According to the oriental philosophy, Brahma is supposed to be the active creator of the universe. He is said to have been born from golden egg (most probably out of the hottest part of the earth) and created the natural surrounding and all the things on it. Hence he is also known as ‘Prajapati’, the creator of the world. Brahmajee also created “Ten Prajapatis” who are also said to be the “mind-born sons” which then completed the further creation of the human world. According to the Purans, those mind-born sons of Brahmajee were Bhrigu, Angira, Marichi, Pulatsya, Pulah, Katru, Dakshya, Atri, Vasishtha and Nārad. All these sons were the sages or the Rishis and later on they are regarded as the fathers of all beings.
‘Atri’ also belongs to the group of ‘Saptarishi’. They are Marichi, Angira, Atri, Pulatsya, Pulah, Kratu and Vasishtha.
‘Atri’ is, therefore, one of the most important Rishis. He was a composer of some Vedic hymns. He married ‘Anasuya’, who was also called “Mahasati Anasuya”. Apart from Anasuya, Atri Rishi had married ten other wives. Atreya was born from one of the ten mothers. Archananas was the son and Shyavashwa was the grandson of Atreya. As many as 63 disciples of Atreya have accepted their Rishi’s (Guru’s) title after them. So, there are two types of Atreya descendants: (a) Atreyas from ancestral tradition and (b) Atreyas from inherited tradition.
This is one of the major reasons for the wide-spread of Atreya lineage. According to Shrimadbhagavat Puran, after his marriage with Ansuya, Atri prayed to God to be blessed with a son as an incarnation of the God himself. Being pleased with his penance and sincere meditation, God promised to come with him in the guise of his son. Then one after the other, three sons were born as if they were handed down to him by God himself. The first one was called ‘Dattatreya’ and two others were called ‘Durbasa’ and ‘Som’.
Being three in number, they are called ‘Traya-Pravar’. Pravar means the senior or the superior one. It also means the most excellent one. So, among the descendants of Atri lineage, the three sons are regarded as the most excellent ones or the eminent ones. By virtue of their knowledge and learning, they are also regarded as the re-birth of Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. The sons of Atri are called ‘Atreya’. They were so called in the sense that the three sons were born on earth as if in the incarnation of Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva. They were the most powerful ones in the most ancient times.
With their own power and virtuous qualities, the later generations called them the ‘Tri-Pravar’ which means the most excellent ones in the ‘Atreya Lineage’. For all generations to come, the descendents of Atreya, thus, formed Atreya lineage. In this way, sons, grandsons and their descendents all belong to the ‘Atreya Lineage’.
Maharshi Atreya was the son of Atri Rishi. Those Rishis who laid the foundation of their own lineage are of two types:
(a) homeless wanderers, and
(b) preceptors having their own hermitages or residences.
Atreya was a wanderer moving place to place, village to village in order to teach and instruct. He possessed three divine qualities in one person: that is, he was Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwar in one single soul travelling all around the world.
Atreya Rishi is the composer of some Vedic hymns. With the help of his precepts and the medicinal system he developed, he contributed a lot curing mental and physical illnesses from which the people suffered.
Atreya was called a Satyanetra, which means a truth speaker or a seer of the factual truth. This is why he frequently took part in the discussions of a Royal Council and gave his own scholarly opinion and thus contributed for the illumination of social evils. In “Charak Samhitā“, Atreya is addressed as ‘Bhagvanātreya’. “Bhagvan” is a distinctive title applied to the most eminent scholars. A scholar, who knows the origin of the earth (the universe), its causes and effects, the stable and unstable things, also whose learning is superficial and deep, is respected with the word “Bhagvan”. It is so used in the sense of Lord or god. Atreya was respected like this.
In the ‘Atreya’ lineage, there is also the mention of three other most important sages and scholars. They are ‘Atreya, Archinanas and Shyavashwa‘. In another version, they are ‘Atri, Archanana, and Shyavashwa’. These three words are interpretated in a meaningful way. ‘Atri’ implies three qualities in one person. Archanana was the most genious, and extro-ordinarily an intellectual one. ‘Shyavashwa’, the third one, was a sage who used to ride on a golden coloured horse. He is said to be the son of Darbhya Rishi.
