The Author, Lain S. Bangdel (born 1924) is one of the leading authorities on Napalese art. He graduate from the Government College of Arts and Crafts, Calutta (India) in 1945. He studied at the Ecole Nationale Superior des Beaux Arts, Partis (1952-55). In London, he undertook research into the histoey of European art (1956-60). Mr. Bangdel was also a visiting professor at Denisn University, Ohio, U.S.A. (1968-69), where he taught history of Southeast Asian art. In 1961, His late Majesty King Mahendra nominated him a member of the Royal Nepal Academy. His Majesty king Birendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev nomi8nated him as the Vice-Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy (1974-79) and as the Chancellor (1979-89).
Lain S. Bangdel is the author of a number of a number of novels, travalogues and biographies of great European masters. He is the author of The Early Sculptures of Nepal and Twenty-Five Hundred Years of Nepalese Art (German Ed.). He has also contributed many articles on arts and crafts to reputed journals.
He has received foreign decorations from a number of countries, including Italy, France, Great Britain and Spain, as well as national and international awards such as Birendra Gold Medal and Dulichand Gold Medal, for his contribution to art and literature.
For the past few years, stone sculptures of great historical value have been stolen from the Valley of Kathmandu. This is indeed a great loss to our cultural heritage. In view of this. A project was undertaken by the Royal Nepal Academy in which research was carried out on the stolen images of Nepal by Mr. Lain S. Bangdel, former Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy, who is a distinguished scholar, a noted artist, and one of the leading authorities on Nepalese art. It is hoped that this book will draw the attention of antique dealers, art collectors and museums all over the world the world and eventually stop the illegal smuggling of religious images from Nepal.
The art of Nepal, which expanded over two thousand years, is mostly concentrated in the Valley of Kathmandu.
The Kingdom of Nepal was isolated from the rest of the world for many centuries: firstly, due to geographical isolation; and secondly, no outsider was allowed to visit the country. Therefore, the art objects of Nepal whether stone sculptures, bronzes, or wooden works or paintings, were all safe and intact in the country. Those foreigners who were allowed to visit the Valley of Kathmandu with special permission were spellbound to see the art and architecture of the Vallry. They wrote on and lavishly what they saw. Among them were Percival Landon, Saniel Wright, Oldfield, Sylvan Levi, Kirkpatrick and percy Brown.
In the early fifties, Nepal was opened to the world and for the first time foreigners could see the ancient city of Kathmandu. They found the Valey of Kathmandu like an enormous open museum where thousands of icons of gods and goddesses in stone, metal, wood or terra-cotta could be seen scattered around. Such art objects were found literally almost everywhere – in temples, shrines, monasteries, Buddhist charityas, stupas, old palaces, private courtyards, streets, narrow lanes bylanes, water spouts, opem fields, neglected places, etc. Until then the art of Nepal was virtually unknown to the world. In 1964, Dr. tella Kramrisch organized an exhibition of Nepalese art in Asia Hous, New Your and published a magnificent catalogue. Actually, she was the first scholar to introduce the art Nepal to the western world. In Department of Archaeology of His Majestry's Government of Nepal arranged an exhibition of Nepalese art in western Wurope which further generated interest in the art of Nepal among the western public. Then, a number of articles and books on various aspects of Nepalese began to appear. Perhaps it would not be out of place to mention here a few noted publications which further helped to introduce the art of Nepal to the world.
Dr. Pratapaditya Pal's book, The Arts of Nepal, Part I, Sculpture, appeared in 1974, and Part II, painting, in 1978. In Nepal Mandala by Dr. Mary Slusser appeared into volumes; and the same years. The Early Sclptures of Nepal by the author was published. The latter was a major breakthough especially in the ancient art of Nepal of Nepal.Mr. Krishan Deva;s book, Images of Nepal, appeared in 1984; this was followed the author's book, 2500 years of Nepalese Art, in 1987, in a German edition. The above mentioned books are major contributions to the field of Nepalese art, although other books on the art of Nepal have also appeared, such as The Art of Nepal by Amita Ray, Nepoal; Treasures From The Himalayas by E. And R.L. Waldschmidt, and Newar Art by A. W, McDonald and Anne Stahl.
