Tamang people

"Tamang" redirects here. For the language, see Tamang language.
The Tamang
Total population
A Tamang Woman
Buddhist Lama of the Tamang People, Tistung, Nepal

The Tamang རྟ་དམག (Devnagari: तामाङ; tāmāng), or Tamag, are the indigenous inhabitants of the Himalayan regions of Nepal and India, their ancestral land is called Tamsaling.[1] They are the aborigines of Yambu, or Kathmandu Valley, who had self-rule and autonomous roughly 2 centuries before present,[2] systematically displaced during the expansion period of Gorkha Kingdom and this continues to the present day, the Central Development Region, Nepal remains where 70% of the population reside. The traditionally Buddhist Tamang are the largest Tibeto-Burman ethnic group within Nepal, constituting 5.6% of the national population of over 1.3 million in 2001, increasing to 1,539,830 as of 2011 census,[3] yet contested.[4] Tamang are also a significant minority in Sikkim and Darjeeling District of West Bengal of India as permanent settlers;[2][5] their languages are fifth most spoken in Nepal (note all Tamang languages are not mutually intelligible). They were one of the aborigines who were least affected by Nepalisation.[6] Peculiar to Tamang people are complex marriage restrictions within the community.


1/3 of all deaths were among Tamang people, and roughly 2/3 of the 600,000 structures completely destroyed were in Tamang dominant areas.[7] It is the poverty, neglect and outright discrimination against Tamangs that makes them even more vulnerable to disasters like earthquakes, landslides and floodsAnthropologist Mukta Singh Lama.[7]

In the past, Tamang were neither accepted into government posts, whether administrative, judicial or political, nor allowed to accept foreign employment till 1950, serving as a labor pool for the ruling class.[2] But nowadays, Tamangs are highly respected as buddhist monks (priest) as rinpoche, khempo and also served as brave Gurkha soldiers (brigadier,colonel, IGP, inspector ) in British Gurkha army, Singapore police, Indian amry and police and Nepalese army and police.

The governments have considered that an empowerment of Tamang community is essential to in order to increase the living standard of the people. On August 3 the Nepalese parliament adopted a bill amending the Civil Service Act 1993. The amendments provide reservations for disadvantaged groups by allocating 45 percent of the jobs in the bureacracy to these groups.

Political Participation

Tamangs are represented by Tamsaling Rastriya Mukti Morcha and Tamsaling Nepal Rastriya Dal, neither of which holds any seats in Parliament. The umbrella group Mongol National Organisation supports self-determination and works against said discrimination not just for Tamangs but for all Mongoloid groups in the country. Mongol National is against conversion to Hinduism of non-Hindus, but it holds no official parliamentary vote. Federal Limbuwan State Council (FLSC) also works towards similar goals for self-determination for the Kirati peoples, who co-mingle with Tamangs, citing a reneged treaty with Kathmandu for autonomy.[8] The associated Sanghiya Limbuwan Party has participated in calling banda during the 2015 Nepal blockade,[9] nevertheless international press had not only failed to take note of their bandh, but even pretended not to notice their very existence and instead focused intently on 4 party India-backed Madhesi Morcha actions, geopolitical concerns with China, as Limbuwan also opposes both the Madhesi goals as well as Kathmandu's domination.[10] However, there is rationale to India and Western nation's denial of information about Limbuwan actions during the fuel blockade, in the 1980s, a violent Gorkhaland movement within India was led by the prominent Tamang Subhas Ghising to which India had viewed as a security threat due to the proximity of India's chicken neck.[5] Madan Tamang, a Tamang-Indian politician, and proponent for Gorkhaland statehood, was assassinated in 2010, with West Bengal government placing blame on another Gorkhaland political party, in effect weakening the movement. Gorkhaland Territorial Administration was then created in place of statehood in India, nevertheless across the border, ethnic discrimination issues regarding the numerous Mongoloid groups (who have taken part in each other's politics) are left unresolved within Nepal.


Tamang Gompa, Jorpati (02)

The religion is considered by Tamangs as Bon Lamaism, distinct and predating Tibetan Buddhism, and due to geopolitical focus on Tibet, Tamangs hold their beliefs are also largely ignored by Western scholars.[2] Tamang have gompas (monasteries) in every sizeable village. Every family has their special Buddhist god and book to worship every morning. The Tamangs retain jhankris (shamans) in addition to their Lama clan (Tamang) (priests), the latter whose surnames are also Lama. Additionally there exists the honorific term Lama (honorific), assigned to all Tamang regardless of kinship clan (swagen bhai). This is not to be confused with Lama of Tibet or the Sherpa Lama surname and clan. These jhankris perform certain rites such as trances and sacrifices to alleviate problems or assure good fortune.[2] 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. Majority of the Tamangs are buddhist, not Hindu so they don't belong to low caste system of Hindu.

