Annotated Bibliography: Nepal



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Roberta Hall was part of an OSU team that had exchange visits with women scholars in Nepal from 1995 through 1997. She spent Jan.-March of 1997 in Nepal and brought back extensive notes from observations and interviews; a bibliography on prehistory, cultural and ethnic groups, current environmental problems, and women’s concerns; and 10 rolls of 35-mm slides.

Annotated Bibliography: Nepal
Roberta L. Hall
Acharya, Meena. (1994) The Statistical Profile on Nepalese Women: An Update in the Policy Context. Institute for Integrated Development Studies, PO Box 2254. Baneswor. This is an important document by a well-known Nepali author.
Keywords: Gender; Statistics; Gender policy.

Allen, Michael, ed. (1994) Anthropology of Nepal: People, Problems, and Resources. Proceedings of a 1992 conference. Mandala Book Point, Kathmandu. It includes papers by Ben Campbell and Don Messerschmidt, among others. Michael Allen is a well-known Australian anthropologist who has done considerable research in Nepal; Messerschmidt did graduate work at U of O and has taught at OSU and Washington State U.


Keywords: Nepali culture; Nepali people; resources

Allen, Michael (1990) Girls' Pre-Puberty Rites amongst the Newars of Kathmandu Valley, pp. 179-210 in Allen, Michael and S.N. Mukherjee, eds. Women in India and Nepal, Sterling Publishers Private Limited. This article contains an interesting concept concerning how the Newaris resolved their tribal (i.e., their Buddhist...hill...non-Indian) cultural background and incorporated some caste ideas brought by people who came to the Nepal area from India. Allen focuses on a pre-puberty rite as something that resolves the relatively high status of women in this rich culture with the ideas that came into Nepal from India (with the obvious implication of lower value of women in that culture -- Allen implies the Newari people have retained a higher status for women than groups that entered Nepal from the south). He also implies that originally the Newars (p. 181) came from Tibet or at least their language did and also says (p. 181): "historical research is in its infancy in Nepal and little is as yet known concerning the development of Newar culture and society."


Keywords: Newar culture; Newar prehistory; Women’s status in Nepal; Newar rituals

Bangdel, Lain S. (1982) The Early Sculptures of Nepal. Vikas Publishers, New Delhi. Kirata is a Sanskrit word meaning "people who lived on the border." The author says it may be surmised the Kiratas were "of Mongoloid stock" (p.4); says the current Rais and Limbas groups in eastern district claim to be Kiratas. He uses the word "Aryan stock" in reference to some other groups. He says the ancestors of the contemporary Jyapu caste of Newaris were Kiratas. This book illustrates a common thread in literature about Nepal prehistory in that not much is known for certain about the earliest settlements in Nepal or where they came from, but people use languages and some other cultural material (such as sculpture, religion, etc.) to try to infer these origins, and often use common modern categories — such as Mongoloid and Aryan — to imply some groups came from the north or Tibet region, some from India (or other southern regions). From a contemporary understanding of human populations, these terms are too stereotypical but they exist in popular culture and so people use them in Nepal (as they do in the U. S.) to express common understandings of inter-group relationships.


Keywords: Nepal prehistory; Nepal ethnic origins; Kiratas

Barker, D. J. P. (1998) Mothers, Babies and Health in Later Life. Churchill Livingston, Edinburgh, second edition. Written by a British epidemiologist who has studied the relationship between nutrition of the fetus, along with mother’s condition, on the offspring’s adult health and mortality, this book is potentially revolutionary as it suggests a different reason for the high rates of diabetes and heart disease by populations undergoing “westernization.” This book is by inference related to Nepal’s current situation; it has implications for human biology research in Nepal, (for example, studies of nutritional status and health). The book reports studies from India of people in similar situations. The thesis and considerable research of this book, simply put, is that the developing fetus who is undernourished carries effects into adult life that produce coronary heart disease; the fetus adapts to conditions of malnutrition that permanently change its capacity to function later. The ill effect is exaggerated if excess calories come the child's way, and this could increase the culture-change effect in developing countries in which the population (notably the more affluent part) adopts a sedentary or semi-sedentary or western lifestyle. Essentially this book argues and shows how fetal organs adapt to under-nutrition; by doing so, organs such as the liver and the pancreas then do not cope well with excess food, later in life. The author believes these processes are responsible for the "outbreak" of Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) in India, for example, and also for some improvements in CHD prevalence in western countries several generations after the transition from under-nutrition to better nutrition has occurred. [As is common, Nepal is overlooked but I believe the same phenomenon exists there.]

