1902 Encyclopedia > Nepal

Nepal




Nepal, Nepaul, or Nipal, is a small independent state, situated on the north-eastern frontier of Hindustan. It lies between 80° 15’ and 88° 10’E. long. 26° 20’ and 30° 10’ N. lat. Its extreme length is about 525 miles, and in breadth it varies from 90 to 140 miles. It is bounded on the N. by Tibet; on the E. by Sikhim and the British district of Darjeeling; the S. by the British districts of Purniah, Bhagalpur, Darbhanga, Muzaffarpur, Champarun, Gorakhpur, and Oudh; and on the W. by Kumaon, from which it is separated by the Kali river. Its population is estimated by the natives at about 5,000,000, the common phrase used by the rulers in speaking of popular opinion being, "but what will the Bawan (i.e., fifty-two) Lakh say to this." Probably, however, this is an exaggerated statement.

Nepal consists of two very distinct kinds of land: - (1) the terai, or strip of level cultivated and forest land lying along the southern border; and (2) the great mountainous tract stretching northwards to Tibet. Along the northern frontier stand many of the highest peaks of the Himalayan range, such as Diwalgiri (26,861 feet), Mutsiputra and Yasa (24,000), Gosain Than (26,000) , numerous peaks varying from 20,000 to 24,000 feet, Mount Everest (29,000), and Kinchinjunga (28,156). In clear weather this magnificent snowy range may be seen in an almost continuous line from the top of some of the lower ranges near Kathmandu. South of these are numerous parallel lower ranges, varying from 16,000 to 6000 feet in height, which are broken up at intervals by cross ranges, thus forming a series of glens with a few hill-girt valleys interspersed.

These mountain ranges determine the course of the rivers, which are divided by the cross ranges into four groups. The first of these extends from Kumaon eastward as far as Diwalgiri, and consists of the affluents if the Kali, Sarju, Kurnali, Eastern Sarju, and Rapti, all of which ultimately form the Gogra or Gogari, and flow into the Ganges. The second group, known to the Nepalese as the Sapt Gandaki, rise from the peaks between Diwalgiri and Hosain Than, and unite at Trebeni Ghat to form the gandak. The third is a group of smaller rivers draining the great valley of Nepal, the valleys of Chitlong, Banepa, and Panouti, and portions of the terai around the Chiriyaghati range of hills. These are the various branches of the Bur Gandak, the lesser Rapti, the Bagmati, and Kumla. East of this again is the fourth group, known to the Nepalese as the Sapt Kusi, rising from the peaks between Gosain Than and Kinchinjunga, and uniting to form the San Kusi, which falls into the Ganges.

There is thus a natural division of the country into four portions. The most western is the country of the Baisi (or twenty-two) rajas, and contains the towns of Jumla, Doti, and Sulliana. The second is the country of the Chaubisi (or twenty-four) rajas, and contains the towns of Malebum, Palpa, Gorkha, and Noakote. The third is the district containing Nepal proper, with the capital and many large towns to be mentioned afterwards. The fourth is the eastern portion of Nepal, comprising the country of the Kiratis, and many small towns, such as Khatang and Bijapur.

In a country possessing such a range of altitudes the flora and fauna are of course very varied, and the transitions from those of tropical to those of temperate and alpine regions are very rapid. For descriptive purposes, Nepal may again be divided into three longitudinal zones. These are – (1) the terai and lower ranges of hills up to 4000 feet in height; (2) the central ranges and high-lying valleys, up to 10,000 feet; and (3) the alpine region, from 10,000 to 29,000 feet in height. These zones are not, however, sharply defined, as the climate varies according to the latitude, the height of intermediate ranges, and the depth of the valleys; so that tropical plants and animals are sometimes found far in the interior, and the more northern species descend along the loftier spurs into the southern zones.

The low alluvial land of the terai is well adapted for cultivation, and is, so to speak, the granary of Nepal; but owing to scantiness of population and other causes the greater portion of it consists of swamps, jungles, and forests. The productions here are those of British India,- consisting of cotton, rice, wheat, pulse, sugar-cane, tobacco, opium, indigo, and the fruits and vegetables familiar in the plains of India. The forests yield a magnificent supply of sal, susu, and other valuable forest trees; and the jungles abound with acacias, minosas, cotton tree (Bombax), dak (Butea frondosa), large bamboos, rattans, palms, and numerous ferns and orchids. On the Chiriyaghati range the common Pinus longifolia grows freely. Tea can be grown on the borders of this and the next zone at a height of from 2000 to 4000 feet. The middle zone supplies rice, wheat, barley, oats, ginger, turmeric, chillies, potatoes, Cucurbitaceae, pineapples, and many varieties of European fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The forests contain tree rhododenrons, Pinus longifolia, oaks, chestnuts, walnuts, maples, hill bamboos, wild cherry, pear, allies of the tea plant, paper plants (Daphne), roses, and many other inhabitants of temperate climes, with various orchids, ferns, and wild flowers. In the alpine zone exist Coniferae of many kinds, junipers, yew box, hollies, birch, dwarf rhododendrons, and the usual alpine flora.

