The Gurungs of Nepal: Lifestyle and Related Cultural Trips

  • Ram Khadka
  • Apr 29, 2024

Table of Contents

If you've ever wandered through Nepal, India, or Bhutan, chances are you've come across the name "Gurung" somewhere along the way, whether chatting with locals or scrolling through articles.

Their fame is widespread. Among the Gurung Tamu ethnic group spread across these parts, the surname "Gurung" holds a special place. You might also know them as the tough "Gurkhas" known for their bravery and military service.

Within Nepal, they are celebrated as a prosperous indigenous community, actively engaged in military service, agriculture, entertainment, commerce, and politics.

Origins and History of the Gurung People

The origin of the Gurung people can be traced back to the Qiang people in Qinghai, China. We can tell because of their language, which is like a mix of Chinese and Tibetan, and their physical features like short stature, upturned eyes, flat noses, and typical mongoloid features. These indications suggest that the Gurungs have their roots further north.

It's highly probable that many thousands of years ago, their ancestors thrived in the rugged mountains of western China. We don't have all the facts, but stories passed down over generations suggest that their journey was quite adventurous.

Some say they traveled southward, crossing through places like Burma, then headed westward through areas like Assam and eastern Nepal, where they eventually settled down. These stories have been told for over 700 years now. Others believe their ancestors were shepherds who came down from the high pastures of Tibet. They journeyed through Mustang before finally making their home on the southern slopes of the Annapurna range, which is also in Nepal. And, interestingly, some people think that their ancestors came from both directions – some from the south, like northern India, and some from the north.

There's some debate about how the Gurungs ended up in Nepal. What we do know is that in ancient times, there was a nomadic group moving between Tibet and China. Over time, they spread to places like Mongolia and Sokopalin. Later, they migrated further, reaching Lhasa, and passing through areas like Chiang and Silingwa. Eventually, they settled in a hilly area called Karola, traveling through Sankai and Huyaling.

Around the same time, they made their way to Mustang, which is now in Nepal, then known as Bhu-sa-Thang. From there, they continued to spread, reaching Manang. Initially, they were nomadic, but by the seventh century, they started settling down, gradually moving towards the Gandaki region of Nepal. This marked the beginning of their permanent settlement.

Western development region in Nepal, where the Gurung community is predominant.


The initial Gurung settlers in Mustang arrived in a location known as Khulli, situated beneath the Machhapuchhre Himalayas on the western side of the road leading to Manang. Over time, this place came to be known as Koli. Presently, Gurung priests, called Paju and Lkepre, refer to it as Koolha Swanthar or Koolha Sopro.

Today, this area remains within the Manang district, serving as a continuous settlement for the Gurung community from ancient times until the present day. Before they became known as Gurungs and settled across western Nepal, they were called "Gyarong". Some places in the Gandaki region still have names similar to Gyrong tribes, like Ghandarong, Lunrong, Chamrong, Telvurong, Bhurung, Ramrong, and others. These names sound like the language Gurungs speak today.

As they spread to lower mountain areas, the Gyarong people even had their own kingdom in the Gandaki region. In the 7th and 8th centuries, there was a disagreement about borders between Gyarong rulers in Gandaki and rulers from Lamjung and Manang. After talking it out, they agreed on a border at Sukekhola.

Above that boundary, people at higher altitudes are called Bhote, while those living below or at lower altitudes are called Gurung. Today, Gurungs still inhabit the Tamuwan region, which includes the Annapurna range, while Bhote resides in the southern foothills of the upper  Himalayan region in the Gandaki area. They have differences in religion, culture, and more.

Language and Communication

The Gurung people communicate primarily through their native language, which is a Sino-Tibetan-based language. This language serves as the first language for all adults within the community, although not all younger individuals may be proficient in it. In addition to their native tongue, many Gurung individuals also speak Nepali. Spoken by over 325,000 in Nepal alone, Gurung is a major language despite facing challenges in being passed on to younger generations.

The Gurung language is not confined to Nepal alone; it is also spoken in India, Bhutan, and among diaspora communities worldwide, particularly in countries like Singapore and Hong Kong because many of them join the military there.

