Tharu tribe of Terai is native to northern India and southern Nepal

My first encounter with the Tharu tribe of Nepal was when I was enjoying a dance performance organised by them at Barhi Jungle Lodge in Chitwan National Park, Nepal. We stayed at Barhi Jungle Lodge during this leg of our Nepal trip. To reach there, we flew to Bharatpur Airport in Nepal. It was the smallest airport I had ever experienced.

Tharu Tribe Houses
Tharu Tribe Houses

From there we reached Barhi Jungle Lodge. By the time we reached, the sun had set. After completing the formalities of arrival at the lodge, we sat on the bank of the Rapti River. In the dim light of the night, the Rapti River seemed almost invisible.

Tharu Tribe – Dance and Music

The lodge staff got busy lighting the camp fire. Artists started presenting dance and music performances. All the artists were wearing black and white costumes. I found their costumes a bit unusual. My travel experience says that the deeper we go into any region, the more the costumes of the residents there become full of various colors. There was no color other than black and white in the costumes of the entire performance group. Only a small piece of colored cloth was hanging from the waist belt and there were red ribbons in the hair. The women were wearing coin ornaments. It is said that coin ornaments are common among women of all tribal areas of the entire world.

Traditional Folk Dances of Tharu Tribe Traditional Folk Dances of Tharu Tribe
Traditional Folk Dances of Tharu Tribe

The performance team started dancing around the fire. A group of male artists were playing musical instruments. A group of elderly women were standing in a row and singing songs. All the other artists started dancing in which they were also using sticks. I learnt the most popular folk song of Nepal there, Resham Phiri. They told me that if I forget this song, I should take the help of YouTube to remember it again. This song YouTube Available at.

They performed a war dance called Bajeti. You can clearly see the heroic spirit in this dance. They performed the Damphu dance which is usually performed on the occasion of Holi. The joy of Holi was clearly visible in this dance. After that they performed the Thakara dance in which they used sticks similar to dandiya. This dance celebrates a bountiful harvest.

Tattoo Tattoo
Tattoo

Only women participate in Jhamta dance. I found the folk song and dance to be somewhat playful. Hence, I desired to know the meaning of the folk song. As soon as the dance performance was over, I asked an adult female singer the meaning of the song. She smiled and avoided the topic. I saw that her hands were heavily tattooed. She told us that she had got it tattooed at the time of her marriage.

people dancingpeople dancing
people dancing

I found the songs and dances performed by the artists of the Tharu tribe very fascinating. I had a strong desire to visit their village and know their lifestyle. I decided to visit the Tharu villages located near Chitwan National Park.

Tharu tribe of Nepal

In the library located in Barhi Jungle Lodge, I read a small booklet published on the Tharu tribe of Nepal. According to it, the lineage of the Tharu tribe partly points towards the Rajput lineage of the Thar Desert of Rajasthan. It is said that the men of this tribe are Nepalese and the women are of Rajasthani origin. It is also believed that since the women had married men of lower caste than them, they have dominance in the family. Women also have special privileges over property. It was also written in some texts that women push the food plates towards the men with their feet. I discussed this subject with some women to confirm this fact but no one confirmed this fact.

Statistics about this tribe were published in this booklet. The lifestyle of the Tharu tribe residing in the border areas of India-Nepal was described.

Tharu tribe is immune to Malaria – According to research, their special genes give them immunity against Malaria.

Tharu tribe considers itself forest dwellers. Their villages are generally located inside the forest. Hence, they live inside the forests and in association with the forests. They depend partly on agriculture and partly on forest produce.

Culture of Tharu Tribe Culture of Tharu Tribe
Culture of Tharu Tribe

Every village has a Mukhiya who is democratically elected every year in the month of Magha. The right to vote for this election is given to a family as a whole, not to each member or adult of the family. The Mukhiya is called Badghar. He has the responsibility of the overall public interest of the village. He also has the right to punish the guilty person. The religious head of the village is also elected in the same manner.

The spoken language of the Tharu tribe is Tharu, which to some extent has similarities with Hindi, Awadhi and Maithili.

Most of the Tharu tribe follows Hinduism while some Tharu natives have now adopted Christianity.

Tharu Cultural Museum, Meghauli

The Tharu Cultural Museum located in Meghauli village is actually a hut-like structure. Its walls were painted in light green colour. Handprints were painted on it. While roaming in Chitwan, we saw many such mud houses whose walls and doors had various handprints painted on them.

Cultural Museum of Maghauli Cultural Museum of Maghauli
Cultural Museum of Maghauli

This is a single room museum which displays the Tharu lifestyle. Their means of livelihood, their dances, their traditions and scenes from their daily life were displayed. From there I got confirmation of the fact that they always wear black and white attire, even in their marriage ceremonies. Through various pictures, the journey of a Tharu tribe person from birth rituals to death rituals has been beautifully depicted, which also includes his marriage ceremony.

I wish that this museum provides more reading material describing this tribe in detail.

Visit to Tharu Tribe Home

Traditional Tharu tribal dwellings are organized in a unique way. There is a group of dwellings around an open-air courtyard. Thus all the dwellings are independent in themselves but are part of a small community. This small community can also be other families related to their family.

Bird houses of Chitwan Bird houses of Chitwan
Bird houses of Chitwan

There are tall wooden bird houses in the centre. There is a cowshed on the side of each house. Their structure gives the impression that their house is divided between humans, birds and cattle.

Welcome to Tharu Home Welcome to Tharu Home
Welcome to Tharu Home

We got the opportunity to see the inside of a Tharu tribe house. The head woman of the family stood at the door and welcomed us with an aarti thaali. There were beautiful hand-painted designs all around her on the door and walls. For a moment, I thought this decoration was her aura. She showed us her house.

Silver Jewellery Silver Jewellery
Silver Jewellery

They showed their traditional jewellery. All the chests and storage doors in the house also had similar handmade designs on them.

Handprints by Tharu tribes

I tried to find out the significance of these carvings from everyone I met here. Everyone said that it is an integral part of their culture. They have been painting such figures on their structures since forever. I guessed that perhaps these are auspicious symbols. These symbols reminded me of carvings I had seen in Rajasthan, like the Sonar Quila in Jaisalmer or the Junagarh Fort in Bikaner. Perhaps this is a cultural thread that still binds them to Rajasthan.

Devices and images of the serpent Devices and images of the serpent
Devices and images of the serpent

While visiting the house, we went to the backyard. There we sat and chatted with the family members for a while. They served us a drink called Roxy. It is a local drink made from fermented rice. I was told that it is a strong alcohol. I thought it was best to stay away from it. They said that they regularly consume this homemade drink.

The members of this family made me feel very close to each other. Coming out of the house, I felt as if I had started to understand a little about the culture that I had known just three days ago.

The memories of their friendly behaviour and smiling faces will always remain with me as my fondest memory of my visit to Chitwan National Park.

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