना चैत्र पूर्णिमाको समयमा भएकाले देवचुली पहाडको गुफामा तीन कन्या मायू (देवी) अर्थात घाँटु देवीको पूजाआजा गर्ने परम्पराको थालनी गरियो । देवचुली आसपासका हुप्सेकोट, बुलिङटार, धौवादी रुदपुर, अर्खला, कीर्तिपुर आदि क्षेत्रका मगरहरू र नवलपुर (रजहर तथा कोलुवातिर) का थारुहरूले संयुक्त रुपमा मगर झांक्री र थारु गुरौको नेतृत्वमा तान्त्रिक विधिबाट घाँटु देवी (तीनकन्या मायु/कुमारवर्ती माई) को पूजा गर्ने परम्परा उहिल्यैदेखि चलिआएको छ । यसै आधारमा कतिपय मगर गाउँमा चैत्र पूर्णिमाको दिन घाँटुको थालनी गर्ने र वैशाख पूर्णिमाको दिन चण्डी पूजा गरी विशेष प्रदर्शन गर्ने परम्परा रहेको छ ।

यो कथा सुन्नेलाई सुनको माला; भन्नेलाई फूलको माला ।

घाँटु देवी (ढुट मगर भाषामा)

गोमोक्च : मीन श्रीसमगर

विद्यावारिधि : मगर संस्कृति

खयाकाङन सट्य जुकओ वाट आले, डेवीडेउटाकोई भर्मिकोके ड मेहेको लेखान डेउटा खास्मो याहाओला। झाँकरि वार्चकोई यिडाकन वार्च भर्मिकोई डेउटाखटा ङाक्के हेकोला । होसे जुकाङ मगरात डेचो मग्वर, धवलस्रोत, गण्डकीगुल्म डेच ठामको राप्टी होटै गण्डकी डेठाङ मगरकुङ कार्हाङचो झाँकरिकुङ छाप ल्या । होन्च सक्ति डिन्चो झाँकरिकोई डिहिके माह्योक्च वाटको जाटुला । होसेकोई झाँकरिव वार्च केट्म जुन्च ड जिवजन्टुकोके साट्के होटै होसे सिच वस्टुकोके जिम्हाक्के हेक्च सक्टि होसेको खटा छानोला । सेन सेन होसेकोई मेनो झाँकरी वार्मई  चटक्या टानाक्के जाटोला । होसे झाँकरिको मेल्लाहाके सेन चिटुवा, सेन सुठु,  सेन चिउ ल्हेस्के हेक्चको छानोला ।  धवलगिरि, हिउचुलि, अन्नपूर्ण, माछापुच्छ्रे डेच पंम्वाङईङ डेउटाको (वाज्यू बराज्यू) मुच ठाम मन्डिकेवाटि होसे पंम्वाङईङ खेम जोहोच खोलाको कालिगण्डकी, बडिगाड, उत्तरगंगा, राप्टी डेच खोलाकोके काराङ्च डेउटा मन्डिवला । होसे खोला जोहोच ठाममाङ खयाकिङ  होडा मुच मगर झाँकरिको कार्हाङच झाँकरि मन्डिउला ।