The wild animals follow a similar distribution, and the following typical species may be mentioned. In the lowest zone are found the tiger, leopards, wolves, hyaenas, and jackals, the elephant and rhinoceros, the gaur (Gavaeus gaurus), gayal (Gauaeus frontalis), wild bufallo or arna, many species of deer, and the black bear (Ursus labiatus). Among the birds are found the pea-fowl, francolins, wild jungle fowl, and the smaller vultures, &c. In the middle zone there are leopards the Himalayan black bear (Ursus tibetanus), the wild dog, cats of many sorts, squirrels, hares, porcupines, the pangolin, and some species of deer and antelope. Among the birds are the larger vultures and eagles, the fowl pheasants (Gallophasis), chukor, hill partridges, &c. In the alpine zone are found the true bear (Ursus isabellinus, or brown bear), the yak, musk deer, wild goats and sheep, marmots, &c. Among the birds are the eagle-vulture (Gypaetus), the blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus), snow pheasant (Tetraogallus himalayensis), snow partridge (Lerwa nivicola), the horned and crested pheasants, &c. Geese, ducks, waders of all sorts, and other migratory birds are found in abundance in the two lower zones.

The lowest zone in some directions abouinds in fossils; and deposits of lignite, and even of true coal, are met with, the latter notably at a spot south of Palpa. The middle zone is rich in limestone and marbles, and abounds with minerals, such as iron, copper zinc, lead, and sulphur. Copper is found near the surface in many places, and there are remains of mines both at Markhu and in the great valley of Nepal. Mineral springs, both hot and cold, are numerous. Traces of silver, and also of gold, have been found in the alpine zone.

The races occupying Nepal are very numerous. To the north, inhabiting the higher mountains and valleys, dwell the Bhotiyas or Tibetans. To the west lie the Gurungs and Magars. The Murmis, Gorkhalis, and Newars occupy the central parts; and the Kiratis, Limbus, and Lepchas occupy the eastern districts. Besides these there are many small tribes residing in the terai and some other malarious, districts, known as Daris, Bhramus, Kumhas, Manjis, &c., but generally classed otters by the Nepalese as Aoulias, or dwellers in the malarious or aoul districts. These are probably descendants of immigrants from the lower castes of Hindus, occupying the borderlands of the terai. Among the forests of the lower eastern region are also to be found some small savage tribes, known as Chepangs and Kusundas.

All the races except the Gorkhalis and Aoulias are of a decidedly Mongolian appearance, being generally short and robust, and having flat faces, oblique eyes, yellow complexions, straight black hair, and comparatively hairless faces. The Newars, according to the Vamcavali or native history, trace their descent from the races of Bengal, but this is rendered more than doubtful both by their appearance and language. The Gorjhalis (Gorhas or Ghoorkhas) are descendants of the Brahmans and Rajputs who were driven of Hindustan by the Moslems, and took refuge in the western hilly lands, where they ultimately became the dominant race. As a rule they still retain traces of their descent in face and figure, though they have become much mixed up with the other races by intermarriage.

The Bhotiyas, Newars, Limbus,Keratis, and Lepchas are all Buddhists, but their religion has become so mixed up with Hinduism that it is now hardly recognizable. The Newars have entirely abandoned the monastic institutions of Budhism, and have in great measure adopted the rules of caste, though even these sit but lightly upon them. They burn their dead, eat the flesh of buffaloes, goats, sheep, ducks, and fowls, and drink beer and spirits. The Gorkhalis, Magars, and Gurungs are Hindus, but the last two are by no means strict in the observance of their religion, though there are some peculiarities which they carefully preserve. Thus, for instance, the Magars will eat pork but not buffalo’s flesh, whereas the Gurungs eat the buffalo but not the hog.

The various races have all separate languages, or at least dialects. The Gorkhalis use Parbatiya, a modern dialect of Sanskrit, which is also used by the western tribes. The Newars have a distinct language and alphabet, or rather alphabets, for three are known to their pandits, though only one is now in use. their language greatly resembles the Tibetan, but is now corrupted with many Sanskrit words. The Bhotiyas use the Tibetan language and alphabet.

There are no public schools nor provision for education; but the children of all well-to-do- people are taught by the family priests or their parents; and some of the higher classes sent their children to be educated at Patna, Benares, or Calcutta, so that many of them speak English fluently. The bulk of the laboring classes is quite illiterate.

The modern literature of the country is undeserving of notice, being of the most frivolous description; but Nepal is a perfect storehouse of ancient Sanskrit literature, and some of the oldest MSS. in that language as yet known to scholars have been found there.

The portion of Nepal, exclusive of the terai, which is open to Europeans is the "valley of Nepal," containing the capital of the country, and a few adjacent smaller valleys. There is only one means of access used by Europeans, and this indeed is in general resorted to by the natives, as the other routes to the capital are longer and far more difficult. The road runs nearly north from Segowli, passing through the terai and sal forests, to Bichiakori; then through the beds of mountain streams, through a pass in the Chiriyaghati range, and through another sal forest, to Hetoura; thence by a wide and good road to Bhimphedi at the foot of the Sisaghuri range of hills. So far the route is practicable for carts and baggage animals, but from this point the road is a mere rugged footpath over the mountains, through the Chitlong valley and over the Chandragiri range. The distance from Segowli to Kathmandu is 90 miles.

