The Thakali (A Himalayan Ethnography)

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Item Code: IDK063
Author: Michael Vinding
Publisher: Adroit Publishers, Delhi
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788187392811
Pages: 470 (Black & White Illustrations 51)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5" X 7.3"
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Book Description

About the Book

This monograph presents a comprehensive ethnography of the Thakali with particular reference to the Thak Khola valley of Mustang district, Nepal the homeland of the Thakali. Based on several years of field work since 1972, it provides a wealth of hitherto unrecorded detail and much insight on Thakali history, culture and society.

Following in introduction to the valley and its peoples, the author describes how he lived among the Thakali. Much attention is then devoted to a history of the valley, thus providing a long-term perspective on its society and culture. How the Thakali make a living the subsistence economy and their need and sources for cash is recounted. Thakali kinship terminologies are analysed and the use of kinship terms and traditional behaviour patterns between relatives is examined. After an account of the form and function of Thakali patrilineal descent groups, the author examines the Thakali household, inheritance system, and residence patterns.

Individual chapters then present the following subjects: social stratification; marriage; the life cycle of the individual; the political systems in Thak Khola; the Thakali world view and death ceremonies as an example of Thakali ritual; a description of the main festivals; the history of Thakali emigration and the life of Thakali living outside Thak Khola.

The final chapter examines continuity and change, impression management, cohesion and conflict, and a developing identity crisis among the Thakali. The book ends with a discussion of the future of the Thakali. As a major contribution to the literature on the peoples of Nepal, this monumental study is of importance to ethonographers, anthropologists, historians and to all those interested in the Himalayas.

About the Author

Michael Vinding, born in Copenhagen in 1950, is a diplomat presently Resident Coordinator, Liason Office of Denmark, Thimphu. Since 1972 he has researched the Thakali of Mustang District, Nepal. He is the author of Lha Phewa: The Thakali 12-year Festival (1992).

Back of the Book

§ At once refreshingly personal and pleasingly traditional, a truly rare combination in modern ethnography.
§ A lasting contribution to anthropology should appear at the top of every South Asian anthropology syllabus.
§ This fine ethnography should be required reading as a model of sound ethnographic field work.
§ The most comprehensive study of Thakali society and identity available.
§ Ein lebendiger Bericht aus der Praxis der Feldforschung wie er vollstandiger and interessanter nicht sein kann authentisch von der ersten bis letzten Seite Ein wichtiger and lesenswerter Beitrag zur Ethnographie der Himalaya region.


This is an ethnography of the Thakali of the Thak Khola valley, Mustang District, Nepal. It was submitted to the Faculty of Arts, University of Aarhus, in May 1997 as a dissertation for the doctor philosophiae (Dr. phil) degree. No additions or major changes have been undertaken since then.

It has been my good fortune to have studied under Processor, dr. phil. Johannes Nicolaisen and Professor, dr. phil. Erik Haarh. They have been an invaluable source of inspiration and encouragement. Needless to say, their death has been a painful loss to me.

A number of friends and colleagues have contributed in different ways in the preparation of this book. I would like to express my warmest appreciations to Professor, dr. phil. Amin Geertz, Professor, Dr. David Jackson, Dr. Don Messerschmidt, Professor, Dr. Ton Otto, Dr. Charles Ramble, Dr. James Ross, Professor, dr. phil. Per K. Sorensen and dr. phil. Jesper Trier. I would also like to thank Mr. Svend Algren for preparing the maps.

Special thanks are due to my Thakali friends, especially (the late) Sarchekyop Thakali and his daughter Sarmendo whose house has become my second home; Krishnalal Thakali, M.P. and Palindra Thakali for their assistance in the field; and Narendra Gauchan and his son Surendra with whom I studied Thakali history.

I am grateful to His Majesty's Government of Nepal for permitting research in Nepal and to the Danish Government's Research Council for the Humanities for financing part of the expenses for fieldwork and the production of the book.

Finally, special gratitude is due to my beloved wife Bina for her strong support and encouragement in the long years of research.

This ethnography is addressed to scholars. It is, however, my hope that it may also be of use to Thakali seeking their roots and contribute to the strengthening of Thakali identity.


  Preface ix
  Introduction 1
I The Thak Khola Valley 9
II Living among the Thakali 28
III The History of the Thak Khola valley 46
IV Making a Living 93
V Kinship and Affinity 144
VI Clans and Lineages 168
VII The Household and Inheritance System 190
VIII Social Stratification 203
IX Marriage 215
X The Life Cycle 239
XI The Political System 252
XII Religion 286
XIII Festivals 330
XIV Thakali Living outside Thak Khola 354
XV A Reappraisal of the Thakali 371
1. Documents 394
2. Myths and Fables 402
  Glossary 417
  Bibliography 451
  Index 466
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