Who is Jirel?

Jirel are one of the 59 indigenous peoples in Nepal. They are the original inhabitants of Jiri and its adjoining villages in Dolkha district, the central region of Nepal. They have their own distinct language, culture, customs, rituals and lifestyles. They follow Buddhist religion, their priest is called Lama. They also worship Jhakri (shamans). Jhakri and Lamas are called pembo and phombo respectively. Their main occupation is agriculture in recent days they have also been involved in business. They either bury or cremate their dead on the recommendations of the Buddhist Lama. They are primarily settled down in Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk districts, alongside of Likhu, Khimti and Jirishiki rivers and in the valleys. They call themselves Jiripa, settled down densely in 12 or 13 villages, including Jhyaku, Paldung, Jiri, Sikri, Jugu of Tamakoshi and Khimtikhola region in particular.

The newborn baby is christened on the third or seventh day of its birth by Lama or Jhakris (a kind of shamans). The cereal-feeding ceremony is held for son and daughter in the seventh or third month respectively. Their marriage is officiated by shamans and Lama. The boys and girls get married in accordance with their own choice. The marriage becomes complete when the boy and the girl drink local beer from the same vessel, called tongba. Becuause of such a unique rituals and customs they are distinct indigenous communities in Nepal. The population of Jirel, according to 2011 Census, is 5,747. Jirels are found in small numbers in 63 districts of Nepal.

Jirel Language

Jirels have their own mother tongue which is called ‘Jirel Bhasa’ belongs to Tibeto-Burman language family. This language is spoken by 95 percent of Jirel residing in Jiri, their original inhabitant. They have no scrip at all. Their language to a great extent resembles Sunuwar and Sherpa languages. According to latest national census 2011, as many as 4,829 jirel speak their mother tongue.