Madhesi people

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Madheshii People
Regions with significant populations
   Nepal ±10% total population, Total population Around 8500000 (2011)[1][2][3][4]
Tharu, Bajjika, Nepali, Rana-Tharu, Rajbanshi Magahi etc.[1]
Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam
Related ethnic groups
Indo-Aryan peoples

The Madheshi (Madhesī, Devnagri: मधेशी) are people who inhabit the Terai of Nepal, a southern strip of the country. The Terai region, which is mostly a flatland, is geographically and culturally distinct from the hills. According to the population census in 2011, it occupies 17% of the total area of Nepal, and has 51% of the population.

The madhesi comprise a collection of different communities, and madhesi people doesn't represent a single ethnicity. The term Madhesh refers to the Gangetic plain and the inner valley between Siwalik and the higher mountains.

Area and population[edit]

The total land area of Terai is less than 34,109 km2 and it comprise 20 Districts which accounts for 23.1% of the country's total area. In 2001, 47.79 of the country's total population of 23.2 million lived in Madhesh districts with a density of 329 persons/km2. While in 2011 more than 50% of the total population was reported to be living in Madhesh. The people of Madhesh origin (generally Madhesi) comprised about 35.9% country's population of which 10% are indigenous Madhesis, particularly only Tharu of Western Madhesh and Maithali of Eastern Madhesh origin.[5]


The word Madhesh (मधेश) derives from the Sanskrit words Madhya Desh (मध्य देश), meaning "middle country".[6]

Indigenous Madhesi[edit]

Indigenous Madhesi (Nepali:आदिवासी मधेशी ) are the original inhabitants of Terai-Madhesh such as Tharu and Maithali.[7] They are native to Nepal and not the migrants from neighbouring countries. [8][9]


Non-Madhesi (Nepali:गैर मधेशी) refers to immigrants from Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh who settled in Terai-Madhesh of Nepal. These immigrants people claim themselves to be Madhesi although they are considered to be Nepalese people of Indian origin[10] by Indigenous Madhesi people. Non-Madhesi have 90% lexial similarity in culture to that of Indigenous Madhesi but they were neither born in Nepal nor the original inhabitants of Madhesh. Constitution of Nepal 2063 declared these immigrants as Nepali people of Madhesi ethnicity although Indigenous Madhesi don't consider these immigrants as Madhesi ethnic groups as they were migrants of Indian origin not born in Madhesh of Nepal. They comprise about two-thirds of the total Madhesi population.[11][12][13]


While the majority of Madhesis are caste-observant Hindus, there is great cultural and religious diversity in the Madhesh. Two closely synchronized religious groups – Hindus -and Islam – live there. The social structure of Madhesi caste Hindus is somewhat similar to that of Terai immigrants Bihari Hindus from the neighboring Bihar state of India.[14][15][16]


Maithili is the most spoken language of Madhesi people at around 53% of them. At around 12% of the total Nepali people are Maithili speakers. Other significant mother tongue languages include Tharu, Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Urdu and Bajika and although the lingua franca language of Nepali people is Nepali language, in Terai particularly and among Madhesi people, it is Maithili. Hindi-Urdu was a lingua franca mainly spoken by Nepali Muslims and Newar Muslims.[17]


Food in Madhesh (Terai) south of Sivalik Hills refers to mirror cuisines such as Maithili cuisine[18] in the east, and Bhojpuri cuisine in the center and Tharu near west of Madhesh region of Nepal. Further west, there is Mughlai-influenced Awadhi cuisine—particularly eaten by the substantial Nepali Muslims population around Nepalganj. Madhesi diets can be more varied than in the Middle Hills because of greater variety of crops grown locally plus cash crops imported from cooler microclimates in nearby hill regions, as well as from different parts of Greater Nepal. Fruit commonly grown in the Terai include mango (aap), litchi, papaya (armewa/mewa), banana (kera/kela) and jackfruit (katahar/katahal).

