Tuladhars – Merchants From the Past

The Tuladhars made a name for themselves in Nepal as traders. For centuries they were known to travel between Nepal, Tibet and India and were industrious in the way of maintaining businesses in various towns and cities. The name of the caste Tuladhar therefore means merchant, or with a more direct translation, scale-bearer. They form part of the Newar community, which is located in the Kathmandu Valley. Their spoken language is Nepal Bhasa, and they follow the Newar Buddism religion, continuing to practice many traditional rites and festivals that have been a part of their culture for centuries.

The Tuladhars fall under a group called the Uray, which includes a variety of castes, meaning social orders, such as Sthapit, Selalik, Kansakar, Bania and Sindurakar. They also have traditional neighborhoods, namely Nyata and Asan. Throughout the history of Nepal, the trading routes of the Tuladhars have been accessible, with two trade routes being the most popular. One of the routes used, started in Kalimpong and included destinations such as Jelepla, which was on the border of Sikkim-Tibet, and parts of the ancient route that was known as the Silk Road. The other route to Tibet ran along the northern side of Kathmandu and traders had to cross the Himalayas with their mule caravans. They would trade products made in their factories, most noteably textiles, with Tibet, bringing back hides, wool, yak tails and musk pods. During the 1960’s, this traditional form of trading came to an end, as the Sino-Indian War of 1962 closed off the trade routes and the Tuladhars were forced to return to their homes.

During the year, a number of religious performances are scheduled where the Tuladhar community gathers to witness the performances and join in with the singing of hymns and listening to devotional concerts. There are a few street performances that are popular and include festivals such as Bahidyah, Gunla Bajan Thayegu and Dapa Thayegu. A number of famous Nepalese came from the Tuladhars, including entrepreneur Dilli Tuldhar, poet Chittadhar Hridava, Buddist monks Dhammalok Mahasthavir and Aniruddha Mahathera, trader and pioneer Karuna Ratna Tuladhar, as well as Kul Ratna Tuladhar, who was the first chief engineer of Nepal’s Public Works Department. The Tuladhars were, and still are, significant in the development of various trades and industries in Nepal.