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The Magar
Indigenous magar girls of Nepal.JPG
ethnic Magar girls in 2013
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Magar language
मगर भाषा

The Magars are among the oldest ethnic people in Nepal. Their ancestral homeland in Nepal extends from the western and the southern edges of the Dhaulagiri range of the Himalayas to the Mahabharat foothills in the south and Kali Gandaki river basin in the east. According to 2011 Nepal census, they are the largest indigenous group in Nepal, constituting 7.13% of Nepal's population, which places them as the third largest group of people after Chhetris and Brahmins.

The Magars can also be found in various parts of the world. Expatriate Magars can be found far and wide, from Japan to United States and from United Kingdom to United Arab Emirates.


A Magar woman dancing in traditional costume carrying traditional bamboo basket during the festival of Maghe Sakranti in Sydney.

Genetically and physically, Magar people are Mongoloid/east Asian. They are believed to have migrated from Tibet via Sikkim like other prominent ethnic groups.

Mythical stories on the Origins of Magars: There are interesting mythical stories describing the origins of Magars. Three different versions relative to three different language groups are presented.[2]

The Magar of the Bahra Magaranth east of the Kali Gandaki River) are said to have originated in the land of Seem. Two brothers, Seem Magar and Chintoo Magar, fought, and one remained in Seem, while the other left, ending up in Kangwachen in southern Sikkim. The Bhutia people lived at the northern end of this region. Over time, the Magars became very powerful and made the northern Bhutia their vassals. Sintoo Sati Sheng ruled in a very despotic manner, and the Bhutia conspired to assassinate him. Sheng's queen took revenge and poisoned 1,000 Bhutia people at a place now called Tong Song Fong, meaning "where a thousand were murdered". The Bhutia later drove the Magar out, forcing them to again migrate further south. As part of this migration, one group migrated to Simrongadh, one group moved towards the Okhaldhunga region, and another group seems to have returned to the east. No dates are given.

A second Magar federation called Athara Magarat was situated west of the Gandaki River, inhabited by western magars.

The Tarali Magar are said to have originated from a woman who fled the region of Jumla during a war between Kalyal kings. It is not known who her spouse, was but she arrived at Tarakot on the verge of giving birth to a son. One day the boy saw a strange phenomenon in the jungle lake where he went with his cattle. The lake is said to have filled with milk, and seven shining creatures, like fairies, were bathing in the waters of the lake. He was enthralled and came to observe them daily. One day he told his mother about this strange sight, and she advised him to touch the youngest of these angels; this would cause her to become human so he could marry her, and he brought the beautiful damsel to his mother. When they asked her who she was she replied in an unknown tongue which was incomprehensible for them. The devi was offered some bread, and she uttered the words, "Tai khe nan." Slowly they began to learn the language of this woman, and Kaike was spread among themselves. The language was called "Kaike", meaning "language of the Gods".


The group was first mentioned in AD 1100.[3] It is always understood, however, that they have resided around Palpa from time immemorial and that they were probably the earliest settlers from the north. This part of the country was formerly divided into twelve districts, each under its own ruler, being known as the Barah, or twelve Magarant[4] or twelve Thams, the members of each supposedly being of common extraction in the male line. Some records show these twelve areas as being Argha, Gulmi, Isma, Musikot, Khanchi, Ghiring, Rising, Bhirkot, Payung, Garhung, Dhor and Satung.[5] However, it is probable that some of the latter places should have been excluded in favour of Palpa, Galkot, Dhurkot, Char Hajar, Parbat, and even Piuthan and Salyan.[6]

The Magars of middle and western Nepal played a role in Nepal's formative history. Their kingdom was one of the strongest of west Nepal in and around Palpa District during the time of the 22 and 24 rajya principalities (17th and early 18th centuries).[7] The 18th-century king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Nepal announced himself as King of Magarat.

