The Tharu people are an ethnic group indigenous to the Terai in southern Nepal and northern India. They are recognized as an official nationality by the Government of Nepal. The word थारू thāru is thought to be derived from sthavir meaning follower of Theravada Buddhism.
The Tharu people live in the Tarai, a narrow strip of land which extends across 550 miles of the southern border of Nepal, next to northeast India. The land is forested and fertile. The Tharu people are divided into several subgroups; the Rana Tharu live in the southwestern corner of Nepal. Ethnically, their background is Rajput, members of a high caste in Rajasthan. Legend has it that after the Moguls invaded India in the 16th century, a Mogul king wanted to marry one of their women. The women and children fled east and settled in this forested region while their men stayed behind to fight the Moguls. When the women heard that all their men had been killed, they married the slaves who had attended them in their travels, and settled permanently in their new home. The forests of the Tarai are full of tigers and snakes and malarial swamps. The swamps kept outsiders away, and the Rana Tharu developed resistance to the malaria. Over the next four centuries their own unique culture and language emerged.
As of 2011, the Tharu population of Nepal was censused at 1,737,470 people, or 6.6% of the total population. In 2009, the majority of Tharu people were estimated to live in Nepal. There are several endogamous sub-groups of Tharu that are scattered over most of the Terai:
Rana Tharu in the Kailali and Kanchanpur Districts of the far western Nepal Terai; also in India, in Udham Singh Nagar district, Uttarakhand and Kheri district in Uttar Pradesh. Rana Tharu claim Rajput origin. hariya Tharu mostly in Kailali District and in India; Sonha Tharu in Surkhet District. Dangaura Tharu in the western Terai: Dang-Deukhuri, Banke, Bardia, Kailali, Kanchanpur, Rupandehi and Kapilvastu Districts; Chitwan Tharu in central Terai: Sindhuli, Chitwan and Nawalparasi Districts; Kochila Tharu ineasternTerai : Saptari, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari & Udayapur districts;
Who is Tharu?
According to eminent sociologist, Dor Bahadur Bistha, Tharus were migrated from southern desert alike plain land called Thar, thus they were called Tharu. Their settlement areas have been famously known as Tharuwan or Tharuhat region. They celebrate a number of rituals and festivals, of them, Maghi, a festival of new-year, take place mid-January. It is celebrated with much fanfare for three-days, during the festival, special dance, sacrifice animals and chicken. This festival is also celebrated as Mukti Diwas (the day of emanicipation). Previously, this used to be the day when the Kamaiyas and Kamlaris (bonded-labor) used to get break from their daily chores to make new agreement with their master.
Tharu are largely populated indigenous peoples in Nepal, who have settled over 20 different districts alongside whole Terai and inner Terai, the southern plain lands of Nepal. According to the latest national Census 2011, the population of Tharu is 1,737,470. They have a distinct language, culture, rituals, culture, customs, unique ornaments, and lifestyles. They are rich in folklore, literature, language. Culturally and linguistically, Tharus are divided into different subgroups. Culturally, the Tharus of Jhapa, Morang and Sunsari district are known as Morang Kochila, the Tharus living in Udayapur, Saptahari and area west to it are called western Kochila, those living in central and mid-western Terai are called Kotharia, Dangaha (Dangoura, Dangaura) and those living in the far western region are known as Rana Tharu of Kailali and Kanchenpur. Tharus are rich in cultural heritage and have their own special costumes, unique ways of living, language, religious belief, which make them different from other indigenous communities in Nepal.
Tharus have over 50 different clans and they have slightly different slangs and tones in speaking their mother tongue. They are animists and belief that there exist forest goddess—Bandevi and deity. They have been living alongside the banks and make living fishing, while Tharus living in the hilly region do farming and animal husbandry.
The mother tongue of Tharus have been divided into two categories—Rana Tharu and Dangaura Tharu languge, which belongs to Indo-Aryan language family. Numerous of books, literary books, documentary films, radio programs, have been published in both the language. According to the latest national Census, of their total population 1,737,470, as many as 1,529,875 Tharus speak their mother tongue both Rana Tharu and Dangaura Tharu languages.
Tharu language speaking countries:
Besides Nepal, Tharu language is also spoken in India as well.
Tharu-Dangaura language speaking countries:
Besides Nepal, Tharu Dangaura language is spoken in India.
What Are Their Beliefs?
They have their own gods and follow a Bharra (shaman). Their religion is animist. Besides the Bharra, who treats their diseases, the village headman, bhalamansa, and the Desi-Mahajan – an Indian moneylender, are important people within the village.
What Are Their Needs?
Foreigners brought DDT in the 1950s and sprayed the swamps to get rid of the mosquitoes. Ironically, with the malarial pests gone, the culture has come under increasing pressure from the outside. Unscrupulous moneylenders have been able to get control of their land because of their illiteracy, and now many have to pay rent for land that they once owned. People from the hill country to the north are moving in and cutting down the protective forests. The large animals, the tigers and elephants, are becoming increasingly scarce. There is increasing pressure to speak Nepali instead of Rana Tharu, and many of the children and men are wearing more western dress. Even their houses are beginning to change, and brick houses are starting to be built. They are becoming more aware of outside issues and fireside chat in the evenings is becoming more outward focused, reflecting these changes. Their traditional houses have no doors, but the new ones do. This is symbolic of the whole pressure to change coming to bear on these people. New schools are coming to the villages, but the classes are taught in Nepali rather than Rana Tharu, and the parents are afraid their children will lose their language and culture. Similarly, more and more people are adopting the Hindu religion rather than their native animist beliefs.