Brahmins and Chhetri – the highest caste in Nepal

Brahmins and Chhetri – the highest caste in Nepal

The highest caste was always Brahmins, holding positions of priests and teachers in the Hindu community.

It is believed that in the twelfth century, during the Islamic invasion in India, Brahmins – Brahmans – emigrated to the western hills of Nepal. There they encountered a Khas caste, people of a Brahmin-like culture, who in the caste order never found themselves lower, which is related to their orthodox system of principles. People of the Khas group as well as children conceived from the relationships of Brahmin men and Khas women were named Khatri, after which they obtained the status of Chhetri. Not all Khas people have accepted this status, the remaining group of Matvali Chhetris, that is, those who drink liquor and are not the heirs of the sacred legacy.

Only men are made as priests. However, everyday home puja is usually made by a woman. The daily agricultural work of the Brahmin and Chhetrich families is usually done jointly by men and women. Everyone works on the field, but the woman spends more time during the day on housework and in the field. It is she who takes care of children, home, preparing meals, as well as the mowing in the backyard garden and plant care. The man is responsible for the plowing and proper maintenance of the terraces. Everyone is taking part in the harvest.

The source of Brahmin and Chhetrich income living in villages is cattle breeding and field cultivation. In addition, there are many priests among the Brahmin who provide services to other families of their caste and the Chhetri caste, they also work in shrines and temples, and support large festivals. They also run all the marital rituals.

Many Chhetrich serve in the Nepalese army or in the Gorkh brigades of the Indian or British army. In urban areas, both castes have the privilege to serve government, political and financial industries. Brahmins and Chhetri are often landowners. Wet rice is grown on terraced fields, divided into small plots inherited by generations. Industrial products or handicrafts needed for everyday use they buy from the lower service castes – smiths and metallurgists, goldsmiths, tailors, tanners. Living in rural areas, Brahmans and Chhetri usually support Newar shopkeepers in their commercial activities.

Essentially, the people of the priestly caste do not eat meat, but this rule is not usually used in Nepal. We even met the owners of a butcher shop – which is the domain of the lower caste – declare belonging to a brahmana caste. They service the cutting and sale of chicken and goat meat, but they will not touch beef or buffalo meat, which they consider unclean. Cow and buffalo are privileged animals in this culture. Although violent acts are sometimes seen against them, especially when one of them enters, or terraces peacefully while walking the main artery of the city, nevertheless they are considered as holy beings. According to the story given in the holy book of Bhagavad-Gita, it was cow’s milk that saved little Krishna from starvation when he was separated from his mother.

The people of the Chhetri and Brahmin caste do not have artistic tendencies. Music, theater and fine arts have traditionally been the domain of other, usually lower, castes, and, with the exception of the educated residents of the cities, Brahmins and Chhetri are not interested in art. Their simple, primitively decorated houses are an expression of the lack of artistic inspiration, although it is common knowledge that Brahmins like to dance and they know how.

All first-line cousins ​​are titled with terms intended for siblings. It is important here who is older, who’s younger. Often, however, also unrelated persons, including strangers, are entitled to the same terms. Therefore, as a visitor to the settlement we will often be called brother or sister.

Brahmin girls were traditionally married at the age of 11, and Chhetrich girls a few years later. Nowadays, however, the age of marriage to the late teenage period or even twenty-several years has been raised in both caste. The groom should be several years older than the bride. Often the relationship is with a person from another village and usually the parents use the intermediary. They also consult the astrologer to be sure that the couple made a good choice. A priest from the boy’s family consults the girl’s family to establish a favorable date for the ceremony based on the lunar calendar. It is believed that some months are highly detrimental to entering into marriages. The marriage ceremony covers the whole day from the moment the groom’s team arrives at the bride’s house until they leave the house the next day, taking the girl with them. The most important part of the ceremony is kanyadan, the ritual of handing the bride over to the bridegroom in the hands of the groom. From now on – as long as her husband is alive – a married woman wears vermilion powder on her brocaded brocade.

The legacy of parents passes only to the son. With the exception of what is passed on to daughters in the dowry, all property, especially landed property, is taken over by sons.

