Magar - Settlements

Banyan Hill lies in the heart of long-settled Magar territory. Other Magar hamlets elsewhere—particularly those in the harsher northern areas, where food resources are both more limited and widely scattered and where Brahman influence is less—differ from Banyan Hill in various ways. The rapid changes of the last thirty years throughout Nepal have affected all Magar hamlets. Banyan Hill is one of seventeen hamlets comprising a traditional administrative district called Kihun Thum. Prior to the Gurkha conquest the Thum apparently was part of a petty kingdom ruled by the raja of Bhirkot. Like other Thums, Kihun had a fortification called a kot. Kihun's kot, now important solely as a ceremonial center, lies at the crest of the 1,500-meter ridge behind Banyan Hill.

In Kihun Thum there were about 600 households in the 1960s, and if one estimates 5 persons per household, the Population as a whole numbered about 3,000. Brahmans were the most numerous caste and their 243 households comprised approximately 40 percent of the total number of houses. Magars' households numbered about 190, or approximately 32 percent. Caste groups such as the metalworkers (60 households), leatherworkers (36 households), ex-Slaves (36 households), and tailors (17 households) were less Numerous. Other castes accounted for the remaining 18 Households including seven Newars who were shopkeepers in the local bazaar.

The caste groups at that time tended to concentrate in separate hamlets. Practically all households in Banyan Hill were Magars, and Magars predominated in five other hamlets in Kihun Thum.

Banyan Hill consists of two house clusters, one dominated by a founding patrilineage and the second dominated by their wife receivers. Houses vary in size. Some are oval, and some rectangular. Most have two stories; a few have three. Despite variation in size and shape, the method of construction and basic layout are much the same. Walls are built up using stones and mud mortar. Next they are plastered with mud. The final coat that is applied dries to a warm reddish orange. Roofs are thatched. All houses have verandas. Interior ground floor plans, which may symbolically reflect the tripartite social system, consist of two side rooms flanking a Comparatively large central room containing the fire pit. The single door of the house opens into the left-hand flanking room, making it an entrance hall. A notched pole ladder leads from the right-hand flanking room to the upper floor where clothing and valuables are stored in boxes and grain is stored in circular bins made of woven bamboo.

Other buildings and structures that are almost invariable parts of the farmstead include a thatched cattle shed, usually open on three sides, and a tall rack for storing ears of maize. The amount of maize on display is an indication of family wealth.

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