A brief history of gurung (tamu) society


The Gurung people are an ethnic group who migrated from Tibet in the 6th century to the central region of Nepal. Gurung, Sherpa, Tamang, Thakali, Manaaggi, Mustaaggi, Walunggi and many east Asian featured people of Nepal are the indigenous people of Nepal’s mountainous valleys. Their ancestors practiced Tibetan Buddhism and Bön (shamanism). According to the recent 2007 surveys, most Gurung people are Buddhist. They live primarily in north west Nepal in Gandaki zone, specifically Lamjung, Kaski, Mustang, Dolpa, Tanahu, Gorkha, Parbat and Syangja districts as well as the Manang district around the Annapurna mountain range. Some live in the Baglung, Okhaldhunga and Taplejung districts and Machhapuchhre as well. Small numbers are believed to be living in Sikkim, Bhutan and India’s West Bengal.

There are 686,000 Gurung (Τamu) (0.39% of Nepal’s total population) of which 338,925 speak the Gurung language. Their ancestors, culture and traditions are traced back to Tibet. Though, Tibet is called “Bhot” in Nepali language, the word “Botay” is consider derogatory to refer to Asian featured Nepalis. They coexist well with other ethnic groups of Nepal such as Madhesi and Khas. Khas and Madhesi people are Hindu, Indo-Aryan group who have migrated to Nepal after 12th century and brought with them the Hindu caste system. Most Gurung and other indigenous Nepalese of Asian features are Buddhist and so they are not bound by the Hindu caste system. Nepali of Asian appearance refer themselves as Mongoloid. Sometime, the term Mongoloid gets mistaken by youngsters and they think their ancestors originated from Mongolia. No study findings have pointed Gurungs origin to Mongolia. Instead, many studies and historians had confirmed their origin to Tibet.

Early History

The Tamu (Gurung) Pye refers to the very beginning of civilization, more than eight or nine thousand years ago. They tell the origin of human beings and of the materials that they used. Tamu Priests still use some of these primitive utensils in their rituals. The Pye do not seem to have changed substantially over time.

They refer to the ancestors of the Tamu, their Aji-khe (Khe-ku, nine male ancestors), Aji-ma (Ma-i, seven female ancestors), and Aba Kara Klye, spiritual master, lords, ghosts etc. Tamu Pye tells how the first people lived in Cho (“Tso”, which means lake in Tibetan) Nasa, a lakeside village, where they planted the first grain, barley. Then they dispersed to other places such as Sa Nasa, Dwo Nasa, Si Nasa and Kro Nasa, the latter being in the south, hot and fertile. Later the northern Cho Nasa was rich in religious activity, speaking Tamu-Kwyi. Other Tamu villages developed according to their proximity to the northern and southern ends. There are also stories about the discovery of fire, how the drum was first made, and many other things in the Pye.

The ancestors of the Tamu, Ma-i and Khe-ku, seem to have been represented as seven lakes (the former) and nine mountain peaks (the latter). There is a traditional assumption that Cho Nasa, as described in the Pye-ta Lhu-ta, lay in western Tibet, and was ringed by seven lakes and surrounded by three mountain ranges. To the south, in Xinjiang in Western China, north of Tibet, in the Turfan Depression, lay Kro Nasa. Large lakes are called nuur in Tibetan, nor in Western China, and tso(cho) in Tibet. In Tamu tradition, as they migrated from one site to another, they would call the new site by the old name if it was similar in aspect. Tamu Pye tells that the soul of a dead person is believed to go first to Koko-limar-tso, which is under water. In the Qinghai region of China lies a huge lake with an island in the middle called Koko Nor ( or Ching Hai). It is similar to Hara Usa Nuur (one of the seven lakes) of western Mongolia, and some near-by places have names which end in “chow”, conceivably derived from the Cho Nasa of almost six or seven thousand years ago, described in Tamu Pye. Similarly Sa Nasa, Two Nasa, Si Nasa and kro Nasa could be placed in the Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan regions of China respectively, running southward to Tibet and then Nepal.