‘Shyāvāshwa’ had a peculiar story about himself. Once his father Darbhya Rishi went to the king ‘Rathviti’ and he fervently demanded his daughter for his son’s marriage. But the queen said that their daughter could be given to someone who had all the qualities and feelings of a sage or a Rishis-like individual. Shyavashwa got satisfied with the voice of the queen and started meditating in a lonely place. With his meditation, thoroughly honest behaviour and publicly owned reputation, the king and queen offered their daughter for his marriage. Thus Shyāvāshwa, also started enjoying his family life.
The ‘Tri-Pravar’ system, also a Panch-Pravar’ system (in fact, a custom on a seniority basis) existed from the very beginning of the lineage system and it still exists as a prestigious matter of social system and legal inheritance. While getting the certificate of citizenship and educational certificate from a recognized institution, we still need to mention the names of at least two generations (grand-father and father) well ahead of the candidate concerned.
Since the name of Atri and Atreya (the true ancestors of Atreya lineage) has been attributed to Vedic texts, Shreemadbhagavat Puran and many other ancient texts as well, there is certainly a problem to determine the ancestral location and habitation of so many descendants, clans and sub-clans formed from their lineage. The descendants, who entered into the Himalayan country Nepal, have been recognized by various genetic lines and family titles.
At present, they are known to us by various titles (Thars) and sub-titles peculiarly formed throughout the history of their migration and historical development. Any way, we have to realize that learning, thinking, meditating, re-searching, reasoning, instructing, travelling, migrating, protecting the weaker ones, assisting the rulers and the ruled etc. are the basic qualities that the Atreya clans and lineage have so far developed on the basis of their experiences.
Popularity of Atri/Atreya
During his life, Atri was highly popular in his society, even among all the Rishis as his contemporaries. This is clear from the fact that Atri’s name is variously used in a variety of senses:
Atri is used at least in nine various senses according to Balkrishna Pokhrel: i) race or clan ii) country iii) sea/ocean iv) mountain v) Rishi/saint/sage vi) God/Lord vii) fire viii) caste ix) lineage.
- i) Atri in the sense of a race
In Italy lies a state called Tuscany that is made of nine provinces. The ancient people of this state are known as Etruscans. Those Etruscans are supposed to be the Atri race spreading Atreya brotherhood and Atreya feelings in the world.
- ii) Atri in the sense of places and regions
In Hindu Purans, Atri-Ashrams’ are mentioned here and there. In Italy, there is a wide region called Etruria which may be taken as Atri-motherland. Actually it was the motherland of the people called Etruscans.
iii) Atri as a name applied to the Adriatic Sea
Atri may be applied to the name of Adriatic Sea that lies east of Italy. It may be called “Atreya Sea or Atreya Sagar”.
- iv) ‘Atri’ in the sense of Mountain
In ancient Europe, a mountain was named as Atri or Adri. This ultimately came to be known as Alps. This is also clear with the names like Etruria, Estrucans race, and Adriatic sea. Now the mountain is known as the Alps which is a range of lofty mountains, but its ancient name should have been Atri Mountain in fact.
- v) ‘Atri’ in the sense of Rishi
‘Atri’ means not only a range of lofty mountains, but also the name of an eminent Rishi in Hindu religious texts. He is one of the Saptarishi so popular in Hindu religion. Noah Rish in the Bible and Archi Rishi in our religions are the same. According to Balkrishna Pokhrel, these two names identical to each other come from Atri and Atreya.
- vi) ‘Atri’ in the sense of God/Deity
While performing “Shrādda” ceremony in our Hindu tradition, we pay our homage to Atri as our deity or spirit.
vii) ‘Atri’ in the sense of fire-god
Atri and Agni are somehow related terms. Atri has been regarded as a fire in the religious account of ‘Zend-Avesta’. So is regarded in the Vedas. The Veda and the Avesta had a common ground of their origin. But later on some sort of contradiction developed between them. This contradiction is symbolically suggested in the Mahabharat and Shreemadbhagabat. It is so suggested that each of the devotees of God had stomach-ailment for reason of eating poisonous plants. At that time Krishna and Arjun were in the Khandav forest. So, the fire-god went there for permission to set fire in the jungle. Krishna gave his permission to set it right. As the forest was wholly destroyed by fire, the snakes ran away.
