1793 - William Kirkpatrick
The Valley of Kathmandu
It will not be expected that I should be able to describe, or even to enumerate, all the towns and villages of this valley, nor are there, indeed, many of them that merit any particular notice. I shall content myself, therefore, with a slight review of the most remarkable among them.
Of these Khatmanda is entitled to the first rank, not so much, indeed, on account of its superior size or population, as because it is at present reckoned the capital of Nepaul, from being the residence of the Rajah. It stands on the east bank of the Bishnmutty, along which it stretches in length about a mile; its breadth is inconsiderable, no where exceeding half, and seldom extending beyond a quarter of a mile, its figure being said by the natives to resemble the Kohra or scimetar of Daiby. The entrance to it from the westward, near which extremity of the valley it is situated, is by two slight bridges thrown over the Bishnmutty, one of them at the north, the other near the south end of the town. The name by it is distinguished in ancient books is Gongool-putten; the Newars call it Yindaise, whilst among the Purbutties, or mountaineers, it is styled Kathipoor, an appellation which seems to proceed from the same source with Khatmandu, the present popular appellation of this city, and derived, as it is said, from its numerous wooden temples, which are, indeed, among the most striking objects it offers to the eye. These edifices are not confined to the body of the town, but are scattered over its environs, and particularly along the sides of a quadrangular tank or reservoir of water, situated a short way beyond the north-east quarter of the town, and called Rani-pokhra. They appear to differ nothing in their figure or construction from the wooden Mundubs occasionally met with in other parts of India, and are principally remarkable for their number and size, some of them being of considerable elevation and proportionate bulk. Besides these, Khatmandu contains several other temples on a large scale, and constructed of brick, with two, three, and four sloping roofs, diminishing gradually as they ascend, and terminating pretty generally in pinnacles, which, as well as some of the superior roofs, are splendidly gilt, and produce a very picturesque and agreeable effect.
The houses are of brick and tile, with pitched or pent-roofs; towards the street, they have frequently enclosed wooden balconies of open carved work, and of a singular fashion, the front piece, instead of rising perpendicularly, projecting in a sloping direction towards the eaves of the roof. They are of two, three, and four stories, and almost without a single exception, of a mean appearance; even the Rajah's house being but a sorry building, and claiming no particular notice. The streets are excessively narrow, and nearly as filthy as those of Benares.
Khatmandu was reckoned, during the time of Jye Purkaush, to contain about twenty-two thousand houses; but this amount is affirmed to have been very much augmented since that period, though not without some consequent decrease in the numbers of Patn and Bhatgong. This statement, however, must of necessity be understood as comprehending not only the population of the town itself, but of its dependent villages, it being manifest that there cannot stand, at the most, above five thousand houses on the ground occupied by this city; and, indeed, though all those I discoursed with on this point, appeared desirous of magnifying the number of its inhabitants, yet some of them pretty clearly admitted that the specifed statement was meant to include most of its subordinate towns or hamlets, which are not less than from twenty to thirty, of which Sanku, Changoo-nerain, Ghokurna, Deopatun, Hanrigong, Papigong, Chuprigong, and some others, rank as considerable places. Allowing then ten persons to a house or family, which is probably rather a Iow standard for the houses of Khatmandu, its population will amount to about fifty thousand souls, which I should take to be its full complement. (Perhaps 4000 houses, at twelve inhabitants each, would be nearer the mark.) At the same rate the numbers occupying the remaining seventeen thousand houses formerly included within the jurisdiction of Khatmanda, would be one hundred and seventy thousand; but as the buildings of the inferior towns are, generally speaking, on a much smaller scale than those of the metropolis, I should judge eight to a house, on an average, to be an ample allowance, which would reduce the population of the subordinates to one hundred and thirty-six thousand, giving one hundred and eighty-six thousand for the total population of the capital and its districts, in which last, however, k is not intended to include Doona-baise, Noakote, Nerjah, or any other of the dependencies of the Khatmanda sovereignty lying beyond the valley. I confess that this calculation is exceeding vague, and that, with respect to the canton or principality at large, I think it likely to be under the truth, though, perhaps, not in any considerable degree. It is proper, however, to notice here, that the most reasonable of my informants would not admit Sanku to have ever been comprehended in the population attributed to Khatmanda. Sanku was formerly a place of great magnitude, but does not contain at present above a thousand families.