मुस्ताङो न्हुविनी पंम्वाङइङ डि खेहेच वाटि होस्के सेहेचो (पवित्र) कालिगण्डकीढरियाङ गुल्मी वाग्लुङ, पाल्पा, पर्वत, स्याङजा, नवलपरासि मगरको मुच ठामको होटै राप्तिव रुकुम रोल्पा डेच ठामो  मगर झुरुमाङ काट भोया (बाउजा) र नउ नानिजाको झाँकरिकुङ कार्हाङच ठाम डेम चिन्डिसोला । कालिगण्डकिव ढरियाङ (चहिटो पाल्पाव पीपलडाँडा,रामपुर होटै स्याङ्जा गराङ्डी) व होसे बाउजा र नानिजा झाँकरि ज्ञान वार्चको ल्या । ढ्याङ्ग्रे लामा (झाँकरी दाज्यै) र नउ नानिजाकुङ मेल्लाहा-मेल्लाहाव मिगिन माखाट्चै नुङा । मेल्लाहा-मेल्लाहा माखाट्म झाँकरि वार्माके केट्नसिङ मेहेकोन पुन्के ठाला । यितजात्म पुन्नाङ -पुन्नाङ मेहेकुङ दाज्यैके माहुत्म नउ नानिजाको म्हाट्डिसा । यितजात्म म्हात्च नउ नानिजाको म्हात्च सोम्याकाङ कार्तिक ठूलि एकाडसिव याकाङ नउकन्या झाँक्रिनिको सेतिबिणी ( गुल्मी, पर्वत र स्याङ्जा सोम ठाम काटठामङ खाट्च कालिगण्डकी) व कन्याकोआङ पहिडिसन्या ।(आविर्भा) मेनो ज्यानाङ होसे नउ झाँक्रिनिको पहिडिस्नसिङ नानिजाकुङ मिमिक चिलिम्मो नानिजाको वुर्हुके ठाला । होसेको आस्काट-आस्काट छान्नसिङ डाङ्डिस्के ठाला । यितजात्म  झाँक्रिनिको कन्यानानिकुङ ज्यानाङ राहाम मेनो ज्यान  टानाक्के ठाला  हटै यिस्केनाङ घाँटु डेके ठाला । सेतिवेणी या सेतीघाटीङ  ठाल्चबाटी यिस्के सेतीघाटु डेनाङ डेनाङ न्हुनिङ सटीघाँटु डेके ठाला । यितजात्मो ज यिचेउ आर्मिन सटिघाँटु डेम चिन्डिसा । आलाकपटा सिचव सोम्याको घोटाङ सिच भर्मिव मिगिनके झाँक्रि वार्चए जिवाटाक्न वायूकोके मेनो ठामाङ डाके होटै स्याहानाङ ल्हिङनाङ होसे नउ कन्या नानिजाको ज्यानाङ काल्केवाटी मगर कुराङ (ढुट)  घोटु होटै ज घाटुव  ठपना छान्चै नुङा । स्याङ्जाव राम्चे डेच लाङ्घाव मगरकोई छिनिङपिहिन ड पट्ट ल्हेसव कार्तिक ठूली एकाडसीव याकाङ सेतिविणीयाङ नुङ्मो घाँटु स्याहाक्के याको ठालनी जाट्के होटै वैशाख पूर्णयाङ लांङघाङ स्याहाक्म तानाक्के जाट्च रोश ईन्हाङ ड ले ।

हिउचुलिव सात वहिनि नानिजाङ काट नानिजा  नवलपरासिव देवचुलियाङ मुके राहाच वखटाङ होलाङो पिचासखटा कार्हाङच पुन्ना छान्मल्या । देविय होसे पिचासके जुत्के माहेक्च पार भुमरि छान्मसिङ खेरेपो अर्खला डेच लाङ्घाङ घाँटु स्याहाम मुच न्हिस मगर नानीजाके भुरुक्न देवचुलि पाहाराङ टाहाक्नसिङ मेन लेखा मायू (देवी) खास्मल्या । होसेन्हुनिङ सोम (कन्या) नानिजाको काट छान्न होसे पिचासखटा पुन्निसिङ होस्केनाङ जुत्मल्या । यिसे काजुस चैत्र पूर्णाङ छान्चवाट देवचुली पाहाडाङव ओडाराङ सोम नानीजाको( कन्या) (मायू देवि ) घाटु देविकोके मन्दिके ठाला । देवचुलिव खेरेप खेरेप हुप्सेकोट, बुलिङटार, धौवादी, रुदपुर, अर्खला, कीर्तिपुर डेच ठामव मगरको र नवलपुरव थारुको खाट्म कठ मगर झाँक्रि र थारु गुरौको स्याहाठाङ झाक्रि (तान्त्रिक) बिधिईङको घाँटु देवी (सोम नानीजा मायू, कुमारीको) व पूजा जाट्च रोश कयाकिङहोडा केस्चै राहाच  आले । होट छान्म मगरकुङ ढलिङ लांङ्घाङ चैत्र पूर्णेव याकाङ घाँटु स्याहाक्के थाल्ले र बैशाख पुर्णेयाङ चण्डी पूजा जात्म होसे याकाङ पट्ट लाङ्घाव लाङ्घालिके एट्म मूली आहानाङ गुरुमोईको  ल्हिङ्म र घाटुसार्याको स्याहाम  टानाक्के जाट्ले ।

