The Kirat Religion

Nepal was known as Himwant Khand Kairat Desh or Kirat country in the ancient time. Lord Buddha came to the Kathmandu valley in 250 B.C. with 1350 disciples. There was Kirat rule in the valley. The Kirati people showed respect to Lord Buddha, his disciples and teaching but stuck to their own religion. These virtues are still found among the Kirati people. This proves that the Kirati religion is the oldest of all religions:

The salient features of the religion are as follows:

  1. It is against idolatry.
  2. Worship of nature.
  3. Non-existence of caste system.
  4. Equal treatment to all human beings of the world.
  5. The Mundhum as the original religious book.

                To worship or pray on the ‘Sangbhe‘ or altar without any idols under the open space in the fundamental feature of the Kirat religion. On the ‘Sangbhe’ (altar) the omnipotent and omniscient almighty god and ancestral deities are invoked and worshiped. Now-a-days these ‘Sangbhes’ are being replaced by Kirati bankika manykhims or temples. Kirati people are worshippers of nature. They believe that all men are equal irrespective of one’s race, caste, creed and colour. However, Hindus rulers imposed ban or preaching other religions and established caste system. They placed the Kiratis at the lowest strata of the caste system. But the Kirati people do not recognize the caste system.

The Mundhum, the holy book of the Kirati people has wise sayings in verses that describe the universe and the religious life of the ancient Kiratis. These verses were handed down from generation to another generation verbally. In Mundhum, there is vivid description of the earth, the sky, creatures, vegetation and the life philosophy of the Kirat people as well. The Mundhum expounds the principle of human and racial equality, religious tolerance and nobility. The Kirati priests or Shamans called ‘Samba, Yewa, Yema , Fedangma, Hangchhamba, Nakchong or Naosho’ have made vital contribution in preserving the verses of Mundhum. They have been performing all the religious rites and rituals verbally on the various religious functions and festivals.

Though these verses are available now in the form of books or booklets, yet the Kirat religion has yet not been able to established its significant identity of its own among the other religion of the world. On the mode of religious practice, sociologists have classified the Kirat religion as ‘ the religion of shamans or nature worshippers’.
According to some scholars, indigenous people like Kagate, Kham, Gurung (Tamu), Chepang (Praja), Chhantyal. Jirel, Tamang (Murmi), Thakali, Thami, Dura, Dhimal, Newar, Pahari, Byasi, Magar, Meche, Raute, Raji, Lepcha, Loba, Surel, Sherpa and Hayu belonging to Tibetan-Burmese family and Kumal, Koche (Rajbansi), Tharu, Bhote, Majhi belonging to Indo-European language family were the descendants of the Kirat rulers who ruled for 33 generations. But presently, only Yakha Rais (Khumbu), Limbus and Sunuwars belonging to Tibetan-Burmese language family are proud of themselves being the followers of the Kirat religion.

The national population census forum 2048 did not contain the Kirat religion column. But 3,18,389 Kirat religion followers had filled their religion in the column of unclassified religion. As a result, the Kirat religion also got national recognisation and was included in the religion column of the population census forum, 2058. It guaranteed an increase in the population of the followers of the Kirat religion in the forthcoming population census.

Mundum

Like the Vedas of Hindus, the Bible of Christians and the Kuran of Muslim, ‘Mundhum’ is the source of philosophy and culture of the Kirat religion. In ‘Mundhum’, the creation of the universe, man, other living and non-living things and code of moral conduct have been described in an interesting and rational way. Mundhum is a treasure of knowledge, wisdom and source of inspiration, if an intensive and in-depth research is conducted. But as the ‘Mundhum’ experts have confined it to oral recitation only, and therefore, one could find slight devaluation in its intrinsic value. ‘Mundhum’ is not available in a single written volume but only in the collection of its fragments. Thus, it poses an intellectual challenge to disseminate knowledge and wisdom of  ‘Mundhum’ and requires a serious study and research work for this purpose. According to Mundhum experts, Kirat religion was in a well-developed state before the advent of the Hinduism and Buddhism. During the rule of Yalamber, the Kirat religion held its sway over Nepal, India and as far as Combodia. It was the state religion of King Yalamber’s regime.

Concept of ‘Mang’ (God, the supreme creator):

According to Mundhum, ‘Mang’ (God) is supreme, inmaterial, omnipresent and omnipotent. He is the supreme Lord of the universe and the whole universe goes on after His will.

Creation of living things in the earth:

It is the will of the supreme creator ‘Mang’ that created plants and vegetation using the power of the air, water, the earth and the sun. The empty earth was transferred into a green beautiful land. All the insects like butterflies, ants and termites etc. and birds were created from flowers, trees and its fruits respectively. Similarly, animals like cows, buffaloes, goats, horses and tigers were created by the will of the supreme creator ‘Mang’.

