November 26, 2017

THE PUNS OF THE HIMALAYAN REGION : WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THEM ?

[In recent times, the Pun Magars are in both the national and international limelight of which all Magars should take pride of or feel elated indeed. The current Vice-President of Nepal is Nanda Kishor Pun Magar who was born in Rangsi, Rolpa Nepal, in 1965. The Wikipedia in its ‘Pan’ surname entry has Tul Bahadur Pun Magar, one of the WW II Victoria Cross recipients, Dip Prasad Pun Magar, CGC – Conspicuous Gallantry Cross recipient for his gallantry at the war in Afghanistan on September 17, 2010 and Mahabir Pun Magar, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and some other awards as well. All these three Pun Magars hail from Myagdi district, west Nepal hills. The Pun Magars are relatively more advanced than other Magars in the country.]

By B K Rana
Nima Pun Magar, Miss Mongol - 2015
@ Nepal Mountain News >>


The Puns (pronounced ‘pʊns’ or ‘pūns’) are one of the major Magar[1] groups of people of Nepal. Whether people believe or not, at least one mention has been found made so far that ‘Huns’[2] surviving ‘genocide’[3], came from the north and eventually became Magars. Some authors, including C. J. Morris, have grouped the Magar people in 7 different groups or clans as in alphabetical order : Ale, Buda or Budha or Budhathoki[4], Gharti, Pun, Rana, Roka and Thapa (Morris 1933:75). Eden Vansittart has only six of them without 'Rokas' in his listing (Vansittart 1890:36). But nowadays, grouping  as such is not at all necessary. All Magars have equal social standing and do intermarry as well. With the advent of social media these days, some Magars and ‘new generation’ - that is to say - Millennial Magars  are found either using ‘Magar’ or their ‘subclan names’ only such as: Phagami (Pun), Burja (Pun), Galami (Thapa), Gyami (Rana), Lahyo (Thapa), Kyapchhaki (Rana), Sinjali (Thapa), Aslami (Thapa) etc. but not like those 7 clan names only mentioned above.

I write this note here today to briefly discuss the possible origin of Pun and other Magars also to address some misunderstandings caused by Encyclopedia, which writes in its ‘about us’section as, “ (it) provides you reference entries from credible sources like Oxford University Press and Columbia Encyclopedia”. This Encylopedia has Magar people’s incorrect demographic data and further posted – “If a Magar man is asked to identity himself, he might say he is a Pun Magar”, - not quite true always. It has not provided correct reference entries of the Magar people of Nepal or elsewhere also.

I shall write all  Magars do not, at all times, say he or she - a ‘Pun Mgar’ when asked to identity as the Encyclopedia has maintained; they would rather say Pun Mgar, Gharti Magar, Budha or Buda Magar, Budhathoki Magar, Ale Magar, Thapa  Magar or  Rana Magar depending on which clans they belong.

In recent times, the Pun Magars are in both the national and international limelight of which all Magars should take pride of or feel elated indeed. The current Vice-President of Nepal is Nanda Kishor Pun Magar who was born in Rangsi, Rolpa Nepal, in 1965. The Wikipedia in its ‘Pan’ surname entry has Tul Bahadur Pun Magar, one of the WW II Victoria Cross recipients, Dip Prasad Pun Magar, CGC – Conspicuous Gallantry Cross recipient for his gallantry at the war in Afghanistan on September 17, 2010 and Mahabir Pun Magar, a Ramon Magsaysay Award winner and some other awards as well. All these three Pun Magars hail from Myagdi district, west Nepal hills. The Pun Magars are relatively more advanced than other Magars in the country.

Origin of Magars

While the origin of the whole Magar people is unclear so far as scholars hold varied opinions; it would therefore be difficult to definitively say where from the Pun Magars may have come to their present day homeland in Nepal? Linguistically, the Magar people have come from the north, there is no doubt about it, as all three language group Magar people[5] speak Bodish branch of Tibeto-Burman family language. We understand how Ale Magars, Rana Magars and Thapa Magars obtained their ‘Ale, Rana and Thapa’ titles and a little about the ‘Buda or Budha or Budhathoki’[6] Magars also but not  the Pun Magars at all. The Pun Magars of Kham language speaking areas such as Dang, Salyan, Pyuthan, Rukum (Ranma Maikot), Rolpa districts of west Nepal speak Kham Magar Kura (Kham Magar language) but the other Pun Magars of Myagdi district or near it do not speak the language. It also should not imply here that ‘non - Kham speaking Puns’ are no Magars at all, however, some Puns have claimed since few decades or so that they are ethnically different ones; but who really ? Do they have any answer ? I have no idea about it.

