A Short History of Nepal
A Short History of Nepal
The Kirat Kingdom
(C. 400 B.C. – 100 A.D.)
1. Among the three Mongolian communities inhabiting the three regins in the east of modern Nepal, only the Magars came into contact with the Arya cilvization through the Khasas of the west. The Khasas, however, followed the policy of exterminating Mongolian communities, hence the Magars did no welcome ther civilization. Around the same time, the Malla and Shakya republics became more populous, so only the Mahabharat mountains separated the Magars fom them. Because these mountains were not impregnable, there were frequent contacts between the Magars on the one hand and the Mallas and Shakyas on the other. Mallas and Shakyas were of Manvawa Arya stocks and so were liberal. But the Magars, who had been frightened by the Khasas, did not let Mallas and Shakyas visit their settlements. Nor was there any need for the Mallas and Shakyas to cross the Mahabharat mountains and fight the Magars in the Pahar region. Even then, contacts between the two groups introuduced the Magars to Arya civilization and taught them the value of unity. Strengthened by such unity, the Magars were able to check the Khasas beyond the Sakhiko-Lekh for several conturies. There may have been some petty principalities among the Magars, but documentary evidence is lacking.
2. The Vriji republic was situated south of Sesant at a great distance from both the Mahabharat and the Chure ranges. The Videhas inhabited a part of the district of Mahottari in the outer Tarai region; the rest of that region comprised stray settlements of Tharus. The Bajis gradually pushed the Tharus toward the north. The passes of Sindhuli, as well as those along the banks of the Bagvati river, were open at that time, but were covered by forests and infested with wild animals and so inaccessible.
One group of Tharus living on the banks of the Bagvati river in the Tarai region as fishermen was known as Danuwar. The Danuwars gradually penetrated through the Chure and Mahabharat mountains and reached the valley on the upper reaches of that river. They had borrowed the Aryan civilization from Magadh and adopted the Magadhi language, forgetting their own Mongolian language. These Danuwars introduced the light of Arya civilization in the Bagvati Valley. The inhabitants of this valley began to visit the capitals
of Vriji and Magadh in the company of Danuwars. They called themselves Nepar. At that time, the people of Magadh pronounced rasal, hence they began to describe the inhabitants of the valley of Nepal. the term eventually came to signify the country.
3. After assimilating the Arya civilization, the Nepars developed national unity, and established a Kingdom of their own in circa 400 B.C. This was the first Kingdom in Nepal. at that time, the Aryas of India used to describe Mongolian groups as Kisant. Because the Nepars were of Mongolian stock, they too were regarded as Kirants. For this reason, the Nepar Kingdom is known as the Kirant Kingdom. Yelam was the first of 32 Nepar Kings. We canot say that all of them were Kirant Kings, for it is not possible that there were so many kings in a single dynasty. Even in times of uninterrupted peace, a royal dynasty usually comes to an end after six or seven kings. Accordingly, it is possible that these 32 Kings belonged to five or six dynasties. In circa 100 A.D., the Nepar Kingdom came to an end. No information is available about the political condition of this Nepar Kingdom, which lasted five centuries.
4. The valley of the Bagvati river, bounded by the four passes of Shivapuri, Chandagiri, Sanga, and Bhimdhunga, was the original home of the Nepars. This region was cooler at that time than it was now, with more than half of the totoal surface area under forest. The Nepars were of Mongolian stock, hence they had a Mongolian physiognomy. They spoke a Mongolian dialect without any script. They worshipped local gods and sacrificed birds and animals to gain their ends and ward off evils. They selected a priest from among themselves. The Nepars used herbs and drugs for medical purposes and cultivated maize, millet, etc. they kept buffaloes for meat, their staple diet. After ghee began to be exported to the Tirhut region, they started using milk as well. It is possible that they did not keep cows. Sheeps and pigs were domestic animals. They spun the wook of sheep and wove blankets in crude looms. They also manufactured a black water-proof, were sold as far as Pataliputra (Patna), capital of India.
