Nepali is spoken as either mother tongue or second language by most of the inhabitants of Nepal (approx. population 26.5 million) and by several millions more elsewhere in the Eastern Himalaya and on the Indian plains. It is closely related to Hindi and is written in the same Devanagari script. The best online resource for learning the basics of the language is Cornell University's `Nepali: a Beginner's Primer Conversation and Grammar,' which includes audio and video components and is available free-of-charge. The materials use the Devanagari script from the start but those who find this difficult can get extra help from London University's online introduction to Devanagari, intended specifically for those beginning Hindi but also useful for students of Nepali, which includes demonstrations of how to write each character and also recordings of their sounds.
Other resources include basic sentences for greetings, expressing thanks, exchanging basic personal information etc. demonstrated on the Youtube video `Learn Nepali Language' and a basic Nepali-English on-line dictionary (as a pdf file) compiled by Karl-Heinz Krämer, with words arranged alphabetically in Romanisation but Devanagari transcription also given. A Foundation in Nepali Grammar by Christopher Jay Manders (Bloomington, Indiana: AuthorHouse, 2007), which provides a systematic treatment of the grammar intended as a suplement to other courses, is available in large part online. An excellent dictionary for learners, now freely available on the University of Chicago's `Digital Dictionaries of South Asia' site, is Ruth Laila Schmidt's Practical Dictionary of Modern Nepali. Words can be searched for in Devanagari or in a transcription using double letters for long vowels and capitals for retroflex consonants, whilst the entries themselves also give the standard Indological transcription for words taken unaltered from Sanskrit. There is also a digitalised version of Sir Ralph Turner's classic 1931 dictionary, excellent for the colloquial language and for etymological information but lacking some of the Sanskrit terms used in modern literary Nepali. It is necessary to enter words either in the standard Indological transcription (minus diacritics) or in Devanagari script.
In addition to Nepali itself, Nepal is home to a plethora of other languages and dialects, of which the most widely spoken are Maithili and Tamang, whilst Newar(i), the indigenous language of the Kathmandu valley, is of immense historical and cultural importance. The oldest language is probably Kusunda, now on the verge of extinction
The illustration shows the signing of the 2006 Comprehensive Peace Agreement between the interim government headed by Girija Koirala and the Maoist leader Pushpa Kumar Dahal several months after Janandolan (`People's Movement') II had forced King Gyanendra to return power to parliament. Girija Koirala died on 21 March 2010 after over sixty years' active participation in Nepalese politics and five terms as prime minister. Obituaries by Kunda Dixit and by myself are available on-line. A Powerpoint presentation on political developments in Nepal up to the fall of the monarchy can be downloadedhere. Those who know some Nepali already may be interested in hearing the former king giving slow and careful answers during a March 2010 interview.An extensive profile of Dahal (`Prachanda')'s career is provided in Deepak Adhikari's `The Fierce One' (February 2013) and an overview of the Maoists' role since the peace agreement is provided in Aditya Adhikari's `Discontents after the Revolution', published the same month.
