Everything I know about “Parajuli”: as yet

The sage in the picture above is Rishi Kaudinya - imagined. 

I used to find my family name “parajuli” very strange as a child. I would have happily traded it with another surname if I could – like the esteemed “acharya” (and “prasad” as my middle name – that as well). I would have loved that as a kid – but funnily enough the surname I desired as a kid somehow was always connected with our history after all. And why did I want to be an “acharya”? Maybe because – like acharyas do – I only wanted to read and document – which again is one plain old brahmin acumen – brahmins never wanted to be or known as the warriors in the pantheons of history – brahmins always wanted to be the modern day “overpaid consultants”. (And I love it – I am not looking for any opportunity to stick my nose into anyone’s problem – but if I have to, my roles would be limited to observing, making notes and consulting you on your problem – I absolutely love it. )

Now being an adult with “parajuli” as my family name – fills me with joy and a profound sense of belonging. I still have so much to learn about the history of this name and I am sure it has a history that commands respect and admiration – just like the aspirations I associate with this name in the present day. Afterall, family name is the topic that fires up the indomitable spirit within us – and I am no different – and also, oh how this name rolls off the tongue with a regal elegance !!

In the vast expanse of Nepal, our surname is one toponymic bonanza. Because you see, this surname is not just a random assortment of letters. It is deeply rooted in the rural grounds of Parajul village in the Dailekh district. Oh, the pride that swells within me as I think of the land that birthed our lineage !

But there’s more to this tale. Parajul Village lies in rural municipalities of Awal Parajul and Dada Parajul in Dailekh district. But I still haven’t been able to connect Parajul River in Dhungeshwor Rural Municipality, Dailekh district, Nepal – whether the surname gave name to this river or the opposite. I would love to go to this remote land to find out more about the lineage.

But that is not where the history began. The history starts with how Brahmins came to be in Nepal. Brahmins are thought to have begun emigrating to the far western Nepalese hills in the twelfth century after they were dislodged by Muslim invasions in India. These brahmins who came to Nepal were mostly engaged in expounding the Upanishads/Vedas (i.e. Upadhya Brahmins in the study of Upanishad) encountered the Native Brahmins. Native Brahmins were people of the same general background as the Brahmins, who had come to and resided in Nepal some centuries before. The native Brahmins were engaged in expounding the studies of Astrology (i.e. Jaishi Brahmins in the study of Jyotish Shastra). The vedic rituals gave the social and economic lift to the Upadhya Brahmins (because rituals gave more earning oppurtunities to the Upadhya Brahmins than astrology gave to Jaishi Brahmins). Upadhya Brahmins took this opportunity to denigrate the Jaishi Brahmins – so there is a division system even among the Brahmins. Other theories Upadhya-Jaishi division also exists based on marriages – but I find those to be quite blurry and illogical. Because of this social degradation and other reasons – many Jaishi Brahmins later moved eastwards to the Khash people – who they were more closely related socially and economically. It is therefore many Jaishi Brahmin’s surname are also categorized as Khash Brahmins – who actually are the more indigenous to Nepal than the Brahmins who came during the twelfth century from India. The indigenous Brahmins are called Purviya Brahmins and those who immigrated during the twelfth century are called Kumai Brahmins. Unlike the ethnic differences between Kumai and Purviya – Upadhya and Jaishi are the social and economic division system prevalent in the Brahmin communities. 

Here’s how “Parajuli”s are connected to the “Acharya”s. A group of “Acharya”s (Purviya Brahmins) living in the western Nepal were known to live in a far away place of Jumla – पर जुम्ला in Nepali – (“Sinja” Valley of Jumla particularly), that gives the etymology of “parajuli” deviating from “para-jumli” and giving meaning to the “parajuli” surname. From Jumla, the “Acharya”s later moved to different parts of western Nepal – including Dailekh District which has few rural communities and even a river mentioned after the “parajuli” people – a toponymic deviation of the “Acharya”s of the western Nepal. “Parajuli”s were the priests of the king of Dailekh and these priests had received land from the King for their service – they also had the whole village named after their estate – “parajul” – quite something !!

During the time when the native brahmins (including “parajuli” from the western Nepal) started moving to the east – they famously resided in Pokhara. A little wisdom on the clan deities of Khas Bhramins. The “masto”s are the ancient clan deities associated with Khas Bhramins. Out of the 12 brothers of masto (ie. the clan diety) – during the clan ritual within our “parajuli”s – I remember my grandfather who is also a dangre (an oracular vessel of clan deities) – worshiping three clan gods Baramasto, Rudromasto (aka mahakaleshwar – incarnation of lord Shiva) and Bindemasto (aka Bidabashini – incarnation of Goddess Kali) – which also are the shrines that were believed to have been worshiped by Rishi Kaudinya as well. Kaudinya is one of the “gotra”s (a lineage of ancient sages). Pokhara therefore is a significant and meaningful place to “parajuli”s because the temple of Bindabashini is also located in Pokhara.

But I know that, at least, starting from my great-great-great-great-great grandfather we were the residents of Sindhupalchok district – and my grandfather shares with us that he learnt from his father that “parajuli”s before that time were residents of Pokhara who later later moved to different eastern districts (Parbat, Dolakha, Sindhupalchok, Kavrepalanchok, Bhojpur, Solukhumbhu). There is a history that Rana Bahadur Shah (grandson of King Prithivi Narayan Shah) took away the land of our ancestors in Pokhara and later the same land was returned during the reign of King Rajendra. But by then, many “parajuli”s had already been displaced from there and some of them moved to Charambeli – Jyamdi, Kavrepalanchok District and later to Sindhupalchok, who were my ancestors (my great-great-great grandfathers).

But I had to ask this to my grandfather and I did – “But, why did we leave the land of Pokhara and move to even remote hilly districts of the east”? My grandfather shared with me what he had learnt from his fathers – that Pokhara frequently suffered drought during those times, also the land taxes were really high in Pokhara during the time of Kings and the hail storms that damaged the crops. So while I was trying to make fun of my ancestors for their lack of real estate foresight and move from Pokhara to the remote Sindhupalchok – I also realized that they had in fact taken the best real estate decision of that time – to save taxes and crops.

So that is the short history of “parajuli”s. How the branch of Guru Vashishtha came to be an Acharya through Kaudinya Rishi and spread across India, how his descendants reached Parajul through the valley of Jumla and Dailekh, how they spread from Pokhara to Dudhkosi in Kavrepalanchok and the Helambu Region of Sindhupalchok (where I am from) through Lamjung. And us as the descendants of this family – our history certainly lives. 

I wish I knew so much more about this topic – so the research continues.