Many prominent historians of Nepal have claimed that Aramudi, an eighth-century ruler of the Kali Gandaki region, was a Magar King.[8][9][10][11] "Aramudi" derives from the word for 'river' in the Magar language.[12] 'Ari'-'Source of Water' + 'Modi'-'River'='Arimodi' or 'Aramudi', thus the literal meaning of Aramudi is 'source of river,but we can not say confidently about Aramudi because there are different claims of the historians.

Relation between Magars and Thakuri[edit]

The history of the Magars has often been interwoven with that of another caste from Western Nepal. The Shah king Prithvi Narayan Shah liked to be addressed as the King of Magrat. He told that Magar jachi bichari linu Thakuri jachi diththa dinu Thakuri and Magar. It is believed that members of these two communities were allowed to intermarry in the pre-modern Nepal. This has lead to historically close relations between the two communities and led to a situation in which an area inhabited by a Magar majority will have significant Thakuri minority and vice-versa.

In addition, Thakuri and Magar families share many surnames such as Rana, Uchai, Samal and Sen etc.Marriages between Magars and Thakuri do still take place, but modern views on caste espoused by certain politicians have lead to a cooling of relations between the two castes.


The Magars are structured with septs (clans), followed by sub-septs (sub-clans). The smallest groups are gotras.

Broadly speaking, Magars are divided into two main groups: Baraha Magaratis and Athara Magaratis. Before the unification of Nepal in the 18th century by the King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Magarat land was divided into two Magarat states. West of Kali Gandaki was called eighteen Magarat and East of Kali Gandaki was called twelve Magarat. They are mainly Ale, Budha, Gharti, Pun, Rana, Roka, Thapa clans. As a result, there are a total of seven Magar clans. Within these seven clans, more than 1100 sub-clans can be found. These Magar clans intermarry with one another and are equal in social standing.[6]

Linguistically, the Magars are divided into three groups. Baraha Magaratis speak Dhut dialect, whereas Athara Magaratis speak Pang and Kaike dialects.

MagarDhut-speakers: Rana, Ale, Thapa, Singjali, Rakhal, Ishmali, Gaha, Darlami, Masarangi, Khadka, Gharti, Naamjyali, Bucha, Saru, Khamcha, Pulami, Rajali and all magar clans and sub clans residing in twelve Magarat.

MagarPang-speakers: Ale, Budha, Gharti, Pun, Rana, Roka, Thapa, and Jhankri,Shreesh,Budhathoki,Garbuja,Purja,Ramjali and all magar clans and sub clans residing in eighteen Magarat.

KaikeMagar-speakers: Tarali Magar of Dolpa/Budha, Gharti, Rokaya, Kayat, Jhankri all Magar clans residing in Dolpa and Karnali districts.


Main article: Magar language

Of the 2,064,000 Magar people in Nepal, nearly 788,530 speak a Magar language as their mother tongue. The western magars of Rapti Zone speak Magar Pang kura. In Dolpa District, the Magar speak Magar Kaike language. The Magar languages are rooted in the Bodic branch of the Tibetan family. Magar Dhut kura speakers are all Magar clans residing in twelve Magarat. Similarly Magar Pang kura speakers are all magar clans from eighteen Magarat. Magar Kaike language speakers are all magar clans in Karnali zone. The 1971 census put the total population of those who spoke the Magar language at 288,383, i.e. 2.49 percent of the total population of Nepal, of which more than half lived in the Western hills of Nepal.[13]

Magar Words in Use[edit]

Many Magar words are used even today, especially as location names. Magar toponyms in Nepali include: Tilaurakot ("place selling sesame seed"), Kanchanjunga ("clear peak"), and * Tansen("straight wood")[14] Some scholars opine that the amount of Magar words in Nepali indicates that Magarat (historic Magar lands) were larger than generally believed, extending from Dhading to Doti.[15] They note that the place suffix -Kot indicates a place from which Magar kings formerly ruled.


The original religions or beliefs of Magar people are Shamanism and Tengriism and the western Magar practice Siberian shamanism. in which their priest is known as bhusal.

