Reminders of the Khasa Kingdom in Nepal’s Sinja Valley

Registered in the Cultural category of the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List in January 2008, Sinja Valley is located in the Karnali Zone’s Jumla District in Nepal. Excavations carried out by Cambridge University’s Department of Archeology have revealed the remains of an ancient settlement, including palaces and temples, with an extensive network of underground earthen pipes forming an intricate system for transporting water within the settlement. A ring of monoliths – huge stone columns – surround the settlement, featuring a gateway and steps. It is believed that this settlement is the ancient capital city of the Khasa Kingdom, which ruled the region between the 12th and 14th centuries.

Although there is some dissension as to the origins and influence of the Khasa Kingdom, it is generally agreed that the Khasa tribe is mentioned in the Sanskrit epic of ancient India, known as Mahabharata. The Khasas are considered to be part of the Mlechha tribes and are mentioned alongside the Pahlavas, Sakas, Hunas, Yavanas, Paundras, Kiratis, Kanchis, Dravidas, Sinhalas and Keralas. These tribes are described as having a protective role in the lives of the Hindu sage Vasistha and his cow, defending them against the attack of king Viswamitra from India.

The Hima River runs through Sinja Valley and across from the river are caves in the cliffs overlooking the valley. Ancient votive Buddhist shrines (chaityas) and various inscriptions have been found, indicating the religious significance of the caves. Reportedly many of the stone temples of Sinja valley are still used by Shamans to carry out ancient rituals and ceremonies. The Sinja Valley has the distinction of being acknowledged as the point of origin of the Nepali languages.

Other Khasa Kingdom archeological sites have been found in the Surkhet Valley, as well as at Kakre Bihar and Dullu, where examples of the Devanagari script (used in Sanskrit, Hindi and other Indian languages) dating back to the 13th century have been found. While the lines between mythology and reality may at times become blurred, the abundance of archeological evidence speaks volumes. Clearly this valley in Nepal was occupied by a thriving community in the past, making the Sinja Valley an interesting attraction in Nepal.