Once active trans-Himalayan traders – the Chinese occupation of Tibet put paid to that – Gurungs are a common sight around Gorkha and Pokhara, where many have invested their Gurkha pensions in guesthouses and retirement homes. The majority of Gurungs who don’t serve in the military keep sheep for their wool, driving them to pastures high on the flanks of the Himalayas, and raise wheat, maize, millet and potatoes.

Traditional pursuits such as hunting and honey-gathering are being encroached upon by overpopulation, while the Gurung form of shamanism is coming under pressure from the advance of Hinduism and Buddhism. Gurungs employ shamans to appease ghosts, reclaim possessed souls from the underworld, and guide dead souls to the land of their ancestors – rituals that contain clear echoes of “classic” Siberian shamanism and are believed to resemble those of pre-Buddhist Tibet.

A somewhat less cohesive group, Magars are scattered throughout the lower elevations of the Western Hills and in some parts of the east. A network of Magar kingdoms once controlled the entire region, but the arrival of Hindus in the fifteenth century brought swift political decline and steady cultural assimilation. After centuries of coexistence with Hindu castes, most Magars employ Baahun priests and worship Hindu gods just like their Chhetri neighbours, differing only in that they’re not allowed to wear the sacred thread of the “twice-born” castes. Despite the lack of unifying traits, group identity is still strong, and will probably remain so as long as Magars keep marrying only within the clan.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Nepal features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country's sites

Stunning documentary on Nepal shows restoration of the country's sites

"The only thing you could focus on was the fact that the earth was moving from side to side by about eight to ten metres." These are the words of Kathmandu resi…

07 Jun 2016 • Lottie Gross videocam Video
Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures

Painting the town red, pink, green and yellow: Holi Festival 2016 in pictures

Every year, Hindus around the world celebrate Holi Festival: the festival of colours. The event attracts many non-Hindus to take part, too, with hundreds of p…

24 Mar 2016 • Lottie Gross insert_drive_file Article
Going it alone on the Annapurna Base Camp trek

Going it alone on the Annapurna Base Camp trek

Rough Guides writer Helen Abramson discovers the ups and downs of the Annapurna Base Camp trek in Nepal – all without the help of a porter or guide.  Someth…

13 Mar 2015 • Helen Abramson insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month