Nepal has seven low elevation Inner Terai valleys enclosed by the Sivalik and Mahabharat ranges. Historically these valleys were extremely malaria and populated mainly by Tharu and Maithali who had genetic resistance. Since the valleys were isolated from one another, different they enclaves spoke different dialects and had different customs. They may have had different cuisines, although this has not been very well studied. Nevertheless they historically obtained a varied diet through hunting and gathering as well as shifting agriculture and animal husbandry. This contrasted with diets of Pahari Hindus that were predominantly agricultural and utilized only a few sources of animal protein because of religious or caste prohibitions. In the 1950s when Nepal opened its borders to foreigners and foreign aid missions, malaria suppression programs in the Inner Madhesh finally made it possible for people without genetic resistance to survive there, so they faced an influx of people fleeing land and food deficits in Madhesh. Conversion of forest and grassland to cropland and prohibitions on hunting shifted them in east and west away from land-based hunting and gathering, toward greater utilization of fish,[19] freshwater crab, prawns and snails from rivers and ponds. They also raise chickens and are reported to employ dogs to hunt rats in rice paddies and then roast them whole on sticks. Mutton may be obtained from nomadic hill people such as Kham Magar who take herds of sheep and goats up to sub-alpine pastures bordering the high Himalaya in summer, and down to Inner Madhesh valleys in winter. Increasing competition for land forces them away from shifting cultivation toward sedentary agriculture, so the national custom of eating rice with lentils gains headway. Nevertheless they also have unique ways of preparing these staples, such as rice and lentil dumplings called bagiya or dhikri[20] and immature rice is used to make a kind of gruel maar. Taro root is an important crop in the region. The leaves and roots are eaten. Sidhara[21] is a mixture of taro root, dried fish and turmeric that is formed into cakes and dried for preservation. The cakes are broken up and cooked with radish, chili, garlic and other spices to accompany boiled rice. Snails are cleansed, boiled and spiced to make ghonghi.[22]

Political parties[edit]

Notable people[edit]

The following are notable people from Madhesh.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Madhesi are 38% of total population - Nepal Census Bureau of Statistics, 2001 A.D". 
  3. ^ "Social Classes and Stratification". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  4. ^ Shrestha, Manesh (2008-03-19). "Three Nepali Madhesi killed in pre-election violence in Nepal". CNN online. Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  5. ^ "Madhesi population declared by Nepal Census of 2011". 
  6. ^ "Ethnic Groups". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  7. ^ "History on Madheshi people of Nepali origin indigenous to Terai (Madhesh) -". 
  8. ^ "Indigenous, Madhesi, Dalit, Disable and Women in Nepall. Author: Krishna H. Pushkar Issued by: secretary of Government of Nepal". 
  9. ^ "The Madhesi Movement: Prospects for Peace in Nepal". 
  10. ^ Non-Madhesis are immigrants of Indian origin
  11. ^ "Madhesi of Indian origin (Non-Madhesi)". 
  12. ^ "Nepal – The Madhesi Movement Lessons – 2007". 
  13. ^ "Madhesi Movement in Nepal: Implications for India". 
  14. ^ "Religion and Society". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  15. ^ "Hinduism". Nepal: A country study (Savada, Andrea Matles, ed.). Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress of the USA (1991).  This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  16. ^ Lawoti, Mahendra (2005). Towards a democratic Nepal: inclusive political institutions for a multicultural society. SAGE. pp. 91–98, 126. ISBN 0-7619-3318-2. 
  17. ^ Yadava, Yogendra P. "Linguistic Diversity in Nepal Perspectives on Language Policy". Tribhuvan University, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Nepali Mithila Cuisine". Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  19. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Fishing and the Tharus including Maithali
  20. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Bagiya – the rice flour dumplings made the Tharu way
  21. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Sidhara – the colocasia concoction
  23. ^ "Madhesi Jana Adhikar Nepali Forum - Popular in Nepali Politics". 

Further reading[edit]

  • Deepak Chaudhary. 2011. Tarai/Madhesh of Nepal; An Anthropological Study. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar.