This article has been extracted from
THE IMPERIAL GAZETTEER OF INDIA , 1908.
OXFORD, AT THE CLARENDON PRESS.
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Note: National, provincial and district boundaries have changed considerably since 1908. Typically, old states, ‘divisions’ and districts have been broken into smaller units, and many tahsils upgraded to districts. Some units have since been renamed. Therefore, this article is being posted mainly for its historical value.
Capital of the kingdom of Nepal, situated towards the western side of the Nepal Valley, on the east bank of the Vishnu- mati river, at its junction with the Baghmati ; approximate position, 2 7 degree 42' N., 85 12’E. It is the largest city in Nepal, and has a popu- lation which is roughly estimated at from 70,000 to 80,000. Most of the inhabitants are Newars, of whom about two-thirds are Buddhists. Katmandu is said to have been founded by Raja Giinakamadeva about a. d. 723. The earliest name by which the city was known was Manju Patan, after the Buddhist saint Manjusri. Tradition asserts that the plain of Katmandu was covered by a great lake, till the saint cut the dam with his sword and so released the water.
The general shape of the city is very irregular, and is supposed by the Hindus to resemble the khara or sword of the goddess Devi, while the Buddhist Newars declare it to have been built after the shape of the sword of Manjusri. Its modern name is said to be derived from an ancient building which stands in the heart of the city near the royal palace, and which is still known as Katmandu from kat, ' wood ' (of which material it is chiefly composed), and mandi or mandon, 'an edifice.' This building was erected by Raja Lachmina Singh Mai, in 1596, as a house of accommodation for religious mendicants. Prior to the Gurkha conquest of the country in 1769, Katmandu was the seat of government of Newar kings who, with the princes of the neighbour- ing towns of Patan and Bhatgaon, reigned over the Valley of Nepal and adjacent country (see Nepal). Of the high walls, with their numerous gateways, which once surrounded the city, considerable portions have been demolished or have fallen into disrepair.
The town is a labyrinth of narrow streets, most of which are im- passable for carriage traffic and indescribably filthy. The buildings on either side are densely crowded, and are usually from two to four storeys high. They are made of brick, and tiled, and are built in the form of hollow squares, opening off the streets by low doorways, the central courtyards serving as receptacles for rubbish of every sort. In contrast to this dirt and squalor is the wealth of wood-carving which ornaments the fagades of the houses. Most of these have projecting wooden windows or balconies, elaborately carved in beautiful designs. The streets generally lead to the toh or squares, of which there are many throughout the city. These are open spaces, paved, like the streets, with brick and stone, in which the various markets are held. The largest and most important building is the royal palace or Darbar. This covers a considerable extent of ground. On the west it faces an open square which contains many temples and a monolithic pillar. Opposite the north-west corner of the Darbar stands a large semi- European building called the Khot, which is famous as having been the scene of the massacre in 1846 of almost all the leading men of the country, by which Sir Jang Bahadur established himself in power. The Darbar is now used only for ceremonial purposes, as a residence for various relations of the king, and as public offices. The king, the Minister, and most of the nobles in the country have long since given up living within the city, and have built themselves imposing palaces and houses in European style outside it.
Katmandu, though a filthy city, presents an exceedingly picturesque appearance. This is, in a great measure, due to the Chinese style of architecture which predominates. Many of the temples are like pagodas, of several storeys in height, and profusely ornamented with carvings, paintings, and gilding. The roofs of many of them are entirely of brass, or copper gilt, and along the eaves of the different storeys are hung numerous little bells which tinkle in the breeze. At some of the doorways, which are often copper gilt, are placed a couple of large stone lions or griffins, with well-curled manes. Immediately outside the city is a fine parade-ground nearly a mile in length, surrounded by an avenue of trees and ornamented with modern equestrian statues of various Ministers.
A good water-supply was introduced in 1892, and lately drainage works have been started. There are two hospitals — one for women, the other for men — a school, and a free library. A British Resident, with a small staff and escort, is stationed at Katmandu. The Residency is situated about a mile out of the city on the north side, in what was formerly a barren patch of ground, supposed to be haunted by demons, hut now one of the most beautiful and best- wooded parts of the Valley. Within the grounds is a British post office under the control of the Resident.