(Last Updated on : 01-04-2010)
The Kiratas were a non-Aryan mountain tribe, possessing a rude culture. They are referred to in the Mahabharata together with the Yaunas or Yavanas, Kambojas, Gandharas, and Barbaras, who all dwelt in the northern region or Uttarapatha; while the Ramayana
mentions them along with the Mlecchas, or 'barbarians', another non-Aryan tribe. Historical reference suggests that the Kiratas were outside the Aryan fold. It has been said that the Kiratas along with the Hunas, Andhras, Pulindas, Pulkasas, Abhiras, Suhmas, Yavanas, Khasas, and other impure tribes had purified themselves by offering their allegiance to Lord Krishna
. The Kiratas are mentioned in the Vishnu Purana
in a long list of Indian peoples and countries, where they also seem to have been located in the northern region.
Kiratas is mentioned in the Yajur Veda
and in Atharva Veda
. In Manu's Dharmashastra Kiratas are mentioned as degraded Kshatriyas. The Hindu mythology gives an indication of the Kiratas geographical position.
In the epic Mahabharata
, the Pandava meets the Kiratas to the east of Videha, where his son Ghatotkacha is born. The people who lived in the Himalayas, especially the eastern Himalayas, were called Kiratas. Kiratas are also referred as gold-like or yellow. History reveals that the Kiratas were located in the Uttarapatha. It has also been said that the Kiratas had settlements in the eastern region as well. The Mahabharata had pointed to a settlement of the Kiratas in Kamarupa. Historical records states that Bhagadatta, the powerful ruler of Pragjyotisa had led a mighty Mleccha army of Kiratas and Cinas in the battle of Kurukshetra.
The records of Megasthenes about the Kiratas have said that the Kiratas were nomadic people. They had flat-nose and were people of primitive origin dwelling in forests and mountain. They lived by hunting.
It has been said that the Kiratas had an influential settlement in Nepal, and a Kirata dynasty of kings held the valley in sway in succession to the Abhiras. It has been pointed out that the Nepalese usage still gives the name Kirata to the country between the Dudh-kosi and the Arun, and that there is evidence that the Kiratas had once occupied a much more extensive area in Nepal.