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Hodgson and the Hanuman Dhoka

  • Michael Hutt


Brian Houghton Hodgson lived and worked at the British Residency in Kathmandu from1820 to 1843, and served as British Resident in Nepal for the last ten of these years.1 Hedied in 1894, and some 25 years after his death Perceval Landon wrote:

Some time ago my attention was arrested by the remark of Mr. Cecil Bendall who, writing in 1886, while Hodgson was still alive, referred to him as ‘the greatest, and least thanked of all our English Residents’. It is difficult to dispute either adjective. Hodgson was indeed more than the greatest ofEnglish Residents. He was the founder of all our real knowledge of Buddhism. He was the only manwhose infinite variety of scholarship and interest could, unaided, have written the true history of Nepal.



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1 This article is based on the Hodgson Memorial Lecture, delivered at the Anniversary General Meeting of the Royal Asiatic Society in London on 12 May, 1994.

2 Perceval Landon, Nepal (London, 1928), i, p. 85.

3 Not is the architecture of the Valley mentioned or described in the many letters from which Hunter quotes in his hagiographic biography. (SirHunter, William Wilson, Life of Brian Houghton Hodgson. London, 1896.)

4 The most detailed description of the Dhoka, Hanuman, Vajracarya's, GautamavajraHanuman Dhokaka Rajadarbar (Kirtipur, BS 2033 (1976/1977)) is currently available only in Nepali, but some of the information it contains appears in Slusser's, Mary ShepherdNepal Mandala. A Cultural Study of the Kathmandu Valley (Princeton, 1982). For descriptions of the palace squares of each of the three cities of the Kathmandu Valley, see Hutt, Michael, with Gellner, David N., Michaels, Axel, Rana, Greta and Tandan, Govinda, Nepal. A Guide to the Art and Architecture of the Kathmandu Valley (Gartmore, 1994).

5 The Shah kings left the Hanuman Dhoka for a neo-classical extravaganza at Narayan Hiti, on the northern edge of the old city, during the reign of Prithvi Bir Bikram Shah at the end of the nineteenth century. This has since been replaced by a modern palace complex.

6 Shrestha, Chandra B., Khatry, Prem K., Sharma, Bharat and Ansari, Hamid, The Historic Cities of Asia. Kathmandu (Kathmandu, 1986), pp. 31, 35.

7 A tol (in Nepali) or tvaḥ (in Newari) is a block or quarter in an urban settlement.

8 Op. cit., pp. 9, 1112.

9 Sanskrit kāṢṭha, “wood” > Nepali kāṭh; Sanskrit maṇḍapa, “pavilion, shelter” > Newari maḍu. In modem Nepali, the capital is known as kāṭhmāḍaũ.

10 Pal, Pratapaditya, VaiṢṇava Iconology in Nepal (Calcutta, [1970], 1985), pp. 8890.

11 Vajracarya, , op. cit., p. 12.

12 Slusser, (op. cit., pp. 197–8) provides a brief description of this much-lamented building.

13 Ibid., p. 190.

14 Oldfield, Hector Ambrose, Sketches from Nepal, second Indian reprint (publisher and place not stated), 1981, p. 105.

15 Ibid., p. 97.

16 Slusser, , op. cit., p. 63.

17 Vajracarya, (op. cit., pp. 1516) argues that during the Malla period the palace was known as the gunapo palace, but is unable to establish the meaning or etymology of the word gunapo. Slusser, (op. cit., p. 189) suggests that it might have some connection with the name of the tenth-century king Gunakamadeva.

18 The status of the term “Newar” as an ethnonym has been the subject of scholarly debate for many years, and it appears not to have been used during the first few centuries of the Malla period. (Slusser, (op. cit., p. 9) states that the first use of the word occurs in an inscription from 1654.)

19 Slusser, , op. cit., p. 76.

20 Ibid., p. 78.

21 Whelpton, John, Kings, Soldiers and Priests. Nepalese Politics 1830–1857 (New Delhi, 1991), p. 41.

22 Hunter, , op. cit., p. 102.

23 Ramakant, , Indo-Nepalese Relations (New Delhi etc., 1968), p. 80.

24 Hunter, (op. cit., p. 183) quoting Secret Consultations No. 24, of 5 March 1833.

25 Ibid., p. 183.

26 Ibid., p. 185.


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