Guest post by Tribhuvan Chandra wagle
Bato chha bhiralo
Baini kasko Anga kurera basichhau Yahi lagchha piralo
English translation: The trail is slope. I am mourning, whose yard is my younger sister looking for?
The above mentioned Nepali folk song was very popular in Nepalese rural youth around 80’s decade. Folk singer Krishna Bahadur Gandhrva (employed in Radio Nepal) claimed that he sang this song in 2037 BS for the first time, when his younger sister left the house as she eloped away with a boy. Krishna and his whole family knew nothing about the sister and her devotee. Then, a family member advised Krishna to look for his sister so; he composed and sang this song through Radio Nepal. Krishna claimed that his sister came back to family hearing the song.
Etymologically the word Gandharva (wa) is referred to those people who play musical instrument and sing for livelihood. But I would like to be proud of Gandharvas as they are not only the folk song singer,but they were\are also good traditional communicator as modern journalists. In the case of Krishna, we can say he was a good communicator, by which his sister came back to family after hearing the song. On the other hand, Katuwali, Gaine, Dholaki, Bigul, Jhyalee, were the traditional form of communication in ancient to medieval Nepali society. Even today these types of cultures are practiced in Nepal in different forms.
The Nepali word Gaine is the synonym of Gandharva which is derived from Sanskrit language. According to Brihad Nepali Shabdakosh (Extensive Nepali Dictionary) Gaine is known as caste which members are famous for singing the songs of national legacy (Gatha).They have composed a lot of historical songs (as Sabai, Gatha, Karkha) praising the then kings, prime ministers, national heroes and nation as well. I have heard a lot of famous Karkha singing by Gaines. Among them a popular Karkha is broadcasted by Radio Sagarmatha expressing the event of the then Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana’s Europe visit. A historical Karkha, praising to the then prime Minister Matha Bar Singh Thapa was sung by Hari Devi Gaineni was published in Buigal, a magazine edited by renowned literatuare Kamal Mani Dikshit. This Karkha was republished in ‘Dalit Srashta Ra Prativa, a book written by me (Tribhuvan Chandra Wagle). The dictionary also states Gaines sing and play musical instrument especially Sarangi (a violin-like musical instrument) for their livelihood. Sometimes they leave their village to visit new and next places playing their musical instrument and singing songs for the purpose of income generation. It is seemed that singing songs and playing Sarangi are the means of subsistence economy of Gandharva. You’ve seen Gandharva on the busy streets of Thamel and highway playing musical instrument for the purpose of easy earning. They are not only the players of Sarangi,but they’re also known as the best creator or designer of Sarangi. Sarangi is a famous and foremost traditional folk musical instrument in Nepal which is known as ethno- musical instrument of Gaines, which is mostly used in Nepali folk songs.
No one has traced out the exact historical account of the origin of Gandarva but Senior Gainas\ Gandharvas are proud that they were the musician and singer at the period of Mahabharata. A lot of stories are found in holy books Mahabharat and Swasthani Bratakatha relating to Gandharva as musicians. Some oldest Gandharva try to link them as the musicians and entertainers of God Indra. They played music providing entertainment at the Palace of Indra. On the other hand, The Gaines community is known as the contributor of Nepal’s unification process. Mani Ram Gaine was a participant in King Prithvi Narayan Shaha’s campaign for national integration. Historian Raja Ram Subedi (Ph. D) and late Pioneer musical instrument expert Ram Sharan Darnal claim that Mani Ram Gaine and Bise Nagarchi were the contemporary assistants to King Prithvi Narayan Shaha and the messenger for the Gorkhas soldiers as well, who were committed to unify the nation (Nepal). They were motivated as a means of propaganda during the unification period and were used to create excitement for Garkha’s soldiers singing in favor of Gorkha’s conquest.
