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The Khasas or Khas (Nepali: खस) or Khɒsiyas are an ancient people, believed to be a section of the Indo-Aryan who originally belonged to Central Asia from where they had penetrated, in remote antiquity, the Himalayas through Kashgar and Kashmir and dominated the whole hilly region.

The name 'khasa' itself seems to have derived from the Persian words 'Koh' meaning mountain and 'Shah' meaning lords, thus combining to form 'Koh-shah' giving its ultimate meaning as 'Lord of the mountains', since 'Khasas', the name which ultimately seemed to have caught on in the regular local dialect, are primarily mountain dwellers for most of their history. They are believed to have given their names to Kashgar, Kashi (Central Asia), Kashkara, Kashmir, Khashali (south-east of Kashmir) Kashatwar, Khashdhar (Shimla Hills) and other recognizable colonies at the present day in the hills from Kashmir down to Nepal as also in various plains.

According to 2011 Census of Nepal the population of Khas people is 10.9 Million which is 40% of total population.[1] In Nepal some Khasas also married among Mongoloid population, thus creating a more diverse racial landscape. Most of the Bahun, Chhetri and other people of Nepal are Khas people speaking 'Khas' language also known as Nepali. A small section of the existing inhabitants of Kumaon and Garhwal belong to the ancient Khasa or Khasiya race though speak Kumaoni and Garhwali which are languages of the Indo Aryan Central subgroup of Pahari languages. Immigrants Rajputs and Brahmins from the Indian plains made Khasa a small minority in Uttarakhand.

Antiquity and origin[edit]

The Kashgar in Tarim Basin and Kashkar in Chitral are connected with the Khasas. But it seems more likely that these names come from ancient tribal people known as Kaskaras. The Kashgar and Kashkar can easily be derived from Kaskara. The Kaskara is Karaskara tribe which is first referenced by Baudhayana's Dharma Sutra as neighbors to the Arattas and is stated a despised and impure people. The Karaskaras are also referenced in Baudhayana Shrauta Sutra, Apastamba Shrauta Sutra and Hiranyakesi Shrauta Sutra. The Kaumudi Mahotsava drama refers to King Chandrasena who is called Karaskara. King Chandrasena is identified with Chandragupta I of Gupta dynasty by Dr Jayswal and Chandra of Meharauli Iron pillar inscriptions by others. The Kashkara of Chitral also connects with Kaskara or Karaskara. Some scholars[who?] identify Ch'ia-sha, Chieh-ch'a or Ch'ieh-shih of the Chinese classics with the Khashas and think them to be Iranians who had entered from the north. But again, it is more likely that these Chinese names referred to Kaskaras or Karaskaras. The Karaskaras are very ancient people and are attested in several Vedic texts, whereas the Khasas only find mention in later references. It is possible that the Karaskaras of the Vedic texts were later diversified into the Khasas.

Pāṇini does not refer to Karaskaras or Khasas but he refers to a plant Karaskara (Nux-Vomica), at least attesting that he was aware of the term Karaskara.

Later Sanskrit literature attests both Karaskaras and the Khasas.

Mahabharata refers to the Karaskaras, styling them as an impure people,[2] and also speaks of the Khasas of many realms,[3] thus showing that there were many branches of the Khasas, one of them still attested by its former Vedic name Karaskara.

The Karaskaras or Kaskaras of later literature were found located in the Aparanta or western India in later period.

The Khakha tribe of the hills is said to be modern representative of the Khasas. The clan name Khokhar or Khukhar is said to have derived from Karaskaras or Kaskaras (Dr J. L. Kamboj).

