December 16, 2017


[Posted as it is, below today is a chapter or an extract from Iman S. Chemjong’s book 'History and Culture of the Kirat People – 1967' found also in Magar Studies Center's URL - Uniform Resource Locator. The learned historian, Iman S. Chemjong seems to have believed ‘Shing’ and ‘Chitu’ as the ‘two first Magar people' that came over to the ancient Himalayan region from the north. I believe they were ‘Chin’ or ‘Xin’ or ‘Chinto’ or ‘Xinto’ on whom I have also written a short note which was posted on November 26, 2017. The author writes about a group of ‘twelve different Thapas’ as ‘Barah Mangars’ - suggestive also of the ‘Barah Magarāt’(Twelve Magar States of Medieval Nepal) but of those twelve Thapas - we actually do not have any other historical records as of today. The author makes a convincing argument though that the Sikkim government "dropped all the records of Mangar people from the history of Sikkim.” as the Mangar people didn't pay much heed to what the government had said to them. Further more, the author’s assertion as – “the Mangar tribe of Nepal must be from the composite group of Kirait and Mongku, who came to Sikkim and became Mangar” – is some what interesting. I did not intend to write here a review of the book at all. I find Sikkim as one of the promising lands for the exploration and study of ancient history and culture of Magar or Mangar people of the Himalayan region.– The Blogger]

By Iman S. Chemjong
The ruins of one of the Mangar Jhongs in Sikkim : Picture courtesy Bishnu Rana
The origin of Mangar tribe as mentioned in Kirat chronology is a place in the north called Shin. From there, a group of people under the leadership of two leaders came to the south. The names of the leaders were Shing Mangar and Chitu Mangar. The people of the southern country called them Tangsang Thapa which means the people came from the far away north. Later on, these Mangar tribes multiplied and were divided into 12 groups under twelve leaders and called themselves Barah Mangars.

The names of the twelve Mangars were Shinjali[1] Thapa, Hongjali Thapa, Hungchun Thapa, Chhodey Thapa, Pudkey Thapa, Mundey Thapa, Udhro Thapa, Bairong Thapa, Ishar Thapa, Barahi Thapa, Hangyung Thapa and Hangshe Thapa.[2]

When they came to Sikkim they settled there permanently. They built Jongs or Forts or castles, wherever they settled and called them Mangar Jong or the fort of Mangars or the castle of Mangars.

Pandit Sarad Chandra Das proves the existence of Mangars in Sikkim and Eastern Nepal.

"The legend which he heard of the Mangar tribe and the ruins of their forts and towns in the valley of Kangbachhan river in the East Nepal is very interesting; people said that the account is correct and true."

"The upper valley of Kangbachhan river was occupied by the people of Tibetan stock and the lower valley was occupied by the Mangar tribe whose king was called Sintusati Sen. The Mangar king attacked the Tibetan people and ruled over them. He extracted a heavy tax from them."

"His deputies always oppressed the people to squeeze out money from them, so the Tibetan people started to conspire against the Mangar king. One day when the Mangar chief had gone to visit the Tibetan village with many followers, they were surrounded and killed by the Bhutias. When the Mangar queen heard this sad news of her husband, she planned to take revenge on the Bhutia subjects.

"She, therefore, ordered for a grand funeral in the honour of the departed soul. The funeral was fixed to take place six miles up the river, midway between the two great villages of the Kangbachhan valley, so that all the villagers might assemble there.

After the queen's followers had finished drinking, poisoned wine was given plentifully to the Bhutia villagers, who suspecting nothing, drank freely and all died. In this way, nearly one thousand men and women died. The infants in arms were taken away by the queen's followers. The place where this foul deed was committed was now called 'Tongsong Phug' or the place which witnessed one thousand corpses. As a result of this, a Tibetan army invaded several Jongs belonging to the Mangar queen. She had no preparation to fight the enemy, so she shut herself in one of her castles or Jongs and her soldiers defended the castle for three months.

