As we all know, Nepal is multi cast, multi lingual , multi cultural and multi geographical country. Among them Rai is the ancient inhabitant of eastern Nepal, especially in the hills region like Bhojpur, Khotang, Okhaldhunga, Ilam, Panchthar, Sankhuwasabha, Dhankuta and other districts such as Udayapur, Morang, Jhapa, Makawanpur etc. In modern times they are spread over Nepal Sikkhim Bhutan and west Bengal also. Rai caste is one of listed ethnic group of Nepal. According to National census of 2001 it’s population is 635,751. Rai are multilingual ethnic group. Linguists says that they are divided into 25-28 linguistic subtribes (thar). Bantawa is the main language used by them. They follow Kirat relligion and prays to nature. Each of them have 3 Chula in their home They have different name and work. They worship to main pillar (khabo) and Tin chula. They use bokla or chindo, pati ginger as praying materials. While praying. Sumnima and Paruhang are theri god which are known as kirateshwor of Hindu (Shiva and Parwati).
They are also called Khambu which areethnolinguistic groups of Nepal. They are animists and nature worshippers. In the history of Nepal, Yalamber was the first and Gasti was the last Kirati king of Nepal. Their history is very long. It is said that they came from China and started living in different parts of Nepal. The Rai or Khambu are indigenous Kirati ethnolinguistic groups of Nepal. Rai is an indengenous native people inhabitant of Eastern part of Nepal. Linguistics have identified up to 28 different sub-tribes of Rai languages while the 2011 census has officially recognized the existence of 12 Rai groups. They are : Althparya Bahing/ Bayung Bantawa Belhare Chamling Chhintang Chhiling/ Chhulung Dumi Dungmali Jerung Khaling Koi/ Koyu. Some subtribes of Rai are: Kulung Lingkhim Lohorung Mewahang/ Newahang Nachhiring Phangduwali Puma Saam Sampang Thulung Tilung Wambule Yamphu, etc. While talking about Rai traditional dresses and ornaments, the women wear Makhamali choli, Xitko guniu, seto patuki, Dhaka borki, Sirful, Naugedi, Dhungri-bulaki, Maduwari, Chepte sun etc. And Rai male wears Daura- surwal, Istakot Dhaka topping etc. They use khukuri, khurumpi , Vala (mainly used for killing pig) etc as weapons. Their food items are kinema (is fermented soyabeans which are dried and store), pork, waschipa ( chichek and rice cooked together with chicken feather), rice, dhido, gundruk,chhop achaar, sel- roti, jaand , rakshi etc. Jaand and rakshi are made from maize, milet, rice etc with mixing home made marcha.
They use different ancient materials. Rai people celebrate Sakela hugely. This is their main festival. Other Saune sakranti, Maghe sakranti, Chaite dashin are also celebrated among Rai community. Sakela is celebrated twice of a year and is distinguished by two names Ubhauli and Udhauli. Ubhauli is celebrated during Baisakh purnima and Udhauli in the full moon day of Mangsir ( Mangsire purnima). It is called as Sakhewa, Bhume, Tosi, Chandi etc. But they mean the same festival. During Sakela they performs cultural dance, Sakela sili, rilligious services and they meet with families and relatives. Rai believe in Shamanism.
The Kinima and Wachipa are popular foods among Rai community alongwith pork meat and local wine.
The Sakela celebration is a prayer to mother nature for healthy crops and for protection from different natural calamities. The festival is started on Baisakh purnima and celebrated for 15 days (April / May) marking the beginning of farming year. Similarly, the celebration of Sakela Udhauli during Mangshir(November/ December) which is the harvest season is the giving thanks to mother nature providing a good harvest. Kirat Mundhum, of Kirat is always followed by Rai people It is also called Thuthuri vedha which is prayer said by ancestors and followed by everyone. Almost all sacred rituals in Rai are performed by Nakchong, the Rai tribal priest. Mostly withing Rai culture, magi ( arrange marriage) and chori Bibaha both are allowed. In the ancient time kidnapping marriage was also allowed. But now-a-days it is prohibitated by the government law.
They are not allowed to marry same pachha’s(clan) boy or girl. Girl are gifted by their parents and relatives as their choice and will. It is not dwory. It is not ordered by the bride groom however bridegroom side we’re asked to bring pork, jaand , rakshi before marriage in the name of Rit. Female are given more priority than boys. During different occasions girls are gifted or given money by the relatives and parents. They keep their own property, known as ” Pewa”. Funeral is done in two ways. The person who dies unexpectedly or in young age they are prohibited to come to their ansestors. They are sent to different world and named as sehe/ jagitra. Other Rai people are burried in the ground because they consider themselves as the sons of the soil. Mundhum says that they were born along with soil and stones so it’s their culture to go back to where they came from.
Rai culture is based on nature so we should preserve it. The study upon Rai culture is declared very hard because of their different sub-tribes and different languages. Their history is said to be described in epic Ramayan , Mahavarat , Puran, Veda and Upanisad also. It is described in Jain, Buddhists, Muslim and Christian So they are the ancient people who have been associated with the history of Nepal thousands of years. The Rai culture must be known and popularized. Nepal is united among different disusion and peaceful country. This is our main identity. Rai are said to be risen up from the human origin. We must preserve the culture of Rai because it is one of the most beautiful flower of our garland, Nepal.
-Article written by: Mandira Thulung for Land Nepal