Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh is proud to be recognized by Pittsburgh City Council.

The Council declared Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 as “Bhutanese Community Association Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.

BCAP thanks Council Member Natalia Rudiak, City of Pittsburgh for the honor bestowed upon us.

Kudos to all the BCAP Volunteers for achieving this recognition

For Details: Click Here

Are you committed to suicide prevention? The site of Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers tips.

Participants could share their actions to help prevent suicide on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #VetoViolence.

Follow the Rules

Compose six words and take a photo or create a unique image that:

  • Promotes an action supporting people to prevent suicide,
  • Educates others about how to save lives, or
  • Honors National Suicide Prevention Month
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Who We Are

(Compiled by Tek Rimal from different resources including excerpts from his own directory)

The Bhutanese refugees are the former citizens of Bhutan. They were called  Lhotshampas (“southerners”), a group of people of Nepalese origin, including some Kirat, Tamang, and Gurung peoples. These refugees were registered in refugee camps in eastern Nepal during the 1990s after forcibly evicted by the Government of Bhutan. As Nepal and Bhutan have yet to implement any agreement on repatriation, many Bhutanese refugees have since resettled to North America, Australia and Europe under the auspices of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Historical background

The earliest surviving records of Bhutan’s history show that Tibetan influence already existed from the 6th century. King Songtsen Gampo, who ruled Tibet from the years 627 to 649, was responsible for the construction of Bhutan’s oldest surviving Buddhist temples, the Kyichu Lhakhang in Paro and the Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang. Settlement in Bhutan by people of Tibetan origin happened by this time.

The first reports of people of Nepalese origin in Bhutan was around 1620, when Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal commissioned a few Newar craftsmen from the Kathmandu valley in Nepal to make a silver stupa to contain the ashes of his father Tempa Nima. During the late 19th Century, contractors working for the Bhutanese government began to organise the settlement of Nepali-speaking people in uninhabited areas of southern Bhutan in order to open those areas up for cultivation. The south soon became the country’s main supplier of food. By 1930, according to British colonial officials, much of the south was under cultivation by a population of Nepali origin that amounted to some 60,000 people.

Settlement in Bhutan of large numbers of people from Nepal happened for the first time in the early 20th century.This settlement was encouraged by the Bhutan House in Kalimpong for the purpose of collecting taxes for the government. In the 1930s, the Bhutan House settled 5,000 families of Nepali workers in Tsirang alone. In the 1940s, the British Political Officer Sir Basil Gould was quoted as saying that when he warned Sir Raja Sonam Topgay Dorji of Bhutan House of the potential danger of allowing so many ethnic Nepalese to settle in southern Bhutan, he replied that “since they were not registered subjects they could be evicted whenever the need arose.” Furthermore, Lhotshampa were forbidden from settling north of the subtropical foothills.

Expatriate Nepalese, who resettled in West Bengal and Assam after leaving Bhutan, formed the Bhutan State Congress in 1952 to represent the interests of other expatriates in India as well as the communities they had left behind. An effort to expand their operations into Bhutan with a satyagraha (nonviolent resistance) movement in 1954 failed in the face of the mobilization of Bhutan’s militia and a lack of enthusiasm among those Nepalese in Bhutan, who did not want to risk their already tenuous status. The Bhutanese government further diffused the Bhutan State Congress movement by granting concessions to the minority and allowing Nepalese representation in the National Assembly. The Bhutan State Congress continued to operate in exile until its decline and gradual disappearance in the early 1960s. The leaders in exile were pardoned in 1969 and permitted to return.

Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1958

Further information: Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1958

Toward the end of the reign of the second King Jigme Wangchuck in the 1950s, the numbers of new immigrants had swelled causing tension between the King and the Dorji family in the Bhutan House. Amnesty was given through the Citizenship Act of 1958 for all those who could prove their presence in Bhutan for at least 10 years prior to 1958. On the other hand, the government also banned further immigration in 1958.

From 1961 onward however, with Indian support, the government began planned developmental activities consisting of significant infrastructure development works. Uncomfortable with India’s desire to bring in workers in large numbers from India, the government initially tried to prove its own capacity by insisting that the planned ThimphuPhuntsholing highway be done with its own workforce. The government also attempted to rein in immigration. While the project was a success, completing the 182-kilometer highway in just two years, the import of workers from India was inevitable. With most Bhutanese self-employed as farmers, Bhutan lacked a ready supply of workers willing to take up the major infrastructure projects. This led eventually to the large-scale immigration of skilled and unskilled construction workers from India.These people were mostly of Nepali origin and settled in the south, as required, among legal and illegal residents alike.With the pressures of the developmental activities, this trend remained unchecked or inadequately checked for many years. Immigration check posts and immigration offices were in fact established for the first time only after 1990.

