The Tharu people are an ethnic group indigenous to the Terai in southern Nepal and northern India.  They are recognized as an official nationality by the Government of Nepal. 
In the Indian Terai, they live foremost in Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. The Government of  India recognizes the Tharu people as a scheduled tribe. 
The Nepali word thāru is the name of a particular ethnic group in the Terai. This name is thought to be  derived from sthavir meaning follower of Theravada Buddhism. The Tharu people in the central Nepali  Terai see themselves as the original people of the Terai and descendants of Gautama Buddha. Rana  Tharu people in western Nepal connect the name to the Thar Desert and understand themselves as  descendants of Rajput Indians, who migrated to the forests in the 16th century. Possible is also that the  name is derived from the classical Tibetan words mtha’-ru’I brgyud, meaning the ‘country at the border’,  which the Tibetan scholar Taranatha used in the 16th century in his book on the history of Buddhism.  

The Tharu people comprise several groups who speak different dialects and differ in traditional dress,  customs, rituals and social organization. They consider themselves as a people of the forest. In Chitwan,  they have lived in the forests for hundreds of years practicing a short fallow shifting cultivation. They  plant rice, wheat, mustard, maize and lentils, but also collect forest products such as wild fruits,  vegetables, medicinal plants and materials to build their houses; hunt deer, rabbit and wild boar, and go  fishing in the rivers  
They developed a unique culture free from the influence of adjacent India, or from the ethnic groups in  Nepal’s mountains. The most striking aspects of their environment are the decorated rice containers,  colorfully painted verandahs and outer walls of their homes using only available materials like clay, mud,  cow dung and grass. Much of the rich design is rooted in devotional activities and passed on from one  generation to the next, occasionally introducing contemporary elements such as a bus or an airplane .

The spiritual beliefs and moral values of the Tharu people are closely linked to the natural environment.  The pantheon of their gods comprises a large number of deities that live in the forest. They are asked for  support before entering the forest. Tharus have been influenced by Hinduism for several centuries.  However, since the 1990s, some Tharu groups in the Nepal Terai converted to Buddhism in the wake of  ethnic movements for social inclusion and against the religious hierarchy imposed by the Hindu State 
The Uttar Pradesh (UP) government is working to connect Tharu villages in the districts of Balrampur,  Bahraich, Lakhimpur and Pilibhit bordering Nepal, with the home stay scheme of the UP Forest  Department. 
The idea is to offer tourists an experience of living in the natural Tharu habitat, in traditional huts made  of grass collected mainly from the forests. This is expected to create jobs and bring economic  independence for the tribal population. It’s a major step towards the conservation of tribal  communities.

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