Skip to main content


The 'Khariko Bot' Ficus Tree kept watch over a large swathe of meadow land adjacent to the Kathmandu city from times immemorial. It carried on its lonesome presence in the center of this grazing land called Tundikhel, the play ground of the demon called Tundi as legend has us believe. Sometimes sheets of rain lashed against its strong boughs, at other times the blazing summer sun almost melted its will to live. Winter frost froze circulation in its innards when temperature dipped to minus. It dared lightning to strike it but providence spared it this trauma. The Ficus Tree survived the ravages of time in its bid to witness the next big story in the history of Nepal. Because the tree had seen it all!

Tundikhel and the Ficus Tree

Prime Minister Bhimsen Thapa amassed an army to fight the British in faraway lands the Gurkhas had conquered. He reviewed those troops at Tundikhel from under the canopy of the Ficus Tree. Along the western side of the grounds were long rows of his barracks, close to his new residence Bagh Durbar, the 'Garden Palace'. After the Kot Massacre Jung Bahadur Rana took the pledge from the army with the blessing of Queen Rajya Luxmi Devi from under the canopy of the same tree in 1846 A.D. He reviewed his armies there before setting off to Lucknow to help the British quell the Indian Mutiny in 1857 A.D.

Sometime thereafter the tree played center stage as rings of masonry tiled by marble were added around its enormous trunk to make it a proper grandstand for military and civilian reviews. After the bloody coup de'tat ousting prime minister Maharajah Ranoddip Singh in 1885 A.D., Bir Shumsher the new maharajah took his oath of office from under the canopy of the Ficus Tree in the presence of the child king Prithivi Bir Bikram Shah. The annual 'pajani' or civilian and military appointments were announced by successive Rana prime ministers protected by the boughs of the Ficus Tree. Ancient festivals such as Ghode Jatra, the festival of horses, witnessed masses of the population jostling for a better position to glimpse the horses and riders perform extraordinary equine stunts while the rulers had unimpeded views from the Ficus Tree. The fieu de joi volleys during the occasion of Maha Shivratri were fired from Tundikhel which reverberated across the valley and scattered birds in flight helter skelter from the branches of the Ficus Tree.

Then the great earthquake struck the valley in 1934 A.D. The homeless were given shelter in the open spaces of Tundikhel as a tent city went up to accommodate tens of thousands. Maharajah Juddha Shumsher the prime minister inspected it all from the grandstand at the Ficus Tree. The rumblings of the coming war in faraway Europe was felt by the Ficus Tree as Nepal prepared an army to send to distant lands to assist the Allied forces. The Victory Parade after World War II was also witnessed by the denizens and Maharajah Juddha gave his victory speech from under the canopy of the Ficus Tree.

Sons of Maharajah Juddha under the Ficus Tree: from left Min, Surendra, Nir, Kiran, Shanta and Rabi

After 1951 A.D. and the ouster of the Rana regime both civilian and military ceremonies were performed at Tundikhel. I remember going there from school several times to smartly march past the grandstand from where the King of Nepal gazed upon his future panchas. One of those times was the last for me to see the grand old ficus tree. Someone decided to chop it down and build the present Army Pavilion in its stead. My father General Kiran Shumsher had already retired from the army as Commander-in-Chief when he would come back from a function at Tundikhel and would ruefully remark that he missed the Khariko Bot. Somehow for him the parades were no longer the same in the absence of the watchful ficus tree.


  1. Subobodh, I too remember this magnificent khari ko bot and how we used to march past it when we came from Godavari school during Ghode Jatra or some such festival. I agree the ficus tree had seen it all. Great nostalgic piece with pics. Thanks a lot.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog


As a kid I used to gape in wonderment at the magnificent crown my father possessed not knowing that the jewels were only for show. The dark green emerald drops were made of glass, the sparkling diamonds were probably zirconium and the pearls were not of the best sort. Every Rana general had his personal crown in those days and my father was no exception. I did not recognize the difference between this personal crown of father's and the other more valuable crown of the Nepalese Commander-in-Chief of the Army that my father was seen wearing in many a portrait displayed about the house. Little did I know that my father was the last person to put on his head the army chief's crown from the Rana era, real glittering diamonds, snow white pearls and thumb-sized emerald drops and all. The feather in the crown was the magnificent plumes of the Bird of Paradise that gave it such a majestic look.

Nepal had only three crowns that were genuinely the real stuff bedecked with expensive pear…


The first time I ever saw this historical edifice thirty five years ago, she was in ruins and looked like an old hag during the winter of her life, simply waiting for her eventual demise. I was then on my way further west on a week-long trek from Tansen to Tamghas in Gulmi District.
Thirty five years later, I found myself at the same spot once again, this time out there on purpose. I had seen pictures of the building with a coat of new paint before and I wanted to see how much change had been made by the Nepal Government’s Department of Archeology. Yes, the outer fa├žade still looked brand new with fresh paints, which to me personally was a bit too gaudy. But when I walked through the inside of the building and saw nothing but empty rooms without even a single piece of furniture, my enthusiasm took a nose dive.

And when I entered one room where there was a fireplace with the floor in front of the hearth still looking as black as charcoal, I assumed that, over the years before ren…


If only the Tudor King Henry VIII of England were as lucky as Jung Bahadur Rana, he would have had male heirs aplenty and he would not have had to behead a few of his queens in the hope of his next one presenting him with an heir. All the Maharanis would live together at Hampton Court Palace in seeming harmony at least until the death of the Maharajah. If England had the tradition of Sati, who among Henry's wives would have had the macabre honour of being buried alive with him? Would her be Catherine of Aragon his first queen? Or Anne Boleyn? Or the fair Jane Seymour, his favorite queen who gave him his only male heir, had she not died in her postnatal illness?

Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana had many wives because he did not have the Catholic Church to worry about. He had at least a dozen sons and innumerable daughters from at least 13 recorded wives. He married some for love, others for political alliances with various noble houses, including a sister of Fateh Jung Shah, one of th…