Tamang people

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A Tamang Woman
Buddhist Lama of the Tamang People, Tistung, Nepal

The Tamangརྟ་དམག་ (Devnagari: तामाङ; tāmāng), or Tamag, are the indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India, their ancestral land is called Tamsaling.[1][better source needed] They are the aborigines of Yambu, or Kathmandu Valley, who had self-rule and autonomous roughly 2 centuries before present,[2] systematically displaced during the expansion period of Gorkha Kingdom and this continues to the present day, the Central Development Region, Nepal remains where 70% of the population reside. The traditionally Buddhist Tamang are the largest Tibeto-Burman ethnic group within Nepal, constituting 5% of the national population of over 1.3 million in 2001, increasing to 1,539,830 as of 2011 census,[3] yet contested.[4] Tamang are also a significant minority in Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal of India as permanent settlers doing labor work;[2][5] their languages are fifth most spoken in Nepal (note all Tamang languages are not mutually intelligible). They were one of the aborigines who were least affected by the process of Nepalization or Khas-ization.[6] They were considered low caste automatically in the dominant Hindu state and system, and thus, there is exploitation, marginalization, and oppression of Tamang people.[7] Peculiar to Tamang people are complex marriage restrictions within the community.

Status as minority[edit]

1/3 of all deaths were among Tamang people, and roughly 2/3 of the 600,000 structures completely destroyed were in Tamang dominant areas.[7] It is the poverty, neglect and outright discrimination against Tamangs that makes them even more vulnerable to disasters like earthquakes, landslides and floods—Anthropologist Mukta Singh Lama.[7]

Due of their proximity to the capital city, governments have considered that an empowered Tamang community could pose a possible risk to their regimes and consequently have striven to ensure that the Tamang people have remained disenfranchised, exploited and dominated.[2] They were neither accepted into government posts, whether administrative, judicial or political, nor allowed to accept foreign employment till 1950, serving as a labor pool for the ruling class.[2] According to the Nepali civil code of 1856, their status was Shudra (The second lowest rank in the Hindu hierarchical system), which meant that they could be legally killed and enslaved by those of a higher caste without recourse. This situation prevailed until the new civil code was formulated in 1962. Much of their land was redistributed and this poverty and lack of a voice within Nepal remains a serious issue in modern Nepal.[2]

Tamangs are only represented by Tamsaling Rastriya Mukti Morcha and Tamsaling Nepal Rastriya Dal, neither of which holds any seats in Parliament. The umbrella group Mongol National Organisation supports self-determination and works against said discrimination not just for Tamangs but for all Mongoloid groups in the country. Mongol National is against conversion to Hinduism of non-Hindus, but it holds no official parliamentary vote. 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.[8] The associated Sanghiya Limbuwan Party has participated in calling banda during the 2015 Nepal blockade,[9] nevertheless international press had not only failed to take note of their bandh, but even pretended not to notice their very existence and instead focused intently on 4 party India-backed Madhesi Morcha actions, geopolitical concerns with China, as Limbuwan also opposes both the Madhesi goals as well as Kathmandu's domination.[10] However, there is rationale to India and Western nation's denial of information about Limbuwan actions during the fuel blockade, in the 1980s, a violent Gorkhaland movement within India was led by the prominent Tamang Subhas Ghising to which India had viewed as a security threat due to the proximity of India's chicken neck.[5] Madan Tamang, a Tamang-Indian politician, and proponent for Gorkhaland statehood, was assassinated in 2010, with West Bengal government placing blame on another Gorkhaland political party, in effect weakening the movement. Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was then created in place of statehood in India, nevertheless across the border, ethnic discrimination issues regarding the numerous Mongoloid groups (who have taken part in each other's politics) are left unresolved within Nepal. Prime Minister KP Oli of Nepal, who has dragged his feet for over 7 months completely failing to provide even minor post-quake relief to destitute and helpless communities in Tamang dominant areas, and even throughout the political and goods crisis with India over Madhesh, issued a statement from Itahari (the very area that had the FLSC (Limbuwan) party had enforced a bandh and claimed as their homelands) that The government will not spare those who take the law in their hands..and air secessionist views,[11] a vieled reference to Limbuwan actions.


The religion is considered by Tamangs as Bon Lamaism, distinct and predating Tibetan Buddhism, and due to geopolitical focus on Tibet, Tamangs hold their beliefs are also largely ignored by Western scholars.[2] Tamang have gompas (monasteries) in every sizeable village. Every family has their special Buddhist god and book to worship every morning. The Tamangs retain jhankris (shamans) in addition to their Lamas clan (Tamang) (priests), the latter whose surnames are also Lama. This is not to be confused with Lama of Tibet or the Sherpa Lama surname and clan. These jhankris perform certain rites such as trances and sacrifices to alleviate problems or assure good fortune.[2]