As interest was growing in the art of Nepal, art objects of Kathmandu Valley began to disappear fast. From the late sixties, stone sculptures of great archaeological value were missing. At night, valuable images were stolen from temples, shrines, chaityas, stupas or niches where the image had been kept for centuries. In some cases, priceless images were mutilated or disfigured in attempts removed them.
This book provides strong and authentic photographic evidence of those sculptures which were stolen the Valley of Kathmandu and the surrounding areas during the past twenty-five years. Other Nepalese art objects, such as bronzes, wooden sculptures and terra-cottas which were stolen earlier, are not included here. It is hoped that they will also be published in the near future.
We are more concerned now about the safety of the remaining images in Nepal, in view of the increasing art theft of stone sculptures. Therefore, our next publication will be an inventory of stone sculptures of the Valley of Kathmandu based upon a comprehensive survey. During our survey, we discovered that a great number of stone sculptures were already stolen. Since photographic evidence had been made, these images are lost forever.
Although we are aware of the UNESCO Convention, we hope this book will attract the attention of the western art world, where antiques are bought and sold in the art markets, through art dealers or in public auctions. Many would by such art objects not knowing whether they been stolen or illegally smuggled out of the country. In fact, many of the stolen sculptures mentioned in this book may some day appear in the art market, or museums, but, once it is proved they are stolen art objects, no one has the right to possess them. This small Himalayan country if such illegal art trafficking is not checked and stopped in time.
I wish to express my deep sense of gratitude to my fried Jurgen Schick who supplied a number of photographs. My heartful thanks to Dr. Pratapaditya Pal, Dr. Mary Slusser, Dr. Gutschow, Dr. Jerome Rogoff, Ian Alsop, Jim Goodman, Mrs. Lydia Aran Sanuraj Sakya for supplying a number of photographs with kind permission to publish them. Dina Bangdel, my daughter, has been a great help in the preparation of this book. Without her help this book would not have been completed in time. My sincere thanks to her. I would also like to thank Betty Woodsend for helping me in more ways than one in regard to the preparation of this book.
I am thankful to Laksman Lamichhanry, administrative chief of the Royal Nepal Academy and other staff, Hemanta Shestha, Sanjeev Dhungana, Mangal Dev Pariyar and Dhuba Khadka for helping me in this projects. I am grateful to my friend Mr. Krishna Deva, an eminent scholar of Indian art and archaeology for his valuable advice. My special thanks to His Excellency Mr. Milton Frank. Ambassador of the United States of America to the Kingdom of Nepal, for going through the entire manuscript and giving valuable suggestion.
I would also like to express my profound gratitude to William F. Almand, Jr. Who devotedly went though the final proof of this book.
Lastly, I would like to express my gratitude to the Toyota Foundation, Tokyo, Japan, without whose generous financial help this project would not have materialized.
Land and People of Nepal
The Kingdom of Nepal lies on the southern slope of the great Himalayan mountains which include Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world. The Himalayan range is a great barrier and a natural rampart, extending from the northwest of Pakistan through northern India and Nepal. The territory of Nepal from east to west is about five hundred miles long and the breadth is between one hundred to one hundred and forty miles. Beyond the northern border of Nepal lies the Plateau of Tibet, known as the "Roof of the World," now part of the People's Republic of China. In southern region, the lowland of the Tarai forms a belt which gradually merges into the vast Gangetic plain of India.
lions of years ago, the Himalayan mountain rang was a sea are found in the Muktinath area, twelve to thirteen thousand feet above sea level. Most interesting of these fossils are the black ammonite concretions which look like ram's horns or a coiled serpent. The age of these objects is Triassic-Jurassic; that is, about three hundred million years old.