Bhutan’s Citizenship Act of 1985

Further information: Bhutanese Citizenship Act 1985

By the 1980s, the government had become acutely conscious not just of widespread illegal immigration of people of Nepali origin into Bhutan, but also of the total lack of integration even of long-term immigrants into the political and cultural mainstream of the country. Most Lhotshampa remained culturally Nepalese. For its part, the government had largely ignored illegal settlement, but had encouraged intermarriage with cash payments as a means of assimilation. However, this was met with negligible success as far as actual assimilation. There was also a perception of a Greater Nepal movement emerging from the Nepali-dominated areas in Nepal, Darjeeling, Kalimpong and West Bengal which the Bhutanese feared as Nepali chauvinism.

Perceiving this growing dichotomy as a threat to national unity, the government promulgated directives in the 1980s that sought to preserve Bhutan’s cultural identity as well as to formally embrace the citizens of other ethnic groups in a “One Nation One People” policy. The government implied that the “culture” to be preserved would be that of the various northern Bhutanese groups. To reinforce this movement, the government forced the use of the Driglam Namzha, the Bhutanese national dress and etiquette code. This policy required citizens to wear the attire of the northern Bhutanese in public places under penalty of fines, and reinforced the status of Dzongkha as the national language. Nepali was discontinued as a subject in the schools, thus bringing it at par with the status of the other languages of Bhutan, none of which are taught. Such policies were criticized at first by human rights groups as well as Bhutan’s Nepalese economic migrant community, who perceived the policy to be directed against them. The government, for its part, perceived that free Nepali-language education had encouraged illegal immigration into southern Bhutan.

The Citizenship Act of 1985 clarified and attempted to enforce the Citizenship Act of 1958 in order to control the flood of illegal immigration. In 1988, the government conducted its first real census exercise. The basis for census citizenship classifications was the 1958 “cut off” year, the year that the Nepali population had first received Bhutanese citizenship. Those individuals who could not provide proof of residency prior to 1958 were adjudged to be illegal immigrants.

Bhutan’s first census (1988)

The issue was brought to the fore when the government of Bhutan discovered in its first census the magnitude of the Lhotsampa population. Lhotsampa of Nepali descent who had been living in southern Bhutan since the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were induced to leave Bhutan after the country carried out its first census in 1988. The government, however, failed to properly train the census officials and this led to some tension among the public. Placement in the census categories which ranged from “Genuine Bhutanese” to “Non-nationals: Migrants and Illegal Settlers” was often arbitrary, and could be arbitrarily changed. In some cases members of the same family have been, and still are, placed in different categories; some admittedly genuine Bhutanese have been forced to flee with family members the government found to be illegal immigrants. Other Lhotshampa who considered their own citizenship secure were prevented by government officials from obtaining proper documentation, losing their property.

The government also attempted to enforce the Bhutanese driglam namzha dress and language code at the same time, in order to have the Lhotshampa population assimilate into Ngalop society.The government explained its cultural identity programs as a defense against the first political problems since the Wangchuck Dynasty was established in 1907 and the greatest threat to the nation’s survival since the seventeenth century. Its major concern was to avoid a repeat of events that had occurred in 1975 when the monarchy in Sikkim was ousted by a Nepalese majority in a plebiscite and Sikkim was absorbed into India. In an effort to resolve the interethnic strife, the Druk Gyalpo made frequent visits to the troubled southern districts, and he ordered the release of hundreds of arrested “antinationals”(According to the government officials then). He also expressed the fear that the large influx of Nepalese might lead to their demand for a separate state in the next ten to twenty years, in much the same way as happened in the once-independent monarchy of Sikkim in the 1970s.

However, these measures combined to alienate even bona fide citizens of Nepali descent. Some ethnic Nepalese began protesting perceived discrimination, demanding exemption from the government decrees aimed at enhancing Bhutanese national identity. The reaction to the royal decrees in Nepalese majority communities surfaced as ethnic strife directed against non-Lhotshampa. Reactions also took form as protest movements in Nepal and India among Nepalese who had left Bhutan. The Druk Gyalpo was accused of “cultural suppression,” and his government was charged by antigovernment leaders with human rights violations, including the torture of prisoners; arbitrary arrest and detention; denial of due process; and restrictions of freedoms of speech and press, peaceful organization and assembly, and workers’ rights. Antigovernment protest marches involved more than 20,000 participants, including some from a movement that had succeeded in coercing India into accepting local autonomy for ethnic Nepalese in West Bengal, who crossed the border from West Bengal and Assam into six districts across Bhutan. As the census exercise came to an end, the southern border of Bhutan became a hotbed of militancy for several years.

Supporting the anti-government activities were expatriate Nepalese political groups and supporters in Nepal and India. Between 2,000 and 12,000 Nepalese were reported to have fled Bhutan in the late 1980s, and according to a 1991 report, even high-level Bhutanese government officials of Nepalese origin had resigned their positions and moved to Nepal. Some 5 million Nepalese were living in settlements in India along the Bhutan border in 1990. Nepalese were not necessarily welcome in India, where ethnic strife conspired to push them back through the largely unguarded Bhutanese frontier. The Bhutan Peoples’ Party operated among the large Nepalese community in northern India. A second group, the Bhutan People’s Forum for Human Rights (a counterpart of the Nepal People’s Forum for Human Rights), was established in 1998 in Nepal by Tek Nath Rizal, a Lhotshampa and former trusted official of the Royal Advisory Council who acted as a chief liaison between the government and the Lhotshampa in the south, as well as a former member of the National Assembly of Bhutan. The Bhutan Students Union and the Bhutan Aid Group-Nepal also were involved in political activism.

