A brief description of the fellowship research project

Travels of the Newar Potters: A History


A Short Project Description

This research project is about the history of seasonal migration of the Newar potters in Bhaktapur and Thimi to the Tarai and to the Mountains in Nepal. Till recently, these potters carried with them a shoulder-load of household utensils, travelled on foot to the different settlements, sold the pots, and, if feasible, made them on the spot and fulfilled the local demand and then moved to a different place.


The Newar potters are, by and large, agriculturists. Their knowledge on techniques and materials of pottery-making is highly specialised. Their craft is well-embedded in the local urban socio-economic relations. Nevertheless, the seasonal travel (gaamay vaanegu ‘to go to the village’ ~ taaplan vaanegu ‘ to go far’) also has a long past. The pattern and rules regarding the annual visit is well developed: little short of the jajmani system but far more routinised than a search of an individual potter for better commercial prospects for his goods. Till 1960s, Thimi saw such migration en masse. The custom, however, is in decline.


This project will reconstruct the potters’ itinerary for the period c. 1930s – 1960s through their reminiscences and documentary evidence. The aim of this project is to use the potters’ itinerant behaviour to engage with three key issues. The first is about the political, social and cultural aspects of the milieu in which such behaviour assumes the form of a periodic economic activity. The second is related to the contribution these journeys made in the circulation of labour, commodities and technical ideas in the study period. The third question this project will attempt to answer is whether the case of the Newar potters can shed critical light on more recent attempts of the Nepal Government and of several development agencies to help improve the lives and livelihood in rural Nepal by technology transfer and dissemination.

The research undertaken in the one-year period, starting from November 1, 2011, will result into a book and a public lecture by the end of the tenure.

Martin Chautari

Martin Chautari (MC) is a research and policy institute based in Kathmandu, Nepal. Begun as an informal discussion group in Kathmandu in 1991, MC now focuses on research and policy on democracy, media and education, with cross-cutting themes of gender and social inclusion. Along with the continuing discussion series, publications, open library and a rigorous mentoring program of young researchers are in-built into MC’s work. These all form an intrinsic part of MC’s primary objective: strengthening the social contract between state and citizens by expanding and making inclusive the public sphere with informed dialogue, analytically rigorous research and viable policy choices.

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Chautari Books

Starting from the year 2001, MC began publishing books in the Chautari Book Series. Most of the books have been published in the thematic areas in which MC has worked institutionally. By April 2015, 84 books had been published in this Series, 70 percent of them in the Nepali language.

Most Recent Books

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Martin Chautari is the editorial home of two journals: the bi-lingual (English and Nepali) semi-annual journal Studies in Nepali History and Society, established in 1996, and published by Mandala Book Point from Kathmandu and the Nepali language annual journal Media Adhyayan [Media Studies], established in 2006, and published by Bhrikuti Academic Publications from Kathmandu.

मिडिया अध्ययन १०

Studies in Nepali History 
and Society (SINHAS)

मिडिया अध्ययन 
[Media Adhyayan]


Archives of Public Documents

Digital copies of public documents related to some specific themes in Nepal will be uploaded here. This is being done to facilitate academic research and public discussions. Read more>>>


 14th February 2016

Discussions at Chautari

Martin Chautari organizes discussions twice a week.

  • Sundays: research seminar series
  • Tuesdays: various topics

Upcoming Discussions

Opening hours
Sunday to Friday from 10:00am to 4:30pm. Tea break 2:00pm to 2:30pm. Read more

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Policy Papers


Building upon its high degree of credibility as a non-partisan, rooted research centre, Martin Chautari has been publishing policy briefs since 2009. Till date mostly focused on the new constitution writing process, these publications work to inform and communicate complex ideas and present viable policy choices. They further add analytical rigour to otherwise politicized discussion of contentious issues. Simultaneously published in English and Nepali, these policy briefs are an especially useful tool to enable and encourage public dialogue.


Policy Review Brief 13: Proposed Higher Education Policy [Eng]

Research Brief 16 : Decentralization and Autonomy at Tribhuvan University [Eng / Nep]

Research Brief 15: Stakeholders for Universal Connectivity in Nepal [Eng / Nep]


Previous Policy Briefs