Nepal: Major Rivers and Towns
Nepal: Administrative Divisions
Advice from veteran anthropologist Kath March, who runs the Cornell Nepal programme: (Note that organisations like Doctors without Borders /Medecins sans Frontieres site are no longer offering emergency assistance specifically for Nepal, but Kath's advice for longer term assistance is still relevant and she is herself now running a programme to train local people in earthquake-resistant construction techniques) Dear friends who have been asking how to help Nepal: The advice I am now giving is: Decide how much you can give and divide it into three allocations (you decide what % for each) and make your first donation to one an immediate relief agency (see A below), then to B & C: A. Immediate relief through a reputable international agency that does emergency relief; such as: i. Oxfam (UK is already there, USA is arriving) http://www.oxfamamerica.org/… ii. Global Giving (supports many smaller initiatives in Nepal) iii. Doctors without Borders http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/country- region/nepal or the America Nepal Medical Foundationhttp://americanepalmedicalfoundation.com/ B. Reconstruction assistance through a smaller, more local organization that has been working in an affected area: remember that the worst damage has occurred outside of the cities, particularly to the areas between Gorkha and Kathmandu (from personal contacts I know that most of Dhading, Rasuwa & Nuwakot west of Kathmandu were completely leveled; Sara Shneiderman and Mark Turin report extensive damage in Dolakha; this suggests that, but I don’t have direct information, Helambu has likely also been hard hit). In the community of Mhanegang, where we have worked for over 40 years not one single house was left standing. The organization we will be working closely with to help Mhanegang and similar communities is: i. Educate the Children http://www.etc-nepal.org/ works in Nuwakot & Dolakha mostly C. Personal connections: find out how to send money directly to people you know in affected areas; ask those people the best way to send money to them (Western Union or Bank transfer) i. Our government and other governments will be providing aid through government channels; rest assured that significant portions of that aid will not get into rural communities or meet individual needs. ii. In this emergency, everyone who has been affected will need more resources than they have or than the government is likely to provide. iii. If you know and trust a particular personal connection, you can also ask them to share your gift with others in need as much as they can. iv. If you don't know anyone and want to get money to individual people in need, just contact me or contact someone who does. If you are a Cornell-connected person, please also consider making a donation through "Cornell for Nepal"--more information to follow soon. Kath गते गते पारगते पारसंगते बोधि स्वाहा བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་མ་ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་པའི་སྙིང་པོ Form is emptiness; emptiness is form. Gone. Gone. Gone beyond. Gone altogether beyond.
Organisations helping the Thangmi community in Dolakha and Sindhupalchowk (list compiled by Sara Shneiderman)
Educate the Children is a US-based NGO partnering with ETC Nepal for school reconstruction, educational support, and shelter construction in several Dolakha VDCs with Thangmi populations.
Core International is a small Canadian NGO partnering with Fashelung Samajik Sewa (FSS), a Thangmi-led community-based organization in Suspa-Kshemawati VDC, Dolakha, to respond to local needs.
CWIN Nepal partners with the Rural Development Tuki Association (with support from FORUT Norway) to provide relief, shelter construction and school rebuilding, across several northern Dolakha VDCs with Thangmi populations.
Himalayan Crossroads is supporting displaced villagers from eastern Sindhupalchok, as well as providing shelter and school building supplies to those who remain in the villages.
Although Nepal has been officially known as `The Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal' since shortly after the fall of the monarchy, the number of federal units and their boundaries have remained a matter of controversy. The first two maps below show the structures proposed by the State Restructuring Committee in 2010 and by the High Level state Restructuring Commission, a body of experts which reported in January 2012, whilst the third shows the arrangement agreed by leaders of the three main political parties at their meeting on 15 May 2012 but then almost immediately rejected by the Maoists as well as janajati groups.
State Restructuring Committee Proposal (January 2010)
High-Level State Restructuring Commission Proposal (January 2012)
Structure as agreed by leaders of political parties on 15 May 2012
_The HLSRC recommendations differ from those
of the SRC principally in merging the proposed Sherpa, Sunkoshi and Kirat
states to form a single Kirat unit, the amalgamation of Jadan (intended as a
homeland for groups speaking various Tibetan dialects) Karnali and Khaptad into
a single Khaptas-Karnali province and major alterations to the boundaries originally proposed for Narayani. This would give a common boundary to the two proposed tarai (southern plains) states and this, in addition to the changes in name to `Madesh-Awadh-Tharuwan' and `Madesh-Mithila-Bhojpura' is presumably intended in part as a concession to tarai regionalist parties which had been demanding `a single Madesh' comprising the whole tarai. The commission also recommended
the creation of an eleventh `non-territorial’ state for dalits
(`Untouchable’ castes). The HLSRC map was kindly made available by commission member Professor Krishna Hachhethu.
