History of the Kathmandu valley

The Kathmandu Valley may have been inhabited as early as 300 BCE, since the oldest known objects in the valley date to a few hundred years BCE. The earliest known inscription is dated 185 CE. The oldest firmly dated building in the earthquake-prone valley is almost 1,992 years old. Four stupas around the city of Patan, said to have been erected by a certain Charumati, a purported daughter of Ashoka the Great, a Mauryan king, in the 3rd century BCE, attest to the ancient history present within the valley. As with the tales of the Buddha’s visit, there is no evidence supporting Ashok’s visit, but the stupas probably do date to that century. The Kirats are the first documented rulers of the Kathmandu Valley; the remains of their palace are said to be in Patan near Hiranyavarna Mahavihara (called “Patukodon”). The Licchavi Dynasty whose earliest inscriptions date back to 464 CE were the next rulers of the valley and had close ties with the Gupta Dynasty of India. The Malla Dynasty ruled Kathmandu Valley and the surrounding area from the 12th until the 18th century CE, when the Shah Dynasty under Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered the valley as he created present-day Nepal. Most of ancient Nepali architecture present in Nepal today is from the Malla era.


The Newars, generally acknowledged to be the original inhabitants of the valley, are understood to be the descendants of the various ethnic and racial groups that have inhabited and ruled the valley in the 2-millennia history of the place. Although in today’s state of Nepal, the Newars stand apart ethnically from the other groups on the basis of their composite Hindu-Buddhist religious culture and Nepal Bhasa, today spoken by all Newars as their mother tongue, the multifarious castes in the numerous caste systems within Newar society display a surprising racial diversity. The similarities between the various cultural traits and complexes within Newar culture and those of many other ethnic groups in the Indian sub-continent lead us to hypothesize the occurrence of both vibrant circulations of peoples and cultures around the sub-continent during the last 2 millennia and a continuous and steady of diffusion of these ideas into the valley. Anthropologists describe Newar society as a “pre-dominantly Mongoloid people practicing an Indo-Aryan culture.”


Historic drawing of Swayambhu and its vicinity. Image by Daniel WrightAccording to Swayambhu Puran, the Kathmandu Valley was once a lake. The hill where the Swayambu Stupa rests had lotus plants with beautiful lotus flowers abloom. One story says that the god Manjusri cut a gorge at a place called Kashapaal (later called Chobhar) with a sword called Chandrahrasha and drained away the waters in order to establish a habitable land.

According to Gopal Banshawali, Krishna cut the gorge with his Sudarshana Chakra to let the water out. He then handed the drained valley to the Gopal Vansi people, who were nomadic cow herders.

Source: Wikipedia

See also: About Kathmandu Valley

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