The Mahotari Tharu of Nepal
The origin of the Tharu is not clear. Some claim them to be migrants from the Thar desert in Rajasthan, India. Others say that these are the descendants of the children who were born out of the liaisons between the Rajput women and their servants who fled the Muslman invaders. They are, however, clearly Mongoloid in their facial features.
What are their lives like?
Traditional Tharu homes are usually single-storied structures with straw roofs, their sizes depending upon the size of each family. While some are only 30 feet in length, others may be 125 feet long and have a width of up to 25 feet. They take great pride in keeping their homes clean. The women commonly decorate the walls of their homes with colorful paintings of elephants, horses, parrots, and flowers. Married women also adorn their hands, legs, and breasts with elaborate and artistic tattoos, although this practice is becoming less common.
The Tharu family is an extended structure and remains so for a period of three to four generations. The family unit is headed by the oldest member whose word is law. Within each village, one of the wiser, older men is selected and made the village representative or sort of "chieftain." He is authorized to select a group of elders with whom he can sit and discuss various matters pertaining to the welfare of the village, making beneficial decisions with their help.
Most Tharu marriages occur when the children are quite young. A boy that is 8 or 9 years of age will be married off to a girl that is 15 or 16. They reason that this age imbalance provides an extra worker (the woman). Generally, there are two types of marriages. One is the magi bawaha, where all the relevant rituals are completed. The other is the chori biwaha, where the female is abducted.
While the women handle the household chores, the outside work is done entirely by the men, except for collecting fodder, which is done by the young girls of the village.
What are their beliefs?
Among the Tharu, every home contains a household god. This deity is offered blood sacrifices of a chicken and a pigeon, as well as milk and silk cloth. In many homes they also appease the god with the blood of the male of the household. This takes place in a ceremony where he makes superficial cuts on his forehead, arms, throat, legs, and chest.
Death is an event of great significance among Tharu societies, and the rituals they perform differ from place to place.
Most Tharu have a concept of a creator or supreme god, but would not have heard of the name of Jesus. At the present time, there are neither scriptures nor Christian broadcasts available in their language. No missions agencies have targeted the Mahotari Tharu, and today there are only 31 known believers among them.
Chitwan Tharu, Dang Tharu, Deokri Tharu, and Saptari Tharu.
Latest estimates from the World Evangelization Research Center.
© Copyright 1997
Bethany World Prayer Center
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