Chepang People of Nepal
The Chepang indigenous ethnic group resides in the secluded districts of Dhading, Chitwan, Gorkha and Makwanpur in Nepal. Certain tour operators offer trails that include visits to the villages inhabited by Chepangs, combining natural wonders with the discovery of cultural treasures.
Chepangs speak their own language, known as Chyo-bang by the locals, a Tibeto-Burman language. They are known to be nomadic, making use of the resources in the forests for hunting and gathering. The Chepangs also engage in small-scale agriculture and horticulture. The nomadic lifestyle of the Chepangs has been largely constricted, thus they have formed villages, living in homes made using branches.
The community does not have a social ranking system as is so prevalent throughout Nepal. Men and women are treated largely as equals, although the family structure is mostly patriarchal. Family is important in the culture, with extended family sharing homes.
Religion amongst the Chepangs leans towards the traditional, with Animism being the foremost belief. Animists believe that there is no separation between physical and spiritual. They also consider all natural elements, including humans, animals, plants and inanimate things (e.g. rocks and rivers), as having souls. The Chepang people have, however, also adopted certain other religious practices and ideas, including those from Buddhism and Hinduism. As such they have a large number of traditional and religious practices, observing Hindu festivals such as Tihar and Dashain. Their own festival is called Nwagi, which takes place on in the third week of Bhadra. The ritual of Kulain Puja is carefully observed, venerating their dead ancestors. An interesting belief held by the Chepangs is that following childbirth a women is considered unclean. For eight days cleansing rituals are held in the home, with the child being named on the ninth day. Only after twenty-one days is the new mother then thought to be purified and may again continue to join in community gatherings.
Chepang communities are mostly located in very isolated and difficult to reach areas. Treks to the villages can take between six to eight hours from accessible roadways. Trails in the Chitwan region of Nepal offer opportunities to meet the Chepangs. The area is known for its abundant wildlife and spectacular scenery. The district is also home to other ethnic groups, such as the Tamang, Magar, Danuwar and Kumal Gurung. Trekking in the region is certainly a fantastic way to explore the natural wonders of Nepal, while also enjoying a unique cultural experience.