Phonetically, Gurung languages are tonal, with a single word capable of conveying different meanings based on the tone used. The structure of Gurung languages includes specific grammatical features, such as syllable patterns, limited suffixes, word order (SOV), postpositions, and the use of prepositions to express grammatical cases.

Elderly Gurung couple

When it comes to addressing individuals within the community, Gurung culture emphasizes respect and familial ties. Elderly individuals who are not relatives are addressed as "bujae" (grandmother) or "bajae" (grandfather).

Likewise, members of one's father or mother's generation can be respectfully referred to as "aba" (father) or "ama" (mother). Similarly, older individuals slightly older than oneself may be addressed as "agi" (older brother) or "didi" (older sister), while those younger are referred to as "bhai" (younger brother) or "bhaini" (younger sister).

In cases where you’re unsure of age or relation, it is called "nani" for girls and "Thagu/Ali" for boys. Gurungs traditionally avoid using personal names, especially for spouses, and might instead refer to a spouse as "the father/mother of (child's name)". Nicknames are also frequently used while communicating.

Economic Activities and Livelihoods

Historically, the Gurung were primarily animal herders, with sheep and cows providing meat and milk, supplemented by a small amount of grain farming. However, today, their economic activities are more diversified. The economic activities and livelihoods of the Gurung people have evolved over time, because of the changes in their traditional practices and modern opportunities.

Many Gurung people serve in various sectors, including the military, farming, entertainment industry, business, and politics. However, traditional occupations like sheep rearing are declining due to factors such as loss of access to pasture lands and increased migration to urban areas. Despite these changes, the Gurung community maintains certain traditional practices and values.

Gurung involvement in the military

Despite these changes, two aspects of Gurung's life stand out. First, their society values all members regardless of age. Elders continue to contribute economically and socially through activities like spinning, weaving, basket making, and childcare. This allows younger generations to focus on more strenuous tasks. Additionally, as Gurung elders age, their spiritual standing grows. They act as intermediaries with spirits, lead family rituals, and even serve as family priests.

Furthermore, remittances from family members working abroad are a source of income for the Gurung community, comprising 27.5 percent of their total income. These remittances have played a vital role in poverty reduction within the Gurung population in recent years.

Religious Beliefs and Practices

The Gurung people of Nepal live a simple life, but their beliefs about the world around them are quite unbelievable. They believe in a world filled with both good and bad spirits that can affect their lives in many ways. Their religion is an example of how different traditions can coexist. They incorporate elements of Hinduism, Buddhism, and animism (belief in spirits residing in nature) into their practices.

In Nepali festivals like Holi and Dasain, and private ceremonies like the "Snake Puja" and the "eighty-fourth birthday puja", people worship the gods of the Hindu pantheon. Buddhists also perform their rituals, including funeral rites, and in areas more to the north in Gurung territory, they often involve Lamas. While praying to the main gods of these traditions taps into the spiritual energy of the people, it doesn't cover all their beliefs.

Gurung villages are surrounded by many smaller gods, often linked to local landmarks like rocks, caves, springs, or trees. Sometimes, there's a small temple for these gods, while other times, it's just a stone shrine. Villagers visit these shrines once or twice a year to offer rice, flowers, leaves, or even chickens or goats based on the gods' preferences. Individuals might also make offerings to seek fertility, health, or blessings for their families. It's believed neglecting or offending these gods could lead to illness or harm to crops and animals, although they're not seen as inherently bad.

Evil spirits come in three types. First, there are "bhuts" (Ghosts) and "prests,"(Demons) similar to the smaller gods, living in rocks and forests, preying on the faint-hearted. Then there are spirits of people who died accidentally and weren't properly laid to rest, wandering malevolently. Lastly, there are witches.

In Gurung villages, there might be around a dozen or more older women suspected of being witches. These women are often respected for their strong personalities, so people are careful not to offend them or refuse their requests. People tend to avoid too much interaction with them because it's believed they could bring harm.

In the past, some witches were driven out of villages, but now it's illegal to accuse someone of being a witch. People are hesitant to talk about witches, not because of the law, but because of fear of them. There are fears that witches roam the village at night, wearing some kind of protective armor under their clothes, with red eyes and fire supposedly coming from their fingertips. They're thought to bring misfortune to the village.