The third, unofficial map, entitled `These are the states pulled out of the leaders pockets!' and `Federal Panchayati Arbitraricratic Nepal' was posted on Facebook on 16 May but swiftly removed. The map's author suggests the structure is not really based on ethnic identity but on administrative divisions dating from the Panchayat era of royal rule and that the whole exercise is being orchestrated by India. Krishna Hachhethu's analysis suggests that these boundaries do indeed normally ensure that the Parbatiyas (rather than any other ethnic group) would form a plurality within each state. The names shown on the individual states (e.g. `Divided Madhesh') are also satirical inventions; the actual names of the units are to be decided later. The agreement between the parties was in fact that the boundaries as shown on the map would be subject to adjustment if recommended by a federal commission for which provision will be made in the constitution. The commission's recommendations would have to be voted on by parliament and the names adopted could be changed by the individual state assemblies once they are elected. There might also be a referendum to see whether Kailali and Kanchanpur remain part of an `undivided far west', as envisaged on the map, or join the western Tarai state. Following the 2013 election victory of the Nepali Congress and the UML, both of who are opposed to identity-based federalism, Congress suggested two slightly different models similar to the May 2012 agreement but with only six or seven provinces (maps based on Suresh Maharjan's work for S.H. Shrestha, Nepal in Maps, Educational Enterprises, 1988). The following month, the seven-province model, with some changes of names, was included in the joint constitutional proposals submitted jointly by Congress and the UML to the Constitutional Political Dialogue and Consensus Committee:
Congress 6-province model( October 2014)
KEY: EASTERN PROVINCE EASTERN TARAI PROVINCE CAPITAL PROVINCE WESTERN PROVINCE WESTERN TARAI PROVINCE FAR-WESTERN PROVINCE
Congess 7-province model (subsequently made the basis of joint Congress-UML proposal)
KEY: SAGARMATHA PROVINCE JANAKI PROVINCE BAGMATI PROVINCE GANDAKI PROVINCE LUMBINI PROVINCE KHAPTAD PROVINCE KARNALI PROVINCE
Following an agreement with the Maoists and one Tarai grouping in June 2015, the coalition government tabled a draft constitution which included an 8-state (subsequently amended to 6 then to 7)-state federal model. This was condemned by ethnic activists and sparked violent protests in the Tarai in August, the most serious, in Tikapur in Kailalai, rsulting in the death of seven policemen and a child. The map below (from the Kathmandu Post of 24 August) shows the proposed structure, which involves the merger of most of the Tarai with neighbouring hill districts, with sites of major early clashes. Unrest later spread to most of the Tarai, including Birgunj and Janakpur:
Some other models suggested earlier are included in a slide presentation from Himalayan Voice but unfortunately without labelling.
Despite the tarai's opposition, the boundaries shown in the above map remained largely unaltered and adoption of the draft constitution enshrining them was completed by a two-thirds majority of the Constituent Assembly on 16 September. The only alteration had been the decision to put all of Baglung district into the 4th province rather than give the western section to the 5th. Following the official promulgation of the constitution on 20 September, the entry of trucks into Nepal carrying supplies from India was curtailed, causing shortages in the hills, particularly in the Kathmandu valley. The Nepal government denounced this as an Indian `blockade' designed to force concessions to the Madhesi parties, whist the Indian authorities claimed that the usual number of vehicles were not able to enter Nepal because of the on-going protests. The activists blocking the crossing between Rexaul and Birgunj were finally cleared and normal supplies resumed in February 2016
On 29 November the Maoist-Congress coalition which had replaced the UML-led government in August registered an amendment transferring from province 5 to province 4 the hill districts of Rolpa, Pyuthan, Gulmi, Arghakhanchi and Palpa, plus the eastern half of Rukum (the area shown in stripes on the map below). This proposal met with strong opposition from the UML and also some activists of the ruling parties, while it was criticised by Madhesis groups for not going far enough. By the end of the year the main Madhesi block, the United Madhesis Democratic Front, had decided to back the amendment despite its unhappiness over the inclusionof the far-western and far-eastern tarai in north-south provinces but the UML remained admantly opposed and was continuing to block proceedings in parliament.
The Nepali calendar
Nepal still uses the Viram Era, which commenced in 57 B. C. and was once widely used in South Asia. The year 2068 V.E. began on 14 April 2011 and a calendar for the whole year, including dates for religious festivals which depend on the lunar months and so are on different dates in different years, can be downloaded here.
