The Tamang People
Little is known of Tamang history but it is believed that the Tamangs have been in the Himalayan zone of Nepal longer than any other group. Currently they inhabit approximately half of this zone.
Predominantly living in the high foothills of the Himalaya, they have made their living by hill farming and more recently in the trekking business. A peaceful people who are virtually unknown outside their own country, they are finding the onslaught of modernisation a strain on their culture. The money earned through theBlueSpace means employment and resources within the Tamang community A small step to ensuring the Tamang have a say in their own future.
The Tamang people are believed to have come from Tibet, possibly around 3000 years ago, and are Nepals largest ethnic group. The Tamangs are distributed densely within central Nepal but are also present throughout the country and in Darjeeling, India. They have their own distinct culture, tradition, language, religion and social system. It is believed that the Tamangs were self-ruled and autonomous until 232 years ago. During the last two centuries, Tamangs have been most discriminated and exploited community of Nepal.
Because of their proximity to the capital city, governments have considered that an empowered Tamang community could pose a possible risk to their regimes and consequently have striven to ensure that the Tamang people have remained disenfranchised, exploited and dominated. They were neither accepted into government posts, whether administrative, judicial or political, nor allowed to accept foreign employment till 1950. They were forced to serve as a reserve labour pool for the services of the ruling group.
The Tamangs have been terribly exploited even amongst Nepalis. According to the Nepali civil code of 1856, their status was Shudra (The second lowest rank in the Hindu hierarchical system), which meant that they could be killed and enslaved by those of a higher caste. This situation prevailed until the new civil code was formulated in 1962.Much of their land was redistributed and this poverty and lack of a voice within Nepal remains a serious issue in modern Nepal.
Tamangs generally follow a form of Tibetan Buddhism, speak a language derived from Tibetan-Barmeli and the culture is almost identical to that of Tibet. Tamangs are divided into 240 families but have no class or social status differentiations based upon the family groups. Every family has clans (Swagen Bhai). Marriage between their clans is restricted by Tamang traditions.
The Tamang roots are lost in the mists of history but the majority of historians believe they are indigenous to the area and, the community, in ancient time, ruled Nepal. Various evidence and fossils found in Nepal prove that the first community of Nepal was Tibeto-Mongoloid. Fossilised stone weapons found in northern Kathmandhu, Narayasthan, are thirty thousands years old and are similar to Mongolian weapon of the period. The word Tamang is constructed from 2 words: Ta – Horse and Mang – Businessman/Trader in the Tibetan language. Some believe this indicates migration from Tibet, possibly based around horse trading.
Tamang facts and figures:
Population: The Tamang population is One million three hundred thousand according to the national census in 2001 however this is not a particularly accurate figure since the Tamangs who had written Lama or their family name on the census form were not counted as Tamang and many others have in the past changed their caste in order to escape the caste limitations placed upon them. The majority of the Tamang population lives in 8 Districts: Kavrepalanchowk, Makwanpur, Ramechhap, Dading, Nuwakot, Rasuwa, Sindupalchowk, Dolakh. The language also predominates in 2 further Districts: Rasuwa and Makwanpur.
Literacy rate: 30%
Employment: Tamangs are one of the most populous of the Hill People of Nepal. Most Tamangs are farmers, engaged in agriculture as small holders and day labour. Due to the lack of irrigation at higher altitudes, their crops are often limited to corn, millet, wheat, barley, and potatoes. They often supplement their farming income with manual labour. They also work as porters and the chances are that the Sherpas and Guides on a Trek are more likely to be a Tamang than an actual Sherpa. They form a significant proportion of the porters in the Himalayan Mountain region and are generally recognized as the strongest, most trustworthy and reliable porters in the Himalayas. Due to the discrimination experienced by the Tamang people they have remained on the whole poorly educated, and the majority have been limited to working in farming, portering, mountain trekking, and driving in Kathmandhu. They also work in construction of Tibetan rugs, Thankas (Tibetan painting), driving, labour and trekking.
Tamangs are Lama (Tibetan) Buddhists, as are most upper Himalayan peoples. Their religion is traditionally Bon Lamaism; a fusion of Shamanism and Buddhism. Bon is the pre Buddhist belief concentrated in Tibet and still widely practised although generally ignored in Western perceptions or descriptions of the area. They have gompas (monasteries) in every sizeable village. Every family has their special Buddhist god and book to worship every morning. The Tamangs retain jhankris (shamans) in addition to their lamas (priests). These jhankris perform certain rites such as trances and sacrifices to alleviate problems or assure good fortune.
All BlueSpace journeys will enable you to learn more about the people of Nepal, their culture history and traditions. Our specific treks recommended to bring you a close knowledge and understanding of the land and people are here.