|Regions with significant populations|
69.0% Buddhist, 28.75% Hindu, 0.66% Christian
There are 543,571 Gurungs in Nepal (2.39% of the Nepali population) of which 338,925 speak the Gurung language, a member of the Tibetan languages. Their ancestors, culture and traditions are traced back to Tibet. Though Tibet is called "Bhot" in the Nepali language, however the word "Botay" is considered derogatory to refer to Asian featured Nepalis. Gurungs coexist well with other ethnic groups of Nepal such as Madhesi and Khas, Hindu Indo-Aryan groups who have migrated to Nepal since the 12th century and brought with them the Hindu caste system. Most Gurungs and other indigenous Nepalese are Buddhist, and are thus not bound by the Hindu caste system.
Historycivilization began at least eight or nine thousand years ago. The Pye recounts the origin of human beings and the materials and tools they used. Tamu priests still use some of these primitive utensils in their rituals. The Pye seems to have remained substantially the same over time.
The Pye records the ancestors of the Tamu, their Aji-khe, or Khe-ku, nine male ancestors; Aji-ma, or Ma-i, seven female ancestors; and Aba Kara Klye, including spiritual masters, lords, and ghosts. The Tamu Pye tells how the first people lived in Cho Nasa (or Tso Nasa, Tibetan for "Nasa Lake"), a lakeside village, where they planted the first grain, barley. Then they spread to other locales such as Sa Nasa, Dwo Nasa, Si Nasa and Kro Nasa. Kro Nasa is described as being in the south, with hot and fertile climes. The northern Cho Nasa was later rich in religious activity, its inhabitants speaking Tamu-Kwyi. Other Tamu villages were influenced according to their proximity to these two northern and southern villages. The Pye contains stories about the discovery of fire and the making of the first drum among many others.
There are many possibilities for the original location of the ancestral Tamu. The ancestors of the Tamu – the Ma-i and Khe-ku seem to have represented seven lakes (female Ma-i) and nine mountain peaks (male Khe-ku). There is a traditional assumption that Cho Nasa, as described in the Pye-ta Lhu-ta, refers to a place in western Tibet, and was ringed by seven lakes and surrounded by three mountain ranges. To the south, in Xinjiang in Western China, north of Tibet, in the Turfan Depression, lay Kro Nasa. As the Tamu migrated from one site to another, they would call the new site by an old name if it were similar in some aspect (Cf. New York). According to the Tamu Pye, the soul of the dead is believed to go first to Koko-limar-tso, which is under water. In the Qinghai region of China lies a huge lake with an island in the middle called Koko Nor (or Ching Hai). It is similar to Hara Usa Nuur (one of the seven lakes) of western Mongolia, and some near-by places have names which end in "chow", conceivably derived from the Cho Nasa of almost six or seven thousand years ago, described in the Tamu Pye. Similarly Sa Nasa, Two Nasa, Si Nasa and Kro Nasa could be placed in the Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan regions of China respectively, running southward to Tibet and then Nepal.
Besides this document, other texts from various sources tell the origin of Gurungs. One Nepali text from the east of Nepal, from the Rai and Limbu areas, recounts:
|“||The Kirati are the oldest inhabitants of Nepal. Soyenbumanu who lived in the land of Hemonta had several children, The second Thoinua, went off towards Japan. The third went towards Thailand, Burma and Cochin-China. The eldest went towards China, then Tibet, and arrived at the northern frontier of India. His name was Munainua. He had ten children: Yoktumba, founder of the Limbus, Yakakowa, founder of the race of Rais, Lunpheba, founder of the Larus, Thanpheba, Suhacepa, founder of the Sunwars (Chepangs, Thamis), Gurupa, founder of the Gurungs, Mankapa, founder of the Magars, Toklokapa, founder of the Thakalis, Tamangs and Sherpas, Thandwas, founder of the Tharus and of the Danwars. For thirty-three generations, the Kirati governed in Kathmandu.||”|
C.B Ghotane, a Gurung scholar has the following interpretation of Gurung history:
|“||The origins of the Gurungs, Tamangs
of central Nepal seem to be connected with the ancestors of the Kirats,
an ancient Mongolian tribal group, who occupied the northern area of
the Indo-Gangetic plain and the foothills of the whole Himalayan range
which extends from the Kashmir valley to Assam, Nagaland and Manipur.
