Identification. People calling themselves Magar are concentrated in the middle Himalayas of west-central Nepal The middle Himalayas are defined by the Mahabharat and Siwalik ranges to the south and the southern slopes of the highest Himalaya to the north. Small Magar settlements and Individual farmsteads are also found elsewhere in Nepal, as well as in Sikkim and even in north India. This pattern of distribution in part reflects the excellence of Magar men as infantrymen. In the late eighteenth century Magars formed an important component in the armies raised by Prithivi Narayan Shah and his successors who created the modern nation of Nepal and for a time extended it well beyond its present borders both to the east and to the west. A number of families now living outside the area of Magar concentration occupy land given a forebear as a reward for his military service during these campaigns. Under the British Raj, when Magars served as mercenaries in the Gurkha Brigade, a few families settled Permanently in north India around the cantonment areas. Magars in need of land have also been moving south to the low malarial Terai of Nepal, since it has been made more habitable by a mosquito eradication program.
Magars usually identify themselves as belonging through patrilineal inheritance to a named section or "tribe," which in the traditional Nepali system is also a caste. Some of these are Pun, Gharti, Rana, Thapa, Ale, Rokha(ya), Budha, Burathoki, and Jhankri. If a Magar man is asked to identify himself, he might say he is a Pun Magar.
Sections are subdivided into named subsections or clans. For example, one of the subsections of the Thapa section is the Sinjali clan. However, because some clans, such as the Ramjali, are widespread and found in more than one section, a person's identity might then be given as Ramjali Pun or Ramjali Gharti. Alternatively a Magar may choose to stress locality, saying "I am a Masali Gharti," with Masali referring to the specific small settlement in which he or she lives.
Location. Magar concentration in the middle Himalayas is roughly bounded on east and west by the drainage of the Kali Gandaki River at approximately the latitude of Pokhara up to and including the Bnuri Gandaki. It also includes much of the area drained by the Bheri River and its tributaries, notably the Uttar Ganga, Sano Bheri, and Thulo Bheri.
Demography. In the census of 1952-1954, the first after the restoration of the present ruling Shah family, the number of those identifying themselves as Magar was 273,800, or 3 percent of the total population of Nepal. Later censuses were based on mother tongue, and the census of 1981 gave the Magar population as 212,681, an underestimate that ignored Magars whose mother tongue was Nepali. The total projected population for all of Nepal in 1991 is 19,370,300. If we take Magars as 3 percent of the population, we can estimate their population at 500,000.
Linguistic Affiliation. As their mother tongue Magars may speak one of three languages: Nepali, Magarkura, or Khamkura. The latter two both belong to the Bodish section of Sino-Tibetan, and though closely related, they are mutually unintelligible, (according to studies done by James F. Fisher). Nepali is the Sanskrit-based lingua franca and is the second language of almost all Magars.