The meaning suggested is like this: As the fire-worshippers (the devotees of fire) entered the area of Ararat Mountain, the opponents of fire-worshipping groups had to run away for their life and living. Some went as far as Sumer (now in Iraq) and they are called Chaldian. Others happened to be in Doti of Nepal and they are known as Baikan in the opinion of lexicographer Balkrishna Pokhrel.
viii) ‘Atri’ in the sense of Gotra
Atri and Atreya is the same so far as blood-relation is concerned. However, there are basically two divisions: Atri and Atreya. Even after them, there are several divisions on the basis of localized names of Atreya descendants and various responsibilities they were entrusted to do. In spite of many more factions or divisions, they are not actually the genuine categories. Of the two, whoever may be the senior or junior, both are the progenitors of Atreya lineage.
Significance of Gotra got established when the Hindu laws were made on the basis of religious rituals and traditional practices. Once they were started by the Rishis and applied by Purohits (Hindu priests), the feelings of Gotra among the communities concerned got psychologically enrooted into their own mind. Gradually it became like an instinctive feeling for them.
- ix) Atri in the sense of dynasty or family line
These days, some descendants of Atri and Atreya both have started using “Atreya” as a common surname. If this tradition is fully accepted by all, the difference between them may disappear, but this is not very likely to happen.
What is ‘Thar’ and Paudel Thar?
The word “Thar” refers to a caste, family title, clan or lineage too. However, Thar is a sub-division of a single lineage. It is like a surname. Girls or daughters do change their surname (maiden name) after their marriage, but not their actual name. However, all through a tradition male persons retain it from their birth to death.
Atreya lineage in Nepal is variously named in accordance with the place they lived in, with the responsibility they were supposed to have assumed. For example, those Atreya descendants who lived in ‘Paudi’ are called Paudel, Paudyal or Paudyalaya; those who lived in “Arji” village are called Aryal, who lived in ‘Sigdi’ are called Sigdel or Sigdyal. Thus Paudel, Aryal, Sigdel, etc. all belong to the same ‘Atreya lineage’. Others belonging to Atreya lineage are Pani Pokhrel, Hamal, Duwadi, Khulal, Thapa, Kalikote Khadka, Bagale Thapa, Puwar Thapa, etc. are the other Nepalese descendants of the same Atreya lineage. In this respect, Udaya Bhatta is the most memorable ancestor of all the Nepali descendants of Atreya lineage.
Looking back to the ancient history of India and the Aryans, it is found that India is the most ancient land of human habitation. It is estimated that people have lived in India for at least 200,000 years. About 4,500 years ago Indus Valley civilization flourished in parts of India and Pakistan. The Aryans from Central Asia came to India at about 3500 years ago. They conquered the Dravidians and drove some of them southward. The Aryans, gradually, extended their rule over all of India except the south.
The Vedas orally circulated so many centuries were written down in around 3,400 years before. The Aryan Brahmans perfected their Sanskrit language. The caste system became established during the centuries of the Aryan rule. The Brahmans and the priests were the highest caste, and the Shudras were the lowest one. Most probably they might have been the Dravidians, who were defeated from the Aryans. The Upanishads, later development of the religious texts, appeared between 2600 to 2800 years before.
In the 500’s to 400’s B.C. (2500 to 2400 before) two religions were founded in India: Buddhism and Jainism. Siddhartha Gautam and Mahavir were the founders and they rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans. Both religions spread rapidly throughout India.
From the sources stated above, it is evident that Atreya lineage is associated with the writing of Vedas and the composition of some hymns (Veda Mantras). The Atreyas were also the Aryans and they were thus accompanied with the ruling classes of the Aryans. When there was need to be the rulers themselves they became the kings (the rulers) and acted like the warrior-like Kshatries (Kshatriyas).
Who was Udaya Bhatta? Why the most important one?
In Nepal, Udaya Bhatta (B.S. 992-) is the most important ancestor of Atreya lineage to name. He was born in Jodhpur of India. Before him, there were more than 11 generations, all of them were the respectable Brahman families in their society. In the 8th century, Nag Bhatta was the king of Gurjar (now part of India). He belongs to the Pratihar dynasty. (Literally, Pratihar means a royal gate-keeper signifying that they are always conscious about the protection of the kingdom, its rules and laws. They were in fact the Pratihar Vanshi Arya Brahmans. Ultimately they established themselves as a famous ruling clan in Nepal and Medieval India.)