2015 Quake devastation and humanitarian crisis

Today they inhabit the borders of Nepal and Tibet, due to marginalization from Kathmandu, and are among the groups hardest hit by the April 2015 Nepal earthquake of which 1/3 of the dead were Tamang, and majority of their houses destroyed.[7] Only 38.3 per cent of the Tamangs can reach nearest health facilities by walking for 30 minutes. In terms of access to safe drinking water, the Tamangs rank sixth from the bottom. Almost all indicators show that the Tamangs have not benefitted from their geographical proximity to the capital Kathmandu. 381,976 buildings destroyed out of 600,000 were in areas dominated by Tamangs.[7] Additionally, Tamang and Chepang children before the 2015 Nepal blockade were already suffering from severe malnutrition.[11]


The word Tamang is re-constructed from 2 words: Ta – Horse and Mang – Soldier in the Tibetan language.[2]



Tamangs are divided into 240 families.[2]

Flags and colourful printed by Buddhist mantra, holy words and clothes are put in different places in the village.[3] Tamang have a dance called " Tamang Selo " that is performed with the Damphoo instrument, also known as Damphoo Dance, having a brisk movement and rhythmic beat peculiar to Tamangs.[5]

Dashain is also approached with much enthusiasm by Tamangs.[3]


Most Tamangs are farmers, engaged in agriculture as small holders and day labour. Due to the lack of irrigation at higher altitudes, their crops are often limited to corn, millet, wheat, barley, and potatoes. They often supplement their farming income with manual labour. Due to the discrimination experienced by the Tamang people they have remained on the whole poorly educated, and the majority have been limited to working in farming, portering, mountain trekking, and driving in Kathmandu. They also work in construction of Tibetan rugs, Thankas (Tibetan painting), driving, labour and trekking.[2] As far as farming is concerned, Tamang are dependent on rainfall and do not employ modern machinery.[3] Tamangs are also serving as brave gurkha soldiers (brigadier,colonel, IGP ,inspector ) in britsh gurkha army, singapore police, indian amry and police and nepalese army and police.

Kinship clans

Thars (Tamang language:Swagen Bhai) are exogamous clans with complex intermarriage restrictions. There are over 39 listed swagen bhai in one study.[3]

Origins and History

Tamangs have long inhabited Kathmandu Valley and the hills of Nepal in general, yet the origins of Tamang are exactly unknown, yet they believe they are indigenous to the area had once ruled Nepal. They have beliefs that they have been descended from mugughyalsa which is called as mugu district in modern district.[2]

Trekking and Tourism

Tamang villages are often visited on Nepal's numerous trekking routes, one being labelled Tamang Heritage Trail.[12] They also work as porters and the chances are that the Sherpas and Guides on a Trek are more likely to be a Tamang than an actual Sherpa.[2]


  1. "About TAMANG | Nepal Tamang Society, Japan नेपाल तामाङ समाज जापान". Tamangsamaj.wordpress.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 "The Tamang People - The Blue Space Guides Nepal". Thebluespace.com. 2014-06-20. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 https://publications.theseus.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/73036/Ghimire_Mahesh.pdf?sequence=1
  4. note from: http://thebluespace.com/the-tamang-people/, "these figures are contested by the Tamang themselves as some had written Lama or their family name on the census form were not counted as Tamang and many others have in the past changed their caste in order to escape the caste limitations placed upon them."
  5. 1 2 3 https://books.google.com/books?id=uLfE8HGwdIMC&pg=PA277 Emergent North-East : A Way Forward By H. C. Sadangi
  6. "Report on Socio-Economic Status of Tamang–Kavre". Nefin.org.np. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "The Brief » Blog Archive » The Tamang epicentre". Nepali Times. 2015-07-05. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  8. Chemjong, Iman Singh (2003). History and Culture of Kirat People (4th ed.). Kathmandu: Kirat Yakthung Chumlung. ISBN 99933-809-1-1.
  9. "Sanghiya Limbuwan Party calls indefinite Eastern Region bandh". The Himalayan Times. 2015-09-04. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  10. Om Astha Rai. "Look south | As It Happens". Nepali Times. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
  11. "The Kathmandu Post :: Malnutrition stalks quake-hit kids". ekantipur.com.
  12. Post Report. "The Kathmandu Post :: Tamang Heritage Trail reopens after quake". Kathmandupost.ekantipur.com. Retrieved 2015-12-23.
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