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Art. I. An Account of the Kingdom of Nepaul, being the Sub
stance of Observations made during a Mission to that Country in the Year 1793. By Colonel Kirkpatrick. Illustrated with a Map, and other Engravings. 4to. pp. 386. London. Miller. 1811.
"THE time,' says the writer of the preface to this volume, (p.
in) will probably be recollected by many persons still living, both in England and in India, when Nepaul was spoken of as another El Dorado.' Nepaul is a secluded valley, which borders on the north-eastern boundaries of Bengal, and which has on its opposite frontier the country of Tibet. The valley of Nepaul is nearly of an oval figure, and its greatest extent, which is from north to south, may be computed at twelve horizontal miles. It stretches from east to west about nine miles, and its circuit is roughly estimated by the inhabitants at twenty-five coss, or from forty to fifty miles (p. 153). Khâtmândû is at present reckoned its capital:
"No Englishman had hitherto passed beyond the range of lofty mountains which separates the secluded valley of Nepaul from the northeastern parts of Bengal; and the public curiosity respecting that Terra Incognita (as it might then be justly called) was still ungratified, except by the vague and unsatisfactory reports of a few missionaries and itinerant traders, when, towards the close of the year 1792, an opportunity unexpectedly presented to the British government in India, of removing the veil which had so long interposed between the two countries, and of establishing a more intimate and beneficial connection with the Hindoo state of Khâtmândú, than had yet been found practicable. Of this opportunity, the late Marquis Cornwallis, who then presided over the British possessions in India, did not neglect to avail himself.
· That venerated nobleman had, some time before, formed certain arrangements with the existing authorities of Nepaul, which, it is to be regretted, were not followed up, as they would have left nothing more to be wished for by the British government; since, besides being well calculated to promote and protect the commercial intercourse of the two nations, they had a necessary tendency to extend and improve, by degrees, all the other social relations, to which proximity of situation naturally invites. • Such, however, was not yet the case. The habitual jealousy of the
Goorkhas,* fostered, at least, if it was not inflamed, by the insidious representations of individuals desirous of preserving the exclusive influence, and profitable monopoly, which that jealousy had enabled them to acquire, and which they saw endangered by the closer approach of the two governments, either wholly prevented the removal, or soon led to the revival, of many of those impediments to secure an active trade, which it had been the express purpose of the recent treaty to obviate. Accordingly, little or no progress had been made in effectuating the enlightened views of the framers of that treaty, when the course of Events seemed, on a sudden, as already intimated, to furnish a peculiarly favourable occasion for accomplishing their complete realization.
The Court of Pekin, resenting certain encroachments which had been made by the governinent of Nepaul upon the rights of the Lama of Tibet, whom the Emperor of China had, for some time past, taken under his protection, or, in other words, had subjected to the Chinese yoke, came to the resolution of chastising the aggressor, or the robher, as the Rajah of Nepaul was contemptuously styled in the Chinese dispatches to Lord Cornwallis on the occasion. For this purpose, a conderable army was detached, (under the command of a kinsman of the emperor,) which, after traversing the dreary and elevated regions of Tibet, bad penetrated, with little other opposition besides what was presepted by the nature of the intervening countries, within a short distance of the city of Khâtmandu. It was then that the ruling power of Nepaul, wbich, in consequence of the minority of the reigning Rajah, was at this period vested in a regency, alarmed at the danger with which it saw the kingdom menaced, earnestly implored the assistance of the Bengal government.
*This government now beheld, for the first time, the extraordinary spectacle of a numerous Chinese force, occupying a position which, probably, afforded it a distant view of the valley of the Ganges, and of the richest of the East India Company's possessions. It is true, that the military character of that people was not of a stamp to excite, under any circumstances, mucb fear for the safety of those possessions, froin their future enterprizes. Least of all, had we any thing to apprehend from this quarter at the period in question, when we had just signally humbled our most formidable enemy, and were at complete peace throughout India. Still, however, if, subduing Nepaul, the Chisese were to establish themselves permanently in our neighbourhood, the border disputes always incident to such a situation would be but too liable to disturb, more or less, the commercial relations subsisting between thern and the East India Company in another section of Asia. No event was, therefore, inore to be deprecated than the conquest of Nepaul by the Chinese; and yet it would have been a question of considerable difficulty and delicacy how to have frustrated such a design, if it had been actually entertained by the invaders. Military aid, which was what the regency of Nepaul had solicited of the British government, could not be afforded without a direct departure from the
. . This is the usual designation of the reigning dynasty of Nepaul.'