Magars of Western Nepal have been practicing shamanism during their kool pooja

The majority of Magars are Hindu, although buddhists is common in the Magar area, though are less evident in magar hinterlands, particularly in the ranges along the boundary between Rukum and Pyuthan-Rolpa districts . These hinterlands are geographically, and therefore culturally, isolated from the beaten tracks of transhimalayan trade routes and from rice-growing lowlands (Hitchcock, 1966:25-34).

Animists and shamanism form part of the local belief system; their dhami (the faithhealer or a kind of shaman) is called Dangar and their jhankri (another kind of faithhealer or shaman) is called Rama. Bhusal was the traditional spiritual and social leader of the Magars.[16] Magars have an informal cultural institution, called Bhujel, who performs religious activities, organizes social and agriculture-related festivities, brings about reforms in traditions and customs, strengthens social and production system, manages resources, settles cases and disputes and systematizes activities for recreation and social solidarity.[17] Some educated and prosperous Magars are shifting closer to traditional Hinduism in recent years.

Dress and ornaments[edit]

The Magar of the low hills wear the ordinary kachhad or wrap-on-loincloth, a bhoto or a shirt of vest, and the usual Nepali topi. The women wear the pariya or sari or lunghi, chaubandhi cholo or a closed blouse and the heavy patuka or waistband and the mujetro or shawl-like garment on the head. The higher-altitude Magars wear an additional bhangra, and the ones living in the Tarakot area even wear the Tibetan chhuba. The ornaments are the madwari on the ears, bulaki on the nose and the phuli on the left nostril, the silver coin necklace and the pote (green beads) with the tilhari gold cylinder and kuntha. Magar males do not wear many ornaments, but some are seen to have silver or gold earrings, hanging from their earlobes, called "gokkul". The magar girls wear the amulet or locket necklace, and women of the lower hills and the high-altitude ones wear these made of silver with muga stones imbedded in them and kantha. The bangles of gold and glass are also worn on their hands along with the sirbandhi, sirphuli and chandra on their heads. These are large pieces of gold beaten in elongated and circular shapes.


Agriculture and the military are the primary sources of income. Magars constitute the largest number of Gurkha soldiers outside Nepal.[18][19] Sarbajit Rana Magar became the head of government during the regency of Queen Rajendra Laxmi.[20] Biraj Thapa Magar, General Abhiman Singh Rana Magar and Sarbajit Rana Magar headed the Nepal army. Biraj Thapa Magar was the very first army chief in Nepal Army's history.[21] Magars are famous as gallant warriors wherever they served in the past. The Magars are well represented in Nepal's military, as well as in the Singapore Police Force, the British and Indian Gurkha regiments, and they are also employed as professionals in the fields of medicine, education, government service, law, journalism, development, aviation and in business in Nepal and other countries.

Dor Bahadur Bista's observation of Magar's occupation during the 1960s was:

Some of the northernmost Magars have become quite prosperous by engaging in long-range trading that takes them from near the northern border to the Terai, and even beyond to Darjeeling and Calcutta. Were it not for their role in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian and British armies, their self-sufficiency might be endangered.[22]

Toni Hagen, who did his field research in Nepal during the 1950s, observed:

Magars possess considerable skill as craftsmen: they are the bridge builders and blacksmiths among the Nepalese, and the primitive mining is largely in their hands. On the lower courses of the Bheri & Karnali rivers, a great number of Magars annually migrate to the Terai & there manufacture bamboo panniers, baskets, and mats for sale in the bazaars along the borders. In their most northerly settlement, on the other hand, the important trading centre of Tarakot on the Barbung river, they have largely adopted their way of life, their clothes, and their religion to that of the Tibetans; like the latter, they also live by the salt trade. As regard race, the Magars have almond-shaped eyes or even open eyes, whereas Mongoloid eyes are very rare.[23]

Military service[edit]

A number of Magars have distinguished themselves in military service under the British military. Dip Prasad Pun Magar was the first Nepali winner of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in Afghanistan in 2010. In the two world wars, total 5 Victoria Cross (out of 13 VCs awarded to Gurkhas) were awarded to the Magars:[24]