The Nepali months, with the original Sanskrit names (still used in formal contexts) in Devanagari and then the present-day pronunciation of the Sanskrit and the equivalent in coloquial Nepali, are as follows:
वैशाख Baishākh / Baisāk April/May
ज्येष्ठ Jeshtha/Jeth May/June
आषाढ Ashād /Asār] June/July
श्रावण Shrāvan/Sāun July/August
भाद्र Bhādra/Bhadau August/September
आश्विन Ashwin/ Asoj September/October
कार्तिक Kārtik / Kāttik October/November
मार्गशीर्ष Mārgashirsha/Mangsir November/December
पौष Paush/Push December/January
माघ Māgh January/February
फाल्गुन Phālgun/Phāgun February/March
चैत्र Chaitra/Chait March/April
Because the Nepali months follow exactly the passage of the sun into different
signs of the zodiac, the length of the months varies slightly through
the year and between one year and the next so a Nepali month will not
always start on the same day of the corresponding Western month. To
get an approximate equivalent you can equate the Nepali 1st of the
month with the Western 15th but you might be a day or two out and, to be
certain, you need to consult a calendar or use the conversion facility
on sites such as rajan.com
`Ethnic Turntable of Asia'
Nepal is home to a bewildering variety of ethnic groups - only a limited number of which could be catered for in the various schemes for ethnic-based federalism illustrated above - but the bulk of the population can be divided into three major groups (with approximate share of the country's total population shown in bold):
•PARBATIYAS (INDO-NEPALESE, KHASAS) – original speakers of NEPALI (aka Parbatiya, Khas Kura, Gorkhali), normally Hindu. Divided into castes. 38%
•`JANAJATIS’ (TIBETO-BURMANS, MONGOLS) – mostly originally speakers of Tibeto-Burman languages and animists or Buddhists but now often assimilated into Hinduism and speaking Nepali or another Indic language 36%
•MADHESIS – sharing the culture and caste structure of the north Indian plain. Speaking various Indic dialects but often using Hindi as a lingua franca 17%
The routes by which they are believed to have entered the country are shown on the map below:
The PowerPoint below accompanied a lecture given for the Britain Nepal Academic Council in London on 23 March 2016: `Limits of Nationalism: National Identity in Nepal and the British Isles.' An audio-recording of the lecture is available here. The paper itself, together with those presented at the Workshop on the same day, will be published later in a special issue of the European Bulletin of Himalayan Research.
Among those who entered directly over the passes from Tibet were the ancestors of the the present-day Gurungs (who call themselves `Tamu'), Tamangs and Thakalis, whose very similar languages seem to have had a common origin. Because there are no contemporary written records, the story of their migrations and subsequent movements within Nepal cannot be known with any certainty. However Bhovar Palje Tamu andYarjung Kromchhe Tamu, drawing on legends (pye) preserved by their priests, and also on a good deal of speculation, produced a detailed account of Gurung movements entitled`A Brief History of the Tamu Tribe’ and published as an appendix to the 1993 English edition of Bernard Pignède's The Gurungs (edited by Sarah Harrison and Alan Macfarlane, Kathmandu: Ratna Pustak Bhandar). They put the migration across the Himalayas to the Annapurna region in around 500 A.D. and (in accordance with widespread oral tradition amongst the Gurungs living north-east of Pokhara) state that the ruined village of Khola Sombre was the last settlement where the Tamu lived as a united people before splitting up to found different villages. Archaeological research, summarised in a 2000 report by Christopher Evans, Judith Pettigrew and Yarjung Tamu, suggests that this site was actually occupied in the 12th and 13th centuries A.D. and that the houses probably had the flat roofs typical of the arid region north of the Himalayas. Pettigrew and Tamu have published an account of their preliminary investigations (`The Kohla project: studying the past with the Tamu-Mai’, Studies in NepaliHistory and Society 4(1): 327-364. ) whilst Mark Temple provides a concise despciption of Kohla in `The ruins of an early Gurung settlement', European Bulletin of Himalayan Research, No. 5, pp.43-48. Temple's article is the first of the downloads below and the second a condensed version (Britain Nepal Society Journal, No. 13, pp.30-32) which includes a photograph of the site.
_The ruins of Khola Sombre are on the hillside facing the party to the left.
Two members of the party examine the largest ruin in the village
The picture below shows the remains of Liglig fort overlooking the Marsyangdi valley in Gorkha district, which played an important role in Drabya Shah's capture of Gorkha itself in the 16th century. The Gorkha kingdom was the base from which his descendant, Prithvi Narayan Shah, conquered the Kathmandu Valley and laid the foundations of modern Nepal in the 18th century. The site still await proper archaeological investigation as explained here. For details of some of the conflicting legends about the site, see also the Wikipedia article.