Let us mention the names of Atreya Bhatta Kings in India: King Nag Bhatta (First), Devraj Bhatta, Vatsaraj Bhatta, Nag Bhatta (Second), Ram Bhatta, Mihirbhoj Bhatta, Nirbhayaraj Bhatta, Mahipal Bhatta, Devpal Bhatta, Nayapal Bhatta, Yashpal Bhatta.
After the Rule of Yashapal, Muslims were being more and more powerful in Gurjan state in India. Those Bhatta Brahman Kings lost their ruling power but those royal Brahman families lived maintaining their livelihood in their own ways. They were rich, cultured and educated. So, the family line got its continuity for many generations. Let us now enumerate the eminent personalities of this family line.
The Bhatta Kings were the indigenous Brahmans, the Hindus and mostly the Aryans. Their ancestral origin can be traced back to the most ancient lineage of Atreya. As it is already mentioned, Atreya, Archananas and Shyāvāshwa belong to the Vedic age. No other historical evidence of any other eminent personality is yet found until we come to notice the name of Atreya Punarvasu at 600 B.C. He was one of the greatest pioneers of the Indian medicinal system. Evidences are to be found in all documents at Takshyashilā University.
After 450 years, (150 B.C.) there appeared Charak or Patanjali who explained the same medicinal system developed by Punarvasu Atreya. He is well-known for his ‘Charak-Samhitā‘. At a long interval, Somnath Atreya (520 B.S.) appeared. He is another very important personality in the Atreya lineage. He is also regarded the first notable figure in the Pratihar Vanshiya Brahman family. Born in Karnataka of Maisur, he built a world famous Jyotirling temple (one of the 12 Jyotirlings) in Saurastre of Gujarat. He was very rich and a religious person. He had established a city named “Somnathpur”. He had two sons: Rangnābh and Tattwanāv.
It is almost an impossible task to determine the exact generations of any caste or community since the beginning of humanity on earth. So, in order to simplify the task, lexicographer Balkrishna Pokhrel imagines that Somnath Atreya (520 B.S.) is the first person of his own lineage (Panipokhrel). He is the common ancestor of Pokhrel, Pahadi, Gotame, Chapagaeen, Khatiwada, Atreya Wasthi, Atreya Bhatta, Atreya Mishra, etc.
Rangnābh Atreya (558 B.S.) was born in Somnathpur. He built a temple of Laxminarayan in Vrindāban. He had only one son named Purnābh Atreya (594 B.S.). Purnābh had three sons. The eldest one was Brahmanāv Atreya (631 B.S.) who was a great scholar but sonless. So, he adopted his brother’s son Prasarnābh Atreya (680 B.S.) to inherit his property after his death. The lineage continued with Bhimdev Atreya (718 B.S.), Purnadev Atreya (756 B.S.), Devdev Atreya (781), Kumārdev Atreya (832) Shaktidev Atreya (870 B.S.).
In the generations of Atreya lineage, Shaktidev receives the title Bhatta instead of Atreya. That is, Atreya was interchanged with Bhatta. This is interesting and significant too in the historical document of Atreya lineage.
Shaktidev was a leading scholar in Madhyapradesh. Being highly impressed with his scholarship, King Pratap Singh Rana of Maharashtra bestowed his daughter for his marriage. The King also offered him two states (Ajmer and Chittaudgadh) that were still under his rule. However, before his marriage with the Princess, he was already married with a Brāhman Kanyā from Ujjayani. He had sons from both wives. Nag Bhatta and Pridhvidev Bhatta were from the second wife. Nāg Bhattārak was from the second wife. Nag Bhatta was made the king of Ajmer and Shankar Bhattārak from the princess was made the King of Chittaudgad. Prithvidev Bhatta, the third son, was made the royal priest.
