Nepal is a multiethnic, multicultural and multilingual country. According to the UNESCO report 2002, there are 140 languages in Nepal. The latest census 2011 shows 123 existing languages spoken as mother tongue in the country. The National Language Policy Suggesting Committee 1994 has classified the languages into major four groups: (1) languages with a written tradition, (2) languages without a written tradition, (3) languages that have no script, and (4) languages on the verge of extinction. Among them, MP Tharu is considered as a language with a written tradition.
Based on pronunciation , the languages of Nepal have been classified into five families: Kusunda, Dravidian, Austro-Asiatic, Tibeto-Burman, and Indo-Aryan. On the basis of prominent features, MP Tharu belongs to the Indo-Aryan language group. Tharu is the language with the second highest number of speakers in Nepal, (17,37,470 or 6.55% of the total population). The Tharu speech community is a large ethnic group residing from easternmost Mechi to westernmost Mahakali of the Terai and inner Terai, covering Kailali, Kanchanpur, Dang, Banke, Bardiya, Surkhet, Chitawan, Navalparasi, Bara, Parsa, Rautahat, Sarlahi, Mahottari, Dhanusha, Jhapa, Morang, Sunsari, Saptari, Udayapur and Siraha districts among others.
The homeland of the Tharu speech community is called ‘Tharuhat’. Among the indigenous ethnic communities in Nepal, Tharu is the second largest in population. The latest census 2011 shows the Tharu population to be 15,29,875. Recently, a bilingual MP Tharu dictionary has been prepared with the contribution of the whole MP Tharu speech community. Among the largest scale of the Tharu communities, MP Tharu are found in 12 districts: Bara (71,993), Parsa (45,620), Rautahat (30,811), Sarlahi (21,778), Mahottari (9,909), Dhanusha (4,422), Jhapa (9,983), Morang (60,566), Sunsari (91,500), Saptari (73,697), Udayapur (24,240) and Siraha (26,386). The census shows that there are limited populations of MP Tharu in Jhapa, Dhanusha, and Mahottari districts, while the total population of MP Tharu is 4,70,905.
- Santa Kumar Chaudhary