Whether the author overstates the case or not (and he likely does underplay other factors that have contributed to these disorders) this book is a must read for anyone involved in studying nutritional status in Nepal or in working on implementing cultural and nutritional changes. It certainly makes a very strong case for care of the female child, and the mother, if offspring of either sex are to be healthy in later life. And it indicates that after nutrition for women improves, it may take a few generations before effects are felt.

Keywords: Nutrition; Maternal and child health; Coronary Heart Disease; Gender issues

Becker-Ritterspach, Raimund O.A., (1994) Water Conduits in the Kathmandu Valley. Manshiram Manaharlal Publishers, New Delhi, India. What is interesting about this book, in light of our project’s focus on technology and ecology, is that some very sophisticated water-control systems were in place some many years ago. Current problems have perhaps resulted in part from very fast recent population growth, yet it should not be assumed that Nepali populations have never had control of these important engineering feats!
Keywords: Water; Ecology; History of Nepal

Bezruchka, Stephen (1985) A Guide to Trekking in Nepal, 5th edition. The Mountaineers, Seattle. Geology section says that the big lake in Kathmandu Valley arose from the rise of the Mahabharat Lekh, the outer foothills -- some time after 600,000 B.P., which was when thrusting from the continental collision caused more uplift -- but he does not specify when. Then that big lake broke through in three places: Karnali at Chisapani in the west, the Gandaki at Deoghat in the middle, and the Kosi at Barahchhetra in the east; and it dried up "some 200,000 years ago" (p.288). Ergo, sometime after 200,000 BP, people came into this very fertile valley. (No one is willing to speculate on when----it could have been after the end of the Pleistocene, that is, the last ice age).

Nepal has the world's greatest gorges; trans-Himalayan rivers penetrate these mountain barriers on their way to the Indian Ocean, while the watershed lies 100 miles to the north on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. This, plus the very high mountains and the still-continuing uplift, explains why there are such deep and rapidly-developing gorges, and so much erosion.
Keywords: Geology of Nepal; Kathmandu Valley; Prehistory of Nepal; Tourism

Bhasin, M..K.., H. Walter, and H. Danker-Hopfe (1994) People of India. An Investigation of Biological Variability in Ecological, Ethno-economic and Linguistic Groups. Kamla-Raj Enterprises, Delhi. This is a very impressive volume with lots of data. It does not go very far into prehistory, however, and it uses the traditional concepts used by many other authors concerning the origins of people of north India (and Nepal by extension -- it says almost nothing specifically about Nepal, however) as being "Mongoloid" and "Caucasoid” [some people use the term Aryan-Caucasian or something, probably both Caucasoid and Aryan are problematic terms, as is Mongoloid]. The book gives historical coverage of ideas relating to these groups and adds Dravidians and also talks about "Aryans." It says the fall of Harappa and Mohenjodaro (two sites that are very famous in the Indus Valley and are well known for their water-works, trade with the earliest civilizations of Babylon, etc.) may or may not be due to the Aryans, and it says, (p.7) that the consensus is that there was gradual decline of that civilization and there could have been floods, etc. But it suggests "Aryans" arrived about 1500 B.C. and brought patrilineal tribal organizations and culture, and suggests there were relationships between Iranians and "Aryans." Why is this book of interest in a list of Nepal-related publications? Because the history of Nepal is considered dependent in some respects on the history/prehistory of India----and also on the prehistory/history of Tibet, due to the two common routes for people reaching Nepal, a land-locked country.