system of policy laid down for its general guidance by the legislature, or without producing the immediate suspension, if not utter annihilation, of our trade with Canton. Such aid was, therefore, explicitly and steadily refused, but the assistance which could be properly granted was readily offered. This consisted in a tender of the mediation of our government for the purpose of affecting an amicable accommodation between the belligerents, and in a proposal to dispatch, with all practicable expedition, to the head-quarters of the Chinese army, a British envoy, furnished with suitable powers and instructions for the occasion. This offer, though falling far short of what was desired, and, perhaps, expected, by the Nepaul regency, was, nevertheless, accepted; and Captain (now Colonel) William Kirkpatrick was, in consequence, appointed to conduct the proposed negociation in conjunction with the Court of Khâtmândů.
• But although the Envoy lost no time in repairing to Patna, from whence he was to be conducted by a deputation to be sent thither for the purpose, from Nepaul, he found on his arrival at the former place, that the regency, either dubious of the efficacy of our interposition with the Chinese, or fearful of the influence which, if successful, it might give us in the future councils, or, possibly, really intimidated by the menacing attitude of the enemy, had suddenly, and without any reference to the British government, concluded such a treaty with the invaders, as entirely superseded the necessity of the proposed mediation. The treaty alluded to was never formally communicated to the British government, but there is reason to believe, that though it rescued the dominions of the Goorkhali from the more immediate danger with which they appeared to be threatened, it was, in other respects, by no means honourable to the rulers of the country, especially if it be true, as was affirmed at that time by some intelligent persons, that a little more firmness on the part of the regency would speedily have compelled the Chinese (who had suffered greatly from sickness and scarcity, and were not less impatient to quit Nepaul than the Nepaalians were to get rid of them) to solicit the accommodation which they were permitted to make a merit of granting.
* Notwithstanding, however, that the original ground of the proposed mission was, by this means, removed, there remained sufficient subject of discussion between the two governments of Bengal and Nepaul, to make the measure still exceedingly desirable. Accordingly, there was not much difficulty in leading the Nepaul ministers to this point. It would have been, at least, an ungracious return to the friendly disposition recently manifested towards them by the Company's government, if they had rudely sent back the envoy of the latter after he had, as it were, advanced to their door with their own concurrence, and in the prosecution of their immediate interests. He, therefore, some time after his arrival at Patna, received a sufficiently pressing invitation to proceed to Noatkote, where the Rajah of Nepaul at that time held his court; and having obtained the necessary authority for the purpose, from his own government, he proceeded thither accordingly -p. 10.
The The opportunities afforded to Colonel Kirkpatrick on this embassy appear to be well and zealously employed; and the information contained in the volume before us is hence various and highly interesting. The account, which we shall here extract, of the Temple of Sumbhoo-nath, will gratify the reader, and do credit to the descriptive talents of the writer :
*This temple stands on the summit of an insulated hill, which rises rather abruptly from the level of the subjacent plain to the height of about three hundred feet; the ascent to it is by a broad flight of steps cut out of the rock, the sides of which are pleasantly clothed with trees. At the foot of the steps is a colossal image in stone of the god Boudh, who is considered by some to be the lawgiver of the Bhootias or Tibetians, and to be the same as the Fo of the Chinese. The doctrines, bowever, usually attributed to Boudh, would appear to be so much at variance with many of the usages of the Bhootias, that this opinion is by no means to be hastily admitted : a reference alone to the BoudhPouran itself can satisfactorily clear up this point, and happily such a reference is now no longer impracticable to the learned, as I have been fortunate enough to obtain from Nepaul a copy of that rare and valuable manuscript.
