In 1992, there were reportedly 1,300 speakers of the Kutang Ghale language living in the northern Gorkha District of the Gandaki Zone in central Nepal. They inhabit the Buri Gandaki Valley, from Nyak northward to and including the village of Prok. The Kutang Ghale inhabit villages up to 4,100 metres (13,450 ft.) above sea level.
The authorities in Nepal do not acknowledge any of the three distinct Ghale language groups; they have, rather, included them as part of the large Gurung ethnicity, which numbered more than 449,000 people at the time of the 1991 census. Although there are definite historical and cultural links between the Ghale and the main body of Gurung people, their languages are markedly different. Linguistic research into the Kutang Ghale language, which is part of the Tamangic branch of Tibeto-Burman, has found that Kutang Ghale shares only between 39 per cent and 49 per cent lexical similarity with Southern Ghale, between 45 per cent and 61 per cent with Northern Ghale, and only 18 per cent with the variety of Gurung spoken in the Banspur area. By way of comparison, English and German share a 60 per cent lexical similarity. When people from one Ghale group try to communicate with other Ghale people they cannot, and they must revert to Nepali to be understood. There is surprising diversity even among the three reported dialects of Kutang Ghale (Bihi, Chak and Rana). These three dialects reportedly share only a 62 per cent to 76 per cent lexical similarity with each other. The Kutang Ghale call their language the 'thieves' language' because they think they have stolen vocabulary from many other neighbouring languages. The Ghale languages were studied by the Christian missionary Larry Seaward between 1971 and 1973. He compiled a 276-page Ghale dictionary, which has not yet been published.
The history of the three Ghale language groups is uncertain, although one source states, 'According to their legend, the Gurung were a wandering tribe that traversed west across Tibet prior to their entry into Mustang. Their Tibetan sojourn pre-dates the introduction of Buddhism there (7th century) as the Gurung religious traditions are basically animist.... From Mustang, Gurungs moved to Manang where they came under the domination of Klye (Ghale) chiefs, later migrants from Tibet.... In the early 16th century, the Ghale ruler of Lamjung was defeated and replaced by a Thakuri prince from Kaski.'
The term 'Ghale' therefore refers to a ruling class of Gurung people, who appear to have come from Tibet at a different time than the Gurung and brought with them a different language and different customs. There are also historical records of Ghale rulers among the neighbouring Tamang tribe.
All Kutang Ghale people believe in Tibetan Buddhism. They have their own lamas, and their ceremonies and rituals are all Buddhist.
There are no known Christians among this ancient and intriguing ethnic group.
This people group’s population is unknown or estimated to be extremely small. This people group may have assimilated into larger surrounding groups and may no longer be recognizable as a distinct group.
To ensure every people group is represented, Joshua Project includes unknown and very small population people groups until on-site research determines they do not exist.
Joshua Project data is drawn from many sources and of varying accuracy depending on source and editorial decisions. Populations are scaled to the current year. Other data may have varying ages. We welcome suggested updates.
A displayed zero can mean true zero, a very small rounded number or sometimes unknown. Blanks mean an unknown value.
The data is sometimes not as precise as it appears. Values for %Christian Adherent and %Evangelical (which determine unreached status) are often informed estimates, some more accurate than others. We recommend against using %Christian Adherent and %Evangelical to calculate absolute numbers.
Joshua Project may be able to provide more information than what is published on this site. Please contact us.
On-the-ground reality may vary from what is presented here. Before making travel plans based on data presented here, please confirm with other sources to the extent possible.