The Raute tribe is a captivating and unique nomadic community that resides primarily in the Dailekh region of Nepal. Known for their distinct way of living, rich cultural practices, and a dialect known as Khamji, they are considered an endangered tribe of the Khas Arya community. This in-depth article explores their intriguing way of life, drawing upon first-hand experiences and detailed observations.
Encounter with the Enigmatic Rautes
My first introduction to the Raute community was at a Nepal Tourism Board event where I spotted three or four individuals dressed in a blend of traditional attire and modern blazers. This sighting piqued my curiosity and eventually led me to Bajura, where I explored the Raute's settlements with the help of Kantipur reporter Jyoti Katuwal.
Journey to the Settlement
The path to the Raute basti (settlement) in Mahabu rural municipality was a challenging and adventurous one. With excitement mounting, we embarked on a journey to experience the nomadic life of the Rautes, a community often viewed as strange by urban standards. The Rautes, who call themselves Suryavanshi (descendants of the sun), live by their own laws and consider themselves rulers of the Dailekh forests.
Life in a Different World
Upon arrival, we were welcomed by a scene of feasting and dancing, part of the Rautes' mourning ritual after an elder's death. Their lives seemed untouched by modern conveniences, with their focus on traditions and simple pleasures.
We met the Mahamukhiya, the main chief, Man Bahadur Shahi, who holds the highest power among the Rautes. Besides him, three Mukhiyas rule various clans within the community.
A Glimpse into Raute Culture
As we engaged in conversation and eventually took photos, we learned more about their lifestyle, governance, and customs. Around 141 Rautes live in Dailekh today, renowned for their exceptional hunting skills and craftsmanship in making wooden pots and pans.
However, changes are evident, with a decline in crafting and challenges such as government allowances and increased alcoholism impacting their way of life.
Government Intervention and Resistance
The Nepalese government has attempted to integrate the Rautes into mainstream society by providing education, healthcare, and financial support. These interventions, however, have met with resistance, and the community continues to prioritize their independence and traditional ways.
A Community Unfazed by Modernity
The Raute tribe remains a fascinating enigma. Despite the challenges they face, including high infant mortality rates and the gradual erosion of traditional crafts, they stand firm in their commitment to their unique lifestyle.
Their story is a reminder of the diverse and rich cultural heritage that exists within Nepal and a call for understanding and respect for indigenous communities. The experience of spending time with the Rautes is an unparalleled journey into a world that thrives on simplicity, tradition, and a connection with nature.