History & Present:
Nepal is a very ancient country, which was ruled by many dynasties in the past. Among them, the Kirat rule is taken as a very significant one, being the longest period that extended from pre-historic to historic period. In ancient Hindu scriptures, Nepal is referred as the “Kirat Desh” or “the Land of Kirats”.
The Kirat Rai belong to the Kirati group or the Kirat confederation that includes the Rai, Limbu, Yakkha and Sunuwar. Dhimal, Hayu, Koche , Thami, Chepang, and Surel ethnic groups also consider themselves to be of Kirati descent.
The traditional homeland of the Rai extends across the Solukhumbu, the Okhaldhunga , Khotang, Bhojpur and the Udayapur districts in the northeastern hilly/mountainous region of Nepal, west of the Arun River in the Sun Koshi River watershed. Rais are also found in significant numbers in the Indian state of Sikkim and in the northern West Bengal towns of Kalimpong and Darjeeling.
According to Nepal’s 2001 census, there are 635,751 Rai in Nepal which represents 2.79% of the total population.
Language & Script:
Kirat Rai speakes more than 32 different languages and dialects within the Tibeto-Burman languages family. The oral language is rich and ancient, as is Kirati history, but the written script remains yet to be properly organized as nearly all traces of it was destroyed by the next rulers of Nepal, The Lichhavis and almost eradicated by the Shah dynasty.
The Rai are divided into many different sub-groups – Bantawa, Chamling, Sampang, Dumi, Jerung, Kulung, Khaling, Lohorung, Mewahang, Rakhali, Thulung, Tilung, Wambule, Yakkha, Yamphu, Sunuwar, Ambule, etc. Some groups number only a few hundred members. Every sub-groups speak defferent languages.
The Kirat Rai has no their own script but use ‘Sirijonga’ script which was first invented in the late 9th century by the Sirijonga Hang. It disappeared for many years and reintroduced by Te-ongsi Sirijonga in the 17th century. This Sirijonga, who was believed to be the reincarnation of the first, was apparently martyred in 1743 for the sake of this script by the Sikkim Lamas, who tied him to a tree and flung poison arrows at him. The script was named ‘Sirijonga’ in his honour by the Limbu scholar Iman Singh Chemjong in 1925.
Religion & Culture:
Nakchong (the Rai priest)
The traditional Kirati religion, apparently predating Hinduism and Buddhism, is based on ancestor-worship and the placation of ancestor spirits through elaborate rituals governed by rules called Mundum. Sumnima and Paruhang are worshipped as primordial parents. Sikatakhu Budo, Walmo Budi, and Jalpa Devi, among others, serve as Kirati deities. A major Rai holiday is the harvest festival, Nwogi, when fresh harvested foods are shared by all. The Bijuwa or Nakchhung (Dhami) or Priest plays an important role in Rai communities.
The Rai community can be described as worshippers of nature. When the wildlife begins moving to the high hills of the Himalayan ranges while the seeds sown in the fields by the tribes grow and bloom with flowers, the tribes perform Sakela puja which includes dancing and singing. The dance is called Silli and mimics the movements of birds and animals during their migration. The performance of Sakela puja is led by the Nakchong (the Rai priest) or by the head of an important family in his absence. During Sakewa puja instruments such as the dhol (or dhela), the jyamta, the bow and arrow, the chindo, the yak tail, and the cock and hen are used.
After Sakela Puja, the Rai community is banned from playing any musical instruments until after they have performed the harvest festival, udhauwli, in August and September. At this time the birds and the animals return from the high hills to the low lands and puja silli is completed.
Art and Literature:
(Miss. Mona Rai, Northeastern University Boston)
Welcome to Kirat Art and Literature page. This page provides a variety of articles on antiquities, artifacts, literature, photographs, collectibles, artists, songs and bibliographies. Kirat Rai is unique in the art and literary history of Nepal. The writers like Lain Singh Bangdel (Artist, Writer, Art Historian, Former Chancellor of the Royal Nepal Academy), Indra Bahadur Rai (Famous Writer, Honorary Ph.D., Winner of Madan puraskar and first winner of Indian Academy Prize in Nepali literature) have writing since long times.
These pages are dedicated to those Kirat Rai who writes novels, stories, short-stories, plays, poems, songs, paintings, sculptures etc. You can browse online galleries as well as read about Kirat Rai’s books, theatre-pieces and other literary works.
Kirat Rai’s main occupation is agriculture although many Rai have been recruited into military service with the Nepali army and police, and the Indian and British Gurkha regiments and Singapore Police Force. Makkar Bahadur Bantawa (Tri sakti patta 1st class, Gorkha Dakshin Bahu, Former Zonal commissioner), Bhim Prasad Rai (Brigadier General, Nepal Army), Bijaya Chandra Rai (Brigadier General, Nepal Army) are famous personalities. Moreover, now many Rais are taking graduation from University in various subjects, arts and literature.