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Bravest of the brave

Shakela - Ubhauli Festival

Kathmandu, Nov 07, 2011 – I was just watching some Nepali videos in YouTube and on my search for Nepali cultural videos found one of the video with this description, it is not related to any of the song that video have but the description was interesting, it revealed some old and forgotten history of Nepal. I just copied without knowing the fact and writer of the article. Any reader can help me to identify the writer and other part of this story. We welcome any kind of  articles that is mostly related to Nepal, its history, culture and tradition.

Here is the story:

After the fall of Kirat dynasty in 330 AD, Kiratas scattered in different part of Nepal. Those that settled just outside the Kathmandu valley like present day regions such as Jugupyaro, Thadpa, Darkha, Cheptu Gau and Sindhupalchowk district are known today as Chepang, Jirels, Hayu and Thami.

Those Kirat that settled east of Kathmandu became known as Rai, Limbu, Dhimal, Sunuwar and Yakkha today. As for those Kirat who remained in the Kathmandu valley became part of Newar family. Meanwhile, scholars and historian have identified Kiratas who settled west of Kathmandu as Baramu, Chhantyal and Magar.

Magars are settled mainly in Palpa, Gulmi, Myagdi, Rukum, Salyan and Rolpa (Ukyab and Adhikari, BS2057:45). They are also found in Arghakhanchi, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung, Dolpa, Surkhet, Sindhuli and Udaypur. Their traditional land area was referred to as “Athara Magarat” or the eighteen regions of Magars and “Bara Magarat” or the twelve regions of Magars. The area belonged to what is today called Karnali and Gandaki regions.

According to their mythology, the Magars evolved from two types of caves, namely Pelma Khar Pu or barely dispersing cave, and Yoma Khar Pu, or hornet’s cave and scattered in all four directions (Budhamagar, BS2059).

Sakela Dance By Kirats of Nepal in Video 2013.

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Magar Custom and Rituals:
Magars have their own language which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family and has three divisions called Kham, Kaike and Magarati. Magars have their own separate costumes and cultures. Even the rituals of Bara Magarat, Athara Magarat and Dolpa are slightly different (Budhamagar, BS2053). They have, like those of Gurungs, singing and dancing groups such as Ghatu, Kaura, Jhabre, Nachari, etc.

Magars are basically followers of Buddhism. Even though majority of them are Hinduized, they worship hunting gods and goddesses within their families and outside, the gods of dead ancestors or their grandfathers and grandmothers. They have adopted their own practice of worship. They bury their dead and they have their own belief system regarding life after death (Hitchcock, 1966:25-34). From the perspective of their ancient faith system, they appear as worshippers of nature or as animists again conforming to other Kirati groups like Chhantyal, Dhimal, Rai and Limbu whose religion revolves around worshiping of nature, land and ancestors.

Magar like other Kiratis believe in shamanism and their dhami (the faithhealer) is called Dangar and their jhankri (another kind of faithhealer or shaman) is called Rama. The traditional spiritual and social leader of Magars was called Bhusal who was very influential in the early days (Bista, 1996:66).

Magars have an informal cultural institution, called Bheja. Bheja performs religious activities, organizes social and agriculture-related festivities, brings about reforms in traditions and customs, strengthens social and production system, manages resources, settles cases and disputes and systematizes activities for recreation and social solidarity (Dhakal, 1996). Christening ceremony is held on the fourth day in Bara Magarat, whereas the naito lagaune or navel-fixing ceremony is held on the twenty-second day in Rukum. In many places relatives are employed in lieu of priests for the job of conducting such ceremonies. There is a special cultural practice of offering phultika (literally “marking forehead with wet rice grains and offering flower”) to the firstborn son. A ritual of anna prasan or starting of cerealfeeding is held in the sixth month if the baby is a boy and in the fifth month if it is a girl. The Magars of Pipaldanda and Humik in Palpa district, however, perform the cerealfeeding ceremony by touching the baby’s mouth with cooked rice three times on the very day of christening ceremony (Baral and Magar, BS2050:62).

Magar is one of the four group that were codified as “namsine(unslaveable) in the Muluki Ain (National Code) of Nepal written by Jang Bahadur Rana in 1854. The other three are Gurung, Limbu and Rai. While the rest of the Nepalese ethnic group were classified as slaves(masine) in the Muluki Ain, the tyrant Rana government could not enslaved these four group. Outside Nepal, these four group are known as the Gurkhas or the “bravest of the brave”.

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