Nepal is a stolen word

‘Nepal’, a nation on its own, when the Gorkhalis invaded and occupied the territories, they also co-opted the term ‘Nepal’ and started to re-define it. 

The territory of Nepal has a recorded history since the Neolithic age. Neolithic tools found in the Kathmandu Valley indicate that people have been living in the Himalayan region for at least eleven thousand years. The Kathmandu Valley in today’s central Nepal was known as “Nepal” proper because of its complex urban civilization. It was the seat of the prosperous Newar confederacy known as Nepal Mandala. The cosmopolitan region developed distinct traditional art and architecture.

Book: My old Baudha. Pic source: Facebook status of Sumana Shrestha

The name of the country is also identical in origin to the name of the Newar people. The terms “Nepāl”, “Newār”, “Newāl” and “Nepār” are phonetically different forms of the same word, and instances of the various forms appear in texts in different times in history. Nepal is the learned Sanskrit form and Newar is the colloquial Prakrit form. A Sanskrit inscription dated 512 CE found in Tistung, a valley to the west of Kathmandu, contains the phrase “greetings to the Nepals” indicating that the term “Nepal” was used to refer to both the country and the people. It has been suggested that “Nepal” may be a Sanskritization of “Newar”, or “Newar” may be a later form of “Nepal”. According to another explanation, the words “Newar” and “Newari” are vulgarisms arising from the mutation of P to V, and L to R. As a result of the phonological process of dropping the last consonant and lengthening the vowel, “Newā” for Newār or Newāl, and “Nepā” for Nepāl are used in ordinary speech.

The earliest occurrences of the name Nepālabhāṣā (or Nepālavāc) can be found in the manuscripts of a commentary to the Nāradasaṃhitā, dated 1380 AD, and a commentary to the Amarkośa, dated 1386 AD. Since then, the name has been used widely on inscriptions, manuscripts, documents and books.

By the 18th century, the Gorkha Kingdom, located West to Nepal Kingdom captured the principalities of Nepal. Prithvi Narayan Shah the successor of Gorkha made Nepal its new capital. The name of Expanded Gorkha Kingdom was started to be referred from the name of its caital . After that in around 1934, the language known as Khas Kura which was named as Gorkhali or Parbatiya was again renamed as Nepali. And Nepal Bhasa began to be termed as Newari. Conversely, the term Gorkhali in the former national anthem entitled “Shreeman Gambhir” was changed to Nepali in 1951. The national anthem which said “Shreeman gambhir Gorkhali Prachanda pratapi” was changed as “Shreeman gambhir nepali Prachanda pratapi”. The government newspaper of Nepal, launched in 1901, is still known as Gorkha Patra(meaning Gorkha gazette). The name Gorkha Sarkar (meaning Gorkha government) was also changed to Nepal government.

Till today, many senior citizens from different areas of Nepal, refer Kathmandu as ‘nepal’. Many people still say “nepal jane”(going to nepal) while they have to come to Kathmandu Valley.

1) A Christian missionary document

This is a document of a Christian missionary, who visited Kathmandu. Probably one of the account of Kingdom of Nepal. The lines underlined in red, states, “The Kingdom of Makawanpur lies in a journey for ten or eleven days from Patna.” The writer adds that, “Within four days of travel from Kingdom of Makawanpur is the road of Nepal”.

2) Gorkhapatra Hulak

Full view of the paper 
Zoomed view, 
Source: Roshan Shrestha

A picture from the Gorkhapatra. First of all, Gorkhapatra(that still exist today) is an evidence that Prithvi Narayan Shah, after capturing all other kingdoms, used the name “Gorkha” to his extend territory as well. The lines circled with red dots, say “From Nepali post to throughout the Gorkha state in Moru(a then time currency) 2”. Here, from Nepal, the post goes to whole Gorkha state, is mentioned.

3) The original version of Ex-National anthem of Nepal

Source: Bal Gopal Shrestha, Wikipedia and national anthem info

A lot of us probably know what the National anthem of Nepal was like during the monarchy period. But this is the original version of national anthem recorded in UK. It was the time, when Junga Bahadur Rana Kunwar visited UK. The Britishers queried for the national anthem of the country, because they had a culture to play the anthem, while welcoming the royal guests from other countries. But, the team from Nepal had neither a national anthem, nor a national music.

The Ranas then picked up the Nepal Bhasa song “Rajamati Kumati”. The Britishers played the same song to welcome Ranas. Meanwhile the Ranas were already fascinated and lured by European music. The Rana period buildings can also be found to be built in British style. However, when they came back to Nepal, Ranas wanted to have a national song.

He ordered a person Bakhat Bahadur Budhapirthi from Magar community, working in India, to prepare a music. Budhapirthi knew the Ranas were inclined with Western music, so he composed music in the same way,in 1899 . While, Chakrapani Chalise was ordered to prepare a song, in the way Ranas said, in 1924.

