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An exquisite experience of Tharu culture in western Nepal

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I never imagined that my own culture could bring me such a beautiful spectrum of joy and happiness until I spent a day at a home stay facilitated village called Dalla in the Bardiya region of Nepal’s west. The village is populated by one of Nepal’s indigenous ethnic communities known as “Tharu”.

In Dalla, I had the opportunity of a lifetime: to witness local culture first hand, as well as the wildlife and the peaceful walks in the jungle of the national park. The park is well known for its wildlife, especially tigers and rhinos.

It generally takes a day to reach Dalla from Kathmandu. Three colleagues and I caught a 1-hour flight to Nepalgunj (the nearest airport to this part of Nepal) and spent the night there, and then travelled on to Dalla village the next day in a private vehicle. It takes about 2.5 hours to reach the village in a private car from Nepalgunj, and a local bus is also available.

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We reached the village in the late afternoon, and were heartily welcomed by our host family, who presented us with locally made popcorn and fried beans. We finished it all so quickly, a sign of how hungry we were by that time. We then put our baggage in the rooms and went for a walk in the jungle around dusk. The sunset over the village looked majestic from our vantage point as we walked through the jungle. After half an hour of walking, we reached a check post where we were fortunate enough to see two elephants.

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Our host family was waiting for us when we returned from our jungle walk as it was already time to prepare for dinner. After a tiring travel day, we had delicious dinner of local fish and other recipes of the Tharu. I almost consumed two plates of rice that night.

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For me, the highlight of our visit was learning that there was a cultural dance show taking place in the village that night. “Tharu” women were already on the dance floor when we made our way there. The Tharu women were beautifully dressed in their traditional garments, and those watching their dance were completely mesmerized. They were performing a stick dance where they hit colorfully decorated sticks to create perfectly-timed music. I could imagine their hard work during practice. They performed about four different forms of dance that truly illustrated Tharu culture and their lifestyles, including how they have been living engaged in agriculture and overcoming harsh challenges such as attacks from wild animals. The dance represents how the community enjoys being in challenging conditions with smiles and dance.

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As it was cold December, we returned to our host’s house and spent some time enjoying the camp fire and never ending talk with the host family owner. He also happened to be chairperson of the home stay management committee in the village, and he shared stories about his struggles and efforts during the initial days. Listening his experiences and struggles were worthy and motivating. It was about 9:30 pm, when I could hear a deer bleating about 100 meter from our camp fire site. The house owner feebly stated that deer must have been followed by a tiger and that’s why it was making that sound. It made my heart beat faster, and I think he sensed this, as he immediately he told us to rest as we were tired. Hence we bid good night to each other. Was the house owner indicating that the tiger was near us, I went to the bed imagining!

When it comes to home stays with the ethnic communities of Nepal “Ghale gaun” in Nepal’s hilly regions has always been famous. A day spent in Dalla, a typical Tharu village, made me realize that home stay in this Terai region can be as just as incredible an experience as the more well known villages in hilly region.

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This home stay experience in the Tharu village of Dalla was exquisite. It provided me with a rare opportunity to experience my own culture and see life styles of rural people so closely. The warm, smiling welcome from the house lady and her daughter was charming and has left a lasting impression on me. Putting “tika” of red crescent color “abir” on foreheads and presenting flower to visitors at the time of arrival and farewell is the trademark in this community. Once I stepped into this village, it felt like my own village and it was really difficult to leave after knowing the struggle and life in this rural village that is far from the fast-paced Internet world and linked to city only by a gravel road.

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MEET THE LOCAL: ANIL CHAUDHARY

 

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