Tamangs, Nepal’s largest ethnic group, make up around twenty percent of the population and dominate the Central Hills between elevations of around 1500m and 2500m. With their origins in Tibet (Tamang means “horse trader” in Tibetan), the group follow a form of Buddhism virtually indistinguishable from Lamaism, though most also worship clan deities, employ shamans and observe major Hindu festivals. Despite their numbers, they remain one of Nepal’s most exploited groups, a situation dating back to the Gorkhali conquest in the late eighteenth century. Much of their land was appropriated, leaving them as tenant farmers, bonded labourers, woodcutters or stuck in menial jobs. The Tamangs today remain an underclass, locked into low-wage or exploitative jobs, or simply locked up (surveys suggest a disproportionate number are in prison).
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