Geographically, Nepal has extreme variations in altitude, climate and ecology seldom found anywhere else in the word. Topographically, the Kingdom of Nepal can be divided into main zones:
(1) The Tarai: The Tarai, meaning the low lands, is a narrow belt, 600 feet above sea level, between the foothills and the plains of India.
(2) The Siwalik Range: This Range is a sharp formation of ridges rising abruptly out of the southern plains of Nepal, and is almost parallel to the Mahabharata Lekh on the northern belt. Their range, which runs all the way from northern India and extends throughout Nepla, has yielded the most interesting fossils hitherto unknown. Milions of years ago, strange animals, now extinct, used to roam about the area when the Siwalike range was still a lowland.
(3) The Mahabharata Lekh: The Mahabharata Lekh consists of a chain of rocky hills running from west to east through the country, forming a natural barrier. Rising up to 6000 feet above sea level, the Mahabharata Lekh consists of steep hills and dense forests with varieties of trees forming a defensive wall from the Indian plains.
(4) The Midlands: The Midlands of Nepal are the heart of the country protected by the Himalayan range in the north and the Mahabharata Lekh in the south. These regions lie between 2000 to 6000 feet above sea level and extend about 45 miles in width. The contours of the land are soft and picturesque with gentle rolling hills. The Midlands provide a congenial climate for the inhabitants. The Valley of Kathamandu, the capital city and the focal Nepal's history and heritage, also lies the heart of the Midlands and has the advantage of a variety of horticulture and agriculture because of its fertile soil.
(5) The Inner Himalayas: The Inner Himalayas consists of high mountainous valleys with fast flowing rivers which have created some of the deepest gorges in the world. Man lives up to a height of fourteen thousand feet above sea level. Beyond that are barren lands, conifers and alpine meadows, as well as arctic vegetation in the higher regions. Snow falls heavily during their homes and descend with their cattle to the lower regions where the winter is less severe.
(6) Trans-Himalayan Zone: The Trans-Himalayan zone is covered with chains of mountains and some of the highest peaks in the world, including Everest, Kanchanjunga, Lhotse, Makalu, Annapurna, Dhaulagiri, Gauri Shankar, and Ganesh Himal. The grandeur of the snow-capped giants is indeed bewildering and has evoked the awe and wonder of man since the drawn of man since the dawn of civilization. They have been referred to frequently in the Vedas, the oldest Hindu scriptures.
The size of the Kingdom of Nepal is small, but its ethnic variety is surprisingly great. Various ethnic groups and tribes live and speak their own dialects, although Nepali is now the national language. Besides the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas of Indo-Aryan origin, the major groups primarily belong to Mongoloid (non-Aryan) stock.
In this context, it would be interesting to note that in recent years, some new discoveries are shedding light on the evolution and early civilization of mankind.
The direct ancestor of man is believed to be the early fossil primate of Ramapithecus, fourteen million years old, discovered in Kenya, east Africa. Interestingly enough, a tooth of a hominoid Ramapithecus found in western Nepal near the Tinau River at the foot of the Siwalik Range a few years ago is believed to be the second oldest of its kind in the world. This shows that the Siwalik Range, which extends from Kashmir through Nepal, could possibly have been the original home of early man.
Mammal fossils, some sixteen million years old, of a rhinoceros and an extinct type of elephant, recently have been discovered not only in the Dang Valley of western Nepal, but also at the bank of the Kamala River in eastern Nepal, about one mile south of the Churia hills. These species were parts of the vast array of Pleistocene mammals that once roamed the areas that are now the lowlands of Nepal. The fossil evidence of the early man found in Nepal is indeed a very interesting discovery.
The first evidence of Stone Age sites in Nepal has recently come to light. The Stone Age tools discovered at these sites have shown close affinity to the Paleolithic tools of southeast Asia, attesting to the fact that the Stone Age man and his ancestors lived millions of years ago in the Siwalik Range.
