Courtesy of the artists: Gopal Kumal, Buddha Man Kumal, Dukharam Chaudhary, Sahadev Tharu, Chotu Tharu, and Tulsi Ram Tharu

According to the beliefs of the Indigenous Tharu people of Nepal’s Terai region, terracotta equine sculptures – known as Ghorw ā – serve to link various ancestral clans. There are four primary Ghorw ās who represent the four ancestral brothers: M ārw ā, Bherw ā, Jagannathy ā, and Raur ā. The easiest to identify is Raur ā, with his open, cylindrical mouth. Others are di ferentiated by markings on their chest and neck; such patterns can also di fer regionally. Each brother was said to rule over a speci fc Pragann ā, which were de fned territories within the valley of Dang in midwestern Nepal. The elder three brothers ruled over designated Pragann ās, while the youngest Raur ā was permitted to wander and settle anywhere he desired.

Kumhal communities throughout the Terai have preserved the tradition of sculpting such fgures from clay and pit fring them to create terracotta works. Making and keeping such sculptures is primarily a practice among Dangaur ā Tharus from the valleys of Dang and Deukhuri. As many Tharu families from Dang migrated to districts further west in the 20th century, Ghorw ās are now found throughout the western Terai belt of Nepal.

Such sculptures are at times placed in regional sites of power and also serve as protective deities for entire villages. Once fred, the Ghorw ā is believed to possess animate qualities. They are sometimes found in a broken, crumbled state inside shrines- a result of rival spirit batteling each other for power.

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