Learn more about the Kirati language spoken in Nepal

Kirati is an ethnic language that is spoken in Nepal by various people groups who fall under the Tibetan-Burman group of languages. Mainly, it is the Sunuwar, Khumbi, Limbu, Yakhha and people in the east of Nepal who call themselves the Kirati people. The Kirati can also be found in Burma and India. They are also known as Kirat, Kirant and Kiranti people. The meaning of the word Kirati has been disputed. One school of thought argues that the word Kirati was derived from the Sanskrit word Kirata, which is found in early Kirati literature. The other school of thought argues that Kirati is Chinese. Kiratis were first mentioned in 16th Century literature in the Yajurveda and the Atharvaveda. According to mythology found in Sanskrit literature, Kiratarjuniya, one character, Arjuna, disguised himself as a Kirata for a certain period of time, so as to learn archery from Shiva, who was a Kirati deity. Other Hindu mythologies also have stories about the god Shiva being disguised as a Kirati married girl. The official language of the Nepal people is known as Nepali.

The spoken Kirati language is quite rich. However, the written language is not very well organized as it was destroyed by the rulers who ruled Nepal after the Kirati people. The Kirati alphabet was based on the Lepcha alphabet, which was derived from the Tibetan alphabet. Vowels are normally indicated using diacritics. Writing is done from left to write in the Limbu language. Limbu is a Tibetan- Burman language that is spoken by approximately 280,000 people in eastern Nepal.

The Kirati people have a rich historical culture. They practice Kirati religion, which is just a form of Shamanism, animism and worship of their ancestors. Their holy text is known as the Mundhum/Kirat Veda. Nepal was an ancient country that was ruled by different dynasties in the past. The Kirat rule was the longest, making it quite significant in the history of the country. In Hindu scriptures, Nepal was referred to as ‘the land of the Kirats’. The Kirati migrated to their present location in ancient times through passing Yunman, Tibet, India and Nepal.

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