In November 1989, Tek Nath Rizal was allegedly abducted in eastern Nepal by Bhutanese police and returned to Thimphu, where he was imprisoned on charges of conspiracy and treason. He was also accused of instigating the racial riots in southern Bhutan. Rizal was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1993.

Interethnic conflict (1990s)

Interethnic conflict generally escalated during the 1990s. In February 1990, antigovernment activists detonated a remote-control bomb on a bridge near Phuntsholing and set fire to a seven-vehicle convoy.

In September 1990, clashes occurred with the Royal Bhutan Army, which was ordered not to fire on protesters. The men and women marchers were organized by S.K. Neupane and other members of the illegal Bhutan Peoples’ Party, which reportedly urged the marchers to demand democracy and human rights for all Bhutanese citizens. Some villagers willingly joined the protests; others did so under duress. The government branded the party, reportedly established by anti-monarchists and backed by the Nepali Congress Party and the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist), as a terrorist organization. The party allegedly led its members – said to be armed with rifles, muzzle-loading guns, knives, and homemade grenades – in raids on villages in southern Bhutan, disrobing people wearing traditional Bhutanese garb; extorting money; and robbing, kidnapping, and killing people. Reportedly, there were hundreds of casualties, although the government admitted to only two deaths among security forces. Other sources indicated that more than 300 persons were killed, 500 wounded, and 2,000 arrested in clashes with security forces. Along with the above-mentioned violence, vehicle hijackings, kidnappings, extortions, ambushes, and bombings took place, schools were closed (some were destroyed), and post offices, police, health, forest, customs, and agricultural posts were destroyed. For their part, security forces were charged by the Bhutan Peoples’ Party, in protests made to Amnesty International and the International Human Rights Commission, with murder and rape and carrying out a “reign of terror.” In support of the expatriate Nepalese, the general secretary of the Nepali Congress Party, the ruling party in Nepal, called on the Druk Gyalpo to establish a multiparty democracy. Some of the organizers of the marches were arrested and detained. The Bhutanese government admitted only to the arrest of 42 people involved in “anti-national” activities in late 1989, plus 3 additional individuals who had been extradited from Nepal. All but 6 were reportedly later released; those remaining in jail were charged with treason. By September 1990, more than 300 additional prisoners held in the south were released following the Druk Gyalpo’s tour of southern districts.

In the face of government resistance to demands that would institutionalize separate identities within the nation, protesters in the south insisted that the Bhutan Peoples’ Party flag be flown in front of administrative headquarters and that party members be allowed to carry the kukri, a traditional Nepalese curved knife, at all times. They also called for the right not to wear the Bhutanese national dress, and insisted that schools and government offices stay closed until their demands were met. The unmet demands were accompanied by additional violence and deaths in October 1990. At the same time, India pledged “all possible assistance that the royal government might seek in dealing with this problem” and assured that it would protect the frontier against groups seeking illegal entry to Bhutan.

By early 1991, the press in Nepal was referring to insurgents in southern Bhutan as “freedom fighters.” The Bhutan Peoples’ Party claimed that more than 4,000 advocates of democracy had been arrested by the Royal Bhutan Army. Charges were made that some of those arrested had been murdered outside Bhutanese police stations and that some 4,200 persons had been deported.

To deter and regulate Nepalese migration into Bhutan from India, the Druk Gyalpo ordered more regular censuses, improved border checks, and better government administration in the southern districts. The more immediate action of forming citizens’ militias took place in October 1990 as a backlash to the demonstrations. Internal travel regulations were made more strict with the issue of new multipurpose identification cards by the Ministry of Home Affairs in January 1990. By the end of 1990, the government admitted the serious effects of the anti-government violence. It was announced that foreign- exchange earnings had dropped and that the GDP had decreased significantly because of terrorist activities.

In 1992 interethnic conflict again flared, prompting a peak in Lhotshampa departures, totaling over 100,000 by 1996. Many Lhotshampa were forcibly evicted by the military, who forced them to sign “Voluntary Migration Form” documents stating they had left willingly.

In 1998, Tek Nath Rizal was granted a royal pardon and left for Nepal to form the “People’s Forum for Human Rights.”

Refugees outside Bhutan

During the 1990s, the several thousand Lhotshampa and a few Sarshop from Eastern Bhutan, who left Bhutan settled in refugee camps in Eastern Nepal set up by UNHCR. The UNHCR began to distribute aid to the refugees and recognized most of those who arrived in Nepal from Bhutan between 1990 and 1993 on a prima facie basis. By 1996, the camp populations had exploded to 100,000. The Bhutanese refugee issue remains unresolved. Most of the refugees were received by camps in Nepal, exceeding 107,000 persons according to UNHCR.

