A Brief History of Limbuwan

Historically consisting of ten Limbu Kingdoms in the Himalaya, Limbuwan once covered the area of modern day Panchthar, Taplejung, Ilam, Terhathum, Jhapa, Dhankuta, Sankhuwasabha, Sunsari and Morang in Nepal. The name Limbuwan means the ‘land of the Limbus’, referring to the Limbu people who once lived in this picturesque region west of Kanchenjunga Mountain and the Mechi River, and east of the Koshi and Arun Rivers. Limbu people, also referred to as Yakthung, belong to the Kirati nation, some of whom are resident in neighboring Bhutan, Tibet and Sikkim, with an estimated 700,000 living in Nepal.

The name Limbu is translated as the ‘bearer of bows and arrows’ and the Limbu tribes are thought to have originated in both Tibet (referred to as Lhasa gotra) and China (referred to as Yunan gotra). Although the Limbus have many different clans and sects, they do not practice a caste system, and all are considered equal.

The Limbus adopted the name Yakthung when the ten kings of Limbus gathered and decided to call the territory occupied by the ten kingdoms Yakthung Laaje. Not too long after this historic decision, King Mawrong Hang rose to prominence, subdued the other kings of Limbuwan and became their ruler, naming his Kingdom Morang. When King Mawrong Hang died without a male heir, King Uba Hang took over and ruled from 849 to 865 AD, making a number of social and religious reforms. He was succeeded by his son Mabo Hang who ruled until 880 AD, continuing to implement his father’s reforms. The following king, Muda Hang, lacked leadership skills and local chiefs reverted to ruling their areas independently. By the time Wedo Hang succeeded his father, Limbuwan was divided, with conflict between independently ruled kingdoms being commonplace.

Limbuwan went through a series of changes in its rulers, some of whom left lasting legacies, such as the forts built by King Sirijonga of Yangwarok Kingdom in Phedap and Chainpur (present day Terhathum and Sandkhuwasabha districts respectively), the remains of which can still be seen today. But more importantly, King Sirijonga brought about feudal reform and introduced the same writing system in Kirat script for all Limbus. Many of the towns established during this tumultuous time of change in Limbuwan remain today. Descendants of the original inhabitants include the Limbus, Yakkha, Athpahariya, Meches, Dhimal and Yamphy peoples. While the various tribes have maintained their unique identities, they lead a peaceful coexistence along with large numbers of fellow nationals who moved into the area from around Nepal in the 18th century to cultivate the land.