The earliest civilization of the Kathmandu valley was founded by Kirats.
They lived in the foothills and the large inner valleys of Nepal. They
appear to have fled to the green mountain tops for safety after the
overthrow of the Kirat ruler in the first century A.D.
This research was conducted in the 1950s when most Gurungs were still living in their ancient villages with their culture and traditions were well preserved. Today, many Gurungs have urbanized or moved abroad. Gurungs nowadays struggle to preserve their language and culture. While Pignede's research can serve as a source of knowledge, its validity is controversial.
OccupationsNepal, where they form one of the many ethnic groups in the country. In Nepal, Gurungs have and continue to play significant roles in all spheres of the country’s development. Outside Nepal, many Gurungs, some in their renowned role as Gurkha soldiers, have lived and been exposed to diverse world cultures in areas as different as Bhutan, Europe, Hong-Kong, India, Japan, Korea, and the United States of America. In Nepal, Gurungs can be divided into two categories, highlanders and lowlanders (though Gurungs are predominantly highlanders). Highlanders living on the slopes of Himalayas still rely heavily on a pastoral and agricultural way of life. They grow rice, wheat, maize, millet and potatoes, normally on terraced mountain slopes. They also derive subsistence from sheep breeding for meat and wool, using fierce mastiffs as sheepdogs.
Many Gurung families, however, have another important source of income — the pensions and salaries of family members who are in the army. Among them are the legendary fighters of the British Gurkha Regiment, who were honored with Victoria Crosses for their bravery. Indeed Gurungs are renowned for their role as Gurkha soldiers, making unparalleled contributions in far flung places such as Europe during World Wars I and II, Burma, Malaysia, the Falklands, Africa, and India. Most recently,[when?] Gurungs have participated and continue to participate in most United Nations peacekeeping missions throughout the world.
Despite many pushes and pulls of modern day life, Gurungs are increasingly eager to learn, preserve, and celebrate their distinct cultural heritage and practices. This includes not only the various belief systems and cultural practices surrounding festivals, birth, marriage, and death rituals, but also the Gurungs’ own language Tamu Kwei, generally considered a Tibeto-Burman dialect. This focus on Gurung culture continues to provide invaluable insights and inspiration toward the future.
In an ever more interdependent world, Gurungs face the challenge of balancing the preservation of their unique cultural heritage with adaptation to the demands of modern life. The majority of Gurungs still struggle for basic opportunities to improve their livelihoods. As in the past, Gurungs need to invest in opportunities that build on their well-known attributes as people who are hard working, trustworthy, adaptable, and quick-learners in meeting the challenges of modern life in Nepal and beyond its boundaries. Gurungs seek support and guidance from individuals, institutions, and governments. As of 2001, the literacy rate among Gurungs was 59.79%.
Gurkha recruitmentShri Lil Bahadur Gurung was the first Gorkha to become Director of Music, Military School of Music,Pachmarhi (Madhya Pradesh) of the Indian Army. He has composed a lot of martial music for the Indian Army. He is the first Indian to get a Licentiate in band conducting from Trinity College of Music, London. Presently he is settled down in Jabalpur, India and enjoying his retired life.
Gurung recipients of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces, include Lachhiman Gurung, VC (1917-2010) and Bhanbhagta Gurung VC (1921–2008, also known as Bhanbhakta Gurung), who received it for his actions while serving as a rifleman with the 3rd Battalion of the 2nd Gurkha Rifles in Burma during the Second World War.
Omendra Gurung (Pangi-Lama) is the first Nepalese Gurung (tamu) Police Community Support Officer in the UK. He is from Baglung Pani 5 Nazare (Samrong) of Lamjung West Nepal.
Lifestylesheep herding, trans-Himalayan trade and farming. In the 19th and early 20th century, many Gurung were recruited to serve in the British and Indian Gurkha regiments. Today, the Singapore Police, Brunei reserve units and the French Foreign Legion incorporate ethnically Gurung members. While serving in the British Army they have earned more than 6 Victoria Cross awards. Gurungs are not only restricted to military occupations, many live in urban areas and are employed in all types of labor, business and professional services.