The city of next importance in the valley of Nepaul is Patn, which occupies a rising spot of ground situated about two miles to the south-east of Khatmanda, and close to the confluence of the Munnokra, Fookacha, and Bhagmutty rivers. While an independent capital, it would seem to have been of much greater extent than the present metropolis, being said to have contained, during that period, twenty-four thousand houses; which number, however, as in the case of Khatmanda, must be understood to comprize also most of its dependencies within the valley; and though my information does not enable me to describe the exact limits of each of the three states, into which the valley of Nepaul was divided at the time of Purthi Nerain's conquest, yet there is good reason to believe that the sovereign of Patn possessed the greatest portion of it, since, among the various towns enumerated as belonging to that canton, we meet with the names of Kirthipoor, Chobbar, Thankote, Pheerphing, and a few others, which, besides continuing to be still of principal note, include a wider tract of territory than the dependencies either of Khatmanda or Bhatgong. The dominions of Patn beyond the valley stretched southerly, comprehending, Chitlong, Tambeh-kan, Cheesapany, and some other places in the same direction.
Patn is called Yulloo-daisi by the Newars, and it is likewise occasionally distinguished from Deopatun (celebrated for its temple of Pussputnath), by the appellations of Luttit-Patn .and Loll-Patn, both of which, it is supposed to have derived from the name of its founder, who was a favourite, and Purdhan, or minister, of one of the ancient princes of this country. It is a neater town than Khatmanda, and boasts also of containing some very hand-some edifices.
Bhatgong is, perhaps, still more superior to Khatmanda; for though doubtlessly the least considerable of the three, in point of size, being rated only at twelve thousand houses, yet its palace and buildings, in general, are of more striking appearance, and its streets, if not much wider, are at all events much cleaner than those of the metropolis. It owes this last advantage to its admirable brick pavement, which has not received, or indeed required, the least repair for thirty years past. Nepaul in general is remarkable for the excellence of its bricks and tiles, but those of Bhatgong are commonly allowed to be very far preferable to the rest. Certain it is, they surpass any I ever met with in India, but it is not equally certain from whence their excellence proceeds. Some of those whom I questioned on the subject, referred it to the nature of the earth used in making them, and some to the water employed in tempering them; while others affirmed it to arise purely from a particular mode of burning them. I had no opportunity of seeing this operation, the success of which, I was told, depended materially on the manner of laying the bricks and fuel, at the time of forming the clump or kiln.
Bhatgong lies about east and by south of Khatmanda, from whence it is distant nearly eight road miles. Its ancient name was Dhur-maputten, and it is called by the Newars Khopodaise, by whom it is also described to resemble in its figure the Dumbroo, or guitar, of Mahadeo. It appears to be the favourite residence of the Brahmans of Nepaul, containing many more families of that order than Khatmanda and Patn together, all those of the Chetree tribe (to which the reigning prince belongs) flocking on the other hand to the capital, while Patn is principally inhabited by Newars.
With respect to what may be termed the ultramontane dominions of Bhatgong, there is reason to believe, that though the sovereigns of this state seem to have possessed the smallest of the three divisions of the valley, they nevertheless established their authority to a greater distanee beyond it, than either of their neighbours. I am not acquainted with the exact limits of the Bhatgong principality to the eastward, in which direction it chiefly extended itself; but I fancy they no where fell short of the banks of the Kousi, near which, and at the distance of five journies from Khatmanda, there still stands an ancient Newar town of considerable eminence, called Dhoalka.
Kirthipoor occupies the summit of a Iow hill, about three miles west of Patn; it was at one time the seat of an independent prince, though at the period of Purthi Nerain's invasion, it was included in the territory of Patn. The reduction of this place cost the Ghoorkhali so much trouble, that in resentment of the resistance made by the inhabitants, he barbarously caused all the males he captured in it, to be deprived of their noses. We came to the knowledge of this fact in consequence of observing among the porters who transported our baggage over the hills, a remarkable number of noseless men, the singularity of the circumstance leading us to inquire into the cause of it.
Chobbar is also situated on an eminence, which, with thatof Kir-, fonns a kind of saddle hill. The latter is said to represent the body, and the former the head of Mahadeo. Kirthipoor is said have reckoned, at one period, no less than six thousand or families within its jurisdiction. It is at present a place of no great extent or consideration.
An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul
London 1811; Reprint Delhi 1969