Madhesi people

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Madheshi People
Regions with significant populations
   Nepal ±30% total population, Total population Around 8500000 million (2011)[1][2][3][4]
Hindi, Rajbanshi, Bhojpuri, etc.[1]
Hinduism, Islam, Christianity
Related ethnic groups
Indian people

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

The Madhesi comprise a collection of different communities, and Madhesi people don't represent a single ethnicity. The term Madhesh refers to the Indo-Gangetic Plain between the Ganges and the Indo-Nepal border.

Area and population

The total land area of Terai is less than 34,109 square kilometres (13,170 sq mi) and comprises 20 districts which account 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 Terai districts with a density of 329 persons/km2. While in 2011 more than 50% of the total population was reported to be living in the Terai. The people of Indian origin (generally Madhesi) comprised about 35.9% country's population, of which 18% are Madhesis, particularly the Maithils. The other major ethnic minority in the Terai of Nepal are the autochthonous Tharu people.[5]


The word Madhes derives from the Sanskrit term Madhyadēśa "middle country", referring to the ancient kingdoms of Nepal and Awadh, in what is nowadays modern-day India.[6]

Indigenous Madhesi

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


The Maithili is the most spoken language of Madhesi people at around 53% of them which is around 12% of the total population. The Tharu languages, the language of the indigenous Terai people, ranks second. Other significant mother tongue languages include the Bhojpuri, Awadhi, Hindustani and Bajika and although the lingua franca is Nepali, in Terai particularly and among Madhesi people, it is Maithili. Hindustani was the lingua franca mainly of Newar Muslims.[14]


Food in Madhesh refers to mirror cuisines such as Maithali cuisine which is completely similar to that of Bihari people of India. [15] in the eastern Madhesh, and Tharu cuisine in the western Terai. 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 populated mainly by Tharu people who had genetic resistance to malaria. Since the valleys were isolated from one another, different 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 other 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 Terai finally made it possible for people without genetic resistance to survive there, so they faced an influx of people from Bihar 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,[16] freshwater crab, prawns and snails from rivers and ponds. They also raised 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 Terai 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[17] 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[18] 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.[19]

Political parties

Notable people

The following are notable people from Madhesh.

See also


  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. ^ Yadava, Yogendra P. "Linguistic Diversity in Nepal Perspectives on Language Policy" (PDF). Tribhuvan University, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies. Retrieved 31 August 2014. 
  15. ^ "Nepali Mithila Cuisine". Retrieved 12 September 2010. 
  16. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Fishing and the Tharus
  17. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Bagiya – the rice flour dumplings made the Tharu way
  18. ^ VOICE OF THARUS: Sidhara – the colocasia concoction
  20. ^ "Madhesi Jana Adhikar Nepali Forum - Popular in Nepali Politics". 

Further reading

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