Ancient period expands between 900 BC to 880 AD. Political history of ancient Nepal can be divided into four dynasty which are as follows:
- Gopala Dynasty
- Mahishpala Dynasty
- Kirata Dynasty
- Licchhavi Dynasty
Gopala Dynasty (900 to 700BC)
Gopala dynasty is the First ruling dynasty of Nepal who ruled Nepal from 900 to 700BC. It is believe that the Gopala- pastoral nomadic cowherd group, came to kathmandu valley through the north state of India, Garhwal. According to Gopala Raj Chronicles the first King of this dynasty was the Bhumi Gupta. There were 8 Gopala kings and the last Gopal king was Yakshya Gupta. The main occupation of people during this period was animal husbandry. The chief contribution of this dynasty is linked with the name of our country. Religiously Gopala were the followers of Lord Krishna. Gopala ruled Nepal from near Modern Matatirtha.
Mahishpala Dynasty (700 to 625BC)
The Mahishpala dynasty was the second ruling dynasty of Nepal. Bara singh was the first king of Mahishpala Dynasty and other kings were Jaya singh and Bhuwan Singh and they were from the Ahir dynasty. According to historian the Mahishpala dynasty is not of importance. They were buffalo herders.
Kirata Dynasty (625 to 100AD)
Kirati came to Nepal and ruled over here. The term kirata has been mentioned in the well-known. Hindu political and religious epic of Mahabharata as a hill tribe with remarkable skills and better technique of warfare. The kirata race has different branches such as Rai, Limbu, Yakha, etc. Out of them Limbu established the Limbuwan in eastern part of Nepal. Yalambar was chief of Elung clan who had first established the Kirati kingdom in Nepal. Yalambar had attacked the last king of Mahishpala dynasty and established his regime. There were 29 kings of kirata dynasty who ruled over Nepal. Yalambar, Balamba, Hriti, Humati, Jitedasti, Suyarma, Sthunko, Gasti etc were the major kings of this dynasty. During the rule of sthunko, Ashoka came on a pilgrimage to lumbini to mark the birthplace of Lord Buddha. King Ashoka got the inscription engraved on rock and set up a stone pillar which is known as Ashoka pillar at present in Lumbini. He also visited Kathmandu valley and his duaghter Chaarumati had got married to the Devapala because the daughter chaarumnati expressed desire to settle in Nepal. After the name of her husband chaarumati founded the town in Nepal called Devapatan near Pashupati. The kirata first established the democratic type of political system but latter converted into Monarchial form.
Condition of Nepal under Kirata
During the Kirata rule Nepal made progress in the field of art and architecture, trade and commerce etc. The Kiratas were good warriors as well as good administrator so the country was ruled well. Laws were severe and Men and women were treated equally. During the Kirata rule, Nepal made progress in trade and commerce. The main items of export were wool, woolen product and herbs. It is known from the Arthashastra of Kautallya that Nepal woolen blankets were sold in a big quantity in the market of Pataliputra ( patana). Caste and class system also developed during the kirata rule. Nepal has the trade relation with the China, Tibet and India. Kirata economy was based on the agriculture, animal husbandry, trade and cottage industry. The Kirata were very tolerant toward all religion because the people of Hindu, Buddhist and others lived together in unity. Kirata developed a number of town such as Matatirtha, Shankhamul, Thankot, Khopung (Bhadgaun), Khopasi, sanga(Teku) etc. it means urbanization process was started with the kirata rule in Nepal.
The last king of Kirata dynasty was defeated by the powerful dynasty Licchavi and Licchavi ruled over here. Licchavi were from the Baisali of India. Being defeated by Ajatshatru a powerful king of Magadh migrated to Himalayan country Nepal. There is no consensus about the first king of Lichchhavi some historian believes that the first Licchavi king was the Jaya Deva – I.
According to Pashupati inscription Jaya Deva was the great emperor ruler of Licchavi dynasty. According to the inscription by Jaya Dev II, the first Licchavi king was the supushpa. The capital of his kingdom Pushpa pur (Pataliputra) and he came to Kathmandu to rule here. The licchavis ruled this cointry smoothly and continously till the 7th century AD. Mana Dev, shiva Dev-I, Amshu Varma Narendra Dev were the influential kings of Licchavi dynasty. The Licchavi were tolerant towards religion and brought with them Aryan tradition.
Some Major Kings of Licchavi Dynasty
Mana Deva: -
Mana Deva was the son of king Dharma Deva and queen Rajyawoti. Among the Licchavi Kings, he was most widely known character but scholar differ in their opinions about the period of Man Deva, but it is known from the stone inscription installed by him at Changu Narayan that his rule started from 464 A.D. and continued up to 505 AD. During the period of Mana deva the kingdom was extended up to the Himalayas on the north, Gandaki in the west, koshi in the East and Terai in the south. King Mana Deva was a devout of Hindu but patronized Buddhism. His grandfather Virsha deva was a devout of Buddhism and he laid down foundation of Swayambhu stupa, the most important Buddhist monument of Nepal. Mana Deva built a famous royal palace Mangriha from where the administration of the country was conducted. He issued the coin Mananka. He was also known as the wise administrator. After Mana Dev Mahi Deva and Basanta Deva became the kings of Nepal. A few generation after Basanta Deva Shiva Deva I became Kings.
Shiva Deva I: -
Shiva Deva I became the king of Nepal in 588 AD. From the beginning of his rule he had placed Amshuvarma in-charge-of the entire administration. King Shiva Deva gave him his daughter in marriage and made him prime minister. During the period of Shiva Deva, a huge palace kailash kut Bhawan was built in Devapatan and adminstration of shiva Deva was conducted from here. He was devotional and virtuous king that gave up his nominal title in 606 AD. After his Death Amshuvarma declared himself as the king of Nepal.