"This Tibetan soldiers then tried to compel the Mangars to surrender by depriving them of water. At last, the queen, aware of this intention, threw all the water she had in store towards the camp. The Tibetan soldiers thinking that she had abundence of water inside the castle raised the seize and went to a distance to watch the movement of the Mangar people. She immediately collected her soldiers and pursued the enemy. When a skirmish took place, she fell fighting nobly.[3] The rest of Mangars left their place of Kangbachhan valley and migrated towards south west direction and reached as far west as Simang Garh situated about six miles east of present Birganj of central Nepal. When their number multiplied they were divided into two groups under the leadership of Phalemi Khan and Yomchhammi Khan and spread towards eastern and western directions.[4] Phalemi Khan led his horde towards West Nepal and settled in Palpa. Yomchhammi Khan returned to Limbuwan in the east and settled in Shanpur of Chainpur and intermingled with Limbu nationals and became Limbus of Sinjali Thapa, Limbu of Sinjali Thapa clan.

The Mangar Jhongs in Sikkim
Rana, Aley and Pun clans. Those who settled in Palpa of West Nepal were divided into Thapa, Aley, Pun, Burathoki, Rana, Gharti, Bohra, Roka, Chaohan, Konwar, Uchai and Roho tribes and called themselves Magar, instead of the original name Mangar.

In the East Nepal and Sikkim, the Mangars are so called because they were the children of Mang or Mong or Mongol people. The Chinese and Burmese people call Mang or Mong for Mongolians; and ar or arui means children. So, Mangar means the children of Mongols. Most probably, it can be correct interpretation, because their complexion proves that they are no other than scattered Mongolians although before the 12th century AD there were no tribes in Central Asia called the Mongolians. There were many nomadic tribes called Kin, Kir, Kirait, Karatai, Karakhitai, Khitai, Uigur or Hor, Monchu, Mongku, Tungut, Seljuk, Karluk, Turk, Burun, Sak, Kushan, Hun, Abar, Uichi, Kajak, Chin, Khas, Thak, Gyarung and Mangyak.[5] They were all nomads except China. They used to live in tents and had no permanent inhabitants. Frequent antagonism and plundering among themselves were their main object. There was no such name as Mongol in the world upto the 12th century AD.

It was in the 12th century AD, when Chengiz Khan called a meeting of all the above mentioned tribes and when all the tribes unanimously elected him to be their Gurkhan or the Khan of Khans or the King of Kings, he proposed that a common name for all the separate tribes of Central Asia should be Mongol. Then all the tribes unanimously agreed and from that time only the people of Central Asia began to call themselves Mongol. Chengiz Khan himself belonged to the Mong Ku tribe and Chinese people used to call them Mong Ku Tata.[6] A branch of this race settled in Hungary in Europe and called themselves Magyar tribe.[7]

It appears that long before the adoption of such name of Mongol in Asia, a branch of Manchu and Tungut migrated to Korea and Japan and made their permanent home there, Similarly, a branch of Kirait, Uigur and Mongku tribes also spread towards Suchuwang or Kham, Unam, Burma, East India and Nepal. They did neither hear the name Mongol nor they claim it to be their origin.

Therefore, the Mangar tribe of Nepal must be from the composite group of Kirait and Mongku, who came to Sikkim and bacame Mangar. There are certain Lapcha tribes called Mongormu. It appears that some of the Mangar tribes might have mixed with the Lapcha tribe of Sikkim and became a Lapcha Kirat people. Further, there is a folklore among Nepalese that Mangars are a sect of Kirat people who brought sweet potatoes into Sikkim and Nepal. Specially, the Lapcha tribe called it Mangorbook or the potatoes introduced by Mangar tribe.

There is another proof of the affinity of the Mangar and Lapcha tribe in counting numbers. The Mangar tribe counts one, two, three, four, five as kat, net or nis, sam, buli, banga and the Lapcha tribe says kat, net, sam, fali, fungu. These are the evidence of the residence of Mangar Kirat people in Sikkim. Not only that, but the Mangar chiefs were so active in Sikkim that they kept on fighting with the Sikkimese chiefs upto the 18th century AD. Sikkim history mentions that the Sikkimese chiefs tried their best to bring the Mangar chief under their power by keeping matrimonial connection with them. Chhangzat Karwang, the Chief Minister of Sikkim married the daughter of one of the Mangar chiefs of Sikkim and wanted to keep friendly relation with them, but the Mangars were never influenced by the Buddhist Kings and Ministers of Sikkim. When the Mangar Chief of Sikkim understood that nothing could be expected from the Buddhist King of Sikkim they totally neglected the Sikkimese relation and the Sikkimese also dropped all the records of Mangar people from the history of Sikkim. Still there are many places in Sikkim and East Nepal called Mangar jong or the Fort of Mangar tribe.

