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Girls from Magar tribes in their traditional dresses
|Hinduism, Buddhism, Animism|
The Magars are one of the ethno linguistic groups of Nepal representing 7.13% of the Nepal's total population as per the census of 2011. Their ancestral homeland extends from the Western and the Southern edges of the Dhaulagiri range of the Himalayas to the Mahabharat foothills in the South and Kali Gandaki river basin in the East.
The Magars ruled while establishing their own kingdoms in ancient Nepal called the Bara Magaranth (12 Magar Kingdoms) located east of the Gandaki River and the Athara Magaranth (18 Magar Kingdoms) located west of the Gandaki River inhabited by the Kham Magars.
Magar people are believed to have migrated from Sikkim like other prominent ethnic groups.
Mythical stories on the Origins of Magars: There are interesting mythical stories describing the origins of Magars. Three different versions relative to three different language groups are presented.
The Magar of the Bahra Magaranth east of the Kali Gandaki River) are said to have originated in the land of Seem. Two brothers, Seem Magar and Chintoo Magar, fought, and one remained in Seem, while the other left, ending up in Kangwachen in southern Sikkim. The Bhutia people lived at the northern end of this region. Over time, the Magars became very powerful and made the northern Bhutia their vassals. Sintoo Sati Sheng ruled in a very despotic manner, and the Bhutia conspired to assassinate him. Sheng's queen took revenge and poisoned 1,000 Bhutia people at a place now called Tong Song Fong, meaning "where a thousand were murdered". The Bhutia later drove the Magar out, forcing them to again migrate further south. As part of this migration, one group migrated to Simrongadh, one group moved towards the Okhaldhunga region, and another group seems to have returned to the east. No dates are given.
A second Magar federation called Athara Magarat was situated west of the Gandaki River, inhabited by western magars.
The first written history about Magar people dates as back as 1100 AD. But it is widely accepted that they have resided around Palpa from time immemorial. They are also thought to be the earliest settlers from the north. This part of the country was formerly divided into twelve districts, each under its own ruler, being known as the Barah, or twelve Magarant or twelve Thams, the members of each supposedly being of common extraction in the male line. Some records show these twelve areas as being Arghakhanchi, Gulmi, Isma, Musikot, Khanchi, Ghiring, Rising, Bhirkot, Payung, Garhung, Dhor and Satung. However, it is probable that some of the latter places should have been excluded in favour of Palpa, Galkot, Dhurkot, Char Hajar, Parbat, and even Piuthan and Salyan.
The Magars of middle and western region also played a role in Nepal's formative history. Their kingdom was one of the strongest of west Nepal in and around Palpa District during the time of the 22 and 24 rajya principalities (17th and early 18th centuries). The 18th-century king, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of the modern Kingdom of Nepal was announced and loved to call himself the King of Magarat.
Many prominent historians of Nepal have claimed that Aramudi, an eighth-century ruler of the Kali Gandaki region, was a Magar King. "Aramudi" derives from the word for 'river' in the Magar language. 'Ari'-'Source of Water' + 'Modi'-'River'='Arimodi' or 'Aramudi', thus the literal meaning of Aramudi is source of river. But due to the lack of historical evidence there are some conflicting ideas among the historians.
The Magars are structured with septs (clans), followed by sub-septs (sub-clans). The smallest groups are gotras.
Broadly speaking, Magars are divided into two main groups: Baraha Magaratis and Athara Magaratis. Before the unification of Nepal in the 18th century by the King Prithvi Narayan Shah, the Magarat land was divided into two Magarat states. West of Kali Gandaki was called eighteen Magarat and East of Kali Gandaki was called twelve Magarat. They are mainly Ale, Budha, Pun, Rana and Thapa clans. Within these seven clans, more than 1100 sub-clans can be found. These Magar clans intermarry with one another and are equal in social standing.
Linguistically, the Magars are divided into three groups. Baraha Magaratis speak Dhut dialect, whereas Athara Magaratis speak Pang and Kaike dialects.
MagarDhut-speakers: Rana, Ale, Thapa, Gurmachan, Singjali, Rakhal, Ashlami, Gahaga, Darlami, Masarangi, Khadka, Gharti, Naamjyali, Bucha, Saru, Khamcha, Pulami, mangrati/magarati and all magar clans and sub clans residing in twelve Magarats.
MagarPang-speakers: Ale, Budha, Gurmachan, Gharti, Pun, Rana, Roka, mangrati/magarati,Thapa,Jhankri,Shreesh, Burathoki,Garbuja,Purja,Ramjali,jugjali and all magar clans and sub clans residing in eighteen Magarat.
KaikeMagar-speakers: Tarali Magar of Dolpa/Budha, Gharti, Roka magar, Kayat, Jhankri all Magar clans residing in Dolpa and Karnali districts.
