THE OLD GURUNG MUSEUM IN GHANDRUK, NEPAL Guest Post by Caroline Hatton




Nepal. Old Gurung Museum and women wearing traditional clothing
Photo courtesy of guide Gyanendra Karki

My friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton went trekking in the Annapurna region of the Nepal Himalaya in November 2018. She took all but two of the photos in this post. For info about her books, visit www.carolinehattonauthor.com.

Northwest of Kathmandu, in the Himalayas, rises the mythic Annapurna mountain range. Below its snowy peaks, the verdant foothills are the homeland of the Gurung, one of many ethnic groups inhabiting Nepal. Some aspects of the Gurungculture are its own language and distinctive clothing.

Hugely popular treks such as those to the Poon Hill view point or Annapurna Base Campand the Annapurna Circuitgo through the region, which is a part the Annapurna Conservation Area, the largest national park in Nepal. Trekking here means walking up and down ancient trade routes, through villages and terraced fields, admiring magnificent scenery and a range of traditional to contemporary architecture, clothing, and technology. At lunch time, dal bhat(lentil soup and rice) comes in a traditional brass platter and bowl, and Coca-Cola in a plastic bottle.

The best glimpse I had of the daily life of long ago was at the Old Gurung Museum in Ghandruk, the second largest Gurung town. Ghandruk is also spelled Ghandrung, which can be confusing for jet lagged tourists.

The museum is inside what was once a traditional Gurung house. Its ground floor room is stuffed with a wealth of objects labeled in English with a description of their use. People exercised creativity and skill to make everything they needed from what they had—same as anywhere. Yet, I was thrilled to see the local rendition of this universal truth, from a straw basket for grain, woven tightly enough to keep mice out, to bamboo fencing strong enough to keep a buffalo in. Bamboo containers for milk were large, medium, or small, for cow, sheep, or goat milk, respectively.
Bamboo containers for milk
Bamboo was good for making cages for chickens, shelters for people, and baskets for every need: according to the label on a small one, “I use this basket to harvest the wheat and millet from the field. When it is full, I empty it into a larger basket. This way I don’t have to carry the large basket all day.”
Bamboo baskets
The shiny brass pots and pans, platters, plates, bowls, and cups, were like the ones still used today to serve dal bhat.
Brass containers
On a post hung a brass noodle maker, not to make noodles out of brass, but a brass tool used to make rice noodles, as seen in this short video: https://www.youtube.com/embed/h3WUu576s1k

Wool blankets had designs in some of my favorite colors, ivory, beige, and brown. Musical instruments, such as the one with a bow like a small violin, hung here and there. Wood was used to make beds, spinning and weaving tools, and all kinds of containers.
Wooden yogurt container, making me hungry.
As usual, I made all the others in our group of four trekkers, two porters, and one guide, wait outside forever, while I examined and photographed things inside. I love rustic stuff even though I grew up in fancy France, exposed to fine china and crystal and silverware. Perhaps this is because it suits my taste for natural materials and preference for minimizing the use of resources.
Gurung traditional clothing (over a contemporary jacket)
Photo courtesy of guide Gyanendra Karki
Visitors can request to try on traditional Gurung clothing, as in the top and bottom photos in this post. The patterns, colors, women’s jewelry, and men’s hats distinguish them from those of other Nepali tribes.

To experience family-style Gurung hospitality, you can request a stay at Nani’s teahouse in Tolka (see my Jan 14, 2019 post on this blog) by e-mailing English-speaking guide Gyanendra Karki at guidegyanendra@gmail.com. Until then, say goodbye by putting your hands together and saying, “Namaste!”

For more info:

Read about the Gurung (Tamu) Ethnographic Museum  in Pokhara, the city through which visitors come to Ghandruk. Tamu is what Gurungs call themselves in their own language.

Visiting Nepal: the essential information.

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