Photo: Courtesy Mari Kirjavainen

According to pre-brahminic tradition of the Kirati-Mongolians, Kathmandu Valley used to be a lake known as Naag Baas, the abode of serpent-god, Baasuki Naag. Covered with water lilies, it used to be frequented by gods and goddesses, the emerald lake itself was a symbol of tranquil felicity.

Aeon passed, then one day Manjusri, the Celestial Architect accompanied by multitude of his devotees and followers arrived at the lake. He circumambulated the lake and having espied its sacred nature, struck at its southern end to let the lake drain out dry by River Bagmati, as we know today.

Manjusri is thus depicted in all Nepalese icons as one seated upon a lotus flower with his right arm holding a sword raised in anticipation of the strike which drained off the lake Naag Baas. Studying the layers of alluvial soil at the floor of Kathmandu Valley, geologists agree that it could indeed have been the floor of a lake and if River Bagmati could somehow be stopped at its point of exit, Kathmandu Valley would once again be restored to its pristine lake form in total agreement with the Kirati legend.

Kathmandu Valley floor soon dried up and thus in a symbolic act of creation Manjusri created and gave the habitable land to his followers to lead a settled life. Kiratis are believed to be the people, according to the oral tradition, who have inherited the Valley from their Guardian Deity, Manjusri.

Manjusri is a pre-brahminic Nepalese god, for there were no brahmins in Nepal and Manjusri is totally unknown in Hindu India.  But he is worshipped also in a place far far away, in the Isle of Bali where they consider Manjusri to be an embodiment of Hindu trinity, Brahma, Bisnu (Visnu) and Mahes rolled into one.

In substantiation of my dissertation that the forebears of South-East Asians had immigrated in a great volkrwanderungen from Nepal and the Gangetic Plains, Manjusri of the Balinese thus becomes the sheet anchor.

Sketch: Courtesy Author.

All was emptiness or void, according to Swayambhu Puran, in the beginning and in the emptiness was manifest the ‘light’ and the source of light was the word ‘AUM’. The word became the written word, the letters A, U and M becoming the seed of the universe. When nothing else was Swayambhu or the Self-Existent was, he was before all, the Primordial Source of Light, he was Adi-Buddha.

Having created dry land for his followers to lead a settled life, Manjusri went on to establish the Temple of Swayambhunath, which many of his adherents believe is the same one that stands there in Kathmandu Valley today. It was the first temple ever to be built and it belonged to the Kiratis. However, the brahminic elements have begun to call it Monkey Temple due more to ignorance than acrimony.

The unique architecture of Swayambhunath Temple calls for some edification: its hemispherical base represents the visible universe upon which sits a cube with All Seeing Eyes of Adi-Buddha keeping a watch over the created world; the thirteen tier pyramid represents the Thirteen Bhuwans or heavens and the umbrella finial on top of them all is the Agnishtha Bhuwan, the abode of the Adi-Buddha. This must comfort the believers all over the world that according to Nepalese dispensation, all sentient beings sincerely searching for heaven will be able to find one.

This temple was pretty well known in the days of the Buddha and according to the Swayambhu Puran, soon after his Enlightenment the Buddha came to Kathmandu to offer worship at Swayambhunath. Bungsawali corroborates this account that the Buddha arrived in the Kiratdom of Kathmandu when Jite Dasti was the reigning monarch and converted the king and his subjects to the path of Four Noble Truths.

King Jite Dasti however, decreed that his subjects had the freedom to continue to follow their traditional god Paru Hang (Siwa) while following the Four Noble Path thus ushering in the graceful living of either as Buddha-Margi (Followers of the Buddha) or Siwa-Margi (Followers of Siwa) which is very much visible and is actively practiced in pre-brahminic culture of Nepal.

Photo: Courtesy Ms Ambika Sijapati in Nepal ko Itihas.

After draining out the lake in a symbolic creation of dry land to let his people lead a settled life Manjusri ordained Yellung Hang, sometimes spelled as Yellumber, to be the first King of Kiratdom of Kathmandu.

There were no brahmins in Kiratdom and Yellung Hang therefore was also their priest. In those far off days, when the citizens were still hunter gatherers, their god too was not a distant god but the one who shared their daily pace of life. Paru Hang, their tribal god, would often appear amidst them attired in the guise of a hunter, armed with a bow and arrows and carrying a trident. The name of their god was too sacred to be pronounced, and they simply called him Paru Hang, or the Lord of Paru.

Later, when the brahmins accepted Paru Hang as their own god, he would be named as Maha Deo, or the Great Lord, but somehow retained his visual identity of a Kirati hunter and is still so.

Yellung Hang was a pious man of virtue and would be seen walking in the company of their god Paru Hang. Whenever need arose, Yellung Hang would routinely walk off to Paru to confer with their god, on matters concerning his subject’s welfare.