The History of Janakpurdham
The History of Janakpurdham: A Study of Asceticism and the Hindu Polity is a classic study by the late Richard Burghart of the Ramanadi ascetics of Janakpur in the eastern tarai and their complex relationship with state and society from the town's emergence as an important pilgrimage centre in the 18th century. Completed as a Ph.D. dissertation in 1978, the work was published in August 2016, edited by Martin Gaenszle. The video below is an edited recording of a panel discussion organised by the Social Science Baha in August 2016 to discuss the book.
The unicode Nepali site converts Romanised Nepali typed on an ordinary keyboard into Devanagari, which can then be pasted into emails, word document etc. Though the font may not be supported on some web platforms and computer systems, it works with most of them.
Detailed coverage of events in Nepal is available in English on nepalnews.com , or on the ekantipur or Republica websites, and in Nepali on another ekantipur page, or on the sites of Nagarik daily or of the weekly new magazine Nepal or the fortnightly Himal Khabarpatrika. The Nepalnews site also makes available a recording of the previous day's evening news bulletin from Sagarmatha Television. The Nepali version of the ekantipur site includes archives going back over ten years but with a lot of gaps and often only including one or two reports from each issue. The English-language Nepali Times (a weekly) also has an openly accessible archive of the complete text past issues. You can also listen live to Radio Nepal's broadcasts from anywhere in the world. More links, and an archive of information on politics and other aspects of Nepal can be found at the Nepal Research site. Detailed analysis of the political problems facing the country is available in the series of reports on the country compiled by the International Crisis Group.
The website of the Digital Himalaya project provides anthropological information, including basic census data for all of the country's Village District Committees and an archive of back issues of journals specialising on Nepal or the Himalayan region. A complete run of Himalaya (the journal of the Association for Nepal and Himalayan Studies) has recently been added and this periodical is also available on the digitalcommons.macalester site. There are also details and trailers for films on the region, including Ben Campbell's Way of the Road, which focuses on a Tamang community in the Trisuli Valley and the likely impact on it of a planned road to the Tibetan border. Extensive bibliographies on different aspects of Nepal are available on the Martin Chautari website.
An extensive gallery of pictures of the country can be viewed on Facebook at Nepal in Pictures and popular shows from Nepal Television can be watched on Nepal123.com This Youtube video, aimed at prospective tourists, highlights landscape, culture and adventure pursuits. Another has film taken by Toni Hagen in the 1950s, with Nepali commentary added. Photographs of Nepal taken by american Peace Corps volunteers in the 1960s and 1970s have been collected on the Rounds Imaging Services site. Archaeologist and anthropologist Johan Reinhard, who has visited Nepal frequently since 1968, has posted his own photos up to 1994 on Google Photos.
There are a large number of organisations set up by and for Nepalis living overseas. Motherland Nepal, for example, organises events and programmes in north California and provides video new s bulletins focusing on the area.
Complete Nepali by Michael Hutt, Abhi Subedi and Krishna Pradhan in the Teach Yourself series, provides and up-to-date introduction to the language and is also available as a book/CD pack. Hutt, Professor of Himalayan Studies at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, has many years' experience teaching the language to foreign learners, whilst Subedi, a former head of the Department of English at Tribhuvan University in Kathmandu, is a well-known Nepali poet and critic. Krishna Pradhan also teaches Nepali at SOAS. The book is a revision of Hutt and Subedi's earlier Teach Yourself Nepali, copies of which are still available second-hand or from libraries.
Learners who have already acquired a basic knowledge of Nepali and wish to tackle Nepali literature in the original may want to go on to Hutt's ModernLiterary Nepali: an Introductory Reader, which includes extracts from leading authors with introduction, notes and a comprehensive vocabulary, as well as literal translations of the verse selections.
Nepali is the first language of only around half Nepal's population and the country is home to around one hundred other mutually unintelligible languages, a situation brought about by the mingling of different migration streams in this `ethnic urntable of English' and also by the relative isolation until very recently of different mountain communities, which encouraged linguistic diversity. The standard reference works on languages spoken in Nepal and elsewhere in the Himalayas is George van Driem's 2-volume Language of the Himalayas. This includes extensive discussion of general linguistic theory and of controversial hypotheses on the relation between different languages, but also a wealth of detail on individual languages and their speakers. The book is prohibitively expensive but available in good libraries.