Local priests' main job is to combat these evil spirits through rituals. They believe witches can't be directly dealt with but must be lured with food offerings and then expelled. Despite these efforts, suffering continues, and evil forces are never completely controlled. Even though people believe in these supernatural causes of illness and disasters like landslides, they also take practical steps to deal with problems.

As mentioned above, Gurungs blend different religious beliefs, incorporating Hinduism, Buddhism, and Animism. They may seek help from Brahmin priests for Hindu rituals, but they also rely on Buddhist Lamas trained in places like Manang to perform rituals, read scriptures, and perform other ceremonial acts. These practices have become part of Gurung tradition, although they're relatively recent additions.

The Gurung people have held onto ancient religious traditions more strongly than many other communities. They've kept elements of the "Bon" religion, which dates back over two thousand years and was once widespread in Tibet and Western China. Additionally, they've maintained aspects of an even older shamanistic belief system that existed before "Bon." Two important Gurung priests are the "Poju" and the "Klebri."

Gurung traditions

The "Poju" is believed to be descended from semi-shamanistic priests who practiced an ancient animistic religion in Western China. Over the past two millennia, the Gurungs integrated the "Klebri" into their beliefs, which originated from pre-Buddhist Tibet. The "Poju" performs various rituals, with records showing forty-three different rites in Thak in 1968. For instance, one ritual to combat illness lasts over ten hours, during which the "Poju" recites ancient myths, creates figurines representing gods and evil spirits, and wears special attire while sitting on a rain-shield.

During the ritual, hot ash and water are thrown at the patient while the "Poju" chants and drums. Ash is also scattered at the door to detect evil spirits. A goat is sacrificed outside the house, and the "Poju" rushes in with its head in his teeth while a flaming arrow is fired into the darkness, symbolizing the expulsion of evil.

In Gurung communities, especially during cold weather, visitors may meet people dressed in their best attire traveling to other villages for a memorial ritual called "pae lava."This traditional practice is a big deal for the Gurung people, and it has been passed down for generations. It represents their cultural heritage and has a lot of meaning in their community.

The Gurung people have a special ceremony called "pae lava" to guide a deceased person's spirit to the afterlife. After death, the body is either buried or cremated near a village cemetery or by the river. This releases the spirit, but it lingers near the village. The "pae lava" ceremony, held within a few years, helps the spirit travel the soul path over mountains to the land of the dead.

A priest sets the date, hundreds of guests are invited, and a white flag marks the deceased's house. Traditionally, "poju" and "klebre" priests conduct the rituals. Lamas (Buddhist priests) are a recent addition, and their ceremonies avoid animal sacrifice.

Expenses vary based on the family's wealth. Traditionally, buffaloes, sheep, goats, and chickens are sacrificed, along with food and drink for guests. A wealthy person's "pae lava" could cost as much as a new house, but half is recovered through guest gifts. This lavish hospitality acts like a death tax, preventing wealth from accumulating in one family. The ceremony starts with creating an effigy (a figure) of the deceased. A bamboo frame is draped with white cloth, and then adorned with the deceased's clothes, flowers, cigarettes, and money. The goal is to make it look attractive for the afterlife journey.

For three days and nights, priests chant myths guiding the deceased spirit. Relatives mourn, and meals are shared with everyone. On the second day, relatives pierce bamboo circles, representing breaking barriers to the afterlife. A procession with a white sheet (symbolizing the path to the afterlife) leads to a ritual battle.

A relative (often the deceased's sister's husband) holds a bone from a sacrificed animal. They engage in a dance battle with a "klebre" priest, who retrieves the bone, signifying the spirit's release from family ties. Near the end, food and drinks are laid out. A sheep, representing the deceased, is offered their favorite food. The belief is that this ensures no food is found in the sacrificed animals' stomachs, allowing them to accompany the spirit. The entire ceremony provides emotional release (catharsis) for mourners. The support of guests, the vibrant atmosphere, and rhythmic chanting create a powerful way to cope with grief. Interestingly, even Gurungs who have moved away continue this tradition for this very reason.

Art and Music

The Gurung people have a rich cultural heritage when it comes to music, dances, and arts.

The Gurung people really love their music and dancing. If you spend a night in one of their villages, you're likely to hear the beat of drums and the sweet voices of boys and girls singing.

