Tharu languages

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(not a linguistic group)
Native to Nepal, India
Ethnicity Tharu (incl. Bhoksa)
Native speakers
1.53 million in Nepal (2011 census)[1]
400,000 or more in India (1997–2007)[1]
Official status
Official language in
Tharuban of Nepal
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
thl – Dangaura Tharu
tkt – Kathoriya Tharu
thr – Rana Tharu
the – Chitwania Tharu
thq – Kochila Tharu
tkb – Buksa Tharu
soi – Sonha
Glottolog thar1284[2]

The Tharu (Nepali: थारु) or Tharuhat (Nepali: थरुहट) languages are any of the Indo-Aryan languages spoken by the Tharu people of the Inner and Outer Terai of Nepal, and of neighboring parts of the states of Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in India.

The Tharu have lived long enough in lands rendered marshy and intensely malarial by rivers and groundwater percolating out of the Siwalik foothills to have evolved resistance enough to live where most ethnic groups could not before the arrival of quinine and DDT. Thus the Tharu may already have been in place before the first Indo-Aryan incursions more than three thousand years ago, or even before the population of the higher hills to the north by Tibeto-Burman peoples. Tharu languages are diverse, many varieties are dialects of Awadhi, Maithili, and Bhojpuri. Certain households use words that appear to be traces of an older language or languages. For example, Citvan (Chitwania) Tharu is basically Awadhi, but some households use words that resemble Manchad.[3]

Dialects spoken west of the Gandaki River are called Dangaura (Chaudary),[4] Kathoriya,[5] Rana, and Buksa are mutually intelligible apart from their geographic extremes, and are spoken by about 1.3 million. Sonha is largely mutually intelligible with Dangauru.

Just east of the Gandaki Chitwania[6] (Nawalparasi) has a quarter million speakers in and around Chitwan Valley. In eastern Nepal Kochila is also spoken by a quarter million. Kochila is dialectically diverse, but the dialects are only recorded according to the name of the local district.[7] Many ethnic Kochila have adopted Maithili.

On the ground, it becomes more difficult to say exactly what a given person speaks. Tharu languages form a dialect continuum so nearby villages have no difficulty understanding each other, even if they may be formally assigned different dialects. With greater separation distance, communication becomes more difficult even within the same nominal dialect.

Tharu languages also exist in continuum with adjacent Indo-Aryan languages. In the west, Tharuhati intermingles with Hindi languages particularly Awadhi. East of the Gandaki Tharuhati intermingles with Bihari languages Bhojpuri, then with Nepali languages Maithili further east.[8][9]


  1. ^ a b Dangaura Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Kathoriya Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Rana Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Chitwania Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Kochila Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Buksa Tharu at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    (Additional references under 'Language codes' in the information box)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Tharuic". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ George van Driem, 2007, "Endangered languages of South Asia", in Matthias Brenzinger, Mouton de Gruyter
  4. ^ Also spelled Dang, Dangali, Dangauli, Dangha, Dangora, Dangura and Chaudhari, Chaudhuri
  5. ^ Also spelled Kathariya, Khatima
  6. ^ Also spelled Chitawan or Chituan
  7. ^ Saptari, Morangiya, Udayapur, Sunsari, Siraha, Mahottari, Sarlahi, Dhanusa
  8. ^ Boehm, Kelly Kilgo. 1997. Language use and language maintenance among the Tharu of the Indo-Nepal tarai
  9. ^ Yadava, Yogendra P. "Multilingual contexts in the Tarai: Issues in Nepalese perspective", The Role of NGOs/INGOs in Developing Tarai, Kathmandu, Nepal. Nov. 14-15, 2011.