Neolithic tools were also found in the following regions: Nawalparasi district of Lumbini Zone, Janakpur Zone, Morang district of Kosi Zone and also in the surrounding areas of the Kathmandu Valley. Very recently, Neolithic tools were discovered on the bank of the Rosi River in Jugu village near Panauti, as well as at Lubu on the southwest fringe of Lalitpur district. Our ancestors lived on hunting and fishing, roaming about and migrating in search of a congenial climate. They must have found the Valley of Kathmandu a suitable place with an ideal climate. Once dead, they joined their ancestors to live in a timeless world and at the same time continued to live in the memory of their descendants. Thus, ancestor worship originated and has continued ever since, even up to this day.
The people of Nepal may be divided into two main groups - the Indo-Aryans and the Mongoloids (non-Aryan stock). The Indo-Aryans seem to have migrated from the Gangetic plains of India a long time ago and settled here permanently. Brahmins belong to the priest class and rank highest in caste hierarchy. The Chhetries (Kshatriyas), who rank second to the Brahmins, are the warrior class. Other occupational castes lower than the Brahmins and Chhetris are Kami (blacksmith), Damai (tailor), Sunar (goldsmith) and Sarki (cobbler). People belonging to the Indo-Aryan race speak the Nepali national language.
The Mongoloid race belongs to the non-Aryan stock, which is divided into many ethnic groups such as Newar, Rai, Limbu, Tharu, Tamang, Gurung, Magar, Sunuwar, Thakali, Sherpa, etc. These ethnic groups are scattered all over the Kingdom of Nepal and speak their own dialects.
Among different tribal groups, there are three major ones in Nepal: the Tharus, the Jyapus and the Kiratis (Rais and Limbus). Their physiognomy is surprisingly similar. The Tharus, one of the ancient tribes, occupy the southern border of Nepal, while the Rais and Limbus live in the eastern districts of Nepal between the Kosi and the Arun rivers and claim to be the Kiratas. Distinct from the rest of the tribes are the jyapus of the Kathmandu Valley associated with the Newars. They are mostly farmers with a distinct ethnic character. The jyapus were most likely the earliest settlers of the Valley. Like the Tharus, they live in closely-knit groups with a strong sense of ethnic solidarity. Several indirect sources of evidence indicate that the ancestors of the Jyapus were the Kiratas of non-Aryan stock.
Among the Mongoloid race, the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley and environs have played a unique role in the history of Nepal. The Newars have excelled in all forms of craftsmanship and art work. They are mainly responsible for the architecture of the Valley. Examples of their unique contributions are the magnificent wood carving of temples, shrines, palaces and private houses. Among other art works, their bronze sculptures rank among the finest in the world. Thus, the Newars have achieved the highest level of culture among the people of Southeast Asia.
Religion of Nepal
Hinduism and Buddhism are the two main religions in Nepal. One of the most interesting features in Nepal is the coexistence of the two great religions; indeed, a rare example in world history. Both religions have flourished side by side in a harmonious atmosphere, even to this day.
Hindu religion was first evolved and developed in India about three and half thousand years ago. The earlist Indian literature, the Veda, refers to gods such as Indra (God of Sky and Storm), Agni (God of Fire), Surya (The Solar Deity), Varuna (God of Rain), Yama (God of Death), Vayu (God of Winds) and Rudra (God of Lightning). In course of time, however, many of the Vedic gods gradually lost their importance and were reduced to minor deities. The later development was the Hindu trinity: Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma, the creator; Vishnu, the preserver; and Shiva, the destroyer. Of the trinity, Vishnu and Shiva receive the most devotion.
Vishnu is one of the most popular deities in the Hindu pantheon. He is also identified with Surya, the Sun god; as he is related to the Solar Divinity, he is popularly known as Surya-Narayana. He is also represented as Sesasayi Vishnu; that is, Vishnu reclining on the serpent, symbolizing eternity.
Ten incarnations are attributed to Vishnu. Assuming different incarnations from time to time, he saved the world from various disasters when demons brought evil to the world. Most important among them are Trivikrama or Vamana (the dwarf), Narasimha (half- man and half-lion) and Varaha (the boar). In the Rigveda, it is said that the most important task of Vishnu was to take three steps (Trivikrama) traversing the universe. Sri-Lakshmi, consort of Vishnu, is one of the most popular female deities. She is worshipped as the goddess of fortune and wealth.
