Introduction to Lichhavi Society

The Lichhavi Society was a dynamic Society with distinct Cultures and Traditions guided by the Varnashrama System. The Society was divided into castes based on occupation and social roles. The four main castes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras- all held roles according to their Caste.

The Major Aspects of the Lichhavi Society that must be researched and pondered upon are its caste divisions, diverse cultural practices, entertainment, education, architecture, the Guthi system, festivals, religious pluralism, and the role of women.

Features of Lichhavi Society

Caste Division: The Lichhavi society followed the Varnashram system. It classified people into different castes based on their occupations and Social Status. The four main castes were Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras.

Diverse Castes: There were many castes and tribes in the Lichhavi civilization. There were 18 recognized castes. A few members of these classes even possessed royal titles and positions of authority. A few received the title of Minister. The Lichhavi Society seemed to be dominated by the Bharo Castes.

Clothing and Adornments: Transparent clothing, patuka, and jewelry composed of pearls, crystals, mother-of-pearl, and amber are all mentioned in inscriptions and travelogues. Both men and women wore ornaments based on their financial status.

Entertainment: The Lichhavi Society engaged in multiple sources of Entertainment, such as bullfighting, wrestling, singing, dancing, and playing musical instruments. Some Sources claim that drinking and hunting were also common forms of amusement. Nonetheless, Religious Gatherings were important sources of Lichhavi Entertainment.

Education and Literature: In Lichhavi Society, both men and women had access to education, but men were exponentially prioritized. The Vedas and Dharmashastras were the mean and modes of Literature and Education. The official national language and the language that was spoken there was Sanskrit. It should be mentioned, nevertheless, that only the High Castes that were Economically Superior had access to privileged schooling. There is no single instance in any source of a typical Lichhavi society member actively pursuing education. Despite this, Kings and other Royal Family members received excellent education using a multidisciplinary approach.

Scholarly Kings: The Lichhavi period had kings who respected scholars themselves. Scholars such as Anuparam, Bharavi, Buddhakirti, and Buddhaswami gained recognition during this era. King Amsuverma‘s book ‘Shabda Vidya’ gained fame within Nepal and abroad. Kings were expected to be highly educated in the Shastras as well.

Joint Family System: Several family members shared a single home under the joint family system used by Lichhavi civilization. When it first started, the family as a whole would suffer the consequences of a criminal member. But over time, this approach was modified such that only the perpetrators faced consequences. The Joint Family System was established to facilitate livelihoods centered on agriculture and animal husbandry.

Patriarchal Society: Lichhavi society was patriarchal in nature, with the eldest member of the family receiving respect and authority. The political and economic privileges of Women were much more limited in this Era. Men were dominant in Nepal’s political circles at the time.

Dietary Habits: The staple foods in Lichhavi society were rice and wheat. They also consumed fish, meat, and fruits in substantial quantities. Livestock such as cows, buffaloes, sheep, goats, chickens, and pigs were reared for milk, food, and trade. Sheep’s wool was used to export meat to domestic and international markets.

Architecture: Nepal achieved great success in the realm of architecture during the Lichhavi dynasty. Lichhavi inscriptions often refer to structures of note, such Managriha, Kailashkut Bhavan, and Bhadradhivas Bhavan. Among them, Kailashkut Bhavan, constructed by Amsuverma, gained more recognition than Managriha Bhavan, built by Manadeva I, and Bhadradhivas Bhavan, built by Narendradeva.

Guthi in Lichhavi Society

The Guthi System, known as Gosthi, was established during the Lichhavi Era to carry out Social and Religious Activities. The Types of Guthi’s that existed in Lichhavi Society are:

  1. Pradeep Goshti was responsible for arranging the lights.
  2. The Paniya Goshti focused on organizing water supply and maintaining streams, wells, and irrigation systems.
  3. The Brahmin Goshti was dedicated to the welfare and safety of Brahmins.
  4. The Pravahan Goshti arranged transportation arrangements.
  5. The Vadintra Goshti took care of instruments for special ceremonies and festivals.
  6. The Archa Goshti was involved in idol-making and worship.
  7. Dhwaja Goshti organized the flags for special ceremonies and celebrations.
  8. The Dhoop Goshti arranged the incense for specific types of worship.
  9. Indra Goshti organized worship for Indra, the god of rain.
  10. The Taitiriya Shakha Goshti focused on the study and teaching of Vedas.
  11. Arogyashala was established to protect public health.

Guthi consisted of local people and trusted men who had to fulfill certain duties such as conferring food and money, donating certain lands, and regulating the usage of land.

