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Kshatriyas Of Nepal ; An Inquest For True Identity

The word "Chhetri" is actually a corruption of the word "Kshatriya", meaning warriors and rulers. In ancient time they were also known as Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris). I have to reiterate this already known definition, just to make my article understandable.
Some of the occurrences which I encounter in my life have inspired me to originate this article which I would like to succinctly state:

1. Since childhood, the notion that Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) are Aryans who descended from India, had always unease my inner conscious. The feeling that other regarding me as a foreigner in my own country was hurtful.

2. In the context of Federalism in Nepal, scholars and politicians have offered many proposals containing Autonomous Regions which are based on ethnicity and on territoriality, but no where Khas desh or Chhetri regions are mentioned.

3. Our forefather's heroic history and sacrifices to protect the sovereignty of our nation are deliberately ignored. Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) are people who have been living in Nepal since time immemorial but some scholars have suggested numerous and biased hypothesis about the origins of Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris).

The speculation that Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) are Aryans was based on Aryan Invasion Theory of India. But now new archaeological discoveries made in the Indian sub-continent in the past century have slowly accumulated evidence which has led to a discrediting of the Aryan Invasion Theory and now it is certain that there never was an Aryan invasion. These discoveries have been reinforced by new insights from history of science, astronomy, and literary analysis. The collapse of the Aryan Invasion Theory, and the assumptions upon which it was based, opened many other questions related to the chronology of the Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) community. Aryan Invasion Theory now sounds like The Da Vinci Code of that period, deftly plotted by some elements to gain some purpose of their own. Aryan Invasion Theory had always denied the indigenous origin and evolution of the sources of Nepal's glorious Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) culture and heritage. Other fact which also proves that Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris)are not aryans, is the characteristics of Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) which are described as usually tall, handsome, fair complexioned, with long head, vertical forehead, fine nose, hazed eyes, curly hair or well cut and proportioned features. Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) are kind, helpful and cheerful by nature. Whereas Aryans are described as blue-eyed, white "Aryans", a northern European physio-type, nomadic and brutal which does not match with the characteristic of Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris). So, the notion that Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) are Aryans was always baseless. Now all Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) have a pride to say that they are the indigenous people of Nepal.

Top anthropologists like Gerald D. Berreman, Dor Bahadur Bisht, Surya Mani Adhikary and Dinesh Prasad Saklani have mentioned in their research papers that the central himalayan belt (ranging 2,000 to 10,000 feet in altitude) of Kumaon, Garhwal and mid-western to far western part of Nepal were occupied by Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) from the ancient times. Most populous among the people of this mid montane area were Khas(Chhetris and Thakuris). It is interesting to note that the ancient name of these Himalayan regions was Khas-des. These facts are also mentioned in the history of India and China.

The Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) had been dominant inhabitants in the hills of Central Himalaya and they played important role in the history of the region by establishing many independents dynasties ruling over the area in the early medieval times.

Unfortunately, Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) community although one of the most ancient inhabitants of the region is being treated as immigrants and attempts have been made in the past to prove their foreign origins.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that it was the bravery and fighting skills of Balbhadra Kunwar which impressed British and they started recruiting Nepalese people in the British Indian Army. That can be now considered as a milestone for the recruitment of Nepalese People in The Brigade of Gurkhas.
It might also surprise many of us to learn that the euphemism of the "BRAVEST OF THE BRAVES (BRAVE LES BRAVE)" was used by Napoleon Bonaparte for Marshal Ney, whose bravery was one of the highest during the retreat from Moscow in 1812. Later on this citation was used by British for the Gurkhas during and after the Anglo-Nepal War due to the courage and gallantry shown by Bhakti Thapa on 16 April 1815 at Deothal, who laid down his life in a fierce counterattack against an enemy far superior in strength to protect the honour of Nepal and its proud people. Thus 16 April 1815 was the glorious day when the next legend of the Bravest of the Braves was created.