मगरातमा आएपछि खस भाषा र संस्क्रुतिको पुर्ण विकाश भयो

Jagman Gurung

Yesterday at 10:44 PM ·

कर्णाली प्रदेशको पहाडीक्षेत्र खसानबाट असिवृत्ति= असि भनेको तरवार र असिवृत्ति भनेको खुँडा हान्ने जातका खसहरु र मसिवृत्ति भनेको शास्त्र जानेका बाहुनहरु पुर्वतिर अघि बढ्दै गण्डकी प्रदेशको कछाडभाग मगरातमा आइपुगे। मगरातमा आएपछि खस भाषा र संस्क्रुतिको पुर्ण विकाश भयो र पुर्वतिर संप्रेषित भयो।खसहरु मगरलाउ साथ लिएर पुर्वतिर अघि बढे। काठमाण्डौका राजा प्रताप मल्लका पिता लक्ष्मीनरसिंह मल्लको समयसम्ममा खस र मगरहरू मल्ल दरवारमा भारदारका रुपमा सम्मानित हुन पुगे। खस भाषाले राजकाजको भाषाको रुपमा मान्यता पायो। लमजुङका राजा यशोब्रह्म शाहको पालादेखि गुरुङहरु पनि यश अभियानमा सहभागी भए। यसरी नेपाल राष्ट्रको निर्माणको प्रगरुप निर्माण भयो ।

 

Bhagwanchandra Gnyawali नेपाली भाषा िवस्तारमा सेतामगुरालिकाे महत्वपूर्ण याेगदान छ

Govind Thapa Etihasik kura paskanu bhayeko ma dhanyabad..Nepal ko itihas dherai gsjyang gujung chha sachyaunu parchha.

Dec 13, 2019

Westerners’ Views on the Religion, Culture, and Language of Magars

Westerners’ Views on the Religion, Culture, and Language of Magars[1]

 Dr. Govind Prasad Thapa[2]

 Nepal has been a home of many different types of ethnic groups with their own religion, culture, and language. In other words, Nepal is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, multi-cultural, and multi-lingual nation with more than a hundred types of ethnic groups. For a small country like Nepal, it is a matter of profound pride to have such a vast diversity of ethnicity, religion, culture, and language. We accept this characteristic fact as a boon and opportunity for mutual understanding, cooperation, and development.

Magar is the third-largest group, after Chhetri and Bahun, and largest among the indigenous group of people in terms of its population, which is 7.14% of the total national population. In spite of all the inter-caste cultural transformations that have undergone since time unfathomable, Magars have retained the heritage of its own original identity and philosophy of culture and language. Magars, among themselves, speak three languages—Dhut, Kham, and Kaike.

 Religion, Culture, and Society

The present culture of Magars is the result of many influences and long history.  Owing to the absence of any written history and that, Magars had left their place of origin so long ago that the traces, though surely present, are not yet as easy to pin down. Therefore, it is difficult now to unravel many of the specific aspects of their history.

Both, Daniel and Hodgson, consider Magars and Gurungs as Hindus “but of low caste”[3]and “only because it is the fashion.”[4] However, Hitchcock, who spent a few years with Magars, as illustrated in detail about their culture.[5] The Magars worship nature, idols, spirits, and supernatural beings. This actually points out the belief in the natural phenomenon. In the rural parts of Nepal, even today, we come across a then (shrine)–little rectangular pieces of gobar or cow dung, on a platform, with a varying number of evenly spaced depressions in the top, such as might be made with the tip of finger inside the house–besides a path track, beneath a tree, under a large stone, beside a water spring, or in the corner of irrigated fields.   Sometimes these platforms are uncovered, resting on a patch of earth that has been hardened and made smooth with a mixture of mud, cow dung, and water. Most of them are inside little “rooms” that are open in front and have been made with flat stones. On occasions, too, one sees a small pavilion with a conical thatched roof made of straw, about the height of a man.

