Chepang people

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The Chepang
Total population
52,237 [1]
Regions with significant populations
Chepang language
Nepali language
A typical Chepang home in Makwanpur District, Nepal
A traditional device used by Chepang to extract oil from Chiuri seeds

The Chepang are an indigenous Tibeto-Burman people group numbering around fifty-two thousand mainly inhabiting the rugged ridges of the Mahabharat mountain range of central Nepal.[2]

Over the past two or three generations the Chepang have begun to slowly shift from a semi-nomadic (slash-and-burn) lifestyle to a more settled way of life, relying increasingly upon the produce of permanent fields of maize, millet and bananas. The severe topography, however, has made permanent farming difficult (and usually insufficient) and the forest has remained an important (although decreasingly so) source of food for the Chepang. Historically, the collection of wild yams and tubers, fish caught from nearby rivers, bats and wild birds, and periodically wild deer hunted from nearby forests, have supplemented their need for carbohydrates and protein. With increasing population, lack of arable land and few irrigation options, despite forest supplements, malnutrition has been an historic problem for the Chepang who have often been characterized as the poorest of Nepal’s poor.[3] Chepang men and women are basically egalitarian and no social ranking exists as it does in caste Nepalese society.

The Chepangs themselves follow Animism, although they are strongly influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism, which came from the Tamangs just north of them. They observe all the Hindu festivals of Dashain, Tihar and Sakrantis besides their own tribal festival Nwagi, which is performed on a Tuesday during third week of Bhadra (some day in August and September). According to the 2001 Nepal Census, there are 52,237 Chepang in the country, of which 67.63% were Hindu, 23.38% were Buddhists, 7.49% were Christians, and 1.25 % others.[4]

The language is also known as Chepang but is called Chyo-bang by the people themselves. Some Bahun Chettri castes call these people the "Praja" meaning "political subjects". The people speak 3 different dialects of this Tibeto-Burman language that is closely related to Raute and Raji, two undocumented languages spoken in western Nepal.

Chepang language is one of the few languages which uses a duodecimal (base 12) counting system rather than the decimal (base 10).


  1. ^ 2011 Census, Nepal Government.
  2. ^ Beine, Caughley and Shrestha. 2012. Chepang Then and Now: Life and Change Among the Chepang of Nepal. Blurb Books.
  3. ^ Beine, Caughley and Shrestha. 2012. Chepang Then and Now: Life and Change Among the Chepang of Nepal. Blurb Books.
  4. ^ [1][dead link]