Tamangs debate over Lochar

Statesman News Service
KALIMPONG, Nov. 28. — Perplexed over the ethnic beliefs of the Tamangs, a major ethnic community of the Nepalese population, the Tamang inhabitants of Pudung village near Kalimpong have planned to convene a debate session to decide whether the Tamangs should celebrate Durga puja or Lochar, a Buddhist festival, as a majority of the community come under the banner of All India Tamang Buddhist Association (AITBA).
Stressing on the fact that they need to hold on to their cultural practices, a senior resident of Pudung village and an organiser of the debate, Mr Mani Kumar Ghisingh declared the celebration of Lochar as the “Tibetanisation” of the Tamang culture. They said that they have been celebrating the festival of Dussehra for a long time now and it is really difficult to switch over to any new custom.
The issue over the Tamang community’s preference of festival celebration erupted in Pudung when three Tamang families demanded that they wished to celebrate Lochar rather than Dusssehra. “A majority of us are in favour of celebrating Dusssehra,” Mr Ghisingh, informed.
He argued that the celebration of Lochar by the Nepalese would lead to the silent death of their culture and they will soon lose their identity.
Other seniors of the villages stated that they would function under a banner any other than that of the AITBA, if the requests to celebrate Dusssehra is rejected.
However, this is not the first time though that this topic has come under limelight. The Tamang community was included in the Scheduled Tribe list in 2003 when a section of senior Tamang community was seriously propagating the celebration of Lochar.
One of the invitees in the debate, Mr Hari Yonzone, the secretary of the Buddhist Tamang Gompa, said: “We are an independent religious community and I want to point out that one cannot be forced to follow a particular religion. It should be an independent decision irrespective of the fact whether one is a Hindu Tamang or a Buddhist Tamang”.
On the other hand, the general secretary of AITBA, Mr MS Bomzan said: “We are originally Buddhists and the celebration of Lochar is a move to safeguard our dying culture”.
Tamangs hailing from in and around the district have been invited for the discussion scheduled to be held on 2 December at the Pudung Dara, it was informed.

10 thoughts on “Tamangs debate over Lochar

  1. dipak tamang


    its’ a good site and its’ a good debate topic but we should not be the delema about to celebrate the lochar. it s’ our heart and we should have to celebrate it.and encourage to all the people to celebrate the lochar.

    thanking you!

    dipak tamang,



  2. It is time for Tamangs to realise that we have to stick to our roots.When we do dig our roots the very foundation on which our identity stands will begin to shake and be unstable.The discussion on whether to celebrate Dasain or lochar goes to the credit of few elemets of Tamang community like the A.I.T.B.A who have leaned far too much towards the tibetans in food(kapsay), dress(Khenja,Khuchin) (dont forget the topi and the Pangdey)AITBA designed the pangdey to be worn at the back side.
    Imagine Even Subhas Ghising who has remained very far away from these subjects simply could not digest this cultural shift and is today forced to intervene.
    Tamangs Should seriously listen to Subash Ghising.


  3. prabesh

    i thinl tamang should celebrate lhochar as it is also a festival of nepalese as tibetan culture has had influence over our culture for centuries . so it not a problem to clebrate lhochar


  4. Bal Tamang

    I think it is good for the Tamangs to debate openly on this important topic. AITBA has no right to impose anything on anyone. But I heartily welcome AITBA’s initiative to organise such a discussion forum where we can express our views and learn from others as well.

    My personal view is that it is good to go to the roots. Just because we have been celebrating Dasain for years offers no strength of logic to continue celebrating it or not celebrating Lhosar. There is a clear evidence in existence now in Nepal that Dasain was imposed on Tamangs despite the protests from the Tamangs. It was imposed by the state and rulers with ulterior motive to suppress one’s religion and culture over 200 years. Now that we are in an open society, have become conscious of our rights and are able to judge independently, there is NO reason why we should not go to our roots.

