Magars are Nepal’s third largest ethnolinguistic group, accounting for 7.1 percent of the total population. They reside in the central hills of Nepal. History shows that Magars were predominant in Palpa to Rukum Rolpa. The whole region was called “Magarat” due to the inhibition of the Magars. The existence of the Magar community on the roads to Manaslu can be seen. We will discuss the community’s culture, lifestyle, and history here.
The Magars are one of Nepal’s oldest known tribes. The first written history of the Magar people dates from 1100 CE. Magwar Bisaya was the ancient name for Magarat and the Magar region.It bordered the Morden Pyuthan region to the Marsyanngdi river. The ancient Magars are said to have ruled among various principalities of Nepal. The Sen dynasty of Palpa is considered Magar. Historians also believe a king named Aramudi of the Kali Gandaki region to be Magar.
Magars are divided into the following seven categories based on tribes. They are as follows
- Ale, Budha/Budhathoki
These tribes all intermarry with each other, have the same customs, and are equal regarding social standing. Each tribe is subdivided into many sub-clans.
Magars have their language. However, different Magars follow different dialects. They are classified as Magar Dhut Dialect, Magar Kham Dialect, and Magar Kaike Dialect. The dialects vary based on the clans as well as the geographical residence of the Magars.
Magars practice Buddhism, Bon, and Hinduism. Shamanism, Animism, and Ancestor worship are the original religions or beliefs of the Magar people. The Magars of northern Nepal follow Shamanism (Bon). However, the Magars of Western Nepal have been practicing Lamaism (shamanism).
Magars are the primary priests at the well-known Manakamana Temple in Gorkha District. They are also primary priests in the Budha Subba Temple and the Alamdevi Temple in Dharan.
The Magars have ethnic clothes that fit the weather of central Nepali hills. Men dress in kachhad or wrap-on-loincloth, bhangra, bhoto or vest shirt, and the traditional Nepali topi. The women wear Phariya or Lunghi, Chaubandhi cholo or a closed blouse. Other clothing items like heavy Patuka, waistband, and the Mujetro or shawl-like garment on the head are also for women.
The most important festival of the Magar community is the annual Maghe Sankranti. In fact, Maghe Sankranti is the government-proclaimed national festival of both the Magar and Tharu communities. It is observed on the first day of Magh (the tenth month of the Nepali calendar, in mid-January). It marks the beginning of the transition from winter to spring.
According to Magar terminology, Maghe Sakranti commemorates the end of udheli (literally “down”), a six-month period beginning in mid-July. It also marks the beginning of ubheli (literally “up”), a six-month period beginning in mid-January.
Batuk is one of the most prominent foods prepared on this day. It is commonly also known as Bara.t is regarded as a traditional food of the Magar people. It is a famous delicacy of the Magars around the country. The snack is shaped like western doughnuts and is made from black lentils that have been soaked for 24 hours and ground to form a thick paste. It is then fried in oil with salt, pepper, and turmeric. The palm is used to form a perfectly round shape, with a distinct small hole in the center.
The down and up periods are most likely related to the annual cycle of herding livestock up and down. The Magars have traditionally been involved in animal rearing. Hence, the annual cycle marking Maghe Sankranti perfectly makes sense.
Also, Magars are known to source income through agriculture and the military. Many known warriors of Nepal have Magar ancestry. They also constituted a vast majority of the Gurkha army.
Magars have also made significant contributions to Nepali folk songs and dances. Both men and women perform such folk songs and dances. The most well-known Magar folk dance is the Maruni dance. It is performed during Tihar.
Other major Magar dances and songs include Kauda/Chudka/Kanraha, Ghatu, Jhorra, Yanimaya, Sunimaya, Salaijo, Rung, Hurra, Bon Lama Nach, and many more.