Monday, January 23, 2006

Bhujels of Indo-Nepal Himalayas: Some Reflections

The term Bhujel refers to a distinct ethnic group within the larger Nepali Community. Bhujel is an ethnic hill tribei of mongoloid origin belonging to the Kirata domain and dwell mostly across the southern slopes of the Himalayas both in Nepal and India. The name Bhujel is said to be derived from Bhujikot- a river valley along Bhuji Khola (River) area of Baglung district of Nepal in the southern slope of the mountain Dhaulagiri. Some Bhujels also identify themselves as Khawas. Further, Bhujels are often termed, as Ghartis across the major parts of Nepal although such term is used in a relatively lesser extent in the areas inhabited by the Bhujels in India. The important questions as to why many Bhujels see themselves as Khawas and why they are termed as Ghartis by the Nepalese society have their roots in the historical antecedents and no concrete research works have been done towards these ends. In fact, we do not have any noteworthy historical and anthropological documentation with respect to the origin of this group of people apart from some collective linguistic studies along with other tribal groups like chepangs, mangars and gurungs by the foreign scholars during the colonial era. The later studies in this respect conducted by the local scholars have been a mere follow up to the earlier studies and hence there has not been much head way in the literature of the origin, history, and other traditional aspects of this tribal group. The Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) has listed Bhujels as a minority indigenous group of the medieval Dor Kingdom of Magar region, Nisi and Bhuji areas of Nepal.

The ancestral place or what we also call it the core of the Bhujels is said to be the Bhuji and Nishi region in Baglong district of Nepal. However, over the period of time perhaps, particularly starting from the early eighteenth century, due to various socio-cultural, economic and environmental factors they scattered across the space in all the directions and in recent times they are found all across the kingdom of Nepal; and some parts of India like Darjeeling Hills, Sikkim, some parts of Northeastern Hills and Uttaranchal. Their population in Nepal according to the Census of Nepal, 2001 comes to 117644. In India the census does not count the population on the basis of caste or tribal group but only on the basis of language spoken (as 100 percent of the Bhujels speak nepali in India although they had their own language historically) and hence we do not have the formal figures of the Bhujels inhabiting across the geographical spaces of the country. However, according to the estimates of the local scholars from Darjeeling Hills and Sikkim the population of Bhujels in Darjeeling Hills comes to around 5000 and in Sikkim over 3000. The Encyclopedia of North-East India (2001) commenting on the people of Sikkim puts the total population of Bhujel to about 1000 in the State of Sikkim.
The origin and history of Bhujels is featured with various myths and assumptions without any proper scholarly documentation and evidences to support the arguments unlike other tribal groups like Lepchas, Tamangs, and Mangars etc. Such legends are based on oral word of mouth versions and have continued through the generations till today. These oral genealogies are surely distorted and highly exaggerated after all those years of retelling. The Bhujels themselves declare that their ancestors had own kingdom in and around Nishi-Bhuji area. According to C. B. Bhujel , “there was a small kingdom of Bhujels in the Bhuji region and it’s surrounding in the historic past”. Shri Bhujel further states that he along with some local scholars visited the villages in the Bhuji region few years back and witnessed an old dilapidated palace of the Bhujel Rajah locally called Bhujirajha. It is also believed that Bhujirajah was a magnificent man and a great justice provider. He used to provide justice to all the subjects of Nepal who had fallen victims to injustice. However, because of unhappy incidences (possibly they had to fight a war and lost the same) in Magarat they were forced to scatter in different parts of the remote hill areas across Nepal and India. They were extremely oppressed and exploited in the past. We, nevertheless, do not have any scientific document of historical, sociological or anthropological importance to validate the authenticity of the above claims pertaining to Bhujels. Much research works, therefore, need to be done, towards these ends.

Bhujels are regarded close to Magars culturally and to that of Chepangs linguistically but again there are no concrete studies in this respect excluding few studies conducted by some foreign linguists during colonial era. Some even go one step forward and declare Bhujels to be the sub-set of the Magars. But where are the anthropological evidences? According to the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN), “the religion and culture of these backward people are close to extinction, and Hindu influences have been encroaching on their ways of life”. Bhujels too have their own language and it belongs to Tibeto-Burman family. Today, the Bhujel language or what it is also called Bhujel Kura is in the verge of extinction. The census of Nepal, 2001, puts the total number of Bhujel language speakers at 10733 constituting 0.05 % of the total population of the country. The situation is worst in the Indian counter part. No Bhujels in India speak their language. And more ironically many Bhujels, particularly the younger generations, do not even know that their ancestors had their own literature and used to speak the language of their own. There have been instances in Darjeeling and Sikkim Hills when the people from Nepali community themselves have asked who the Bhujels are, or whether they belong to Nepali community or some other tribal groups. We are yet to study the Bhujel language in detail and produce a proper linguistic document of this vanishing language.

