Pre-History Nepal

Introduction to Pre-History Nepal

Nepal’s ancient history spans thousands of years and is characterized by geographical features like mountains and water sources. In the distant past, Nepal was covered by the Tethys Ocean, which dominated Eurasia.

After the Bronze Age, civilization began to take root in Nepal. However, evidence from this prehistoric period is scarce, and various myths attempt to explain the evolution of Nepal. The Gopal Raja Bansawali mentions the rule of Gopalas from India, followed by the Mahispal Dynasty and the Kirat Dynasty as the ruling powers of pre-historic Nepal.

The general prehistoric period of Nepal is considered to have lasted from an infinite time to 464 A.D. It was in 464 A.D. that King Manadeva made history by inscribing the Changunarayan Inscription following a military victory, becoming the first known King of Nepal to record his rule.

According to the Swayambhu Purana, Nepal witnessed the visits of Seven Buddhas until the Kali Yuga. Subsequently, Lord Krishna defeated the monstrous Danasur and brought Gopalas, or cow herders, who ruled Nepal for 521 years. After that, the Mahispal Dynasty, or buffalo herders, ruled for 161 years.

Finally, the Kirat Dynasty, led by King Yala or Yalamber, overthrew the Mahispal Dynasty, and 32 Kirat Kings ruled Nepal for 1963 years. Information about these reigns and rulers has been derived from Gopal Raja Bansawali, Kirkpatrick’s Chronicle, and Daniel Wright’s Chronicle.

Geographically, the Kathmandu Valley was suitable for agriculture, but its isolation from the rest of the Indian Sub-Continent was due to the presence of large hills and mountains. While no fossils of human ancestors have been found in the Kathmandu Valley, the discovery of Ramapithecus fossils dating back millions of years near the Tinau River in the Siwalik Hill Range adds to Nepal’s ancient history.

Nonetheless, many historians argue that Nepal’s history goes back to immeasurable times. They often refer to the Satya Yuga, Lord Shiva, Ramayana, Mahabharata, and other materials that lack factual evidence. Nepal is a country with an Ancient History although we don’t have significant evidence to ascertain it.

Pre-Historic Figures of Nepal

The Svayambhu Purana is an ancient text of great significance that has undergone editing and rewriting to reach its present form. It holds valuable information about the arrival of seven Buddhas in Nepal in different Yugas, each contributing to the spiritual heritage of the land. They are the important Individuals that arrived in Nepal in its Pre-Historic Period.

1. Vipaswi Buddha

In the past, Nepal was adorned with a beautiful lake called Taodhanahrada, surrounded by majestic mountains and lush forests. Vipaswi Buddha, a wise teacher, visited this sacred place along with his devoted followers. Observing the lake, he noticed the absence of one particular flower – the lotus.

Filled with foresight, Vipaswi planted a lotus root in the lake, predicting the future bloom of a magnificent lotus with a thousand petals. Moreover, he prophesied the emergence of a holy hill in the region, known by different names at different Yugas. This place would become of great significance for Buddhas and seekers of spiritual enlightenment.

2. Sikhi Buddha

Following the era of Vipaswi Buddha, Sikhi Buddha became the next luminary in the lineage of Buddhas. He resided in a place called Aruna, where he diligently preached to his disciples. During one of his discourses, the earth trembled, causing concern among his followers.

In response to their worries, Sikhi Buddha explained that on the northern Himalayan peak, a wondrous lotus with a thousand petals had bloomed, radiating divine light. Even gods and the celestial serpent, Sesa Naga, paid homage to it. Intrigued by the revelation, Sikhi Buddha and his disciples set out to visit the holy lake, where they engaged in deep meditation, eventually merging with the divine realm to attain immediate Enlightenment.

3. Viswabhu Buddha

Following Sikhi Buddha’s time, Viswabhu Buddha emerged to protect and guide all sentient beings. One of his notable disciples was Parvota Bodhisattva, who would later be reborn as the renowned Sakyamuni Buddha. Viswabhu diligently taught the Buddha Dharma to his followers.