Gurungs trace their descent patrilineally, organized into two groups, or moieties of patrilineal clans.
A noted Gurung tradition is the institution of Rodhi where teenagers form fictive kinship bonds and become Rodhi members to socialize, perform communal tasks, and find marriage partners. But the institution is rarely in existence because of its notoriety in the community. 'Rodhi' literally means weaving and making of baskets.
Generally speaking, the Gurungs are divided into two castes (Jaat in the local tongue); Tin and the Nauw. Within the tin Jaat there exists further sub-divisions: namely, ghale Ghotane, Lama and Lamichhaney. However these are not a original jaads of Gurung they were given by Aryen (Hindu) after they arrived in Nepal. Their proper jaats are 'Kown, Lam, Lem. Each of these castes has their sub-castes of own; Kown has: Lhyege Kown, Jhobro Kon, Takrey Kown, Khelag Kown and many others; Lam: Painghy Lam, Tamee Lam, Cahaiber Lam, Tuchai Lam, Kupchai Lam and many others. They have their own sub-castes including Rilde , Ghaldu, and Tamja. The Gale do not come under gurung Jaat. They have their own history and marry amongst their subcastes. The cultural norms and values of three jaads are greatly influenced by the Tibetans. Tibetan priests perform all rituals, and tin caste gurung are mainly Buddhists. However nauw jaat gurung did not change their ancent religion bonism and bon priest performs all rituals for them. Gurungs are very homogenous in society, whereby a Gurung is typically married to another Gurung people. A male who belongs to the tin Jaat is entitled to marry any woman that including all low casts of hindu jaats however, a male who belongs to the Nauwa Jaat (9 caste) would find himself limited to find only the Nauw Jaat bride. This practice has existed for a long time without contention and to this day, this practice is still very ubiquitous, though less heightened.
Despite Nepali's being a South-Asian, Gurung people bears similar physical traits like Chinese, Mongoloid or Tibetans. Typically, a Gurung person have dark-brown almond eyes, double eye-lids, dark hair, high cheekbones, full lips, small jawline, light skin, and a fairly elevated nose-bridge.
A study has noted that a Gurkha mercenary in Singapore or Great Britain would typically support up to five relatives from home, despite already having to support their immediate family members. The foreign remittance of the Gurkha's pension fund as well as disposable income has benefited Nepal's Economy to some extent.
A notable Gurung person, outside of Gurung's stereotypical career, is Designer Prabal Gurung, a Singapore-born, Nepali-American Fashion Designer. Not surprisingly, his father was also one of the brave Gurkha soldier who served Singapore.
ReligionCenturies of cultural influence from Tibet and its northern neighbours – which adopted the Tibetan culture to a heavy extent resulted in many Gurungs gradually embracing Tibetan Buddhism–particularly among Gurungs in the Manang region – over the centuries, particularly the Nyingma school. Gurungs generally believe in Buddha and bodhisattvas. Adherents also call upon Buddhist lamas to perform infant purification, seasonal agricultural, and funerary rites, as well as house blessing ceremonies. According to the 2001 Nepal Census, 69.03% of the ethnic Gurung were Buddhists, 28.75% were Hindus and 0.66% were Christians. Gurungs practice a form of Tibetan Buddhism heavily influenced by pre-Buddhist Tibetan religion (Bön). Characteristics of this influence include non-Buddhist belief in local deities and in an afterlife in the Land of Ancestors. Other traditional Gurung beliefs include spirit possession, supernatural forest creatures, shapeless wraiths, and spirits of humans that died violently, which populate locales. Gurung villages have their own local deities.
Gurung Dharma describes the traditional shamanistic religion of the Gurung people of Nepal. This religion shares aspects of the Tibetan Bön religion, and is often referred to as "Bön," however there exist significant distinctions between Gurung Dharma and Bön proper. Contemporary shamanistic rituals of Gurung Dharma such as blood offering rituals and ancestor and nature worship are no longer practiced by Tibetan Bönpa. Priestly practitioners of Gurung Dharma include lamas, klihbri, and panju. Shamanistic elements among the Gurungs remain strong and most Gurungs often embrace Buddhist and Bön rituals in all communal activities. Gurung Dharma in its purest form is now virtually extinct, however the religion is preserved to a large extent in Gurung traditions.
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