According to the Nepal Federation of Indigenous Nationalities (NEFIN) less then 20 per cent of the Bhujels are literate in Nepal. We do not have the formal figure in this respect for the Bhujels in India but the situation may not be very different. Economically, over 90 per cent of the Bhujels in Nepal and about 80 percent in India live below the poverty line and are not surprisingly among the most backward people both in Nepal and India. They are majorly concentrated in lower and middle hills of the Himalayan region of both Nepal and India and are mainly engaged in agriculture and other domestic chores including making of ploughs, yokes, various bamboo goods. They are also excellent in weaving cloths, spinning threads, knitting carpets blankets and preparing other handy crafts. Very few Bhujels are into secondary and tertiary sectors both in Nepal and India. Some of them are engaged in construction and trade while negligible percentages of them are into service sector.

To conclude, there is no authentic scholarly documentation with regard to the origin and history of Bhujels. Although Bhujels are regarded similar to Magars on cultural grounds and to Chepangs linguistically validity of these claims are yet to be scientifically authenticated. Bhujels have their own language but it is in the verge of extinction. They are one of the backward tribal groups within the Nepali community both in Nepal and India and are mainly engaged in agriculture for their livelihood with very few into secondary and tertiary sectors of the economy. This minority tribal group deserves proper scholarly and scientific investigation and documentation with respect to its origin, history, socio-cultural characteristics, geographical distribution, and its vanishing language and literature before they evaporate into the larger Nepali society and become a couple of paragraphs in the history textbook to our future generations.

16 Comments:

Blogger Jessica said...

Hi Vimal,

I am so happy to read your blog. I am suprised, as you mentioned in your blog that we have a language of our own. I would love to learn as well. I am happy that I joined bhujel community in orkut and got to read this beautiful piece of hard work you have put in. Thanks again and do keep in touch.

12:38 PM  
Blogger deep011 said...

SUKRIYA
SIR. BAHUT ICCHA THHA APNEY AP KO JANNE KI APNEY PAICHAN DILAYA
BAHUT BAHUT DHANYA BAD
DEV

11:32 PM  
Blogger PASSIONATE said...

thanx.malai aafno ethnic groupko barema janne thulo ichhya thio.tapaile yati thulo mehenat garnu bhayo.tara malai aafno ethnic groupko dresing style,language,cultureko aja badi janna man 6.

6:14 PM  
Blogger D.B. Khawas said...

As regards history of Bhujels, Vansittart observes/documents that
1)"Bhujial (?Bhujel) Gharti lives in the valleys and high mountains to the north of Gulmi above the Puns,but immediately below the Karantis( ? Kirantis). Their tract of country runs along both sides of the Bhuji Khola (River)from which they probably derive their name.
Bhujel Gharti is generally a shepherd.He lives principally on milk of sheep, and is almost invariably a man of good physique and heavy limbs.He is remarkably dirty when first inlisted(? In British Indian Army )
Amongst the Ghjarti Clans are two, that should not be confounded,although their similarity in pronunciation one is apt to do so. The Pare or Paharia is a good Magar. Pare or Paria (From Par,outside) should never be inlisted.He is as his name indicated,an out-cast,or a decendant of out-caste."
- Vansittart,E., 1894,Tribes,Clans and Castes of Nepal;Vintage Books,19921,Reprint, p-21.
2)"..... Khawas is also the name given to the illegitimate children of King or Royal Family..."

-ibid ,P- 27

"...Bhujels do not have the custom of wearing white cloths which signify the mourning that the wearer in undergoing.On the last day of the death pollution period,the kriyaputri,according to their financial abilities call the villagers,give them a feast of Jad,raksi,meat and food. They do not perform the six monthly and annual sraddha,which is the commemoration of the death anniversary "
- Enclyclopaedia of South Asian Tribes, P-353. 19....
Most of the later authors wrongly equate the social statue of Bhujels with the group liberated by Chandra Samsher,the Rana Prime Minister of Nepal much later than Vansittarts,observation on Bhujels.
Accounts about Bhujels by most of the later so called scholars reveal the fact that rheir findings are based on the secondary information that itself lack credibility or the informants themselves suffered gross racial prejudice. Instead of critically reviewing the concocted history the un-scholarly scholars have tried to propagate the social stigma about many other ethnic groups including Bhujels. This trend of rascism must stop.
The liberated slaves included many so called upper castes too,like....so and so (Names of the castes deliberately avoided here.)

9:43 AM  
Blogger Umesh Bhujel said...

Thanks sir. I will speak in Nepali so sorry for that. Mailay afno jatiko barema searh gareko tapaiko blog aayo ra khusi vaya ki afno jatiko barema padhna pauda. Malai afno vasa sikna maan6 tara mero gharko kasailay pani afno language boldainan. Ani maily suneko hamro jaati thau thau ma split vaya pachi hamlai "doli bokne" kaam lauthyo re thula jaat vanada harule.