The valley in extreme length from east to west is about 20 miles, and breadth from north to south about 15. The surrounding hills vary in height from 6000 to 9720 feet, the level of the valley itself being about 4500 feet above the sea. Tradition has it that Nepal was once a lake, and appearances are in favor if this view. It is crossed longitudinally by a low limestone range, through which the waters have gradually forced a passage, and in like manner the collected rivers have escaped at the southeast corner of the valley. The former fissure, at Chowbahal, is said to have been made by Vishu, and the latter by Bodhisatwa Manjusri.

The surface of the valley consists of a series of tablelands (tars) and wide beds of streams (kholas), with here and there a few well-wooded knolls, generally surmounted by temples.

There are three principal streams, the Bagmati, Vishnumati, and Manchra, besides many small tributaries of these. All the rivers rise within the valley, except the Bagmati, which springs from the northern side of the Seopuri peak, and enters the valleys through a ravine at the northeast corner. They all unite and pass through a long narrow gorge in the limstome range, already mentioned, at Chowbahal, and ultimately escape from the valley at Kotwaldar.

There are three large towns, Kathmandu, the capital, with some 50,000 inhabitants, Patan with about 30,000 and Bhatgaon with 30,000 also. The houses are from two to four stories in height, built of brick, and tiled. The windows and balconies are of wood, and are elaborately earved. There are numerous handsome temples in all the towns, the majority of which are pagoda-shaped and built of brick, with roofs of copper, which is sometimes gilt. The streets are narrow, and they, as well as the squares, are all paved with brick or stone. In front of the temples generally stand monoliths surmounted by figures of Garur, or of the founder, made of brass gilt, or sometimes of black stone. Besides these three large towns, there are at least twenty smaller towns, and numerous villages, all of which possess many temples. Some of these, as for instance those of Pashupati, Bodhnatha, and Symbhunatha, are considered of great sanctity. Many thousands of pilgrims come at one festival to worship at Pashupati, and it is there that the dying are brought to be immersed in the Bagmati, the dead are burned, and satis are immolated.

In Nepal, as in India, the year may be divided into the rainy, cold, and hot seasons. The cold season extends from the middle of October to the middle of April. During these months the climate is delicious. Hoar-frost and thin ice are common in the mornings, and the thermometer sometimes falls as low as 25o Fahr., but the days are bright and warm. From Christmas to the end of February there are occasional showers of rain; and snow falls on the surrounding low ranges, but is very rarely seen in the valley itself. From April to the beginning of the rains is the hot season, but the thermometer seldom reaches 85o in the shade. The result of observations extending over many years gives an average mean temperature of 60o Fahr., and an annual rainfall of about 60 inches. Violent thunderstorms are not uncommon, and occasionally severe earthquakes occur, as in 1833 and 1866, on the former of which occasions there were great destruction of houses and loss of life in all the large towns.

Where temples are so numerous (there are 2733 shrines in the valley) priests naturally abound, both of the Hindu and Buddhist religions. The festivals too are many in number, and in consequence holidays are incessant. The raj guru, or high priest, is an influential person in the state, a member of council, and has a large income from Government lands as well as from the fines for offences against caste, &c. Many other priests gurus and purohits, have lands assigned to them, and most of the temples have been richly endowed by their founders. Every family of rank has a special priest, whose office is hereditary.

Astrologers are also numerous, and their services are in constant request. One cannot build a house, set out on a journey, commence a war, or even take a dose of physic, without having an auspicious moment selected for him.





All families of good position have at least one baid, or medical man, in constant attendance, and there are also many general practitioners. There are no hospitals nor dispensaries, except the small one attached to the British residency, which is much frequented by the poor. The diseases most prevalent in the country are rheumatism, chronic, dyspepsia, skin diseases, syphilis, goiter, and leprosy. In the rains a number of cases of mild intermittent fever, diarrhoea, and dysentery are met with. Fever of a severe typhoid type is common in the crowded lanes and dirty villages; and cholera, when it does break out, commits fearful ravages. Smallpox is almost always present, in consequence of inoculation being greatly resorted to by the Parbatiyas, whilst the Newars neither vaccinate nor inoculate. Of late years vaccination has been considerably practiced by the residency surgeons, especially among the Bhotiyas and the children of the higher ranks.

