Nepali Times

Kanak Mani Dixit's illuminating piece ('Looking for Mr Hodgson', #154) whetted the appetite of us Nepali historians to what other material Ramesh Dhungel can find in the archives at the British Museum. Some clarifications: Mathbar Singh Thapa was not actually 'cut down' but shot by Jang Bahadur, his nephew. Further, it seems that the 'Pahalman' informant of Hodgson Saheb was his sycophant rather than a court enemy of Jang Bahadur and therefore not a reliable source of information. His '4 annas of security' in Kathmandu Valley after Jang's putsch is contradicted by the 'mohoria santaunna' letter published by Kamal Dixit in his book Parkhandai Bitla ki? Dixit says inter alia, "....we can understand the atmosphere of terror that must have gripped the valley at that time (aftermath of Kot parba)...but no. The people seem to be least concerned by it. Barely six months later, the people are as usual engrossed in their frivolities. They are celebrating Fagu with abandon and are merry-making in scandalous fashion. It was as if nothing untoward had happened...the public was not bothered whether it was Jang Bahadur who was raja or Fateh Jang. Neither were they worried, it seems, if the ruling power was retained by the king or was usurped by Jang Bahadur."

G Regmi,

. I must applaud the fascinating research work of Ramesh Dhungel at the British Library delving into the papers of Brian Hodgson, and must commend Kanak Mani Dixit for successfully conveying the sheer significance of that scholarship in your newspaper. Dhungel's work is certain to not only unearth a series of interesting facts and important perspectives from a history little known and turbulent, but will also hopefully lead to some revision of established versions. They say victors write their own history, but one can always make objective amends to the first drafts. Talking of revisiting history, William Dalrymple's new book, The White Moghuls: Love and Betrayal in Eighteenth Century India has a protagonist, James Kirkpatrick, who as British Resident in the Court of Hyderabad converted to Islam, married a Muslim noblewoman, went native, and deeply irritated his Company masters. His brother, William, was sent to Nepal in the 1790s, and went on to write one of the first history books on Nepal in English, Account of the Kingdom of Nepal. It would be interesting to see in these papers how Hodgson draws on Kirkpatrick's accounts, and supports or disputes them. Much later, Ram Mani Acharya Dixit, a confidante of the all-powerful Chandra Shumsher in his now out-of-print Purana Samjhana talks about how his Nepali draft of modern history was used liberally by another well known historian, Perceval Landon. Ram Mani Dixit is too polite to accuse Landon of plagiarism, but he does quietly hint at the importance of ethics, language and authority in scholarship. Hodgson's unseen papers might also shed light on the named and unnamed sources Landon used later for his own interpretations. Further, I have personally been very curious about the stone plaque that the British left behind in Nalapani, Dehra Dun, after Balbhadra Kunwar surrendered prior to the Sugauli Treaty of 1816 where the British generously acknowledge the valour of their Nepali adversaries. The plaque is now gone, and the Nepalis of Dehra Dun have a festival on the hills every November but no one remembers the plaque. I wonder if Hodgson's papers have anything on that specific defeat that led to the signing of Article 8 of the Sugauli Treaty with the British in which the 'Rajah of Nipal' agreed that "accredited Ministers shall reside at the Court of the other in order to secure and improve the relations of amity and peace hereby established between the two States".

From Hodgson's papers we have reason to doubt the depth of that "amity and peace", but we eagerly look forward to what else Ramesh Dhungel finds as he digs through the Hodgson papers.

Swarnim Wagl?,

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)