Gandharva : Caste Of Nepal Known For Singing Folk Songs And Folk Tales


Background -Gandharva

Gandharva is one of the various castes living in Nepal. This caste is known as the bearer of Nepali folk music. Gandharva has taken Nepali folk songs and folk tales to great heights by reaching villages and settlements and playing his identifiable instruments. In the process of singing folk tales, they have sung oral history by incorporating historical facts, saving that history and passing it on to future generations.

sarangi Nepal

The oral history preserved by this caste by singing orally has become an important material of study even today. It is the responsibility of all to recognize this nation that has made such a contribution to the nation. Realizing this responsibility, the oral history of the Gandharva caste of Nepal is discussed here.

 Gandharva Caste

Gandharva is a caste of Nepal known for singing. While searching for history, the religion adopted by this caste is Hinduism. There are different races of this race. Such as: Adhikari, Budhathoki, Kayastha or Kaite, Kalogopalanayak, Kalakaushik, Kalapoudel, Thakuri (Chand Thakuri or Malla Thakuri), Samudri, Surasamal, Baistha (Vashishta), Vishwakarma, Brahmabaikar, Jogibaikar, Karmabaikar Lamlibaikar, Samudrabaik , Bogte, Hookching Rana, Kalyan, Maheshwar, Meghnath, Niyabaikar, Sai, Setaparvate, Setichan, Vishnupad, Gurung, Kshetri, Basnet, Rai, Chureto, Bhandari, Khadka, Gopal Nayak, Kalasamundre, Kala Bhat, Kanchira Jogi, Meghnath, Gosainath Etc.


Gandharvas use Gandharva language when they have to speak in a way that is not understood by others. The Gandharva language is also spoken by some people. The main instruments that identify this caste are the sarangi and the arbajo. This caste, which used to play both these instruments and sing folk songs and folk tales, now uses only the sarangi instrument. In the society, this caste is famous as the main stream of Nepali folk music.

According to the National Census of 2068 BS, the population of Gandharva caste in Nepal is 6,791. According to the data obtained so far, Gandharvas live in forty-one districts of Nepal. The districts inhabited by Gandharvas are as follows: Ilam, Jhapa, Sunsari, Bhojpur, Saptari, Siraha, Lalitpur, Bhaktapur, Kathmandu, Dhading, Parsa, Chitwan, Nawalpur, Gorkha, Lamjung, Tanahu, Kaski, Syangja, Parbat, Baglung, Gulmi. Palpa, Nawalparasi, Rupandehi, Kapilvastu, Arghakhanchi, Pyuthan, Rolpa, Rukum, Salyan, Dang, Banke, Bardia, Sukhert, Dailekh, Jajarkot, Bajura, Achham, Doti, Kailali, Kanchanpur. Gandharva, who lived in these different parts of Nepal, made his living by singing Nepali folk songs and folktales and saved and popularized Nepali folk music. In this process, he also preserved the oral history of Nepal through singing.

Oral history

Gandharva Caste

Oral history is narrated orally by one person and narrated by another person after listening to it. The history that survived in this way is the oral history. Oral history provides the power to prepare written history. Such oral history can be divided into two parts, saying and singing. Oral history is a history in which history is told sequentially in the style of a folktale by a speaker and listened to by others.

The history of oral singing is a history in which the history singer sings orally in a rhythmic manner and the other listens. Gandharva is a caste that has gained fame in Nepal as a race to save such oral history. There are many oral histories that Gandharva sang and saved in the village. These different genres of oral history can be divided into different parts. Such as (2) Karkha (2) incident.


Karkha is a genre of historical folklore sung by Gandharva. The heroism of the heroes is described in Karkha. The heroism of these heroes is praised. In that process, the date of effort is also included. The history of such karkha singing goes back to the 16th century. Karkha singing was a tradition in India in the 16th century. Since the facts have been found that Prithvinarayan Shah mentioned that the Gandharvas used to inspire the warriors by singing Karkha during the unification of Nepal, it can be easily inferred that the Karkha singing has been done here before the unification of Nepal.