Nevertheless, Yellung Hang’s such acts of benevolence affected his subjects quite contrarily as they feared that their Hang would not return from Paru once he sees how ungodly they had become. So, they fashioned an image of their Hang leaving his feet unsculpted to deny him that option as we can see in this icon of 3rd Century B.C,.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Following his Master’s footsteps, Ashok had arrived in Kathmandu in the year 291 B.C. to offer worship at Swayambhunath when King Sthunko was the reigning monarch of the Kiratdom of Kathmandu. This event is recorded in the Swayambhu Puran as well as various Bungsawali of the Kiratis.

It is a historical event and also recorded in these treatises that Ashok had given his daughter Charumati in marriage to a Kirati nobleman of Kathmandu which some pseudo-historians have tried to distort history by identifying Ashok’s son-in-law to be a Rajput. The word Rajput was actually coined fifteen hundred years later during the period when oppressive Moslem rulers of Hindustan were ruthlessly subjugating the Hindus and the Hindu Kings were trying to encourage their subjects to stand up and fight by calling them ‘Rajput’ or royal progenies, sons of the king. Additionally, there were no brahmins in Kiratland during the time of the Buddha and Ashok.

Soon after his pilgrimage to Kathmandu, Ashok went to Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha and had got a stone pillar erected there. The pillar is extant till today and the date engraved on the pillar helps us to determine the itinerary of the royal visitor.

After returning to his capital city, Ashok decided to erect a replica of Swayambhunath of Kathmandu and having determined the geographical central place of his realm had a magnificent edifice erected at Sanchi. About five centuries later however, the Swayambhunath of Sanchi was abandoned as Hinduism supplanted Buddhism in India and it lost not only royal patronage but mass of worshippers as well.

Nevertheless, even after some fifteen centuries of abandonment and neglect, it is yet possible to imagine that the ruins of Sanchi could yet regain its lost magnificence, if only its superstructure could be replaced.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia.

Inauguration of Swayambhunath of Sanchi was a great occasion, a national holiday. Ashok’s arrival to the inauguration of the temple by an open chariot followed by the royal household by elephant carriages have been vividly recorded with great artistic refinement on the outer railings that surround the great Swayambhunath Temple of Sanchi. There are four gates opening to the four cardinal directions to facilitate the mass of devotees circumambulate the great edifice clockwise and the entire railings are adorned with numerous scenes of the devotees worshipping the Buddha.
Here in Sanchi, we can see the layout of the temple precisely in the manner of the original temple of Kathmandu.

It becomes very clear that during Ashok’s reign the Buddha was not yet deified and the devotees worshipped him in various iconic forms, such as the Bodhi Tree, or the tree under which the Buddha attained Enlightenment; the Wheel of Life, the Buddha’s first sermon is known to the devotees as the Buddha turning the wheel of life. Ashok himself had chosen the Lion of the Sakyas as his object of veneration.

The stone carvings on the railings are a panorama of activities of Ashokan subjects frozen in time; they are executed with great skill and precision. Evidently clear from the numerous portrayals on the railings is one single fact that the entire population depicted on the railings, which obviously were Ashok’s subjects and including Ashok himself were ethnic Mongolians.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Many forms of written scripts are known to have existed in various parts of the world even before historical age had begun and Pali can be identified as the oldest of them all. The very nature of written Pali itself demonstrates its antiquity for it is very concise in form and there appears less emphasis on correctness of spellings. What impresses modern scholars however, is the enormous volumes of written Pali manuscripts that have been discovered emphasizing the fact that all original canonical texts of Buddhism were written in Pali centuries before the Christian era.

The word Pali itself needs an introduction. The Buddha lived and taught the doctrine of Four Noble Truths in Pali language for it was the lingua franca of his days and even in Ashok’s time, it was the only language known to have existed. Since the rules of spelling were not codified during those days the word Pali itself is the inaccurate rendition of the word Nepali. It is worth noting here that any Nepali reader will be able to read and understand much of Pali literature.

We know for certain that since the Buddha as well as his famous disciple Ashok had made pilgrimage to Swayambhunath of Kathmandu, we can presume there would have been regular interaction between Kapilbastu, Magadh and the Kiratdom of Kathmandu and Nepali would have much widely read and understood.

Ashok’s monks missionaries had carried along Buddha’s message of nirwan (nirvana in brahminic spelling) written in Pali which have been preserved in the monasteries of Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand.

Throughout his realm, Emperor Ashok had publicized the message of the Buddha finely chiseled on rocks and stone pillars, something like billboards of yesteryear. They are written in Pali; we do not know exactly how many of them were there in his time but some fifty of them survive now, totally obscure and forgotten till an Englishman called James Prinsep discovered them two centuries ago.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Ashok the Great had conquered the entire known world of his time but at the height of his conquest he gave up his life as a conquering King to become instead a follower of the Great Master, the Buddha.

