Myths of origin: The Janajati movement, local traditions, nationalism and identities in Nepal
This contribution is about myths of origin among the Tharu peoples of Nepal. The title indicates that such myths relate to the Janajati movement and nationalism. What do have such myths to do with the emerging new state and national identities?
A short answer would be that such myths are but one small element in a complex picture of relationships between indigenous peoples, ethnic categories and nation-building. Nevertheless, the author believes that this small part may symbolically indicate a larger issue, one of origin, of self definition and the way one looks at oneself in relation to the surroundings and the ongoing process of change. The different myths represent Buddhist and Hindu constructions of reality. The problem illustrated here with reference to the Rana Tharu thus has a wider relevance to many ethnic groups in Nepal. As expressed by Prithvi Nayayan Shah, the state is squeezed in the nutcracker between the Buddhist high mountains and the predominantly Hindu Gangetic plains. This reality is also reflected in the choices of identities now prevalently made. Such elements are today made into the choices of identities now prevalently made. Such elements are today made into important parts of the Janajati movement's ideology and contribute towards identity formation for the many groups of inhabitants in Nepal.