This review article, originally published in Studies in Nepali History and Society, gives some idea of the scope of the book's contents:
John Whelpton's History of Nepal provides an overview of the country's development from the earliest times to 2004, concentrating mainly on the modern period since unification in the late 18th century. The reprint of the cheaper South Asian edition, available in shops in Nepal and India, incorporates corrections of errors in the worldwide edition published in the UK and USA. A list of these corrections can be downloaded below. For later developments, there is a very brief account of the period from 1964 to 2014 on this site. `From the Beginning', a detailed discussion of some themes in prehistory and ancient history, which is a slightly modified version of an article originally published in Voice of History, can also be downloaded from below, as can `Reading Guide to Nepalese History'. the final proofs of a bibliographic essay covering work on the subject up to 2004, published in Himalaya,vol. XXV, nos.1-2, pp. 5-14 ( 2005)
Toni Hagen, a Swiss geologist who carried out an extensive survey of the country in the early 1950s and was later involved in work with Tibetan refugees, produced a `coffee table' book, Nepal: the Kingdom in the Himalayas, with both superb photographs and a good account of the origin of the Himalayas and (in the 1980 edition) of economic and social developments after 1950. The book may be difficult to get hold of in the West but some used second-hand copies are available from online booksellers.
David Gellner, Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka and John Whelpton's Nationalism and Ethnicity in Nepal, originally published in 1997 as Nationalism and Ethnicity in a Hindu Kingdom and re-issued in 2008 with an additional account of recent developments includes general overviews and studies of particular ethnic groups. John Whelpton's chapter on the development of Nepalese national identity draws on his earlier paper, `Being Nepali', which includes more detailed historical information and is available here.
Revolution in Nepal: An Anthropological and Historical Approach to the People's War, edited by French anthropologist Marie Lecomte-Tilouine with contributions from Nepali, French and British specialists, was published in summer 2013. In addition to detailed ethnographic studies, it includes material on the historical background, the PLA's military performance and the 2008 elections, in which the Maoists emerged as the largest single party, with some reference to events up to spring 2010. The book is currently (September 2013) in shops in Kathmandu and Delhi whilst the international edition can be pre-ordered from Amazon or Oxford University Press. Videos illustrating Sam Cowan''s chapter on the PLA and Anna Stirr's on the Maoist use of musical performance can be accessed on the C.N.R.S.website
Mahendra Lawoti and Anup Pahari's edited volume, Maoist Insurgency in Nepal: Revolution in the 21st Century, brings together essays by specialists in different disciplines and with widely divergent opinions. Some chapters are theory-laden and may be heavy going for the layman, but others present a clear analysis of the causes of the rebellion and of developments since the 2006 peace agreement. The editors are well-known Nepalese scholars currently based in the USA. The illustration shows the special edition for Nepal, which can only be obtained from bookshops in the country.
In contrast to most anthropological writing on Nepal, which focusses on particular castes or ethnic groups, Mark Liechty's Suitably modern: making middle-class culture in a new consumer society , published in 2002, examines the changing life-styles and values of the urban middlle-class and the pressures produced as they adapt and compete in a new environment. The author is an American academic but was brought up in Nepal, where his parents worked for the largest Christian missionary organisation operating in the country.
A thorough and very readable account of the urban civilisation of the Kathmandu Valley in the anceient and medieval periods is provided by art historian Mary Shepherd Slusser. This lavishly illustrated work focusses particualry on art and architecture but includes an excelent synopsis of the Valley's political history, drawing on detailed resaearch work by local scholars since 1951. Originally published by Princeton University Press in 1982, Nepal Mandala is available in a reprint edition from Mandala Book Point in Kathmandu.
For a detailed account of the founding of the modern Nepalese state by King Prithvi Narayan Shah of Gorkha in the 18th century and the kingdom's subsequent expansion, there is a good account in Ludwig's Rise of the House of Gorkha. There is also a study by Leelanateshwar Baral of Prithvi's campaigns and of his writings, drawing particularly from the vamsavalis (chronicles) in the Hodgson Collection of the British Library. This is an unpublished Ph. D. thesis but can be downloaded free of charge from the University of Cambridge site.
