Tharu languages

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थारु, थरुवा, थरुहट
Regions in Nepal and India with significant Tharu population
Native toNepal, India
EthnicityTharu (incl. Bhoksa)
Native speakers
1.7 million in Nepal (2021 census)[1][2]
370,000 or more in India (1997–2007)[2]
Official status
Official language in
Language codes
ISO 639-3Variously:
thl – Dangaura Tharu
tkt – Kathariya Tharu
thr – Rana Tharu
the – Chitwania Tharu
thq – Kochila Tharu
tkb – Buksa
soi – Sonha

The Tharu (Tharu: थारु, Hindi: थरुवा) or Tharuhat (Nepali: थरुहट) languages are any of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by the Tharu people of the Terai region in Nepal, and neighboring regions of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India.[3][4]

Tharu languages are spoken in the Tharu community. These languages are similar to other neighboring languages. Tharu language is one of the major language spoken in Nepal.[5]

Although their own precise classification within Indo-Aryan remains uncertain, Tharu languages have superficial similarities with neighbouring languages such as Kumaoni, Awadhi, Maithili, Bengali, Rajbanshi and Bhojpuri. The lexicon of certain Tharu households is indicative of an archaic, 'indigenous' substratum, potentially predating both Sino-Tibetan or Indo-Aryan settlement. Tharu languages appear to be transitional within the context of Indo-Aryan.[6]

Languages and dialects[edit]

Tharu communities in different parts of Nepal and India do not share the same language like the other ethnic groups as it varies between the eastern, central and western Terai. There are various Tharu languages spoken by the several endogamous subgroups of Tharu that are scattered over most of the Terai region. Lexical similarity between various Tharu languages varies between 81% to 51% depending upon the Tharu language.[7]

Western Tharu languages[edit]

Dangaura and Kathariya Tharu are mutually-intelligible Tharu variants spoken west of the Gandaki River, by approximately 1.3 million people.[8][9] Furthermore, an additional variant of Tharu, known as Sonha, is largely mutually intelligible with Dangaura.[10]

Rana Tharu and Buksa are mutually-intelligible Tharu variants spoken by approximately 250,000 people west of Karnali river and in the Indian states of Uttrakahand and Uttar Pradesh. It sounds similar to Western Hindi and Awadhi.[11] The Nepal Charter dated 18 May 2020 lists Rana Tharus as a distinct ethnic group and their language as a distinct language.[12]

Central Tharu languages[edit]

Chitwania Tharu also known as Lalpuriya Tharu, Madhya Ksetriya Tharu or Central Tharu is spoken by approximately 250,000 speakers east of the Gandaki River, in and around the Chitwan Valley. Certain Chitwania variants appear to have considerable lexical similarities with Manchad, a Sino-Tibetan language.[13][14]

Eastern Tharu languages[edit]

Kochila Tharu also called Morangiya, Saptariya Tharu, Madhya-Purbiya Tharu or Mid-Eastern Tharu is a diverse Tharu variant, spoken by approximately 250,000 people, in regions of eastern and central Nepal.[15] Kochila Tharu communities are not found in isolation, but live in districts intermixed with speakers of other languages. “In contrast with western Terai where the Tharus are the only and dominant ethnic minority, the eastern – especially the far eastern – Terai is inhabited by several ethnic groups with very different linguistic affiliation”. Kochila has three main dialects spoken throughout mid-central and eastern Nepal which are Western Kochila, Saptariya Kochila and Morangiya Kochila on the basis of their intelligibility.[16]

Official Status[edit]

Tharu language is the fourth most commonly spoken language of Nepal accounting for 5.88% of total population of Nepal as per the 2021 census.[17][18] According to The Constitution of Nepal 2015 (2072 B.S.) all native languages spoken in Nepal are National languages of Nepal including Tharu.[19] The Language Commission of Nepal has recommended Tharu be made an official administrative language in Lumbini and Sudurpaschim Province.[20] The commission has also recommended Tharu be made the additional official language in all the provinces of Nepal i.e Bagmati, Koshi, Madhesh, Gandaki and Karnali province for specific regions and purposes in the province. [21] At local level, Tharu has official status in Ghorahi sub-metropolitan city of Dang district.[22][23][24]

Geographical distribution[edit]


In Nepal Tharu languages are spoken throughout the Terai region from Mechi river in the east to Mahakali river in the west in following districts:[18][25]

With an increase in internal migrants and international emigration Tharu-speaking people have emerged in every district of Nepal and various countries such as the US, Japan, Qatar, UAE and Australia.[26][27]


In India Tharu language is spoken in border side areas of Nepal. In the state of Uttrakhand it is spoken in the district of Udham Singh Nagar.[28] In Bihar it is spoken in East Champaran and West Champaran districts.[29] In Uttar Pradesh it is spoken in Lakhimpur Kheri, Balrampur, Shravasti, Gorakhpur, Basti, Bahraich and Gonda districts.[4]


The following consists mostly of the Daungara and Rana dialects:


Labial Dental/
Retroflex Post-alv./
Velar Glottal
voiceless p t ʈ k
aspirated ʈʰ tʃʰ
voiced b d ɖ ɡ
breathy ɖʱ dʒʱ ɡʱ
Nasal voiced m n (ɲ) ŋ
breathy ŋ̈
Fricative s h
Tap voiced ɾ
breathy ɾ̤
Trill voiced (r)
breathy ()
Lateral voiced l
Approximant w j
  • /n/ can be heard as a palatal [ɲ] when preceding a palatal affricate.
  • /ɾ, ɾ̤/ may be in free variation with trill sounds [r, ] in the Rana dialect.
  • Palato-alveolar affricate sounds /, tʃʰ, , dʒʱ/ are heard as alveolar affricate sounds [ts, tsʰ, dz, dzʱ] in the Rana dialect.[30]


Front Central Back
High i u
Mid e ə o
Low a
Diphthong əi əu
  • Nasalization also occurs as /ĩ, ũ, , ə̃, õ, ã/.
  • Vowels /i, u, e, a/ are heard as [ɪ, ʊ, ɛ, ɑ] when in lax form.
  • /ə/ is heard as [ɐ] when preceding or following velar or glottal consonants.
  • /a/ can be heard as [æ] when following /j/ or as [ɒ] when following /w/.[31]


  1. ^ National Statistics Office (2021). National Population and Housing Census 2021, mother tongue Report. Government of Nepal (Report).
  2. ^ a b Dangaura Tharu at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Kathariya Tharu at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Rana Tharu at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Chitwania Tharu at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Kochila Tharu at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    Buksa at Ethnologue (27th ed., 2024) Closed access icon
    (Additional references under 'Language codes' in the information box)
  3. ^ Office of the Registrar General, India (2001). "Uttaranchal. Data Highlights: The Scheduled Tribes. Census of India 2001" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-03-16.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  4. ^ a b Office of the Registrar General, India (2001). "Uttar Pradesh. Data Highlights: The Scheduled Tribes. Census of India 2001" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Guneratne, Arjun (2002). Many Tongues, One People: The Making of Tharu Identity in Nepal. Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0-8014-8728-6.
  6. ^ The Indo-Aryans of Ancient South Asia: Language, Material Culture and Ethnicity
  7. ^ Krauskopff, G. (1995). "The anthropology of the Tharus: an annoted bibliography" (PDF). Kailash. 17 (3/4): 185–213.
  8. ^ Linguistic Survey of Nepal (LinSuN) Central Department of Linguistics Tribhuvan University. "Dangaura Tharu language" (PDF).
  9. ^ "Copula Construction in Kathariya Tharu".
  10. ^ Chaudhary, Anil Dutta. "Phonological study of the Sonaha language".
  11. ^ Dhakal, Dubi Nanda. "Notes on Rana Tharu language".
  12. ^ @therecord. "Five misconceptions about Rana Tharus - The Record". Retrieved 2024-01-04.
  13. ^ George van Driem, 2007, "Endangered languages of South Asia", in Matthias Brenzinger, Mouton de Gruyter
  14. ^ 1972 Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS) & SIL International, Dorothy Leal. "Chitwan Tharu phonemic summary" (PDF). Language and Culture Archives.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Linguistic Survey of Nepal (LinSuN), Central Department of Linguistics Tribhuvan University, Nepal and SIL International 2013. "A Sociolinguistic Study of Kochila Tharu in Southeast Nepal" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2022-10-23. Retrieved 2022-10-08.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link) CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  17. ^ "Nepal languages". Retrieved 15 Dec 2023.
  18. ^ a b "caste-ethnicity-report | national_population and housing_census_year results". Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  19. ^ "The Constitution of Nepal" (PDF). Nepal Law Commission. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  20. ^ ""सरकारी कामकाजको भाषाका आधारहरूको निर्धारण तथा भाषासम्बन्धी सिफारिसहरू (पञ्चवर्षीय प्रतिवेदन- साराांश) २०७८" Language Commission (in Nepali)". Archived (PDF) from the original on 6 September 2021. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  21. ^ "सरकारी कामकाजको भाषाका आधारहरूको निर्धारण तथा भाषासम्बन्धी सिफारिसहरू (पञ्चवर्षीय प्रतिवेदन- साराांश) २०७८" (PDF). Language Commission (in Nepali). Language Commission of Nepal. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-09-06. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  22. ^ "Ghorahi to start classes in Tharu language". (in Nepali). Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  23. ^ "Native language teaching fails to impress Tharu community". Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  24. ^ "Tharu to become official language in Ghorahi". My Republica. Retrieved 2024-04-04.
  25. ^ "Map View: Table LANGUAGE - NepalMap". Retrieved 2024-04-04.
  26. ^ "Nepali Tharu community is all set to celebrate maghi festival for the first time in Australia". SBS Language. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  27. ^ "Nepalese Tharu community celebrates Maghi". Gulf Times. 2016-02-16. Retrieved 2024-01-27.
  28. ^ "Table C-16 Population by Mother Tongue: Uttarakhand". Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India.
  29. ^ PTI (2022-06-12). "Bihar: Tharu and Surjapuri languages facing extinction". ThePrint. Retrieved 2023-12-15.
  30. ^ Dhakal, Dubi Nanda. Notes on Rana Tharu Grammar Notes.
  31. ^ Boehm, Edward D. (2003). A Descriptive Phonology of Dangaura Tharu.