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Harper's New Monthly Magazine, February, 1889, p. 467-483:

Nepaul, The Land of the Goorkhas.


    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.
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    Kingdom of Nepal: In 1951, the Nepalese monarch ended the century-old system of rule by hereditary premiers and instituted a cabinet system of government.
    Reforms in 1990 established a multiparty democracy within the framework of a constitutional monarchy.

    A Maoist insurgency, launched in 1996, gained traction and threatened to bring down the regime, especially after a negotiated cease-fire between the Maoists and government forces broke down in August 2003.
    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

Area of Nepal: 140,800 sq km
slightly larger than Arkansas

Population of Nepal: 28,951,852
July 2010 estimate

Languages of Nepal:
Nepali official 90%
English government and business
about a dozen other languages & 30 major dialects

Nepal Capital: Kathmandu

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    The reigning boy King [Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah, 1875-1911] (the boy King has the short name of "Maharaj Adhiraj Prithwi Bir Bikram Jung, Bahadur Sali Saheb Bahadur Sumshere Jung"), already referred to, is the eighth royal master of the Goorkha dynasty who has succeeded to the throne of Nepaul, reckoning from Sri Maharaj Prithwi Narayana Sah [Prithvi Narayan Shah], the first of that famous line.

    The name of “Goorkha” is derived from that of a little town forty miles west of the present capital, Khatmandu. There the founders of this dynasty, a number of high-bred, high-spirited Rajpoot fugitives, who had escaped with their faithful followers from the detested Mogul [Mughal] conquerors of India, obtained shelter, and finding the good natured, peaceful Newars quite incapable of resisting their presumptuous demands, readily possessed themselves of the government, and occupied Khatmandu (A.D. 1768). Their power kept pace with their increase of territory. The government, like that of all Oriental nations, is an absolute monarchy, the throne passing from father to son, or nearest heir, whose will is supreme.

    In the course of constant disputes with independent states bordering its territory, Nepaul has often had recourse to arms, resulting, on the whole, in more gain than loss to herself; on the other hand, she has suffered internally from plots, cruel intrigues, and more cruel assassinations, tIme chief instigators and actors in which have been members of her own royal family.

    During the Indian mutiny of 1857 and 1858 Nepaul had the foresight, under the wise administration of that most able of all her princes, Sir Jung Bahadur [Jang Bahadur], in his capacity as Prime-Minister (though virtually the King), to offer every possible assistance to the British government. In return the British government gave her a goodly addition to her territory, and presented her with large supplies of arms and ammunition, at the same time binding herself to be the firm ally of the Goorkha government, both for offensive and defensive purposes.

    Strange as it may seem, slavery exists in Nepaul, though in a somewhat modified form. The slaves, numbering, it is said, 30,000 (though we regard this as rather too high an estimate), are used exclusively for domestic work. Most of them have been slaves for generations, and are not imported from any country outside. Their numbers are augmented at times by fresh additions from free families, who are brought into servitude as a punishment for misdeeds and political crimes.
    All well-to-do families possess slaves. The princes have great numbers of both sexes, whom they treat, on the whole, with consideration. A woman having a child by her master can claim her freedom.

    Early marriages are in vogue. The nuptials of the little King were arranged during our visit to Nepaul, with a princess half his age, who belonged to one of the old princely houses in India. The wedding actually took place soon after we came away. Polygamy is allowed and practised by the wealthier classes.
    A widow, like her southern Brahmin sister, cannot remarry. On the other hand, there are among the Bhooteas and kindred mountain tribes polyandrous families, in which a woman is married to several brothers, the oldest being called father by the first-born, the second brother claiming this appellation from the next child, and so on.

    The dress of the Goorkha ladies of rank is very rich, and the materials are of the costliest silks, velvets, and finest muslins brought all the way by caravan from China, or imported, rid Calcutta, from European ports. In and about the house they do not wear the long, graceful sari of their Indian sisters, but like them have a kind of tight-fitting jacket and a skirt. The Nepaulese skirt, however, is something immense, having folds and pleats which are increased in number according to the wealth and rank of the wearer, and which sometimes require sixty or eighty yards of cloth. Their costume is in no respect European, though they have the same weakness for jewelry as their sisters the world over.
    The men’s dress, excepting the military uniform, resembles in general that worn by the natives of northern India. Of course there are a number of the younger men who have been to Calcutta and travelled to other places (a Iew have even been to England); these dress like Europeans.