  • First World War:
    • Rifleman Kulbir Thapa, the very first Gurkha to win VC in recognition of his valor and bravery. He was from Gulmi, Bharse. He served in 2/3 Gurkha Regiment (GR). He received VC in France in 1915.
    • Rifleman Karanbahadur Rana, Gulmi, was from 2/3 GR. He received VC in Egypt in 1918.
  • Second World War:


  • Shintoo Sati Sheng/Sen- King of Kangwachan, Sikkim.
  • Aramudi- king of the Kali Gandaki region, 8th century.
  • Bali Hang Rana Magar- king of Baldeng Gadhi extended from Pokhara to Gorakhpur, 12th century,[26] west of Palpa.
  • Gajalaxman Singh, king of Makawanpur Gadhi.[27]
  • Mansingh Khadka Magar-king of Gorkha, till 27 Sept 1559 AD.
  • Subarnakar Rana (1000 AD) writer of 'Treatise on Buddhism'.
  • Ganga Rana from Lamjung, Nepal, wrote Asta Saahasrika Pragya Paarmita in 1070[28] and Treatise on Buddhism in 1069.
  • Tulu paija magar, a powerful king in western Nepal before unification of Prithiwi Narayan shaha.
  • Shohab Rana (शोहब राना):, Panchali Pradhan of Magwar Bisaya,(Magar Kingdom - present Dullu-Dailekha area) 1100 AD.[29]
  • Kaji Sarbajit Rana, Moolkaji, The Chief Administrator (Prime Minister) 1778
  • Kaji Biraj Thapa, the very first Chief of Nepalese Army, 18th Century.
  • Kaji Jayanta Rana, chief of Gorkhali Troops, later chief of Nuwakot force, 18th century.
  • General Abhimansingh Rana, Nepalese Army Chief, 19th Century.
  • Master Mitrasen Thapa, famous Nepali folk singer, social worker, resident of Bhagsu/Dharmasala, (India).
  • Gore Bahadur Khapangi, former minister and founding leader of Prajatantrik Janamukti Party.
  • Hem Bahadur Pun, founder and first chairman,Nepal Magar Association.
  • Giri Prasad Budhathoki, only Bada Hakim from Magars, Defense Minister, Honorary Major General of Nepalese Army.
  • Tap Bahadur Magar, justice of Nepal's Supreme Court.
  • Dr Harsha Bahadur Budha, the first PhD degree holder from Magar community, writer and intellectual.
  • Balaram Gharti Magar, held different ministries for 11 times including Defense Minister of Nepal Government.
  • Lakhan Thapa Magar, first martyr of Nepali state.
  • Jaybahadur Hitan Magar, 1st Central Executive Committee (Damauli, 2039 B.S.) Secretary of Nepal Magar Association
  • Teriya Magar, dancer.
  • Geetanjali Thapa Indian actress who won National Film Award for Best Actress (2013)
  • Barsaman Pun, first finance minister of Nepal from Magar community. He was from Rolpa district.
  • Ram Bahadur Thapa (Badal), Ex-Defence Minister of Nepal.
  • Lokendra Vista Magar, ex-Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister.
  • Kuber Sing Rana, ex IGP Chief of Nepal Police from Palpa.
  • Nanda Bahadur Pun, Vice President of Nepal.
  • Onsari Gharti Magar, the first female speaker of Parliament of Nepal.
  • Mahabir Pun, Magsaysay Award winner for extending wireless technologies in rural parts of Nepal.
  • Pramila Thapa, World Taekwondo Black Belt champion and 10th Dan


Under the leadership of minister Giri Prasad Burathoki, a first ever Magar Convention was held in Bharse of Gulmi District, one of the 12 Magarats in 1957. The objective of the conference was to sensitize the Magars to come forward in the national spectrum.[30]

Later Magar political and social organisations included Nepal Langhali Pariwar (1972), Nepal Langhali Pariwar Sang, and Langhali Pariwar Sangh.


