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Legend has it that in ancient times when the Tamangs moved from place to place in search of food and shelter they lived by eating wild fruits, yams and the meat of wild animals. It was a communal kind of life where they shared food in their temporary shelter. Once, the leader of a group named Peng Dorjay went hunting with some of his men. The whole day passed without any kill, and while heading back to their shelter, disheartened, Peng Dorjay’s eyes fell on a mountain goat grazing on a high, stony cliff. He moved forward cautiously, aimed his arrow at the goat, and let it go from the bow. It flew at high speed and struck the body of the goat in the right place, and the dead goat came rollong down the cliff. He skinned the animal and let the skin dry on the open ground. When the skin was dry he created the small, round drum called the damphu. He offered his first prayer of thanks giving to god by playing the damphu. This small drum still exists in the same form to this day.
Their songs are known for its humor and wit, philosophical thoughts, and of life’s joys and sorrows. Tamang Selo has transcended the boundaries of linguistic, cultural and social limits. Many Nepali communities have adopted Selo into their music.
Prashant Tamang an Indian citizen of Tamang community was the winner of Indian Idol Season 3 in 2007.
Tamangs are in general very skilled at a number of crafts, which they have preserved for ages in their traditional ways. Widespread is the making of woolen jackets of sheep’s wool, worn during the winter months. This type of half-sleeved or sleeveless, open fronted thick woolen jacket is made by the Tamang women and found even in the markets of Kathmandu. Also woven are various types of bamboo baskets, receptacles for storing grain and leaf umbrellas for protection against rain. There are carpenters, masons, builders and wooden plough makers among Tamang men. Some Tamang Lamas, the Buddhist priests are well trained in painting Tibetan-type thangkas religious scroll paintings and some others are expert in carving designs in wood.
Tamangs also participate in mountaineering. From their role on Sir Edmund Hillary’s 1953 Everest expedition to Shambu Tamang, who in 1973 became the youngest climber in the world to Summit Mount Everest at the time, the Tamangs climbers are however unknown to the western world.
Pemba Tamang won the gold medal in the Men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol (Pairs) with Vijay Kumar and the silver medal in the Men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
Tamangs living outside the traditional Tamang territory are in general very poor. They are not able to grow enough on the marginal land they cultivate and usually are found going out to earn wages as porters, coolies, domestic servants, muleteers, grooms and such in Kathmandu and other towns and villages. As farmers in the area of another ethnic group they are usually tenant farmers and being poor they can afford to live only in low thatched huts. Their staple crops at higher altitudes are maize, millet, wheat, barley and potatoes. Those who have settled in the lower, warmer and wetter regions also raise rice. All of them keep a few cows, buffalos and chickens.
Tamangs eat what they grow on their own lands: wheat and barley during the months may through July; potatoes in August through October; millet, maize and some rice from November to April or May. They will not allow buffalo meat, garlic, nettles or paha the treetoad to the forest in their houses, although there is no prohibition against eating these things if they are cooked outside in the open or in some other house.
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