The all other Magars in the mid or eastern Nepal also do not speak Magar ‘Kura or Dhut’ or language.  The  local or native languages faced a tremendous challenge after King Prithvi Natrayan Shah conquered Kathmandu valley in 1769, and onwards the infamous 1846 Kot Massacre, all of the successive governments rigorously employed ‘one nation, one language’ policy in the country until 1990. Therefore, native speakers were forced to speak Nepali language only.

screen grab map of ancient China. Courtesy> Ancient History Channel >>
Very possibly, the first group of Magars came to the Himalayas from ‘Chin or Xin’- one of the 7 warring states (Chin or Xin, Han, Wei, Zaho, Yeh, Chi and Chu) during the ‘Warring State Period’ in the ancient Chinese history from 481 BC to 221 BC  or after the 15 year chaos that followed at the death of first emperor Chin (Xin) Shi Huángdì[7] in 210 BC.

The first two Magar brothers[8] as legend has it,  were ‘Xim or Shim Magar’ and ‘Shinto or Xinto’ Magar. These both names appear to me to have originated from ‘Chin or Xin’ - as people, by nature, prefer to show themselves associated with some greater names of place or people in the past. As 'Chin' had become China in 221 BC, this state or place name-word had also become 'greater' for people to show themselves associated with it. Or, it may also seem, the emperor had taken his name as 'Chin (Qin or Xin) Shi Huángdì' - after the 'state of Chin' he had come from; but it was in fact, literally for the meaning - 'the first august god of the Chin' - symbolizing divinity of the first emperor of China - regarded as a deified figure, an inspirer or creator of a long lineage. In the ancient times, kings and their people used to receive their names from the country they ruled or lived as well. We can find such examples in Panini’s grammar 400 BC also. We have this tradition today also.

According to another popular belief, one of the two Magar brothers named above, established his kingdom in Kangpa-chan Valley. The Magar brother is also described as having gone to lower Kangpa-chan Valley from Nepal (Das, 1902:26) which doesn’t seem to be very convincing.  The valley is at the border of present day Sikkim. It seems possible because there are still some ruins of at least 10 different ‘Mangar Jhongs’ (forts) in Sikkim today. The topic of origin of the Magar people has remained open to question for long. So, I  shall leave it here as well.

What is the Origin of Pun Magars ?

The Puns of Sikha village, Myagdi believe their Kūl Devatā -‘guardian deity’ was ‘Karpakeli, Karbakeli or Kar Phyake’- a mythical god, who had come to present day Myagdi from some certain place in Karnali zone, far western Nepal (Pun 2053: 58). He lived in a rock-cliff at some place called Aulā, which is not very far from Sikha village (Kawakita 1974 : 67). I have no idea whether he actually was the first Pun Magar or even a first ‘Shaman Pun’ of Myagdi district and areas near it as I have never visited his temple myself and have not found any other authoritative research publications on him. The Puns of Myagdi district are at all times referred to as Magars but not as 'Puns only' in Jiro Kawakita’s book. The mythical ‘Karpakeli or Kar Phyake’ is worshipped there as a deity, but not revered as a human being.

The current Vice-President of Nepal Nanda Kishor Pun Magar delivering
 speech at a function. On the background the temple of Karbakeli.
According to one of the Kham Magar origin stories,  god emerged from a rock-cave under a waterfall called Pimāchāre, loved a woman and had some children. Later on the children spread all over the area. They became Gharti Magar in Taka, Budha or Buda Magar in Hukam and  Pun Magar in Bacchi (Oppitz 1983: 192). All these places are in present day Rukum, west Nepal. If we  looked into, Kham Magar mythology, we may find something interesting. According to the Kham Magar myth the first shaman was, Ram Puran Chan, born in a Syārgwā tree. Likewise, one of the most widespread beliefs in Siberian myths is that the first shaman was born in a tree of a great eagle (Watters, 1975:151). In the Vedic India or in Siberia or  among Kham Magar tribe of Nepal a shaman climbs a tree to understand the suffering of the human being. It may also give an idea the 'Tree of Life, evergreen like the Nordic Yggdrasil or the later day Christmas tree.' (Witzel 2013: 135-136). 


In ancient China, there are 24 instances or evidence from which originated certain family names and one of them is feudal territory (Chao 2009:5).

There is an estimated 6.2 million people with surname ‘Pan’ in China today, making it the 36th most common family name in the country. “Pan as a surname can be traced back to the family of Yao, descendants of Emperor Shun in antediluvian China, the family of Ji who reined in the Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 221 BC)” – writes Jhang in his article for Shanghai Daily on March 19, 2017. He further writes – “Some of Emperor Shun’s descendants surnamed themselves after the capital Pan in today’s Beijing. Bo Ji, an offspring of the royal family of Zhou surnamed his family after his granted land, Pan City, in today’s Shaanxi Province. A branch of the Mi family changed their surname into Pan after one of their ancestors who was granted high position in the Chu Kingdom.” Now, there are too many people in China. They feel lacking surnames for them and have also suggested reviving extinct family names, of which there are ‘an estimated 9,000, or increasing the use of (currently rare) bi-syllabic surnames.’

