The ancient Hindu texts mention Kiratas as a mountain and forest tribe. They are mostly mentioned along with the names of the Chinese (the ancient Cinas). They were considered forest trappers, who used to dig pits to catch deer. The text also mentions Kirata’s head, King Suraghu, who was also the Persian King Parigha’s friend. The Hindu myths also mention some incidents where Lord Shiva tries to imitate the Kirata people.
Contemporary historians believe that there has been wide intermarriages and cultural exchange between Kiratas and the migrant population from Tibet during the 8th and 9th centuries. The Kirat people consider a huge part of eastern Himalaya to be their home. Most of the Kiratas are known as Yakkha, Limbu, and Rai. During the early days, the whole Himalayan region was considered to be the Kirata Pradesh or Kimpurusha Desha. The people here were also called Nep, which is considered to be the etymological link to the term Nepala.
The texts like Mahabharata and Atharvashirsha have ancient references to Kiratas who are considered to be the early inhabitants of the regions of Himalaya. This is believed to have happened before the 9th century B.C. For more than a millennium, the Kirats were the inhabitants of the Kathmandu Valley and they had their ruling dynasty.
During the 8th century, the Kirata region’s northern frontier areas fell into the hands of Tibetan migrants. This flood of migration brought a dominance of Tibetan religious and cultural practices on the ancient traditions of Kiratas. The practice of shamanistic Bon is an example of this influence. It was later replaced by the ancient Tibetan Buddhism form. The influence of Tibetan culture laid the base for political-religious changes in the regions of Kirat.
Kirats are considered to be the early inhabitants of the regions of the Kathmandu Valley. The ethnic groups of Surel, Thami Tharu Chepang, Koch, Hsyu, and Dhimal also consider themselves the descendants of the Kirat community.
The reign of Kirat Kings was between 650 B.C. and 290 A.D. The Kirat period is considered to be the root of the development of the culture and civilization of Nepal. When considering the religious aspects of Kirat, they originally worshiped nature. They worshiped the stones, animals, trees, rivers, the moon, and the sun.
The Kiratas migrated to the eastern region when the Lichhavi rule was established. The migration happened mostly to the hilly regions and Himalayas and they are settled in these places even today. All the Kirata groups have their own language and script. The ornaments worn by women differ.
More than one million people in Nepal are from the Kirata community. This constitutes about 5% of the total population in Nepal. Most of them use Tibeto-Burman languages. The culture of Kiratas is different from Indo-Nepalese and Tibetan cultures. However, there are influences of these cultures as there were long-term contacts. A big portion of the Nepali Newar population is considered to be descendants of the Kirat community.