    The inhabitants of Nepaul are principally agriculturists, and the staple crop cultivated by them is rice. Owing to the fact that the extent of arable land is small as compared with the number of inhabitants, enough rice cannot be raised to meet local consumption, so that the deficiency in this as in other necessaries has to be made good by importations on coolies’ heads from India. With practically no manufactures, and with mineral and other internal resources undeveloped, Nepaul has little to export except timber from the Terai forest. The bulk of her revenue is derived from this source.
    But were Nepaul to improve the means of communication with India on one side and with Thibet on the other, she would greatly stimulate the trade which has been carried on between the two countries in a lame, primitive way for ages, and could reap the advantage of her natural position as connecting link in what has been from time immemorial the most popular and practicable route between the trans-Himalayan countries north and the far south. A railway might be readily constructed through the valley of the Trisul Gunga and Gunduck, or even down the valley of the Baganati, to unite with British railways already projected to within one hundred miles of the Nepaul Valley. But such an enterprise cannot be thought of at present without causing a shudder of horror to the whole of Khatmandu.

    To the stranger visiting Nepaul, among the most interesting of all objects are the elaborate Nepaulese carvings, which are executed principally in the splendid wood of the sal-tree (Shorea robusta [shala tree], Roxb., of botanists), from the Terai forest. Not only the temples and palaces, but also private dwellings, and often the doorways of the meanest hovels even, are loaded with ornamentation in a great variety of designs—peacocks with outspread tails, griffins, snakes, monkeys, birds, fruits and flowers, scores of fantastic beings, giants and pigmies, gods and goddesses, temples, delicate lattice-work and screens — the last-mentioned looking at a distance like gossamer lace that might be marred by the slightest breeze...

The New York Times, January 12, 1921, p.14:


    Permission having been granted by the Tibetan Government, the Alpine Club and the Royal Geographical Society are making plans for an attempt to climb Mount Everest, to which trigonometrical observation has given an altitude of 29,002 feet.
    Everest may not be the highest peak in the vast Himalayan field, for that formidable wilderness has not been completely explored. As to the height of Everest itself, "it is possible," says one authority, "that further investigation into the value of refraction at such altitudes will place the summit even higher.
    If the British authorities can find an Alpinist equal to the great feat of setting his foot on the supreme pinnacle, the altitude can be definitely ascertained.

    Everest seems to be appropriately named, for it conveys the idea of an ice-clad apex of the world forever at peace, remote, majestic, unconquerable. As a matter of fact, it bears the name of the indefatigable Surveyor General of India, Sir GEORGE EVEREST.
    But will the highest point ever be reached? Success would depend upon the finding of a practicable route to the top and upon the physical power of man to toil up the last 4,000 feet.

    The record for altitude in mountain climbing is held by an Italian, Prince LUIGI AMEDEO, of Savoy, Duke of Abbruzi, who in 1909 was stopped near the top of Bride Peak [Chogolisa] in the Karakoram Himalayas by adverse weather conditions at a height of 24,000 feet.
    In the story of the expedition, prepared by Cav. FILIPPO DE FILIPPI, the author says:

    Between Bride Peak and the top of Mount Everest there is nearly 4,000 feet of difference in height. It would surely be idle to predict the outcome of an attempt on the latter. Only continued tests will solve the problem.
    The first thing to do is to select a peak of more than 26,000 feet, where natives will be available for portage, where it would be easy to get the camps up to a considerable altitude, and where, at least for the last thousand feet, there could be found a route over snow, without great obstacles and not too steep.
    The highest peaks of the Karakoram are not adapted for the experiment, on account of their intrinsic difficulties. Kinchinjunga [Kangchenjunga] and Nanga Parbat are likewise very problematic; and if on closer examination their rivals in Nepaul present as great obstacles, there is little hope of our conquering any of the greatest giants of the earth by ordinary mountaineering methods.

    The altitude of 29,002 feet is, of course, attainable by an aviator, but whether he could make a landing on the highest ridge of Everest in the question. For the mountaineer there is an abundance of practice ground in the Himalayas.
    Colonel S. G. BURRARD and H. H. HAYDEN [Sir Henry Hobert Hayden, 1869-1923], the Directors of the Trigonometrical and the Geological Surveys of India, have reported seventy-five peaks above 24,000 feet, forty-eight above 25,000 feet, sixteen above 26,000 feet, five above 27,000 feet and three above 28,000 feet.
    The three guardsmen of the Himalayas are Everest, 29,002 feet, K-2, 28,252 feet, and Kinchinjunga, 28,150 feet.

    The Duke of Abruzzi was precluded by political decree from trying the ascent of Everest, but he tackled K-2 only to fail, because from whatever point of the compass he advanced he could find no way up after 22,000 feet.
    At 24,600 feet on Bride Peak he and his companions were still in good condition, although progress was slow and laborious; a thick mist warned them that to go on "would have been madness."

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