Of the 2,064,000 Magar people in Nepal, nearly 788,530 speak a Magar language as their mother tongue. Most of the others speak Nepali as their mother tongue. The western inhabitants of Nepal did not speak the language in the past. But recently, almost everyone has started learning the language. The western magars of Rapti Zone speak Magar Pang kura. In Dolpa District, the Magar speak Magar Kaike language. The Magar languages are rooted in the Bodic branch of the Tibetan family. Magar Dhut kura speakers are all Magar clans residing in twelve Magarats. Similarly Magar Pang kura speakers are all magar clans from eighteen Magarats. Magar Kaike language speakers are all magar clans in Karnali zone. The 1971 census put the total population of those who spoke the Magar language at 288,383, i.e. 2.49 percent of the total population of Nepal, of which more than half lived in the Western hills of Nepal.
Many Magar words are used even today, especially as location names. Magar toponyms in Nepali include: tilaurakot (place selling sesame seed), kanchanjunga (clear peak), and * Tansen (straight wood) Some scholars opine that the amount of Magar words in Nepali indicates that Magarat (historic Magar lands) were larger than generally believed, extending from Dhading to Doti. They note that the place suffix -Kot indicates a place from which Magar kings formerly ruled.
Magars follow hinduism (shaiva) with a priest called pithakote, the social process of Sanskritization has drawn some southern Magar population to develop a syncretic form of bon that combines animist and Buddhist rituals.The original religions or beliefs of Magar people are Shamanism, Animism, Ancestor worship, hinduism and the northern nepals Magar practice Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism and shamanism(Bon) in which their priest is known as Guru'.
Many Magar Priests got mixed into khas Society and became one of them.
Animists and shamanism form part of the local belief system; their dhami (the faith healer or a kind of shaman) is called Dangar and their jhankri (another kind of faith healer or shaman) is called was the traditional spiritual and social leader of the Magars. Magars have an informal cultural institution, called Bhujel, who 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.
The Magar of the low hills wear the ordinary kachhad or wrap-on-loincloth, a bhoto or a shirt of vest, and the usual Nepali topi. The women wear the pariya or sari or lunghi, chaubandhi cholo or a closed blouse and the heavy patuka or waistband, and the mujetro or shawl-like garment on the head. Men living in the Tarakot area even wear the Tibetan chhuba. The ornaments are the madwari on the ears, bulaki on the nose and the phuli on the left nostril, the silver coin necklace"[haari]" and the pote (yellow beads) with the tilhari gold cylinder, [jantar], [dhungri], [naugedi], [phul] and kuntha. Magar males do not wear many ornaments, but some are seen to have silver earrings, hanging from their earlobes, called "gokkul". The magar girls wear the amulet or locket necklace, and women of the lower hills and the high-altitude ones wear these made of silver with muga stones embedded in them and kantha. The bangles of silver and glass are also worn on their hands along with the sirbandhi, sirphuli and chandra on their heads. These are large pieces of gold beaten in elongated and circular shapes.
Agriculture and the military are the primary sources of income. Magars constitute the largest number of Gurkha soldiers outside Nepal. Sarbajit Rana Magar became the head of government during the regency of Queen Rajendra Laxmi. Biraj Thapa Magar winner of limbuwan, General Abhiman Singh Rana Magar and Sarbajit Rana Magar headed the Nepal army. Biraj Thapa Magar was the very first army chief in Nepal Army's history. Magars are famous as gallant warriors wherever they served in the past. The Magars are well represented in Nepal's military, as well as in the Singapore Police Force, the British and Indian Gurkha regiments. They are also employed as professionals in the fields of medicine, education, government service, law, journalism, development, aviation and in business in Nepal and other countries.
Dor Bahadur Bista's observation of Magar's occupation during the 1960s was:
Some of the northernmost Magars have become quite prosperous by engaging in long-range trading that takes them from near the northern border to the Terai, and even beyond to Darjeeling and Calcutta. Were it not for their role in the Gurkha regiments of the Indian and British armies, their self-sufficiency might be endangered.
Toni Hagen, who did his field research in Nepal during the 1950s, observed:
Magars possess considerable skill as craftsmen: they are the bridge builders and blacksmiths among the Nepalese, and the primitive mining is largely in their hands. On the lower courses of the Bheri & Karnali rivers, a great number of Magars annually migrate to the Terai & there manufacture bamboo panniers, baskets, and mats for sale in the bazaars along the borders. In their most northerly settlement, on the other hand, the important trading centre of Tarakot on the Barbung river, they have largely adopted their way of life, their clothes, and their religion to that of the Tibetans; like the latter, they also live by the salt trade. As regard race, the Magars have almond-shaped eyes or even open eyes, whereas Mongoloid eyes are very rare.
A number of Magars have distinguished themselves in military service under the British military. Dipprasad Pun was the first Nepali winner of the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross in Afghanistan in 2010. In the two world wars, total 5 Victoria Cross (out of 13 VCs awarded to Gurkhas) were awarded to the Magars:
Under the leadership of minister Giri Prasad Burathoki, a first ever Magar Convention was held in Bharse of Gulmi District, one of the 12 Magarats in 1957. The objective of the conference was to sensitize the Magars to come forward in the national spectrum.
Later Magar political and social organisations included Nepal Langhali Pariwar (1972), Nepal Langhali Pariwar Sang, and Langhali Pariwar Sangh.
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