Intangible Cultural Heritage of Asia and the Pacific

Gourd peeling © Shyam Bahadur Maharjan

Bear-Chasing Game and Gourd-Plucking Game in Magar Community

In the Magar community, there are many children’s games based on child psychology and connected to social norms and values. Some of these games are dramatization with the children taking on different roles. This structure means that there are no tools or materials needed to enjoy the games.

Bear-Chasing Game

This game is about a leader protecting his team or family. It originates from ancient times, when making clusters or groups provided safety from wild animals. The capable person in each group was selected as a leader to protect the group as best as possible.

In the bear-chasing game, one child plays the role of a bear, and another child, who is cleverer and stronger, plays as the team leader. The team leader stands with the other team members behind. The team makes a single line by holding the waist of the child directly in front.

As the game starts, the bear is digging the ground with a stick. The team leader and the bear have a mini dialogue that ends with the bear seeing the children and wanting them for a meal. As the bear attacks, the leader tries to save his or her team. If the bear touches a child in the line, then that child is out. If the bear gets all the children, then the bear is the victor.

This game is important because it shows the importance of being a united group as a way of creating security. However, while the game shows that there is safety in numbers, it also places importance on leadership to protect the group.

Gourd-Plucking Game

This symbolic game is unique to the Magar community where love marriage is accepted. The game represents a mother’s anxiety with her daughter’s departure using the metaphor of a vine that appears quite empty without any gourds.

This is an outdoor game. Six to seven girls and one boy can participate in this game. One girl plays the role of a mother, and the others are her daughters. The daughters make a line, sitting in a row and holding the waist of the girl directly in front. Game play starts with the girls singing, “Dhoti of dumb; burnt on fire!” (Dhoti is a piece of cloth used for male’s underwear.)

As the girls sing, a stranger, played by the boy, approaches and asks the mother for a gourd for his nephew. The mother tells him to look and that if he finds a ripe one, he can have it. At this point, the stranger goes to the line of girls and taps each one on the head until he finds one he likes. Then, he says, “This one is ripe”. The stranger then tries to pull the girl out of the line, but the girls hold each other as tightly as they can. If the stranger succeeds in removing the girl from the line, then she is out. The stranger again goes to the mother to ask for a gourd, and the mother says yes. And the process goes on as before with the stranger tapping the girls and selecting one to remove. The game continues in this manner until there is only one girl left.

When there is just one girl left, the stranger asks the mother for a gourd, but the mother refuses, saying that she cannot give away her last gourd. However, the stranger is very persuasive and the mother cannot deny his request. In the end, he takes the final gourd, leaving the mother on her own feeling very sad. This game sympathizes with the mother, helping her cope with grief.

Conclusion

Outlined here are two of many traditional children’s games of the Magar community. Both games integrate role playing as a way of teaching children valuable life lessons. These games have been passed down through many generations, and they are an integral part of Magar ICH.