    That said, I am NOT saying we must stop celebrating Dasain. It should not be a question of either or. Organisations like AITBA should bring out more facts, organise more debates and educate more Tamangs on their culture. And, leave it to them to celebrate or not celebrate Dasain. Do not impose anything on them. However, AITBA could approach Tamangs to celebrate Lhosar as a Tamang festival, but not instead of Dasain. Let the Tamangs know why they should celebrate Lhosar, what is the signifance of Lhosar in Tamang community, individual Tamang life, etc.

    For over 238 years, our ancestors in Nepal continuously resisted imposition of non-Tamang religion and culture from the rulers. That is the reason why we still have our culture and religion in tact, eventhough many have fell into the continous pouding of the state pressure.

    In a multi ethnic, multi ethic society of Darjeeling, we celebrate Christmas, Muharram, Saraswati puja, etc., you name it with full spirit, and why NOT celebrate our own Lhosar with the same spirit?

    Tamang organisations ought to be working out on a protocol acceptale to all as to how best to celebrate Lhosar while providing information and education to people on the significance of celebrating Lhosar.

    Bal Tamang


  5. Bal Tamang

    Me again. I wanted to express my views on the comments made by many Tamangs either here or elsewhere.

    Please know that Tamangs have lived from high mountains to mid hills and down in terai/plains. Tamangs have also lived with other community closely in these geographic regions.

    As a result, over the centuries, their dress and culture have influence from others and vice versa.
    Our costumes represent the environment and culture that our ancestors have lived in.

    Therefore, to pick one type of dress and to point out that it is not our dress is not fair. In Darjeeling, where a great majority of the Tamangs seems to have migrated from the east of Kathmandu (purba # so and so forth)have followed a set pattern of costumes for male and female. So when we see a pangden or bakhu type dress, or even a tagi, then we immediately say, “no way, that is Tibetan, or a Sherpa, etc.”. As I mentioned above, we have several Tamang settlements still in parts of Nepal who use costumes/dresses that are not very different from what Tibetans wear. In Darjeeling, we distinguish a Yolmoli from Tamangs distinctly, just by last names, perhaps because of the ST status of the later, prior to 2003. In Yholmo region of Sindhupalchok district, I have seen Tamangs and Yholmos living as one, with absolutely no bar on intermarriage, and practicing the same culture and wearing the same type of costumes.
    The costumes of the Tamangs in Rasuwa changes as the altitude changes. To unfamiliar eyes, just judging by what they are wearing, they will quickly take them to be Tibetans or Sherpas, whereas in fact they are Tamangs. We are still fortunate that we do not have to seek the help of a computer technology to see what our ancestors may have looked like and what they ate, etc. They are right there in Rasuwagadi, Rolwaling, and Langtang areas to name a few.

    Let us proudly accept that we Tamangs do have a variety of costumes. In my view, it is absolutely ok to choose the one you like the best or suit you the best according to the environment you live in. To haggle over which one is our is not going to take us anywhere. Let us say that they all are ours with a touch of local flavour.

    In my humble opinion, it is wrong to say that the Tamang culture is being Tibetanised just because we have so many similarities. In Nepal, dhotis are used in many sacred ceremonies by many Nepali communities because it is part of the customs or a religious rite and it should be be labelled as an effort to Indianise.

    Moreover, if a group of Tamang organisations come together and choose to bring a consitency and redesign our costumes a bit, why not accept it? We have always been progressing, slower or higher pace, and as long as it still depicts our culture, I think the costumes we see as Tamangs wearing could be acceptable.

    It is good to debate and offer suggestions, but we have a long way to go, and let us not get stuck on who is right and who is wrong.