Shiva is the most popular Hindu god in Nepal and has many attributes and functions. He is believed to have created the world through his Cosmic Dance. He is the god of destruction and known as Rudra. He is the god of music, of knowledge and of love. He is also the Lord of the Animal World (Pashupati). The famous temple of Pashupatinath in Deo Patan is dedicated to him. He is known by various names, such as Mahadeva, Mahesvara, Shankara, Nilakantha, etc. He is worshipped in anthropomorphic as well as in linga (phallic) form, symbolizing his creative power. His abode is Mt. Kailasha in the Himalayas. He is often seen with his consort, Parvati, the daughter of the Himalayas, who is also known as Uma, the benevolent Universal Mother. As Durga Mahishamardini, she destroyed a demon embodied in a buffalo. She is the most popular of the female deities in Nepal and is worshipped by different names. She is known as shakti or Mother Goddess, the female counterpart of Shiva. Numerous temples and shrines are dedicated to her.
Mother cult is extremely popular among the Nepalese people. Mother worship is undoubtedly one of the most ancient cults in the world, whose antiquity goes back earlier than the Neolithic period. The discovery of numerous female terra-cotta figurines of Mother Goddess throw an interesting light on the beliefs of the people who lived thousands of years ago.
Until recently it was thought that the cult ofVishnu, Shiva and Mother Goddess was not prevalent before the 5th century A.D. in Nepal; however, a number of ancient sculptures of Vishnu, Shiva and Mother Goddess included in this book, and hitherto unknown to the previous writers, will clearly show that worship of the above mentioned divinities was quite popular during the early centuries of the Christian era. Details of these ancient icons will be discussed later.
Siddhartha Gautama, son of Sakya King, Suddhodana, was born in Lumbini, in the southern region of Nepal in the 6th century B.C., while his mother, Mayadevi, was on her way to her maternal home. Seven days after his birth, Mayadevi died and Prince Siddhartha Gautama was brought up at his father's palace in Kapilavastu, the capital city of the Sakyas. He spent a carefree youth until he became conscious of the fate of man by seeing human misery, 1 old age and death. He then renounced all worldly. 1 possessions and left his father's palace to become a 1 wandering mendicant. After years of meditation he attained Enlightenment; thus, he, became the Buddha or the Enlightened One. Having been born in the Sakya clan, he is called Sakyamuni Buddha or Gautama Buddha.
His teachings were simple. He preached the doctrine of Eightfold path. The ultimate goal was to achieve Nirvana, a release from suffering and rebirth.
Emperor Ashoka of Magadha became a great exponent of Buddhism. His capital was Pataliputra, the present-day Patna city of Bihar in India in the 3rd century B.C. In the ninth year of his reign (261 B.C.), he waged war against Kalinga and defeated the kingdom, but the horrors of war deeply shocked him; he then adopted Buddhism as his state religion. He spread Buddhism throughout the country and sent emissaries to foreign countries to propagate Buddha's teachings. He engraved numerous edicts on rocks and caves. He erected a number of pillars of polished sandstone with inscriptions. He visited Lumbini, where the Buddha was born, and erected a stone pillar in 249 B.C. to commemorate his visit to this holy place.
It is also said that Charumati, daughter of Ashoka, came to Kathmandu to preach Buddhism, married a Nepali prince named Devapala, and settled in Nepal. She ultimately set up a monastery and spent her life there. The name of Chabahil is said to be the corrupt form of Charumati vihara. Although no archaeological evidence has so far been found, it is likely that Buddhism was introduced in this mountainous country before the Licchavi dynasty was founded here.
Regarding the development of early Buddhist art in India, it should be noted that there was a succession of invasions from the northwest of India by Bactrians, Greeks, Parthians and Sakas, culminating in the establishment of the Kushana Empire about the 1st century A.D. The Kushanas were a branch of the Yuet-Chih tribe from the Central Asia, and Kanishka was their greatest ruler; he was also an ardent patron of Buddhism. The rise of the Kushana Empire constitutes a landmark in the cultural history of India.
