From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Guthi (guthi गुथि in Nevārī, guṭhī गुठी in Nepālī, etymologically from Sanskrit goṣṭhī गोष्ठी) is a social organization that is used to maintain the socio-economic order of Newar society, preveling among the several cast such as Shresthas and Singhs [1] The guṭhī system has been in existence since 15th to 16th century .[2] Presently, most of the guṭhīs are defunct and are vestigeal representation of what once was the most powerful social organization of the Newars. However, Some of these guṭhīs still exist with its own purpose and its functions governed by the internal unwritten rules; often kept secret and revealed only to its members. During the course of time, the male family members (often the bloodline) of pre-existing members are handed out the responsibilities associated with the guṭhī.

Organizational structure[edit]

Guthi is traditionally a patriarchal kinship based on certain norms that are moderated by the guṭhī system.[3] It consists of a thakali or the eldest person of the guṭhī. The consent of the thakali is essential for the formulation of most of the norms of the guṭhī.

Guthi is a form of institutional landownership, the religious and charitable aspects of which have given rise to special problems and characteristics in the fields of land tenure and taxation.

Role in society[edit]

Guthi have played an important role in maintaining a harmony in Newari society and in preventing anarchy.[4]

The Guthi is a system that has been part of the Newa social system in the Kathmandu Valley since the 5th century BC. The Guthi system is a trust, whereby land is donated to this trust. This land is then tilled upon by members of the local community and the revenue generated is not only a source of economy for the community but is also utilized to undertake various works within the community such as restoration of temples, patis (rest houses), maths (priest houses), dhunge dharas (stone water spouts) and so on. This revenue is also used to carry out various festivals, customs, rites and rituals. It was a system, therefore, that engaged the local community in terms of not only tilling the land but also engaging a group of people such as masons, shilpakars (the group of people who work with wood) and helping them to develop their skill. It also benefitted the local community economically through the revenue generated and also provided a framework within which the local community could protect their tangible and intangible culture, enabling them to protect their very identity.

Donation of land to the Guthi is considered to be a very good deed and is believed to have religious merits according to Nepalese culture. Historically, kings and the royals as well as local people would donate land to the Guthi with the belief that it would bring spiritual deliverance for seven generations. Donation of land to the Guthi was also a symbol of status in society and was highly regarded. Furthermore, another reason for endowment was to prevent the State to confiscate property as it was considered a great crime to confiscate Guthi land. All these reasons helped in the pooling of land within these Guthi which was then used as a base on which regular income could be generated and to undertake various activities.

The Guthi system was basically associations formed by groups of people based often on various castes, which were in turn formed in the past based on occupations. Guthis existed for the Gods, the living and the dead and all activities concerning these three themes were carried out by the members of the Guthis. Although most of the Guthi system is now slowly becoming lost due to changes in the social structure of communities and more so due to significant changes in the past fifty years such as the nationalization of the Guthi System and land reform campaigns, most Guthis do still exist although the activities that they conduct may have diminished considerably.

The Guthi system is therefore integrated into the social structure of the communities and hence was not only successful but also highly sustainable. It is a system like no other in the world and can be highlighted as a model of a system that worked not only to preserve tangible but also intangible aspects of culture within the Kathmandu Valley.[5]


  1. ^ Title:नेपाली संस्कृतिका छटाहरु, Author:Mangala Devi Singh, Publisher:Dr.Meeta Singh
  2. ^ Guthi Sansthan, Government of Nepal
  3. ^ Title:नेपाली संस्कृतिका छटाहरु, Author:Mangala Devi Singh, Publisher:Dr.Meeta Singh
  4. ^ Title:नेपाली संस्कृतिका छटाहरु, Author:Mangala Devi Singh, Publisher:Dr.Meeta Singh
  5. ^

Further reading[edit]

  • Regmi, Mahesh Chandra (1976). Landownership in Nepal. University of California Press. p. 252. ISBN 9780520027503.
  • Bernhard Kölver and Hemraj Śakya, Documents from the Rudravarna-Mahävihära, Pätan. 1. Sales and Mortgages (1985), esp. disc. on pp. 18–21.
  • U. N. Sinha, Development of Panchayats in Nepal (Patna, 1973, chapter IV.
  • Mary Slusser in Nepal Maṇḍala (1982).
  • John K. Locke, Buddhist Monasteries of Nepal (Kathmandu: Sahayogi Press, 1985), esp. pp. 10, 14, and passim.
  • Phanindra Ratna Vajracharya, "Role of Guthi in Newar Buddhist Culture” (1998 conference paper summary).