Not much is known about Chepang community. This is what we have so far about these underprivileged group.
One of the most backward indigenous nationalities of Nepal, the
Chepangs inhabit in the remote and sparse contours, outback and rolling
precipices of the districts of Makwanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha and Dhading.
They claim that they belong to Kirati group of people. They have their
own distinct language, which belongs to one of the Tibeto-Burman
strains. Like the Kusundas, the Chepangs are mostly hunters and
gatherers. Their subsistence economy is based on forest resources. They
are emerging as horticulturists also. Being landless, 95 percent of
them forage for tubers and for food. Today it is stated that they
became landless mostly due to lack of documentary evidences to claim
land ownership. They also had a system of kipat, communal ownership of
land till the first half of the 19th century. They are animists and
their clan priests are called Pandes. It is felt that their religion
and culture are influenced by the Tamangs.
Less then 15 percent
Chepangs are literates and almost 90 percent of them are leading life
under utter poverty. These days, there are some projects run for
chepangs, but are not becoming really effective so far. School
enrollment ratio of school going children is still very low and drop
out rate is very high. The census 2001 has revealed that the population
of Chepand is 52,237.
Chepangs, who live in the central regions
of Nepal, are also known as Chyobang or Chewang. Under the Chepang
Development Programme, they are also known as Praja. In their language,
che means dog and pang means arrow (Dhungel, 2051). Because they are
primarily hunters and they hunt with the help of dogs and bow and
arrows, they are known as Chepang. Also, as chyo means the top of a
hill and wang means stone in the language of the Chepangs, it implies
that those living in hills and in caves full of stones have come to be
known as Chyobang. According to a legend of the Chepangs, the Chepangs
are said to be the child of a queen, who gave birth to her child on a
stone and disappeared after leaving the child there (Praja, BS2056).
abode of Chepang in prehistoric times was Sunathali of Dolkha district.
At present, the Chepangs are found in Makawanpur, Chitwan, Gorkha and
Dhading districts. A few families of Chepangs have also settled in the
plains of Bara and Parsa districts. The population of Chepang in the
census of 1991 was about 36,000, it is 52,237 in the 2001 census.
Chepangs have their own language, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman
family. According to Schafer and Toba, the Chepang language is close to
the languages of Thami and Hayu (Dhungel, BS2051: 42). The naming
ceremony among the Chepangs takes place nine days after the birth of
the child. During the ceremony the Chepang shaman (Pande) reads sacred
texts over a cock, a hen, thread coloured with turmeric, thin roti
(bread) made of maize flour, totala flower, egg, etc and takes them
outside for worship. The child and its mother are tied with the thread,
and the child is given a name. Alcohol is required during marriage. The
boy's side must obtain the consent of the girl's side before or after
marriage. Special ceremony must be carried out when the bride is
brought and enters the groom's house. The Chepangs like to marry within
their own community. There is a practice among Chepang of the
son-in-law living in the father-in-law's house.
mostly bury their dead. The dead body is bathed and new clothes and
garlands of flowers are put on the body and wrapped with burial cloth.
A box is made of the barks of sal, in which the dead body is kept and
buried. Pollution is observed by some for three days and by some for
nine and also thirteen days. The death rites are carried out by the
shaman (Praja, BS2056). After the recitation of sacred incantations,
Chepangs collectively go to hunt and fish. They worship the bows and
arrows used in hunting once every year. Chepang men wear a single piece
of cloth around their waist and women wear clothes similar to majetro
up to their necks.
Chepang are of two types, viz Pukunthale and
Kachhare. The Pukunthale are said to have had states, Chepang kings,
land and even the Kipat system in the past. They are considered a
little more knowledgeable and adept in Chepang society. The Kachhare
are ordinary Chepangs. Chepang are divided into many subgroups. Among
Chepangs, women look after the household while men look after the
affairs outside the house. The shaman, who is known as Pande, and
Mahapande, takes the leadership role in almost all the relligious and
social activities of Chepang society. The Chepang have the practice of
propitiating ancestors (Kulpuja) and of Dewali. Chepang deities are
especially of three types: Tangkaling or ancestral deity, Namrung or
the god of hunting, deity related to land and Gaidu or the god of
animals. The Chepangs revere and worship the Simebhume in a special
way. Chepangs adhere to nature-worshiping shamanistic religion.
Malla kings prior to Prithivi Narayan Shah, though they had conquered
the Chepang Pukunthale kings, had given them Kipat. Prithivi Narayan
Shah also had a system whereby the Chepang had to pay taxes. Thus,
Chepangs have been the owners of their land since time immemorial.
However, due to their practice of slash-and-burn farming in place of
organized agricultural methods, the condition of Chepang is dire.
Farming is not enough to provide for them. Hunting, fishing, collecting
of edible shoots and roots are their traditional occupations. The
Chepangs are also adept at weaving baskets and other items of bamboo,
etc and in utilizing plants for beneficial purposes.