After the 1st century A.D., Buddhism divided into two sects.Those who closely followed the teaching of the Buddha were known as Hinayanist (Hinayana: Lesser Vehicle). To them Buddha was a great ethical teacher, a jewel among men and a great reformer. But the other progressive group regarded the Buddha not only as a great teacher and reformer but also the highest being in the world - the supreme god. The followers of this doctrine were called Mahayanist (Mahayana: Greater Vehicle). Mahayana Buddhism had a concept different from the simple ethical creed. The Buddha was no longer a dead teacher but a living Saviour God. During the Kushana rule, Gandhara in the northwestern region of the Punjab became the great center of Buddhist art. With the introduction of Mahayana Buddhism, countless images of the Buddha and Bodhisattva were carved in Greco-Roman style. Contemporary to the Gandhara school was the Mathura school where the indigenous artists carved the Buddha images in Indian style. Thus, the appearance of the Buddha image marks the evolution in Buddhist iconography, and Mathura remained one of the great centers of Indian art. It must be noted that before Mahayana Buddhism was introduced, the Buddha was represented only through his symbols, relics and Jataka stories relating to his previous life.
Mahayana Buddhism also conceived the idea of Bodhisattva or Bodhisattva-Avalokitesvara in the early centuries of the Christian era. He is one of the most important divinities in the Mahayana Buddhism, assisting in the salvation of all living beings; he is also the all-seeing lord who watches over the world until Maitreya, the future Buddha, appears.
Mahayana Buddhism further evolved the concept of Vajrayana as early as the 7th century A.D. Vajra (thunderbolt) became the symbol of the Vajrayana cult, since the Buddha is credited to have shattered the demons with a thunderbolt. This doctrine further paved the way for the evolution of the Tantric cult, invoking elaborate rituals with mantras (magic spells), mudras (symbolic hand-gestures), kriyas (religious rites), charyas (ritual ceremonies), etc., as the means of obtaining divine grace. Not only these mystic symbols but also the sexual act, were conceived as important means of salvation. This was the most complex period in the religious history of Nepal because both the Buddhist-Tantric and Hindu-Tantric movements flourished side by side practicing the mystic cult of Tantra. The artists translated these mystic principles into visual experiences through sculptures and paintings. A Brief Outline of The History of Nepal
The dawn of Nepalese history being with the birth of Gautama Bhudda. He was born at Lumbini in the southern region of Nepal in the 6th century B.C. During the time of the time of the Buddha, there were sixteen republican states which rules the northern half the Indian subcontinent. We know from early history that Kapilavastu was the land of the Sakyas to which the Bhuddha belonged. It flourished along with other neighbouring republican states. Vaisali was the capital of the Licchavis and was the most powerful of the vijjian republic. In addition to the Licchavis of Vaisali, the Koliyas of Ramagrama (Gautama Buddha's maternal home), the Mallas of Pava, the Moriyas of Pippalivan and the Sakyas of Kapilavastu were included in the Vijjian republic.
Literary evidence shows that Nepal was already conducting trade with northern Indian at the time of the Buddha (B.C. 563-483). Mulasarvastivada Vinaya refers to a group of merchants proceeding towards Nepal with a large number of pilgrims. The word 'Nepal' was also mentioned in the Arthasastra of Kautilya, datable to 2nd century B.C. In addition, the household from palace included woollen blankets imported from 'Nepal' into the Magadha Empire.
According to tradition, Emperor Ashoka visited the Valley of Kathmandu into the 3rd century B.C. and founded the city of Patan by erecting four stupas. No epigraphical evidence, however, survives. The early history of Nepal presents colourful myths and legends, but there is no concrete evidence from which one can construct a chronological history of the Valley before the Licchavi dynasty.
