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THE MAHARAJAH'S RETREAT



Maharajah Juddha's Manor House
I am writing about the time Bodhnath was the only structure standing and miles around it there was free space and farming land. Somewhere in the vicinity people say was the storied Kailash Kuti Bhawan, the palace of the Licchavi rulers of Nepal. It was from this palace that King Amsuvarma had given his daughter Bhrikuti in marriage to the Tibetan king. The Chinese chronicler Huen Tsang arriving in the Kathmandu Valley in the 7th century praised it as the most magnificent building he had seen, a remarkable observation coming from someone who arrived on his pilgrimage from Xian, the capital of the Middle Kingdom and the most opulent city in the whole world at the time. What became of the palace one can only conjecture but whatever might have happened to it did not happen to the magnificent Bodhnath Stupa gathering a million dew drops on its wide dome to quench the thirst of the drought afflicted populace as legend has us believe.

Even in the sixties Bodhnath was standing tall with its golden spire glistening in the morning light for people to behold and be blessed from miles around it. The exiled Tibetans had made it their focal point of national longing. Although the Dalai Lama had made Dharamshala in India his abode, many other spiritual leaders and incarnate lamas made Bodhnath their spiritual Mecca. Lama Yeshey came here from Darjeeling with a newly ordained monk, the American erstwhile actress and hippie Zina Rachevsky.

Recently I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting the sanctuary where Zina and the Lama made their home while planning the project of building the Kopan Monastery. Teenchuli Durbar as it was known was the retreat of Maharajah Juddha Shumsher of Nepal. Located at a commanding vantage point the maharajah could secure the blessing of Bodhnath every morning during his prayers even as his soldiers could secure him from worldly adversaries. Juddha had acquired the property from a langada karnel, a lame colonel, who had built the main structure in 1859 A.D. that is still extant today. Perhaps the colonel was a war hero who returned with Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana from the Mutiny with the proverbial Lucknow loot. Could he have been the legendary Colonel Gambir Singh Rayamajhi who single-handedly captured an enemy cannon though severely wounded?

Langada Karnel's house built in 1859 A.D.
Probably derelict and decrepit by the sixties I can imagine why the property attracted Zina and her Lamas. The wide expanse of the grounds with its main manor house built by Juddha, his cow sheds, horse stables, garages for cars and an enigmatic structure with three turrets but of no useful function conceivable from which the durbar got its name, was a perfect hideaway for meditation and from prying eyes. And Bodhnath was close by.

Others equally fascinating have used the property in its long journey to the custody of the present owners. One tenant would not allow even a bag of cement to come inside the property, so well enamoured was she by the brick and mud walls 3 ft. deep, by the wooden floors and beamed ceilings. Another tenant was Tom Pritzker who stayed there incognito perhaps planning for the big hotel nearby until people found out that he was the chairman of Hyatt Corp. and listed in Forbe's Fortune 500! The present owners want to develop a hotel there too and Oh! what a jolly good idea! With 33 ropanis of land the property would offer ample space for a mid-size heritage hotel with a perfect mix of Rana history and Buddhist spiritualism. It could one day replace the storied Kailash Kuti Bhawan of the Licchavi rulers as one of the awesome landmarks in the valley.

Teenchuli, what was its function?



Comments

  1. Subodh Dai,
    In BA I studied History and Political Science and I have read so many books on History. But I am sorry to say, I could not trace the location of Shree 3 Juddha SJB Rana's manor? Also could you please write the exact name of Langada Karnel (Colonel).

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hello Bishal, thanks for your comment. No one seems to remember the langada karnel's real name. He built that house a long time back!

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  3. Dear Mr. Rana,
    Your comment page just would not load, hence this quick e-mail.

    I have never read about this Teen Chule Durbar in any of the contemporary books mentioned, and as such I feel that this must have been a very very private place for Juddha Sumshere with no bhardars or any kind of official business conducted. The most mentioned are Nagarjun and Gokarna Durbars.

    Also striking is your photo which resembles 3 ovens ( Chuli in Nepali hence the name) and I personally feel that this was used to bake the bricks for construction. Any brain storming on this would be welcome

    Cheers and nice reading
    Gautam

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for thinking of me with your piece. No I didn't go there as far as I can remember. I enjoyed reading the piece. I miss Kathmandu and almost got there this year. I was in Kolkata and ended up going to Nagaland. Do you live in Nepal or Poland (maybe it is both.) Kami Kanetsuka

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dear Mr. Rana,

    I was completely taken aback after reading your blog. I take pleasure in saying that you truly are talented with words. Really appreciated the nostalgia and romanticism in the story.

    Most importantly, I am glad to have met with you and hope to continuously receive your valued guidance in this line of business.

    Also, having looked at your daughter's pic, I recall meeting her a few years ago in a party. I believe that she was a student in Harvard then?

    Warm regards,
    Anish
    (Present Owner of Property)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Dear Subodh,

    Once again in the Maharaja’s Retreat you might have talked about how Teen Sarkars had retreats all over the place including Nagarkot, the Terai and when you can’t go there yourself for god sake buy yourself books with pictures which you can lift and post on your website.

    Your writing as usual is impeccable. Congrat. Keep it coming.

    Pip Pip

    Dubby

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  7. Thank you Subodh; again a very interesting and fascinating chapter in your research . ! had the great pleasure of spending one afternoon with Monica and Lucy here; You instilled in Monica the interest in History and stories; we had a really nice afternoon; unfortunately she had little time as she had flown it for a marriage and was soon flying out again .



    About the Teen Chuli Durbar, I hope they don’t touch the façade if they are thinking of turning it into a small hotel or a de luxe guest house . …because there would go again a beautiful historical place!!!



    Keep searching and writing; it’s very important for this country!

    Cheers,

    Bernadette

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hello there!
    I have always been fascinated by the history and opulence behind the Rana Palaces.
    This is quite a new palace for me. Never had heard of it.
    If you could write an article about what really made Juddha Shumsher to abdicate his power, I think that will be another brick on the wall of the Nepali History.
    (what I surmise is he was being heckled by son's of Chandra shumsher and even felt guilty for giving death sentence of the four martyrs.)
    Thanks
    Vivek Raj Shrestha

    ReplyDelete
  9. Greetings Dear Ranaji,
    Your blog is quite magnetic, let me tell you, I haven't read anything except your blog since yesterday. I enjoyed this article, but sadly, I didn't see any of the pictures and photographs.

    The earlier comment by Vivek Raj Shrestha made me think something. In nearly all of Ranarchy, sons of the Prime Minister were influential during the Prime Ministership of their own father, the end of their father's reign marked the beginning of their downfall, whereas the sons of Chandra Shumsher (Mohun, Babar, Kaiser et al) were powerful even after their father's demise. Even during the rule of Bhim, Juddha and Padma Shumsher, they managed to eclipse all the second generation Ranas including the sons of Juddha Shumsher. Is there a reason in particular why they were so powerful?

    ReplyDelete

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