Nepali author demolishes king’s blue blood claim

May 27th, 2008 - 2:45 pm ICT by admin  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, May 27 (IANS) On the verge of being stripped of his crown and evicted from the royal palace, Nepal’s distressed King Gyanendra now faces another blow - the demolition of the “myth” that his dynasty is descended from India’s Rajputs, a dynasty of warrior kings known for their valour and blue blood. Nepali author and researcher Subodh Kumar Singh contends that the Shah kings of Nepal, once revered as the incarnation of Hindu god Vishnu, are actually the descendants of the Magars, a Mongoloid people who inhabited western Nepal and occupied a low position in social hierarchy. They were dismissively described as ‘matwalis’ - a people known for their drinking prowess.

Singh, a political specialist at the American Embassy in Kathmandu, has been researching for over a decade the history of various communities who enjoyed a position of power in the past but then lost their glory and plummetted to the bottom of the social ladder.

In his new book, “The return of the Mauryas”, Singh says the Shah kings began creating the fiction that they were descended from the Rajput kings of India in order to hide their origin and commend greater reverence from their subjects.

However, several pieces of evidence belie the claim.

“During his last days, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the founder of the Shah dynasty, gathered all his relatives, courtiers and officers around him and advised them on how to conduct their work and themselves,” Singh told IANS.

“The last advice was recorded and still exists as Divya Upadesh (divine advice).”

“On his death bed, the king told the people around him, I am a Magar king. When you face death, you dispense with pretence and speak the truth. The king’s dying declaration is an indication that the Shah kings were not of blue blood.”

The advice was collected and published by a Catholic missionary who had come to Nepal in the 1960s, after the mystic land was gradually opened to foreigners.

Father L.F. Stiller’s book, “Prithvi Narayan Shah in the light of divya upadesh”, had to be published from India’s Bihar state in 1968 as, Singh says wryly, it would have been impossible to publish it in Nepal.

Even Singh’s book had to await the fall of King Gyanendra’s absolute regime and the restoration of democracy.

Singh points out a tradition that still remains in western Nepal as further proof.

“The Shah kings’ family deities - Goddess Manokamana and Gorkha Kali - have Magar priests,” he says. “If you are a Rajput, you would not have a Magar priest.”

Matrimonial alliances also indicate the dynasty’s humble stocks.

“The Magar kings had the tradition of marrying the daughters of Tharu kings. Prithvi Narayan Shah himself married a Tharu princess called Kaushalyavati.”

Though the Tharus are the kinsmen of the Buddha, who came from a royal family, the tides of fate turned them into slaves who are now regarded as untouchables in Nepal.

Later, the class-conscious Shah kings departed from the tradition and sought to marry Rajputs from India or the aristocracy in Nepal.

When Nepal holds the historic first meeting of its constituent assembly Wednesday and formally proclaims the kingdom to be a republic, King Gyanendra, overnight reduced to a commoner, would have his forefathers’ vanity to blame as much as his own overriding ambition.

“The Shah kings completely forgot their roots,” says Singh. “If they had remained true to their origin and kept themselves allied to the Magars, Tharus and Kirants, who form the majority, they would not have come to this pass,” Singh said.

“But they created fictitious genealogy and DNA and so, in the end, they had to face the dire consequences.”

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