The first stanza of the song was:

श्रीमान् गम्भीर गोर्खाली प्रचण्ड प्रतापी भूपति
श्री ५ सरकार महाराजाधिराजको सदा रहोस् उन्नति
राखुन् चिरायु ईशले, प्रजा फैलियोस, पुकारौ जय प्रेमले,
हामी गोर्खाली साराले

May glory crown you, courageous Sovereign, You, the gallant Gorkhali ,Shri PānchMāhārājādhirāja, our glorious ruler,May he live for many years to come, And may the number of his subjects increase,Let every Gorkhali sing this with joy.

The term Gorkhali was used here. Infact the second stanza was like this:

बैरी सरु हराउन, शान्त हुन सबै बिघ्न ब्यथा
गाउन सारा दुनियाँले सहर्ष नाथको स्वीकृती कथा
राखौं कामना भरी वीरताले नेपालीमाथि सधैं नाथको
श्री होस् ठुलो हामी गोर्खालीको
May all the enemy go away, May all the problems and barriers fade away, Let the world sing the glory of “Nath”, Let wish the bravery filled, The Nepalese be under the “Nath”, We are Gorkhali the great. 

When the 1962 constitution, handed down by the king, made this anthem into law, thus making it no longer just the royal anthem, but the national song. Upon official adoption, the second stanza was dropped. The verse that was left honours the king.

This second stanza clearly stated that “Gorkhalis are the great and may the Nath have rule over the Nepalese.” This was the anthem of victory against Nepalese by the Gorkhali. However, in 1967 A.D which means 2024 B.S, the term “Gorkhali” was also dropped and replaced by “Nepali”

4) Writing of Bira Gun

Clipped from a Youtube video of History TV

The oldest gun of Nepal, that was developed by General Gahendra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana. The writing in this gun contain “Shree Shree Shree Gorkha Sarkar(Government)”

5) Book where Nepali was referred to Newar language

Source: Biju Karmacharya

This book is about 150 years old. The book is a collection of idioms and phrases. The book had been divided into two columns. In one of the column, it was in the Newar language, while the other column was in Khas language(which now we call Nepali language). The thing here was, the column in Newar language had the topic “Nepali”.

6) An old map

Map from 1886 showing Nepal Mandala between Gorkha in the west, Khatang in the east and Muckwanee in the south Kirat in the east. Source: David Rumsey Map Collection

7) Old postage stamp

The postage stamp dated 1964 BS (1907 AD) says Gorkha Sarkar: गोर्षा सर्कार. However, the old pronouncation of ष was also done as ख. Like षटकोण also called खट्कोण. It is meant to show that the Nepal government was originally called Gorkha government, like the country was called Gorkha Rajya. The name has been changed to Nepal government in this stamp dated 1935 AD.

Source: Roshan Shrestha

8) An official document of Newa enslavement

Source: Shankar Limbu

A document from history of Newa enslavement by the Gorkhalis. The document had date Bikram Sambat 1848 Chaitra Sasthi. It is 227 years ago. It was endorsed by Grivan Yuddha Bikram Shah. In the document he orders that ‘from today you have been declared as a slave; you and your son and daughter have been put in the position of slave; from your relations of good deeds to your kins caste and their son and daughter and their marital relations’.

The word ‘Nepala maarda’ (when Nepal was killed) is used to refer the series of Gorkhali’s invasion in Newar Kingdoms.

9) Song of the king of Khwopa(Bhaktapur)

Reference: The free library

It is well known that Ranajit Malla (b. 1703, reign 1722-1769) was the last king of the Kingdom of Khwopa. He was the twaay baa(ritual father) of Prithvi Narayan Shah, the invader. After Prithvi Narayan Shah took over the last Newa kingdom, Ranajit Malla declined to live in Nepal as a puppet local chieftain working under the Gorkhali rule.  Ranajit’s had to go to Benaras, however, was not his happy choice. The final departure from his native and most beloved place after being devastated and humiliated by the Gorkhali emperor.

However, was not an easy thing to cope with for Ranajit. He was deeply shattered and crying from the bottom of his heart. Thus, it seems that in order to cope with such a saddened situation, he had used his literary ability by expressing his grief through this “raga poem. The source manuscript from where this poem is excerpted itself tells that Ranajit had composed this poem while he was on the way to a final spiritual shelter (tirthavasa) in Benaras leaving the Kathmandu Valley for ever. The same source also tells that Ranajit Malla had even sung this raga after having a final glance at his lost Kingdom Bhaktapur and the entire valley while taking a rest at a cautari  located at the pass at Chandragiri hill near Kirtipur. The eyewitness description of the account also tells that Ranajit was deeply crying with unstopped flow of tears in his eyes while singing the raga and having a final glance at the Valley. Since the hilltop of Chandragiri is the last place from where one can have a final glance at the Valley, it seems that Ranajit was having a very hard time to proceed further for his already started journey because that would take him away from the sight of his kingdom for ever.

In the raga song composed by him, he expressed his sorrow of leaving this kingdom for ever. Because he was one of the king, who loved his kingdom and its people the most, actually saw the kingdom in hands of cruel and backstabbing Gorkhalis, while also saw that many native people were killed and their houses were burnt down, chasing many people away. He had already known that Gorkhalis could come down to any level for their selfishness, because he had seen that three years of blockade by them, so he felt that the kingdom had gone to the hands of “demons”. In the raga song, “He remembers Nepal”.