Keywords: Prehistory of India; “Aryans”; Ethnicity

Bhattachan, Krishna B. (1996) Commentary: Teaching and Learning Process in Social Sciences at Tribhuvan University: A Need to Move from a Boot-Camp to a Bazaar Model. Studies in Nepali History and Society 1(1): 247-254. This Tribhuvan University faculty member identifies a few problems at T.U., mainly the control of curriculum from the higher administration, and the resultant lack of initiative and exploration by the faculty and students. One of the consequences of this (and low pay) is that the good teachers and researchers put their energy not into their students but in remunerative employment elsewhere. This paper also gives some review of the teaching of social sciences at T.U. He also lists other problems (p.249-250): weak leadership, including financial; uncontrolled admissions; frozen promotions; stagnant curriculum; lack of infrastructure and equipment; non-availability of reading materials; frequent absence of some teachers from classes; and lack of departmental policies regarding faculty visits abroad, leave, etc.

He argues that a bazaar model in which students and faculty have a lot of say over curriculum decisions and faculty recruitment and assignments and exams and grading would enhance the quality of education, and makes specific recommendations (p. 251-253). The journal in which this article appeared was new and bold; it is to be hoped that it continues!
Keywords: Education in Nepal; Tribhuvan University

Bista, Dor Bahadur (1996) People of Nepal, sixth edition. Ratna Pustak Bhandar, Bhotahity, Kathmandu. The first edition of this book came out in 1967. Bista notes in a preface (which he dubs "confession") that past editions have largely been the same, with minimum new material or editing. But this edition is an exception because he added a chapter on the Khas, a people that he formerly believed were simply a part of the Bahun (Brahmin) Chhetri community. In his view, the Khas (and other people) were made to feel inferior by the hierarchical Hindus that came into the country and in a sense were hoodwinked into paying to become part of the Hindu culture, thus losing or at least masking their identity -- it was for this reason, he explains, that he himself did not realize that the Khas exist in their own right.

Bista is a fascinating author, anthropologist, and commentator on his society. This book should be read in conjunction with his book Fatalism and Development; in both, he displays a dislike for the hierarchialization of Hindu culture in Nepal and for the Bahuns at the top of the caste system, and an equally strong, or perhaps stronger, passion of interest for the diverse peoples of Nepal.

I do not believe the author intends this story about the Khas to serve as a model or analog for past processes with other ethnic groups that have become in part or wholly within the Hindu caste social system, but perhaps other social scientists will do so.

He generally adopts the customary perspective of seeing two sources for the people of Nepal, the "Mongoloids" and the "Aryans." But he also sees the intertwining of groups and the complexities that make these two categories relatively insignificant in terms of understanding present people.

Probably many of the chapters are a bit out of date; but to his credit, Bista indicates that the situation in Nepal is very fluid and changes are occurring rapidly. While he himself is very much in favor of the democratization process and of Nepal modernization, his primary rationale or concern is equality of all people, not rampant capitalization. On p. ix of the introduction he said; "In some cases changes are coming more rapidly that I could have imagined when researching and writing this book."

This book is marred by some typographic errors and would have been improved by one or more good maps; but there are several photographs in the book. It is the most credible of the ethnographies I have seen, and this is aided by the modesty of the author, who acknowledges the vast scope of the subject and his inability to cover it all; he apologizes for treating some people only with brief descriptions, and says (p. x) "it will take many years of continued research in this field before anyone can claim to have comprehensive information about all the people of Nepal."
Keywords: Nepal culture; Ethnicity; History of Nepal

Bista, Dor Bahadur (1991) Fatalism and Development. Nepal's Struggle for Modernization. Orient Longman Limited, Calcutta. This book by anthropologist Dor Bahadur Bista has been referred to me by several people as "controversial." From the title, one might think that it would be because of development issues that the book is considered controversial, but it more likely is because the author is very critical of the government processes and particularly of what he perceives as the hierarchical structure that rewards people not for what they accomplish but for their status, and that it thus discourages progress and extinguishes personal or even group accountability for lack of progress.

