Friday, June 13, 2014

A little bit about Nepali Castes

The oldest stone tap of Changunarayan village and still in use.

Written by Sharmila Maharjan

The ancient temple of Changu Narayan is located on a high hilltop that is also known as Changu or Dolagiri. The temple is surrounded by forest with champak trees and a small village, known as Changunarayan Village. The temple is located in Changu Narayan, VDC of Bhaktapur District, Nepal. This hill is about 8 miles east of Kathmandu and a few miles north of Bhaktapur. This temple is considered the oldest Hindu temple in Nepal still in use.

The two big stone elephants in the southern part of Changunarayan Temple.

The village is surrounded by different castes/groups of people. First of all, many westerners do not understand what we mean by castes. You could think of castes as tribes or extended family rather than some sort of cultural/societal levels. Many westerners think it’s all about the Hindu caste system, but it is actually quite complex with this being only one part of it. For Americans, you can think of it like the way New York City functions. You have the five burrows with each of these made up primarily of a particular heritage. People are so proud of their heritage they want to keep that identity pure by marrying within their community. Of course it’s more rigid and there are many more social norms to consider.

This is the picture of typical Tamang village in Changunarayan.
There are different small villages of different groups of people surrounding Changu. The temple area is surrounded by the Newar with their own culture and tradition. The village in the southern part is the Tamang village, where the majority are Tamang and Lama. Most of them are Hindu but they have a different culture than the other castes. The other northern village and eastern village is the combined group of Brahmin, Chhetry.  Magar, and other castes’ people live in yet another village.
Making thangka at Sunapati Thangka School on the way to Changunarayan Temple.

This UNESCO site is well worth seeing and well worth staying in awhile. If you are artistically inclined you can enjoy a thangka painting class or a wood carving class. They also have guides who can take you on a cultural trek for around $5. Even though it’s still in the Kathmandu Valley, it's like stepping back in time and the people are really genuinely friendly.

Changunarayan is also well above the pollution line of Kathmandu and there is usually a nice, gentle breeze blowing. It's the middle of June at noon and the temperature is 25.6 with 55% humidity. I'm sure that's much different than Kathmandu, just 20 Km. away.
Roof top small room with beautiful Thangkas.

Contact: Star View Guest House & Retreat Center
Changunarayan-1, Bhaktapur
015141181 or 9849930812

From the temple: Come out via the west gate, look for the star and sign on the rooftop as you come down the steps. Follow the road to the edge of the hill. You will see the guest house on the right at the end of the road.
Mention KTM group for the free guided trek.

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