These than are some of the places where one can make contact with supernatural beings of a particular kind—Gham(sun), Jun(full moon),  Pani(water), Bayu(wind), Kuldevata(family god), Sim Bai(devi), Nag (serpent), Jhankari (hunter), Bhoot-pret-masan(ghost, spirit), Boskshi(witch), Bandevi(forest goddess)– the beings who mean most to the majority of people because they are the ones who are effective in their lives and really make a difference. Coming to terms with these beings is part of their lives. These are beings of the land and the forces controlling health, growth, and reproduction. These beings, which may be either male, devta, or female, devi, are referred to as deities who eat bhog or food–mostly the newly spilled blood of a sacrificial animal – mostly the Bhale(a rooster), and quite often the Boka(he-goat), and Pada(young male buffalo), and Sungur(pig). On many occasions, people offer Panchbali—the sacrifice of five animals at a time.

The Puja (sacrifices) are made at places where it is believed that the godling lives. The sacrifices almost always are made by a young kumar(unmarried) boy, called pujari, who bathes and puts on a clean loincloth. After cleaning the ground with cow dung and water, thus setting it apart and making it acceptable for a holy purpose, he winds dhaja(kerchiefs) around a stone and sets it upright to represent the godling being honored. The dhaja (kerchiefs) represents the godling’s new clothing. The basic rationale throughout the puja is doing things for the godlings that will be pleasing: clothing him, feeding him, and surrounding him with pleasant things like dhoop (incense) and flowers. It is important to do these things in a properly sanctified place, with rituals conducted by a person who has prepared himself by bathing and who has not yet lost the extra purity believed to belong to the unmarried. This latter quality is especially important to female godlings but is appreciated by the males as well.

After making a cow dung platform for food offerings and setting it before the stone, the pujari decorates the tham(shrine) with turmeric, rice flour, bits of colored cloth, and flowers. Offerings that are then placed in the holes of the cow dung platform include rice flour fried in butter, puffed rice, rice mixed with water and sage and cow’s milk. The godling also is honored by offerings of flowers and by the presence of fire in the form of a mustard oil lamp in a copper container-diyo.

Just before the sacrifice, the pujari makes an incense of butter and sage and prays for whatever boon he wishes, pointing out that he is about to offer a sacrifice. The animal to be offered is sanctified by putting water, rice, and sage on the head, the animal then shakes its head or body which is taken as a sign that the animal has given its consent to be sacrificed. Then only it is beheaded. The head is placed before the stone and the blood is spurted in the than(shrine). After this, the pujari prepares tika by mixing blood of the sacrificed animal with some rice and places this onto the foreheads of those present. He also receives tika by having one of the worshippers do the same for him. As a gift for the pujari’s services, he gets the head of the sacrificed animal and whatever food has been brought as an offering. The final act of puja is cooking and eating the sacrificed animal that now has been shared with the godling.

On the other hand  historically the Tarangpur (Dolpa) Magars – neither a full-fledged Hindu caste nor unalloyed Tibetan Buddhists, but always at the mercy of outsiders, who were one or the other had to defer, serially or simultaneously, to both Hindu and Buddhist sources of power, prestige, and influence.”[6] For Fisher, “Buddhism and Hinduism are historical accretions. The Magars and other Tibeto-Burman groups were apparently neither Buddhist nor Hindu originally.”[7] Like tribes elsewhere in South Asia, the Magars of Tarangpur “live on the fringes of Hindu society, but unlike most of these other tribal peoples, they also live on the fringes of Buddhist society. Tarangpur is culturally convoluted, geographically isolated, and socially ingrown.”[8]

The preference in Tarangpur of Dolpa district, according to Fisher, is not of one religion over another but a preference for politics over religion, because politics is inextricably bound up with the core of Tarangpur life, namely, the pursuit of power, status and wealth. The key to securing these lies in the hands of the Hindu modernists the national elite in Kathmandu and their functionaries in the outlying area, who are directly and explicitly attempting to integrate Tarangpur into modernist Hindu political and economic structures. There is no comparable pull from the north. Ironically, the mountaineers of Tarangpur look up to the lowlanders. Rather than either ‘Sanskritization’ or ‘Tibetanization,’ a process of religious triangulation is underway. For the descendants of the few high caste Thakuri families who settled, intermarried, and were hence ‘Magarized,’ the process is even more complex. The indigenous cult, centered on local mountain deities, has been overlaid with Tibetan Buddhism, and Hinduism, in turn, has challenged this.[9]