Khasas were people who moved from ancient Iran to western Tibet and established a Khasa kingdom and ruled in Tibet. It was ruled by Khasas i.e. non Mongolian. In Tibet they followed shamanism but converted in Buddhism and mixed with Chinese. Later some who did not mix with anyone, after 12th century when they moved in Karnali region of western Nepal they converted in Hinduism but still retained shamanic and Buddhist elements. Shamanic statues and Buddhist inscriptions in Jumla of Nepal proves it. Ancient Tibetan books refer to Khasa king of non Asian origin. Hindu epic books refer to a kingdom of Khasa in western Tibet ruled by Khasa kings. People of Nepal still retain the Khasa language which still has Iranian elements but is largely influenced by Tibeto-Burmese languages (e.g. Magar) and Sanskrit language. It is called Khasa kura, which is the main language (lingua franca) of Nepal. It is also spoken in Bhutan, Sikkim, Darjeeling and some part of Burma and by people living in India of Nepalese or Gurkha origin. It is the official language for all Gurkhas serving in the British army. Historians[who?] have found strong evidence to support these claims. There are many different kind of people and castes in Nepal. Almost all of the Bahun and Chhetri (Indo-Aryan origin) who are regarded as the highest caste people in Nepal, and Damai, Kami and also some lower-caste people known as "Sanojat" people of Nepal, are Khas people. Scientists[who?] have also matched Khasa DNA with DNA of Iranian tribes which proves the movement of Khasa from Persia to Tibet and then to Nepal (which happened recently compared to other human movements.) Also Khasas do not look Mongolian and have physical and racial features resembling Kasmiris and Iranians.

Iranian Aryan tribe[edit]

Dr Robert Shafer thinks that after the main mass of composite Indo-Iranian-Aryan population had moved into Iran and the plains of Panjab, there also was left some Aryan population behind in their original land of occupation. The Daradas and Khasas of the hills and the Kambojas, Sakas, Pahlavas, Paradas and Sogdians of Central Asia represent the hold-overs of the former Aryan population.[4] The Kumaoni is, in fact, has lost its origin due to succession of migrants from Indian plains and now resembles Hindi. Rajputs and Brahmins escaping Muslims attacks and conversions over wrote the customs and language of this lands as they dominated and overthrew the Katyur kings.

Khasas in Epic literature[edit]

The epic literature asserts that the Khasas, Chinas, Hunas, Shakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Kiratas, Sinhalas, Mlechchas etc. were all created by sage Vashistha through the divine powers of cow Sabala or Nandini (Kamadhenu).[5]

The Khasas are said to have participated in the Kurukshetra War. They are grouped with the Kambojas, Shakas and Shalvas of north-west in Uluka's list of the warrior clans of Kuru side.[6] The Khasas and other tribes from Central Asia including the Kambojas, Sakas, Yavanas, Daradas, Tusharas had fought the Kurukshetra war under the supreme command of Sudakshin Kamboj.[7]

At several places, the Mahabharata brackets the Khasas with the Kambojas and Shakas [8] and further also attests them as tribes of Udichya or north-west.[9]

Karna is stated to have fought and defeated the Khasas, Madrakas, Trigartas, Tanganas, Kulindas, Kambojas, Ambasthas and the Kaikeyas and had collected tribute from them for Duryodhana.[10]

Krishna is also said to have defeated the Khasas of diverse realms along with other tribes like Kasmirakas, Aurasikas, Pisachas, Kambojas, Trigartas, Malavas, Daradas, Sakas, Yavanas. This evidence indicates that there were several settlements of the Khasas.[3]

In Rajasuya sacrifice of king Yudhishtra, the kings from northern countries lying between Mount Meru (Pamirs) and Mandara & located around river Sailoda with plenty of Kichaka bamboos, had brought as tribute, heaps of gold raised from underneath the earth by ants. The nations so named include the Khasas, Paradas, Kulindas and Tanganas among others. This indicates that the Khasas of the early period lived to the north of Kashmir, west of Tibet, probably in Xinjiang province of China.

Khasas in Puranic literature[edit]

Puranas include the Khasas in the ancient Janapada list and place them in the parvatashrayin (mountainous) division of Puranic Bhuvanakosha.[11]

Puranas attest that river Sita (Yarkand) flowed through the country of the Khasas.[12]

The Puranas also attest that river Ganges flowed through the Khasa land.[13]

These Puranic references obviously show that there were more than one settlement of the Khasas.

