Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Dolakha Town and Dolakha Newar: A History

Newar is a Tibeto-Burman language spoken by approximately 825,000 people. Most speakers are located in the Kathmandu Valley of Nepal, although there are other Newar communities scattered throughout the country. Dolakha town is one such community. It is clear from historical records that Dolakha was well-established as a Newar settlement by the 14th century and it is likely that it originated centuries earlier. The Dolakha town is located approximately 135 kilometers to the east of Kathmandu, in the Dolakha district of Nepal. The altitude of this town is about 1700m–1830m. From this town, we can see a spectacular view of the high peaks of the Himalayas, mainly the Mt. Gauri Shankar (7,134m high).
Concerning the prehistory of Dolakha, Dolakha town was originally ruled by Kiratas. Dolakha is in close proximity to modern Kiranti groups, some cultural traditions appear to be similar to those of modern Kirantis, and the majority of Dolakha Newars fall into the Shrestha caste category, a category which traditionally applied to administrators and tradesman, as opposed to priests, farmers, or artisans. When Newars originally established the settlement in Dolakha, they went as administrators to an area where the population was largely non-Newar. However, while Dolakha is located in the eastern region of the country, the current non-Newar inhabitants in the area immediately surrounding Dolakha are not Kirantis, but speakers of either West Himalayish languages Thami and Tamang or Sherpa.
The Newar settlement of Dolakha was well-established by the time of the Malla period (A.D. 1200–1768). It is possible that the initial establishment was significantly earlier. It is noted an assertion made by the historian Babu Ram Acharya that the development of Dolakha occurred after the establishment of trade links between India and China, during the reign of Amsuvarma, who ruled during the Licchavi period in the early 7th century. Desiring to provide secure shelters for travelers on this route, Amsuvarma created “security posts” along the passage. Dolakha is said to have been one of these posts, serving as well as a trade link between the Kathmandu Valley and eastern Nepal. Whether or not the establishment of a security post marked the original settlement of Newars in Dolakha is unknown, however it is very clear that Dolakha was well-established as a walled Newar settlement and fort by the early 14th century. Therefore the split of the Dolakha Newars from the Newars of the Kathmandu Valley occurred between 700 and 1600 years ago.
Beginning in the Malla period, the history of Dolakha becomes clearer. At that point, it was considered to be a city, having the required attributes of a wall surrounding the settlement for security, a surrounding forest, and evidence of cultural development in the form of temples and courtrooms. In the early portion of the Malla era, Dolakha was considered to be a feudal state, under the ultimate rule of the kingdoms of the Kathmandu Valley. However during the later Malla era, as the Malla kings began to lose power, the rulers of Dolakha broke away from their feudal lords and attained independence. This appears to have happened primarily in the 16th century A.D., during which time the leaders of Dolakha took titles indicating increased independence and power, until the title rajadhiraj ‘king’ was taken by Indra Singh Dev, who assumed the rule of Dolakha in A.D. 1534 (BS 1591). This independence was officially recognized in the treaty of Pashupati (in Kathmandu) in A.D. 1548 (BS 1605). Under the reign of Indra Singh Dev, Dolakha prospered economically and advanced culturally, and trade relations with Tibet were at their height. After about a century of independence, Dolakha was again annexed to the kingdom of Kathmandu. Although Dolakha was considered to be a state of Kathmandu, there was very little interference from Kathmandu in internal matters.
Around the same time that Dolakha lost its independence, at least in name, to Kathmandu, Prithvi Narayan Shah, the king of a small principality called Gorkha west of the Kathmandu Valley, began his campaign for territorial, and subsequent economic, expansion. His primary aim was to wrest control of the Kathmandu Valley from the three Newar kingdoms. He managed this in part by using force or diplomacy to take control of surrounding communities, hence isolating and eventually blockading the Kathmandu Valley. He successfully defeated the three Newar kingdoms in the late 1760s and shifted his capital to Kathmandu in March of 1770. This campaign took more than 20 years to complete. The surrender of Dolakha to Prithvi Narayan Shah occurred in the middle of this campaign, in 1754. At that time, Dolakha had a predominantly Newar population, but also that a large settlement of Khasa speaking people was found there. Dolakha was important to Shah for several reasons: the fertile farmland that surrounded the city, its position in trade with Tibet, and its iron deposit. Prithvi Naryan Shah wrote a letter to the main citizens of Dolakha, offering them protection for their lives and property in exchange for their surrender. Dolakha surrendered without resistance, extending Shah’s territories to the east of the Kathmandu Valley. The relations between the new Shah government and Dolakha were strong. However, during the Rana regime (A.D. 1846–1951), Dolakha lost much of its influence. At the same time, a new trade route was established between Kalimpong and Tibet, which caused Dolakha to lose some of its economic vitality. While Dolakha has never regained the economic and political influence it held in previous centuries, it has become a small modern city of Nepal. Its historical significance is still held in respect, and the beautiful temples and monuments which are found throughout the village are reminders of its rich historical past.


  1. I liked your post!!!
    Good try.

    But as you start ...
    "Newar is a ... language"


    825000 people ... ?

    I think you lack something in here.
    825000 on which year?
    Moreover the language is "Newari".
    Newar is a culture and identity.
    You did not mention any references...

    again, good try!

  2. मेरो ब्लग हेरिदिनुभएकोमा धेरै धेरै धन्यवाद !
    आउँदा दिनमा पनि यस्तै सहयोगको आशा राख्दछु ।

  3. Thank you Badrijee. It is great to know about the rich history of Dolakaha and hope to read more. As ll other things, our 'official' history is Kathmandu centered and we don't know about places outside Kathmandu. I hope people will be conscious to search and document such facts from all parts of our country.


    Dear Badri dai artical piracy garnu bhako ho tapaila mathi ko site ma hernu ta ani next gardai janus ani Introduction Chapter One bata tapaila savar garnu bhayako ho so piracy garyako kura haru padna majha audaina dai

  5. Dear Anonymous bro,
    If you clicked on the heading of the post you could really find the source of the post. This is just only the documentation of the information about Dolakha.

    Here is also the source of the post: