The Tamang community prioritizes maternal power over paternal in case of marriage decisions.
If you see a woman adorned in flat round designer gold earring, a flower in her hair, necklace made of coins, traditional skirt and blouse of local fabric, then she is a Tamang. Dhungri, Fuli, Bulaki, Jantar and Red Muga are unique ornaments that highlight the beauty of women representing the Tamang community. Nepal is a multicultural country that has a myriad of representations within each community, distinguished by their traditional attire, customs and cultures.
Parshuram Tamang, a scholar of the Tamang culture said, "Character development of a child begins at birth." Similar to other community beliefs, important events like birth, marriage and death are performed within their own cultural and traditional boundaries.
Rituals From Pregnancy Till Childbirth :
In Tamang community, the rituals for the unborn child begins with the confirmation of the pregnancy. According to Buddhist tradition, before the birth of a child, religious rituals are performed for their protection against external vices. As long as the child is in the womb, it is believed that the parents of the unborn child should not sacrifice any animals. The Nwaran (naming ceremony) is performed within 3 days of childbirth by a Lama. The ritual can also be performed on the 11th day of the childbirth, if unfavourable circumstances arise.
There is an utmost value of a Lama in every aspect of Tamang rituals. From birth to death, the presence and rituals performed by a Lama is considered supreme. Before the naming ceremony of the child, Dipchyang Pong (offering) is served to the Lama. The Lama then picks the ideal date for the ritual and performs purification or cleansing ritual for the child with Bonbo water. Bamboo is one of the major ritual practitioners in Tamang life. Bonbo have unique powers of sight and capture lost shadow-souls, revive life force and reveal the source of distress. The end of the ritual is marked with distribution of Bonbo water and fried rice flour among relatives.
After birth, the next important ceremony in the Tamang community is the rice feeding ceremony. Daughters are fed rice at 5 months and sons are fed at 6 months. The eldest member of the family feeds the child with the beaks of the Mynah Bird. "It is believed that being fed with the beaks of the Mynah, the child develops a sweetness in the voice like a bird," said the Tamang scholar.
Rituals Performed By The Young Child
Alongside the growth of the child, there are various norms and values to support the child socialize in the ad-hoc environment. Daughters are presented a "Syama," a pair of hand woven traditional clothes. In every odd year, the Lama presents the "Syama" to the daughters. After the Tamba, a societal leader in the Tamang community recites the origin of ”Syama" the daughter is given clothes. However, the tradition of "Syama" is fading away in recent times. Sons perform the Chewar, a head shaving ceremony. For sons, their part in family rituals and other practices come to value only after the Chewar. It should be done between 3rd day and 7 years of birth. An invitation for Chewar consisting of rice, beaten rice, wheat bread, alcohol and rooster is sent to the maternal uncle. The uncle then comes with new scissors, cap, white cloth belt, a cloth to cover the shaved head, plate, a pair of suits, offerings and a water pot as acceptance to the invitation and performs Chewar on his nephew.
The marriage ceremony of the Tamang community is unique as well. In Tamang community, there is acceptance of marriage between maternal and paternal cousins. The Tamba represents the boy side of the family and takes bread, hen and alcohol as an offering to the girl's side of the family for marriage proposal. The acceptance of the offering denotes an affirmative answer while returning the offering denotes the opposite.
The groom side brings an offering consisting of a 12 of any required elements to the bride's side of the family. There is a requirement of 12 Mohar paisa (1 mohar = 50 paisa and 100 paisa = Rs. 1), 12 dharni goat, (1 Dharni = 2.4 kg), 12 paathi rice (1 paathi = 4.5 kg) 12 paathi chyang (chyang is local alcohol) and 12 Bisa roti to perform marriage rituals. Another important ritual in the Tamang marriage is Chardam also known as Karjel Chol (giving away the virgin). The ritual consists of 1 mana (a pot of bronze to measure grains) rice, 1 paisa, drinks like jaad, raksi (local alcohol). A pair of pigeons is represented as family ancestors and the Chardam is performed. The pigeons are free to fly after the ritual is complete. If legend is to be believed, it is said that the marriage ceremony of the couple is not fully accepted until the Chardam is performed.
The Tamang community prioritizes maternal power over paternal in case of marriage decisions. The bride's mother's decision is supreme. The community equally respects widow marriage. They encourage the widow to remarry the brother of her husband. The decision to remarry remains in the hands of the widow. Mr. Rabindra Tamang, a Tamang scholar said that the community is also acceptable if the woman wishes to marry another man, while her husband is still alive.
Rituals For The Departed
Rituals performed for the deceased soul is also considered of great significance. These rituals are performed within 7 or 49 days of death. In the death of a married woman, her maternal family performs the closing ritual. "The woman is handed over to her mother's family after her death. The rituals are performed at the husband's house while the closing ritual 'Taashi' is to be done in the women's mother's house," says Rabindra Tamang. Tashi is the ritual process where the deceased is prayed to be sent to heaven.
Lhosar - Celebrating The New Year
The main festival celebrated by the Tamang community is Lhosar. Lhosar is a new year festival celebrated on the first day of the Lunar calendar (which usually happens in February). The community has 12 different animals as 12 years. On the first day of Lhosar people make figures of the 12 animals with flour. The exchange of traditional sweets made of buckwheat like Khapse and Aalum takes place among relatives and loved ones. The elders of the family also give their blessings in the form tika (rice mixed with yogurt).