The Raute: The Last Nomadic People in Nepal

The Raute in Nepal

The Raute are the last nomadic people of Nepal, numbering fewer than 150, they live in the forests of Accham’s middle hills in temporary camps, hidden away from the villages, in remote parts of the forest. Their dwellings are basic tents made from wooden branches covered with leaves and cloth. These hunter-gatherers move camp every few weeks through the steeply wooded hills and mountains.

The Raute live in an area known as the middle hills, between the flat land of Nepal’s southern Terai region and the Himalayas, and cut only common species of trees. The area has lost much of its forest. And, although the remaining areas are protected by government legislation, the loss of this habitat along with many of the animals and plants on which the Raute depended for survival has pushed them into direct contact with their settled counterparts.

The Raute elder returns to camp with a monkey after a successful day’s hunting. They are accomplished in the art of hunting monkeys, which they trap using a special net. Hunting is carried out only by males in the community Division of labour is based on gender. Women mostly carry out daily tasks such as cooking, washing, collecting water and firewood and beating the grains.

A very typical scene in the Raute camp, with the whole family, gathered around a fire. Despite immense pressure from the Nepalese government to conform, the Raute remain a secretive community deeply suspicious of outsiders. The Raute have a strong attachment to the forest and shun agriculture because they believe it is a sin to sow seeds. Once their forest home allowed them to be self-sufficient, but now they rely on government handouts.

History of The Raute in Nepal

The majority of the Raute population is settled in the Far West in Dadeldura District. There are also populations of Raute in Surkhet and Dang Districts. The estimated population of the monolingual nomadic group varies by source. This nomadic group travels between many different districts in western Nepal. Linguistically, little is known about Raute. It is classified as Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Western Tibeto-Burman, Himalayan, Central Himalayan, and Raute-Raji-Rawat (Ethnologue). It is thought that Raute is related to Rawat [jnl], Chepang [cdm], and Raji [rji], though further research is needed to clarify these relationships.

Historically, the Raute have been nomadic hunter-gatherers. However, in 1979 the nomadic Raute from Darchula District were forcibly resettled by the government to the middle hills of Dadeldhura. They were given land, but eventually, most of them lost it to wealthier landowners. With the loss of their land, most of them moved back to the forest. With the change in location and living arrangements, many Raute bands took on new names and intermarried with surrounding groups.

In Jarjarkot there are Raute who have intermarried with the surrounding Kami and Damai castes. A big obstacle to integration is the poor attitudes that many villagers have toward the Route. The politics surrounding the Raute are vast and complicated. Currently, the government is giving each Raute family member 1,000 NRs per month in addition to the land and homes that have also been government-funded. There are no known Raute Christians. The religion they practice is a form of Animism.

Culture of The Raute

The Raute in Nepal have always been nomadic hunters and gatherers. The government, however, forcefully relocated the nomadic Raute from Darchula District to the middle highlands of Dadeldhura in 1979. They were given land, but much of it was later taken away by wealthier landowners. Most of them returned to the forest after losing their land. Many Raute bands adopted new names and intermarried with adjacent tribes when their living arrangements and locations changed.

The negative sentiments of many locals toward the Raute are a major impediment to integration. The Raute’s political landscape is large and complex. Currently, the government provides each Raute family member with 1,000 NRs each month in addition to the government-funded land and dwellings. There are no known Christians among the Raute. They follow a type of Animism as their religion.

The majority of Raute people live in the Dadeldura District in the far west. Raute people can also be found in the districts of Surkhet and Dang. The monolingual nomadic group’s estimated population fluctuates according to the source. This nomadic group moves across western Nepal, visiting several regions. Raute is a linguist with a lot of unknowns. Sino-Tibetan, Tibeto-Burman, Western Tibeto-Burman, Himalayan, Central Himalayan, Raute-Raji-Rawat, however further study is needed to confirm these connections.

Education and Agriculture

Their education and agriculture are still restricted, and Rates continue to deny their involvement in agricultural activities. Sowing seeds is a sin for them. Agriculture and animal husbandry are forbidden in their culture. To survive, they receive food grains in exchange for their wooden goods. Other types of professions and occupations do not pique their attention. They believe that education is useless for them.

Food

They collect yams, roots, berries, and other foods from the forest. They do not fish, yet eating fish is not prohibited. The division of their work is based on sex. Cooking, washing utensils, fetching water from the stream, and beating the grains, for example, are primarily done by women. Carving wooden vessels, harvesting wood from the bush, selling wood goods, trading for grains, and hunting monkeys are all jobs for men.

Monkey Hunting

They have mastered the art of monkey hunting and have developed a special net to catch monkeys. Hunting is done by a group of guys in the community working together. They are not interested in hunting birds or other animals, though.

Lineage and Marriage

They are endogamous and do not objectify lineage based on name, god, or inherited property. Although there is no polygamy, widower men are allowed to remarry. Widows, on the other hand, are not permitted to remarry. Inter-caste marriage and child marriage are severely forbidden.

Raute’s Gods

They worship natural elements such as the sun, rivers, and forests. Bhuyar, the hunting god, is worshipped by them. Women are not permitted to engage in religious rituals. Outsiders should not come into contact with Bhuyar.

Raute bury the body in a neighbouring forest once a community member dies, and they move their camps swiftly to a new location. They chop down soft trees to carve wooden vessels and trade for grains with them. Because they relocate, there is always enough time for the trees to regrow. Rautes only drink water from natural springs.

They won’t drink from a pond, a hand pump, or a well. Raute are endogamous. They are organized into a nuclear family. Following their marriage, the new couple relocates to a new tent to begin their married life together. After marriage, they will even abandon their bereaved mother and sister.

Final Thought

Moreover, the Raute people live a nomadic life. The cause of their nomadic lifestyle is based on a story that one of their family members died when they remained in one area for a long period. They began to believe that staying in one area for an extended period of time was a bad omen, and they never stayed in one place for long. Rautes are the people in Nepal who are going to nearly extinct and our Government should give proper emphasis on them to save their culture and tradition and beliefs as they are one of the assets of our country Nepal.