Kirata Kingdom referrs to the territory of a tribe called Kiratas who were a mountain-dwelling, hunter-gatherer tribe, who inhabited the lower Himalayas. They took part in the Kurukshetra War along with Parvatas (mountaineers) and other Himalayan tribes. They were wide-spread in the folds and valleys of Himalayas in Nepal and Bhutan, and in the Indian states like Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Assam , Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
Though dwelling in the Himalayas and other inaccessible regions, Kiratas did not get the status of super-humans enjoyed by other tribes like the Gandharvas, Kinnaras, Kimpurushas and Yakshas. This was probably because of their greater interaction with the Vedic people, which resulted in their de-mystification.
References in Mahabharata
The Yamas, Kamvojas, Gandharas, Kiratas and Barbaras were mentioned together as northern tribes at (12,206). In the Krita age , they were nowhere on earth (meaning Ancient India). It is from the Treta age that they have had their origin and began to multiply. When the terrible period came, joining Treta and the Dwapara, the Kshatriyas, approaching one another, engaged themselves in battle.—-Another group comprising Andrakas, Guhas, Pulindas, Savaras, Chuchukas, Madrakas were also mentioned along with the first group.
The Yavanas, the Kiratas, the Gandharvas, the Chinas, the Savaras, the Barbaras, the Sakas, the Tusharas, the Kankas, the Pathavas, the Andhras, the Madrakas, the Paundras, the Pulindas, the Ramathas, the Kamvojas were mentioned together as tribes beyond the kingdoms of Aryavarta. The Aryavarta-kings had doubts on dealing with them. (12,64)
Kiratas in the list of ancient Indian kingdom
Kiratas were mentioned as an ancient Indian tribe along with the Pundras, the Bhargas the Sudeshnas, and the Yamunas, the Sakas etc and again along with the Sudra-Abhiras, the Dardas, the Kasmiras, and the Pattis; the Khasiras; the Atreyas, the Bharadwajas, the Stanaposhikas, the Poshakas, the Kalingas, the Tomaras, the Hansamargas, and the Karamanjakas; at(6,9)
Kiratas as a Mlechha tribe
Kiratas were mentioned along with Khasas, Chivukas and Pulindas and Chinas, Hunas, Pahlavas, Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras, Paundras, Kanchis, Dravidas, Sinhalas and Keralas. All these tribes were described as Mlechha tribes. Here they were described as the protectors of sage Vasistha and his cow against the attack of king Viswamitra. (1,177).
Territories of Kiratas
Kirata territories extended along the Himalayan belt of mountain ranges.
Kiratas of diverse regions in ancient India
Numberless chiefs of the Kiratas, armed with hunting weapons and ever engaged in hunting activities, eating of fruits and roots and attired in skins (animal-skins or tree-barks), were mentioned to dwell on the northern slopes of the Himavat (Tibet) and on the mountain from behind which the sun rises (Arunachal Pradesh) and in the region of Karusha on the sea-coast (could be the mouths of Ganga in Bangladesh or the mouths of Sindhu in Pakistan) and on both sides of the Lohitya mountains (in eastern Assam and western Arunachal Pradesh). They were mentioned as bringing tribute to Yudhisthira during his Rajasuya sacrifice. They brought with them, loads upon loads of sandal and aloe as also black aloe, and heaps upon heaps of valuable skins and gold and perfumes, and ten thousand serving-girls of their own race, and many beautiful animals and birds of remote countries, and much gold of great splendour procured from mountains (2,51). The Kairatas (Kiratas), the Daradas, the Darvas, the Suras, the Vaiamakas, the Audumvaras, the Durvibhagas, the Kumaras, the Paradas along with the Vahlikas, the Kashmiras, the Ghorakas also were mentioned, here as bringin tributes
The various tribes of Kiratas were mentioned along with the Pahlavas and the Daradas and Yavanas and Sakas and the Harahunas and Chinas and Tukharas and the Sindhavas and the Jagudas and the Ramathas and the Mundas and the inhabitants of the kingdom of women and the Tanganas and the Kekayas and the Malavas and the inhabitants of Kasmira. They were described as accepting the sway of Yudhisthira, performing various offices in his palace. (3,51)
The Kiratas, fierce in battle, dwelling in the fastness of Himavat, were vanquished by Karna for the sake of Duryodhana (7,4).
Kiratas under the Himalayan kingdom called Pulinda
Pulinda king is described as the king of Kiratas also at (2,4). He is said to attend the inauguration of the new court of Pandava king Yudhisthira at Indraprastha along with many other kings of Ancient India (Bharata Varsha). His kingdom lied to close to the Kailas range in Tibet.
Domains of king Suvahu, the lord of the Pulindas, is mentioned as situated on the Himalayas abounding in horses and elephants, densely inhabited by the Kiratas and the Tanganas, crowded by hundreds of Pulindas, frequented by the exotic tribes, and rife with wonders. Pandavas stayed here for some time on their onward-journey to the Himalayan regions (3,140).
Then all those warriors, viz the Pandavas having in due course happily lived at Badari (Badrinath, Uttarakhand), for one month, proceeded towards the realm of Suvahu, king of the Kiratas , by following the same track by which they had come. And crossing the difficult Himalayan regions, and the countries of China, Tukhara, Darada and all the climes of Kulinda, rich in heaps of jewels, those warlike men reached the capital of Suvahu (3,176).