Traditionally, they sang in their own language and often talked about love, even though they had arranged marriages. Sometimes, the songs were like a playful game, with boys and girls trying to outdo each other with teasing songs. These days, they also enjoy Nepali 'pop' songs, which are catchy and fun to dance to. In villages, Gurungs still dance to traditional tunes played on a small, two-stringed viol. Their dances are slow and graceful, with lots of fancy hand movements.

One of the most renowned Gurung dances is the Garda Sheba, a traditional dance originating from the south but adopted by the Gurung people. This dance tells the story of a Thakuri king's wife who committed "sati" after her husband's death. It is typically performed after the harvest season, between January and March.

During the dance, two young girls, usually aged between nine and sixteen, are instructed by a dance master. The girls enter a trance, believed to be possessed by a goddess, and perform intricate movements accompanied by slow, low chanting and drumming. The dance can last up to twelve hours and is adorned with beautiful costumes and jewelry.

Young Gurung girls perform traditional dance in their traditional attire.

But sadly, some of these traditions are fading away. The Garda Sheba and another gathering called Rodi, where young people would sing and dance together, are becoming less common in many villages. Rodi was a special place where young boys and girls could hang out, make friends, and have fun together. Even though these traditions are fading, they're still really important parts of Gurung culture.

Traditionally, Gurungs are known for their humor, bravery, and love for music and dancing, which leads them to enjoy celebrations and festivities. One popular form of entertainment among Gurungs is the singing of Dohori geet, a folk tune sung in duet by both men and women at events like fairs and festivals, either as a competition or simply for fun.

In the past, these singing competitions could last for days, with the loser having to concede victory to the winner. However, this custom is no longer practiced, but Dohori songs remain popular among Gurungs, often accompanied by lively dances. Unfortunately, the commercialization of these songs in restaurants and hotels has tarnished the traditional image of Gurungs along with their traditional attire.

Gurungs also have various traditional dances, including the Sorathi Dance, which retells an ancient legend about a king with seven wives but no children. The dance portrays the youngest queen who eventually gives birth to a daughter, leading the other jealous queens to plot the child's murder. Saved by a fisherman, the child is raised as his own until the truth is revealed, and the guilty parties are punished. This dance, lasting for sixteen days, is typically performed between the Dasain and Tihar festivals.

Another Gurung dance is the Maruni Dance, performed from the month of Shrawan (July-August) until Poush (December-January). During this dance, various Hindu deities are worshipped, and ten varieties of flowers are offered, with one specifically set aside for Goddess Saraswati. After the dance, this flower is presented to the goddess, and participants receive blessings. The dancers move gracefully in traditional attire, while others play mandal (drums) and sing in high falsettos. Sadly, the Maruni Dance is nearing extinction, but efforts, especially by the Ghale Gurung community from Barpak of Gorkha, are underway to revive and preserve it.

Where to explore and intermingle with the Gurung communities in Nepal?

If you're wondering where to explore and intermingle with these communities, we have you covered. Immerse yourself in the rich culture of the Gurung Community with our Annapurna Trekking Packages. With 13 unique packages to choose from, we guarantee you'll have the best experience possible. Don't miss out on these seven amazing treks that offer a chance to immerse yourself in the Gurung community.

Annapurna Base Camp Trek

The Annapurna Base Camp Trek is an epic adventure that takes you into the heart of the Annapurna region in Nepal. But this trek offers more than just stunning mountain vistas and challenging hikes. It also provides a unique opportunity to explore and intermingle with the Gurung communities who call this region home.

As you begin the Annapurna Base Camp Trek via Poon Hill, you'll start in the blissful valley of Pokhara. From there, the trail takes you north to charming Gurung villages lying amidst the foothills of the Annapurna massif.

Many guesthouses and lodges along the trek route are run by Gurung families. Staying in a homestay is a great way to immerse yourself in their culture and learn about their way of life. As you trek through the Annapurna region, you'll pass through several Gurung villages. You get to explore these villages and interact with the locals. Also, be able to see traditional houses, observe local craftspeople at work, or even attend a village festival.