Rumuhang and Nayuma :

Mang, the supreme creator created Rumuhang (son of the sun). He, thereafter, created Nayuma using the power of air, water and the sun. As the earth was too small for Rumuhang and Nayuma to live, after mutual consultation, they created Paruhang who represented Rumuhang and his power; and Sumnima representing Nayuma and her power, to preserve and continue the beauty of the earth and after then, disappeared of their own will.

Paruhang and Sumnima :

Blessed with divine power, Paruhang and Sumnima were wise, generous and kind. They loved the earth and they created human beings who were wise enough to realize the existence of Mang, Paruhang and Sumnima through their devotion, dedication and noble deeds and they were able to understand laws of the universe. Paruhang and Sumnima also disappeared from the earth after they had created the human beings.

Teaching of Paruhang and Sumnima :

In the ancient time, the state and the common people both practised the religious teaching of Paruhang and Sumnima. Kirat people believed that sins committed by man were visible to the sun, the moon, water and air etc. They believed that the evil deeds resulted in evil consequences and also their descendants had to suffer being lame, dumb, deaf, blind etc. According to teaching of Sumnima, evildoers can never attain divine and royal power and prosperity and they are illustrated in the Kirat legends. Teaching of Paruhang and Sumnima in Mundhum forbid the Kirat people committing the following wrong doings:

  1. Begging:
    Begging is prohibited to any Kirat who believe in Paruhang and Sumnima. Kirats being the descendants of Paruhang and Sumnima must earn their livelihood by the sweat of their brow.  It is against the teaching of Paruhang and Sumnima to beg, lie and cheat.
  2. Committing theft and cheating:
    Blessed with divine power Paruhang and Sumnima, created the wise and prudent Kirats resembling them and therefore, the Kirats being the followers of the Paruhang and Sumnima are forbidden to committing theft and cheating. All these sins are being witnessed by the sun, the moon, air and water. As described in the Kirat legends, ill-gotten wealth never does well to any one else and his family.
  3. Adultery:
    As all men and women, wise and prudent have been created by Paruhang and Sumnima, the divine power, they are equal number of men and women in the earth for their happiness, monogamy has been regarded natural and good and adultery on the part both man and woman, is the root cause of all sins and disharmony or disputes. The Mundhum warns not only the wrongdoers but his/her descendants also will have to suffer for this.
  4. Avarice:
    According to the Mundhum, avarice invites all sorts of troubles, sufferings and sorrows. Mang, the supreme god has created all the things to fulfill the necessities of men and women. Avarice makes encroachment on other’s rights and ownership and causes imbalance.
  5. Envy and jealousy:
    The Mundhum condemns envy and jealousy. It says that only through good will and good relation one can be realized the existence of Paruhang and Sumnima. Envy and jealousy destroy a man’s body and mind as fire burns down wood.
  6. Pride:
    Pride of one’s wealth, beauty, knowledge and power only brings disgrace to a man for he does not own them forever. Pride breeds animosity but not love and good will. It destroys one’s wisdom and prudence.
  7. Homicide:
    Paruhang and Sumnima blessed human beings to grow and multiply in the earth and enjoy longevity. But with the growth of human race, number of such persons who defied the teaching of Paruhang and Sumnima, wrongdoers and sleaze-bags also went up. All these things are under the constant watch of Paruhang and Sumnima according to the Mundhum. To redeem oneself from his/her sins and realize the supreme creator Mang, the Mundhum has exhorted to perform some certain deeds as follows:
  • To remember Mang, Paruhang and Sumnima every morning and evening  through prayer, meditation etc.
  • To respect the aged people to be kind to the poor, to share one’s food with the poor and needy ones and to make contribution to the social welfare funds.
  • To eat only after offering food to Mang first.
  • To worship Pitris. (According to rites and rituals mentioned in the Mundhum). It is appropriate to perform ‘ Pitri Pooja’ or the ancestral worship twice on the occasion of ‘unbhowli’ and ‘udhounli’.
  • Protection of sacred things and places:- The followers of the Kirat religion regard their fireplace or a certain spot inside the house as sacred place. As fire is regarded power of the sun, it is sacrilege to spit, kick or pass urine or faeces in the fire or water.
  • The Mundhum teaches to follow one’s own religion and not to be a torn-coat without position, prestige and self-respect.
  •  To get blessings of Paruhang and Sumnima, one should devote some of his time in the philanthropic activity, delve into the philosophy of life and involve in such activities that foster brotherhood and fraternity among the various human groups