The Vamsavalis (traditional chronicles of Nepalese kings) name a few dynasties such as the Gopalas and Kiratas that preceded the Licchavis. According to these chronicles, there were thirty-two Kirata kings who ruled the Valley for several centuries. These chronicles, written from the 14th century onwards, were intermixed with historical, mythological and legendary tales; hence, their authenticity as a historical source is very doubtful.
The history of Nepal takes a definite shape only from the 5th century A.D. with the inscription of Manadeva, dated A.D. 464 at Chagu Narayana Temple about 15 miles northeast of Kathmandu. From this date the history can be divided into four periods: Licchavi (A.D. 400-800), Thakuri (A.D. 880-1200), Malla (A.D. 1200-1769) and Shah (A.D. 1769 to the preent day).
As mentioned earlier, the Licchavis, Sakyas, Koliyas and Mallas belonged to republican status, at the time of the Buddha. Ajatasatru, king Magadha and contemporary of the Buddha, waged war against the Licchavis, destroyed their homes and annexed the republic of Vaisali (present Muzzafarpur district of Bihar in India) to his own kingdom. The Licchavis provably fled to the neighbouring states or took refuge in the foothills of the Himalayas to save themselves from the ruthless prosecution of Ajatasatru. The Sakyas of Kapilavastu suffered a similar fate when Virudhaka, son of Prasenajit, attacked and drove them out of their homelands. In all provbability, the Sakyas left Kapilavastu, their capity, and took shelter in the nearly foothills of the Himalayas. Nothing is known of the Licchavis, the Sakyas or the Mallas for a long time. But, after nine hundred years of oblivion, their names appear in the inscriptions of the Licchavi king, Manadeva of Nepal. In India, however, their names are mentioned on the coins of Chandra Gupta I (A.D. 320-335) a century earlier than in Nepal. Chandra Gupta is said have married a Licchavi princess named Kumara Devi, and this matrimonial alliance helped the Guptas to establish themselves in Magadha. His son and successor, Samudra Gupta, (ca.A.D. 336-375) left an inscription at Allahabad in India referring to the Licchavis in which he took pride in being called the grandson of the Licchavis. He also refereed to Nepal as his border kingdom; but this inscription does throw any light on the geographical location of the Lichavis nor is there any mention as to what happened to them or where they settled after they were driven out of their homelands.
Long before the migration of the Indo-Aryan people, the original settlers were living in the Valley of Kathmandu. In the early Lichavi inscriptions, almost all local names are of non-Aran origin. This linguistic evidence clearly shows that the Valley of Kathmandu was already occupied by ethic groups belonging to the Mongoloid race even before the arrival of the Licchavis, Sakyas, or other Indo- Aryan immigrants from the Gangetic plain. Most probably, these indigenous people were called the Kiratas.
The Kiratas were probably an ancient people of the Mongoloid race who were living in the foot hills of the Himalayas long before the arrival of Aryans. Various Mongoloid ethic groups lived from time immemorial in the areas of Kashmir, Nepal, Butan, Burma and beyond.
The Kiratas are mentioned in the Vedas and in the Indian epics: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. In the hymns of the Vedas, the Kiratas are referred to as people living in the forests and caves. In the Rajatarangini, the history of Kashmir, the Kiratas are mentioned to be primitive low-caste group which lived in the forests. In his Kumarasambhava, the great Indian poet Kalidasa described the Kiratas as people who lived beyond described in the foothills of the Himalayas.
'Kirata' is a Sanskrit word which means 'people who live on the borders'. They said to have lived in the forests and caves. When the Indo-Aryans began to spread throughout the Gangetic Valley and towards the foothills of the Himalayas, they seemed to have confronted the Kiratas who were living in a most primitive way. The Kiratas worshiped nature spirits and their own tutelary divinities and lived on hunting and fishing. Sanskrit literature alludes to the marksmanship of the Kiratas, who main weapons were bows and arrows. Even today, a number of small tribal groups still live in a similar manner in some remote areas of Nepal.
