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KASHMIR, KALHAN’S RAJTARANGINI AND THE 'MAGAR KING ARAMUDI' IN OBSCURE HISTORY

[There have been lots of research works on Mongols and Magyars but not that much on Mongols and the Magars of the Himalayan region. Some  Hungarian scholars believe their ancestors were from Central Asia and that is why (Alexander)Sándor Csoma de Körös went to the Himalayas in search of his ancestors but died en route in Darjeeling in 1842.] 

By B. K. Rana

Aramudi, a name of considerable significance in the 8th century Himalayan history, particularly the history of Kashmir, hence both Nepal and India’s also but little explored and analyzed, still  romanticizes historians, researchers and general readers alike in the region. Historians have diverging views on “King Aramudi, who ruled Nepal, and who was possessed of wisdom and prowess, wished to prevail over him (King Jayapida) by cleverness”[1]. Whether this “famous king of Nepaldesh”[2]  was a king or a local ‘chieftain’[3] in the Kali Gandaki region, has been a question among the authorities. Marc Aurel Stein, who first translated Kalhan’s Rajtarangini into English approves of the battle of Kaligandaki in between Aramudi and Jayapida which Sylvain Levi has doubted. King Aramudi seems to have fallen prey to ‘Project Hinduization’ (Gurung, 1989)[4] or come within the virtual boundary of cultural modernization (Thapa, 2006)[5] in the country. If we believed in Levi’s discussion then Aramudi appears to us to be a Tibetan administrator posted at Kali Gandaki Region(Levi 1905 -08)[6]. Following, the Levian footmarks, multitudes of others have also nominated Aramudi to be a Tibetan administrator. Does King Aramudi’s battle with Kashmiri King Jayapida in Kali Gandaki belong to “domain of romance” ?[7] This question leads us to search through an obscure part of the Himalayan history relating to Kashmir’s also, which is made full of controversies by different scholars. I shall, in this paper, briefly attempt again[8]  to explore him in the ‘dark age of Nepalese history’[9] from a long range perspective.      

Whether King or Chieftain? 

Eminent historians of Nepal seem to have paused to place some importance or reference to Aramudi. Most of them either shy away from or simply despise his name and ambiguously and unconvincingly write he was king ‘Varmdev[10] of Nepal’, which this author had also mentioned in a short note, now deems as historically incorrect[11]. But, Kalhan has designated him “a famous king of Nepal[12] and also sung his glory along with Kashmiri King Jayapida in Rajtarangini’s chapter 4 – from  verses 531 to 586 - the history of Kings of Kashmir[13]. There are perceivable reasons behind Nepalese historians’ such a demonstrated reluctance: 

a) Firstly, the name – Aramudi -  itself.  It is a Tibeto-Burman name suffixed with ‘di’.  Truly so, it is  an unconventional name, not being in Sanskrit, given the prominence of Sanskrit language in South Asian history and contemporary society; 

b)  If it were a different Sanskrit name instead, there would have possibly been a general consensus in recognizing him as a powerful king of Nepal; 

c)If there were no mentioning of Kali Gandaki river in Rajtarangini, historians would have found an alley to bring him to Nepal – meaning present day - Kathmandu[14] - the seat of Nepalese civilization dating back at least up to 3rd century BC.[15]; 

d)‘Aramudi’ sounds an indigenous Magar name with an inflection ‘di’ suggesting – ‘water’ and also ‘river’. With the ‘di’ suffix, we may observe very common Sanskrit word ‘nadi’ > na+di; in which ‘na’ itself is not Sanskrit ‘negative’ in  this word[16]. (But in Tibetan water is ‘chu’. Tamangs and Gurungs call ‘kyu’ Cf. Magar ‘di’. More discussion to follow) 

e) There is no history of Aramudi in Nepal. 

Kali Gandaki Region : Traditional Homeland of the Magars:

Quite a few Nepalese historians have ever ventured to guesstimate that Aramudi was a Magar King by his ethnic origin because he hailed from Kaligandaki region or defeated Kashmiri king Jayapida on the bank of Kaligandaki River, or the mid-west Nepal which is primarily a traditional homeland of the Magars. But they have not  definitively mentioned him as a Magar by his origin. Given that the battle had taken place in the Magar heartland, we may therefore require to understand about the Magars of the Kali Gandaki region as well. The Magars are divided basically into seven groups or clans, with equal social standing, whom I shall put here in alphabetical order :  Ale, Budhathoki (cf. Budha), Gharti, Pun, Rana, Roka and Thapa. However, the ‘Budhathokis’ of mid-west Nepal and ‘Budhas’ of the west Nepal should be understood as the same Magar group[17]. 

