The book is intended to give an insight into the culture and problems faced by Rajbanshi’s.
Rajbanshi’s are supposed to be indigenous people of Nepal, residing in eastern Tarai, specially in Jhapa district and a few members in Moorang. Physically they are analogus to both Aryan’s and non- Aryans but are closer to Tharus and local inhabitants in cultural practices.
Rajbanshi’s have their own identity and traditions, but they are somewhat suspicious and introvert. They take time to intermingle with outsiders and accepts changes. They seem to be almost aside of national mainstream due to their narrow social values.
No scholars have yet been able to confirm their position as to from where and when they came, their source of origin. They are under the influence of Sanskrit civilization; their language is closer to a dialect of Bengali language. They worship different Hindu Gods and Goddesses. They believe in spirits, magic, sorcery and ghosts. Their marriage practices are interesting.
Some scholars put them with Koch’s, bhumiyas, Palias.
Many studies have been made towards recording the culture of Rajbanshi’s. They have no record of their traditions and cultural richness.
This book seeks to explain the cultural, religious and traditional practices and other rituals of Rajbanshi’s on published books and articles and also the personal visits and discussions by the Author himself.
Rajesh Gautam born on June 1, 1950 at Thamel, Kathmandu has obtained Ph.D. from Tribhuvan University, Nepal in 1987 and a graduation level study in Journalism in 1989.
He is attached with Tribhuvan University since 1980. At present he is a Professor at Trichandra Campus since 1988.
He was written various books and articles. He has presented seminar papers at various national and international conferences organized by various institutions.
He was awarded medals for his meritorious work in many fields. He is involved in various national and international organization.
Situated on the southern lap of the Himalayas, Nepal is a sovereign nation divided into three ecological and geographical zones: the plains (the terai) to the south, the hills (Mahabharat) in the central region and the Himalayas to the north. The Sherpas, Tamangs etc., which are culturally similar to the Tibetan people, inhibit in the northern part of Nepal which is almost a snowy region. The main inhabitants of the Mahabharat ranges are the Magars, Limbus, Gurungs, Sunuwars, Kirats, Newars, Bahuns, Chhetries etc., and the inhabitants of the Terai (which also includes inner-valleys) are the Tharus, Darais, Danuwars, Chepangs, Dhimals and so on. In addition, the Santhals, Rajbanshi's also reside here.
Diverse as it is, the natural setting of Nepal has also influenced the cultures, languages and other life-styles of the people residing in a specific area. The people residing in a particular region speak a different language and practice a different culture from those who reside in other regions. The geographical pattern has thus been a base of the conglomeration of the people who speak various languages; practice different cultures and adopt diverse lifestyles. Before the process of unification began in early 1700s, doubtlessly, all these people had not a common self and existence. No environment was created for these people to realise that the country was their common home and any problem in any part of the country would amount to be of their common concern. It was obvious for these Nepalese people, divided into various principalities then, to lack a feeling that they were the flowers blooming in a common garden.
After the emergence of the Great King Prithvi Narayan Shah the petit political borders began to fade away, and the people of different castes and cultures came to realise that they belonged to a common Nepali-caste as its various organs. However, this realisation-process suffered a setback when the Ranas took hold of the reign of governance. The Rana regime hindered the development of a healthy nationality and the co-ordination of inter-region peoples.
After the revolution of 2007 B.S., a change occurred in the required direction. These diverse peoples pledged themselves to move ahead for the collective good of the nation. As a result, today we can see all these diverse cultures, religions, languages and life-styles conglomerated into a single Nepali nationality. All these have an environment conducive to their development in unity with others. The Rajbanshi's are one of many such peoples who have their own language, culture and the way of life.
The Rajbanshi's are the indigeneous people residing in the eastern Terai, specifically in Jhapa district. They also reside in Morang in a few number. Physically they are analogous to both the Aryans and non-Aryans. But they are closer to the Tharus and similar local inhabitants in their cultural practices and physical structures than others. They have their own unique identity and tradition. The Rajbanshi's are one of the few indigenous people in Jhapa who are somewhat suspicious and introvert. They take time to intermingle with outsiders and accept changes though they seem eager to adopt new ideas and practices.
Though Rajbanshi's are indigenous people of Nepal, they seem to be almost aside of national mainstream even in the present times due to their own narrow social values. It is yet unclear from where and when the Rajbanshi's came to the place. Similarly, from which source they originated is not clear.
Though there prevail various sayings, no scholars have yet been able to confirm there position. Scholars Hamilton and Hudson put that the Rajbanshi's and Koch's are the same. Dalton puts that they belong to the Bhuiya family. Similarly, Beharly holds that the Rajbanshi's and Paliya belong to the same race. What is certain, however, is that this group is under the influence of the Sanskrit civilisation.