The book seller from whom I bought the book thinks Bista is a true hero of Nepal. I also talked with a retired Nepali Gurkha engineer in the British army who knew and liked Bista, and told me of Bista's mysterious disappearance. Some people think he may have disappeared in order that at this death his remains not be treated as is customary within Hindu society, and his widow not suffer the loss in status that widowhood entails -- in other words, not to contribute to the continuation of a social system he does not like. Others point out that he in the past had disappeared and his family did not know where he was, sometimes for months; and some say he has had a mistress (or more). In short there are no solid leads to explain where he has disappeared, or whether his family or anyone will ever know what has become of him.

This book is not a simple book extolling the virtues of western capitalism and the problems of eastern religion. Bista displays a love and appreciation of Nepal's history and of the ingenuity of its people. He says the "negative influence of caste culture" was first felt during the sixteenth century and "became all pervasive during the middle of the nineteenth" (p. 9). He sees the situation as complex and notes that "some people feel politically threatened by India and culturally by the West" (p. 9).

The first chapter provides a geographical and historical orientation; he describes 7 distinct geographic zones (p. 11) and presents a generalized ethnic map on p. 13.

He says there were several kingdoms in the Terai (the lowland plains) in the past and it supported a large population but there were major population declines following socio-political upheavals in the eleventh, fourteenth and sixteenth centuries; during the nineteenth century it became Nepal's breadbasket, and recently has become an industrial center. The hill and mountain regions depend on tourism, water resources for energy. A map on p. 16 shows the earliest mentioned places such as Lumbini and Kapilavastu as well as Biratnagar; most of the named places are in the Terai. He discusses the Khas (p. 15) in the west and the Kiratas in the east (p. 17) and their dominance of their respective areas in the first millennium B.C. He credits the maintenance of Newar culture (as the descendant of the Kiratas) in the Kathmandu valley to low migration into the valley in the early periods.

In the Terai, he says the early kingdoms of Kapilavastu and Lumbini were devastated by disease (malaria?) and were reforested, and then later settled again (at least once -- maybe twice). He says Buddhism was essentially a religion of the plains, and Nepali people (of the Kathmandu valley) remained "shamanistic-Shaivites" (p. 22). Buddhism was given birth in Nepal, but it lost out to Hinduism during the Licchavi period, in which contacts with Tibet and China also occurred and urban culture and fine craftsmanship developed. The practice of syncretism in religion, with elements of Buddhism, Shaivism and Vaisnavism all being practiced, has continued. In the Licchavi period, he says, the population of Patan was less than 30,000 while that at Kathmandu was close to 50,000 (p. 24). A section on the medieval period discusses relations with the British East India Company (the treaty of 1816 essentially defined the boundaries of the present country) and the Gorkha rule by Prithivi Narayan Shah, who united Nepal (1768). The Ranas ruled 1846-1951; King Tribhuvan returned the Shah line to actual power in 1951; at his death in 1955 King Mahendra took over and was succeeded by King Birendra in 1972.

In chapter 2, the caste system, Bista argues that only in the past 135 years has the caste system grown strong and he relates this to politics. His disgust for the Ranas is shared by many Nepalis today. He says that Shaivism in Nepal originally had no caste concepts but was close to animism and shamanism. To him the caste system is used to establish the legitimacy of various regimes; and, sometimes, fictitious genealogies have been constructed for ruling dynasties (p. 37).

To a large extent this book is an argument about what the real, historic, traditional values of Nepal are, and it is an argument against caste values which Bista considers imported from India and believes are not values that have contributed positively to Nepal’s own history and culture.

Chapter 3 deals with family structure and childhood socialization, 4 with values and personality factors, 5 with politics and government, 6 with education, and 7 with foreign aid and development; and there is a conclusion of 11 pages. The last paragraph starts: "The only way out of the suffering of the transition is to construct the new age as rapidly as possible, so that we are no longer caught between two ages" (p. 164). It is clear he would like Nepal to develop with its ancient individualism and inventiveness and shuck off the caste system and the hierarchy. At the same time, he is loyal to the concept of a king and very positive about historic Nepalese values.

This is a book that is more a discussion of the history and culture of a country than it is a blueprint for development. It is a complex book by a complex and innovative thinker, and deserves a wide discussion in Nepal and among people elsewhere interested in Nepal's past and its future.
Keywords: Nepal history; Nepal prehistory; Development; Religion in Nepal; Economics in Nepal; Ethnicity; Nepal culture

Chadha, S. K. (1989) Himalayan Ecology. New Delhi, India. This book is good for raising consciousness of problems in this area---good issues, mostly focused on India but the same principles apply in Nepal.


