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Statue of Amshuverma at the Chhauni Museum, Kathmandu
|Mahasamanta of the Licchavis|
595 CE – 621 CE
Amshuverma or Amshu Varman (595 CE - 621 CE; Devanagari: अंशुवर्मा) rose to the position of Mahasamanta (equivalent to prime minister) about 595 AD when King Sivadev I was ruling in the Licchavi (kingdom) of Nepal. By 604 AD Sivadeva was reduced to a mere figurehead by Amshuverma within years of his appointment as Samanta, a feudal lord. His rule appears to have ended before 621 AD when crown prince Udayadev became King.
Amshuverma took the title of Pashupati Bhattarak being in Shaivite majority period. The meaning of Sanskrit word Bhattaraka is noble lord. He is believed to have been a son of a brother of the queen of Sivadeva. He was learned, bold and farsighted ruler of Lichhavi period, he was also a lover of art, architecture and literature. He built Kailashkut Bhawan palace, which became famous as a state of the art palace south of the Himalayas in the seventh century.
The Chinese ambassador Wang Huen Che who was appointed about 640 AD makes a graphic description of its grandeur in Tang Annals of China. The appointment of the Chinese ambassador to the court of Nepal in seventh century shows that a very close relationship pertained between Nepal and China already.
Many Tibetan accounts make Bhrikuti the daughter of Amshuvarma. If this is correct, the marriage to Songtsän Gampo must have taken place sometime before 624 CE. Acharya Kirti Tulku Lobsang Tenzin, however, states that Songstän Gampo married Bhrkuti Devi, the daughter of king "Angsu Varma" or Amshuvarma (Tib: Waser Gocha) of Nepal in 632.
According to some Tibetan legends, however, a Nepali king named Go Cha (identified by Sylvain Lévi as "Udayavarman", from the literal meaning of the Tibetan name) was said to have a daughter called Bri-btumn or Bhṛkuti. "Udayavarman" was most likely the same king we know as Udayadeva, the son of Śivadeva I and later, the adopted son and heir to Aṃshuvarmā. He was also thought to be the father of Narendradeva (Tib: Miwang-Lha). If this is accepted, it means that Narendradeva and Bhrikuti Devi were brother and sister.
It is believed that Udayadev was exiled to Tibet and the daughter of Udayadev, Bhrikuti, was married to the Tibet Emperor Tsrong-tsang Gompo. This event appears to have opened trade routes between Nepal and Tibet. Some early historians in Nepal had mistakenly concluded that the pictographic symbol used to name the father of Bhrikuti in Tang Annals stood for Amshu (which means the rays of the rising sun in Sanskrit, the language used in Nepal then), where as Udaya (the rise of the sun) would also be written with the same symbols. Bhrikuti could not have been Amshuverma's daughter simply because she would be too old to marry the Chinese Emperor. Bhrikuti was daughter of Udayadev and she had dispatched the Chinese army to Nepal valley to reinstate Narendradev, her brother, as king in Nepal about 640 AD. Bhrikuti was instrumental in spreading Buddhism to Tibet and she later attained the status of Tara, the shakti in Mahayana Buddhism.
The Chinese Buddhist monk Xuanzang, who visited India during the 7th century, described Aṃshuvarmā as a man of many talents. The original temple of Jokhang in Lhasa was modeled after a Nepali monastery design - a square quadrangle with the kwa-pa-dyo shrine at the center of the east wing, opposite to the entrance. The innermost shrine room of the world heritage Jokhang temple still displays the woodwork of Nepali origin and craftsmanship. Since then, and specially after the contributions of Araniko, a Nepali bronze caster and architect, sent to Tibet to cast a stupa in 1265 AD, Nepali art and architecture spread over the countries like China and Japan. An inscription by Aṃshuvarmā dated to 607 AD at Tistung professes the importance of the "Aryan code of conduct" (i.e. the caste system).
A great feat of architecture and engineering, the Kailashkut Bhawan, is believed to have been located about Hadigaun in Kathmandu. It had three courtyards and seven storied tiered structure with grand water works and inlay stone decorations. Amshuverma also introduced the second Licchavi era (samvat). Economically, Nepal was much developed during his time. His ruling period is known as the 'Golden Period' in the history of Nepal.
Amshuverma also married his sister Bhoga Devi to an Indian king, Sur Sen, and this marriage helped him strengthen relationship with India. He maintained the independence and sovereignty of Nepal by his successful foreign policy.
His Sanskrit grammar, entitled Shabda Vidya, made him popular even outside the nation. The famous Chinese traveller Huen Tsang praised him in his travel account.
Amshuverma's regime became a boon to the Licchavi Period so that it came to be called a golden age. He has become immortal in the history of Nepal.
Amshuverma was endowed with all the kingly qualities and virtues. He was a just, impartial and an able administrator. He was a true servant of the people without any political bias.
According to some inscriptions, King Shiva Deva used to say that Amshuverma was a man of universal fame and he always destroyed his enemies by his heroic nature. Some other inscriptions tell us that he had a great personality, who dispelled darkness by the light of his glory. Huen Tsang, himself a learned man and respected scholar, writes about him as a man of high accomplishments and great glory.
Amshuverma had written a book on grammar in Sanskrit. The great grammarian Chandraverma, a scholar of Nalanda University, was patronized by him. He followed Shaivism but was tolerant towards all other religions. He can rightly be compared with other great rulers of his time as regards his political outlook and impartial feelings without any religious prejudices. For the development of economic condition of the people he paid great attention to the improvement of trade and commerce of the country. Nepal had trade relations with India, Tibet and China and became the thoroughfare of India's trade with China and vice versa.
Amshuverma gave equal importance to industrial advancement and agricultural prosperity. He made every effort to help the people by providing canals to irrigate the fields. He levied a water tax, a land tax, a defense tax and a luxury tax, using the income from these sources for the development works of the country and not for his personal pleasure and luxury.
- Dor Bahadur Bista (1991). Fatalism and Development: Nepal's Struggle for Modernization. Orient Blackswan. ISBN 978-81-250-0188-1.
- R. Ghose (1966), Saivism in Indonesia during the Hindu-Javanese period, The University of Hong Kong Press, pages 16, 123, 494-495, 550-552
- Ancient Tibet: Research materials from the Yeshe De Project, p. 225 (1986). Dharma Publishing, Berkeley, California. ISBN 0-89800-146-3.
- Tenzin, Ahcarya Kirti Tulku Lobsang. "Early Relations between Tibbet and Nepal (7th to 8th Centuries)." Translated by K. Dhondup. The Tibet Journal, Vol. VII, Nos. 1 &2. Spring/Summer 1982, p. 85.
- Shaha, Rishikesh. Ancient and Medieval Nepal. (1992), p. 18. Manohar Publications, New Delhi. ISBN 81-85425-69-8.
- Shaha, Rishikesh. Ancient and Medieval Nepal. (1992), p. 17. Manohar Publications, New Delhi. ISBN 81-85425-69-8.