Refugee camps in Nepal

Bhutanese refugee camps in Eastern Nepal: Timai, Goldhap, Khudunabari, Sanischare, Beldangi 1. 2 and 2 Extension.

The government of Nepal and UNHCR have managed seven refugee camps since the arrival of people claiming to be refugees from Bhutan in the 1990s. The government of Bhutan contends that among these refugees are local Nepalese people attracted to camps for their resources. Below is a list, along with their populations as of 2011.

Because of significant third-country resettlement, refugee camp populations have fallen. As a result, the UNHCR merged Goldhap, Timai and Khudunabari camps into Beldangi and Sanischare camps recently.

Camp conditions were initially rife with malnutrition and disease including measles, scurvy, tuberculosis, malaria, cholera, and beriberi, although camp conditions improved markedly between 1995 and 2005. Education was among the best services provided within the refugee camps, generally better inside than in the surrounding countryside of Nepal. Camps, however, remained significantly overpopulated through 2006. Malnourishment associated with age-based food rationing, violence against women and children, and marginalization resulting in a degree of radicalization remained serious issues. Since this time, camp populations have fallen largely due to third-country resettlement. As of early 2012, some 45,000-50,000 remained in camps in Nepal awaiting resettlement.

Repatriation efforts

In 2000, after years of discussions, Bhutan and Nepal reached an agreement regarding the repatriation of certain classes of Bhutanese refugees living in camps in Nepal, subject to joint government verification. Points of contention included that some camp inhabitants were never citizens – or some even residents – of Bhutan before attaining refugee status. Also, the Bhutanese government regarded many political groups among the Nepalese Lhotshampa community, such as the Bhutan Peoples’ Party (BPP) and Bhutan National Democratic Party (BNDP), as terrorist or anti-national groups. The United States Department of State identified leaders within refugee camps intent on repatriation as hampering some resettlement efforts with disinformation and intimidation, despite generally poor prospects for repatriation. Further complicating repatriation, the land and other property formerly held by Lhotshampa refugees have been repopulated and taken over by Ngalop settlers – including government and military members – under government encouragement.

Nepal, for its part, has not accepted the refugees into its own population. Bhutanese refugees in Nepal live under conditions of restricted or controlled movement, restricted ability to work, and limited access to the local justice system.

In March 2001, the first verification of Bhutanese refugees eligible for repatriation commenced in Nepalese refugee camps. Actual repatriation was then estimated to occur one year out, however progress stalled for over a decade. In 2003, a Bhutanese verification team was attacked and injured in Jhapa, resulting in further delay. As of 2011, over 200 refugees in the Khudunabari refugee camp alone had been certified, however no Bhutanese refugees had been repatriated. In April 2011, Bhutan and Nepal again opened talks on repatriation; however the UNHCR remains committed to third-country resettlement in light of Bhutan’s refusal to guarantee full citizenship and other human rights for returnees. As of July 2011, the governments of Bhutan and Nepal had held at least 15 rounds bilateral talks, with no practical solution reached; although Bhutanese state media echoed Bhutan’s insistence on continued talks with Nepal, it has signaled its preference for third-country resettlement.

Resettlement efforts

The U.S. offered to resettle 60,000 of the 107,000 Bhutanese refugees of Nepalese origin then living in seven U.N. refugee camps in southeastern Nepal, and began receiving this group in 2008. Five other nations, Australia, Canada, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark, also offered to resettle 10,000 each. New Zealand offered to settle 600 refugees over a period of five years starting in 2008. By January, 2009, more than 8,000 Bhutanese refugees were resettled in various countries.[ As of early 2012, more than 55,000 Bhutanese refugees were resettled in various countries.

Other countries also operate resettlement programs in the camps. Norway has already settled 200 Bhutanese refugees, and Canada has agreed to accept up to 5000 through to 2012.

Language

The Lhotsampas had lived in Bhutan for up to five generations. As a result, most members of the Lhotsampa refugee community are multilingual. At home, Nepali (a language related to Sanskrit) is spoken, but most Lhotsampas also speak the Bhutanese language, Dzongkha. Although not all Lhotsampas had access to school in Bhutan, those who did were exposed to English at an early age, since it is the national language of instruction in Bhutan. Even younger Lhotsampas, who largely grew up in the refugee camps in Nepal, have been regularly exposed to English. Thus, many Lhotsampa refugees feel relatively comfortable communicating in English, although they note that Western English, especially when spoken quickly, can be very challenging for them to understand. In the refugee camp, many Lhotsampas were exposed to Indian culture and language via radio and geographic proximity to India. Social circles commonly included Indian friends who didn’t understand Nepali language and so communication would happen in Hindi.

Interpersonal Relationships

A Lhotsampa person is generally known by a first name and a family name. Children are usually given two first names at birth or within the days following. The first name is given to the child by a priest. The second name is given by the parents, which is the name used on the birth certificate. Parents may decide that only one name is needed if they like the priest’s name choice. Parents also decide which of the two names the child will go by.