Prithvidev Bhatta had two sons: Kuber Bhatta and Devraj Bhatta. Kuber Bhatta had six sons, the fifth one was Udaya Bhatta (992 B.S.) who was actually the Royal Priest of the Bhattārak dynasty. In 1026, the muslim invasion killed the king of Bhattārak dynasty. In such a critical situation, Udayadev Bhatta fled to Shrinagar of Pandigadwal. At that time he had only one son by the name of Sudu (Shukdev) Bhatta. With a view to save the Prince from immediate attack from the enemies, the family title Bhattārak was changed into ‘Khand’ or ‘Khan’. The descendants of the Khan are now called the ‘Shah’ dynasty in Nepal. It is historically proved that Jainkhan, who established Thakuri Kingdom in Bhirkot Syangjā is the Sixteenth generation of the Chittaudgad royal dynasty.
It is very interesting to note that some descendants of Atreya lineage turned into Bhatta dynasty. Some of the descendants of Bhattas again turned into other family lines. Place names have become family surnames among some descendants of Atreya lineage. This is another factual matter to consider about the various branches of Atreya lineage.
Like the family names of Bhatta, Khan and Shah, Paudi, Paudel, Paudyal, Paudyālaya, etc. are all related to Atreya lineage. Let us now see for a moment how Paudel is related to certain places where the descendents of Atreya lineage lived. First of all, it begins from Udaya Bhatta who, after returning from the pilgrimage of Mān Sarovar Kailash, started to live at shreenagar of Paudigadwal. Sukdev (Sudaya) Bhatta and Rāya Bhatta lived in Paudi of Kumau. Devdatta Bhatta left Paudi and migrated to Pithauragad.
Among the descendents of Bhatta dynasty, Vatsarāj Bhatta (1127 B.S.), probably the son of Devdatta Bhatta, is memorable for the generations of the Atreya lineage. He was a great scholar having in-depth knowledge in Ved Studies. Although Bhatta was already married to Vasundharā, a girl from a well-to-do Brahman family, being impressed with his learning and sagacity of behavior, the King of Doti Rādhāmādhavrāj Singh proposed his only daughter Shuvkanyā for his marriage. He even offered him the whole state power to rule and left for Kashi along with his queen.
Shuvkanyā, after her marriage, was wise enough to rule as a queen of Vatsaraj Bhatta. She made a plan to get her husband married to three daughters of cultured Brahman families from different places at an auspicious moment. Thus, Vatsaraj had five wives to serve him and generate the issues. They were Vasundharā, Shuvkanyā, Durgāwati, Jānaki and Nalini. Vasundharā was sonless. Shuvkanyā had a son named Kalu Varma (Thapa) whose descendents are still known as Atreya Singh Chhetries. Jānaki gave birth to Kāshirāj Bhatta, Nalini gave birth to Vangsarāj and four others. Durgāwati had a son named Chyāvanrāj whose descendents are known as Aryal or Arjel. The descendents of Kāshirāj are known as Pani Pokharel.
Up to this discussion, we have seen how the descendents of Atreya lineage became Bhatta, Thapa, Singh Chhetri, Arjel and Pokhrel. To come to the beginning of Paudel, we still need to mention the names of three generations behind.
- i) Vansarāj Bhatta:
Born in 1160 B.S. in the Palace of Ajayameru, the capital of Doti Kingdom, he was the son of Vatsaraj Bhatta from his fifth wife Nalini. Kālu Varma, son of his second wife, was the King of Doti, and Bansaraj was appointed by the King as the Army chief in 1178 B.S. Under his military leadership, Jumla state was attacked and brought under their control. Then Paudi, a place of Bajhang, was made the capital. Vansarāj (also called Upvatsarāj) became the King of Paudi and he also declared his son Shreevatsaraj as the crown Prince of Paudi, Bajhang state.
Next time with the joint force of Doti and Paudi, Jumla state was attacked in 1207 B.S. Nāgbansi King of Jumla surrendered and also offered his daughter Sheelā for Prince Shreebatsarāj Bhatta. Thus, even after defeat, a peace settlement was reached between the defeated and the victorious forces. As a result, the King of Paudi established his capital at Jhota and built a palace there to rule.
- ii) Shreevatsarāj Bhatta:
Born in 1185 in Doti Palace Ajayameru, Shreebatsarāj Bhatta was the eldest son and the heir Prince of King Vansarāj. He had 5 wives: Dharmasheela from Brahman family, Sheela, a princess of Jumla, Vidula, a daughter of Bishta Chhetri of Doti, Sushila, a daughter of Kalikote Royal family, Kāntimati, a daughter of Joshi Brāhman of Bajhāng.
