Introduction / History The Thami were originally a nomadic tribe that settled just to the east of Katmandu, Nepal's capital. Legend says that the first Thami couple had seven sons and seven daughters. When the parents could not find suitable marriage partners for their children, they allowed them to intermarry. The Thami tribes are their descendants.
Nearly all of the people in Nepal are farmers; however, the land is undeveloped and the country, as a whole, is extremely poor. The Thami, in particular, scarcely manage to survive. They are hard working and extremely honest, but are often easily exploited by neighboring peoples.
The physical characteristics and overall customs of the Thami lead many to believe that they are of Mongolian descent. Their native language, Thami, is a Tibeto-Burman language. Thami is usually spoken at home, but Nepali is used in outside communication. They have no written script.
What are their lives like? Most Thami work in the stone quarrying business. Often, the men have to carry large, heavy stones great distances to make a living. To escape from this hardship, many of the Thami have traveled to India to find other work. Their economic conditions are very poor, but the Thami do not seem to be anxious about their circumstances. In fact, they are often willing to go into debt to hold a feast or a celebration.
Their staple diet is fish and dhendo, a mush made of millet or maize flour. They often also consume a lot of alcohol and eat the meat of goats, foul, ducks, and cows. Still, many people suffer from malnutrition.
Most Thami women wear modern style saris (several yards of lightweight cloth draped so that one end forms a skirt and the other a shoulder covering). However, some still wear the traditional garments, somewhat similar to saris, called labaedis. These are made from plants that have been beaten and woven into fibers. They also wear large gold earrings and nose rings. Men usually wear daura surwals (black cloth garments made with wide waist bands), shirts and caps.
Marriage is considered a very sacred institution to the Thami. They believe in staying faithful to one partner until death. When a young man desires to marry, a go-between, called a lami, goes to the girl's house with three roti (loaves of bread) and two other people. If the lami is received, the bread is placed in front of the girl and her parents. If they accept the bread as a gift, talks proceed and the marriage is arranged. If the gift is not accepted, the lami hides the bag in the girl's house and reports the failure of the negotiations to the man. Customarily, the bread is never returned; however, the lami may continue to try to negotiate the marriage.
Three days after a child is born, the floor of the house is cleaned with a mixture of cow dung and water. Both the house and people are sprinkled with cow urine in order to purify them. The child's wrists, waist, and ankles are tied with threads wet with turmeric (yellow dye made from a plant grown in this region). The threads must go around seven times before being tied. The child is then given a name according to the day on which it was born. The child's maternal family then feasts on fish, lentils, meat, vegetables, and alcoholic beverages. A large rooster is also sacrificed for the celebration.
What are their beliefs? A majority of the Thami practice ethnic religions. They worship deities that are not in any of the major religions of the region. They tend to lean toward Buddhism, but use many of the Hindu rituals in their marriage ceremonies.
What are their needs? Nepal has long been hidden away and forgotten by most of the world. The government of Nepal is opposed to any form of proselytizing; and so government restrictions apply, but most of the time Christians can follow their religion. There are more problems from family members than from the government.
The Thami remain one of the most isolated peoples in the world, both geographically and spiritually. Prayer is the key to reaching them with the Gospel.
Prayer Points * Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
* Pray that the Lord of the harvest will thrust forth laborers into Nepal.
* Ask the Holy Spirit to stir up hunger within the hearts of the Thami to know the one true God.
* Pray that the doors of Nepal will soon be open to missionaries.
* Pray that the Holy Spirit will open the hearts of Nepal's governmental leaders to the Gospel.
* Ask the Lord to raise up strong local churches among the Thami.
Most live in the Dolakha District of Janakpur Zone and the Sindhu Palchok District of Bagmati Zone in Nepal. Several hundred Thami also live across the border in Zhangmu County, Tibet. (Source: Peoples of the Buddhist World, 2004)