Like the Nepalese in Nepal, the Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin in Bhutan (Lhotsampas) traditionally divided themselves into castes; a person’s family name often denotes the caste to which s/he belongs. The caste system creates a social hierarchy, identifying individuals’ position in society and influencing their choice of spouse, as well as other social relationships. Caste also typically dictates an individual’s choice of profession and role in society. Historically, among more traditional Lhotsampas, members of different castes did not visit each other’s homes, pray together, or share meals. Southern Bhutanese society is becoming increasingly quite liberal; among those living in Bhutan, the remnants of the caste system are now confined mostly to the Brahmin (priest) community. In the refugee camps in Nepal, and now in the U.S., caste may no longer an issue for some people, while still having importance for others. Some members of the community are casual/nonobservant of caste rules, while among others, an active awareness of caste still has social and behavioral consequences.

Living arrangements typically include many members of an extended family, and the younger generation assumes the responsibility of caring for elderly relatives. Within a family, respect is owed to elders, particularly – and regardless of age – by a daughter-in-law to her mother-in-law. The Lhotsampas remove their shoes upon entering a house and consider it good manners to offer tea to any guest. Eye contact during conversation is standard and is not a sign of disrespect.

Marriage, Family, Kinship

Traditionally, marriages took place between members of the same caste and were arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. When a boy reaches the age of marriage, parents would begin seeking his bride. When they reached a verbal agreement with the parents of the chosen girl of marriageable age too, preparations for the marriage would begin. In more recent times, nuptial traditions have changed and even among elders, some unions were made by choice as ‘love marriages’ as opposed to arranged marriages.

Traditional weddings are great celebrations. Families spend up to a month preparing food and drink, including rice, lentils, a kind of sweetened bread that resembles a doughnut called roti, and some special kind of pickle, called aachar. They also go to the forest to collect many sacks of leaves, which they press and stitch into ceremonial plates that will be used during the wedding celebration.

The wedding celebration occurs at the home of the bride and includes prayers and rituals led by a group of Brahmin (priests), as well as ceremonial drum playing, which is traditionally performed by Darjees ( a cast among Nepalies). The groom brings clothes, jewelry, and a bead necklace to the bride’s home, signifying her married status. After the wedding, the bride travels to the groom’s home permanently. Upon marriage, the woman takes the family name of her husband.

There have been many changes in the Lhotsampa community especially in the last two decades, and the tradition of arranged child marriage is fading due to Western influences, displacement and refugee status, and improved education for girls and young women. Many young people are choosing their own partners, and improved secondary and tertiary education, which were available to a significant proportion of the refugees in the Nepal refugee camps, have resulted in career and personal choices that are quite different from those available in traditional Lhotsampa society.

Gender Roles

Traditionally, women participate in equal measure to men in the hard labor associated with farming and other work outside of the home. In addition, women are the primary caregivers for the children in the family and are expected to do virtually all the housework and cooking. An exception is the four-day period during each month, at the time of the woman’s menses, when she is expected to rest. Because she is considered unclean during this time, she may not touch, prepare, or serve any food or drink, and there is a widely held belief that any fruit tree touched by a menstruating woman will become sick and cease to bear good fruit. During this time, other women in the household may take over her work, men may cook and clean, or, where economically feasible, the family may choose to pay a woman from outside the family to prepare meals and help keep the house in order.

In the U.S. Lhotsampa women and men are adopting the American way of life, with women and men sharing family and household responsibilities and women working outside the home. Many are planning to go to community college but first need to take ESL classes in order to be proficient enough in English to enroll.

Family and Kinship Structure

The average family size ranges from 6 to 8 children. Family is one of the highest priorities among the Lhotsampa people. Doors are usually open, and members of the extended family, as well as friends and neighbors, will come and go quite freely. Meals typically include anyone who happens to be at the house at the time.

The community is very tightly knit, and people remain closely connected throughout the life cycle. The elders in the community command deep respect and affection. Very often family issues, health problems, and financial issues are first discussed with the elders in the family. The elders, in turn, may decide to involve additional community elders to deal with the situation and/or find solutions to the problems. The community is generally patriarchal in structure; sons are expected to take care of their parents and provide for them financially and emotionally.

Within the family, there are strong bonds of love and obligation. A daughter-in-law is obligated to care for her mother-in-law (regardless of her age or state of health) from the moment she joins the family. The new bride’s priority must be to keep her mother-in-law happy by preparing food, doing her washing, and massaging her legs in the evenings. This tradition is fading with the transition to life in the refugee camps, and now with the beginning of the transition to life in the USA; however, respect and courtesy will still define this relationship.

Religious Beliefs and Practices

The majority of the Lhotsampa people are Hindu, in contrast to the northern Bhutanese, who are almost exclusively Buddhist. However, significant minorities among the Lhotsampas are Buddhist, or Christian. Among Hindus, religious leaders and teachers are chosen early in life and taught by the previous generation of Brahmin. They have many responsibilities in the community, including teaching the next generation, leading ceremonies such as weddings and baby-namings, and providing prayer leadership to members of the community on a regular basis. Practices among Buddhists or Christians are largely dictated by their individual religion.