  • Markandeya Purana associates the Khasas with the tribes of Udichya or north division.[14]
  • Bhagavata Purana associates the Khasas with the Kiratas, Hunas, Andhras, Pulindas, Pukkasas, Abhiras, Yavanas etc.[15]
  • Nilmata Purana mentions the Khasas with the tribes of the Nagas, Paisacas, Darvas, Abhisaras, Gandharas, Shakas, Mundavas, Madaras, and the Yavanas from north-west.
  • Skanda Purana asserts that the Khasas, Andhras, Hunas, Kiratas, Pulindas, Pukkashas, Abhiras, Yavanas, Kankas etc. were born from sinful wombs.[16]
  • Vishnu Purana brands the Khasas, Kiratas, Hunas, Andhras, Pulindas, Pulkasas, Abhiras, Sumbhas, Yavanas as addicted to sinful acts, but also suggests that they can be purified by seeking refuge with the devotees of the Lord.[17]
  • Kalika Purana refers to a war between King Kalika and states that the Khasas and the Kambojas, Shakas, the Barbaras had militarily supported king Kali against Vedic Kalika.[18]
  • Vayu Purana mentions that at the end of Kali age, the Khasas and tribes of the Sakas, Yavanas, Gandharas, Katas, Pulindas, Pahlavas, Paradas, Lampakas etc. will be annihilated by king Kaliki. And they were indeed annihilated by king Pramati (Vikramaditya according to Dr V. S. Aggarwala) at the end of Kali age.[19]
  • Bhavishya Purana attests that king Pradyota had defeated the Khasas along with the Haras, Hunas, Barvaras, Gurundas, Sakas, Yavanas, Pahlavas, Romatha and the others (Biblical and Modern History of Kali Yuga from Bhavishya Purana).
  • Bhagavata Purana claims that the Khasas were also defeated by Bharata.[20]

Khasas in Brihatsamhita[edit]

Brihat-Samhita (A.D. 500) of Varaha Mihira associates the Khasas with the Abhisaras, Daradas, Darvas and Kiras, which from other sources, are known to have inhabited Kashmir and its neighbouring regions in historical periods.

Khasas in Tibetan chronicles[edit]

The Khasas are mentioned in the Tibetan chronicle Dpag-bsam-ljon-bzah (The Excellent Kalpa-Vrksa), along with people like the Yavanas, Kambojas, Tukharas, Hunas, Daradas etc.[21]

Foreign references on Khasas[edit]

The companions of Alexander the Great do not mention the Khasas. Pliny refers to Chesi tribe of the hills who are often identified with the Khasas. Ptolemy refers to the Khasas as Khasia who are often connected with Kashgar. Yuan Chwang refers to Ch'ieh-shih whom the scholars identify with the Khashas and locate then in upper Kunar valley at Kashkar (as the neighbors to the Kambojas).

Geographical distribution[edit]

As has been noted from the Puranic and epic references presented above, there had been many settlements of the Khasas.

Prof. Atkinson says that the Khasas had settlements in Kashkara at the head of Kunar valley, in Garhwal, Kumaon (Kamaon), and Nepal, Bikaner desert, under nomadic tribe called Khosa and also in the desert of Thar Desert in Rajasthan.

The country of the Khasas is said to have also comprised the valleys lying to the west of Pira-Pantsala-range between the middle course of Vitasta (Jhelum) in the west and the Kasta-vata in the east.[22]

The country of Rajauri which was ruled by the Kambojas in epic times (MBH 7.4.5), was ruled by the Khasas in the later times (.[23]

King Ashoka had encountered the Khasas after he had quelled the rebellious Gandharas, thus attesting the Khasas in the neighborhood of the Gandharas and the Kambojas.

The Khasa writing was prevalent in the regions from Dardistan to China. Thus, these regions were, in one way or the other, connected with the Khasas.

