Tamang people

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Tamang woman.jpg
Tamang woman
Total population
c. 1.7 million
   Nepal 1,539,830 [1]
 India 183,812
West Bengal146,203 (2011) [2]
Sikkim37,609 (2011)[3]
Tamang, Nepali
Related ethnic groups
Sherpa, Gurung, Thakali, Hyolmo

The Tamang (རྟ་དམག་; Devanagari: तामाङ; tāmāṅ) are an ethnic group originating in Nepal. Tamang people constitute 5.6% of the Nepalese population at over 1.3 million in 2001, increasing to 1,539,830 as of the 2011 census.[4] Tamang people are also found in significant numbers in the Indian state of Sikkim and districts of Darjeeling and Kalimpong in West Bengal state of India and various districts in the southern foothills of the Kingdom of Bhutan. Such districts include the Tsirang District, the Dagana District, the Samtse District, the Chukha District, the Sarpang District and the Samdrup Jongkhar District. [5] Tamang language is the fifth most spoken language in Nepal.[6]


Tamang may be derived from the word Tamang, where Ta means "horse" and Mang means warrior in Tibetan. However, there are no written documentations of Horse Rider.[7]

Tamang Girl Portrait


The Tamangs, who have lived in the hills outside the Kathmandu Valley since ages, have been mentioned in various Nepalese and colonial historical records under a variety of names, such as Bhote, Lama, Murmi, Sain, Yolmo, some of which terms erroneously conflate the Tamangs with Tibetans. Meanwhile the Tibetans called them Rongpa. Historian Ajitman Tamang identifies a dozen Tamang distinct gles (petty kings) with domains extending from Dhading to Ramechhap over much of east-central Nepal. Each of these gles ruled of a network of smaller principalities linked by clan ties and a common culture. Records like the dongrap and pharap show the connections between these various gles.[8]

Various Gorkha rulers led campaigns against the Tamangs, who resisted fiercely. The Gorkha Vamsavali provides details of battles with the Bhotyas of a variety of principalities between 1606 and 1762. In 1739, a Tamang ruler named Ghale-Botya attacked Narabhupal Shah as he was marching towards Nuwakot, and Narabhupal Shah also fought several battles against Golma Ghale of Dhading. In 1762, Prithvi Narayan Shah attacked the Tamangs in Temal, the Tamang cultural heartland. Tamang oral history tells how the local king, Rinjen Dorje, was 'treacherously' killed by the Gorkhas, who had hidden their weapons in the sand on the Sunkoshi riverbank. Afterwards, the Gorkhas washed their weapons in springs as Dapcha Kuwapani, and this is why to the modern day Tamangs do not drink there. Similar stories appear in oral histories throughout the Tamang region.[8]

After the conquest of the Tamang region, their traditional land, known as kipat to the Gorkhas, was granted to Gorkha generals or government officials who had pleased the king in some way, displacing the Tamangs from their own kipat lands. Previously Tamang landholdings had been divided up by clan. Tamangs also had various forced labour obligations, both in times of peace and war, that differed significantly from other regions of Nepal. One reason is the proximity of the Tamang homeland to the centre of royal administration at Kathmandu.[8]

Tamangs were also the traders of Tibet, who were involved in Sino-Nepalese War (Nepali: नेपाल-चीन युद्ध), also known as the Sino-Gorkha war and in Chinese the campaign of Gorkha (Chinese: 廓爾喀之役).The war was initially fought between Nepalese Gorkhas and Tibetan Tamang armies over a trade dispute related to a long-standing problem of low-quality coins manufactured by Nepal for Tibet. It is believed that Tibetian Tamangs who travelled to Nepal for trade purposes, had settled in and around Kathmandu valley.

Political participation[edit]

Some ethnographers have drawn a link between Tamang people and ancient Mongol populations who emigrated to the Himalayas.[9] Tamsaling Nepal Rastriya Dal, and the more broadly representative Mongol National Organisation (MNO), support self-determination for Tamangs and campaign on an anti-discrimination platform. The MNO opposes conversion of non-Hindus to Hinduism. It currently holds no official parliamentary vote. The Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) also works towards similar goals for self-determination for the Kirati peoples, who co-mingle with Tamangs, citing a reneged treaty with Kathmandu for autonomy.[10] The associated Sanghiya Limbuwan Party has participated in calling a banda during the 2015 Nepal blockade[11] in an attempt to draw attention to their demands.[12] In the 1980s, a militant Gorkhaland movement within India led by the prominent Tamang Subhas Ghising was viewed as a security threat due to its activities in and around the strategically significant Siliguri Corridor.[5] Madan Tamang, a Tamang-Indian politician and proponent for Gorkhaland statehood, was assassinated in 2010, with the West Bengal government placing blame on another Gorkhaland political party. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was created as a compromise to Ghorkaland statehood in India. In Nepal, ethnic tensions between numerous groups remain an issue. In 2017 Binay Tamang was appointed as the Chairperson of GTA.[13]


