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OUR MAN FROM CHINA

I knew that there was a lot of merriment at His Holiness the Chiniyia Lama's residence at Bouddha when my father and his friends, known to us then as the 3 Musketeers, visited him. In those days I wondered how going to an incarnate Lama could result in riotous merry-making with large amounts of chaang the Tibetan-style millet wine being imbibed until the wee ours of the morning. One of the musketeers Maharajkumar Mussorie Shumsher, son of Maharaj Dev Shumsher known to history as the liberal one, was the person who introduced my father to the Chiniya Lama and a steady bevy of western beauties circling the Lama for both the proximity to divinity and free booze. The other musketeer Honourable Lalit Chand the serving Chairman of the Rashtrya Panchayat, the unitary political system King Mahendra created to replace a chaotic democracy, was probably a reluctant member of the troika given the sensitivity his high post warranted.

3rd Chiniya Lama Punya Bajra with western initiates
Over a century and a half ago Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana concluded a Peace Treaty with the warring Tibetans at his Thapathali Durbar. It was a glorious moment when Nepal reversed its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese half a century earlier when the defeated Tibetans were rescued by their Chinese overlords and drove the "barbarian" Gurkhalis all the way to Nuwakot! Today a large delegation of fearsome looking Tibetans had arrived to grant back Nepal her trading privileges and vouchsafe security to her traders on the long and arduous route to Lhasa. Jung needed a translator whose command of both languages would not leave any ambiguity on Nepal's demands and possible future prevarication on the part of the Tibetans. He turned to His Holiness the Chiniya Lama.

Empress Cixi
The first Chiniya Lama, Taipo Shing, was a Szechuanese Nyingmapa Buddhist abbot who settled in Boudha after coming to Nepal on a pilgrimage. He was a relative of the powerful Empress Cixi of the Manchu Qing dynasty ruling China. He became the main Lama or Guru at the Boudhanath complex which had by his time acquired the status of an independent city inside a state, much like The Vatican. He was respected and revered by the believers and the non-believers alike. It was to him Prime Minister Jung Bahadur Rana turned to at the time of this dire need as his courtiers were not proficient enough in Tibetan and Chinese languages.

Jung Bahadur Rana welcomed the Lama in his Thapathali Durbar before the arrival of the Tibetan delegation. He was struck by the wizened visage of this holy man perched on an athletic body and marvelled at how he commanded such devotional following among his flock. Jung Bahadur started ruminating about an alliance with him that went beyond just the translation of texts but to a deeper channel of diplomacy with the Chinese Empire. An idea struck Jung that made him smile to himself at the simplicity of its conception.

Batuli Maharani of Jung Bahadur Rana
Batuli Maharani was one of his concubines, a bhotini who hailed from Helambu in the foothills of the Himalayas. While on a horseback inspection of the district Jung was struck by her youthful good looks and her well endowed frame and had given her a nickname Batuli or "Rotund". He had taken her as his wife and she had given him two girls in quick succession. Jung decided to give one of his girls in matrimony to the Chiniya Lama.

The Treaty of Thapathali was signed amidst great fanfare in March, 1856 A.D. It was a singular achievement for Jung Bahadur Rana as it gave Nepal a great advantage in trading with Tibet erasing the unfair terms dictated by a victorious Chinese army during the time of Regent Bahadur Shah. The Chiniya Lama played a great role in mediating with the Tibetans. He was conferred with the Abbotship of Bouddha. The Lama wisely accepted the offer of Jung Bahadur's daughter in marriage. He remembered the tradition of Nepalese monarchs offering their princesses in marriage to Tibetan kings and how these alliances had helped keep a tenuous peace between the neighbours.

Now I have understood why the descendants of the 1st Chiniya Lama welcomed his Rana friends including my father with such gusto. He knew all along the marital relationship between his forebears and Maharajah Jung Bahadur Rana of Nepal.




Comments

  1. Amazing story Subodh. A part of our Nepali history that many of us did not know existed. I had heard about the Chinya Lamas when I was in school, but I certainly did not know them in this context. It is wonderful that this piece of fascinating and important information is forever archived, thanks to your blog.

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  2. Mama, these snippets are the missing links - keep them coming - enjoying them !

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  3. I met the then-current Chiniya Lama in 1972. We had tea at his residence in Bouddha. There were rumors that he was involved in the theft and sale of ancient Nepali statues. I did not want to buy any, I wanted to see if it might be true. In our conversation, I asked him about purchasing thankas. He showed me many that he had (not the usual tourist knockoffs). These were not old, they were recently made but made by very gifted Tamang painters. I did purchase three from him. He never asked if I might be interested in statues or older thankas. So I came away with no proof that he was involved in any illegal trade of historic Nepali artifacts.

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  4. Thanks for the artical and i want to know more imformation about chiniya lama and batuli maharani for the purpose of research . Could you help me please which book should i read about that topic ?

    bpruno11@gmail.com

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