Family Relations

Most of Magar families consist of grandfather, grandmother, father, mother, and unmarried children. The marriages are usually arranged by parents. The parents of the groom propose the hand of a bride to her parents. Wedding ceremonies usually take place at the bride’s house. Mostly the engagements are solemnized before weddings. Sometimes the girl may elope with the boy without the consent of parents or the boy may abduct or capture the girl and take her to his home. Such marriages are also accepted and recognized later on after the accomplishment of some rituals. In such situations, the groom brings a Theki —gift of food and drinks to the bride’s family for Dhogbhet – recognition, and formalization of the marriage. If the wife happens to be already married to another person, then the new husband must pay Jari – compensation to the former husband. The amount of Jari was usually set as Rupees sixty and Rupees thirty for Sari wife – a woman remarrying for the third time. If a Sari wife runs away, the husband can not claim any compensation.[10] However, such practices have now been obsolete and usually, these cases end up in the courts.

Dr. Marie Lecomte-Tilouine who was in Gulmi, Nepal for her research, relates her experiences with Magars. According to her, “The relations that the Magars maintain with their high caste neighbors in this village of Northern Gulmi, I had the feeling that the same phenomenon was operating at the level of the collective identity between these two communities. Let us take an example. In this region, the Magars employ either a Brahman or a bhanja (uterine nephew) as their domestic priest and several Magars explained to me that in employing their bhanja for this role, they were acting as the Brahmans, saying: « the bahun of the Bahuns is their bhanja » (or “the priest of the Brahmans is their uterine nephew”). At the same time, they used to say that there was a difference between the Magar and the Brahman attitude towards their bhanja: the latter would salute their bhanja, while among themselves, it is the contrary. They were thus raising their global similarities while noticing a kind of anomaly, about which no one ever made any further development. Through this tiny detail, however, they were pinpointing a fundamental difference between the two groups. Among the Brahmans in effect, the wife-receivers are seen as superior and hence the bhanja is saluted first by his maternal uncle. Even if the bhanja never becomes a son-in-law among the Brahmans, he is a member of the lineage of the wife-receivers, being the sister’s son. Among the Magars, the wife-receivers are inferiors. They say, « as we have taken a spouse from them, we have to make ourselves small ». Besides, the bhanja is a double wife-receiver since he is ideally the son-in-law in his turn. For this reason, he is usually expected to render a lot of services to his in-laws in return for his wife.”[11]

She further elaborates, “The Magar inversion of the Hindu hierarchy and the fact that depending on the situation and the lineages, either the Brahman or the bhanja may be used by them for the same function, show that priesthood is not correlated with a superior status for the Magar, but rather with the notion of service, seva. Despite their cultural domination and their apparent adoption of Hindu principles, the Magars of Gulmi thus introduced an important shift regarding the Hindu notion of the priesthood (and the position of the Brahman). But this was not openly claimed as a sign of their autonomy, for the simple reason that it was not clearly formulated as a diversion. A typical example of these meaningful differences assigned to group identity was formulated by a Magar lady when discussing wedding rituals. She told me that there was one thing she did not like about the Bahun-Chetri’s practices…..At any rate, within a global Hindu universe, the Magars had managed to preserve enough specificity to anchor their feeling of difference.”[12]

The Language

The Magars, the aboriginal stock of Nepal, are most undoubtedly Mongolian. These Magars speak Tibeto-Burman dialect. Even within this Tibeto-Burman family Kham dialect is spoken by Magars in the Mid-Western region, Tarali or Kaike in Dolpa district of North-Western region, and Dhut, mostly in the West and Central part of Nepal. The population of Magars speaking the various Magar language is 3.39% of the total population of Nepal (2001 census). Other remaining Magars speak Khas and Nepali. The Magar tongue-speaking population in 1952/54, 1991, and 2001 were 273780, 430264, and 770116 respectively. The study of the trend in mother tongue retention shows that the Magar language retention rate has increased from 32.1% in 1991 to 47.7% in the 2001 census. According to the number of people speaking a language, Magar language is ranked as the seventh most widely spoken language in Nepal.