John Whelpton's Jang Bahadur in Europe, originally published in 1983 and re=published in 2016 in a revised and ex extended edition, focusses in detail on the visit to London and Paris in 1850 of Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana, the founder of the Rana family regime which governed Nepal from 1846 to 1850. It included a translation of a contemporary Nepali account probably written by one of Jang's travelling companions, as well as extensive extracts from Brtish and French newspaper coverage of the visit and comprehensive background material. Further details are provided on a separate web page and also on this page in the `Moti Lal Singh- the first Nepali in London' section below.
For works on Nepali history actually in print and available in Kathmandu, consult the on-line catalogue of Ratna Pustak Bhandar.
Brian Hodgson and the Hodgson Collection
Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801-1894), who was the East India Company's Resident (i.e. resident representative) in Kathmandu during crucial years for Indo-Nepalese relations in the 1830s and early 1840s, was also a distinguished scholar, who made important contributions to the study of all aspects of Nepal. In 1864 he gifted to the India Office a large collection of materials in several languages which he had amassed in Kathmandu and then in retirement in Darjeeling. A brief account of his life is available on this site and the catalogue of the Hodgson manuscripts, now housed in the British Library, can be accessed at www.digitalhimalaya.com/hodgson. The initial draft of the catalogue was produced by Ramesh Dhungel. The first illustration below shows Hodgson himself and the second (reproduced by courtesy of the British Library) some of the members of the project team with Michael Palin, one of the major donors to the project, at the launching of the website on 25 July 2011. Other photographs of the event can be viewed here.
For an example of folk-style Nepali music, combined with Hindi-cinema-style choreography, try माझी दाई पोखरा फेवा ताल को (Majhi Dai Pokhara Phewa Talko, `Brother Boatman of Phewa Tal at Pokhara'), avideo filmed on Phewa Tal, Nepal's most famous lake, with Macchapuchare (part of the Annapurna group) in the background.
The clip below is another example of Dohori - a traditional folk genre in which male and female singer sing alternate lines. The American, Anna Stirr, is an academic researcher on the topic as well as an accomplished performer. Her partner is a well-known Nepali singer, Rajesh Thapa.
The same performers can be heard here singing another song, this time improvising their lines in the traditional manner.
This is an 80-minute documentary in Nepali with English subtitles presenting the Nepali viewpoint on border problems with India. The second half focusses on points along the border where the Indian security forces have been either forcing people off land Nepal claims is its own territory, or insisting that residents declare the territory is Indian and accept ownership certificates etc. from the Indian authorities. While Nepali claims of Indian encroachment may often be correct, the first half of the documentary, arguing that all the territory lost by Nepal under the 1816 Treaty of Sugauli should, under international law, be returned to Nepal by India, is much less convincing. In particular the argument that in ancient times a government in Kathmandu controlled a vast territory across the Himalayas and in northern India rests on a misinterpretation of ancient evidence, and Prithvi Narayan Shah in the 18th century was building an empire, not re-uniting a divided nation. An offer to return Darjeeling to Nepal probably was made by the Brtish in 1946 and rejected by the Rana regime but it is very unlikely that the British offered to return also the western territories (now the Indian state of Uttarakhand) as the film claims.
Transport in Nepal
A fascinating collection of pituresillustrating the history of roads and railways in Nepal is available on a Facebook page celebrating the 5oth anniversary of the Nepal Transport Service. The photograph below was originally published in a 1950 article in National Geographic magazine.
An unsolved mystery: where is this temple?
This drawing of unknown origin was discovered by Henry Noltie of the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. The temple style and the background immmediately suggest Nepal but nobody has yet been able to identify it: the architectural details are wrong for Changu-Narayan, the first possibility that comes to most people's minds. It is possible that the artist produced a stylised portrait without concern for accuracy but it was still probably based on one particular location, If you have any theories, please let me know by email here.
Moti Lal Singh - the First Nepali in London?