Their final destination was the source of Yamuna. Thus they could have made a circular path, from Badari (Badrinath) to Tibet and Kashmir and finally to Himachal Pradesh.
Kiratas under Paundraka Vasudeva
There was a king named Paundraka Vasudeva, who was an enemy of Vasudeva Krishna. This king used to dress like Vasudeva Krishan and mock him. He mentioned to rule over the kingdoms of Vanga (West Bengal), Pundra (north-Bangladesh) and Kiratas (2,14). The Kiratas mentioned here were those lived in northern hilly regions of West Bengal, like the Darjiling area.
Kiratas under Bhagadatta
Kiratas (of Bhutan) and Chinas were mentioned as forming the army of Pragjyotisha (Assam) king Bhagadatta (5,19). This army took part in the Kurukshetra War for the sake of Kauravas and its size was one Akshouhini (a huge army unit).
Kiratas conquered by Bhima
Bhima, during his military campaign in the eastern countries to collect tribute for Pandava king Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice, conquered Kirata kings, close to the Videha Kingdom
Bhima, the son of Pandu, sending forth expeditions from Videha Kingdom, conquered the seven kings of the Kiratas living about the Indra mountain (2,29). These were considered to be the Kiriatas in Nepal.
Kiratas conquered by Nakula
Nakula during his military campaign in the western countries to collect tribute for Pandava king Yudhisthira's Rajasuya sacrifice, conquered Kiratas in the western hills
Nakula, the son of Pandu, then reduced to subjection the fierce Mlechchas residing on the sea coast (in Karachi area), as also the wild tribes of the Palhavas (an Iranian tribe), the Kiratas, the Yavanas and the Sakas (2,31). These Kiratas lied in the western mountains in Pakistan.
Kiratas in Kurukhsetra War
Kiratas (of Bhutan) and Chinas were part of the one Akshouhini of troops of Pragjyotisha (Assam) king Bhagadatta who joined the side of the Kauravas(5,19).
Western Kiratas were mentioned along with the Sakas, and Yavanas, the Sivis and the Vasatis as marching in the huge army of Kauravas (5,198). The Sakas, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, and the Pahlavas were mentioned in a battle-array formed by the Kauravas (6,20). Similarly they are mentioned in another battle-array formed on another day at (6,50).
Words of Satyaki a Yadava chief on the side of Pandavas, during Kurukshetra War:- Those other elephants 700 in number, all cased in armour and ridden by Kiratas , and decked with ornaments, the king of the Kiratas, desirous of his life, had formerly presented to Arjuna. These were formerly employed in doing good to Yudhisthira. Behold the vicissitudes that time brings about, for these are now battling against Yudhisthira. Those elephants are ridden by Kiratas difficult of defeat in battle. They are accomplished in fighting from elephants, and are all sprung from the race of Agni. Formerly, they were all vanquished in battle by Arjuna. They are now waiting for me carefully, under the orders of Duryodhana. Slaying with my shafts these Kiratas difficult of defeat in battle, I shall follow in the track of Arjuna (7,109).
The Tusharas, the Yavanas, the Khasas, the Darvabhisaras, the Daradas, the Sakas, the Kamathas, the Ramathas, the Tanganas the Andhrakas (obivously not the southern Andhras), the Pulindas, the Kiratas of fierce prowess, the Mlecchas, the Mountaineers, and the races hailing from the sea-side, were all united in battle for the purpose of the Kaurava king Duryodhana. (8,73)
The ruler of the Kiratas died in battle (8,5).
Arjuna's conquests after Kurukhsetra War
Countless was the fete of Kshatriyas, of kings in myriads, who fought with Arjuna on the occasion of his military campaign to collect tribute for Yudhisthira's Ashwamedha sacrifice, for having lost their kinsmen on the field of Kurukshetra. Innumerable Kiratas also and Yavanas, all excellent bowmen, and diverse tribes of Mlechechas too, who had been discomfited before (by the Pandavas on the field of Kurukshetra), and many Arya kings, possessed of soldiers and animals, encountered Arjuna in battle (14,73). He battled with the Kasis, the Angas, the Kosalas, the Kiratas, and the Tanganas (14,83)
Siva and Kiratas
Siva who dwelled in Kailasa (Kailas range in Tibet) is mentioned as assuming the disguise of a Kirata and fighting with Arjuna in high-Himalayas (3-39,49). Siva sometimes assumes the form of Kiratas, Pisachas and Savaras, or that of any exotic tribes (13,14)
Valmiki and Kiratas
Valmiki was bon into this hunter caste but due to his whisdom and saintly personality he became a Brahmana who learned Sanskrit. He is the writer of the Ramayana.
Absence of Bhrahmins among Kiratas
The Mekalas, the Dravidas, the Lathas, the Paundras, the Konwasiras, the Saundikas, the Daradas, the Darvas, the Chauras, the Savaras, the Varvaras, the Kiratas, the Yavanas, and numerous other tribes of Kshatriyas, have become degraded into the status of Sudras through the absence of Brahmanas. (13,35)