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Cultural Traces Around the World

The Rautes of Nepal – Nomads of the Forest

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The country of Nepal, situated along the Southern portion of the Himalayan Mountains, is home to many indigenous groups. The Rautes are nomads who live in the mid-western area of Nepal, including the Accham’s middle hills region. They have maintained their unique cultural identity and practices for many generations. There is believed to be a Rautes’ population of about 180 people, which make up roughly 52 families. Their language, also called “Rautes,” has been passed down orally and described as a Tibeto-Burman language that has never been written down.

The Rautes have been admired for their deep connection to the land and the natural world. It is no wonder they describe themselves as “Kings of the forest.” Their relationship with the forest is particularly respectful. They live in temporary camps and choose not to stay in any one place for an extended period of time. It is believed that staying in a particular vicinity for too long would contribute to deforestation. Hence, the Rautes try to minimize any strain that would be placed on the woodlands. When harvesting wood from the forest, they only choose species that are not used by villagers from other groups.

Mahin Bahadur Shahi, a Rautes Head Leader spoke about their emphasis on a peaceful lifestyle. “Rautes are the best people. We are not involved in politics. We do not occupy other Nepali people’s harvest neither we destroy their harvest. We do not steal clothes, other materials, or neither any valuable assets like gold from other people. Rautes do not require police or guards. We fully practice our traditional skills and enjoy life. We do not cause any harm to others.”

When moving camps, the Rautes take into consideration various factors. Water is drunk only from spring water, not wells or ponds, so adequate sources of water should be available near campsites. The whole village also decides whether to move with the final decision made by the Leader. In terms of spirituality, the Rautes worship aspects of the natural environment such as the rivers, forests and sun.

The Rautes are a tribe with a rich heritage. Their vision for the future is to continue living as nomads within the forests. They enjoy mother nature’s gifts and wish to co-exist harmoniously with her.
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