Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tamangs--The oldest ethnic group in Nepal?

In Nepal, there are many different ethnic groups that still hold tightly to their traditional culture and customs--distinguishing themselves from other Nepali groups. The Tamang people are amongst the most well known ethnic groups in Nepal--mainly for their exuberant dress and the fact that they are found in numerous regions throughout the country. Tamangs make up around 5.6% of the Nepali population. They are ranked 5th in Nepal in reference to population and 3rd largest amongst the ethnic groups.

Tamang people can be found in the Sindhupalchowk, Rasuwa, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Dhading, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Ramechhap, Dolakha, Chitwan and Kavreplanchowk districts of Nepal, as well as India, Bhutan, and Burma. 

The Tamang people trace their heritage back to Tibet and are part of the major Tibeto-Burmese ethnic group. Tamangs are usually darker in color and have  more Mongolian features. It is said that Tamangs are a direct lineage to Mongolians--and are therefore the oldest tribe to have inhabited Nepal--and specifically Kathmandu Valley, which was then called Yambu.
Tamang, in Tibetan, means ‘horse traders’. It said that during the Nepal/Tibet War--That Tamangs were horse riding soldiers. In modern day, this group has mostly settled in the hills surrounding the Kathmandu valley. Their main practicing religion is Buddhism and they are generally farmers, labourers, and porters. They also have their own language, Tamang, of which, as of 2001, 92% of Tamangs speak fluently. They also have their own form of tribal government. In this ethnic group there are different people appointed to different tasks such as death, cultural celebrations, marriages, holy days/ceremonies, & history preservation.

Tamangs are known for their hospitality and love of music. One of the favorite instruments used by Tamangs in the Damphu Drum (Tamborine). They are also renowned for their skills in weaving incredibly warm sheep wool jackets for harsh winters, and their beautiful basket weaving--generally used for grain/vegetable storage. 

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