Ethnic Madhesi ?

July 8, 2008 at 4:05 am 1 comment

Ethnic Madhesi ?

– Ram Manohar

I second you, when you say, “Madhesi is not the right word to indicate the current Terai boundary”. But, why to blame madhesi’s for that. In House of Gurkha’s politics Madhesi word was conceived, created, and nurtured just to create fear among hilly people about the black people south of Mahabharata range. The Tarai people were projected as “Ghost” to Hilly people, so that ruler can draw reign line.

Here is one of the well known saying in CK lal words

Not Man, a Madhesi

Old-timers insist that there is no exaggeration to the following anecdote, and that it is based on real life. In the days when there were no toilets, the ladies of noble families also visited the banks of Bagamati to attend to the calls of nature. Some of them had servants. These servants were instructed to shout ‘Man’ to save the ladies the embarrassment of exposed derriËres. On one misty winter morning, a servant could not recognize a Madhesi and did the shouting as per the instructions. The lady sat up, threw a glance towards the intruder, and resumed her business nonchalantly. The ignorant servant was duly reprimanded, “Didn’t you see? He was a Madhesi, not a man.” Ladies go to toilet nowadays, but this attitude has not changed much.

The reason why this Ghost word “Madhesi” was coined is better justified by Subodh Kumar Singh in his book The Return of The Mauriyas . “The word “Madhesh” was coined by the Shah and Rana rulers with a view to degrade the status of the vanquished Tharu rulers of the Terai.”

Authenticity and physical boundary of word “Madhesh” can be validated from attached JPG file, abstracted on 07-july-2008.

// on 07-July-2008

Abstracted on 07-July-2008 from

The origin of word “Madhesi” may be explored with generosity. Why only consider Madhya-desh, when we have many other close proximity geographies as

Madhes => Madhya + desh = Middle Country

Madhes => Majhim + desh = Middle Country

Madhes => Magadha + desh = Kingdom of Ashoka, claimed to be tharu kingdom recently

Madhes => Matsya + desh = Fish Country

But the generalization of “Madhesi” word from mechi to mahakali itself is a very interesting subject for research. To understand the generalization you should read “Madhesis: A Political Force in the Making?” by K Yhome (July 2006) who states “Despite the many differences and divisions among them, one of the most important uniting factors that binds all the groups together is the sense of being ‘discriminated against'”.

Mine hesitation of using the word “Madhesi” as ethnicity is narrowed down by Arjun Guneratne in his paper “Modernization, the State, and the Construction of a Tharu Identity in Nepal” who states ethnicity as a dynamic entity in following form “It is not, however, the substantive content of their culture systems that shapes a people’s ethnic identity but the history of their relationship to the state and their position in the structure of society as a whole. It is not cultural symbols and primordial loyalties that generate ethnic consciousness, but the nature and dynamic of the relationship that exists both among different communities of people and between them and the state”.

And Arjun Guneratne saying is true not only for “Madhesi” but also for pahari. Historically Pahari has many distinct groups, each having different language and culture. Parwate, Newari, Khas, Rai, Limbu, Magar, Sherpa are few examples, but over a period of time all qualifies to be pahari. Same is case for Tharu, for which Arjun Guneratne states “The Tharus comprise a number of culturally distinctive and localized groups, all of which considered each other to be seperate jat. To marry outside jat was to run the risk of being made an outcaste. Among the largest and most important of these groups, from west to east along the terai, are the Rana, the Kathariya, the Dangaura, the Tharus of Chitwan and Nawalparasi, and the Kochila, who occupy the territory between the Bagmati and Kosi rivers…. In short, the Tharus are culturally and linguistically very heterogeneous; they share no common culture symbol, such as language or religion, or even a common myth of origin on which they might anchor their imagining of community. Nevertheless, they have come to constitute their identity subjectively in modern times as a single ethnic group in a multiethnic state”.

That’s all for now.


Entry filed under: Articles.

Tharu: Madhesi or not Home thoughts from transit

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Sujit Kumar Thakur  |  July 10, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Dear Ram Manoharji, it is an awesome peace of writing and a real eye opener for one and all.

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