A Short Glimpse of Tamang Indigenous People
Tamang are one of the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal. They have their own distinct culture, language and religion. Their ancestral domain (land) is popularly known as Tamsaling. Tamsaling’ means ‘Tam’ refers to the language spoken by Tamang people, ‘sa’ refers to the land and ‘ling’ refers to the territory or fragment. So, ‘Tamsaling’ mean the land of Tamang tonguespeaking people. Tamsaling extends from Buddigandaki in the West to Dudhkoshi in the East and from the Himalayan range in the North to Chure or Siwalik hills in the South.
National Population Census of 2001 has traced 1282304 populations of Tamang indigenous peoples that comprise 5.6% of the total population of the country. Of this 70% of the Tamang people are inhabited in the Tamsaling region whereas 30% are sparsely distributed in other regions of the country. In Kavre district population of Tamang people is found 130261 according to the census of 2001. Of this 64063 are male and 66198 are female. Traditionally, Tamang are the followers of Buddhism. According to the 2001 census, 90.3% of the Tamang people follow Buddhism that makes up 47.3% of the total in the country. Hence, Tamang are the largest population who follow Buddhism in Nepal. Tamang people have their own mother tongue i.e. Tamang. The census of 2001 has traced 92% of the Tamang people speak in their own mother tongue. Tamang are rich in socio-cultural perspectives. They are the only indigenous nationalities who are least affected by the process of Nepalization (I would instead prefer Khasization). As a result of their success to maintain their distinct identity despite the state sponsored process of Khasization they are highly marginalized and exploited by the state because of which extensive poverty and illiteracy are found in large scale. Tamang are one of the largest indigenous nationalities of Nepal. They are densely populated in the central region and sparsely populated all over the country. They are also one of the highly exploited and marginalized indigenous nationalities due to which their socio-economic status is adversely affected. They are very rich in their culture but their economic condition is worse. Even after the restoration of Democracy in 990, their economic status has not been changed.
Still there prevail differences about the origin of the word ‘Tamang’. But a common belief is that the word ‘Tamang’ has been derived from a Tibetan word ‘Tamag” which means ‘Ta’ refers to ‘horse’ and ‘Mag’ refers to ‘rider’. So Tamang are the ‘horse-riders or soldiers riding on horse. It is believed that after the Nepal-Tibet War some of the horse-riding soldiers of King Tsrong Tschong Gampo permanently settled in the Himalayan Hills of Nepal who were later recognized as the “Tamang” nationalities. But many scholars have opposed the above perspective that the Tamangs are the descendants of the horse-riding soldiers of King Tsrong Tschong Gampo. A foreign scholar Alexander Macdonald is one among them. According to him, Tamangs are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal who were here before the state formation. He disagrees that Tamangs are the horse-riding soldiers of King Tsrong Tschong Gampo who were left behind after the Nepal-Tibet War. He puts forward his reasoning that there should be some mention of King Gampo in thegenealogy of Tamang nationality if it was so. But nothing has been found yet. In their language, the Tibetans call Tamang people as ‘Rongpo’ that means foreigners. Obviously, it also justifies that Tamangs are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal, not the horse-riding soldiers of King Tsrong schong Gampo. A young scholar Ajitman Tamang redefines the Tibetan perspective of the word ‘Tamang’. He is of the view that in Tibetan ‘Ta’ means ‘entrance/gateway’ and ‘Mang’ means ‘large public or common people’. So, ‘Tamang’, in Tibetan means presence of large number of people at the entrance or boundary, which signifies the settlement of Tamang people in the border of Tibet i.e. in Nepal. It is also supported by the Tibetan usage of the word ‘Rongpo’ to Tamang, which means the foreigners, inhabited beyond the border of Tibet. Now it is obvious that the Tamangs are the indigenous inhabitants of Nepal, not the descendants of the horse-riding soldiers of King Tsrong Tschong Gampo as Tamang themselves do not possess the characteristics of a horse rider nor there a sign of their history directly associated with horses. Usage of the word ‘Tamang’It is still in the root of the research from when the word ‘Tamang’ has been in use to refer to the Tamang nationality of Nepal. Earlier Tamangs were known by various terminologies. Among these, ‘Murmi’ ils a popular term. Hamilton in 1802, Hudson in 1847 and Macdonald in 1989 have used the term ‘Murmi’ for Tamang people. Some scholars are of the opinion that during the regime of King Tribhuvan the then Prime Minister Bhim Shumsher had formally used the term ‘Tamang’ for the very first time under the request of Sardar Bahadur Jungabir who was also from the Tamang nationality. In 13th century, King Boom Degon (1253-1280), who had ruled the present Mustang region of Nepal, has scriptured the word ‘Tamang’ in his genealogy. This is the oldest written document ever found about the usage of the word ‘Tamang’ that exclusively refers to the Tamang nationality of Nepal.
Tamang are one of the largest indigenous nationalities of Nepal. The census of 2001 has traced 1282304 populations of Tamang nationalities that rank the fifth position in the country and the third among the indigenous nationalities. Of the total population, 5.6% is occupied by Tamang nationality. They are found mostly concentrated in the districts of central region such as Dhading, Rasuwa, Makwanpur, Nuwakot, Kavrepalanchok, Sindhupalchok, Dolkha, Sindhuli and Ramechhap. Of the aforementioned districts Tamang are the largest population in all except in Ramechhap and Dolkha where they are the second largest. The other parts of the country observe sparse distribution of Tamang population from Mechi to Mahakali region.
Tamangs have their own distinct religion. They are the followers of Buddhism. According to the census of 2001, 90.3% of the Tamangs follow Buddhism that makes up 47.3% of the total in the country. Among the others who follow Buddhism are Magar is 16%, Gurung is 15%, Newar is 8%, Sherpa is 6% and the remaining others. Hence, Tamang are the largest population who follow Buddhism in Nepal.
Tamangs have their own distinct language. Their mother tongue is Tamang, which falls in Tibeto-Burman language group. According to the census of 2001, 92% of the Tamang people speak in their own mother tongue i.e. Tamang. Their script is known as Sambhota, but one of the leading Tamang organizations, Nepal Tamang Ghedung, has been using a script known as Tamyig well known as a modified version of the Sambhota script.
(Excerpts from a research paper by Dr. Mukta Singh Lama)