Death and Dying

The Lhotsampa Hindus believe that reincarnation occurs. Those who have acted well during their lifetimes will be reincarnated as human beings, while those who have acted badly will be boiled in oil in hell and then reincarnated as dogs.

At the time of death, members of the deceased person’s immediate family spend thirteen days in formal mourning. The deceased person’s sons traditionally isolate themselves in one room of the house and are not allowed to speak to female family members or other friends, extended family members, or neighbors. The mourners shave their heads and dress in white cloths that are not permitted to have any stitching. They smear the floor with cow dung and then cover it with straw; this is the surface they will sit and sleep on for the duration of the thirteen-day period of mourning. They will refrain from eating salt, oil or meat products, and generally will limit their intake to one meal of plain rice per day, as well as fruit, pickled ginger, lemon, and water. The women in the immediate family will engage in similar rituals, but they must be separated from the men. The ritual mourning activities are believed to assist in the purification of the deceased family member’s soul, allowing a smooth transition to heaven, where he or she will await reincarnation. If mourning is not performed properly, there is a risk that the deceased person’s spirit will not be able to make the transition to the afterlife and will remain on earth in the form of a ghost to disturb the living.

Traditional Medical Practices

Traditional medical practices vary by religion, region of origin, and socioeconomic status. The more educated and/or higher socioeconomic status members of the Lhotsampa community tend to prefer Western medicine to traditional, but this preference is not universal, and it is not uncommon to try one pathway first and then the other if the first does not achieve the desired results.

The practice of using home remedies to deal with illness is very common. Many times people will try one or two home remedies and seek external medical help only if their symptoms worsen or do not resolve. Examples of common home remedies include basil for the treatment of cough, colds, and certain kinds of pain; garlic, turmeric, ginger, and cardamom for stomach pains; and heated mustard oil for massages to relieve muscle pain in the elderly.

Traditional healers or shamans are called dhami-jakhri. Their skills include being able to enter into a trance and sometimes speak in languages they have not learned, reading leaves and rice to diagnose illness and recommend cures, and chanting incantations to heal their patients. Sickness is generally seen as an imbalance of passions or a result of the influence of evil spirits, and the dhami-jakhri focus their attention and prescriptions on re-establishing balance to bring about cure. Core methods of healing include incantations and reading rice, although they may also include prescribing special diets, sprinkling hot water on the patient, or touching the patient with a meaningful object, such as a yak’s tail. Lhotsampa refugees, particularly more educated members of the community, may require encouragement and explicit statements of acceptance before they will share their use of traditional healing modalities with their Western-trained health care providers.

Hindus who are ill may seek the assistance of a priest to perform a cleansing ritual called a puja.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhutanese_refugees

Bhutan: A country study

“Background and History: Settlement of the Southern Bhutanese

http://oag.gov.bt/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/Nationality-law-of-Bhutan-1958English-version.pdf

http://ethnomed.org/culture/nepali-speaking-bhutanese-lhotsampa/nepali-speaking-bhutanese-lhotsampa-cultural-profile

By Shishir Timsina

Hindu Jain Temple Youth Camp, HJTYC for short, is a vibrant camp where kids ranging from ages 9-16 learn about our Hindu culture. The camp is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, right around the borders of Lake Erie. HJTYC is funded by the Hindu Jain Temple and volunteers from everywhere come here to participate in this lovely camp. The elder volunteers are called Uncles and Aunties and the counselors are referred by their names. We’re dropped off at camp on a Sunday evening where we find our cabins and get settled with our luggage.

Next day we start off with early bhajans with our uncles and counselors. After about 45 minutes of bhajans , we move on to yoga. Here Tao Ji teaches how to relieve stress and stay fit with his professional yoga techniques. We are required to bring our own yoga mats to camp along with our other supplies. The supplies include bathroom items, bedroom items and personal belongings. After yoga, we head on down to have breakfast. The Aunties serve us delicious food every day and night so we never get the feeling of being hungry. Free time follows breakfast, at this time of the day we are allowed to do anything we want. Sometimes the counselors have a game planned or some other activity to utilize this free time. After free time comes a long, 2hr, lecture about Hinduism. We do this with our cabin groups. The groups are divided by age, “A” group is between ages 13- 16, “B” group is between ages 11-13 and, “C” group falls between ages 9-10. These groups can be changed to fit our specific needs like sharing rooms with a friend. Even though the lectures might get boring, we learn a lot about our culture between these hours. We eat Lunch after the lectures, the Aunties surprise us again with lovely food that’s Indian and American. There’s another chunk of free time after lunch, this one is specially made for activities. We play games that require teamwork, strategy and physical abilities and help tone social skills.