Tamang tradition and culture includes a distinct language, culture, dress and social structure. They have over 100 sub-clans. About 90% of the Tamang are Buddhist.[14] Their language, Tamang, comes from the Tamangic branch of the Tibeto-Burman language family and is closely related to Gurung. They follow the Chinese lunar calendar of the 12-year cycle. Colorful printed Buddhist mantra cloths are put up in various places in villages and towns.[4]

Their typical song and dance style is known as Tamang Selo, and includes songs representing humor, satire, joy and sorrow. It has a brisk movement and rhythmic beat specific to the Tamangs.[5] A distinctive musical instrument is the damphu, a small, round drum covered with goatskin. Traditional Tamang songs are known as Hwai. Sung by Tamang genealogists called Tamba, Hwai songs are ritualistic and hold tremendous importance in Tamang rituals. [15]


Sonam Lochar Festival

Sonam Lhochhar is the main festival of the Tamangs and is celebrated in the month of Magh (February–March).[16] It is celebrated to welcome the Tamang new year.

Also significant is Buddha Jayanti, a religious festival based on birthday of Gautam Buddha.[7]

Trekking and tourism[edit]

Tamang villages are often visited on Nepal's numerous trekking routes, one being labelled Tamang Heritage Trail.[17]

Notable Tamangs[edit]


  1. ^ ["Demography Population Nepal Census 2011" Check |url= value (help) (PDF).
  2. ^ "Population of West Bengal 2011".
  3. ^ "Population of Sikkim 2011".
  4. ^ a b "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2015-12-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. ^ a b c Sadangi, H. C. (November 2008). Emergent North-East : A Way Forward. ISBN 9788182054370. Archived from the original on 2016-04-27. Retrieved 2015-12-23. Emergent North-East : A Way Forward By H. C. Sadangi
  6. ^ "Report on Socio-Economic Status of Tamang–Kavre". Nefin.org.np. Archived from the original on 2013-03-12. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  7. ^ a b "Who actually are the Tamang People? An Insight into Indigenous Tribe of Nepal". Chronicles of ADVENTURE TRAVEL. 2015-01-05. Archived from the original on 2018-03-01. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  8. ^ a b c Gellner, David (2009-09-10). Ethnic Activism and Civil Society in South Asia. SAGE Publications India. ISBN 978-81-321-0422-3.
  9. ^ F. J. Castilla, J. Agulló, J. Castellote (2020). CHARACTERIZATION AND PROPOSALS FOR RECOVERY OF TRADITIONAL TAMANG CONSTRUCTION IN NORTHERN NEPAL. The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences, Volume XLIV. ISSN 2194-9034
  10. ^ Chemjong, Iman Singh (2003). History and Culture of Kirat People (4th ed.). Kathmandu: Kirat Yakthung Chumlung. ISBN 99933-809-1-1.
  11. ^ "Sanghiya Limbuwan Party calls indefinite Eastern Region bandh". The Himalayan Times. 2015-09-04. Archived from the original on 2015-12-23. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  12. ^ Om Astha Rai. "Look south | As It Happens". Nepali Times. Archived from the original on 2015-12-23. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  13. ^ "GTA reconstituted, rebel GJM leader Tamang is chairperson". The Hindu. Special Correspondent, Special Correspondent. 2017-09-21. ISSN 0971-751X. Archived from the original on 2018-02-28. Retrieved 2018-02-28.CS1 maint: others (link)
  14. ^ "National Museum". www.nationalmuseum.gov.np. National Museum. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  15. ^ Himalayan, Cultures. "Oral Traditions of the Tamang People". Retrieved 2021-08-01.
  16. ^ "Sonam Lhochhar celebrated | Street Nepal". streetnepal.com. Archived from the original on 2016-08-16. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  17. ^ Post Report. "The Kathmandu Post :: Tamang Heritage Trail reopens after quake". Kathmandupost.ekantipur.com. Archived from the original on 2015-12-08. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  18. ^ "Melody queen Aruna Lama". Boss Nepal. Retrieved 2018-03-11.
  19. ^ Kalakar, Hamro. "Gopal Yonzon Biography | Hamro Kalakar". www.hamrokalakar.com. Retrieved 2018-03-11.

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