Keywords: Economics; Development; Ecology; Himalayas

Chattopadhyahj, K. P. (1980) An Essay on the History of Newar Culture, Educational Enterprises, Kathmandu. (Reprinted from 1924 publication.) Preface in the recent addition says: "They (Newari) have exhibited a unique example of co-existence and tolerance." The book covers social organization and more than half of the 119 pages are appendices giving data and archival material.


Keywords: Newar culture; Nepal culture; Newar History

Corvinus, Gudrun (1995) The Satpati Handaxe Site and Chabeni Uniface Site in Southern Nepal. Sonderdruck aus "Quartär" Band 45/46: 15-36. The author is a German geologist or archaeologist and it is one of the few dealing with actual archaeological projects in Nepal. It tells about materials and excavations discovering middle/late Pleistocene sites in Nepal; the discovery team is German and the publication is German but the article is in English, and a longer report is in the works, as there are over 10,000 pieces excavated at these sites, which lie northeast of Lumbini.


Keywords: Archaeology; Nepal prehistory

Coburn, Broughton (1991) Nepali Aama. Portrait of a Nepalese Hill Woman. 2nd edition. Printed at Tien Wah Press, Singapore, and distributed by Moon Publications Inc. 722 Wall Street, Chico, CA 95928. It and its follow-up, Aama in America, In Search of the Sacred, have now been published by Doubleday.

Aama is an elderly Gurung tribal woman living in the town of Danda, which is south of Pokhara. (She died in 1991 at the age of 87). The author lived in her home while he was a teacher near Danda in 1973; the high school he taught at was a half hour's walk from Danda but to get some sense of scale you need to know that in this walk he passed through two villages of "distinctly Mongoloid tribes, across terraced fields skirting sharply-angled ridges, and past scattered thatch-roofed dwellings of Hindu-caste Nepalese." To the north a few miles are the Annapurna and Dhaulagiri ranges. The book consists of photographs and text, the text usually consisting of Aama's own words.

Gurung people are said to speak a Tibeto-Burman tribal language sounding similar to Tibetan (the author's expression) but dialects vary from village to village. Yet villages are very small, and it appears the author really means groups of villages----so, just one day's journey away, dialects are different. [Usually, if people who live close to each other speak the same language but a noticeably different dialect, anthropologists infer that their ancestors have been there a long time----because it takes time for these differences to develop.] Most Gurung people also speak Nepali and they have a lot of contact with neighboring Brahmins, Chhetris and untouchable Hindu castes. They rely on these people for various things, and their religion as they practice it encompasses Hindu and Buddhist concepts and their own tribal spirits. When Aama and her sister went on a religious pilgrimage they went to temples and holy places of both, and, in the author's presentation anyhow, with equal reverence and equal self-containment.

The recollections of Aama, as presented in this book, indicate that in her lifetime, things have gotten worse in terms of over-population, loss of resources (such as firewood and land to grow crops).

There are two springs in Danda. Hail is more common and more of a problem at higher altitudes; her village is 1,000 feet higher and a 20 minute walk from her natal village of Simli, and Simli is milder in weather. Aama has a number of fields she owns and works but they are not all together so that makes the work harder; the reader gets the distinct impression of all of the land being cultivated, and little forest left for wood. People are not as generous with each other as perhaps they used to be. She works all day and gets little sleep; the book presents a very vivid image of how these people live in Central Nepal. There are 18 houses while there were eight when she moved up there (at age 15, at marriage). There are more children than adults now and she expresses concern over what they will eat; she says a woman went to a bazaar to see about medicine to stop having children but found that only an operation was available and didn't want that (p.4). They used to plant millet and corn separately but now plant them together -- there is not enough land. People have had to sell their silver for food; some of the tribal customs are not followed, for lack of resources; she also complains about changes in children's behavior. This is a perennial complaint of elders, but all of her comments have the ring of truth that indeed changes have occurred.



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