5. In Magadh, the Shishunaga dynasty was followed by the Nanda dynasty, and then by the Maurya dynasty. The first three Maurya emperors, Chandragupta, Bindusara, and Ashoka, were great conquerors. They extended the frontiers of the Maurya empire almost throughout the whole of India. They paid no attention of Nepal, a small Kingdom located in the midst of forests. Ashoka later gave up the campaign of military conquest and followed the policy of bringing other countries within the sphere of his influence by propagating the Buddhist religion. Accordingly, in the course of his tour of Buddhist places of pilgrimage, he visited Rumin, birthplace of Buddha, and installed a pillar there (248 B.C). His religious envoys reached different places in India, as well as Burma and the Yavana Kingdoms of the east. Thanks to their efforst, the
small Buddhist sect established by Gautama Buddha was transformed into the great Buddhist religion. However, Ashoka sent envoys of medium rank to propagate that religion in the Himalyanan region only toward the last days of his life. These envoys reached Nepal as few years before or after Ashoka was ousterd from the throne (236 B.C). the Nepars adopted the Buddhist religion with reverence, but not the neighboring Magars, Murmis, Syarpas, and Thamis.
6. Buddha taught the lesson of purity of mind, speech, body, and action. He made atheism and non-violence the fundamental tenets of the Buddhist religion. The Nepars were able to understand sermons on good conduct, but found it difficult to prartice them. Even the, they tried their best. It was not difficult to understand the essence of atheism, but it was a formidable effort to forget the traditional gods and remounce violence. Even then , the Nepars gradually forgot their old gods. They found it impossible to stop the practice of the slaughtering animals, and so continued doing so. Buddha died of indigestion after eating pork. For that reason, Indian Buddhists abjuredthe concumption of pork, and the Nepars too followed suit. The Kirant not have spread had it not been accepted by Kings. By the second generation, the Nepars had become stanch Buddhists. Five stupas or Chaityas were then constructed in Lalitpur, the then capital. These still survive in the form of mounds and are known as Ashoka’s stupas.
7. The Buddhist missionaries who visited Nepal were generally Bhikshus (mendicants). They practized celibacy. Buddha had laid down the rule that one could become a Bhiskhu even in youth and resume a worldly life if one so wanted. Women too could do s. usually, only female Bhikshus could visit the inaccessible areas of Nepal. the influx of Bhikshus of both sexes continued till 187 B.C. In that year, Pushyamitra Sunga overthrew the Maurya dynasty and founded a new royal dynasty. He began to persecute Bhikshus, as a result of which many of them came to Nepal from the plains. It was against the law of Nature for young Bhikshus, male or female, to practice celibacy. Accordingly, they mixed with the local Nepar population, thereby joining Mongolian blood with Arya. Mixed marriages of this type improved the physiognomy of the Nepars. But because the Bhikshu men and women came to Nepal in small groups, they began to speak in the language of the Nepars rather than their own. Consequently, unlike the Tharus, the Nepars did not forget their language. At the same time, the influence of the Arya language wiped out Mongolian traces in their language, which gradually assumed the form of a Tibeto-Burman language.
8. Thanks to the Buddhist religion, there was increasing intercourse betweenthe Nepars and the Aryas of India. Such intercourse had had a profound impact on their social and religious life, as well as on their economic condition. Wooden hust were gradually raplaced with houses built with bakes brickes and
tile roofs. Modern Lalitpur, the then capital, developed into a town with brick buildings. The Nepars, who used to wear cloth made of wool or bhangra, began to wear cotton cloth. New cereal crops, including rice, and fruits were introduced from the plains. Iron mines were worked, and iron tools and weapons were manufactured for war and agriculture. Copper and ther utensils began to be used. In addition to woolen cloth, medicinal herbs and drugs began to exported. However, the use of bows and arrows, and of pottery, did not decline. The Newars of those days did not shave their heads. Only members of the royal family used ornaments of gold and silver.
9. The territories of the Kirant Kingdom did not comprise more than 250 square miles. this small Kingdom, situated in a hill ara, became the nucleus of the big Kingdom of the future. In the east and the west, there were six other principalities inhabited by people of Mongolian stock. Information about their political conditions is not available, becaue they were not converted to Buddhism. There seems little doubt that the economic improvement achieved by the Nepar Kingdom had an impact on these principalities as well.
10. Around the time when the Kirant Kingdom was being established in central Nepal, there was increasing intercourse of Brahmans and Buddhist into the Khasanta region from Koshala or modern Oudh. Khasa settlements extended to Kumaun and Garhwal, which accordingly came under the impact of Koshala’s civilization. Consequently, Khasa principalities emerged there. The Khasas of those days wore their hair long, hence the civilized Aryas of the Ganga-Jamuna region considered them to be degraded Kshatriyas.
End of Chapter IV
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