The Chepang Essay
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The Chepang are an indigenous Tibeto-Burman people group numbering around fifty-two thousand mainly inhabiting the Lothar Khola region, east and west of Kandrang Garhi. They also inhabit the valleys washed by the Male Khila River, in the mid-region of the Mahabharat Mountains.
The severe topography, however, has made permanent farming difficult and the forest has remained an important source of food for the Chepang. Majority of the Chepang people collect wild foods such as wild yam, aerial yam, deltoid yam, fingered yam, tender leaves of camel’s purple foot tree, butter tree fruits and seeds, garlic pear tree, stinging nettle, and several other wild plant species and periodically wild deer hunted from nearby forests, have supplemented their need for carbohydrates and protein.
The people speak 3 different dialects of this Tibeto-Burman language that is closely related to Raute and Raji. The language is also known as Chepang but is called Chyo-bang by the people themselves. With increasing population, lack of arable land and few irrigation options, despite forest supplements, malnutrition has been an historic problem for the Chepang who have often been characterized as the poorest of Nepal’s poor.
Chepang men and women are basically egalitarian and no social ranking exists as it does in caste Nepalese society.
There are no chiefs. The Chepangs themselves follow Animism, although they are strongly influenced by both Hinduism and Buddhism, which came from the Tamangs just north of them. They observe all the Hindu festivals of Dashain, Tihar and Sakrantis besides their own tribal festival Nwagi, which is performed on a Tuesday during third week of Bhadra.