When his devoted disciples expressed a desire to embark on a pilgrimage to Svayambhu Dharmadhatu (Svayambhunath Temple), Viswabhu happily consented and led the journey to the Nepal Valley. During this pilgrimage, he prophesied that a Bodhisattva from Mahachin would arrive in Nepal and make the land habitable by draining the lake.

4. Bodhisattva Manjushri

Bodhisattva Manjushri, while meditating on the Panchasirsa Parvutaa mountain in China, became aware of the holy Nepal Valley and its sacred place, Svayambhu Dharmadhatu. Intrigued by its significance, he decided to embark on a journey to Nepal, accompanied by his two wives, Kesini and Upakesni, as well as his revered sword, Chandahasa, and sacred book, Prajna.

Upon arriving in Nepal, Manjushri was captivated by the ethereal flame of Svayambhu Dharmadhatu. He perceived that by draining the lake Nagavasahrada, the holy place would become more accessible and the valley itself habitable for people.

With his mighty sword, Manjushri cleft the hill, causing the waters to recede, and bravely confronted a formidable demon, emerging victorious. As a result of his actions, the once barren valley transformed into a fertile land, and Manjushri discovered the lotus root at Guhyeswari, a symbol of auspiciousness for the future.

5. Krakucchanda Buddha

Krakucchanda Buddha appeared on Earth after Visvabhu Tathagata’s time. He lived in Ksemavati during the Treta Yuga. Krakucchanda visited the Nepal Valley to pay homage to Khagnana, Svayambhu Dharmadhatu, and the shrine of Manjushri. He stayed on Vajrakuta Parvata and later moved to Sankha Parvata in the north of the valley.

6. Kanakamuni Buddha

Kanakamuni Buddha was the fifth Buddha born on Earth to protect all living beings. He resided in Swabhavati Nagar. His disciple Sudharmarajni Bodhisattva would later be reborn as Sakyamuni Buddha. Dharma Sri Mitra sought answers from Manjushri Bodhisattva and met him in Nepal.

7. Kasyapa Buddha

Kasyapa Buddha was the sixth Buddha born on Earth, living in Mrigadava during the beginning of the Dwapar Yuga. Manjushri Bodhisattva, as Manjudeva, lived on Vajrakuta Parvata with his wives. Later, he left his physical body and Kasyapa Buddha visited Nepal.

8. Sakyamuni Buddha

Sakyamuni Gautama Buddha, the seventh Buddha, was born in the Kingdom of Kapilavastu. After attaining Enlightenment, he traveled to the Nepal Valley with his disciples, including Maitreya Bodhisattva. He taught his disciples about Buddha Dharma and shared stories of previous Buddhas and valley legends. The locals sought his guidance for fertility, prosperity, and rainfall, and he provided teachings for their well-being before leaving Nepal.

Who was Dharmakar?

Dharmakar is often referred to as the first King of Nepal, but his identity remains mysterious and lacks substantial evidence. According to Daniel Wright’s “History of Nepal,” Manjushree Bodhisattva made Dharmakar the King of Kathmandu Valley and Nepal after making the land habitable by removing snakes. He is said to have established towns and cities in Nepal. However, more evidence is needed to substantiate these events.

Gopal Dynasty

The Gopals came to Nepal from West India, following the path of the Gandaki River. They settled in the Kathmandu Valley, engaging in agriculture and animal husbandry. Gopal means “Cow Herder” or “Servant of the Lands.”

Origin of the Gopal Dynasty

According to the Gopal Raja Bansawali, a cow named Brahuri played a pivotal role in the emergence of the Gopal Dynasty. This cow always traveled near the Bagmati River, offering her milk. The Gopals witnessed an extraordinary event when Pashupati Bhattarak emerged from the cow. As a result, the Gopals became the first rulers of Nepal. Some accounts suggest that after the death of the Gopal Sardar due to the incident, Ne Muni made the son of the Sardar the King of Nepal.

Kings of the Gopal Dynasty

According to the Gopal Raja Bansawali, eight kings ruled Nepal during the Gopal Dynasty’s reign, which lasted for a period of 505 years. The last king, Jita Gupta, ruled for 71 years, while the first king, Bhumi Gupta, ruled for 86 years.