On historical evidence it can be surmised that Indo-Aryan people such as the Sakyas, Licchavis, Mallas, Koliyas and Abhiras were the earliest Indo-Aryan people to migrate and settle in the Valley of Kathmansu. As noted already, their names frequently occur in the inscriptions of the Licchavi period. It is a matter of conjecture as to which was the first Indo-Aryan group to penetrate the Valley of Kathmandu. A number of Licchavi inscriptions throw interesting throw interesting light on the aryl history of Kathmandu as well as on the Abhiras (Gptas) who played an important role from the very beginning. They appear to have acted at first as tribal heads or as feudal chiefs, and, later no, they occupied high positions in the administrative hierarchy. In the 7th century A.D., the political power was seized by the feudal Anhiras (Guptas), and one Vishnu Gupta became de facto rule while the puppet Licchavi king Bhimarjunadeva sat on the throne.
The origins of the Abhiras or Ahiras are obscure; however, they are said to be the Gopalas (cow herders) and were known to be nomadic people from the Mathura regions of India. If the chronicles of Nepal are t believed, the Gopalas were the first to establish themselves in the Valley of Kathmandu. It cannot be ruled out that they were among the earliest Indo-Aryans to migrate to the Valley. It is quite possible that these Indo-Aryans made their entry into the Valley in the fertile areas. It is quite natural that they had had their own colonies of Indo-Aryan groups. They brought with them their own priests and worshipped their ancestral divinities. Icons of Mother Goddess, Yaksha, Naga, Kubera, Vishnu and Shiva were worshipped. Obviously, the iconographical forms and traditions of India since the iconographiy as well as styles of early sculptures of the Valley were close to the ancient sculptures of India.
Small villages inhabited by indigenous people seem to have scattered around the undeveloped Valley. Few patches of land were cleared for cultiration and habitation. Our survey has established that the first settlements appear to have been in the areas of Balambu, Balkhu, Kirtipur, Patan, Pashupati and Hadigaon, in that all ancient sculpture predating the Licchavi period at these sites. Thus, the Valley became the homeland of new immigrants as well as centre for the Brahmanical cults.
The political history of the Valley during the early centuries of the Christian era is not knows. The social structure was perhaps based on tribal groups which formed a nucleus for settlement. In wake of religion, original settlers may have gradually absorbed the Brahmanical culture. Thus, a synthesis was created between the sophisticated culture of the immigrants and the tribal culture of the original inhabitants. Hoards of ancient sculpture found in the Valley of Kathmandu show that not only the worship of Mother Goddess, Solar Deities or Folk Divinities but also Shaiva and Vaishnava cults flourished side by side. It must be further noted that the recent discovery of a sculptural fragment in red stone from Mathura at the Hadigaon excavation clearly indicates that icons were brought for worship of cult deities from Mathura regions of India as early as the 1st-2nd century A.D.
There seems to have been some political chanfes at the beginning of the 4th century A.D. The distinct ethnic groups of the Valley apparently took control over the Indo—Aryan community, but this did not last for long. The Licchavis grew powerful and found their own dynasty. They soon began to expand their territory in the eastern as well as the western regions as far as the Gandaki River. However, it was only from the time of King Manadeva that coins and inscriptions were introduced. From this period onwards, the history of Nepal begins to a clear shapes.
It must be noted that the inscription of Manadeva at Changu Narayana, referred to above, gives a account of the situation which he had to face at the time of his father's death. When Rajyavati, mother of King Manadeva, was ready to commit sati (the ritual of burning herself with her husband his mother to change her mind. The inscription also mentions an uprising of the people of tee east which he eventually subdued; but it is not clear who rebelled against him. Furthermore, the inscription shows that there was another uprising at Mallapuri in the west. The young king sent this uncle with an army consisting of many elephants and horse towards Mallapuri. The king later joined his uncle to crush the rebellion and they returned victorious. This epigraphical record given an authentic account of the political situation when King Manadeva ascended the throne in the Valley Kathmandu.
Art & Culture (715)
Emperor & Queen (479)
Send as free online greeting card
Email a Friend