The population of the Rajbanshi's inhabiting the area between the Koshi and Mechi rivers was 59,383 according to the census of 2038 BS (calculated on the basis of the Rajbanshi's speaking population). Following the 2048 census report, the number has increased to 75,360 (0.4).
The Rajbanshi language is somewhat close to a dialect of the Bengali language. This is a matrilineal community where women position is respected. Women do almost all types of works.
To see the cultural part, the Rajbanshi marriage practice is quite interesting. The groom should pay some amount to the bride-family for marriage, the amount is called "Chumana." The amount varies according to the family status and the nature and beauty of the bride. Anyone who fails to deposit "Chumana" should stay and work at the bride's residence until the amount is paid off. The Rajbanshi's also allow widow- marriage.
The Rajbanshi's are Hindus who worship various Hindu gods and goddesses. In each village they have constructed a hut as a Kali temple. They believe in supernatural spirits, magic and sorcery. They, therefore, also worship human skulls. This community worships different gods for different purposes, such as Bistothakur for water, Barmathakur for fire and so on. Dolsiruwa, Dolpawani, Maidekheli-tistabudhi, Siruwa Pawani, Bisawa Siruwa, Ranga Siruwa, Asari-Dhasari, Dadhikad, Lakkhi-puja, Anatadora etc. are some of their major festivals.
The Rajbanshi's are mainly agricultural workers who work in the fields and rear livestock. Some of them are also involved in small business. Their secondary income sources include some employment in formal establishments, cloth weaving and so on. Culturally, the Rajbanshi's are thus very rich.
Many studies have been made on other communities such as the Newars, Rais, Gurungs, Tharus, Dhimals, Chepangs, etc. in Nepal. Their culture and traditions have been preserved in written archives. But no attention has been made towards recording the culture of Rajbanshi's which is quite necessary. They failed to record their traditional and cultural richness and vivacity in time, there is a danger that the influence of 20th century modernity may erode this away.
This book through 9 headings seeks to explain the cultural, religious and traditional practices and other rituals, of the Rajbanshi's. This book is based on the published books and articles, limited though they are, by various scholars. This also records the impression of personal visits and outcomes gained through numerous discussions with elderly Rajbanshi's. I therefore, do not claim that the book is solely my creation. Any write-ups and a community's culture, tradition, art, language etc. do not amount to a person's creation. They themselves are the product of the people who belong to the community. I am, therefore, indebted to all those scholars and senior 'citizens because of whom the book has come to this form.
The book explains why the Rajbanshi's choose the Jhapa district and under what geographical and historical background they came in here. Why they choose this place as their place of residence, why they practice various cultures and religions and why they adopt a traditional vivacity and how it is explained in the book? This book also attempts to explain their social, traditional and religious dramas, and their folklore.
In connection with the preparation of this book, I am firstly indebted to my friend Chintamani Dhalal and elder brother literatueur Bhawani Ghimire who inspired and assisted me to help produce this book. Ten years ago, he accompanied me to various Rajbanshi dwellings in Jhapa, especially at Ghailadubba. He also explained me whatever he had known about the Rajbanshi's.
The book was prepared in the Nepali language. My friend Yog Raj Bhattarai assisted me in translating it into English. I owe my debts to him for his assistance, and it was really a tedious task without which the book would not have been possible. The assistance of my respected Guru Krishna Bahadur Udaya (Trichandra Campus) has always been a source of inspiration to me. I would like to note the appreciation of my friends Yagyanath Acharya, Bimal Sharma (Trichandra Campus), Mukunda Kattel (INSEC), my childhood friend Madan Tuladhar (Thamel) and other friends Madhuman Pradhan, Bishwambhar Lal Pradhan, Lekhnath Bhandari, Raghu Lamichhane, Nara Nath Luitel, Krishna Murari Adhikari (Ombahal), Shree Ram Shrestha (Machhendrabahal) for their assistance and inspiration.
My spouse Ila Gautam, sons Shovendra Gautam and Nissim Gautam have also helped me in various ways. Similarly, the Rajbanshi's of Jhapa have overtly and covertly assisted me. I am sorry for my failure to list so many names which I could not due to the reason of space, specially the Rajbanshi friends and seniors.
Geographical and Historical
Background of Jhapa District
On the map of the world, Nepal is located in the middle of the latitude 26° to 30° and longitude 80° to 88°, having the length of 550 miles and an area of 56,000 square miles. Mostly, northern part of Nepal is covered with snowy mountains. According to the administrative and political divisions, Nepal is divided into 14 zones and 75 districts. Among them Mechi Zone is situated in the far eastern part of Nepal. Mechi Zone is divided into 4 developmental districts; which are: Taplejung, Panchthar, Ham and Jhapa. The three districts are mountainous except Jhapa Jhapa is fully in Terai region. It is better to mention the brief historical background of Jhapa before mentioning its geographical background.
