Chepang community in Chitwan gear up for Dashain celebration despite the odds

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CHITWAN — The Chepang community inhabiting in the rugged ridges of the Mahabharat Mountain range here in Chitwan district are upbeat about the Dashain and Tihar celebrations regardless of widespread financial constraints long plaguing this extreme marginalized semi- tribal community.

The greatest festival of Nepalis- Dashain and Tihar are equally observed by the Chepangs with fervour by any means. The Chepangs, whose main source of livelihood is the forest and its produces, go to the extent of borrowing money (taking a loan) not to let their bleak financial conditions dampen the spirit of festivity. Most of the male members of the Chepang community visiting Shaktikhor Bazar for the Dashain shopping today were seen purchasing essential food items including rice, salt, edible oils and spice among others but all on credit.

They have promised shopkeepers to clear their dues at the earliest. Most of them earn their livelihood through labour work or by selling livestock and traditional bamboo baskets like doko and dalo, and theki (indigenous wooden device for churning butter) and the like, shared Laxman Chepang.

Laxman, who is also the Chairperson of the Nepal Chepang Association said that the Chepangs here have planned to observe the Dashain festival by feasting on delicacies and offering themselves new clothes.

“They will make sure the festival is celebrations despite borrowing money in case of financial constraints,” he said.

According to Laxman, the harvest from their farming do not suffice them even for a year. They face food shortages the moment their harvest which hardly last through six months runs short.

Dashain festival serves the Chepangs as a festivity to bring together their married daughters and far-flung kith and kins.

Association’s Treasurer Rabindra Chepang, there around estimated 70,000 Chepangs in the country, residing mainly in Chitwan, Makawanpur, Gorkha, Dhading, Lamjung and Tanahu.

Some Chepangs have migrated from Makawanpur from Banke and Bardia.

The nomadic community, which survives on wild fruits and roots, has a slightly different tradition than Hindu people when it comes to celebrating Dashain.

Former Lawmaker Gobinda Chepang said Dashain is taken as an auspicious occasion to observe the ritual for a Chepang wife to pay a first visit to her parents after marriage. Those who cannot afford it conduct the ritual on the Nepali month of Magh.

Although various programmes being run by various organisations, targeting the community, they have not been able to create a groundswell of changes in their living standards. RSS