Much attention is devoted by the Gorkhalis to military matters, and the bulk of that race may be said to be soldiers. The standing army consists of about 16,000 men, divided into twenty-six regiments of infantry and two regiments of artillery. Besides this force there is a reserve, consisting of men who have served for a few years and taken their discharge, but who in case of necessity can be called on again to enter the ranks. The regiments are formed on the European system, and similarly drilled and officered. The arms are various, from the old flint musket to the most modern breech-loading rifle. Each man also carries a bayonet and a kukhri or native knife. The followers of some of the petty hill rajas are still armed with khoras (heavy curved swords) and bows and arrows. The Calvary is on a very small scale, consisting of only about one hundred men, as the country is not suited for horse exercise. The artillery, however, is on a lager scale, consisting of two regiments; and there is also an attempt at horse artillery. Of late years four mountain batteries drawn by mules have been established. There is a large arsenal well provided with supplies of gunpowder and military stores. There are extensive workshops too, where cannon are cast, and rifles and ammunition of all sorts turned out in large quantities. In the last war with Tibet, in 1854, when the resources of the country were strained to the utmost, the filed force consisted of 27,000 men with 29,000 partially armed coolies and camp followers, and 390,000 unarmed baggage coolies. About 7000 fighting men only were left to garrison the country.

While the Gorkhalis are occupied in military affairs, the agriculture of the valley is carried on by the Newars. The soil is varied in character, from light micaceous sand to dense ferruginous clay. The whole valley is cultivated and irrigated where practicable, and the slopes of he hills are carefully terraced, so that there is little grazing ground, and few sheep or cattle are kept. There are some milch cows and buffaloes, which are either stall-fed or grazed in the jungles at the foot of the hills. Animals for consumption and sacrifice are all imported, and are consumed as fast as they are brought in. In the cold season the Bhotiyas bring large flocks of sheep and goats laden with bags of borax, salt, and salpetre. These are sold for consumption, except a few that are retained to carry back the bags. These droves are generally accompanied by ponies and some of the large Tibetan dogs. These dogs are powerful, fierce, shaggy animals, about the size of a small Newfoundland dog. Poultry are kept and used by the Newars, especially ducks, the eggs of which are in great demand even among the orthodox Hindus. The crops grown in the valley consist of rice, both the transplanted and the dry-sown or gyah varieties, wheat, pulse, murwah, maize, buck wheat, chillies, radishes, mustard, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric,, sugar-cane, potatoes, ground nuts, many spicies of cucumbers and pumpkins, &c. Space will not allow a description to be given of the modes of cultivating these. Nothing but articles of food is allowed to be grown in the valley; hence its capabilities for producing tea, cotton, and tobacco are unknown. All of these, however, a re grown in other districts, both in the hills and the terai. Large cardmoms are extensively grown at the base of the hills, and form an important article of export. The hemp plant (Cannabis indica) grows wild, and is used both for manufacturing purposes and for producing the resinous extract and other intoxicating products which are exported. Plants producing dyes, such as madder or manjit, are grown in some places; and drugs, such as chirata and atees, are collected and exported. The better class of soils yields a return of about Rs. 180 per khait, and the poorest about Rs. 90 per khait. From some of the finer soils as many as three crops of various sorts are obtained annually. The land-measures in use are the jana= 75 square yards, 4 janas=1 ropni, 25 ropnis = 1 khait, or 7500 square yards.

The Newars are also fond of horticulture. Many European fruits, flowers, and vegetables have been introduced during the last fifty years, and grow freely. The country is famous for its oranges and pine-apples. Flowers are grown and sold religious purposes, and even wild flowers are brought into the market and much used by the Newar women in adorning their hair, as well as for offerings at the shrines. Many wild fruits are collected and sold in the markets. Apples and pears, of English stock, thrive well; apricots and plums are good; peaches and grapes grow freely and are of large size, but they seldom ripen before the rains begin, when they rot.

All the trade and manufactures of the country are in the hands of the Newars, and a few Kashmiris and natives of Hindustan. The trade in European goods is chiefly carried on by the latter, whilst the Newars deal in corn, oil, salt, tobacco, and articles of domestic manufacture. The trade with India is carried on at numerous marts along the frontier, at each of which a customs station is established, and the taxes are collected by a thikadar, or farmer. The Newars also carry on the trade with Tibet, through a colony which has been for many years established at Lhasa. There are two principal routes to Tibet. One of these runs north-east from Kathmandu to the frontier-station of Kuti or Nilam, crossing the Himalayan range at a height of 14,000 feet; the others passes out of the valley at the north-west corner, and runs at first upwards along the main branch of the Gandak, crossing the Himalayas, near Kirong, on men’s backs, except the salt, &c., carried in bags by the Bhotiya sheep and goats. The principal imports from Hindustan are raw cotton, cotton goods, woolen goods, silks and velvets, hardware, cutlery, beads, jewels, coral, saddlery, shoes, guns gunpowder, vermillion, indigo, lac, tea, betel-nut, spices, paper, sugar, tobacco, oils, sheet copper, goats, cattle, buffaloes; and from Tibet, musk, medicines, yaks tails, tea, wollen cloth, blankets, borax, salt, saltpeter, paper-plant, honey, wax sheep, goats, yaks, ponies, silver, gold. The exports to Hindustan include wax, paper-plant, musk, yaks tails, medicines, cardamoms, borax, sulphate of copper, brass pots, iron pots, ponies, elephants, hawks, hides and horns (buffalo), rice, ghee, oil seeds, red chillies, maddler, potatoes, oranges; and to Tibet, broad, cloth, raw cotton, cotton goods, tobacco, sugar, opium, coral, jewels, pearls, spices, betel nut, copper pots, iron pots, and hardware.