Present area of Jhapa district was included in the broad area of Morang region before the kingdom of Nepal being united. The King of Morang region was Vijaya Narayan while Rudra Sen and lateron Mukunda Sen I of Sen dynasty were ruling in Palpa. The Palpali Sen dynasty had got much more colonies in the eastern part of Palpa, so the King of Palpali Sen dynasty sent help for the purpose of helping King Ratna Malla of Kathmandu Valley.
Lohang Sen, the youngest son of Mukunda Sen I (1518- 1553 A.D.) defeated the small Thakurai's upto Koshi river and included this area in his own kingdom in reference to the victory of eastern Terai. But the Morang region; across the Koshi, where there was Bijayapur Kingdom, was not easy to win. In the meantime, there was an opinion contrast between King Bijaya Narayan and his Kirant ministers. But at the same time, because of the death of Bijaya Narayan, that region was easily been handled by Lohang Sen and the post of ministers were given to the Kirants according to the commitment made earlier. It continued lateron too. The state boundary of Mukunda Sen I had spread near to Sarhad of present Nepal. But Mukunda Sen divided his vast state in small pieces and distributed-them to his descendants. According to this division, Lohang Sen, the winner of Koshi zone, became the King of this region. After his death, his sons Rajab Sen and Harihar Sen became the kings respectively, but on the turn of Harihar Sen, his state was divided into two pieces because of the clash between the sons of his two queens about their ancestors' state. After giving the region west to Koshi to his youngest son Shuva Sen and east of Koshi to his late son Chhatrapati's infant son Indu Bidhana Sen, he died. At that time, the border of Bijayapur Thakurai was spread from Koshi to Testa. Lohang Sen's family ruled this area until Prithvi Narayan Shah merged it in his Kingdom. Prithivi Narayan Shah was getting victory towards east forward in the context of uniting Nepal. At the same time in 1973 B.S., two company armies attacked and captured the Chaudandi in the leadership of Bakshi Aviman Singh Basnet and Sardar Parathi Bhandari. Earlier, the king of that place, Karna Sen had already ran away towards Bijayapur.
After this, Prithvi Narayan Shah started preparations to attack Bijayapur. Prithvi Narayan Shah had already made friendship with Warren Hastings, British Governor of India at that time, writing letters on 27th May 1973 and 14th January, 1974 Bikrami because of the doubt that Buddhi Karna Rai; the all-in-all minister of that place before in case of attack, will be helped by English forces. Suddenly, Aviman Singh Basnet attacked Bijayapur in the mid-time of rainy season making his armies cross the Koshi river riding on elephants. King Karna Sen had already gone to Purniya with his family and Buddhi Karna Rai escaped by riding on elephant. Gorkhali conquered Bijayapur on 17th July, 1974 (Bikrarni). Then the armies commanded by Aviman Singh captured Sangurigadhi immediately and thus made an entrance to the hilly areas. The armies commanded by Aviman Singh Basnet moved forward to get victory had captured upto Tibet border in north of next Kirant and upto the river Tamor to the east. At this time, all the region ruled by Limbus became converted under the ownership of Gorkhali's because of being situated at the west of watering level of the hill Singlia and being agreed to be sheltered under Gorkhali's by the Limbus who were being disturbed by Sikkim. In this way, the border of Nepal was spread to Singlila at the hill and upto the Kankai river at the plain.
According to Baburam Acharya, there was a clash between Kamadatta Sen and his minister Buddhi Karna Rai about the region upto Tista; east to Kankai river. Consequently, Buddhi Karna Rai ran away towards Purniya and settled there. Then he got murdered Kamadatta Sen using the trick of the armies in his favour in Bijayapur. On the other side, grabbing the opportunity of the clash between the king and his minister, Nangyal-Fun Chou, the King ofSikkim, had included the area of Ilam ruled by Bijayapur state in his own kingdom.' Also in Terai, the region east to Kankai river, had already been captured by Sikkim.
