Based on the census figure of 1951, the population of the Mangars in the state of West Bengal was approximately to around 42, 663, in the District of Darjeeling the figure ran to around as 34, 350. In the absence of a separate Mangar population, the subsequent census was arrived by taking a rough calculation of 20 %rise for each decade.
Yet the rough calculation estimates of around 4.5 -5 lakhs of Mangar are present. It is to be noted that the Government Census only records the count of only three sub clans( Thapa . Ale & Rana) to portray the total calculation of the MANGAR community whereas the fact lies that there are around 918 sub –clans of the Mangars.
The NAWA MANGAR ASSOCIATION (NMA) is of the opinion that if a correct census figure of the Mangars is to be ascertained then, the other Mangar sub clans needs to be included to portray the correct population figure for the MANGAR Community.
The Mangar population over hundreds of years have been settling in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Assam, West Bengal, The North Eastern States. Quite a sizable number of Mangars are found in Simla, Almora, Nainital, Dehradun, Dharamsala, Bakshu, Dist of Darjeeling, Dooars etc.
A broad division of the Mangar clans and their sub clans have been given below:-
The Mangars have been basically divided into seven (7) broad clans & each clan has been further sub divided into numerous sub clans as indicated against their brackets-1). RANA (190) 2). ALAY/ALE (184), 3). THAPA (386), 4) BUDATHOKI OR BUDA (35),5) ROKA(03), 6)PUN (62) & 7) GHARTI (58)
According to shri. S. Subedi who describes Mangars as people of short stature, not very tall with a small squarical head. They hardly have any moustache or beard, small stub round flatten nose with short hands and legs and muscular calves, seasoned and weather beaten over the years of hard labour.
The Mangar community can boast of having a very rich cultural heritage, language of its own, its own form of dress and costume, religion and religious practices (Animistic and Shamanistic) and so to name a few. A very comprehensive division of one aspect of Mangar culture is reflected below. Occasions in Mangar community can be placed in two categories….. i.e Auspicious and inauspicious occasion.
Auspicious events (birth, marriage):
An occasion before child birth:- There is a traditional practice and a belief within the Mangar community that when a child is conceived in a family, the father of the family is not prohibited to be involved in any form of anti – social , anti- religious activities, as this may have an ill bearing on the unborn child. After the child’s delivery a nurse is called upon for her services (which in earlier days would be an old lady known as ‘Sudhaynee’ and a Shaman (witch doctor) would be summoned to ward of any evil that may effect the new born.
Either on the 3rd or 5th, or 7th or 9th day (considering an odd number) the child would go over a auspicious ceremony known as Nauran (Purification ceremony) which is perform by the Wappa. The aunty plays a decisive role in the naming of child where according to Mangar custom the child’s feet is touch to the ground, and face lifted towards the sun. The name of the child is whispered by his / her aunt into the child’s ears, followed by elders blessing the child, offering gifts etc.
The child’s mother is still required to undergo certain restrictions for 22days, before she is cleansed and allowed to offer her prayer to their family deity, then only she is considered clean and allow to fall back into the normal family and social pattern of life. Later, as the time comes, other rituals like ‘rice feeding and hair cutting ceremony’, duly follow in accordance with Mangar custom and tradition.
Marriage:- The Mangar community views ‘marriage ceremony’ with great importance as they believe that marriage gives the beginning to a new family life. There are two forms of marriages within the Mangar communities, (beside widow remarriage) viz – marriage by consent, elope marriage. It is to be noted that within the Magar community that marriage can be consorted between the uncle’s daughter (mother’s brother’s daughter and the son of the girls eldest or youngest sister i.e Phupu’s son and mama’s daughter). In earlier times the son of the eldest / youngest sister did actually claim his right to marriage over his uncle’s daughter. Hence such a girl would be known as ‘Bata ki Salee’. Polygamy was found to have existed earlier, but with the change of time, the Mangar community has done away with this practice.
Inauspicious events (Death):
Occurrence of death:- as soon as a person dies, the body of the deceased is placed on the ground, head faced east, oil lights are lit and a silver coin of ordinary coin is placed on the deceased forehead. During the funeral, the Wappa (priest) performs his rituals, the body is wrapped in white cloth and sewed with bamboo chips. Then the deceased is proceeded towards its site of burial. At the site of burial, the Wappa continues to perform his rituals, after which the body is laid to ground, the funeral party offers its last words / pays respect by offering mud and bids farewell.