    Bal Tamang



    India is growing at the rate of 8% per annum( the west and south are growing with double digit figures). But there is enough reasonable evidence to suggest that the Darjeeling hills are pegged at around 2% growth in GDP per annum. Given the leap that India is making in the infotech sector,telecommunication, pharma and now knowledge based services it seems quite irrelevant and illogical that the tamangs are wrangling over anachronistic issues like dress, festivals and what have you. i am a tamang and i am proud that my forefathers had the pioneering spirit to get out of an apology of a country and culture that is Nepal. Now this sudden institutional obsession to get back to the roots seem quite out of place. How many tamang head honchos in such gatherings talk of more relevant issues such as education . I would for example love to learn the tamang language and get acquainted with its literature. But are translations available of tamang works?Do they sponser workshops on the tamang language?
    It is also strange that this debate should almost always surface during this time of the year.
    What tamang bodies should recognise is the maturity of their bretheren to decide for themselves what they want to do with their lives and their beliefs.
    The way to go is foreward. Our future is India not the doomed country that is Nepal.


  7. Bal Tamang

    I fully agree with most of what Parang has eloquoently articulated here. Yes, certainly. Education is the key to all. But with education, it also brings self consciousness and you want to know who you are. No doubt, the way to go is forward. I think the Tamangs are at a point, in respect of Darjeeling and Doors, where they want to take a look at their root too, now that most of them have somehow gone beyond the talking of daily “dal-bhat-duku”.

    I think a healthy debate over your costumes, cultures, status, etc., can be taken as a sign of consciousness as you move forward. Yes, one may view that future of the Tamangs living in India is in India, as it has given more freedom to Tamangs than in their brethern in Nepal.

    I also think that some of the Tamang Associations are bogged down in their internal politics and display of unnecessary ego exchange rather than actually serving the community that they promised to. One reason is that many of us —we leave it to their hands and stay aloof, except for a criticism. I hope these associations, with our help, will evolve before too long and become a place for teaching or learning or exchange of rich Tamang culture and language among the community and others as well.

    It does bother me too that these Tamang Associations do not do much towards the need and spread of education. They are once-a-year type organisations, but I think more forward thinking people participate in these organisations, they can move the community to the path of progress.

    Having said that, for those interested in learning Tamang language and Tamang related activities, I would also mention here that there are many books, grammar book, conversational language learning, pictorial primary readers, etc., from light to heavy reading, that have sprung up in the last one decade, and more keep coming. I am proud to say that the Tamang selo continues to grow further with popularity.

    It is the simple mantra that is the centerpice of being a Tamang —that one should practice. And, that is, “Be good and think of good of all living beings and keep them in your prayer and in your deed.”

    So much so, this sometime atheism leaning correspondent was deeply touched by that mantra. “…not just human beings, but all living beings…”

    Parang, I appreciate your views and have learned from it. Please keep them coming…..


  8. bikram benjamin tamang

    this is a good initiatiative taken by the tamangs of kalimpong. though the topic for debate is good but i would like to add two more dimensions to it. 1) what are we returninig to? Are we returning to the roots of our culture or our religion. I feel these two should not be mixed so much. it may tend to become very exclusive.
    2) What about the plights of tamangs who are Christians/Sai bhakta/atheist etc?
    thanks hope this will also be a good food for thought fot those who are involved in debate.. wish you a conclusive debate in the future too.


  9. hridai moktan

    I think Tamang culture is based on tibetan culture. It was slowly eroded by Nepal ruling elite thereby making more hindus. I say we Tamang have to accept this diversity of hindus chritian buddhist beliefs but if one were truely to go back to ones roots it is the buddhist rites, customs, dress etc .After all even Tamang language is quite similar to Tibetan .celebrating Lochar should be encouraged but also why not Dassein? Our organisations should actively set up institutes to encourage Tamng language. How many Tamang youths speak Tamang language in India?This is the plight.


  10. Devan Bomjan

    Its cool. Yes rather than taling to dress codes and other I thing we should focus on llanguage because I believe that the sole identity lies with the language but not the dress. If I claim I am Tamang how can I proof it.. by speaking Tamang language. Therefore, if we root to Language other custom, dress and cultural naturally follow because we have our own culture like everything like marriage ect. is conducted by Damfywaree. Lets work seriousely for the development of language first rest automatically follow. Thanks


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