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Kham Magar (Nepali: खाम मगर ) and Northern Magar are descriptive terms invented by academic linguists and anthropologists for a nationality in the Middle Hills of mid-western Nepal inhabiting highlands extending through eastern Rukum and northern Salyan, Rolpa and Pyuthan Districts in Rapti Zone as well as adjacent parts of Dhaulagiri and Bheri Zones. They speak a complex of Tibeto-Burman dialects called Kham not mutually intelligible with Nepal's other Tibeto-Burman languages.
The present Kham homeland was part of the historic confederation Ather Magarat आथार मगरात (Eighteen Magar Kingdoms) extending from the Kaligandaki River west across the basin of the West Rapti to the Bheri. East of the Kaligandaki there was another confederation called Bahra Magarat बाह्र मगरात (Twelve Magar Kingdoms).
Due to their oral mythology and distinctive shamanistic practices, Kham are thought to have originally migrated from Siberia but to have lived in their present location for a long time.
The present Kham homeland in the Rapti highlands lies just east of valleys in the Karnali-Bheri basin that were the original homeland of the Khas, an Iranian-Aryan people who were mainly rice farmers. Kham-Khas also suggests a duality of living in symbiotic proximity, perhaps zoned by elevation with Khas occupying alluvial river bottoms suitable for rice cultivation while Kham lived above, growing crops such as barley and tree fruit not needing intensive irrigation infrastructure. Indeed Nepal's Chhetri caste seems to derive more from khasas and also from intermarriage between the two than from Indian Rajput origins (as is frequently claimed by Nepal's Chhetri and Thakuri elites)
Beginning in the late Middle Ages Khas peoples progressively settled eastward across the smaller Rapti basin into the more productive Gandaki basin, again settling in the lower valleys where rice could be grown, thus displacing the indigenous Kham from the best farmland. The Khas formed new confederations called Baise Rajya (twenty-two kingdoms) in the Karnali region and Chaubisi Rajya (twenty-four kingdoms) in the Gandaki region that eclipsed the Kham politically.
In their turn the Baise and Chaubisi were conquered and unified into Nepal by Chaubisi prince Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha between 1743 AD and the end of the 18th century. Kham and other Magars participated as soldiers under Prithvi Narayan, then in armies of the unified state he founded. After expansion of this state came into conflict with the British Raj and was defeated, part of the Sugauli Treaty settlement gave the British the right to recruit Magars (along with other martial tribes) as Gurkha mercenaries.
 Kham Isolation
Highlands inhabited by Kham are a rugged knot of ridges reaching 3,000 to 4,000 meters some 50 km south of the Dhaulagiri range, forming a triple divide between the Karnali-Bheri system to the west, the Gandaki system to the east, and the smaller (West) Rapti and Babai river systems that separate the two larger systems south of this point. Since uppermost tributaries of the Karnali and Gandaki rise beyond the highest Himalaya ranges, trade routes linking India and Tibet developed along these rivers, whereas high ridges along the Rapti's northern watershed and then the Dhaulagiri massif beyond were rigorous obstacles. Similarly, eastward migration of Khas peoples detoured around these highlands by following the Mahabharat Range to the south or Dhorpatan valley to the north which—by Himalayan standards—offers exceptionally easy east-west passage. The Kham highlands may also have been left as a buffer between the easternmost Baise kingdom, Salyan and the westernmost Chaubisi kingdom Pyuthan. For the Khas, the intervening highlands unsuited for rice cultivation were hardly worth contesting. The movement of political focus eastward to Kathmandu in the 18th century—250 kilometers and more than a week's journey—also contributed to the growing isolation of Kham lands.
Kham isolation, official neglect, underdevelopment and poverty essentially continued through the 19th and 20th centuries. The main export was manpower as mercenaries to the British and Indian armies, or whatever other employment opportunities could be found for largely uneducated and unskilled labor. Kham also practice transhumance by grazing cattle, sheep and goats in summer pastures in subalpine and alpine pastures to the north, working their way down to winter pastures in the Dang-Deukhuri valleys, but the carrying capacity of pastures accessible to the Kham is finite. Despite unending toil, food shortages have become a growing problem that still persists. Food deficits were historically addressed by grain imports bought dearly with distant work at low wages.
As economic development brought schools electricity, motor roads, hospitals and a wider range of consumer goods to surrounding areas, few benefits trickled up into the highlands and contrasts became even more invidious. Perversely, development introduced motor transport which diminished porterage employment. Cultivating hemp and processing it into charas (hashish) lost standing as an income generator after 1976 when international pressure persuaded the national government to outlaw these recreational drugs and close government stores where those so inclined could freely purchase what was illegal in most of the world. Initiatives to replace the indigenous hallucinogen industry with cultivating fruit and produce largely failed after transport infrastructure reaching the Kham highlands proved inadequate to carry perishable goods to market.
 Kham participation in Nepalese Civil War
Despite adversity Kham Magars retained a robust oral history and a sense of past greatness which created grievances and made them receptive to the Maobadi (Maoist) movement that opposed the Shah regime in the 1996-2006 Nepalese Civil War and even the multiparty democracy that the Shahs toyed with. Rolpa and Rukum districts in the center of the Kham homelands became known as the Maoist heartland and Kham Magars were prominent as footsoldiers of its guerrilla forces.
- PDF Govind P. Thapa, Magar Studies Center.
- PDF Santa Bahadur Pun, Magar Studies Center.
- Magar Studies Center
- Ethnologue profile
- PDF Robert Gersony for Mercy Corps International, October 2003.
- PDF International Resources Group, Washington, DC, IRG Discussion Forum, #15.
- PDF Augusta Molnar, American Ethnologist, 9:3 (August 1982).
- Siberian shamanistic traditions among the Kham Magars of Nepal David Watters, Contributions to Nepalese Studies, 2:1 (February, 1975), Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu.
- John T. Hitchcock (1966) The Magars of Banyan Hill, New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
- de Sales, Anne (2007). "The Kham Magar Country: Between Ethnic Claims and Maoism". In Gellner, D.N. Resistance and the state: Nepalese experiences. Berghahn Books. pp. 326 ff. Retrieved April 11, 2011.