Of Salt and Rice Life and Trade of the Bhote Khampa in Far West Nepal
Author: Hanna Rauber
The Bhote Khampa are a small Tibetan-speaking Buddhist ethnic group who for generations lived as migrant traders bartering salt and rice. Using sheep and goats as pack animals, their annual migration route took them from Purang in the Tibet Autonomous Region – a major marketplace for Tibetan salt – over high Himalayan passes, down south to the salt bazaars at the Nepal–Indian border, and back. On the way through the hills, they bartered Indian and Tibetan salt with Nepalese village farmers for their rice harvests. In the 1990s, however, China implemented new border regulations in Far West Nepal which ended the ancient barter trade for the Bhote Khampa.
This ethnography is a historical document of the Bhote Khampa’s life on the move in the 1970s, illustrated with photos, maps, graphs, and personal life stories. The Epilogue pays attention to how the Bhote Khampa have adapted since the cessation of their traditional barter. Also addressed are the political innovations at a national level – the inclusion of non-Hindu ethnic minorities – which turned the Bhote Khampa, once without any civil and political rights, into Nepali citizens with a right to vote.