During Jang Bahadur Rana's 1850 visit to London, the first by a ruler of a South Asian state, the Indian News of 17 June reported that he or one of his party had invited `Buxoo', a `Hindoo crossing-sweeper' in St. Paul's Churchyard to join his party. The newspaper's reference to his being `proficient in Hindoostanee' (i.e. Hindustani, the lingua franca of northern India) led to the assumption that he was an Indian. However, in September 2010 Biswo Paudel published an extract and a partial Nepali translation of an article in another London publication, New Monthly Magazineof July 1850 (p.272-89 of the annual volume), written, probably with the help of a ghost-writer, by the sweeper himself. He was in fact a Nepali named Moti Lal Singh, who had been captured by the British during the Anglo-Nepal War of 1814-16, enlisted in the British Indian Army and later made his way to London where he worked as a sweeper for many years before his sudden elevation to fame. Jang already had with him as interpreter an Anglo-Indian secretary but engaged Moti Lal as an additional assistant to help him fathom out the strange ways of London and the British. It is unclear what happened to Moti Lal when Jang left London in August 1850 but he wrote of missing the wife he had left in Calcutta and most likely accompanied the official party back to India if not back to Nepal itself.
Paudel's findings (Birsieka Motilal , `Forgotten Motilal') can be read in the 1 September 2010 issue of Himal Khabarpatrika, no.271, p. 10-11 and the Indian News report is reprinted in John Whelpton, Jang Bahadur in Europe, Kathmandu: Sahayogi, 1983, p. 232-33. In 2013 Krishna Adhikari published a Nepali translation of the article, with an extensive introduction: Belayatma Pahilo Nepali Motilal Sinhako Rahasyamaya Jivan ra unka Aitihasik Alekh [The Mysterious Life of Moti Lal Singh the First Nepali in Britain and his Historic Article], Reading: Centre for Nepal Studies UK. The entire original English text, with annotations, is included in the revised edition of John Whelpton's Jang Bahadur in Europe (1983) published by Mandala in Kathmandu in 2016. Some of the themes in the book are presented in the Powerpoints below. The first file accompanied a lecture at the Royal Asiatic Society in London on 18 March 2016. The Podcast of the talk itself is available at http://backdoorbroadcasting.net/2016/03/john-whelpton-jang-bahadur-in-europe/ The second and third files are the slightly altered versions used with a talk on the same subject at the Social Science Baha in Kathmandu on 30 March 2016 and include the evidence recently uncovered by Krishna Adhikari that Moti Lal accompanied Jang's party at least as far as Paris. The fourth file was used in a presentation to the Hong Kong Anthropological Society in February 2017, which included more comparative material from the memoirs of Sheikh Lutfullah Khan, a Muslim traveller who visited London in 1844 as interpreter and secretary to an Indian nobleman. The Kathmandu talk and the following question-and-answer question can also be viewed on YouTube.
The illustration shows Jang Bahadur with the score of the polka written in his honour during his stay in Europe by `Strauss', who was probably the French composer, Isaac Strauss, no relation to the Viennese Strauss family. The polka itself sounds to me very Viennese and distinctly un-Nepali, but you can listen and judge for yourselves:
An engraving of St. Paul's Cathedral in the mid-19th. century
Christianity in Nepal
Nepal was until 2006 officially a Hindu state and it was illegal for Hindus to convert to Christianity or for Christian missionaries to proselytise. Nevertheless, missionaries have worked in the country since 1950 on various development projects, and ethnic Nepalis from Darjeeling formed the core of a small Christian community which has expanded considerably since Nepal was declared a secular state. The relationship between Christians and Nepalese society, and between different Christian denominations, is analysed in these two PowerPoint presentations. The first accompanied a talk for the Hong Kong Anthropological Society on 12 January 2012. The Word document is the handout prepared for the this and includes a basic bibliography. The second PowerPoint is an amended version prepared for a lecture given on 3 December 2012 at the Social Science Baha in Kathmandu, which was recorded and can be heard on the Baha website. Discussion on the second occasion made it clear that not enough weight was given to Christian organisations that have become active since 1990 nor to churches founded before then by individual Nepalis and this will be corrected in a future version. The talk itself also inaccurately claims that the bulk of converts in the Valley are Damais, whereas in fact this was true only of the particular village in which a researcher interviewed had been working. Valley-wide, large numbers not only from Damais but from Dalit castes in general have become Christians. The BBC website currently (January 2012) has an audio slide presentation on the Christians' campaign to be given a burial ground.