Poon Hill Trek 3 Days

Poon Hill Trek 3 days, while short in duration, it takes you into the Annapurna Conservation Area, a region rich in biodiversity and home to the Gurung people. Along the way, you'll pass through incredible Gurung villages like Birethanti, Ulleri, Banthanti, and Ghorepani where you can explore these villages, interact with the locals, and witness their way of life.

Mardi Himal Trek

Mardi Himal Trek is an easy-to-moderate 5-day adventure that delves into the heart of Gurung culture. This trek takes you along a less-frequented route, allowing you to experience the raw beauty of the Annapurna region. But beyond the breathtaking scenery lies a lot of interesting Gurung traditions waiting to be explored. You'll pass through beautiful Gurung villages like Kande, Deurali, and Siding. These villages offer a glimpse into the Gurung way of life, with their unique architecture, traditional dress, and warm hospitality.

Khopra Danda Trek

The Khopra Danda Trek takes a less-crowded route, allowing you to discover the hidden gems of the Annapurna Himalayas. In this trek, you explore Ghandruk, where you experience authentic Gurung Culture. Your trek begins in Ghandruk, the largest Gurung village in the region. Here, you can explore traditional houses, witness the daily lives of the Gurung people, and learn about their customs and traditions. This trek also offers the opportunity to encounter other ethnic groups like the Magar, Brahmin, and Chhetri communities.

Annapurna Circuit Trek

The Annapurna Circuit Trek is a life-changing adventure that combines breathtaking mountain vistas with captivating cultural encounters. Throughout the trek, particularly in villages like Manang, you'll have the opportunity to interact with the Gurung people. Renowned for their warm hospitality, the Gurungs will welcome you into their world, allowing you to witness their traditional way of life.

Moreover, in villages at lower altitudes, you might meet the Magar people. Known for their rich cultural heritage and agricultural skills, the Magars will share their unique perspective on life in the Himalayas.

As you reach higher altitudes, particularly in Jomsom, you'll find the Thakali people. The Thakalis have a distinct culture and cuisine waiting to be explored.

Tilicho Lake Trek

The Tilicho Lake Trek is a 15-day journey in the Annapurna area. This trek is known for its challenging trails and remote location. It's not just about reaching one of the highest lakes in the world. It's also a chance to explore the Himalayas' culture, with stunning views and interesting experiences along the way.

Manang village, a stop along the trek, is often called the "Himalayan Shangri-La." Here, you can experience the unique culture of the Thakali people, renowned for their hospitality. Savor their delicious cuisine and witness their traditional way of life. Furthermore, Tilicho Lake holds deep significance for Hindus, who believe it's a sacred place. You'll also visit Muktinath Temple, a revered pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Along the trail, you'll see monasteries and Gompas, which show the strong Buddhist influence in the area.

Ghorepani Ghandruk Trek 

The Ghorepani Ghandruk Trek is ideal for those seeking a beautiful Himalayan experience without the challenges of high-altitude treks. This trek allows you to discover the beauty of the Annapurna region at a comfortable pace, all while encountering the warm hospitality of the Gurung people. Immerse yourself in Gurung culture by visiting Ghandruk where you can explore traditional houses, witness the daily lives of the Gurung people, and learn about their customs and traditions. You stay in Gurung villages like Chomrong or Ghorepani where you can connect with local families, share meals, and experience their way of life. Also, Savor the flavors of Gurung cuisine at local teahouses.

Major Gurung Festivals

Tamu Lhosar (Lhochchar)

Tamu Lhosar, or Lhochchar, is a big celebration for the Gurung people, marking the start of their New Year. It falls on the 15th day of the Nepali month of Poush, which is usually around December 30th. This festival holds great importance for the Gurung people, not only as a time to welcome the New Year but also to celebrate their heritage and identity.

Tamu Lhosar is deeply connected to nature's rhythms. The rising sun on the 15th of Poush signifies the dawn of a new year. This date isn't arbitrary; it reflects the changing seasons, with Poush 15th marking the end of winter and the beginning of spring. This aligns with the Gurung belief that the natural world dictates the cycle of time.

