Monthly Archives: November 2010

Ancient history of Nepal: A Raw Draft #1

Being a Nepali I always wondered about the History of Ancient Nepal. As I began reading, I realized that most accounts of the history of Nepal are incomplete. This incompleteness probably may have historically resulted due to rulers preventing historians writing about the glorious days of their predecessors and due to lack of materials in ancient Nepal.

I want to highlight though, not being a historian myself, my knowledge of historical accounts related to Nepal is not that deep. However, having grown up in Nepal, I know that at least when we were in schools (SLC batch 1998) we were taught limited history and we were taught that Nepal was a fragmented state before Prithvi Narayan Shah united it into modern Nepal. Many historians subscribe this thought. However it is important, especially in today’s context where Nepal is being divided into ethnic states, to understand the pre-Shah history of Nepal. Who ruled Nepal before the Shahs? When did Nepal as a state begin? When did the peoples of Nepal come to Nepal? Who were the first peoples of Nepal?

In this blog post, I seek to find answers to these questions. I will update this post as I find more materials and I request readers to advise me and correct me where I am wrong. I hope that by making my effort open to public at its nascent I will have more opportunities to reach those that are knowledgeable about the ancient history of Nepal and I sincerely hope that readers will kindly support my endeavor by showering me with constructive criticism, suggestions, and advice.

Nepal as a state emerged in its present for only in the late eighteenth century when the small hill kingdom of Gorkha, some eighty miles west Kathmandu, brought much of the Himalayan foothills and an adjoining strip of the North Indian plain under its control, and the kingdom’s Shah dynasty moved its court to the Kathmandu Valley.

The above quote is from John Whelpton’s A History of Nepal (Cambridge University Press, 2005). This resonates well with the historical accounts provided by other sources such as Nepal Home Page. The more I read about the history of Nepal, the more I realize that the works of Iman Singh Chemjong is not incorporated in works of historians such as Whelpton. According to Iman Singh Chemjong,

According to Wikipedia where book of Rishikesh Shaha is cited, Nepal was inhabited by the “gopālavaṃśi or “Cowherd family”, whose names often end in -gupta and are said to have ruled for some 491 years. They are said to have been followed by the mahaiṣapālavaṃśa or “Buffalo-herder Dynasty”, established by an Indian Rajput named Bhul Singh.” This also resonates well with that we were taught in high school. Wikipedia suggests that Kiratis, “who may have arrived from the west to the Kathmandu valley…ruled for about 1225 years (800 BCE-300 CE), their reign had a total of 29 kings during that time. Their first king was Elam; also known as Yalambar, who is referenced in the epic Mahabharata.” However, this account contradicts with another post in Wikipedia, The history of Limbuwan where it is argued that “First people to live permanently and calling Limbuwan home was the Kirant people”. However, peoples of Limbuwan came from Assam in the West and Kirantis as referenced above came form the West. Also, the time period when Yalamber’s people ruled Nepal (800-300 BCE) and the time period when Bhauiputahang Dynasty of Limbuwan ruled Nepal (580 BC) overlap. This suggests that parts of Nepal was populated by Kiranti of the West around 800 BCE which were then joined by Limbu peoples of the East some 300 years later. Thus, ‘Kirants’ today refer to both these populations in the past. Also, Wikipedia suggests Limbuwan existed with Bhauiputahang Dynasty but Iman Singh Chemjong’s Kirantkalin Vijaypurko Sankshipta Itihaasa (1975) suggests that the regions ruled by the Kirants was only called Limbuwan after the ten Shan Mokwan leaders came victorious over the Kirati kings around 550 AD.

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Filed under Anthropology, Nepal