Author Topic: Tharu Women-And Traditional Craftmanship In Their Society  (Read 1411 times)

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Tharu Women-And Traditional Craftmanship In Their Society
« on: October 20, 2008, 08:20:23 AM »

Nepal is the homeplace of numerous ethnic races and Tharus constitute a great bulk of Nepalese population. They are the dwellers of the Terai region of Jhapa, Kanchanpur, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Saptari, Morang, Banke, Bardiya, Butwal, Nawalparasi, Chitwan etc.

This study is of the Tharus who are the dwellers of  Dang and Deokhuri region. This artical is based on the field survey of different villages of Dang such as Bargati, Digpur Bhaisai, Puudi Okhara, Karjai and at Deokhuri such as Sisnniya Arhanpur, Manpur Pipra pipri, Parwa Parhwa, Pathgodwa, Majheria, Bagrapur etc in 1994.

The Tharus have 65 different clans. Among them are Danwars Lampooch, Kohila, Bhatyain Patibena, Gadwalia, Rana, Mardana, Dangoria Kathania Kathphoria Deokhuria, Nawalpuria, Chitwania etc.

The district of Dang is situated in the West of Nepal. It rises up to the height above 6000 ft forming the Siwalik Ranges. This region is of  archaeological importance and the discovery of authentic findings proves it to be the homeplace of primitive dwellers. Deokhuri lies along the Mahendra Highway.

The Tharus of these regions are still under the bonded labour system. It may sound rather very strange yet majority of the kamaiya or the bonded labour families are happy to remain that way. The reason they give is that even if they had possessed land holdings of their own, it would certainly not be much and the food crops would not be sufficient enough to support their large families. As bonded labour families they receive food crops enough for the families as well as some pay and clothes four times a year for the whole family. Beside it they have time of their own which they utilize in doing other manual works. They possess a small backyard where they keep pigs, hen, goat etc and grow vegetables for their daily use, and nearly each  and every household possesses fruit trees like  banana papaya, sugarcane etc.

The women folks are also very tedious workers. Besides looking after their household, they work in the fields with menfolks and collect  fodder and  firewood. During their free time they are involved in making  traditional handicrafts.

Here art comprises not only of the painted scrolls but each and every materials used by them in their daily lives.

  Structure of the house

Tharu house is a finepiece of traditional style of art safeguarded by the Tharus even to this day. The construction responsibility is of the male, however its daily maintenance and cleanliness is that of the women.

The houses are constructed facing North and South in a rectangular manner and they are usually single storied. Their exist a belief that if two storied houses are constructed it becomes a dwelling place of spirits and ghosts. Recently changes are occuring near the roadsides as double storied houses can be seen of unbaked bricks  with roof of Khar, reed, tins etc.

However majority of the houses are single storied thatched and plastered, very neat and clean. As a researcher I felt that these so called primitive tribes or people have used their own indigenous architectural methods in the construction. They have in a simple artistic manner utilized small spaces in such a manner that the partition walls are shaped in the form of grainery.

  Rooms within the houses

Gahari is the place to keep sheep goat and cows.

It is usually bared from the Bahari that is the sitting room by wooden poles. In some of the houses we come across crudely carved wooden poles with axe symbol for the spirit or the deity  of the animals. It is usually the task of the women to worship it early in the morning.

Bahari is the sitting room or like the modern drawing room. This is the main room which comprises of two doors, usually left open to let light into the room.  Tharu houses do not have windows but only small holes. Tharus have used their own indegenious method of constructions. The partition walls are shaped as grainery known as Dahari or Kuthli to store food grains. It is made up of mud, bhus and cowdung. Bahari is an important place for the Tharus. In the centre the fire is burnt and it is here discussions are held, recreation takes place in the form of singing and dancing, drinking and enjoying after the day?s hard work and it is here some of the most artistic creation have been born.

Kunte is the sleeping room and the number of kunte vary in accordance to the number of family members. It is an empty room which becomes alive at night, when haystacks are laid in an artistic manner and on it are laid matresses if they possess one, if not, they simply place a thin sheet of clothes and sleep on it.

The artistic materialistic form of culture seen in this room are the large Dhakulies that are hung from the ceilings. Large dhakulies are artistically shaped and produced by the womenfolk.

The large dhakulies are as large as 3 ? feet in diameter, some with cover, some open, hung from the ceiling. These were used as the store place where they kept their blankets and other clothes. In fact it replaces the modern day boxes. In course of research I came across a large artistically shaped dhakuli which could be locked.  Simply a wonderful piece of artistic production.

Who are the producers of such artistic pieces?

It is usually seen that the women folk during their free hours are involved in forming such lovely pieces.

Bhitra (kitchen) is another important place which serves both as the dining and the cooking room. It is here we come across certain materialistic artistic creations. Creations made from the available raw materials.

Can you guess as to who are the producers? Large materials which required manual labour are done by men, while delicate and small craftmanship are the productions of the womenfolks.

 Artistic materials seen within Bhitra or the kitchen

Davala in the flat wooden spoon existing both at Dang and Deokhuri

Chota Chatowa is made of wood

Large Chattwa is a deep wooden spoon  used in cooking and stiring broth. This is made both by men and women folks.

Tumba is commonly used both at Dang and Deokhuri. It is made by both men and women.

The raw materials used for this purpose is a dried Lauki which had been scooped empty and a thread was  tied to hang it. To make it look more attractive the women  folks made floral designs on the outer surface. It is used to store water and alcohol.

Helka is a small net. The women folks are expert in making such nets. Raw materials used are reeds, back of  trees, which are submerged in water and then binded into thread and nets. These nets are used to catch fishes and rabbits.

Pokhya are artistic nets made by women to store potatoes.

Jyokhya net is similar to Pokhya and is used to store onions and ginger.

Dhalia plays important role in the life of the Tharus and when one looks at it one can simply wonder as to how skillfully they have used the cut bamboo pieces and artistically binded them and formed them into Dahlia.

Both men and womenfolk make this kind of Dhalias. However during free hours it is mostly the women who create such artistic craftmanships. This is used to keep  fishes.

Bera is another common sight seen within the Bhitra.

This is a raised mat made of haystack binded together which is made by the womenfolks and  is used for sitting.

Another important place in the life of the Tharus is the Devarar which is their worship room. It is here the Tharus keep their deities. Here too we come across artistic creations made by human hands which are the symbols on which reside the spirits of various deities. Though these symbols are not made by women yet it is their task to worship them and maintain them.

 Do these designs symbolize anything?

For them it is nothing but merely their inner artistic tendencies born out of their inner feelings. These so called primitive people are dwellers away from modernization yet they have their own artistic capabilities.  Such capabilities are the inner products or are born from within, they do not go to the designing schools nor do they possess degrees yet the designs born from their inner feelings are no less than any modern artist or designers of today. In fact it is the modern designers who have indulged themselves in copying their designs.

The ornaments vary from races to races and tribe to tribe. The Tharus possess ornaments representing their own culture.
source : nepaltraveller     Vol:19 No: 12


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