Nyinba - History and Cultural Relations



Nyinba believe that their ancestors are an amalgam of Peoples mostly from western Tibet and also from elsewhere in Tibet, ethnic Tibetan regions in Nepal, and Byansi villages ("Byansi" refers to groups of Tibeto-Burman speakers found farther west in Nepal and India). Villagers state that their ancestors settled the region during the fifteenth century, thus after the collapse of the Malla Kingdom, which united Western Tibet, western Nepal, and possibly Ladakh. Although the Mallas supported both Buddhism and Hinduism, their successors were high-caste Hindus hostile to Buddhist peoples. These rulers formed a feudal confederacy, which was conquered by and annexed to the kingdom of Nepal in 1789. The incorporation into a centralized state had little impact on daily life until recently. It principally affected matters of land tenure and taxation, intercaste relations, and serious legal offenses. Beginning in the 1950s, the government established a new district capital not far from where the Nyinba live and introduced a system of democratically elected, local panchayat councils, which are linked to similar regional and national councils. Although Nyinba have long been citizens of Nepal, they also have provided support and had affiliations to Tibetan religious institutions. These relationships ended in 1959, with Chinese suppression of the revolt in Tibet.

Throughout their history, Nyinba have participated in a multiethnic society. Their territory stands at the intersection of the region's three major ethnic groups. To the south lie Villages of high-caste Hindus, to the south and west are villages of Bura, a group of both Buddhists and Hindus citing Byansi antecedents, and to the north are the villages of ethnic Tibetans. Nyinba relationships with these other groups are oriented principally around economic transactions and religion. Nyinba trade extensively. They import commodities from Tibet and other Tibetan border regions into high-caste Nepali and Bura villages to the south and bring the latter's surplus grain back to Tibet. They also sponsor religious festivals with other ethnic Tibetans, send lamas to Buddhist Bura Villages, and participate in regional cults of spirit possession. Otherwise, they are relatively insular and disapprove strongly of community exogamy.


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