No.KingsYears
1Bhumi Gupta86 Years
2Dharma Gupta91 Years
3Bhim Gupta34 Years
4Bishnu Gupta46 Years
5Jaya Gupta73 Years
6Harsha Gupta67 Years
7Mani Gupta37 Years
8Jita Gupta71 Years
Kings of Gopal Dynasty

Features of the Gopal Dynasty

The Gopal Dynasty held some distinguishing features:

  1. Capital City: The capital city of the Gopal Dynasty is believed to have been Mata Tirth, situated 4 miles southwest of Kathmandu.
  2. Main Occupations: Agriculture and Animal Husbandry were the primary livelihoods during their rule.
  3. State System: The state system during the Gopal Dynasty was tribal and unmanaged, possibly akin to primitive communism. The governance system followed was monarchial.
  4. Territory: The borders of Nepal during the Gopal Dynasty are thought to have extended from Dudh Koshi in the East to Chitlang in the South. The Gopals lived in various places like Kirtipur, Thankot, Changu, Sakhu, Balambu, among others.
  5. Significance of Pashupatinath: Pashupatinath evolved as a significant religious site during the reign of the Gopal Dynasty.

Mahispal Dynasty

The Mahispal Dynasty arrived in Nepal from the Madhya Pradesh Region of Modern India. They belonged to the Abhir Rajput families of India and were known as “Buffalo Herders.” The civilization of the Mahispal Dynasty shared similarities with the Gopal Dynasty.

Origin of the Mahispal Dynasty

 According to the Gopal Raja Bansawali, the Mahispal Dynasty became the ruler of Nepal by defeating the Gopal Dynasty. Another account suggests that the last king of the Gopal Dynasty was childless, leading Mahispal King Bar Singh to lay claim to the throne in Kathmandu and become the King of Nepal. However, historians have differing opinions as no evidence exists to support either claim.

Kings of the Mahispal Dynasty

The Mahispal Dynasty was ruled by three kings for a total of 161 years, as mentioned in the Gopal Raja Bansawali. Bar Singh was the first king and ruled Nepal for 49 years, while Bhuwan Singh was the last king and ruled for 41 years.

No.KingsYears
1Bar Singh49 Years
2Jaya Singh71 Years
3Bhuwan Singh41 Years
Kings of Mahispal Dynasty

Features of the Mahispal Dynasty

The Mahispal Dynasty had features similar to those of the Gopal Dynasty:

  1. Capital City: The capital city of the Mahispal Dynasty was Mata Tirtha, similar to the Gopal Dynasty.
  2. Governance: They followed the Monarchial System of Governance.
  3. Religion and Borders: The Mahispal Dynasty shared similar religions and lived in comparable regions with similar borders to the Gopal Dynasty.

Kirat Dynasty

Introduction to Kirat Dynasty

The Kirat Dynasty is the third dynasty and the first historically known ruler of Nepal. They are believed to have ruled from 700 B.C. to 300 A.D. Unlike the previous Gopal and Mahispal dynasties, the Kirat rulers introduced a formalized governance system with administrative posts and laws. The enigmatic King Yalamber played a crucial role in establishing the Kirat Dynasty in Nepal.

Origin of the Kirat Dynasty

The Kirat Dynasty is said to have migrated from the Eastern and Central Western regions of Nepal to the Kathmandu Valley. Accounts differ on how they became the rulers of Nepal. Some sources mention that they defeated the Gopal and Mahispal dynasties, while others suggest they conquered the Abhir Mahispals from the East. The Kirat Dynasty’s beginnings likely emerged after their victory over the Mahispal Dynasty.

Kings of Kirat Dynasty

1. King Yalambar

According to the Gopal Raja Bansawali, King Yalambar, also known as Yalambar Hang, was the founder of the Kirat Dynasty in Nepal. He is the most renowned Kirat king and is credited with defeating the Mahispal Dynasty to establish a settled civilization in Nepal. The mask celebrated in Indra Jatra is said to represent King Yalamber himself.