On the contrary, the Mangars of West Nepal prospered so much so that they formed a league of twelve Khans and established a state and called it Barah Mangrat, the central government of which was at Bhirkot. Khan means king in Magar language. Now, I write the word Magar as pronounced by Nepalese people.

According to Brian Hodgson and Captain T. Smith the league of Twelve Magars consisted of Satahung, Payahung, Bhirkot, Dhor, Garahung, Rising, Ghiring, Gulmi, Argha, Khachi, Musikot and Isma.[8]

Suikkim Mangar Jhong steps look like some flight of
stairs : Picture courtesy Bishnu Rana
Each of these twelve districts had its own Khan or King, though they had agreed by common consent to regard the Khan of Bhirkot as their Overlord.

But in later period, this system of government was ceased as the Kings of Palpa, Rising, Ghiring and Rajarkot claimed independent Kings with the title of Shan Hang. Thus, they were broken into two prominent Kings of Khan dynasty and Shan dynasty. They had their own language and culture. Dhami was their religious priest. Long before the coming of the Hindu influence into their kingdoms, there was a Kirat King called Bali Hang, who had an extensive Kingdom from Pokhara to Gorakhpur and the Magars had spread from the hilly region to the Terai region.[9] The Mundhum mentions that it was this Kirat King Bali Hang who introduced the festival of Deepawali. The translation of the Mundhum runs as follows:

“In ancient time the Kirat King Bali Hang of West Nepal had become very famous for his extra ordinary knowledge of foretelling about one's life and death.[10] He was loved by all his chiefs and their subjects of that time. But when he himself came to know about his own time of death, he held a meeting of the chiefs and told them that at the coming dark night of the new moon of Mangsir or the end of the month of October of that year, the God of Death would come and take away his life. He told them that there would be no any possible way to escape from that dreadful night. The Kirat Chiefs requested him to direct them any scheme to retain his lfe from that dreadful night and that they would obey him and try their best to carry out his order to save his life. Bali Hang told them that there is only one way by which if the God of Death would be pleased, he may retain his life. The way is that, he added. "Before the coming of that night of the new moon of that Mangshir, all the chiefs and their subjects should take their bath, remain pure in body and mind and light thousands and thousands of lights both inside and outside of their houses and when the night falls all of them should keep on praying to God for the increase of King Bali Hang's day and save him from that dreadful night. They should not sleep that night but keep on praying and watch the arrival of the God of Death who would appear in the midst of light in the shape of the shadow of a man. As soon as people see such sight of the shadow of a man in the midst of light, all the people including men and women, old and young, boys and girls should fold their hands and pray to him with sincere faith and with one voice for the increase of King Bali Hang's day and save him from that dreadful night. If the God of Death would be pleased to hear their prayer as well as their subjects' sincere devotion and prayer for King Bali Hang's life, he may increase his life and save him from that dreadful night. If not, he said that his days are completed and he would be bound to go."

When the Chiefs heard this scheme they became very much pleased and immediately circulated this scheme to all their subjects and ordered them to observe the dark night of that coming new moon of that Mungsir by keeping their body and soul pure and fast with prayer sincerely for the sake of King Bali Hang's safety. When the time of that new moon of that Mungsir came, all the people including men and women, old and young, boys and girls and all the Chiefs took their bath and when the evening started, they lit the lights both inside and outside their house and began to fast and pray to God for the sake of King Bali Hang's safety. King Bali Hang was hopelessly lying in the middle of his Chiefs and all the people outside and inside his palace were singing songs of prayer. There was light everywhere, outside and inside the palace and all people were praying very sincerely for their King. That time, just after midnight all of a sudden, the God of Death appeared in the middle of light and in the shape of the shadow of a man. All people saw it and all of them cried out with one voice of prayer and with sincere faith and requested him to increase the day of their King Bali Hang. They wept and cried before him saying that if King Bali hang would die, the earth would be in chaos of darkness and the people would be in great confusion. All of them requested the God of Death with sincere mind to increase the day of King Bali hang and save him from that dreadful night. Seeing such profound love of the people towards their King Bali Hang, the God of Death answered them and said that although he was not the owner of life and death of a person yet he would try to save him. As soon as he said this the sahdow disappeared and the King Bali Hang also breathed his last.