Transliteration of the poem from its original Nepal Bhasa:

haya haya rama rama gathe maluma nepala saturi durajananan
ava// //
jhinte dola raje samadatayo jita vasa. videsaya vasa jula thani ava
hathujana bhaya papam manenagusoya dhuno//panjalasa cona maduthe
jinona rama rama//2//
navadurga ganesyake sahasra ji vinati yana//lasalapi aparadha
rama rama//3//
lhaya gohmayake jina dusaya vedana: thugu pasa pheniao suna na rama
piratiyana vacona chalayata durajanana//haya haya chu nugala jula
suryavamsi kulamani sri ranajita malla//talejuna vila vaikunthavasa

Translation of the poem (English)

Oh Ram! Oh Ram! How could I survive without remembering Nepal?
The evil enemy destroyed me now!!// // (5)
[There is] no more shelter [for me] in the country of twelve thousand [households]!
A foreign land has become my abode now on! Oh Ram! Oh Ram!!//1//
As the fruit of the sin that I committed in my previous life, I 
have already
seen what I have not even heard of!
There is no point of living in a cage! Oh Ram! Oh Ram!! //2//
I pray million times to Goddess Nava-Durga and God Ganesa!
For a pardon over the crimes I committed! Oh Ram! Oh Ram!! //3//
To how many people the grief of pain I express?
No one can make me free from this anguish! Oh Ram! Oh Ram!! //4//
Kept on showing affection, the evil [conspirator] deceived [me]!
Alas! Alas! What sort of thinking [of mine] caused this? Oh Ram! Oh
Ram!! (7)
[To] this Ranajit Malla, the jewel of the Solar Dynasty,
A shelter in heaven is offered by Goddess Taleju! Oh Ram! Oh Ram!!

10) Additional documentation in book Mangena

A famous book on Alternative history or heterogenous diversity respecting nationalism of Nepal, Mangena writes something on this subject matter as well. The pictures from the book are:

11) Thomas Bell ‘Kathmandu’

In the book ‘Kathmandu’ written by Thomas Bell and published in 1989, mentions the term ‘Nepal valley’

12) A stone inscription in Na-kwaa(Nuwakot)

Taken from the book: Nuwakot Ka aitihasik abhilekh samghraha

The above document is a transcription as well as translation (from Sanskrit to Gorkhali). It is the transcribal of a stone inscription situated in Na-kwaa(Nuwakot). It is situated at the main entrance of the ‘Nhetan Laaykoo'(Saat talle durbar). It dates back to Shaka Era 1684.

Prithvi Narayan Shah, who captured Na-kwaa(Nuwakot) which was under the Kantipura Kingdom of Nepal, built and expanded the palace area of Nuwakot. He used Newa manpower and built in the same style, since there wasn’t any distinctive Gorkhali architecture.

The document starts with religious greeting and says, “Prithvi Naryan Shah broke the arrogance of Nepal Kings and made this fort.” (pink underlined sentence).

Another inscription transcribe from the same book

There is another inscription with similar message. It is located in a garden of the palace, dating back to Shaka Era 1687.

The pink underlined sentence says, “Born in Gorkhali tribe, the one who broke the arrogance of Nepal Kings”…. renowned king Pratapsingh Shah is the great.

13) The book ‘Nepala ki Gorakha’

The book ‘Nepala Ki Gorakha’ is written by Lalit Jung Sijapati, published in 1955. Some relevant pages of the book is:

Source of the book is: Nepāla Ki? Gorashā ! [1955], digitized by Madan Pustakalaya.

Failed attempts and succeeded re-definitions

After centuries of the attempt to re-define the term ‘Nepal’; now ‘Nepal’ and ‘Newar’ cannot be used as synonymous terms. It’s been evident that citizens have revolted in times, not of far history, to re-claim the term.

One of the failed attempts to re-define Nepal, is Nepal Sambat. The following picture is from the Gorkha Patra’s first page, published 117 years ago. Picture by: Madan Pustakalaya

The state had attempted to redefine ‘Bikrama Sambat’ as Nepal Sambat. However, the attempt has been a failure. The government recognizes Bikrama Sambat as Bikrama Sambat.

The Nepal Bhasa movement of 1085 and series of Newa movements made it successful to re-claim the term ‘Nepal Bhasa’. In 14 Nov 1998, the Council of Ministers directed to use ‘Nepal Bhasa’ instead of Newari. The terms Nepal Bhasa, Nepal Lipi, Nepal Sambat, has been re-claimed into its meaning.

However, the use of term ‘Nepali language’ has been challenged by indigenous rights activist. Re-using of the words ‘Parbate Kura’ or ‘Gorkha Bhaasa’ or ‘Gorkhali language’ is visible over literature. The concept that ‘Nepali language’ isn’t a single language, but should refer to all languages of Nepal, the voices and usage have been prominent too.

14 thoughts on “Nepal is a stolen word

  1. Very nice research. I did know that Nepal was a referred to present day Kathmandu Valley but this proves a lot of facts to be true.

  2. Really a marbolous research. I am very much enlightened with this commendable step. Pl accept my heartful thanks.

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