What is most remarkable is that not only did he give up his career of conquest but he converted his vast army into an army of monks who began preaching the good news of Four Noble Truths. It is the untold story of those monks, their heads clean shaven, carrying only a begging bowl that accepted nothing more than the next meal and how they travelled into the yet unknown lands.

This is the account of Ashok’s monk missionaries who upon arrival at the Mekong Delta region discovered vast tracts of fertile land with no prince to claim dominion over it. The monks quickly sent the missive home and when this news reached back to Ashok, he then outdid himself; he encouraged multitude of population to immigrate to the new land and establish a kingdom in the name of the Buddha.

And, thus we know in or around 281 B.C. the Kingdom of Thailand was established.

Thai language contains a great deal of Pali vocabulary, the lingua franca at the time of the Buddha and Ashok which necessarily was implanted in Thailand by the monk missionaries and the immigrants. The Buddha was not yet deified when the monk missionaries had begun their journey so they had brought along the iconic Buddha in the form of The Wheel and the Lion of the Sakyas seen here in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand.

This was not the end of volkerwanderungen or mass migration, subsequent immigrants however, were obliged to move across and beyond Mekong Valley which we will presently see, eventually reaching the islands of modern day Indonesia where we find their indelible imprint right as far as in the Isle of Bali.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

At least another century would have elapsed since the ancestors of Thai people immigrated from their ancient homeland when a second wave of volkerwanderungen began. We know it precisely because the subsequent immigrants not only were obliged to settle down further beyond modern Thailand, but their language bears distinct impression of Sanskrit and lesser volume of Pali vocabulary. This clearly indicates Pali had been refined or cultured into Sanskrit while they were still at their ancient homeland.

The world famous ancient Angkor Wat temple reinforces this dissertation: on its walls are engraved accounts of their Kings which are written in chaste Sanskrit.

Consider this, according to Brahminic tradition, Sanskrit is the language of heir gods and none but the Brahmins could learn it. The discovery of Sanskrit inscriptions on the Angkor Wat temple which had been abandoned for centuries supports this belief that their ancestors were proficient in that language. At the time of discovery of Angkor Wat, only a few monks were available to take care of the ruins and they knew not anything about Sanskrit. There is no mention in all the Vedas nor in any ancient Hindu tradition that Sanskrit could have ever been taught to a non-brahmin in a foreign land.

On the walls of a temple in Laos is a painting which depicts the nativity scene of the Buddha where the three Hindu divinities Brahma and Bisnu (Visnu) and goddess Saraswati have arrived to pay obeisance to the new born Buddha-to-be. The only other place where this painting exists is in Nepal and Bhutan and needless to say it is totally unknown in Hindu India.

The explanation of this mystery is that the forebears of the present day Laos and Cambodia would have begun their journey from pre-brahminic Nepal from where they brought along their knowledge of Sanskrit as well as the painting of the Buddha’s nativity scene.

Photo: Courtesy Wikipedia

Now, we know for certain that the Kirati-Mongolians moved eastward in a great volkerwanderungen, not in one great mass but gradually over the centuries, finally settling down in the great modern day Indonesian archipelago. And here are the proofs positive:

Long before the last contingent of the immigrants left pre-brahminic Nepal and moved beyond the shores of South-East Asia, they had deified the Buddha and their lingua franca had been sanskritised from Pali. We have seen that on the walls of Angkor Wat that the accounts of their kings are recorded in chaste Sanskrit and scenes from Siwa Puran (Siva Purana in brahminic spelling) are finely chiseled on solid granite.

When we arrive in Indonesia, we are convinced that the forebears of modern day Indonesians could not but be the ethnic cousins of Kirati Mongolians of Nepal.

The Arab seafarers had not only established their presence in Indonesia during the ninth century A.D. and later but had converted the entire population of the region into Islam. However, they had left the great Buddhist monastery of Borobudur unharmed and intact which corroborates this dissertation, the numerous statues and the engravings of the Buddha and his life in the monastery could not be but the works of fine craftsmen we have seen in Nepal.

Even if we take just a cursory look at the exquisite carvings on granite rocks of the ruins of Borobudur Monastery, we notice the life and teachings of the Buddha so competently chiseled there; they are self-explanatory. Here we find the scene of Mahabhinishkramana, the Great Departure, as Siddhartha Gaut’m gives up his royal status to become an ascetic. The most remarkable aspect of the scene is the presence of the three Hindu trinity gods, Brahma, Bisnu (Visnu) and Mahes, in attendance as Siddhartha the Prince becomes the ascetic, an episode unknown in Hindu India.

When we arrive in the Isle of Bali, all the lingering doubts are erased altogether and we begin to believe the Balinese and the Kirati-Mongolians bear cognate relationship. The Balinese worship the Nepalese deities Manjusri and the Pancha Dhyani Buddhas, or the Five Buddhas of Eternal Meditation; the Balinese know not only the respective cardinal direction the Five Buddhas face but also their aura, their postures and their symbolic meaning which are not found recorded in the scriptures of neighbouring Hindu India.