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18 Stunning Photographs of the Rana Tharus From the Southern Foothills of Nepal

The silver white looks strikingly beautiful on the bright dress and black shawls.

Rana Tharus – The silver white looks strikingly beautiful on the bright dress and black shawls. Image by Solveig Boergen. Used with permission

Once rich landlords, Rana Tharus — the natives of Kailali and Kanchanpur districts in far-western Nepal — have witnessed loot, encroachment and discrimination.

Their isolated villages have been regularly looted by dacoits. They were displaced when the Shuklaphanta Wildlife Reserve was being extended, and many lost their ancestral land during a land settlement programme. The Tharus in Chitwan were reduced to occupying only 14 percent of their area after an anti-malaria programme sprayed DDT (Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane) around their homes. Earlier, they occupied almost 90 percent of the area.

It is hard to find written documents about the Rana Tharus as they have lived in isolation, writes Bikram Rana in his blog:

In India Rana Tharus of Khiri, and Nainital are under scheduled tribes. In case of Nepal in terms of habitats Rana Tharus are the native residents of Kailali and Kanchanpur since 16th century and are the first settlers of the two districts later they were joined by Dangauras of Dang and after the eradication of malaria and resettlement plan of Panchayat regime, Khasiyas [tribes] joined.

However, despite of all odds, they have not forgotten their culture and tradition. Their way of life remains distinct and their traditional clothes and ornaments are a delight to every photographer and designer.

Solveig Boergen, a German photographer who lives and works in Japan, travelled to the Kanchanpur district of western Nepal to capture the daily lives of the Rana Tharus. Here is what she saw:

As the sun peeks from the window of the mud house, an old Rana lady is busy preparing meal. The mighty rays illuminate the surrounding and the dark corner of kitchen turns into a portrait painted in ochre.

As the sun peeks from the window of the mud house, an old Rana lady is busy preparing meal. The mighty rays illuminate the surrounding and the dark corner of kitchen turns into a portrait painted in ochre.


The morning chores comprise cleaning the premises and taking the cattle out in the open.

The morning chores comprise cleaning the premises and taking the cattle out in the open.


The morning chores comprise cleaning the premises and taking the cattle out in the open.

The morning chores comprise cleaning the premises and taking the cattle out in the open.


The young one is a helping hand in looking after the goats and bringing grass for the animals.

The young one is a helping hand in looking after the goats and bringing grass for the animals.


The lady in her bright blouse sits on a rope cot and makes clay figurines for her grandchildren to play with in the upcoming festival. She draws inspiration from the nature, the tattoos on her arms and the bright colours of her blouse.

The lady in her bright blouse sits on a rope cot and makes clay figurines for her grandchildren to play with in the upcoming festival. She draws inspiration from the nature, the tattoos on her arms and the bright colours of her blouse.


Like William Wordsworth's Solitary Reaper, the lady reaps the paddy alone. Her bright costume stands out in the sea of yellow.

Like William Wordsworth's Solitary Reaper, the lady reaps the paddy alone. Her bright costume stands out in the sea of yellow.


When her friend joins her, it seems like a competition between the traditional dress she is wearing and the modern dress her mate is adorning. Both the colours burn bright in the yellow field.

When her friend joins her, it seems like a competition between the traditional dress she is wearing and the modern dress her mate is adorning. Both the colours burn bright in the yellow field.


The coming together of the community for a bountiful catch is a moment to watch.

The coming together of the community for a bountiful catch is a moment to watch.


The joy of working together and sharing the catch – there’s plenty to learn from them.

The joy of working together and sharing the catch – there’s plenty to learn from them.


The catch is enough for everyone.

The catch is enough for everyone.


It's the marriage season and the ladies show off their ornaments.

It's the marriage season and the ladies show off their ornaments.


Mirror! Mirror! Who is the fairest of all?

Mirror! Mirror! Who is the fairest of all?


Tell me if I don't look good.

Tell me if I don't look good.


And they don’t even leave the legs. They are laden with the silver ornaments.

And they don’t even leave the legs. They are laden with the silver ornaments.


Like the beautiful patchwork in their dresses, the colours chosen by Ranas form a melange of vivid colours inspired by nature.

Like the beautiful patchwork in their dresses, the colours chosen by Ranas form a melange of vivid colours inspired by nature.


The young ones, careless and carefree, play and roam around the village. Their smiles are precious and innocent.

The young ones, careless and carefree, play and roam around the village. Their smiles are precious and innocent.


Whether the young ones will follow the footsteps of their forefathers and conserve the rich culture – the future will decide.

Whether the young ones will follow the footsteps of their forefathers and conserve the rich culture – the future will decide.

All images used with permission. A version of the story was published in the blog Voice of Tharus.

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