As the day comes to an end we have dinner at the dining hall. Dinner changes alternately from Indian food to American and sometimes Mexican. We say our prayers and thank god before starting to eat our food, we also sing the camp song along with our prayers. Evening prayers follow dinner. We get time to get our yoga mats or prayer books from our cabins. The evening prayers consist of several bhajans and the camp song. We then do Aarati and end the prayer sessions. After Aarati we then get a choice to eat a snack. The snacks are usually cookies or Klondike bars with milk. Lights out is at 11:00 o’clock, and that’s when we are supposed to go to bed. Speaking from experience, we sometimes stay up till midnight and play cards. Our counselors are also ex-campers; they share with us their experience as campers and have gotten a chance to be counselors. Camp experience is awesome and keeps me coming back every year.

By Shishir Timsina

Hindu Jain Temple Youth Camp, HJTYC for short, is a vibrant camp where kids ranging from ages 9-16 learn about our Hindu culture. The camp is located in Erie, Pennsylvania, right around the borders of Lake Erie. HJTYC is funded by the Hindu Jain Temple and volunteers from everywhere come here to participate in this lovely camp. The elder volunteers are called Uncles and Aunties and the counselors are referred by their names. We’re dropped off at camp on a Sunday evening where we find our cabins and get settled with our luggage.

Next day we start off with early bhajans with our uncles and counselors. After about 45 minutes of bhajans , we move on to yoga. Here Tao Ji teaches how to relieve stress and stay fit with his professional yoga techniques. We are required to bring our own yoga mats to camp along with our other supplies. The supplies include bathroom items, bedroom items and personal belongings. After yoga, we head on down to have breakfast. The Aunties serve us delicious food every day and night so we never get the feeling of being hungry. Free time follows breakfast, at this time of the day we are allowed to do anything we want. Sometimes the counselors have a game planned or some other activity to utilize this free time. After free time comes a long, 2hr, lecture about Hinduism. We do this with our cabin groups. The groups are divided by age, “A” group is between ages 13- 16, “B” group is between ages 11-13 and, “C” group falls between ages 9-10. These groups can be changed to fit our specific needs like sharing rooms with a friend. Even though the lectures might get boring, we learn a lot about our culture between these hours. We eat Lunch after the lectures, the Aunties surprise us again with lovely food that’s Indian and American. There’s another chunk of free time after lunch, this one is specially made for activities. We play games that require teamwork, strategy and physical abilities and help tone social skills.

As the day comes to an end we have dinner at the dining hall. Dinner changes alternately from Indian food to American and sometimes Mexican. We say our prayers and thank god before starting to eat our food, we also sing the camp song along with our prayers. Evening prayers follow dinner. We get time to get our yoga mats or prayer books from our cabins. The evening prayers consist of several bhajans and the camp song. We then do Aarati and end the prayer sessions. After Aarati we then get a choice to eat a snack. The snacks are usually cookies or Klondike bars with milk. Lights out is at 11:00 o’clock, and that’s when we are supposed to go to bed. Speaking from experience, we sometimes stay up till midnight and play cards. Our counselors are also ex-campers; they share with us their experience as campers and have gotten a chance to be counselors. Camp experience is awesome and keeps me coming back every year.

BCAP began its three-month long Community Information Meeting for nine different neighborhoods. The first one was for Leland Point.

The meeting is aimed at sharing information to the community on different aspects of life, primarily focusing on BCAP’s projects, education and mental health. It also tries to get feedback from the community and hear their questions and concerns.

Moderated by Mr. Khara Timsina, the meeting was attended by fifty (56) residents from the neighborhood in the hall of Baldwin United Presbyterian Church at 209 Knoedler Rd in Baldwin.

The meeting began at 3:30 PM and closed at 5:30 PM on Saturday, January 16,2016.  Mr. Upendra Dahal, ORR Project Director and BCAP’s Secretary spoke on BCAP’s projects in hand.

Ms. Bishnu Timsina, one of the Board of Directors (BODs), spoke on the school rules, children’s  academic and performances and parents’ responsibilities. She stressed on the importance of attending meetings schools hold for parents. She also focused on how Bhutanese Americans in Pittsburgh better adjust with the local communities.

Mr. Rup Pokhrel, BCAP’s President highlighted the birth of BCAP and its objectives while detailing on the BCAP’s Funeral Fund.

Mr. Ashok Gurung, another member on the BODs presented data from researches and over all situation on the Mental Health Issues in Bhutanese community in Pittsburgh and in the US in general.

Ms. Kunti Gurung, Administrative Officer at BCAP and Mr. Narayan Subedi Vista AmeriCorp Volunteer for BCAP provided clerical support at the meeting.

Mr. Balaram Gurung, the Outreach Manager assisted on the technical/technological part.

There was a Q-A session where attendees asked questions.

 

For more photos Click here>>

In a rare fashion and much with great pomp and show, the formerly resettled Bhutanese Gurung families in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania celebrated Tamu Losar on January 2, 2016 respectively. This is observed ushering in the new Gurungs’ calendar. The  literary meaning of Losar comes from two parts of a word, Lo means Year and sar means new, the new year that is in parallel with the English Calendar. The Tamu Losar marks the beginning of the Tamu Sambat or Gurung Calendar Year. Interestingly, according to the Tamu (Gurung) calendar, it is their 2599th year of Losar. The Gurung people divide their years into 12 cycles, with a special name of one of the 12 animals for each year. The day of Tamu Losar indicates the end of winter and start of Spring season, which is another reason to fill the joy in the community.