Other renowned Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) warriors who proved true to the salt of Nepal are Amar Singh Thapa, Bhakti Thapa, Balbhadra Kunwar, Chautara Jiva Shah, Shiva Narayan Khatri, Damodar Pande, Kalu Pande, Abhiman Singha Basnet, Shivaram Singh Basnyat, Chautariya Puskar Shah, Phattejanga Shah, Mathabar Singh Thapa, Bam Bahadur Rana and Ranodheep Singh Kunwar.

It is unfortunate that our historians and educationalists have not shown concern to impart the knowledge about the vital role of our ancestors in protecting the vast Himalayan region from falling prey to colonial power to our new generations. Almost all other countries in Asia and Africa were enslaved by colonial powers but our nation could remain independent forever by virtue of our forefathers' great sacrifices in the cause to defend the sovereignty of our country.
Our new generation has virtually no knowledge about our glorious past. Thus, they are disavowed the opportunity to acquire moral lessons from the great sacrifices of our ancestors. I strongly believe that in near future our nation's attention would be drawn to end this shocking truth.

For political reasons, it has become recent fashion to debase our glorious past but we cannot ignore our heroic history.

Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) religion began with natural worshipping and when Khas Prince Siddarth Gautam achieved "Nirvana" and started preaching Buddhism all Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) converted to Budhhism . Later Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) had to adopt "Hinduism" which was then order of the day but they are the only community who revere and worship Buddha along with Hindu gods and goddesses and still perform some of their old natural worshipping. Among those are;

Kul devata (the deity of the family). Every Khas (Chhetris and Thakuris) practices it in their own natural way.

Bhayer Puja - is to be worshipped under the open sky or under a big old tree in the outskirts of a village. The purpose of this puja is to save their domestic animals from wild animals and they believe by performing this puja, lions and other large animals does not come to village and roar. Either sheep or white young goat is sacrificed.

Mai Puja - the concept of Mai Puija (particularly of female deity) is connected with the veneration of evil spirits. It is believed that by performing this puja, no disease or calamity will affect to their family and village. Female goat or hen or female pigeon is sacrificed. In Hinduism animal sacrifice is not performed.

It may also surprise many of us that today's Khatri Chhetris are the descendants of Katyuris Kshatriyas, the ruler of Garhwal. Later, the stronghold of the Katyuri dynasty, passed into the hands of the Sikhs and Mughals. After Sikhs and Muslims intervention and persecution in Garhwal, the ruling class Katyuris Kshatriyas had to flee to the inner hills of Nepal. The original root word Katyuri changed its form to Khatri due to misinterpretation over the years but they always kept their ascription Kshatriya to signify their origin.

In a short spell, with my standard brain, I have gathered the above facts about us and I wish to appeal all the Khas (Chhetri and Thakuris) scholars of this earth to discuss, debate and research further on this, in order to conserve, preserve and develop our origin, heroic history and cultural heritage which is in the verge of extinction.

I would like to acknowledge that I am thankful to various scholars for the discussions, which helped me formulate my ideas and opinions. However responsibility and weaknesses of these formulations are entirely mine.

The Aryans and Ancient Indian History by Subhash Kak
Aryan Invasion Theory By Dinesh Agrawal
Hinduism Today, July, 1996, Volume 18, Number 7
Myth of the Aryan invasion of India by David Frawley
The Metal Sculpture of the Khasa Mallas of West Nepal/ West Tibet by Ian Alsop
Ancient Communities of Himalaya by Dinesh Prasad Saklani
Peoples and Cultures of the Himalayas by Gerald D. Berreman
People of Nepal by Dor Bahadur Bishta
Social History of Nepal by T.R. Vaidya, Tri Ratna Manandhar & Shankar Lal Joshi
The Khas Kingdom by Prof Surya Mani Adhikary, Tribhuvan University, Nepal

Submitted by: Krishna B. Thapa

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