Sumbhoo-path is a very ancient edifice, having, it would seem, been erected at a period when Nepaul was ruled by a race of Tibetians, who being subsequently expelled by the Newars, obtained the name of KhâtBhootias (or Bhootias of Khâimândů), which they preserve to this day, occupying at present the mountains of the Kuchâr, but principally that part of the range situated in the Koote quarter. The possession of this temple has been always claimed by the Dalai Lâmâ (or sovereign pontiff of Lehassa), on the ground of its having been a dependency of bis spirituality from the earliest times, and this pretension appears to have been usually yielded to by the existing government of Nepaul. Upon the rupture, however, which some years ago took place between the Tibetians and people of Nepaul, the Lama's vicar was obliged to evacuate this sanctuary, which is now held by a legate on the part of the Dewa Dhurma, whom we call the Deb Rajah, and whom, in such a conjuncture, the government of Nepaul was naturally desirous of conciliating by every means in its power. It is scarcely necessary to add, that this prince is among the followers of the Tibetian idolatry.
The annexed sketch of Sumbhoo-nath will convey a much better idea of its exterior figure and perspective, than any description I am able to furnish. It is proper to notice, however, that this view comprebends little more than that part of the sanctuary which appears to be more particularly appropriated to the rites of the Bhootia worship, and which is encompassed by a sort of quadrangular edifice, containing a variety of small shrines and images. The whole building arises from a terrace that occupies completely the suininit of the hill; but though it is pretty evident that the several divisions of it have been erected at different periods, yet, its history being involved in the greatest obscurity, there is no possibility of ascertaining any thing satisfactory con
cerning cerning the origin, either of the middle and superior temple, or of those which encircle it. Sumbhoo is one of the appellations of Mahadeo, and the word, signifying self-existing, or self-created, is applied to a stone image of the god, supposed to be the spontaneous production of nature. But whatever may be the fact with regard to the antiquity of Sumbhoonath, it is certain that this temple is at present resorted to only by the Bhootias, and the Bahauràs, the latter of whom are a tribe of Newars who seem to have apostatized in a certain degree from the religious creed of their countrymen, at some period subsequent to their conquest of Nepaul, or at least to have grafted upon it a considerable portion of the idolatry of Tibet. After all, however, it is highly probable that the sanctity of this spot might be safely referred to a period very anterior both to the Newar and Khat Bhootia dynasties of Nepaul, since the sacred books of the Hindoos scarcely leave any room to doubt that the religion of Brahma has been established from the most remote antiquity in this secluded valley, where, in truth, there are nearly as many temples as houses, and as many idols as inhabitants, there not being a fountain, a river, or a bill within its limits, that is not consecrated to one or other of the Hindoo deities.
The first object that engages the attention on reaching the summit of Sumbhoo, is a cylindrical structure of masonry, about breast high, and from two to three feet in diameter; over this work is placed a circular plate of brass, called Dhurmadhat Munsera, and also Kinkoor, which is covered with various engraved fig'ires and characters, and serves to sustain a gilt Bejjerbân, or thunderbolt of Indra, of immense size, but better corresponding to the figure of a double sceptre.' This structure is not solid, being raised, it is said, round a well ; but whether now dry or containing water, was more than any person I saw pretended to know, as it had never been examined since the time of Puttâr Mull, a Newar Rajah of Khatmanda, who flourished about a hundred and fifteen years ago, and by whom this singular fabric was erected to the Hindoo Jupiter. The temple principally visited by the Bhootias. and Bahaurâs rises from the middle of the Aat or terrace of the hill, and is distinguished at a great distance by its spires or turrets, which are covered with plates of copper very highly gilt. It is indebted for this decoration to the Dalai Lama, by whose order the work had been but recently finished, when his vicar was under the necessity of relinquishing the charge to the Dewa Dhurina. I ascended by a steep ladder to the entrance of this edifice, the interior of which consisted of a single apartment, so filled with smoke, and strewed with various utensils, that it actually had infinitely more the appearance of a miserable kitchen, than of the temple of a divinity. But though my curiosity was far from being damped on this account, yet it did not avail me much, as my ignorance of the Tibet language inade it impossible for me to hold any conversation with the officiating priests, one of whom was seated on the floor, between two round deep vessels filled with ghee, that served to feed a considerable number of lamps, in trimming of which he seemed earnestly employed. Sumbhoo-nath, indeed, is chiefly celebrated for its perpetual fire, and I was assured that the flames of the two largest