Tharus: Gems on Southern Foothills of Himalayas
If you ever get down from the hills or the highlands, up here in Nepal, you’ll reach to the plains of Terai; the storehouse, the granary of Nepal. These southern plains, as the Himalayas are sure to force you to drop your jaw and gasp. One word: Magnificent.
And the gem of Terai? Tharus. These indigenous group scattered densely among the southern belt is rich in every aspect you consider: hospitality, culture, foods, clothing and what not.
Going to history, it’s all misty, but many believe they are the descendants of Rajputs from Indian deserts. But, J.C. Nesfield wrote in the Calcutta Review (1885): “The origin is the word ´thar´, which in the lowest colloquial language (but not in books) signifies ´a man of the forest´, a name which correctly describes the status of the tribe, considering the name as sprung from the language of the tribe itself, which is now for the most part obsolete. An aboriginal name derived from Sanskrit is the fit appellative of an aboriginal, casteless, un-Brahmanized tribe whose customs have been only slightly modified by contact with those of the Aryan invaders.’
But, what’s in the past right? When it comes to present, tharus are the most known ethnic group in Nepal. Tharus are well known in their hospitality from the numerous tharu homestays around the belt.
Badaghar or ‘big house’ is what most of the Rana tharus prefer in living (Western side) with huge families. (Sometimes 40-50 people.) They share labor, income, expenditure and a well-functioning kitchen.
Tharu is the language of theirs which bears close relation to Awadhi and Maithilli spoken around the same region, and also has a significant number of variations including Chitwania Tharu, Dangaura, Rana, Buksa, Sonha, Kochila and so on.
When it comes to food of Tharus, you get to nature and its common supplements. Delicacies like dhikri and ghonghi steal what you want. Dhikri is shaped rice flour, which is later steamed. Ghonghi is Snail. Ghongis, collected from hither-tither, are left overnight in order to make it ‘non-sticky’. With it’s tail end cut, it is later sautéed and curried.
The tharu dance and the tharu dressing are sure to please your eyes, and I bet you’ll swing with the reasons. If you reach there during ‘Maghi’ or ‘Jitiya’ you’d be luckier to experience their lively culture together with celebration of festival.
Getting to know is one thing, experience aces it all. Come experience tharu hospitality. There is more to Nepal than Himalayas.