In the socio-political state of that time if Sikkim had been attacked, China also might have clashed in the care of Pancham Lama and Dalai Lama as well as English people being possible enemies. While getting a plea, Prithvi Narayan Shah was not in a hurry to attack Sikkim. But while getting the area of Limbus ruled under Gorkhali's, the King of Sikkim sent his own young son Diwan accompanied by Aviman Singh Basnet to the Gorkhali's for the purpose of establishing relationship with them by the medium of negotiation. Aviman Singh also sent a message to the King of Sikkim in which he stated that Sikkim will be preserved if Ham, captured by Sikkim from the King of Bijayapur and the area upto Tista is returned. According to these negotiations the King of Sikkim signed an agreement made and, stamped on 25th of September. As a result, Aviman Singh Basnet broadened the border of Nepal upto Tista which was out of the ruling area of English people." After that, this area had been owned by the Nepal State for many years. Nepal was attacked from around 1814 A.D. taking plea to the authority of Syuraj of western Nepal and the area of Butawal. According to one of the English writer the castle of Nepalese army was in Bijayapur in this region. Under the commandership of Major Letter, Company armies attacked and captured Ghampur which is between Biratnagar and Rangeli as well as Jhapa Market.
In the beginning of the war, company armies had got many troubles (whips) although the result of the war was not in favour of Nepal. Consequently, Treaty of Sugauli was signed on 28th November, 1815. According to this treaty, the terrain region from Mechi to Tista was handed over to the authority of East India Company. The river Mechi, became the eastern international border of Nepal since that day.
Jhapa had been declared as the region of Morang until the present administrative and political division took place. Only after the present administrative and political division, it has been standing as a distinct district. According to the geographical condition, Jhapa district is located between 26.20° northern latitude to 26.50° and 87.39° eastern longitude to 88.12°.
Ilam is the northern border of this district. Similarly, Ratuwa river has separated this district from Morang district in the west and Mechi river and pillars of Dasa Gaja has separated it from the state of West Bengal in India and Bihar region respectively. This district seems rectangular sized, of which east to west is long and north to south is wide. The length of this district from east to west is about 46 kms and width from north to south is 29 kms. The total area of this district is 1532 kms and according to the National Census held in 2028 B.S., its population was 2,47,698. Is it not a wonderful thing that Indian culture, language and caste affects Jhapa directly or indirectly because of being touched by the both borders of it.
The climate of Jhapa district is mostly hot because of being in the height of 125 to 200 meters from the level of the sea. This place is not so healthy because it is too hot in summer and the climate of winter season lacks hotness. It is difficult to measure the proper temperature of this district due to lack of centre for weather observation within this district, but according to the tabled information taken at Biratnagar airport of Morang district, touching this district, the average maximum temperatue goes upto 30.6° centigrade (87°F) in summer and minimum 14.2° centigrade (57.50°F) in winter.
There are many places for sight-seeing especially the ancient historical residues in Jhapa. But there has not been any scientific as well as ordinary research about these historical facts and residues uptill now. Satasidham, Birat Pokhar, Kilagadh, Lukali, Kichakbadh, Susamayagadh, etc. are the main historical places of Jhapa district. According to the customary assertions, their brief details are given respectively as following:
(a) Satasidham: This Dham is situated in the lap of Chulachuli hill which is in the far-northern Jhapa. It is shaped like the udder of the cow and similarly many stones in the shape of various Gods and Godesses are available here. Also big bricks are found here. According to customary assertions, all of these are the ruins of the palace of King Birat.
(b) Birat Pokhar: There are big ponds near the rent free land, Anarmani. According to assertions, these ponds had been made by King Birat and among them, the queen of King Birat had used a pond to have a bath daily.
(c) Killagadh: The Gadh is situated at about one mile from Anptari. There are some of the old ruins and ponds found near it. People of this place say that the gadh is of the Mahabharat time.
(d) Lukali: This place is a little far from Shanischare. According to the oldest inhabitants of this place, Royal prince Duryodhan had made a carrying off of cows from the den of King Birat and had hidden them at this place.
(e) Kichakbadh: In the south of Bhadrapur, there is a place named Kichakbadh. Here is a Gadh and a pond. According to the assertions, here was a theatre of King Birat and it is the same place where Bhimsen killed Kichak while trying to rape Draupadi. A fair takes place every year at this place in winter. Mainly, Rajbanshi's use to reach there to take part in it. After having a bathe and chasity, they use to offer their offerings to their father and fore-fathers and desire the welfare of their ancestors, being more generous in honour of deceased ancestors. Here are found big bricks, hard round objects of clay and coins.
(f) Susamayagadh: This Gadh is situated on the eastern side of Gauriganj market of Jhapa. Now-a-days, it is fully covered by bushes. This Gadh seems very big. According to the traditional concept, the construction of this Gadh had been done by Trigartaraj Susharma. The river Kishni has been flowing near Susamaya Gadh. It is stated in Mahabharat that Trigartaraj Susharma had passed a whole night on the bank of Kishni (Krishna) river after attacking and making prisoner to King Birat. According to the customary assertions, existing Kishni river is the Krishna river of that time.
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