 

In Pittsburgh:

The Gurung community of Pittsburgh celebrated the Tamu Losar, 2016  (the year of the monkey) on Saturday, the 2nd of January. The day started with a special ceremony and prayers by the lamas Bhim Gurung (Namgyal Lama), and Lal Bahadur Gurung (Sonam Lama) for eliminating bad fortune and evils of the past year and wishing for a prosperous new year. It then followed by wang (Blessings) offering by the lamas. Various musical shows and dances were performed. Losar celebration is characterized by the get-together of all family members of all generations to exchange love and good wishes. On the occasion, many men were attired with Bhangra, white cloth shirt-like apparel tied across the chest and open like a bag at the back (for carrying things). The Gurung women, both children and adolescents were seen wearing Ghalek (blouses).

Usually, Losar celebration by the Gurungs in Pittsburgh lacked space to organize in the past. Fortunately, the management of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Brentwood, PA, was very kind this time to avail the space to observe the event. The Church has a big area for kitchen and dining where over 400 individuals were served with cultural foods on the day. Speaking to BNS,  one of the organizers, Mr.Chitra Gurung told BNS that the number of attendees increased this year way higher than previous years. He thinks that it is because of the location, which is closer to their homes and a better space. The celebration was filled with some live musical performances, and dances, in Nepali, and in Gurung songs. A group of Dancers also performed a dance in Dzongkha (Bhutanese Official Language), which was emblematic of in its own. Some attendees expressed nostalgia in watching the dance.

Meanwhile, the president of the Gurung Community of Pittsburgh Mr.Laxman Gurung told BNS, “This Losar was comparatively a better and more successful than the ones of the past years, and we’ll strive to make it better and bigger in the coming years passing on the cultural values to our forthcoming generation.”

Pittsburgh is a home of approximately one hundred Gurung families. Some of them are resettled directly and some of them came as secondary migrants in the course of uniting with their families and relatives. Many Gurungs’ preference to live in Pittsburgh is the topography of the land, as Pittsburgh is hilly, partly like Bhutan and the friendliness of the people here all that matter.

 Seniors tour was organized by Carnegie Library in coordination with Life Span and BCAP on Monday, November 30th. 26 people from Bhutanese community participated in the tour including volunteers, interpreters and staff from life Span and Library.

We visited  Phipps Conservatory for a tour at 10:30 am.  After the tour we had a boxed lunched served in a room at Phipps.   After lunch we went back to see more places within the Phipps conservatory.  We then walk over to the CLP Main library in Oakland for a brief tour at 1:30 before departing Oakland around 3:00 pm for the return trip.

All the participants were very happy and excited to see the different types of plants, vegetation, flowers, forests, etc. They expressed their interest to visit there in future as well.

Some of them sad that the plants there reminded them about their country Bhutan.

School bus picked up  at 9:30 am at LifeSpan Senior Center, 320 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210 then immediately following 9:45 am at 2116 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210

Two representatives from the library will attend, Julie Kuchta and Jennifer Pickle along with  BCAP representative, Balaram Gurung and volunteers (Interpreters) coordinated the tour so that all questions during the tour were answered.

Durga Pooja is a festival marks the victory of Goddess Durga over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura in Hinduism. It is celebrated from the sixth to tenth day of bright lunar fortnight (shukla paksha) in the Hindu Calendar month of Ashvin(September – October).

Durga Pooja in 2015 was organized by Omkar Pariwar (Omkar Family) of Pittsburgh and was facilitated by Bhutanese Community Association of Pittsburgh (BCAP). This event was held at 1551 Radford rd. Pittsburgh, PA 15227, which lasted for three days from the 22nd October to 24th October 2015.  The event turned out to be a successful one with the participation of around five hundred individuals over the period of three days. BCAP looks forward to work with Omkar Pariwar in years to come to celebrate Durga Pooja including other cultural and religious festivals.

Seniors and ELCE students enjoyed a one day tour on October 14th, 2015 to a dairy farm, Marburger Farm. It’s located at 1506 Mars-Evans City Road, Evans City, PA 16033.

The tour was facilitated by Carnegie Library and Life Span in Coordination with BCAP.

Main aim of the tour was to refresh the minds of our people who were farmers back in the country. The have been expressing the interest to visit any farm, see them, feed them and milk them. They wanted to recapture their past life and rejoice.

Although they were not allowed to milk the cow due to the regulations of the farm, they were very excited and happy to get close to the animals.

The tour started with the pick up at 11:00am at LifeSpan Senior Center, 320 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210 and they were dropped off around 5:00pm at LifeSpan Senior Center, 320 Brownsville Road, Pittsburgh, PA 15210

We reached early and had wait for some time inside the busLunch and water were provided and had it inside the bus due to weather condition.  If

Bus was a large coach bus equipped with a restroom that gave a lot of comfort to our seniors.

Total of about 20 people were in the tour including volunteers and representatives from Library, Life span and BCAP.

 

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