To estimate the exact value of such an extensive trade, passing through so many channels, is almost impossible, especially as the Nepalese are utterly regardless of statistics. Recent estimates, however, value the exports and imports to and from the British provinces at 1,686,000 pounds annually; and the value of those to and from Tibet is probably at least half that amount. Duties are levied on exports and imports, which will be noticed under the head of revenue.

The Newars are skilful workmen. Their bricks are excellent, and so also is their pottery, for which certain towns are famous, such as Themi and Noakote. As carpenters they excel, though the use of the large saw is still unknown, and planks are cut with chisel and mallet. Some of the wood carvings on the temples and large houses are most artistic in design and bold in execution, though unfortunately they are too often of a most obscene character. The manufactures are few, consisting chiefly of coarse cotton cloths, paper made of the inner bark of the paper-plants (Daphne), bells, brass and iron utensils, weapons, and ornaments of gold and silver.

At one time Nepal supplied Tibet with its silver coinage, but this was abandoned on account of the adulterations introduced by the Nepalese. The ancient coins, specimens of which are still to be met with, were made by hand. The modern coinage is struck by machinery, a regular mint having been established by Sir Jung Bahadur at Kathamandu.

== TABLE ==

The gold coinage and the silver rupee are seldom seen, the ordinary currency consisting of the copper dams and paisa, and the mohar or half rupee. Besides the machine-made paisa two other kinds are in general use. one, the Bhutwaliya paisa, is made at Teusan in the Palpa district, and consists of a square lump of pure copper with a rough stamp on it. The other, the Lohiya paisa, is also a rough square lump of copper, but is much adulterated with iron. It is chiefly used in the eastern districts. The total coinage in 1875-76 was –silver mohars, Rs. 214,000; Bhutwaliya paisa, Rs. 186,000; Lohiya paisa, Rs. 43,000; flat paisa, Rs. 123,000.





However fond the Nepalese may be asserting their independence, their is no doubt that they acknowledge the supremacy of China, as they periodically send an embassy with presents to Peking. The British too have considerable influence with the Government in regard to their foreign relations; but in all matters of domestic policy the Nepalese brook no interference, and they are most jealous of anything that has a tendency to encroach on their independence.

Theoretically the government of Nepal is a pure despotism, and the raja is paramount. Practical for the last century, all real power has been in the hands of a prime minister and his faction; and much of the modern history of the country consists of accounts of the struggles of the various factions for power. Under the prime minister there is a council, consisting of the relations of the king, the raj guru, the generals, and a few other officials known as kajis and sirdars, which is consulted on all important business, and which forms a court of appeal for disputed cases from the courts of law. There are separate civil and criminal courts, but the distinction is not always observed, as difficult cases are often transferred from one to the other.

The old savage code with its ordeals by fire and water, and its punishments by mutilation and torture, was abolished by Sir Jung Bahadur after his return from England. Treason, rebellion, and desertion in time of war are punished by death. Bribery and peculation by public servants are punished by dismissal from office, and a fine with imprisonment, the latter of which may be commuted at the rate of Rs. 5 per mensem. Murder and the killing of cows are capital offences, Manslaughter and maiming cows are punished by imprisonment for life, and other offences against the person or property by imprisonment or fine. Offences against caste are heavily punished by fine and imprisonment. In some cases all the offender’s property is confiscated, and he and his family may even be sold as slaves. Slavery is an institution of the country, and all families of rank posses many slaves, who are employed in domestic and field labor. They are in general well treated, and are carefully protected by law. The price of slaves ranges from Rs. 100 to Rs. 200. There are three large prisons in the valley, one for males and two for females. The prisoners are kept in irons, and employed in public works of various sorts. They are allowed six pice per diem for subsistence at the capital, and five pice in other districts. There are no bankruptcy laws, and the liability of a debtor descends from father to son. The marriage laws are somewhat peculiar. Among the Gorkhalis of course the laws resemble those of other Hindus as regards the marriage of widows, polygamy, sati (suttee), &c. An offending wife is imprisoned for life, and her paramour, after his guilt has been proved before the law courts, is cut down in public by the injured husband. The culprit gets a start of a few yards and runs for his life. If he escapes he is free, but in general he is tripped up by the onlookers and his fate is certain, as the husband is entitled to strike thrice with his kukhri. Among some of the hill tribes polyandry is still practiced, and the Bhotiyas seem to regard the marriage tie with perfect indifference. Among the Newars, every girl, while still an infant, is married with much ceremony to a bel fruit, which is then thrown into some sacred stream. As the fate of the fruit is unknown, a Newarin is supposed never to become a widow. At the age of puberty a husband is selected, but the woman can at any moment divorce herself by placing a betel-nut under her husband’s pillow and taking her departure. Adultery is therefore but slightly punished. The woman is merely divorced, and her paramour has to make good to the husband the expenses incurred at the marriage. A Newarin on th edeath of her husband may, if she chooses, become a sati, but the privileges is very seldom taken advantage of.