According to Fisher, Kaike is an unwritten Tibeto-Burman language, distantly related to Tibetan and other Tibeto- Burman dialects spoken elsewhere in Nepal.”[13] He further explains the complexity of the language as follows: “Using a list of 100 basic words I found that Kaike shared 49% cognates with the Tibetan dialect spoken in Tichurong 49% with the very closely related Tibetan dialect spoken in what Snellgrove calls ” Inner Dolpo,” 35% with Kham, and 23% with Magar.”[14] He concludes that “In nine of the thirteen villages, Tibetan is spoken; one village (Riwa) is Nepali-speaking; in only three villages (Tarangpur, Tarakot, and Tupa)—and nowhere else in the world–is Kaike spoken.”[15]

David E. Watters has been a known figure in the contribution of the study of Kham language of Magars. According to him, the Kham is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken in the upper valleys of the Rukum, Rolpa, and Baglung districts of Mid-Western Nepal by more than 50,000 people. Scattered populations also exist in Jajarkot, Dailekh, Kalikot, Achham, and Doti. The language should not be confused with the Tibetan Khams of eastern Tibet. The majority of Kham speakers are Budhas, Puns, Ghartis, and Rokyas—all classified ethnically as subtribes or clans of the Magar tribe. It should not be assumed apriori, however, that because speakers of Kham are Magars their language too is a dialect of Magars. Kham and Magar are vastly different languages. Thus, to avoid confusion with Tibetan Kham, and to link the language with the ethnicity of its speakers, the language has sometimes been referred to as Kham-Magar.[16]

Watters narrates, “Kham is known to Nepalis of the region as “Khamkura,” which, roughly translated, means Kham-talk or Kham-speech. The word Kham itself is of obscure origins and means simply language in its broad sense and The Language in its strict sense.  In Mid-Western Nepal, where Kham is spoken, the Nepali use of the Kham or Khamkura has the more generalized meaning of a local, non-Nepali dialect. Consequently, at least two other languages in the region, Chantyal, and Kaike, have received the Nepali appellation Khamkura.”[17]

 The study of languages has sometimes been useful in determining the historical settlements of the people in Nepal. As Witzel explains that the Magarat “extends from the Bheri in the west to Burhi Gandaki in the east and is fairly uniform in its nomenclature: river names invariantly end in –ri or –di. The names in –ri are found in the western part, that is in Kham territory, the names in –di in the eastern part.[18]The River Ba-bai, to the south of the Bheri, may have a Magar name as well: bəy, bəyh is a Kham Magar word for ‘river’.”[19]

 

[1] This article is an edited version published in Shodhmala, (A Journal of Magar Studies Center), Vol. 1, No. 1, Magh 2062 BS

[2] Dr. Thapa is Chairperson of Magar Studies Center, http://www.magarstudieswcenter.com

[3] Wright, Daniel, History of Nepal-With an Introductory Sketch of the Country and People of Nepal, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Madras, 1993, First Published in 1877, p. 30

[4] Hodgson, Brian H., Essays on the Languages, Literature, and Religion of Nepal and Tibet, Asian Educational Services, New Delhi, Madras, 1991 (First Published 1874), Part II, p. 40

[5] Hitchcock, John T., The Magars of Banyan Hill; Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966,  pp.25-34

[6] Fisher, , James F.,Trans-Himalayan Traders: Economy, Society, & Culture in Northwest Nepal, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Pvt, Ltd., New Delhi, India, Reprint 1997, James F., p. 34-35

[7] Fisher, James F.,  op.cit., p. 208

[8] Ibid, p. 14

[9] Ibid, p. 14

[10] Hitchcock, op.cit., pp.35-41

[11] Dr. Marie Lecomte-Tilouine, “On Magar Identity and Autonomy”, Shodhmala, Vol. 1, No. 1, p. 40-41, Magh 2062 BS

[12] Ibid, p. 40-41

[13] Fisher, op.cit. p. 21

[14] Ibid, P.208

[15] Ibid, p. 23

[16] Watters, David and Nancy Watters. 1973. An English-Kham, Kham-English Glossary, Kirtipur Nepal: Summer Institute of Linguistics and Institute of Nepal and Asian Studies cited in David E. Watters, A Dictionary of Kham (a Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal), Manuscript, p. 1

[17] Watters, David E., A Dictionary of Kham (a Tibeto-Burman language of Nepal), Manuscript, p. 1

[18] Witzel, op.cit., p. 18

[19] Ibid.