The Sub-Tropical South | The Nepalese

The Nepalese

From the beginning of the 20th century, several waves of Nepalese immigrants began streaming into South Bhutan. They hoped for better living conditions, but were mainly needed as workers for clearing the forests, because they could handle the humid climate far better than the inhabitants of Central Bhutan.


However, in recent years, the Nepalese minority has been responsible for considerable national political problems, because some of their representatives demanded such a large amount of political power that the Bhutanese government saw the unity and the independence of their country threatened. For this reason, all Nepalese who could not prove that they or their ancestors had lived in Bhutan before 1958, were refused citizenship. Today, many Nepalese from Bhutan live in refugee camps in Nepal.

Nonetheless, those belonging to the various ethnic groups of South Bhutan use the indo-germanic Nepalese as their common language, especially in business life. Moreover, it is one of the official languages used by the national assembly and the national radio. The weekly national newspaper »Kuensel« is also published in a separate Nepalese edition.

The Laya in the North
The East of Bhutan
The Sub-Tropical South
.  The Nepalese
West and Central Bhutan

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Skirt: Indian silk brocade; blouse: synthetic velvet fabric; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
A large part of the population in the humid south is of Nepalese origin.

This rare photograph from 1931 in Daranga, at the border between Bhutan and Assam, shows the Bhutanese and Nepalese in their traditional costumes.
Photograph by Colonel Weir (reproduced with permission by the Royal Geographical Society, London)

Bamboo, bark; measurements 104,5 x 51 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
In the rainy south, farmers, while working in the fields, wear rain protection of this kind which is unfolded and then worn over their backs. Thin layers of bark are supported by basketwork made of bamboo.

Body: wood; clip: iron; insert used for repair: aluminium; height 74 centimeters, diameter 28 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
The whisk is spun within the churn producing butter flakes. This churn is used by the Nepalese minority in the country.

Wood, iron; sickle: length 24 centimeters; sheath: measurements 4,5 x 15,5 x 17 centimeters, diameter 12,5 centimeters; on loan from the Völkerkundemuseum der Universität Zürich
Women of Nepalese origin wear sickles not only while working in the fields, they are also considered part of their costume. The sickles are worn on their hips in artfully carved sheaths.