A Tharu House in Dangisaran, Dang Valley, Nepal
Tharu villages are generally scattered and are located at a distance from one another. They look different from the villages of any other group. A village is a traditional residential and relatively discrete unit locally known as Gaun. Houses are built in compact and close to each other. In the middle of the village, a street runs south-north dividing the whole village into halves. Tharus live in small or larger-sized villages which are generally located at a considerable distance. The village is settled with a cluster of trees, bamboo groves, a kitchen garden, and long huts of thatch. Dangauriya village is usually placed in a north-south direction. Several families are related to one another by affinal and consanguinal relationships.
Tharus prefers to live in a group. The length of the house depends on the number of family members. There is a distinct pattern and style of house-making in the Tharu village. Tharus make perfect use of the available natural resources of the forest and field. A typical Tharu house consists of natural building materials and almost all household articles are made from natural products. They make houses north to south along with one or two huts which are used to keep cattle and fodder. Each house has a vegetable garden or kitchen garden. They generally construct their houses in the months of April and May before the rains set in. Houses are constructed facing north-south in a rectangular manner. They use their own indigenous architectural methods in the construction.
Tharu houses are built on wooden pillars and the walls are made up of thatch thickly coated with cow dung and mud. The roof is constructed with bamboo, purlins, and thatch slopes on either side. Their dwellings, though proximity, are not joined together with adjacent ones. The House is built one-storeyed. There is no foundation for the house. Tharus dig a hole in the north side for the main wooden pillar and a simple worship is completed by the Gardhuriya. They tie the broom and offer vermillion powder and Kajara (soot) on the pole. The other pillars are buried in their respective places. Wooden pillars of different sizes are buried in the ground. There are two entrances in the house; one facing the west and the other east. The doors are kept in a face-to-face pattern. The main entrance of the street side is used by both people and cattle and the kitchen garden entrance is used by people only. People and animals live under the same roof.
Read Also: Tharu People, Tharu Language
Tharu house is well organized inside. Houses are cool in summer and hot in winter. There is a wide Bahari (parlour) section between the two doors where guests are welcomed and the Bahari makes into a sleeping room for guests. Fishing tools, sickles, spades, and other domestic tools are stored here. Dhenki (wooden rice husking mortar) and Chakiya (traditional stone grain grinder) are also installed in the Bahari.
The southern part of the house is used as a cattle shed i.e. Ghari and has a separate door for cattle. There are Angna (open courtyard) and a kitchen garden. Khar (dry grass) is mostly used as the roofing material. The roof is slanted and projected to protect it from the sun, wind, and rain. There is a corridor that goes towards the kitchen from the Bahari section which divides the house into two parts where different rooms are used for resting. Above the corridor onion, garlic, and maize are hung in a pole. Bhauka is also hung on a wood or bamboo pole. There is no partition wall, but tall Dehris (grain containers) are kept on either side of the corridor that divides the rooms. Every household is equipped with Dehris, large or small, and their names are different based on their sizes and capacities.
Inside the house, there is a Majheri (room) where family members dine. A small window is kept on the outer wall of each room whereas the northern side rooms of traditional houses do not have ventilation. The room on the western side is used as a kitchen while the eastern one is called Deurhaar, a shrine room for religious performances. No stranger (people outside the family) may ever enter this portion of the house. Konti is the sleeping room and the number of Konti depends upon the number of family members. Each couple in the family is allotted one Konti. Aranwa, a cabinet is mounted on the wall of the Konti, which is used to store combs, mirrors, mustard oil, clay lamps, and other small items. Aranwa is 4 to 5 inches in width and 50 to 70 cm in length. All the family members use a common kitchen.
Each family house has its kitchen garden or vegetable garden and field. A house has a collective threshing floor called Khenhwa where the village protective rituals are conducted by an appointed priest. Tharu village represents a closely knit society that has developed a mutual relationship and co-operation. Village sites are chosen according to the availability of water close to the riverbeds.
Both genders contribute when building a house. Men construct the frames of the house and make the roofs, whereas women plaster the entire house and make wall designs. The outer wall of the house is made of wattle or bamboo sticks and is plastered by husk mixing mud and cow dung. The wall is then plastered inside and outside with a thin layer of clay. Women decorate the outer walls (facade) of their houses with handpainted designs of horses, elephants, pigeons, peacocks, etc. Tharu women sweep their houses twice or three times a day and the ashes and dirt collected are thrown near the cattle shed or field adjacent to their houses. Every two to three years Tharus rethatch their houses and make minor repairs in their houses every year before monsoon.