This Lhosar is a cyclical event that revolves around the concept of "Lho." Gurungs traditionally divide time into twelve-year cycles, each year represented by a specific animal: garuda, serpent, horse, sheep, monkey, bird, dog, deer, mouse, cow, tiger, and cat. This system closely mirrors the Tibetan calendar, though there may be slight variations in the animal associations with Chinese New Year. Every twelve years, the "Lho" cycle resets, marking a fresh start in the Gurung calendar, known as Tamu Sambat.

Gurungs celebrate this transition with enthusiasm, holding grand feasts called "ban bhoj." These gatherings are filled with lively music, dance, and traditional games. In the evenings, a spirit of community thrives as groups come together for picnics. These gatherings often involve a communal meal, with a sacrificed buffalo or goat shared amongst neighbors, work colleagues, families, or anyone who contributed to a collection for the feast.

While the core traditions of Tamu Lhosar remain strong, celebrations have adapted to modern life. Especially in major cities, Gurung communities come together in centralized locations for grand celebrations. These events feature cultural processions, showcasing traditional clothing and music. During this special time of celebration, everyone comes together to enjoy a variety of fun performances and cultural programs. And of course, the communal feasts are an important part of the festivities, bringing people closer together and adding to the exciting environment.

Toho Tehn

The Toho Tehen festival is a unique Gurung tradition practiced three times a year, specifically on Sundays falling within the months of Chaitra (March-April) and Shrawan (July-August). This three-day observance focuses on driving away evil spirits believed to bring sickness and misfortune to the village.

As the sun sets and the moon rises, the village gets ready for a special event. A group of young boys, usually between the ages of 11 and 16, play a major role in this tradition. They carry a sacrificed chicken and a bowl of burning incense to purify every Gurung home in the village.

Their journey through the village is far from silent. The boys create a cacophony of sound, a deliberate strategy to ward off evil spirits. They pound on drums, clash cymbals, and jingle bells, creating a din that fills the night air. This loud noise serves to scare away any malevolent spirits lurking in the shadows.

The boys carry burning incense, which is believed to have purifying properties and add another layer of protection. The fragrant smoke is thought to drive away negativity and leave behind a sense of cleansing. As the boys move from house to house, the smoke weaves its way through each dwelling, symbolizing the expulsion of evil forces.

The Gurungs believe that evil spirits are the root cause of various misfortunes, including sickness, natural disasters, social evils, and even the erosion of their cultural heritage. The Toho Tehn festival serves as a powerful collective effort to safeguard the village from such threats. By driving away these evil entities, the Gurungs hope to ensure the well-being of their community and usher in a period of peace and prosperity.


Dasain, a ten-day festival celebrated throughout Nepal in October-November, holds a unique place in Gurung culture. While primarily a Hindu festival, it has now become intertwined with Gurung customs, highlighting the fusion of Hinduism with the unique beliefs of the Gurung people.

Like other Nepalese people, Gurungs celebrate Dasain with a focus on family, community, and renewal. During this period, agricultural work takes a backseat, allowing for feasting, enjoying, and visiting relatives. Houses are thoroughly cleaned.  However, Gurungs distinguish themselves through a specific detail – the color of the tika (a paste applied to the forehead during blessings). Unlike Hindus who use red tika, Gurungs traditionally wear white tika, a subtle difference that highlights their distinct cultural identity.

However, in recent years, some Gurung individuals have chosen to forego the celebration of Dasain. Instead, they are embracing their traditional religion or Lamaism as their primary faith. Dasain, being a Hindu festival, is not inherently part of Gurung or Buddhist tradition.  Nevertheless, in many villages, Dasain continues to be celebrated due to the longstanding cultural influence of Hinduism.

Tihar/Bhai Tika

For the Gurung people, Tihar, also known as Bhai Tika, is an important festival even though it originates from Hindu traditions. It lasts for three days and usually falls in the month of Kartik. 

Like their Hindu neighbors, Gurungs prepare for Tihar by cleaning and decorating their homes with marigold garlands, a symbol of prosperity, adorn their dwellings. In the evenings, houses come alive with flickering diyas (oil lamps), colorful electric bulbs, or candles, creating a warm and inviting environment.

According to Hindu beliefs, this light attracts Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. But for Gurungs, it symbolizes the victory of light over darkness. The third day of Tihar is called Bhai Tika, a day when brothers honor and respect their sisters. Sisters put a tika, made of rice and curd, on their brother's forehead and are treated to a special feast. In return, brothers give presents to their sisters, like money, clothes, or other gifts.