2015 Quake devastation and humanitarian crisis[edit]

Today they inhabit the borders of Nepal and Tibet, due to marginalization from Kathmandu, and are among the groups hardest hit by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake of which 1/3 of the dead were Tamang, and majority of their houses destroyed.[7] Only 38.3 per cent of the Tamangs can reach nearest health facilities by walking for 30 minutes. In terms of access to safe drinking water, the Tamangs rank sixth from the bottom. Almost all indicators show that the Tamangs have not benefitted from their geographical proximity to the capital Kathmandu. 381,976 buildings destroyed out of 600,000 were in areas dominated by Tamangs.[7] Additionally, Tamang and Chepang children were before the 2015 Nepal blockade were already were suffering from severe malnutrition.[12]


The word Tamang is re-constructed from 2 words: Ta – Horse and Mang – Businessman/Trader in the Tibetan language.[2]



Tamangs are divided into 240 families.[2] They observe some festivals quite distinct and original. The main festivals they follow include Lhochhar, Dashain, Tihar, they also celebrate Saune Sankrantee, Bhumi Puja, Kul Puja and Maghe Sakranti, with Lhochhar being the most important.[3] Lhochhar means literature new year in Tamang language. They wear new clothes, ornaments, visit relatives and respected persons and conduct festivities at the home. The holy book recites at the home and worships different god(ess)es to relieve from different evils in the whole year and wishes better for the coming year. Flags and colourful printed by Buddhist mantra, holy words and clothes are put in different places in the village.[3] Tamang have a dance called Tamang Selo that is performed to the Damphoo instrument, also known as Damphoo Dance, having a brisk movement and rhythmic beat peculiar to Tamangs.[5] This dance is performed during childbirth, marriage ceremonies, and village fairs.

Dashain is also approached with much enthusiasm by Tamangs.[3]


Most Tamangs are farmers, engaged in agriculture as small holders and day labour. Due to the lack of irrigation at higher altitudes, their crops are often limited to corn, millet, wheat, barley, and potatoes. They often supplement their farming income with manual labour. Due to the discrimination experienced by the Tamang people they have remained on the whole poorly educated, and the majority have been limited to working in farming, portering, mountain trekking, and driving in Kathmandhu. They also work in construction of Tibetan rugs, Thankas (Tibetan painting), driving, labour and trekking.[2] As far as farming is concerned, Tamang are dependent on rainfall and do not employ modern machinery.[3]

The majority of the Tamang population lives in 8 Districts: Kavrepalanchowk, Makwanpur District, Ramechhap District, Dhading District, Nuwakot District, Rasuwa District, Sindhupalchowk District, Dolakha District. The language also predominates in 2 further Districts: Rasuwa and Makwanpur.[2]

Kinship clans[edit]

Thars (Tamang language:Swagen Bhai) are exogamous clans with complex intermarriage restrictions. There are over 39 listed swagen bhai in one study.[3]

Origins and History[edit]

Tamangs have long inhabited Kathmandu Valley and the hills of Nepal in general, yet the origins of Tamang are exactly unknown, yet they believe they are indigenous to the area had once ruled Nepal. they have beliefs that they have been decended from mugughyalsa which is called as mugu district in modern district.[2]

Trekking and Tourism[edit]

Tamang villages are often visited on Nepal's numerous trekking routes, one being labelled Tamang Heritage Trail.[13] They also work as porters and the chances are that the Sherpas and Guides on a Trek are more likely to be a Tamang than an actual Sherpa.[2]


  1. ^ "About TAMANG | Nepal Tamang Society, Japan नेपाल तामाङ समाज जापान". Tamangsamaj.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m "The Tamang People - The Blue Space Guides Nepal". Thebluespace.com. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f https://publications.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/73036/Ghimire_Mahesh.pdf?sequence=1
  4. ^ note from: http://thebluespace.com/the-tamang-people/, "these figures are contested by the Tamang themselves as some had written Lama or their family name on the census form were not counted as Tamang and many others have in the past changed their caste in order to escape the caste limitations placed upon them."
  5. ^ a b c https://books.google.com/books?id=uLfE8HGwdIMC&pg=PA277 Emergent North-East : A Way Forward By H. C. Sadangi
  6. ^ "Account Suspended". Nefin.org.np. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  7. ^ a b c d e "The Brief » Blog Archive » The Tamang epicentre". Nepali Times. 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  8. ^ Chemjong, Iman Singh (2003). History and Culture of Kirat People (4th ed.). Kathmandu: Kirat Yakthung Chumlung. ISBN 99933-809-1-1.
  9. ^ "Sanghiya Limbuwan Party calls indefinite Eastern Region bandh". The Himalayan Times. 2015-09-04. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  10. ^ Om Astha Rai. "Look south | As It Happens". Nepali Times. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  11. ^ "Those airing secessionist remarks won't be spared, says PM KP Sharma Oli (Watch Full Video)". Onlinecanadanepal.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 
  12. ^ "The Kathmandu Post :: Malnutrition stalks quake-hit kids". ekantipur.com. 
  13. ^ Post Report. "The Kathmandu Post :: Tamang Heritage Trail reopens after quake". Kathmandupost.ekantipur.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23. 

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