The mid-west Nepal is traditional homeland of the Gurungs also. What is even interesting here is that Gurungs were also understood as the ‘Huns’[18] but they do not have ‘Pun’[19] sub-clan like the  Magars do have.  And these Gurungs are also divided  into ‘Char Jat’ > ‘4 castes’ and ‘Sorah Jat’ > ‘16 castes’ in which persisted debate until 1828 on relative status among the Gurungs themselves[20]. This ‘relative status’ among the Gurungs was derived from Hindu fourfold for ‘Char Jat’  > ‘4 Jats’ apparently making superior to other ‘16 Jats’ from ‘Bhasa Vamsavali’s marginalized ethnic or caste minorities of 13 are identifiable as inferior’ (Gurung – 1998). 

(Please read full paper in the attached Word or PD Files below or see in The Himalayan Voice also.)


[1]. Kalhana's Rajatarangini: A Chronicle of the Kings of Kashmir – Google Books – PP 170 http://tinyurl.com/3xvaneu

 [2]. Karna Singh – Kashmiretihas (History of Kashmir) – pp 99

[3]   Dilli Raman Regmi says he was a Magar Chief :http://www.dilliramanregmi.org/ancientnepal/content/content2.html

[4]   Hark Gurung: In reviewing the sweep of Nepalese history, Sylvain Levi, characterized the country as an “India in the making’ PP 188

[5]  Govinda P. Thapa : “One of the major themes in the history of Nepal has been the transmission of influences” into an original culture. http://magarstudiescenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/magar-history-revisited-latest.pdf

[6]  Aramudi has been considered a Tibetan by Sylvain Levi – Le Nepal PP 176.

[7]  V. A. Smith  - 1908: “The legend of his expedition against a king of Nepal, with the strange name  Aramudi, of his capture and imprisonment in a stone castle, and of his marvellous escape, equally belongs to the domain of romance.”

[9]. From 9th to 11th centuries, nothing has been explored so far of Nepal’s history. Therefore this period is also understood as the Dark Age in Nepalese history.

[10]King Jayapid of Kashmir invaded Nepal at the beginning of the 9th century.16 He was resisted by King Varmadev of Nepal on the banks of a river beyond the Gandaki” – Regmi Research - 1970 PP 3  Wordfile.

[11]  Some historians write Aramudi was also known as Baradeva1[1] [Barah Dev?]. He had made Lalitpattan, present day Lalitpur, his capital.” https://sites.google.com/site/rana1616/king-aramudi-and-other-magar-rulers-of-nepal

[12].  Sanchhipta Magar Itihas ( A Concise History of Magars) – pp 25. Op cit “ atha armudi itii prasidhow mayabi nepaldesasya raja jayapidmabhisandhatumaichhat’ – Kashmiretihas – pp 99

[13] Kalhana’s Rajtarangini is the oldest written authority for the history of various dynasties that ruled Kashmir from the earliest period until Shaka Year of 1070

[14] The present day Kathmandu used to be then Kingdom of Nepal, believed to be founded by a sage named ‘Nemuni’. The naming of Kingdom of Nepal after ‘Nemuni’ has also been contested

[15]. King Ashok visited Nepal and gave away his daughter Charumati to a local prince in and developed few towns in the valley 249 BC.

[16]However, without Magar ‘di’ ‘na’ can become ‘negative’ in Sanskrit.

[17]. Budhathokis are little vague to understand as the Rana and Thapa Magars. This  Budhathoki surname  refers to some Chhetris also. The author has met some Budhathokis, who are   Shaukas in Rapla, Darchula District near the Tibetan border in between Nepal and India. But ‘Budha’ basically suggests Magars in Kham speaking areas. 

[18]. Janak Lal Sharma has also guesstimated Gurungs  to be  Huns  in his book Hamro Samaj: Ek Addhyan – 2036. 

[19]. Cf. ‘Hun’ and ‘Pun’

[20]. The first documentary evidence is a tamra-patra (copper plate) of 1828 which proclaimed that all Gurungs were of equal  status. – Hark Gurung  - 1998 - PP 193

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Rana 1616,
Nov 4, 2012, 7:15 AM
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