Chung Yoon-Ngan has very convincingly argued how the family name ‘Pan’ was originated from the City of Pan, however, the place name currently is different than what another author Jhang has for it. According to Chung’s post -  King Ji Gao  appointed his third son to be in charge of a city called Pan. So Ji Sun was known as Lord Pan and his family as Pan Jia (Pan family)”. The city of Pan was in present day Henan province in China.[9]

Conclusion

Since the ancient times, people have received their surnames or family names from also the place they were or are associated with. The current Chinese surname Pan or Poon, Nepalese ‘Pun’ or Korean ‘Ban’ etc. - all spread overtime from the City of Pan during the Zhou Dynasty that ruled China from 1134 BC to 250 BC to different places in Asia. During the 7 different states war or the 'Warring State Period' in the ancient Chinese history from 481 BC to 221 BC and also after what is called 'the 15 year chaos' following the death of the first emperor Chin (Xin) Shi Huangdi in 210 BC, people seemed to have lived under a climate of utter terror. States kept fighting for power and control. Conflict and combat had ravaged the land and therefore, people had to move out somewhere to peaceful and safer places. Thus, one of the 'Pan or Poon' groups of people, fled across the Himalayan range and arrived in the areas the Pun Magars nowadays live. It seems to me very probable. 

*

References

Ancient History ChannelAncient China - Dynasties of Power (Documentary)

Bolt, David 1967: Gurkhas - Wiedenfeld and Nicolson Ltd. White Lion Publisher Limited, London, New York, Sydney and Toronto, Canada.


Cook, Steven 1997 : China's Identity Crisis: Many People, Few NamesThe Christian Science Monitor- March 6, 1997

Das, Sarat Chandra 1902: Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet – William Clowes and Sons, Limited London.

Encyclopedia, Free Online Dictionary -  Magar - Encyclopedia of World Cultures 1996, The Gale Group Inc.

Kawakita, Jiro 1974 : The Hill Magars and their Neighbours. Hill Peoples Surrounding the Ganges Plain - Volume III- Tokyo University Press 3-27 Shinjuku,Shinjuku-ku Tokyo.

Morris, C. J. 1933: The Gurkhas - An Ethnology - Published in India by B. R. Publishing Corporation 461, Vivekanand Nagar, Delhi 110052 (India).

Oppitz, Michael 1983: The Wild Boar and Plough. The Origin Stories of Northern Magars – Kailash, A Journal of Himalayan Studies Volume X, 1983 Number 3-4

Parker, E. H. 1895: A Thousand Years of The Tartars -  Kelly & Walsh Limited, Shanghai, Hongkong, Yokohama and Singapore.

Pun, Mahabir 2053 BS : Kul Devātāko Kathā - Pun Magarharūko Lokkathāharū - Bhag 1 - Shri Pānch Mahendrā Prakriti Saṇrakshān Kosh, Jhamshikhel, Lalitpur.  

Sharma, Janaklal 2039 BS: Nepālkā Magara Jāti - Hāmro Samaja Ek Adhyana -  Sājhā Prākashān, Kathmandu Nepal.

Vansittart, Eden 1890 : The Gurkhas - Ariana Publishing House, EG-132 Inderpuri,New Delhi, India.

Watters, David E. 1975: Siberian Shamanistic Traditions Among the Kham-Magars of Nepal - Contributions to Nepalese Studies, Centre for Nepal and Asian Studies (CNAS), Tribhuvan University (TU), Kathmandu,Nepal. Volume 2, Number 1, February 1975.

Witzel, Michael 2013 : The Origins of the World's Mythologies - Oxford University Press.

Zhang, Joyce 2017: Tracing the Pan family lineage - in Shanghai Daily – March 19, 2017

