Chepang

Chepang

Chepang is one of Nepal's most backward indigenous groups. They were originally nomads, but are now embracing a semi-nomadic lifestyle. Chepangs are known for shifting cultivation practice (slashand-burn agriculture), which is their main source of livelihood. Farming alone is not enough for them to sustain their families, so they also depend on hunting, fishing and collecting Githa and Vyakur (shoots and roots), wild yams, catch bats and wild birds. Of late, they have also started working as manual workers in towns near their settlements. According to the 2011 Census, their population stands at 68,399. They are spread across Makawanpur, Dhading, Chitwan, Gorkha, Lamjung and Tanahu districts. They had different kingdoms in an ancient time, which is evident from the fact that they utter names of different kings such as King Poni, Gil, Rini, Ponthe and Raji during ritual performances. Chepangs had Kipat system, which allowed them to use and tax lands until the first half of the 19th century.

Today, nearly 95 percent of Chepangs are landless and depend on forage for food. They worship nature. Their main festival is 'Bhui Jyasa'/Bhumi puja (prayer to the land). They also worship Chiuri trees (Diplohnema Butyracea). They extract butter from seeds produced by these trees. Butter trees are often gifted to Chepang daughters when they get married. This tradition still prevails. Thus, Chiuri trees are not merely a source of income but also bear a cultural value. Their rituals and festivals are performed mostly by the priest, known as 'Pandes' When king Birendra visited Chepang settlements in Makawanpur in 1997, he ordered local officials to call Chepang as 'Praja'. So the government launched 'Praja Development Program' to empower Chepang people, but their lifestyle and living standards have not changed much. Only 15 percent Chepangs are literate and almost 90 percent Chepangs are below poverty line. School enrollment rate is very low and drop-out rate is very high. Chepangs possess vast indigenous knowledge about herbal medicines. The forest is the most important resource for them in terms of food, fiber, medicine, housing materials, fodder and various other needs.

Langauge

Chepangs have their own language, belong to Tibeto-Burman language family. Nearly 70 per cent of Chepang speak mother tongue. But they do not have scripts. 


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