Tharus are the largest and most visible group of people in the area that we travelled.  With a population of about 1.2 million or 6.6% of the total popualtion of Nepal, they are thought to be the original inhabitants, and the only people able to live there due to a natural immunity to malaria. The eradication of malaria in the Terai resulted in a movement in of others to claim the fertile land of the valleys.  The Tharus were exploited by landowners, fell into debt and entered into virtual slavery as bonded labourers.  In 2000 the kamaiyas were freed by government legislation but little has been done  to help these now landless and jobless people.

The Tharus are very skilled at improvisation, making almost everything they need from the natural resources available around them.  Their homes are built from woven twigs and grass coated in thick laters of mud, which even acts as a natural heat shield.  This process is also used to make their furniture, cupboards and even water coolers and wood fired kitchen stoves.  Although their beliefs are largely animistic involving the worship of forest spirits and ancestors, there is also a very strong influence of Hinduism in the culture.

 

 

We visited a Tharu village and met with several families who told of pasts almost destroyed by the alcohol that was part of virtually every family and social function,  and with the wife of a once influential landowner, who took his own life after loosing everything due to his alcoholism.  This group have been very open to the good news of the gospel and large numbers have experienced changed lives. 

 

This man sent his child running to us with a bag of the sweets he sells at his market “stall”.  A thin, doughnut, deep fried and soaked in honey, they were awesome!

 We had already heard his story from his wife of how he was on the verge of suicide, having lost everything as a result of his alcohol addiction, when he was introduced to the life giving message of the gospel.

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