Mythical Creatures In Nepal And The Myths Behind Them – Let’s Find Out!

    The beautiful stories that our grandparents told us about magical fairies, kings and queens, filled our childhood with fantasies. For Nepali kids growing up, there were tons of mythical tales about the supernatural and magical creatures. As small children, we loved sitting by our grandmothers and listening to mythical stories of Nepal. Some of the Nepali mythical creatures were evil beings that hurt humans; while others were about good ones that helped people and brought good fortune. Most of the mythological stories of Nepal involve a supernatural being that is said to have existed in real life.
    Although the reality behind these mythologies might still be unknown, they are very popular among the people in Nepal and some have even made it into pop culture. Here are some of the most fascinating mythical creatures of Nepal.

    1. Yeti

    Yeti mythical creature of Nepal

    Yeti has to be by far the most popular mythological creature of Nepal. Also known as Bigfoot, Sasquatch, and by many other names throughout the globe, the Yeti, known to be native to the Himalayas, is believed to be found around Nepal, Tibet, and Bhutan. The Abominable Snowman, as people call it, is thought to be a large ape that walks similar to humans. The only difference is that they are much larger, hairy and have big feet. People have found shreds of evidence of this mythological creature such as foot-prints. There is even a monastery in Khumjung which apparently houses a skull of a yeti. However, the Yeti is yet to be captured or seen alive.

    2. Khyah

    Another Nepali mythical creature, the Khyah is believed to haunt Newari communities even to this day. These small demons, with body full of hair and a humanoid figure, dwell in the dark as they are afraid of artificial lights. There are two types of Khyah; the white and the dark. The white ones are the good-spirited one who fill the homes with good fortune and happiness, while the dark or black Khyah brings bad luck and problems. They are very popular mythological creatures of Nepal and we can find wall paintings, statues and carvings of them, especially in Kathmandu valley.

    3. Gurumapa

    Gurumapa is supposedly a mythological man-eater. According to the folklore, a man named Kesh Chandra lost all his wealth in gambling, so he went to live with his sister. The sister served Chandra’s rice on the floor to teach him a lesson. Shattered by her behavior, he collected the rice in his handkerchief and walked to the forest. On the way, the rice turned bad so he dried it in the sun and took a nap. When he woke up, the pigeons had eaten all the rice and instead left a lot of golden droppings to make him happy. Chandra was thinking about how to carry the gold back with him when Gurumapa showed up. Wittily, he convinced Gurumapa to carry all the gold back to his home. In return, Kesh promised him an enormous feast as well as permitted Gurumapa to take away the children if they were bad. As the days passed, the children went missing. And so, everyone pleaded with Gurumapa to live in Tundikhel, away from the village promising him an annual feast. To this day, people still prepare food for him on the day of Ghode Jatra which falls in March/ April of the Nepali calendar.

    4. Lakhey

    Mythological creatures of Nepal, the Lakhey
    Photo credit: Sandeepinc
    Lakhey, another Newa folklore demon, is one of the scariest mythological creatures of Nepal. It has a horrifying face, long teeth that stick out of its mouth and long, matted hair. There are many stories related to the Lakhey but they are supposed to be devils that lived in forests around the cities. With time, they supposedly started protecting the people of the cities. Popular Lakhey dances are still performed in Newa communities that comprise of powerful dance moves while wearing a scary large Lakhey mask on the face. The Lakhey are believed to scare off evil-spirits and one can see Lakhey dances taking place during most of the major festivals around Nepal.

    5. Kawa cha 

    A traditional mural of a Kawa cha (to the left) and Khya (right) as painted in Mahapal, Patan.

    Kawa cha is the literal translation of the Newari word for “skeleton”. The Kawa cha were Nepali mythical creatures that were believed to roam around human settlements and steal kids from their houses through the windows to eat them. It is said that the traditional latticed windows, known as the Tiki Jhya were installed so that the Kawa cha could not steal children anymore. It is also believed that the Khyah and Kawa cha are friends and are often depicted together. When a Kawa cha attempts to steal children, the Khya who lives with the family will coax it to not eat the kids from that household. For the reminiscence of their friendship, a mural has been made in Mahapal, Patan.  

    6. Garuda 

    garuda statue in nepal

    Garuda is a half-man-half-eagle figure found in Hindu mythology. He is often depicted as a man with wings of an eagle or kite and with or without a bird’s beak. He is known to serve Lord Vishnu as a conveyance. The garuda is said to prey on snakes and thus, is the enemy of all snakes. In the Mahabharata, the Garuda is described as the one who devoured evil men. The Garuda symbolizes power and victory over injustice. It is not only part of mythological stories of Nepal but also found in other Asian countries such as India, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar and Indonesia.