The revenue of Nepal is about ninety-six lakhs of rupees, i.e. 9,600,000 pounds. The chief sources of it are the land-tax, customs, mines, forests, and monopolies. About 10 per cent. of the terai lands, and 20 per cent. of the hill lands, are private property. Some lands were assigned by the Gorkhali rajas to Brahmans, soldiers, and others, and these are untaxed. Others, which were the gifts of the old Newar kings, apy from 4 to 8 annas per bigah. All such grants of land, however, are subject to a heavy fine on the coronation of a new raja. Land which does not produce rice is lightly taxed, but in the valley, of Nepal, and wherever rice is grown, the Government tax on rent is one half of the produce of the land. Waste lands, when brought into cultivation, are rent free for ten years, after which for five years the tax is only 4 annas per bigah, and the cultivator receives one-tenth of the cleared land rent free for his life. A considerable revenue in the shape of royalty is obtained from mines of copper, iron, &c. The taxes on merchandise amount to from 12 to 14 per cent. on the value of the goods carried to and from British India, and from 5 to 6 per cent, is charged on goods exported to Tibet. The revenue, when collected by the various subas, is transmitted under an escort to the Government treasury, and at the end of the year the surplus is deposited in the Mul Dhukati, or Government cellars, whence it is never withdrawn except in great emergencies. A yearly surplus has been accumulating in this manner for many years.

There are three principal eras in use in Nepal. The Samvat of Vikramaditya commences fifty-seven before the Christian era, the Saka era of Salivahana begins seventy-eight years after the Christian era, and the Nepalese Samvat dates from October 880 A.D. The Sri-Harsha and Kaligat eras are also sometimes used. The measurement of time is regulated by a copper vessel with a small hole in the bottom, which is floated on water and fills and sinks sixty times a day. Each time it sinks a gong or ghari is struck, in progressive numbers from dawn to noon; after noon the first ghari struck indicates the number of gharis which remain of the day till sunset. Day is considered to begin when the tiles on a house can be counted, or when the hairs on the back of a man’s hand can be discerned against the sky. Sixty bipalas=1 pala; 60 palas=1 ghari or 24 minutes; 60 gharis= 1 day of 24 hours.

Nepal and the somewhat similar country of Kasmir are peculiar among the Hindu states of India possessing an historical literature. The Nepalese Vamcavali professes to start from a very early period in the Satya Guya, when the present valley was still a lake. The earlier portion of it is devoted to the Satya and Treta Yugas, and contains mythological tales and traditions having reference to various sacred localities in the country. During these two Yugas, and also the Dwapur Yiuga, the Vamcavali deals in round numbers of thousands of years.

In the beginning of the Kali Yuga, the Gupta dynasty is said to have been founded by Ne-Muni, from whom the country takes its name of Nepal. Lists are then given of the various dynasties, mentioned are the Gupta, Ahir, Kirati; Somavanshi, Suryavanshi, Thakuri or Rajput, Vaishya Thakuri, second Rajput, and Karnataki dynasties., the country was then invaded by Mukundasena, and after his expulsion various Vaishya Thakuri dynasties are said to have held the throne for a period of 225 years. The chronology of the Vamcavali up to this period is very confused and inaccuratre; and, though the accounts of the various invasions and internal struggles, mixed up as they are with grotesque legends and tales, may be interesting and amusing, they can hardly be considered authentic. Some of the names of the rajas, and the dates of their reigns, have been determined by coins, the colophons of old MSS., and certain inscriptions on the temples and ancient buildings. For instance, Ancuvarma, of the Thakuri dynasty, reigned about 633 A.,D. as he is mentioned by the Chinese traveler Hwen Tsang, who visited Nepal. His name too is found in an inscription still extant. In like manner it is ascertained from MSS that Rudra-deva Varma was reigning in 1008; Lakshmikama-deva from 1015 to 1040; Padma-deva, of the Vaishya Thakuri dynasty, in 1065; Manadeva, of the second Rajput dynasty, in 1139; Ananta-Malla, 1286-1302; Harisinha-deva, 1324; Jayastithi-Malla, 1385-1391. Much information as to the chronology of the various dynasties can be obtained from the catalogue of the Cambridge MSS. compiled by Mr Cecil Bendall, M.A., and also from his papers on the ancient coins of the country. Inscriptions too have been edited by Professor Buhler in the Indian Antiquary, vol. ix. Detailed lists of the rajas are to be found in Kirkpatrick’s Account of Nepal, in Hodgson’s Essays, Princep’s papers in the Asiatic Society’s Journal, and Wright’s history of Nepal.

