Who Are Kirati Mongolians?

Many tribes, who are inhabitants of the Eastern Nepalese Highlands, namely Sunwars, Khambus or Rais. Yakkhas or Dewans. Yakthumbas or Limbus, Rongpas or Lepchas etc identify themselves as Kiratis. Koches, Meches, Kacharis, Tripuris and Bodo tribes from the adjacent territories of neighbouring India too claim to be Kirati and one common denominator in their claim is that they all are distinctly Mongolians.

Ancient Hindu literature mentions the presence of Kirati to be the original populace inhabiting the southern slopes of the Himalayas but does not qualify their identity in any greater details. Siva Puran contains a reference that the Hindu god Siwa (Siva) appears to his devotees in the form of a Kirati hunter.

Manu Smriti, the Hindu Code Book however, makes a categoric mention that the Kiratis donot follow brahminic instructions and hence are recognized as Sudras, Manu Smriti Chapter 10, verses 43 and 44. Based on this authority, the Gurkhas of India have now been categorized as Scheduled Tribe, or outside the Brahminic mould.

As far as the tribal identity goes, Kirati-Mongolians must necessarily include entire population of Nepal who bear Mongolian features, that is to say, Magar, Pun, Gurung, Tamang, Thakuri, Tharu, Newar, Sakya, Sherpa, Sunwar, Rai or Jimdar, Yakkha or Dewan, Limbu or Subba or Yakthumba, Lapche or Lepcha and so on.

Woodcut picture, of Agam Singha Rai: Courtesy Brian Hodgson Esq, op cit, (ref: Francis Buchanan Hamilton in An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal, page 2, 54 etc). This picture has a historical significance as it happens to be the first ever picture of a Nepaulian (that is how they had spelt the word then) the Western World had seen of a  Kirati-Mongolian. Secondly and more importantly, that Agam Singha had kept the manuscript of Gita described just above tucked in his “patuka” (cummerbund) when he had arrived at Fort William in 1773 A.D.

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