Just like during Dasain, there's a lot of feasting and celebrating during Bhai Tika. One special tradition during Tihar is called Bhailo or deuso. People, both young and old, go from house to house singing and dancing. They ask for money, which can later be used for good causes or fun activities like picnics.

Even though Tihar is rooted in Hinduism, Gurung people celebrate it because they believe in honoring and respecting their sisters.

Sildo thi-ba(Sildo or sildo-naldo)

The Sildo Thi-ba festival is a special time for the Gurung people to honor and worship the natural deities that protect their village. They believe these deities bring them rice and rain.

The name itself, "Sildo-naldo," offers a clue to the purpose. Broken down, "si" means rice grain, "na" means rain, and "Ido" translates to "to do."  Essentially, Sildo-naldo represents the divine entity responsible for bringing rain and ensuring abundant harvests.

Sildo Thi-ba takes place five times a year, usually on a Tuesday when the moon is full. During the festival, a Gurung priest leads prayers to ask for protection for the village. They make ten rice cones, with the largest one representing the main deity. Offerings of grains are made, and at the end, they sacrifice an animal as a sign of respect. They make ten rice cones, with the largest one representing the main deity. Offerings of grains are made, and at the end, they sacrifice an animal as a sign of respect.

A Gurung Priest Leads the Ceremony. The responsibility for conducting Sildo Thi-ba falls upon the "pachyu," a Gurung priest with specialized knowledge of traditional rituals. Standing before an altar, the pachyu offers prayers to Sildo-naldo, requesting continued protection and blessings for the village.

Cultural Practices and Traditions

Cross-cousin marriage practice

One of the unique cultural practices among the Gurung people is cross-cousin marriage. In Gurung society, marriages are typically arranged through either a formal agreement between families or by elopement, where the couple runs away together without parental consent.

Traditional Gurung marriages often involve cross-cousin unions, where a boy marries his mother’s brother’s daughter (matrilateral) or a girl marries her father’s sister’s son (patrilateral). This practice is different from many Hindu societies, where marrying cousins is seen as taboo due to the belief that cousins are like siblings.

The process of arranging a cross-cousin marriage among the Gurung people involves a mediator who contacts the prospective bride’s family or their representatives. After initial approval and confirmation of horoscope compatibility, the groom’s side presents a gift of liquor called ‘pung’ to the bride’s family. If accepted, the betrothal is considered complete.

Unlike some cultures, Gurung marriages lack extended religious rituals. The ceremony itself is a simple affair, marking the official beginning of the couple's life together. While cross-cousin marriage may be unusual in Hindu societies, it is a common practice among various ethnic groups in Nepal, including the Gurung, Tamang, Magar, Thakali, and Chhantyal communities.

Putpute (pulpule) ceremony

Yet another significant cultural tradition among the Gurung people is the Putpute ceremony, also known as pulpule. This ceremony is exclusively held for the eldest male child in the family, marking an important milestone in his life.

At the age of two years, the Putpute ceremony is conducted by the maternal uncle of the child. Its primary purpose is to pay homage to the family's patron deity or clan god. During the ceremony, guests gather to bless the child and present him with gifts as tokens of their good wishes.

During Putpute, there is a lot of singing and dancing, adding to the festive atmosphere. The celebration concludes with a lavish feast featuring a variety of foods and liquors, bringing together family members and community members to share in the happiness of the occasion.


Another important cultural tradition among the Gurung people is the Gunyo-choli ceremony, also known as Nea Bimba in Tamu culture. This ceremony is a huge event in the life of a young Gurung girl, marking her transition into womanhood.

During this ceremony, family and community members gather to celebrate. She is taught about the cycle of life, as well as the roles and duties expected of her as a woman in Gurung society. This teaching, known as Hya Kai in Tamu, is conveyed through stories and songs that illustrate the interconnectedness of nature and human life.

At the end of the ceremony, a festive feast is organized in the village, where the young woman is honored and congratulated by everyone present.

Ram Khadka

Ram Khadka

CEO and Managing Director at Sublime Trails Trekking, Ram has been leading adventure-hungry souls into the mountains of Nepal for over 15 years.