Nepal Travel Videos
Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February, 1889, p. 467-483:|
Nepaul, The Land of the Goorkhas.BY HENRY BALLENTINE.
Nepaul, geographically, is a region of independent territory, 500 miles by 150, in the heart of the highest Himalaya ranges, protected and shut off from India on the south by the immense malarious Terai forest, and on the north guarded by such hoary sentinels as Yassa, Dhawalaghiri [Dhaulagiri], Mount Everest, 24,000 to 29,000 feet high.
Nepaul proper, in the sense the natives use tile word, applies to a little valley 4500 feet above the sea, extending 25 miles by 10; and still more definitely applied refers to the three neighboring cities in this valley, Bhatgaon, Patan, and Khatmandu [Kathmandu] named in the order in which they were built, and in which they laid claim to being the capital city of this remarkably isolated province.
The present capital, Khatmandu, is the seat of the Goorkha [Gurkha] dynasty, ruling over a people the bravest and most warlike in the East.
We cannot tell our readers here how we worked our way up from Calcutta [Kolkata] to Khatmandu, a distance of some 550 miles, the last 100 on foot. Before such a journey could be undertaken it was necessary to obtain the permission of the British Foreign Office in India, the ways of which are as dark as those of the heathen Chinee, and which takes pride in mulish perversity and an autocratic obtuse aversion to any and all Europeans "airing themselves on the Indian frontier." Then, too, we must have obtained the consent of the Nepaulese Court.
When all this red tape had been successfully encountered, we were obliged to lay in a stock of tinned provisions, ammunition for sport of no mean order, the killing of tiger, rhinoceros, and bear; and lastly, it was necessary to provide what proved the most interesting feature of the outfit, our photographing apparatus.
Moreover coolies were to be negotiated for, and our days’ marches prearranged. But, as before stated, we cannot here go into all these details, nor give an account of the dangers we encountered, the difficulties we had to surmount, the exasperating, mutinous spirit exhibited by our coolies, the exposures and rnght alarms we experienced, not to mention attacks of disease and of wild animals, from which we had miraculous escapes.
On a cold morning in November a caravan of about twenty struggling human beings, mostly coolies with burdens on their backs, could have been seen defiling up the precipitous side of Chundragiri, or Moon Mountain. After a hard struggle the top was reached at a point 7186 feet above sea-level. The ground was white with hailstones of the previous night’s storm, and deep frost covered the ground, while the sun was shining its brightest. The coolies now sat down to rest, and we who were in advance of them moved along the top of tbe pass to its further side.
Immediately in front of us was a precipice with a perpendicular fall of some 2000 feet into the valley of Nepaul proper. This valley, stretching east and west, struck us as having been in the dim obscure past the bed of a vast lake, whose waters rose and fell against the encircling sides of the world’s highest mountains, until they wore for themselves an outlet by what now marks the channel of the sacred shallow stream of Bagmati.
Scattered all about at our feet, and far beyond, lay numerous thickly populated villages, whose inhabitants, after centuries of patient toil and husbandry, had transformed the valley into a beautiful fertile plain. Out of the centre rose, clearly visible to our unaided sight, the houses, palaces, pagodas, and temples of the two older cities already mentioned, and of the present capital city, Kbatmandu, from twelve to fifteen miles distant. Around us were cultivated fields, which were carried in terraces a long distance up the mountain-sides. These in turn gave way to the heavy pine forests, which gradually stooped and belittled themselves as they approached the abodes of snow. and finally, having dwarfed themselves into the lowest orders of vegetable life, they altogether retired from before the presence of a perfect sea of crowned heads, culminating in that white-headed, gray-bearded monarch, old Everest himself, 29,000 feet high. This monster, though a hundred miles off, was distinctly visible, his bifurcated cone-shaped head piercing the blue of the sky.
Running our eye along the nearer ranges, there confronted us the towering beads and shoulders of many giants flashing their brilliants in the sunlight. Fully one-third of the extensive visible horizon was required to give sufficient elbow-room to this aged royal assembly. Of those nearest us we recognized Gosain Than [Shishapangma], 26,000 feet; Yassa, 24,000 feet; Matsiputra, 24,400; and Dhawalaghiri, 26,800 feet high. As we looked upon them from our lofty position inthe grand stillness of that magnificent morning we were filled with awe at the sublime spectacle, and ceased to wonder that the Hindoo associates with each one of these tremendous peaks the abode of some one of his deities.
But we must hasten on to Khatmandu. Passing on through its guarded gateway arid the narrowest of filthy streets, we reached the British Residency grounds. Here we found shelter in a little house assigned to occasional travellers.
As a matter of duty, as well as inclination, our first call was on the British Resident—-an officer appointed to look after British interests in this corner of the earth. He and the doctor as his assistant are the only European residents in Nepaul, which is an exceptional feature of any country so near India, and shows how well the principle of exclusion has been maintained by the Foreign Office at Calcutta.
The British Resident was in India when we called, but the doctor, who was acting for him, received us most pleasantly, and insisted on our leaving our plain quarters and lodging with him in his two-storied brick house. Our next object was to call npon the Maharajali.
The term Maharajali, though ordinarily meaning King, is used in an exceptional sense in this state, and signifies Prime Minister. The King himself is called Maharaj Adhiraj. The reigning one is a mere boy of ten years, not troubled much with state affairs. Our host gave us encouragement about meeting the Prime Minister; in fact, considering that the latter was an old orthodox Hindoo with strong antipathy for Europeans, our prospect of securing an interview was very gloomy. However, see him we must, as we could not call any one in the city and could not transact business with any one without making this preliminary official call, and obtaining personally the sanction of his Excellency.