Khasas, Kambojas in Bengal[edit]

The archives of Bengal contain references on the presence of foreign groups like Khasas, Pukkasha, Pulinda, Thara, Kamboja, Yavana, Sumha, Sabara etc., who were considered outside the caste criteria of Bengal. There are inscriptional references attesting that foreigners like the Khasas, Hunas, Kulitas, Karnatas, Latas Malavas etc. were recruited in the armed forces of the Palas kings.

Dr R. C. Majumdar writes that the armed forces of Pala Dynasty included many foreigners like Khasas, Hunas, Kulitas, Karnatas, Latas, Malavas and the Kambojas etc. Later, some courageous military General of the Kambojas appears to have captured north-east Bengal from the Pala dynasty, thus establishing the Kamboja dynasty in north-east Bengal.[24]


It is theorised that the modern representatives of the Khasas may be the Khakhas to which all the petty chiefs and gentry in the lower Kashmir valley and neighboring hills are said to belong.[25] However, this is based purely on phonetics, with the tribe itself never having coroborated this in any text.


  1. ^ url= Central Bureau of Statistics, Nepal
  2. ^ Mahabharata 8.44.43.
  3. ^ a b Mahabharata 7.11.15-18.
  4. ^ Report: Ethnography of Ancient India, p 43.
  5. ^ See: Ramayana 1.52-55) & Mahabharata (1.174.6-48).
  6. ^ Mahabharata 5.162.
  7. ^ The Nations of India at the Battle Between the Pandavas and Kauravas, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, 1908, pp 313, 331, Dr F. E. Pargiter, (Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland).
  8. ^ Mahabharata 5.160.103; 5.161.21.
  9. ^ .
    Udichya Kamboja Shaka.ih Khasha.ish.cha ||5.159.20 ||.
    (Mahabharata 5.159.20).
  10. ^ MBH 8.8.18-20, 8.9.33-34.
  11. ^
    Ato deshanpravakshyami parvatashrayinashcha ye ||
    NiharastusHamargashcha KuravasTunganh Khasah |
    (Brahmanda Purana 27.62-63).
  12. ^ Matsya 120.43-44, Vayu I.47.42-43.
  13. ^ Matsya 120.48.51, Vayu 1.45.47-49.
  14. ^ Markendeya 58.48-52; Vayu: I..45.135.
  15. ^ Bhagvata Purana 2.4.18.
  16. ^ Sri Sanatkumara-Samhita 36-41.
  17. ^ Vishnu Purana, 2.4.18.
  18. ^ Kalika Purana, III(6), 22-40.
  19. ^ Vayu 2.36.107; 1.58.82.
  20. ^ Bhagavata Purana 9.20.30.
  21. ^ Tho-gar yul dań yabana dań Kambodza dań Khasa dań Huna dań Darta dań...(See: Pag-Sam-Jon-Zang (1908), I.9, Sarat Chandra Das; Ancient Kamboja, 1971, p 66, H. W. Bailey.
  22. ^ Rajatarangini, Trans Dr Stein, Vol I, p 47n.
  23. ^ Rajatrangini, Trans., Dr Stein; Political History of Ancient India, 1996, p 133, Dr Raychaudhury.
  24. ^ The Dacca University Studies, Vol I, No 2, April 1936, p 132, Dr R. C. Majumdar.
  25. ^ Rajatrangini, Vol V, p 48.

See also[edit]


  • Mahabharata
  • Vayu Purana
  • Markendeya Purana
  • Bhagavata Purana
  • Bhaudhayana Dharama Sutra
  • Brhatsamhita by Varaha Mihira
  • The Geographical Data of Early Puranas, 1972, Dr Singh
  • Apastaamba Shrauta Sutra
  • Ptolemy
  • Beyond the Gorges of the Indus: Archaeology Before Excavation, 2002, Karl Jettmar, Ellen Kattner
  • Geographical and Economical Studies in the Mahabharata Upayana Parva, p 47, Dr Motichandra
  • Ancient Kambojas, People and the Counrry, 1981, Dr J. L. Kamboja.
  • KHAS KINGDOM by Prof Surya Mani Adhikari,Tribhuvan University,Kathmandu,Nepal