Thursday, 21 January, 2021

Our Cultural Legacy


Shaphalya Amatya


Culture has been a unifying or binding force of every society since time immemorial. Nepal is no exception. The recorded history of Nepal goes back to the time of Gautama Buddha in the 6th century BC.

Since then, Nepali culture, which gave birth to a great human soul, propagator of world peace and brotherhood, Lord Buddha, has been maintaining a very distinct identity and has numerous unique features.

Our culture is an amalgamation of Vedic Hinduism and Buddhism, two of the world's most revered and prominent religions.


     Gautam Buddha

Archaeologically and historically, Nepali culture was founded and developed since the time of Gautama Buddha or in the 6th century BC.  But in the course of history, it was discontinued and broken from time to time. After the fall of the Shakya dynasty, Kapilavastu remained beneath the earth for many centuries.

Some excavations conducted in Nepal and Northern India on different Buddhist sites have revelled many new facts and figures of this period. This information can help us to weave the history of this gap period.

The rise of the Mauryas in 3rd century BC and the rise of the Guptas in 3rd century AD in North India, these two powerful dynasties had not only dominated the history of Nepal valley but also left some deep impacts on Nepali culture. Similarly, at the beginning of the Christian era, the Sakas also dominated North India as a result their influence in Nepali culture became visible.


     The Valley

In Nepal, the Kathmandu Valley is the only place where the continuation of culture has not been disturbed since the time of Buddha. After the death of Gautama Buddha, civil wars in different states, janapadas and kingdoms in north India forced and compelled many such dynasties and people such as the Varmas,Lichchavis, Vijjis,Koliyas, Sakyas, Saka parthinians, Kushans, Avira Guptas and others to take shelters in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains.

During this time, many of them entered into the Kathmandu Valley for their safety and survival. This exodus of the people of northern India again augmented after the invasion of Arabs, Turks from Afghanistan and Baluchistan in the 10th century AD and afterwards.

The Muslim invasions increased tremendously the exodus of numerous small rulers and chieftains from hills of northern India and other parts. As a result, numerous petty kingdoms and fiefdoms were established in the western and eastern hilly and foothills or Tarai regions of Nepal.

Later on, they became popular as Baisey and Chaubisey Rajyas or fiefdoms. Since then the cultures of these people have also become an influencing factor in Nepali culture.

In the valley, this cultural legacy started from the time of the Buddha, or to be precise, from the time of the Kiratis, Vermas and the Lichchivis or the beginning of the Christian era, and later on, during the time of the Thakuris, the Karnatakis, the Mallas and the Shahs have been continuing till today.

The Vermas, the Lichchavis, the Thakuris, the Karnatakis, and the Mallas, not only continued their cultural and historical legacy but also enriched and introduced many new and appreciable features or qualities on it. Both intangible and intangible cultural heritages the contributions of the Thakuris, the Karnatakis and the Mallas have played a dominant part in Nepali culture till today.


     The Shahs

We all know that Nepali culture has already taken shape before the coming of the Shahs in the 18th century (1769). The Shahs had received a rich and civilized society to rule in the Kathmandu Valley. The Shahs and the Ranas ruled the country for about three centuries till the country was declared a republic in 2063 B.S.

During the Rana administration for nearly a hundred and four years (1846-1951), Nepali culture saw some bad years. The Ranas tried to revive conservative and orthodox Hinduism. They gave power and authority to the Brahmans and ruled the country despotically. They suppressed the culture of the valley people and also Buddhism.

The authoritarian rule of the Ranas was overthrown and a new democratic country has emerged in AD1950-51. After the dawn of democracy, the country saw many ups and downs but Nepali culture got an opportunity for revival.  Once suppressed by the Ranas, Buddhism, its culture and heritage began, to reemerge.  In fact, after 1951, the culture of modernity, and globalisation were introduced to our country. And since then, the western civilisation began to penetrate Nepali culture.

Natural calamities like big earthquakes in 1934 and 2015 and declaration of the New Republican constitution in the country did not bring any drastic change in our cultural legacy. 

But we cannot forget how, during the time of coronavirus pandemic, we could not celebrate our important festivals, social events, religious and rituals as we had celebrated before. But the love of one's culture did not stop people to observe them, at least in a very small scale or in symbolic ways. 



But Nepal culture is always protected and popularised by people. They love their culture. If people lose their interest in maintaining their cultural heritages they not only lose their cultural identity but they will also be vanished, forgotten and lost in the pages of history.

In our culture, everything is not good. There are many shortfalls such as the caste system, the gap between rich and poor, poverty, mass illiteracy, and domination of some high caste people. Once we could remove these dark shadows from our cultural legacy, our culture would regain its lost glory and the world would appreciate and recognise Nepal as one of the civilised countries of the world.


(Amatya is culture and
   heritage expert)


How do you feel after reading this news?