Despite this long series of karkha singing in Nepal, there is no detailed study of how many karkhas there are. . Although French musicologist Merrill Helfer has collected 53 Nepali karkhas, many of the mentioned karkhas are as follows: Karkha of Chandra Samser, Karkha of Amar Singh, Karkha of Buddhibal Rana, Karkha of Balbhadra Kunwar, Karkha of Madankirti Shah, Karkha of English, Karkha of Nawalsingh Bania, Bahuttar Shah’s Karkha, Padma Gurungseni’s Karkha, Bal Thapa’s Karkha, Hom Bahadur Kazi’s Karkha, Kumal Jalahari’s Karkha, Musikote Raja’s Karkha, Dravya Shah’s Karkha, Prithvinarayan Shah’s Karkha, Tribhuvan’s Karkha, Mahendra’s Karkha, Virendra’s Karkha, Bhaktithapa’s Karkha, Juddha Samlal Etc.


Known as oral history, this karkha is sung in a certain series. Such as: (1) Request (2) Details (3) Asik. When Gandharva sings karkha, he requests to hear the karkha that he is about to sing at the beginning. Then the historian sings a long story with a date. At the end of that description, Asik gives such a benevolent person to go to heaven. Thus, the oral historical genre Karkha sung by Gandharva is now on the verge of extinction.


The word incident refers to assault, murder, accident. A kind of oral history sung by the Gandharva caste on the subject of such beatings, murders and accidents is also called an incident. Every event is intriguing. Some of the incidents are very touching. When Gandharva finds out that such a tragic incident has taken place, he goes to such a place, listens to the whole story and turns it into a ballad.

They make it melodious and intriguing with folk music. After that, they call it an incident and walk around singing in the village. Since such an event would be intriguing, society would love to hear such anecdotes. So Gandharva sings the oral history of such incidents in the houses of the villagers, playing the sarangi and arbajo. This oral historical folktale is very compassionate. Some Gandharvas themselves weep when the incident is sung in the sweet voice of the sarangi and the listener also sheds tears with emotion.

In Nepal, Prithvinarayan Shah had taken Gandharva with him during the unification of Nepal. Gandharva sang Karkha and encouraged Prithvinarayan Shah’s army. Singing the incident and presenting the same incident as an example, he requested not to do bad deeds. Since such facts have been found, it can be easily inferred that the history of incident singing dates back to before Prithvinarayan Shah.

It has not been found that a detailed study has been done by collecting facts about how many incidents were sung in this long series. That is why it is necessary to have a detailed study of the incident sung by Gandharva. The oral histories of the incidents found during the study are as follows: Incident of daughter killing mother, father killing daughter, incident of uncle killing niece, incident of Vishnumaya Thakurni killing children, incident of killing of Lahure, incident of Srinanda, incident of earthquake etc.

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Such incidents sung by Gandharva end in a certain series. The series is as follows: (1) Request (2) Description (3) Suggest. At the beginning of the song, some chants are sung, requesting to hear the incident. The details of the events that followed are gradually sung. After the details are given, they suggest not to do such things. Thus, one of the genres of oral history sung by Gandharva is now on the verge of extinction.


Singing is the main occupation of the Gandharvas living in Nepal. This caste has made special contribution in the development of these genres by singing Nepali folk songs and folktales. Not only this, this caste has kept alive the oral history prevalent in Nepal by singing the historical events that took place in Nepal as a tragedy and an event.

The lyrical oral history preserved by Gandharva, who was constantly alive because the previous society listened to him with reverence, is now in a state of extinction as the society does not listen to him with reverence. It has become difficult to find Gandharva singing Karkha and Ghatna. In order to save such an important oral history, the concerned bodies have to pay special attention.

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