It was while waiting for this that, to avoid loss of time, we took up our camera and went about on photographic excursions. The objects to take were as numerous as they were unique. We would be followed by a gaping crowd, who were more curious than troublesome. At the same time the authorities caused us to be attended by a body-guard (though we thought it quite superfluous), consisting of two men, one, from the Nepaul government, going in front, and the other, from the British Residency guard following behind.
The city of Khatmandu numbers about 50,000 inhabitants [2009: 1,687,102 in metro area], about one-half of whom are Newars, of Mongolian cast of features, industrious, good-natured people, the original owners of the soil from the earliest prehistoric times down to a century ago, when the Goorkhas invaded their country and dispossessed them. They are the chief traders, agriculturists, and mechanics of Nepaul. They are Buddhists by faith, with a good deal of Hindooism mixed up in their religion. Along with them might be reckoned the Bhooteas, Limbus, Keratis, and Lepchas, though these are more distinctively Buddhists.
On the other band, under the head of Hindoos come the dominant race of the Goorkhas, reckoned by some from a quarter to one-third of the population, and along with them must be taken the two lower castes of Majars and Gurungs.
The Goorkhas claim to be Rajpoots [Rajputs] by descent—i. e., Brahmins par excellence—having been driven out of Rajpootana in central India by the great Mohammedan conquerors when Delhi was in its glory. The princes themselves trace their lineage directly back to the proud royal house of Oodeypore [Udaipur]. The Goorkhas are of light complexion. They have regular features, particularly the princes, except when descended from those who have intermarried with natives. Their language is called Parbitya, a modern dialect of Sanscrit [Sanskrit], and written in that character, while the language of the Newars is entirely distinct, and written in a different character.
The Goorkhas, although worshipping the same idols and conforming to the same rites and ceremonies as their more southern high-caste brethren, differ from them in that they are willing to eat flesh of several kinds. The killing of a cow, however, is ranked as murder, and punishable with death. Unlike their southern brethren, further, they are of a decidedly diminutive stature, but wiry and strong, not taking kindly to work of any description, being essentially a military race. Brought up as they are in their mountain homes, they have proved themselves, under good generalship, to be of the bravest and toughest sort of soldiers in the East. It is of such metal that the British government likes to recruit its Indian armies, and it is annually supplied with a number of raw levies for this purpose through an understanding with the government of Nepaul.
Nepaul itself has a regular standing army of 15,000 men, drilled and armed (with muzzle-loading guns). Twice this number could be put into the field if necessary. To keep up this army, which is mostly infantry, a small fraction being artillery, every family is obliged to contribute one of its male members. The officers are selected from the nobility, so that as a result of autocratic government there are boy generals and gray-bearded lieutenants. These officers are all dressed in British uniforms, and can be seen every day, often from morning till night, drilling the troops on the parade-ground beside the city wall. These military manoeuvres seem to be the one absorbing pastime, as no games or other manly exercises are at all popular with old or young.
The maintenance of so large a standing army, out of all proportion to ordinary needs, is Nepaul’s greatest mistake, and can do her nothing but harm. For Nepaul has nothing to fear from India on the south, and with England as a sworn ally, has nothing to fear from Thibet [Tibet] on the north.
Were Nepaul to attempt to withstand England, all her own population added to all her troops could oppose no effectual resistance, and history has already shown that though she might fight Thibet alone successfully, yet Thibet backed by China, as she would invariably be, is more than a match for all of Nepaul’s combined forces. One cannot help feeling at times that England is doing her best by her bribes and presents of vast stands of arms, together with immense quantities of ammunition, to the states on her Indian frontier, to induce them to turn their attention to the demoralizing pastime of war, and to keep up a ruinous standing army, behind which she can screen herself, and which she can interpose as a buffer against the ever-growing spectre of Russian aggression.
load photo-map above: Mount Everest - Kathmandu|
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In 2001, the crown prince massacred ten members of the royal family, including the king and queen, and then took his own life. In October 2002, the new king dismissed the prime minister and his cabinet for "incompetence" after they dissolved the parliament and were subsequently unable to hold elections because of the ongoing insurgency. While stopping short of reestablishing parliament, the king in June 2004 reinstated the most recently elected prime minister who formed a four-party coalition government.
Citing dissatisfaction with the government's lack of progress in addressing the Maoist insurgency and corruption, the king in February 2005 dissolved the government, declared a state of emergency, imprisoned party leaders, and assumed power. The king's government subsequently released party leaders and officially ended the state of emergency in May 2005, but the monarch retained absolute power until April 2006. After nearly three weeks of mass protests organized by the seven-party opposition and the Maoists, the king allowed parliament to reconvene on 28 April 2006.
Following the November 2006 peace accord between the government and the Maoists, an interim constitution was promulgated and the Maoists were allowed to enter parliament in mid-January 2007.
Following a nation-wide election in April 2008, the newly formed Constituent Assembly declared Nepal a federal democratic republic and abolished the monarchy at its first meeting the following month. The Constituent Assembly elected the country's first president in July. The Maoists, who received a plurality of votes in the Constituent Assembly election, formed a coalition government in August 2008, but resigned in May 2009 after the president overruled a decision to fire the chief of the army staff.
CIA World Factbook: Nepal
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slightly larger than Arkansas
Population of Nepal:
July 2010 estimate
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Nepali official 90%
English government and business
about a dozen other languages & 30 major dialects
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Mt. Everest: Reconaissance Everest Expedition 1922
Geography & Geology of the Himalayas Burrard 1908
Tibet & Nepal Landor 1905
History of Nepal Singh 1877
A Journey to Katmandu Oliphant 1852
The Kingdom of Nepaul Kirkpatrick 1811
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