First Wife: Dharmasheelā had a son named Shreekrishna and they lived in Sigdi.
Second Wife: Princess Sheelā had a son Swavanshi Shahi
Third Wife: Vidula had three sons, one of which was Kālu Thapa. She lived in the palace of Doti.
Fourth Wife: Sushila had a son named Prajjwal Malla forming a Samāl group. Sheela and Sushila lived in Bajura.
Fifth Wife: She was Kantimati who had seven sons, of which Shreedev was one. She lived in Jhota Palace in Paudi.
What Shreevatsarāj did when he became the King ?
Paudi was a Kingdom ruled by the son of Kalu Varma but his sons and family did not come back from Kashi. So, Paudi Kingdom was annexed to Doti Kingdom. This is his first significant achievement. Secondly, declaring Kalu Thapa as the heir Prince, he became the powerful King of unified Doti Kingdom in 1237 B.S. Third, when he became physically weak and very old, he made a decree to set a tradition that the line of Thapas should be the rulers (the Kings), Brahmans should be the priests and the advisors to rule, and for their livelihood they would be entitled to receive Birtā land (revenue-free land) from the King. Fourth, he duly proclaimed Kalu Thapa the rightful King and went for a pilgrimage (Vānprastha) living a life abandoning all those worldly things.
What Kalu Thapa did as a King ?
As soon as he became the King, he applied the Birtā System as initiated by his father. The descendants of Chyavanraj (sons of his great grandfather Vatsaraj) were allowed Aryan village where they were already living. Likewise, the descendants of Kāshirāj were given Pokhara village of Dadeldhura as Birtā land. Shreekrishna (his own uncle) was given Sigdi village and Shreedev was given Paudi village as well as Jhota Durbar of Bajhang. Swavangshi Shahi became King of Achham and Bajura that were already taken over from his maternal grandfather.
Prajjwal Malla was not given any part of land. So, he attacked Jumla, drove away the Nag dynasty King and himself became the King. Thus, there began the rule of Atreya Malla Kings in Jumla. After a long time, Malla dynasty attacked Doti Kingdom and defeated the Bagale Thapa King. Then, in 1420 B.S. Niraipal Malla became the King of Doti. In 1436 B.S. a victorious pillar was constructed at Ajayameru Durbar to memorize the victory of Niraipal and the defeat of King Bagale Thapa.
Thus, we can see that descendants of Atreya lineage came to rule most of the parts of Nepal (before the unification of Nepal by P.N. Shah and his descendants).
For the actual naming of ‘Paudel’ in the ‘Atreya’ lineage, we still need to come to the name of Shreevatsaraj who was the son of Shreevatsaraj Bhatta from his wife “Kāntimati” the youngest of the five co-wives.
Shreedev was born in Jhota Durbar of Bajhang Paudi in 1225. He had three wives: Gangā Devi, Nilambara and Sudakshinā. Gunadev Bhatta, the eldest son from Nilambara, migrated from Paudi to Sātalā of Dailekh (at that time part of Jumla state). Their descendants transferred from Sātalā to Dullu and thereafter they were called “Dulal”. The second son “Shreenand” from Gangādevi came to Kalikot from Paudi. As his sons went away from Paudi, they were called “Paudiwala”. Then, his son “Shreeram” was popularly known as Shreeram Paudel. From this name, Paudel generation got established through all the ages to come.
The third son was Shreenath who came to Duwadā (now part of Dailekh) and his descendants are called ‘Duwadi’. The fourth son from Sudakshinā was Prabhudatta Bhatta who went to Ujjayani in India for the sake of his studies. He became a great scholar in Hindu religion. At Laxmanpur in Lakhnau, he performed “Vajpeya Yagya” that became so popular that his descendants thereafter were called “Bajpeyee” who are still a reputed class in India.
Krishnadatta Bhatta, the youngest son from Sudakshina, lived in Paudi taking care of his parents. His descendants have spread to Doti, Bajhāng, Dadeldhurā, Baitadi and Dārchulā. Those who came to live in Daha of Kalikot are called Dahal. They are also found in Doti, Achham and Bajhāng too.
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