  1. ^ 2011 Census, Nepal Government.
  2. ^ Tribal Ethnography of Nepal, Volume II, by Dr. Rajesh Gautam and Asoke K. Thapa Magar.
  3. ^ Eden Vansittart. 1993 (reprint). Sohab Rana Magar was also a ruler in Dullu Dailekh, western Nepal in AD 1100 (the earliest copper plate inscription from Nepal, 1977); a copper plate. The Gurkhas. New Delhi:Anmol Publications. p.21.
  4. ^ Northey, W. Brook & C. J. Morris. 1927. The Gurkhas Their Manners, Customs and Country. Delhi : Cosmo Publications. (122-125)
  5. ^ Brian Hodgson and Captain T Smith also give this information. Eden Vansittart. 1993 reprint. The Gurkhas. p.84.
  6. ^ a b Ministry of Defence. 1965. Nepal and the Gurkhas. London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office.p.27.
  7. ^ Dor Bahadur Bista. 1972. People of Nepal. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar. p.62.
  8. ^ Tek Bahadur Shrestha. 2003. Parvat Rajyako Aitihasik Ruprekha. Kirtipur: T.U.
  9. ^ Dr Swami Prapannacharya. (1994-95) Ancient Kirant History. Varanasi: Kirateshwar Prakashan. p.518.
  10. ^ Hark Gurung, Iman Singh Chemjong, B.K. Rana, Prof. Raja Ram Subedi, Prof. Jagadish Chandra Regmi etc. support the conclusion of Aramudi being the king of Kali Gandaki Region.
  11. ^ Mahesh Chaudhary. 2007. "Nepalko Terai tatha Yeska Bhumiputraharu". p.9
  12. ^ Tek Bahadur Shrestha. Op. cit.
  13. ^ Rishikesh Shaha. 1975. An Introduction of Nepal. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar. p.38.
  14. ^ Balaram Gharti Magar. 1999. Roots. Tara Nath Sharma (Tr.). Lalitpur: Balaram Gharti Magar.
  15. ^ Balaram Gharti Magar, 1999. Ibid.
  16. ^ Bista, 1996:66
  17. ^ Suresh Dhakal. 1996. "Bheja as a Cultural Strategic Cultural Convention. Community Resource Management in in the Barha Maagarat." Occasional Papers in Sociology and Anthropology, Volume 5, Tribhuvan University.
  18. ^ Dor Bahadur Bista. 1972. People of Nepal. Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar. p.664.
  19. ^ Eden Vansittart. 1993 (Reprint). The Gurkhas. New Delhi: Anmol Publications. p.67.
  20. ^ Rishikesh Shaha. 1975. p.32.
  21. ^ Army Chiefs' Historical Record. Army Museum. Chhauni, Kathmandu, Nepal.
  22. ^ Dor Bahadur Bista. 1972. p.64.
  23. ^ Tony Hagen. 1970. Nepal the Kingdom in the Himalayas. New Delhi: Oxford & IBH Publishing Co. p.84.
  24. ^ Y.M. Bammi. 2009. Gorkhas of the Indian Army. New Delhi: Life Span Publishers & Distributors. p.93.
  25. ^ Pradeep Thapa Magar. 2000. Veer Haruka pani Veer Mahaveer. p.9.
  26. ^ Nar Bahadur 'Naru Thapa'. 2067 BS. Kiraat Magar Itihas. Kathmandu: Nirantar Prakashan.
  27. ^ Nar Bahadur 'Naru Thapa'. ibid.
  28. ^ Tek Bahadur Shrestha. 2003. Parvat Rajya ko Itihasik Ruprekha. Kirtipur: Nepal & Asia Research Centre. p.99.
  29. ^ Dhanabajra Bajracharya. 2064 BS. Gopalraj Vanshawali Aitihasik Vivechana .Kirtipur:T.U.
  30. ^ B. K. Rana - Sanchhipta Magar Itihas 2003 - pp 82


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  • Aryal, Jibnarayan. (2058BS). Dr Harsha Bahadur Buda Magar: Bigat ra Bartaman. Lalitpur: Dr Harsha Bahadur Budha Magar.
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  • Pramod Thapa (Chief engineer at Dell international Services)
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External links[edit]