7:55 PM  
Blogger rupen khawas said...

If we survey the khawas of different parts of nepal..we may get the different meanings of khawas some claim that they are bhujels some say chaudari some say tharu..i've even heard that the khawas of northen ilam claim themselves as limbu..but getting straight to meaning of khawas..it may dissapoint us but we are illegimate sons of the past king..i mean the illegimate sons were named as khawas..so to cover that real meaning of khawas many of the khawas started to make their own identity like bhujel,chetri,tharus..so concluding it khawas of different places may differ because khawas ain't no surname...If you wanna get real you've gotta go to your hometown and ask that which king ruled this place?

7:01 AM  
Blogger Santa Bhujel said...

Thank You Sir,

हामी भुजेल जातिलाई यस्तो Publication को धेरै नै खाँचो छ तर एउटा कुरा गर्न मन लाग्यो Sir,
The Encyclopedia of North-East India मा भाको भुजेल जाती बारे धेरजसो कुराहरु गलत छ | विशेष सिक्किम को सन्दर्भमा भन्नु पर्दा Settlement, Occupation, Culture Population जस्तो कुराहरु सबै गलत लेकिएको छ| The Encyclopedia of North-East India मा दिएको ठाउँको नाम " सोलोंग" सिक्किममा कतै छैन अनि बढियाख्पो मा भुजेल जतिको बसो-बासो नै छैन | यहाँको जानसंख्या २००६ -DESMI को Survey अनुसार ३५०० थोयो भने २०००-२००२ मा त तेती कमि नहुनु पर्ने | यस्ता धेरै किताब र Report हरु मा हामी भुजेल जाति बारे गलत कुराहरु लेखिएको छ | Sir को तर्फा बाट अबोउसो यस्तो कामलाई रोक्न हामिले के-कस्तो कामहरु गर्नु पर्ला ? सुझाउ को पनि आसा राख्दछु |

1:00 AM  
Blogger Raul Mck said...

Dai,di,bhai,baini those who are interested to learn bhujel language can buy a book called*BHUJEL,JAATI&BHASA written by Babu ram bhujel.....So learn and speak our language and this will help our next coming generation to...,be proud for who we are....

2:14 AM  
Blogger ankit khawas said...

generally it is said that bhujel and khawas are same. but to some extent it may be true..
but khawas isn't bhujel. it is a unique and different caste. khawas people are like thauru of eastern part on nepal. their languge, culture and customs are as like as tharus. but even though there are so many differences in them. many surnmes are same in khawas and thauru. they identify themselves as khawas of nepal not as bhujel or tharu. the dense population of khawas can be found in morang, sunsari and jhapa as well. and they are scattered throgh out nepal. but i am surpriesed why khawas are called bhujel or tharus? bharat khawas nepali football player is neither bhujel nor tharu

4:14 AM  
Blogger bhusan bhujel said...

I m happy to read this article about the Bhujel community. Though I being from Bhujel community didn't know about the culture ,language. We here in Darjeeling hills , kalimpong , Daors (west Bengal ,india )have large population don't know about the Bhujel cultural n tradition.
If isuch situation continue for years to years one day definitely it will b extinct n become as a history.

3:31 AM  
Blogger Samuel Rai said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3:34 AM  
Blogger surja khawas said...

Wow really impressive....

8:37 PM  
Blogger Dev said...

Dear all Ours Bhujel samaj I think we we have some group or site but I don't know about that, so if you people know that please add me or if we don't have then we should have open one of the site
Please select some Facebook site and add all the Bhujel
Thank you
Dev

9:03 PM  
Blogger Dev said...

Santa ji namaskar mo Deoraj filhal mo Delhi ma chu, auta baat jannu thiyo, ke tapai agadi badnu chahanu huncha ki pachadi ? Yedi duniya jasari develop hudaicha hami pani aage badnu ho bhane kati paya baat haru re hamilai 50 saal pachee ladaicha yo sahi hoina yo kura sahi ho bhane aaudo din haruma bhujel jatile chuyeko pani pani kasaile na piune hola samajma aafnu respect babai rakhnu pani sabai bhanda pahilo baat ho, yo baatlai please her jaga rakhnu hola thank you all

2:05 AM  
Blogger Rejina Rai said...

kati paya bhujel sathiharule "D bhujel" lekhnuko meaning k ho? I mean bhujel haru vitra ko sub caste ho ki aru meaning chha?

12:42 AM  
Blogger Dev said...

D Bhujel Mero naam Deoraj Bhujel bhane jhai ho, Malaika jaha samma jankari xa
Thank you for your comment

1:20 AM  

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