Festivals of Lichhavi Society

During the Lichhavi Dynasty, people celebrated and enjoyed various festivals. Some of the main festivals during that time were Shashti Puja, Dashami Puja, Varaha Yatra, Kailash Yatra, Shobhan Yatra, and Dwarodghatan Yatra.

Shashti Puja was observed on the full moon day of the Jyeshtha month. Amsuverma’s Handigaon records mention Shashti Puja. The celebration called Sithinakh in the Newar society is believed to be a form of Shashti Puja from the Lichhavi period.

Dashami Puja was mentioned in an inscription from Patan Chaisal village. The inscription refers to a gathering called ‘Narayan Kul Dashami Gosthi,’ indicating that a gathering was organized to worship Narayan on Dashami day.

Kailash Yatra is mentioned in the joint Inscriptions of Shivadeva I and Amsuverma in Khopasi, which was organized in devotion to Lord Pashupatinath.

The Pashupati Umbrella Offering, or the Shobhayana Yatra, is mentioned in the Inscriptions of King Shivadeva II during the Lichhavi period. It was a festival where umbrellas were offered to Lord Pashupati.

Dwarodghatan Yatra is mentioned in Lichhavi period inscriptions alongside Kailash Yatra. It was organized to inaugurate a special door or entrance for a religious festival.

Religion of Lichhavi Society

The Lichhavi Society, with the evidence we have uncovered, was a religious tolerant Society with the practice of Multiple Religious and Hindu Sects, such as Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Pashupat, Shakta, and Buddhism.

The first king of the Lichhavi Dynasty, Manadeva, followed the Vaishnava religion. He celebrated the victory of Mallapuri by worshiping Vishnu with grandeur. Rajyavati supported him in this endeavour, and together, they built the statues of Trivikram in Tilganga and Lajimpat as a tribute to the Changunarayan Temple.

After Vaishnavism, Shaivism emerged as the next popular religion. Although Manadeva himself was a Vaishnava, his two queens, Kshemasundari and Gunavati, followed Shaivism. Amsuverma, another king of the dynasty, was also a Shaivite. To showcase his devotion to Shaivism, he referred to himself as “Bhagvatpashupati.”

Bhattarak and others recognized his devotion and inscribed the title on top of the bull picture. Bhimarjundeva, Vishnu Gupta, Narendradeva, and Shivadeva II, also part of the dynasty, believed in Shaivism. Pashupat was followed by Narendradeva and ordered the feeding of its followers and Brahmins during the worship of Vajreshwar Mahadev.

Buddhism had already entered Nepal before the Lichhavi period. King Shivadeva I, according to some Historians, is said to have abdicated his throne to retire and follow Buddhism. King Vrishadeva, three generations before Manadev I, was also a Buddhist and is believed to have established chaityas. Despite being a Shaivite, Amsuverma showed great respect for Buddhism. He had the Dharma Chakra and two deer placed on top of the first record of his reign.

Buddhism in Nepal consisted of two main sects, Hinayana and Mahayana. Hinayana was an ancient form of Buddhism that did not involve rituals or idol worship. On the other hand, followers of Mahayana practiced rituals and idol worship.

Position of Women in Lichhavi Society

Women held a high and respected position during the Lichhavi period in Nepal. Rajyavati, Bhogini, Kshemsundari, Gunavati, Vijayavati, Bharavi, and Jayasundari were continuously mentioned in the Inscriptions of the Lichhavi Period. Rajyavati was involved in the Lichhavi Administration and represented her son Manadeva in his absence.

Manadeva honoured his mother by keeping her as an assistant and not allowing her to practice Sati. He also bestowed a prestigious position upon his Badamaharani Bhogini, inscribing her name as the Great Empress on his currency.

Vijayavati, the daughter of Manadeva, was praised for her artistic skills in the Suryaghat Inscription.

The practice of Sati during that time is uncertain since there is no mention of it in the inscriptions or historical materials.

Although Rajyavati expressed her desire to practice Sati after her husband’s death, she chose to remain in Sativrat. Therefore, it may not have been a compulsion.

Since the society was patriarchal, women sought the approval of their husbands or sons before engaging in religious activities. Aviri Gomini, the mother of Bhauma Gupta, sought her son’s permission to establish a Shivlinga in honor of her late husband Anuparam.

Polygamy was common during the Lichhavi period, with men having multiple wives. King Manadeva himself had three queens. Women had the freedom to remarry, whether due to widowhood, divorce, or other reasons. However, society viewed women who abandoned one husband and chose another with disapproval.


The Lichhavi Society was primarily guided by the Varnashram System and predominantly Hindu in practice. The Lichhavi Kings promoted all religious and were Religiously Tolerant. Because of the presence of Inscriptions and Travelogues with no other Evidence, other details cannot be put forward.