Nepalese in Tibet: A Case Study of Nepalese Half-Breeds (1856-1956)

Article excerpt


History of Nepal-Tibet relations can be traced from the ancient period. One of the substantive attributes of historical intercourse between the two trans-Himalayan countries was the growth of Nepalese half-breeds or Khacharas. Geo-politic imperatives and the commercial considerations were the fundamental factors that effected the unique and exceptional historical development of the Khacharas system. Khacharas constituted an important factor which greatly influenced Nepal-Tibet relations during the period between 1856 to 1956. Therefore, the study of substantive aspects of the Khachara deserves our attention.

Economic factors invariably play a decisive role in the foreign policy of any country. The Nepalese foreign policy was essentially governed by economic considerations. Since ancient times commerce emerged as the main determinant phenomenon in Nepal's relation with her neighboring countries. Specially, after the opening of Kerung route in 17th century closer interaction among China, Tibet, India and Nepal had developed. Consequently Kathmandu turned into a prime center of Trans-Himalayan communications and became a meeting ground of all traders. In fact political instability in Tibet after 7th century facilitated Nepal to monopolise Tibetan trade.

Nepalese trade with Tibet further expanded during medieval period regulating trade traffic between India and Tibet. Though history of Nepal-Tibet relations had long historical background there was no defined treaty, contract, or pact which outline the statutory frame work to regularize the relationship. It was only a historical development of no contact between two countries based on oriental diplomatic pattern guided by the commercial motives. However, dimension of Nepal--Tibet intercourse was formulated in definite logistics during 17th century. Exploiting the weak political situation in Tibet, Kantipur attack and forced her to sign a treaty (1645-50) which acquired substantial privileges for Kantipur in Tibet.

1. Firstly, The Kathmandu traders were permitted to establish thirty-two trading marts at Lhasa.

2. The Kathmandu King was authorized to appoint a representative (Nayo in Newar, Nayak in Nepali) at the Court of Lhasa.

3. Tibet agreed not to impose any sort of duties on Newar merchants throughout Tibet.

4. Kathmandu obtained a right of minting coins for Tibet and Tibet agreed to pay for required quantity of silver and gold.

5. Tibet agreed to conduct all trade with India, via Nepal even though conducted by other than Newar merchants.

The most important than these was the privilege that Nepalese could marry Tibetan women, male offspring from such marriage were regarded Nepalese subjects. Contemporary documents have referred these Tibetan born Nepalese as Khacharas so the same terminology is being used in this paper. It is interesting to note that the female child from a Nepalese father and Tibetan mother was acknowledged as a Tibetan citizen. The Tibetan government agreed to accept the Khacharas as Nepalese subjects and granted them the privileges and facilities accorded to the Nepalese traders in Tibet. The Khachara system was an peculiar system and exceptional privilege which established Nepalese jurisdiction over Tibetan born Nepalese.

The Kantipur-Tibet treaty in fact was the turning point in the history of Nepal-Tibet relations. The privileges facilitated the Nepalese traders to acquire monopoly in Tibetan trade. In addition to this, it encouraged Nepalese traders to reside in Tibet. Later on these privileges were extended to the traders of Bhaktapur and Lalitpur, the other principalities of Kathmandu valley. This tremendously helped to spread Nepalese trade and settlements all over Tibet. Consequently the number of Khacharas increased through the years to become an integral component of Nepal-Tibet relations. Nevertheless, no alteration was made in the status of Khacharas for centuries and the same tradition prevailed up to the mid 20th century. …