The records begin to be more accurate from the time of the invasion and conquest of the country by Harisinha-deva, the raja of Simraungarh, 1324. This raja was driven from Simraungarh by Tughlak Shah of Delhi, but seems to have found little difficulty in the conquest of Nepal. There were only four rajas of this Ayodhya dynasty, and then the throne was occupied by Jayabhadra Malla, a descendant of Abhaya-Malla, one of the Rajput dynasty, who reigned in the 13th century. There were eight rajas of this dynasty. The seventh, Jayastithi-Malla, who reigned for forty-three years (1386-1429), appears to have done much in forming codes of laws, and introducing caste and its rules among the Newars. In the reign of the eighth raja, Yaksha-Malla, the kingdom was divided into four separate states,- namely, Banepa, Bhatgaon or Bhaktapus, Kantipur or Katmandu, and Lalitapur or Patan. There was only one raja of Banepa, who died without issue. The Malla dynasty in the other three branches continued in power up to the conquest of the country by the Gorkhalis in 1768.

The Gorkhalis (Ghorkhas or Ghoorkas) claim descent from the rajas of Chitaurgarh, in Rajputana, near Tonk. They were driven out of their own country by the victorious Moslem, and took-refuge in the hilly districts about Kumaon, whence they gradually pushed their way eastwards to Lamjung, Gorkha, Noakote, and ultimately to the valley of Napel, and as far as Sikhim.

Prithiwi-narayama Sah came to the throne in 1742. From an early period he seems to have devoted all his energies to the conquest of Nepal, but it took him upwards of twenty-five years to accomplish his object. During the early part of the 18th century Nepal was visited by Italian missionaries, who founded a mission at Patan, which appears to have been in a flourishing state at the time of the Gorkhali invasion. Father Giuseppe has given a short account of the conquest in vol. ii. of the Asiatic Researches, the details of which are fully corroborated by the Vamcavali. Strange to say, that work contains no reference whatever to the presence of Christians in the country. Prithiwi-narayna entered Kathmandu in 1768, and in the course of the following year also conquered Patan and Bhatgaon. In the final struggle, which took place at Bhatgaon, Jayaprakasa (the raja of Kathmandu) was wounded, and shortly afterwards he died at Pashupati. Ranjit-Malla, the aged raja of Bhatgaon, was allowed to retire to Benares, where he ended his days. Tej Narsinha, the raja of Patan, was kept in confinement till his death. During the latter years of the war Jayaprakasa applied to the British for assistance, and a small force under Captain Kinloch, was sent into the terai in 1765, but it was repulsed by the Gorkhas.

Prithiwi-narayan died in 1774. He left two sons, Pratapa-sinha Sah and Bahadur Sah. The former succeeded his father, but died in 1777, lkeaving an infant son, Rana Bahadur Sah. On the death of Pratapa-sinha, his brother, who had been in exile, returned to Nepal and became regent. The mother of the infant king however, was opposed to him, and he had again to flee to Bettiah, where he remained till the death of the rani, when he again became regent, and continued so till 1795. During this time the Gorkhas were busily annexing all the neighboring petty states, so that in 1790 their territories extended from Bhutan to Kashmir, and from Tibet to the British provinces. At length, in 1790, they invaded Tibet, and were at first successful; but they were thus brought into contact with the Chinese, who in 1791 sent a large force to invade Nepal. In 1792 the Chinese advanced as far as Noakote, and there dictated terms to the Nepalese.

In 1791 the Gorkhas had entered into a commercial treaty with the British, and hence, when hard pressed, they applied for assistance against the Chinese to Lord Cornwallis. In consequence of this Colonel Kirkpatrick was dispatched to Nepal, and reached Noakote in the spring of 1792, but not till after peace had been concluded. One result of this embassy was the ratification of another commercial treaty on 1st March 1792.

In 1795 Rana Bahadur removed his uncle, Bahadur Sah, from the regency, and two years subsequently put him to death. From this time up to 1799 the king, who seems to have been insane, perpetrated the most barbarous outrages, till at length his conduct became so intolerable that he was forced to abdicate in favor of his son, Girvan-yuddha Vikrema Sah, who was still an infant. Rana Bahadur once again recovered the throne in 1804, but was assassinated in 1805.

In October 1801 another treaty was signed by the British and Nepalese authorities, and Captain W.D. Knox was appointed resident at the Nepalese court, which he reached in April 1802. He soon became dissatisfied with the conduct of the Nepalese, and he was withdrawn in 1803. From this time the Nepalese carried on a system of encroachment and outrage on the frontier, which led to a declaration of war by the British in November 1814. At first the British attacks were directed against the western portion of the Nepalese territory, and under Generals Marly, Wood, and Gillespie several disasters were met with. General Gillespie himself was killed while leading an assault on a small fort called Kalunga. General Ochterlony was more successful, and the Gorkhas were driven beyond the Kali river, and began to negotiate for peace. Arms, however, were soon taken up again, and Ochterlony, who was put in command, in January 1816, advanced directly on the capital in the line of the route that is now in use. he soon fought his way as far as Mukwanpur, and the Nepalese sued for peace. A treaty was concluded in March, by which the Nepalese relinquished much of their newly acquired territory, and agreed to allow a British residence to be established at Kathmandu. In November the raja died, and was succeeded by his infant son, the reins of government being held by General Bhimasena Thapa.