The returning funeral party is offered tea/snacks and then invited to the funeral feast, a date set by the Wappa, and in the mean time, the sons of the deceased pass over the stipulate period of time mourning with hair and eyebrows shaved off, clothed in simple white cloth, segregated and condoning themselves from the rest of the family members, cooking by themselves, bathing on daily basis maintain distance with the general public until the day that the wappa has set, where they undergo a process of cleansing, than only will they be allowed to interact and mingle with the rest of the others.
Neighbors / friends / well wishers arrive on the day of funeral feast, ‘condolence money’ is offered as a mark of respect to the family members of the deceased.
When evening dawns, SHAMAN (witch doctor) performs his rituals and conveys the last wishes of the deceased.
It is a common practice, that the Mangar still follow the last death rites by observing puja / religious activities either in one and half months, six months or a year to mark the absence of the deceased and pray that deceased may find place in heaven.
The MANGARS are basically agriculturist who depends on nature for their harvest. Some of their food materials are derived from nature itself. Hard working as they are, yet they never miss an opportunity to sit together and enjoy a decent meal which consist of meat, wine accompanied by varieties of vegetables at large. Primarily they are Non vegetarian in nature but of latest a consideration number of them have been switching on to being vegetarian, though meat forms an important aspect of their daily menu.
They cultivate crops like Maize, Paddy, Soya beans, Millet, Johor, Ginger, Cardamom, Potatoes, Sweet- Potatoes, Yam, Tapioca, Pumpkins, other vegetables along with variety of fruits are also seen in the list of their cultivation.
Their traditional food would be Corn rice, wheat rice .Phaper (Buck wheat) roti, bread prepared from (Buck Wheat) along with a mixed vegetable curry of beans, leafy vegetables, pumpkin with potatoes is a rich favourite amongst them. Roasted corn is a welcomed snack. They even prefer beaten rice with a curry of buffalo meat, and puffed rice is consumed too. Dal prepared from Yellow Dal is a sorted menu and GUNGDRUK, (a semi decay vegetable matter) is an all time favourite.
They domesticate animals like Lambs (in some areas) Goats, Poultry, Piggery etc. Pork meat is a great delicacy amongst the Mangars.
The MANGAR are actually Tribal people who lived along side with nature. Depending and surviving on what nature provided best -fruits , roots . vegetable and animal meat. The very Tribal instinct allowed them to survive for quite a bit of time but as time changed so did situation, it became difficult to solely survive on nature and hence a particular day was set aside to continue this ceremony of eating roots. So in this function takes on to cleansing oneself and performing a religious function to pay homage to Mother Nature and consuming roots became an important function in the life of the Mangars . Hence the Makar Sangkranti is celebrated with a lot of zeal and enthusiasm.
Though many consider this as an influence of Hinduism, yet the Mangar community shows its due respect by observing this festival, where a varieties of delicacy are prepared and served within family and family friends.
The Mangars have been seen to be observing this festival where it is said that about eighty four (84) varieties of delicacies are being prepared , ready to be served although this is only possible with some families now a days.
The MANGARS celebrate this occasion as a mark of respect for their king BALI HANG who was revered for his justice & compassion. This occasion usually takes place in Mangsir Purnima / Bisakh Purnima and on this day the mangers pay homage to their ancestors , seeking their blessing for good for tune . At some place animal sacrifice is also done to pleases the Gods & Goddess .
The Magars also enjoy the festivity of this festival. Clothing themselves well, visiting the houses of the elders seeking blessing and enjoying the merry -making , wining and dining blending themselves with people of other communities, expressing the concept of brotherhood and tolerance.
ORNAMENTS & COSTUMES; The MANGAR/MAGAR community can boast of having one of the most beautifully decorated ornaments in comparison with others. They term their ornaments as’ ‘Varkali’. Their rich Maroon red costume makes the Margarnees (Mangar women) stand out amongst the others like the red Rhododendron in full blossom.
Some commonly seen ornaments found to be worn by Mangarnees (Mangar women) are
NANGRI, SHIRBANDHI, TIKA –MALA, MUGHA-MALA, AATHANA, CHAURANI, TILHARI, PANTHA, KANTHA, CHAPTA-SHUN, , DHUNGRI, BULAKEE, KOPI-PATHA, MARWARI etc.
An illustration of some ornaments is given below:-