These days, Gandharva are treated as untouchable Dalit in Nepalese society. The National Dalit Commission (NDC) listed Gandharva\Gaine as hilly Dalit caste. The Dalit Vikas Samity (B.S. 2054) has included Gaine as Dalits community along with Lohar, Sunar, Kami, Damai, Sarki, Badi, Kasai, Kusule, Kuche, Chyame, Pode, Chamar, Dhobi, Paswan (Dushad), Tatma, Dom, Batar, Khatwe, Musahar, Santhal, Satar, and Halkhor.
In terms of population and socio-economic development Gaines is most marginalized caste among the Dalits communities. By the order of the first National Civil Code 1854 (Muluki Ain, 1910BS) Gaine is listed at the bottom of intra Dalits caste hierarchy. According to the 1991 census the number of Gaines was 4,484. Now, the latest census 2011 shows there are 6791 Gaines live in Nepal. This is 0.03 Percent of total Dalit population (3710575) of the country. Though, more or less Gaines are scattered over all the country but the large population of Gaines are found in Batulechaur of Kaski. National Dalit Strategy Report 2002 states the population of Gaine with more than 200 in number is observed only in seven districts (Dang, Kaski Chitwa,Puthan, Gulmi, Surkhet, Tanahun). The literature rate of Gaine was 31.3 compared the national average of 39.6 per cent whereas the overall literacy rate of Dalit was only 22.8 per cent in the 2002.
The surname such as, Gandharva, Gayak, Geetkar, Badhak are used by youth Gaines as their family name. According to the ‘Ethnographic Study of Hills Dalit in Nepal (2006) by Nepal National Dalit Social Welfare Organization (NNDSWO) there are dozens of surnames such as Budhathoki, Adhikari, Setiban, Chureta, Kalogopal, Turki Baiker, Kaminayak, Bhusal, Kayastha, Jogi, Maheshwar, Kalapaude, Thakuri, Setparvate Bhat, Lamali, Samudri Baiker, Bhogate, Bramha, Baikar, Kaliwan, Rai, Meghnath, Samudri and Sai are practiced in Gandharva community. Being Hindu Gaines celebrates birth, marriage, death rites, which are compulsory to be completed. They celebrate and complete the religious functions according to Hindu rules and their local tradition as well. More or less social folkways of Gaines are like to so-called upper caste. The Nepali language is the mother tongue of Gaines but Maithili, Nepali Bhojpuri and Awadhi also has spoken by Gaines as per their residential regions. Dresses, foods, ornaments are like to other Hindu caste. Most of Gaines follows Hindu norms and value in religious acts such as naming, feeding and marriage and death rituals. For example, some Gaines takes place naming ceremonies on 9th day of child birth, where as some takes places 11 days of birth according to their established value and living places.
According to Dr. Ram Raja Subedi and Ram Saran Darnal Gaine is the caste of Hindu social organization whereas Gandharva is a position of the acquired post (Padavi) of Gaine, which was given by then Gorkha’s Kings. At a meeting with me, the late pioneer folk singer Jhalak Man Gandharva claimed that his grand-grandfather was given the post of Gandharve at the first time. He also added at our discussion that the ancestors of Jhalak Man reached to Pokhara from then Gorkah kingdom, with the title of Gandharva. Great contribution of Gaines is marked to develop and spread Nepali culture especially folk songs and music through Sarangi. Pioneer folk singer late Jhalak Man Gandharva is still alive in Nepalese rural community with his most popular song Aama le sodlin ni Khai chhora Bhanlin. Hira Devi Gaineni, Khim Bahadur Gandharva(Batulachaur) Purna Nepali (Kaski), Tirrtha Bahadur Gandharva (Tanahun), Suresh Gandharva (Bhojpur), Hiralal Gandharva(Bhojpur), Magar Gandharva(Batulachaur), Krishna Bahadur Gandharva (Kaski) Janga Bahadur Gandharva (Dang) Buddha Bahadur Gayak (Lakeside) Bharat Gandharva are some famous Sarangi player and folk musician in Nepal.
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