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[1] According to national population census report  - 2011, the Magars altogether form third largest group of people by 7.14% of total population after Chhetris (15.80%) and Brahmins (12.74%) in Nepal. Magar activists contest government population census data. Those activists assert the decline of Magar population in the Himalayan region began with the 10th century onwards different Muslim invasions in India and resulting intrusion there after of the people from the southern plains. The ‘newcomers’ mixed up in the highland ‘Magar country’ – one may rather say otherwise -  and gradually introduced Manu’s Dhārmāshāstrā  or the Hindu concept of purity, the Brāhman, Chhetriya, Vaishya and Shudra caste hierarchy, Chhetriya as the head of state or governance and public obligations etc.  As the country needed growth and development; the state therefore, upgraded and offered political power and benefits also to some of the Magars – as it has visibly remained a general trend even after the Maoist rebellion and successive governments afterwards. Many Magars have become Chhetris overtime. This has also virtually led to the gradual decline of Magar population in the country. While writing on the legendry Gurkhas, an author has even maintained, “ … the Magar tribe, the largest in Nepal, which makes up nearly a third of the country’s population” - and which simply means, 33% population of the country ( Bolt 1967: photo plate number 29).   Whether how should one take the author’s cogitation here, may be a topic for discussion as Nepal like today, didn’t have any ethno-population census until 1981. The country actually had first population census in 1911. Taking into account of the ethnic diversity of the country, the government began ethnic population census, only after  1981. However, one online Encyclopedia  has posted as “In the census of 1952-1954, the first after the restoration of the present ruling Shah family, the number of those identifying themselves as Magar was 273,800, or 3 percent of the total population of Nepal. Later censuses were based on mother tongue, and the census of 1981 gave the Magar population as 212,681, an underestimate that ignored Magars whose mother tongue was Nepali. The total projected population for all of Nepal in 1991 is 19,370,300. If we take Magars as 3 percent of the population, we can estimate their population at 500,000.”  It is absolutely an unture statement. Censuses in Nepal were or are not based only on mother tongues. Quite a large number of Magars do not speak their mother tongue. The government population census reports show the Magars as the third largest group of people after the Chhetris and Brahmans in the country.
[2]  'Hun' > written > ‘हूण’ > ‘hʊn’ or ‘hūn’ as in ‘moon’ but not ​‘हं’ or  ‘​हन’ > ‘hən’ as in ‘Hungary or Hungarians’)
[3] Referencing E. H. Parker's book - A Thousand Years of The Tartars,  an author has used this term in his book, but has not explained where and how that kind of  genocide happened which  Parker has also  not explicitly mentioned. He actually writes >संहार>‘saṇhāra’ which literally means - genocide.  Hāmro Samaja Ek Adhyana-Janak Lal Sharma –  Sājhā Prākashān - 2039: 269
[4] Buda or Budha or Budhathoki  are all the same,
[5] Three Magar language group means : a) Magar Kura or Dhut  (language), 2) Kham Kura and 3) Kaike Kura.
[6] Some scholars have tried to establish a connection of Buda, Budha or Budhathokis  to Budapest, Hungary. Ratan Singh Rayapa of Dharchula, Uttaranchal, India has discussed it in his book - Shauka: Simavarti Janajati – 1974. I do not have this book here with me unfortunately.
[7] The Ancient History Channel : Ancient China - Dynasties of Power (Documentary) 
[8]  Interestingly, it also sounds like Nepal’s Shah’s kings ancestors – the two brothers ; Khancha Khan and Micha Khan.
[9] On September 13, 1996 Chung Yoon-Ngan made this interesting post which I have footnoted here in full below :
“The surname Pan is about 3000 years old. This is the history of surname Pan. Before you begin to read the history of this surname please take a glance of the story of the establishment of Zhou Dynasty (1134BC to 250BC). King Wu3 delegated authority to one of his brother named Ji Gao to administer a large district called Bi4 (present day Luo4 Yang2 Xian4 in Henan province). Later Ji Gao had a third son named Ji4 Sun who was a very capable administrator.  However Ji4 Sun discovered that he had no place in his father's administration as he was the numbered three son. His father had  already proclaimed that the numbered one son would be his successor. In order to avoid future potential conflict in succession Ji Gao  appointed this third son to be in charge of a city called Pan. So Ji Sun was known as Lord Pan and his family as Pan Jia (Pan family). King Wu3 delegated authority to one of his brother named Ji Gao to administer a large district called Bi4 (present day Luo4 Yang2 Xian4 in Henan province). Later Ji Gao had a third son named Ji4 Sun who was a very capable administrator. However Ji4 Sun discovered that he had no place in his father's administration as he was the numbered three son. His father had  already proclaimed that the numbered one son would be his successor. In order to avoid future potential conflict in succession Ji Gao  appointed this third son to be in charge of a city called Pan. So Ji Sun was known as Lord Pan and his family as Pan Jia (Pan family). As time passed the descendants of Ji4 Sun multiplied. They set up families of their own too. It was rather confusing to call all these families Pan Jia. So they decided to adopt PAN as their surnames and left off the word Jia (family). Surname Pan was originated in an area called Ying2 Yang2 Prefecture during the Han4 Dynasty (206BC to 220AD).  Ying2 means : the name of a place in Henan province. Yang2 means : the sun; bright; clear; masculine; positive; pertaining o this world. The present day location of Ying2 Yang2 Prefecture is in Ying2 Ze2 Xian4 in Henan province, China.”


Related links 


*THE MAGYARS OR MADJYARS, MAGARS, MAGAS, MANGAR OR MANGARA AND ‘KYAPCHHAKI AND KIPCSAK’ ETC.

दक्षिण एसियाको इतिहासमा मगर जातिको प्रचीनताको प्रश्न