Amshuvarma was experienced in administration because he was involved in politics during the period of Shiva Deva I. Period of King Amshuvarma is known as the golden age of Lichchavi period. Amshuvarma Belongs to Thakuri Linage. Impressed by his worthiless, heroic qualities and administrative ability, Shiva Deva I gave his daughter and made him the chief Minister. The king remained as ceremonial ruler only and the entire authority was in the hand of Amshuvarma. He became the king after the death of Shiva Deva I in around 606 AD. The coins bearing his name were minted. He adopted the title of Maharajadhiraj of Nepal. He was concerned about the economic condition of the people, so he adopted different measures for the betterment of the people’s condition. For example, appropriate arrangements were made regarding to the provision of pension after retirement for civil service.
Amshuvarma was himself a very learned man and a great lover of art and writings. He has written a book shavda vidya (grammar). Amshuvarma did not continue his lineage kingship. He declared Udaya Deva the son Shiva Deva I as the prince and heir to throne. He decentralized administration from central to local level and the administrative power was given to the head of Local village. Division were gram, Tala, and Dranga. He was in favor of Natural Law. Many taxes were dismissed during his regency. He used to consult the religious text during the judgment. He developed friendly relationship with neighboring countries. He carried out a lot of reforms regarding economic development, extension of trade, agricultural development, animal husbandry, issue of coin, social works, international relations etc. His daughter Bhrikuti, got married with the king of Tibet Tsrong- Tseng- Gampo.
Narendra Deva: - Narendra Deva, grandson of Shiva Deva I and son of Udaya Deva became the king of Nepal with the help of Tibetan king Tsrong-Tseng Gampo. King Narendra Deva was a very brave man. He always wished to see people’s happiness and prosperity.
Condition of Nepal under Licchavi
The Licchavi period is known as the golden period in the history of Nepal. The Licchavi were very successful to raise the standard of country. They were first to create the concept nation and Nationality. Various cultural traits, faith on modified form of religious sentiments, system of social behaviour and high influence on the spirit of religion and social life were introduced by Licchavi rulers.
Administrative system of Licchavi
The licchavis had already shown their administrative ability by establishing democratic form of government in Vaishali. In order to carry on the administration well, they set up a councils of ministers headed by chief minister who was known as the Mahasamanta. The legislative, executive and judiciary power was in the hand of King. The main objective of administrative reforms was the welfare of the common people. The country was divided into different Provinces, Districts and Villages. Local bodies like grama, and Drung were established to settle the local disputes. There were different paanchalis within grahm and Drung and the head of Paanchali was called Pradhan. There were different administrative posts like Mahasarbandandanayak (Chief justice), Mahabaladakshya (army chief), etc.
Licchavis maintained the good relations with India, China and Tibet. The traders of India and China used to communicate via Nepal. Amshuvarma gave his daughter to Tsrong Tsang Gampo to establish the diplomatic relation with Tibet. This Influenced to the politics, religion, society, art, and cultures of two countries Nepal and Tibet.
Though originally, Licchavis were followers of Hinduism and worshipper of Lord Shiva, the Licchavi kings equally patronized Buddhhism. Construction of Hindu temple, and Buddhist Gumbas were side by side. People of country were very religiously tolerant and the society reflected high degree of unity.
Development of Art and architecture
The Licchavi were well known for their interest in art and architecture. In fact the concept of construction of temples began with them. King Mana Deva built the Mangriha, Amshuvarma built the Kailashkut Bhawan, King Narendra Deva built the Bhadradibas temple and Vrisha Deva laid down the foundation of swayambhu stupa. All these temples and work of arts reflected the glory of the Nepalese people. The conceptions of making inscription was strated with the Licchavis. The images of Tribickram Narayan of Lazimpat, the images of Dhumra Barahi of Dhumbarahi, and the Nepalese skill in metal works and other crafts speak of the excellence of the Nepalese art in the Licchavi period.
In this period trade and commerce made progress in Nepal. The profession of people was trade, commerce and agriculture, and animal husbandry. The coins, the cottage industry products, the Nepalese art and architecture, and the development of trade and commerce shows the sound economic condition of the country. Tax was the main source of national income.
In Licchavi period laws were based on the religious scriptures and the rulers took the help of learned men in making law. The post of Mahasarbadandanayak was created to work in judicial sector. Punishment were made accordance with the intensity of offence. The thieves, robbers, murderers, and rebels were severely punished.
Licchavis were progressive and society was well organized. Co-operative organizations were established by the name of Guthi to sort out the misunderstanding among the people and undertaken certain welfare activities. The people saw the unity in diversity where the people of different castes and religions lived together. The caste system was roughly practiced and the Brahmins got a high position in society. There was the joint family system and women were respected in society. There was the social harmony and developed the sense of nationality in people.
Language and Literature
The stone inscriptions of Licchavi period prove that the people used Sanskrit language. Some of the Licchavi kings were scholar themselves and held the men of learning in high esteem. Amshuvarma’s grammar and Jaya Deva’s Sanskrit verses show that they also made literary contribution. In that period some books on astrology, Medicine, and religion were written. Education was not widespread, and people were much interested in dance and music and most of which were took place in occasion of festival. Thus, the Licchavi period was well known for all-round development and progress. The sound economic system, the social unity, the development of art and architecture, and development of religion make the Licchavi time as the best period of Nepali history.