All people kept on weeping and crying and praying the same prayer of increasing the day of King Bali Hang. Early in the morning, a little after the cock crow and when the dawn started, King Bali Hang breathed again and came back to life. When he came to full sense, he looked towards his Chiefs and started talking. He said, "By the sincere fast and prayer of good faith of yours as well as that of your subjects, I am saved." He became very much pleased with such of his subjects towards him and therefore, he gave a big feast to his feasts and subjects. He ordered his chiefs to inform his subjects to observe one day as the day of rejoice for the best news of the revival of their King Bali Hang from his death. They should eat, drink and make merriment on that day. He further ordered his subjects through his Chiefs that in remembrance of this event, every new moon of the month of Mungshir should be observed as their festival day every year. They should illuminate their houses, both outside and inside with lights and remember their King Bali Hang. His Chiefs informed all their subjects as ordered by their King Bali Hang or Bali Raja. The people also began to regard Bali Raja as their Priest King. They composed a song and sang only in the annual festival of Deepawali with the chorus, "Phailo and Deusire" which means we helped the Priest King, which at the later stage became "Bhailo and Deusire". Pha-i-lo means let us help, and Dewsi = priest, Rey = king.

From that time onwards all the inhabitants of Kirat country (modern Nepal) began to observe Deepawali in every new moon of the month of Mungshir or the last week of October every year which they call Tiwar. As a matter of fact, even at present, every Nepali knows the above mentioned chorus specially meant for that dark night of the new moon of Mungsir and remembers the name of Bali Raja which is the translation of Bali Hang and says that he was ordered by Bali Raja to observe such festival.

It is, therefore, quite proper to say that the festival of Deepawali of the month of Mungshir or the last week of the month of October is a real contribution of the Kirat King Bali Hang[11] or Bali Raja to all the present Nepali people.

As time passed on, the Shan Kings extended their Kingdom towards south and east of Palpa and the Khan Kings extended their kingdom towards north and east of Bhirkot.

When the Hindu missionaries began to spread Hinduism in the Western Nepal, the Shah King of Palpa was the first to be converted into Hinduism and became a Hindu Rajput King and claimed his descent from Sen family of India. His name was Chilla Rai. Similarly, when Hindu missionaries approached the Chief of Bhirkot, who was of Khan family, for conversion, he refused them and remained a pure Magar King. His name was Khan Chha Khan which means the King's Son King. The Hindu missionaries then approached the second prince whose name was Mechha Khan or the youngest son king. The missionaries assured that he would also be a king like his elder brother if he would accept Hinduism. So, he gave his consent to them to convert him into Hinduism. Thus, the second prince of Bhirkot also became a Hindu Rajput and his religious priests made him the King of Nuwakot of Barah Mangrat. He was succeeded by Jaya Khan, Micha Khan, Bichitra Khan, Jagdeo Khan and Kulmandan Khan. From the time of this king, he changed his family title from Khan to Shah which carries the same meaning as king. The descendants of King Khanchha Khan of Bhirkot, though refused to accept Hinduism and agreed to abide by their own tribal culture, yet he with all his subjects were so much influenced by Hinduism that all the Magar tribes ceased to follow the teaching of their own tribal priest and followed the doctrine of Hindu priests with respect to birth, marriage and death ceremonies and those officials of the courts of Shan Kings and Khan Kings of Palpa and Bhirkot who could afford for conversion into Hinduism became Hindu Rajputs and called themselves Kshatris. In this way, the Magar Kings and their officials were converted into Hindu civilization[12] . Yet in the middle of 18th century AD, King Prithvi Narayan Shah was very proud of calling himself the King of Mangrat. He has said in his Divya Updesh, "Mangrat ko Raja mai hun", "I am the King of Mangrat".[13] Lt. Col. E. Vansitart has also mentioned in his book called Gurkhas, that "the famous Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa was the descendant of Magar Thapa family, as was also General Amar Singh Thapa".[14] It is a known fact that the late Great King Prithvi Narayan Shan of Gurkha State had extended his Kingdom east and west by the strength of these Magar army.

