Gandharvas: looking into the Nepalese culture

Gandharvas are the famous community in Nepal and known among the most Nepalis because of their unique culture and occupation. Most members of this community are engaged in singing and dancing traditional songs. This community has been earning their living through singing and music while traveling to a different part of the country. Centuries ago the Gandharvas were the only means of entertainment and information in mountainous part of Nepal. There was no infrastructural development in Nepal then and neither any communication technology was introduced in the remote villages of Nepal.

So, the Gandharvas took their musical instrument “sarangi” with them and sang from one village to another. They would tell the stories of the war and troubles happening in other villages in the form of songs. They are very skillful in creating songs about the current situation. their songs are traditional in nature and are the same until now. The Gandharvas traveling to the remote part of Nepal were warmly welcomed in villages and food and shelter was provided. They were the messenger of news centuries ago in the mountains of Nepal. The Gandharvas were paid in exchange for the news, that they incorporated in their music.

It is said that during the unification of Nepal, Gandharvas played a vital role as spies of PritiviNaryanShah, carrying secret messages and passing them along the villages they traveled. With such unique and rich culture, the Gandharva community is on the verge of extinction. The globalization has made the world a smaller place. The villages that were in remote places got linked with modern infrastructure. The communication technology became the main reason to make Gandharvas less significant.

Now People turn to the modern technology to get news and entertain themselves. Due to the less demand for Gandharvas, the new generation started to get discouraged from the traditional occupation. Now there are only around 6000 members of Gandharva community scattered around Nepal. The community has started to find difficulty to earn their living just by singing and playing sarangi, so the number of Gandharvas gets smaller each generation. Some of the Gandharvas can be seen in the tourist area singing and selling the sarangi in Kathmandu and Pokhara.

The remaining have started to settle in other business and occupation. The Gandharva parents who faced huge economic burden because of this occupation are not willing to introduce their children to the difficult life of a Gandharva. Nowadays many members of Gandharva community are engaged in different agriculture, government sectors, hospitality sector, and new generations are also involved in communication sectors. The craft of making their traditional musical instrument is also disappearing. There are only a few craftsmen left, who can create the sarangi in the traditional way.
Despite, all the trouble and difficulty this community is facing, different NGOs and individuals are working to promote and protect the Gandharva culture. JhalakMan Gandharvas the significant figure of the Gandharva community and Nepalese folk culture. He was the first person to ever record a Gandharva song and bring Gandharva music in mainstream media. He is well respected in the Nepalese music industry and his songs are still popular among Nepalese people. Like him, some of the individuals of the Gandharva community are involved in producing and creating music for mass consumption. Some of them have their own talk shows and radio programs.

Few young Gandharvas have collaborated with another artist to make their music. They are finding ways to make sarangi compatible with other musical instrument and yet still preserve the essence of their music. Many Gandharvas with the skill to play sarangi are employed in different musical channels of Nepal. Different international and governmental organization are helping the community to preserve the Gandharva culture. Some of the family members of Jhalak man Gandharva are teaching young kids about the songs and music of Gandharva community.

The museum showcasing the Gandharva community is also in process of completion in Pokhara.it will contain the instruments and songs of Jhalak man Gandharva and another artist that have made a contribution to the Nepalese culture and Gandharva community. The textbook explaining the details on the history of Gandharvas are being kept. The way of creating an instrument and the proper way to play them is also recorded for the future generation. YouTube has also become one of the leading platforms for showcasing the talents of young Gandharvas.

Not only national but foreigners are interested in the Gandharva culture and their music. some of them are studying and promoting the Gandharva culture. Nowadays the main source of income for the Gandharvas are the cultural shows and the programs organized for tourists. There are different programs organized frequently showcasing the Gandharva community and giving the opportunity to tour to enjoy and learn about the Gandarvaculture. If you have any question on the Gandharvas or any other community of Nepal you can contact Red Carpet Journey. We are always pleased to introduce you to the large culture of Nepal.

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