2. King Humati

The Gopal Raja Bansawali lists King Humati or Humatihang as the seventh Kirat king, while the Wright Chronicles consider him the sixth. Legends suggest that King Humati participated in the epic war of Mahabharata, although no physical evidence supports this claim. Some accounts state that he died in the war, and his son became the new king, while others claim he returned victorious.

3. King Jitedasti

According to the Wright Chronicles, King Jitedasti, also known as Dasti, was the son of King Humati and the seventh Kirat King of Nepal. It is said that Buddha traveled to Nepal during his reign, but no evidence supports this claim. Other chronicles mention his participation in the War of Mahabharata after the death of his father, Humati Hang.

4. King Sthunko

King Sthunko, the sixteenth Kirat King of Nepal, is associated with a claim that Emperor Ashoka and his daughter Charumati visited Nepal after Lumbini. Allegedly, Charumati married a Chhetri named Devapal, and a Vihar was built in her name, giving rise to the place called Chabahil. However, due to the lack of evidence, historians dismiss this claim.

5. King Gasti

King Gasti was the last Kirat King in Nepal, and according to the Wright Chronicles, he was defeated by the Lichhavi Dynasty. However, the Gopal Raja Bansawali mentions Khiguhang as the last king, who may have ruled until 300 A.D., as some historians propose.

The Fall of the Kirat Dynasty

The Kirat Dynasty, under its last king, faced defeat at the hands of the Lichhavi Dynasty, but the circumstances of the defeat are controversial. Historians argue that a fierce war occurred between the Kirats and Lichhavis, resulting in the Kirat’s defeat, with 800 Kirat soldiers losing their lives in Chyasal. Rishikesh Shah attributes the fall of the Kirat Dynasty to their humble and reciprocal nature, which was exploited by the Lichhavi Dynasty.

Mithila Kingdom

Rise of Mithila Kingdom

The Mithila Region was once covered with dense forests and muddy swamps. As the land became suitable for civilization, the Mithila Kingdom was formed under the rule of King Madhav Videha. Some historians believe that Nimi was the first king, and Mithi became king after whom Mithila was named. The kingdom used the epithet “Janak,” meaning “The Paternal Monarch of the Nation.”

Mithila Kingdom flourished around 6000 years ago and lasted until approximately 600 B.C., boasting more than 10 thousand villages and being known for trade.

End of Mithila Kingdom

The general consensus among historians is that Mahabanshi was the last king of Mithila Kingdom. His despotic and autocratic behavior made him unpopular, and he met a grim fate after assaulting an unmarried Brahmin woman. Subsequently, his family was deposed from the throne, and Mithila shifted to a democratic system. The kingdom gradually crumbled and fell around 500 B.C.

Kapilvastu Kingdom

Rise of Kapilvastu Kingdom

According to the Digdanayaka Scriptures, the Kapilvastu Kingdom was established by royal princes and princesses who were exiled by the Koshal Kingdom. Sage Kapil recognized their royalty and allowed them to settle in a forest full of Shak trees. The civilization rapidly grew, and Kapilvastu Kingdom was founded on the banks of the Bhagirathi River. At its peak, some sources claim it had eighty thousand families.

Fall of Kapilvastu Kingdom

Buddhist scriptures attribute the downfall of the Kapilvastu Kingdom to its unstable relationship with the neighboring Koshal Kingdom, which was more powerful. King Biruddhak, offended by Kapilvastu, sought revenge despite the negotiation attempt made by Gautam Buddha himself. The kingdom’s demise occurred around 500 B.C., approximately 2500 years ago.

Legacy of Kapilvastu Kingdom

Two and a half centuries later, Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya Kingdom erected a pillar, stating that Gautam Buddha was born in the place of Kapilvastu. A thousand years later, Chinese traveler Hiuen Tsang mentioned that Kapilvastu, the birthplace of Buddha, had become a dry and barren land.

Conclusion

To Conclude, the Pre-History of Nepal is filled with Myths, Stories, and Legends. The Kirat Dynasty rose and became Powerful within this Period. Kapilvastu and Mithila Region of Nepal flourished, developed, and fell during the Pre-Historic Period of Nepal. Hence, it has special importance in the Context of Nepal.