Friday, April 13, 2012

The Special Tharu Villages of Nepal

Tharu people have their own culture and religion. 

Tharu people are suppose to be direct descendants of Gautam Buddha.
The spiritual beliefs and moral values of the Tharu people are closely linked to the natural environment. The pantheon of their gods exhibits a large number of deities that live in the forest.[11]
The Tharu are adherents of Hinduism. Small numbers have converted to Buddhism in the recent years. Such syncretic practices have led Tharu to practice folk Hinduism. With the advent of religious freedom, others have converted to Christianity and there are a variety of congregations active in the various districts where Tharus are found.
Traditional Tharu worship various gods in the form of animals such as horse, tiger, ox, snake and sheep. Such gods are seen in Hinduism. Every village has their own deity, commonly known as Bhuinyar. Tharu in East Nepal call their deity Gor-raja.

Most Tharu households own a statue of a traditional god. Family members often offer animal's blood sacrifices to appease the god. Animals such as pigeons and chickens are used for sacrificial purposes. Milk and silk cloth are also used. Many Tharu would also use the blood of one of the male members in the family for such rituals. Such rituals are conducted through ceremonies, and superficial cuts are made forehead, arms, throat, legs, and/or chest.

The gods are believed to have the ability to heal diseases and sickness. According to traditional legend, gods are given a bhakal, a promise of something, on condition that the sickness is cured, in any events of misfortunes, plagues and horror dreams. A relative's death is an event of great significance among Tharu, and rituals conducted varies in accordance to regions.
Tharu would approach shamans as doctors, known as Guruba. Such shamans use Buddhist medicines to cure illness. Shamans will also try to appease gods through incantations, beating drums and offering sacrifices. The Tharu believe sickness comes when the gods are displeased, and the demons are at work.

Buddhist converts among the Tharu are found in Saptari, Siraha and Udaypur. Currently it is believed that there are more than one dozen of Buddhist monks and novices among the Tharus. Such practice was possibly based on the fact that they were inspired by the discovery of Lord Buddha as a member of the Tharu tribe.
97.63% of the ethnic Tharu were Hindu according to the 2001 Census of Nepal, whereas 1.95% were Buddhist.

There is no one Tharu language unifying Tharu communities in different parts of Nepal and India. Several speak various endemic Tharu languages. In western Nepal and adjacent parts of India, Tharus speak variants of Urdu and Awadhi

Tharu villages I bike through near the national park
A Tharu man

The Tharu people themselves say that they are people of the forest. In Chitwan, they have lived in the forests for hundreds of years practicing a short fallow shifting cultivation. They planted rice, mustard, corn and lentils, but also collected forest products such as wild fruits, vegetables, medicinal plants and materials to build their houses; hunted deer, rabbit and wild boar, and went fishing in the rivers and oxbow lakes.[11]

The Tharus never went abroad for employment – a life that kept them isolated in their own localities.[20] In this isolation they developed a unique culture free from the influence of adjacent India, or from the mountain groups of Nepal. The most striking aspects of their environment are the decorated rice containers, colorfully painted verandahs and outer walls of their homes using only available materials like clay, mud, dung and grass. Much of the rich design is rooted in devotional activities and passed on from one generation to the next, occasionally introducing contemporary elements such as a bus or an airplane.

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