A young couple usually lives with the groom’s family together with his parents, brothers and their wives and unmarried sisters. The girl has a low status in a new family and usually the mother-in-law commissions her most arduous work. Her status will be raised when she gives birth to a child, especially when she gives birth to a son. Sometimes she also decides to fight for a higher position herself.

The mother and newborn baby are considered to be unclean until the eleventh day of the child’s life. Then the cleansing ceremony is performed and the name is given.

After finishing five months – girls – or seven – boys – it eats the first rice meal called ‘pasni’.

When a boy turns 7, his hair is cut off – a small strand of hair is left behind to indicate that he belongs to the Hindu culture – and formally becomes a member of the caste.

A girl during the first menstruation is transferred to another house, where she is hidden by the eyes of men from her family and from sunlight. Returning home formally is considered a woman, a member of the caste.

Rural political life has its own dynamism, independent of changes on the national political scene. The village affairs are managed by a formally or informally formed council of elders, in which Brahmini and Chhetri often play a significant role due to the status of landowners and relatively high education.


At the end of the eighteenth century, Nepal was united by kings who were the ancestors of Thakuri – the aristocratic wing of the Chhetri caste.

The Rana family also comes from the Chhetri caste which, from 1846 to 1950, filled the ministers’ stools and occupied its seats there until now. The process of overthrowing the rule of Ministers of Rana and subsequent political activities aimed at democratic or socialist reform was also carried out by members of the Brahman and Chhetrich castes.

All Brahmini and Chhetri are Hindu and profess most basic Hindu beliefs. This is connected with a few basic concepts in the Hindu religion: the first is dharma, meaning that everyone takes their place in the caste group, has a moral code and a code of conduct binding to him. The second is karma, or the law of cause and effect – it means that the current state of affairs exists as a result of behaviors in the past and in previous lives. The third term is moksha, signifying liberation from the suffering circle of birth and death.

One of the most important Hindu festivals is the October Dashain – or Durga Puja – when the magnificence of Durga – Kali in its ten-armed form is celebrated for two weeks. Then many sacrificial rituals are performed, animal sacrifices are also made, people feast and visit their close and distant relatives. On the tenth day of Dashain there is a ritual in which every Hindu devotee expresses his respect for the elderly in his family and receives from them in response a colorful tikka on his forehead as a sign of blessing.

In March, the Holi festival takes place, differently Phagu – the name comes from the Nepali name of the month Phagun – in which people sing, dance and throw each other colorful powder and pour water. Then there are prayers for harvest and prosperity for a given year.

Another important festival is the Tihar festival – Dipavali, a festival of lights – lasting five days. Hindu houses are illuminated with a multitude of lamps both from the outside and inside and illuminate with light throughout the night. In front of the house – and sometimes on the floor of the room inside the house – wonderful colorful pictures are created with the help of colorful sand or dyed rice flour, colored beans and flower petals as an invitation to the holy deities to the house. Men meet then to make bets – sometimes they pledge the rich jewelry of their wives and daughters, or their own homes.

Then the man’s special relationship with his ideals is raised, a special place in this mandala also has three species of animals associated with man – a cow, a dog and a crow. Ravens receive sweets and other delicacies in a gift, and pets decorate themselves with flower garlands.

Brahmini and Chhetri receive medical help from various sources, both from Ayurvedic medicine physicians, from the Buddhist lama – if he enjoys the reputation of a healer – or from a shaman who recommends treatment by entering into a trance or from a certified doctor of Western medicine.

A family dying man takes to the river, all rivers are considered sacred. Even if death takes place elsewhere, within a few hours the body is cremated on the river and the ashes of the body of the deceased are thrown into it. Mourning after the death of a loved one persists for thirteen days after death, which includes the exclusion of some ingredients from the diet, for example salt. Men shave their heads for mourning. After two weeks, a great feast takes place. Objects owned by the deceased are donated to the priest who led the ceremony. During the next year, the shraddha ceremony, which must be carried out by the son of the deceased, is celebrated. If the funeral ritual is not celebrated, the deceased can not go further and instead will haunt the living in the form of an evil spirit.

Brahmins – morning ritual

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