The Magars or Mangars are divided into twelve tribes called Thapa, Rana, Ale, Pun, Burathoki, Gharti, Bohra, Roka, Chauhan, Konwar, Uchai and Jhakri and each tribe is subdivided into many clans. Among them Thapa tribes are more in number. The Rana class of Magar tribes belonged to the same stock of Thapa but, when they were separated from their original group and lost for three generations, they settled in a place called Gurkha and called themselves by the name of Rana which mens chief. Thus, the habitants of Rana Magar became the Gurkha village. Later on, the Khas people came from Kumaon and Garhwal and mixed with the Magars and became one with them till they were not converted into Hinduism.

Although all Magars follow Hinduism, the Pun Magars of Tibetan frontier are still practice Buddhist religion and follow their tribal rites at their birth, marriage and death ceremonies.

Some of the Magar clans are as follows:

Thapa Magars

Baral, Balami, Baraghari, Sinjali, Bagale, Thapa consists of Atghari, Satgahari, Palungi, Darlam, Punwar, Setu, Singe, Roshala and Kala.

Gaha Thapa consists of Badchha, Chidi, Gora, Khan and Malangi. Reshmi Thapa consists of Dangale, Gore and Thapa.

Saru Thapa consists of Jaurup, Japarluk, Jhenri and Paneti. Besides these, Gurbachan, Purbachan, Tangbachhan, Simai, Pithakote, Singali, Uchai, Pulami, Marunchan, Ramjali, Lamchhaney and Kalikotey.

Rana Magars

Assami, Arsami, Aslami, Bangling, Chumi, Charmi, Gharmi, Gyangmi, Kharka, Eyapchaki, Lungeli, Makkim, Pali, Panti, Rilami, Ruchal, Chitorey are famous.

Pun Magars

Birkali, Baijali, Phungali, Namjali, Balali, Tajali, Thakali, Sain, Sanangi, Sothi are famous.

Burathoki Magars

Balkoti, Deobal, Gamal, Karal, Ulange, Karmani, Pahari, Jujali, Pojonge, Thami, Ranju are famous.

Ale Magars

Argheli, Bili, Changi, Hiski, Hungchen, Lamjel, Limial, Roho, Rimal, Rakhal, Suyal, Sirpali, Sarangi are famous.

Gharti Magars

Baima, Banjali, Bulami, Dagami, Galami, Gamal, Kalikote, Masrangi, Pahari or Panre, Para, Phagami, Rangu, Rawal, Rijal, Same, Sawangi, Sene, Surai, Sinjapati, Talaji, There, Tirukia, Ulange and Wale are famous.

In my opinion the Magars had advanced much and had divided into two groups of higher and lower social standing and those who were of higher circle followed Hinduism and became themselves Thakurs or Kshetris and observed the strict formalities of Brahmanism whereas the people of lower circle were quite satisfied with their own familiar culture and did not mind to follow such strict rules of Hinduism and remained Magars, such as the Koch Kirat of Assam and North Bengal who were also converted into Hinduism and became themselves Rajbansi Kshetri and the people of lower circle remained Mech and Koch tribes.[15]

[1]  The Limbus of Shinjali Thapa clan and Mangars of Shinjali Thapa clan claim to be the children of the same forefathers. Limbu MSS
[2]MSS Subedar Buddhiraj Limbu's collection, 1930 AD
[3] Gurkhas by E. Vansitart, page 83
[4] Phago Rai Limbu's vansawali possessed by Subedar Buddhiraj
[5] The Mangyaks are the Limbus of Chhotharia clan who had also migrated from Mongolia.
[6] Madhya Asia ka itihas by Pandit R. Sanskrityayan
[7] Rev. Father Donald's version.
[8] Gurkhas by Lt. Vansitart, page 84
[9] Account of the Kingdom of Nepal by Hamilton, page 171
[10] Bali Hang Mundhum - Kirat MSS 144
[11]  An Account of the Kingdom of Nepal by Hamilton, page 171 146
[12] Account of the Kingdom of Nepal 1819 by Hamilton, page 240
[13] Divya Upadesh - Prithwi ko by Yogi Narhari, page 13.
[14] Gurkhas by Lt. Col E. Vansitart, page 67
[15]  It is interesting to note that so many clans of Magar tribe are similar to the clans of Brahman and Khas people e.g. Rijal, Rimal, Panre or Pandey classes are found among Brahman caste also and Punwar, Khadka and Kalikote clans are found among Khas caste.