    7. Ma: la (Sky Dragon) 


    This Nepali mythical creature is believed to be very large in size and has a thunderous roar. The Ma: la is similar to the Chinese dragon, and is a part of the Newa culture and also a well-known mythological figure in Tibetan Buddhism, known as ‘Druk’. This creature is believed to have a long-serpentine body with sharp teeth and claws that resides in the skies of high-altitude areas among the clouds. It is said that the Ma: la appears in the sky whenever there is a heavy thunderstorm and it is associated with rain and rivers. Ma: la is often found carved on the roofs and the walls of Buddhist temples. In addition, dragon carvings are also found on door handles, wall hangings, and household utensils in Nepal as it is believed to protect the homes from evildoers. 

    8. Singha 


    The literal translation to Nepali for Singha is “lion”. Two lion-like stone or metal figures are placed at two sides of entrances of temples in Nepal. The Singha is the mythical lion that is believed to guard the entrances according to the Buddhist religion. Like elsewhere, the lion also represents royalty and leadership, thus it may also represent the link between kings and gods. The Singha wards off negative energy from religious places and is revered as a powerful creature.

    9. Cheppu 


    The story of this Nepali mythical creature is tied with the story of the lake that was once Kathmandu. It might be a lesser-known fact, but Kathmandu was once a giant lake. The Cheppu is said to be a very disfigured and dreadful creature who used to live deep inside that lake. When Manjushree came down from Tibet to drain out the lake and allow civilization to flourish in the valley, all the creatures of the lake were forced to move out. But the Cheppu, being ashamed of its appearance, refused to come out of its hiding. Finally, it agreed to come out only when Manjushree promised that he would not look at it. However, Manjushree secretly took a peek at Cheppu when it emerged and even managed to sketch the image of its head on the ground. When the Cheppu found this out, he quickly vanished into the water. Manjushree being ashamed of his deeds was then said to have bestowed Cheppu with the honourable role of watching over the entrances to the temples. Thus, only the image of its head is seen above the temple entrances while his body remains hidden to this day.

    10. Hitimanga 


    Hitimanga, also known as Makara is usually seen placed over the hitis (stone taps) around Kathmandu valley. The Hitimanga is said to be a hybrid creature, with the lower jaw of a crocodile, snout or trunk of an elephant, tusks, and ears of a wild boar, eyes of a monkey, scales and flexible body of a fish, and tail of a peacock. There is no definite story behind why the Hitimanga is placed over hitis, but this creature is traditionally identified with water and is believed to be the source of existence and fertility. In Hindu mythology, it is equivalent to the zodiac sign of Capricorn. It is also the vahana (conveyance) of the Vedic Water God Varuna and the River Goddess Ganga.

    11. Pulu Kishi  

    pulu kishi in indra jatra festival in nepal
    Photo credit: Sandeepinc

    If you are a resident from Kathmandu, you have most probably heard about Indra Jatra (Yenya Punhi) and how gloriously this festival is celebrated. You cannot think of Indra Jatra without relating it to the star of the show, the Pulu Kishi. A substantial part of the mythological stories of Nepal, it is a white elephant that is believed to be the pet of Indra, king of heaven, and god of rain. It is believed that Pulu Kisi descended from heaven in search of his master who was captured trying to steal the Parijat flower for his mother. During the festival, a reenactment is done where Pulu Kisi is wandering through the streets of Kathmandu in search of Indra.

    12. Dhaplan Khyah

    Photo source: Digital Library

    Any Newa person who grew up in Kathmandu must have heard the children’s song about Dhaplan Khya, a large, dark and hairy creature who is always hungry. The Dhaplan Khya likes to live in dark areas of the houses such as under the stairs or in the attic. It is believed to appear only during night time as it is afraid of the light. As the children’s song goes, the Dhaplan Khya arrives in the evening and goes around asking children for a feast. When the children provide the feast and ask Dhaplan Khya if the food has filled him up, the never-satisfied creature replies “No”, and asks to eat the children instead. Dhaplan Khya is a popular song, that was used to scare children to stop them from misbehaving. 

    Pradip Karki
    Pradip Karki
    A seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling honed over 5 years, specializing in travel, food, and tech.

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