From this time the records for many years furnish little of interest except a history of struggles for office between the Thapa and Panre factions, and futile attempts at forming combinations with other states in Hindustan against the British.

In 1817 Dr Wallich visited Nepal, and pursued his botanical researches for a year.

In 1839 Bhimasena’s enemies succeeded in driving him from power, and he committed suicide, or was murdered, in prison. The Kala Panre faction then came into power, and there were frequent grave disputes with the British. War, however, was averted by the exertions of the resident, Mr B.H. Hodgson.

In 1843 Matabar Singh, the newphew of Bhimasena, returned from exile, soon got into favor at court, and, as a necessary consequence, speedily effected the destruction of his old enemies the Kala Panres, who were seized and executed in May 1843. At this time mention begins to be made of a nephew of Matabar Singh, Jung Bahadur, the edlest of a band of seven brothers, sons of a kaji or state official. He rose rapidly in the army and in favor at the court, especially with one of the ranis, who was of a most intriguing disposition. In 1844 he was a colonel in the army, and Matabar Singh expressed some alarm at his growing influence to Sir Henry (then Major) Lawrence, the resident at the time. This alarmproved well founded, for on the 18th of May 1845 Jung Bahadur effected the murder of his uncle, and immediately thereafter, with the aid of the rani, took a prominent part in the government . after a short but turbulent interval of intrigue, Jung Bahadur determined to get rid of his enemies at one fell swoop, and most thoroughly carried out his design by what is known as the Kot massacre, on the 15th September 1846. From that time till the day of his death Jung Bahadur was in reality the ruler of Nepal. His old friend, the intriguing rani, was banished, and all posts of any consequence in the state were filled by Jung, his brothers, and other relatives. In 1850, finding himself securely seated in power, Jung Bahadur paid a visit to England, which made a great impression on his acute intellect, and ever after he professed and proved himself to be a staunch friend of the British. On his return in 1851, he at once devoted himself to reforming the administration of the country. Every department in the state in turn felt the benefit of his resolute will, and, whatever may have been the means by which he gained power, it must be allowed that he exercised it so as to prove himself the greatest benefactor his country has ever possessed. In 1853 a treaty for the extradition of criminals was proposed, but it was not ratified till February 1855. In 1854 the Nepalese entered into a war with Tibet, which lasted with varying success till March 1856, when peace was concluded on terms very favorable to Nepal.

In June 1857 intelligence of the mutiny of the native troops in Hindustan reached Nepal, and produced much excitement. Jung Bahadur, in spite of great opposition, stood firm as a friend of the British. On the 26th June 4000 troops were sent off to assist, and these rendered good service in the campaign against the mutineers. Jung himself followed on the 10th of December, with a force of 8000 men, 500 artillerymen and 24 guns, but somewhat late to be of much use. Many of the mutineers and rebels, including the infamous Nana Sahib, took refuge in the Nepalese terai, and it was not till the end of 1859 that they were finally swept out of the country. The Nana was said to have died of fever in the terai, along with several others of the rebel leaders, and it is probable that this was the case, although for many years tales were circulated of his being still alive, and of his having been seen in various parts of Nepal and British India. His wives and a few attendants resided for many years near Kathmandu.

In return for the aid afforded to the British, Jung Bahadur was well rewarded. He was created a G.C.B., and in 1873 a G.C.S.I., honors of which he was not a little proud. The troops employed received food and pay from the day of leaving Kathmandu; handsome donations were given to those severely wounded, and to the relatives of the killed; great quantities of muskets and rifles were presented to the Nepalese Government; and, to crown all, a large portion of the terai was restored to Nepal. This ground contains moist valuable sal and sisu forests, and yields a revenue of several lakhs of rupees yearly.

From the termination of the mutiny Nepalese history has been uneventful. The country has been prosperous, and the relations with the British have continued to be most friendly. Nevertheless the restrictions on commerce, and the prohibitions against Europeans entering the country, or traveling beyond certain narrow limits, are as rigidly enforced, as they were a hundred years ago. Sir Jung Bahadur died suddenly in the terai in 1877. In spite of all the exertions he had made to bring about a better state of things, three of his wives were allowed to immolate themselves on his funeral pyre. His brother, Sir Ranadip Singh Bahadur, G.C.S.I., succeeded him as prime minister. Shortly after his accession to power a plot was formed against him, but he showed himself as prompt to meet such an emergency as his late brother had been, for nearly forty of the conspirators were seized and executed in a summary manner, and others, who escaped, are now living in exile.

The rajas of the Gorkhali line in Nepal, with dates of accession, are-Prithiwi-narayana Sah (1768), Pratapa-sinha Sah (1774), Rana Bahadur Sah (1777), Girvan-yuddha Vikrama Sah (1799), Rajendra Vikrama Sah (1816), Surendra Vikrama Sah (1847), Prithiwi Vir Virkrama Sah (1881). (D. WR.)



The above article was written by: Dr. Daniel Wright.



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