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Jang Bahadur in Europe - The First Nepalese Mission to the West

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Item Code: NAN732
Author: John Whelpton
Publisher: Mandala Book Point, Nepal
Language: English
Edition: 2016
ISBN: 9789994655304
Pages: 321 (12 Color and 10 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 380 gm
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Book Description
About the book

On May 1850 Jang Bahadur Kunwar Rana, Prime Minister of Nepal and Ambassador to the Court of Queen Victoria, landed at Southampton. 'It seemed as if we were in a dream, or a as lf this was the heaven where virtuous men are said tp go after death; was how one of Jang's party described his first reaction. This courtier's account of the whole episode has been translated into English for the first time and is presented alongside the British and French press reports of their visitors' progress 'lavishing diamonds and gold, enshrined in a halo of oriental mystery: Jang Bahadur in Europe also looks at the background to the mission, including the changing pattern of Nepal's relations with British India from 1769 to 1850, and Jang's own, rise to power amidst the intrigue and violence of the 1840s. The second edition of the book, released to coincide with the 200th anniversary of p permanent diplomatic relations between Nepal and Britain, includes the English-language account of the visit written, with help from a ghost-writer, by Moti Lal Singh, the Nepali crossing sweeper taken into Jang's employment after a chance encounter in London.

About the author

John Whelpton taught English in Birgunj and Kathmandu at the Shri Thakur Ram and . Amrit Science campuses of Trilbhuvan University from 1972 to 1974 and has since returned regularly to Nepal for research on history and politics. His other' publications include Kings, Soldiers and Priests (Manohar, 1990), A History of Nepal (Cambridge University Press, 2005) and (with David Gellner and Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka) Nationalism and Ethnicity in Nepal (Vajra Books, 2008). He lives with his wife and daughter in Hong Kong, where he now teaches Latin and is a research associate of the Chinese University of Hong Kong.


It has been over thirty years since the first edition of this book, long out of print, was published by Sahayogi Press. The decision to re-issue now was prompted by the approaching anniversary in 2016 of the establishment of permanent diplomatic relations between Nepal and the United Kingdom, in the development of which Jang Bahadur's visit to London was a major milestone. This seemed a good opportunity to bring the book to the notice of general readers in Britain and Nepal as well as making corrections and adding some new material, which has boosted the length of the work by about ten percent.

The additions to our knowledge of the 1850 Embassy are due largely to the efforts of two young Nepali scholars. Biswo Paudel discovered a ten- thousand-word article published under the name of Moti Lal Singh, a Nepali who joined jang's party in London. Krishna Adhikari then reasearched the background to the article whilst preparing a translation into Nepali to make the author better-known to the Nepali community in Britain of which Moti Lal may have been the founding member.

I have now incorporated this new material and the results of my own further investigations, replaced some of the photographs used in 1983 and slightly altered the account of Jang Bahadur's accession to power. This last change reflects information I came across whilst completing my doctoral dissertation, which was published in 1991 as Kings Soldiers and Priests. Afterwards my focus shifted more to contemporary Nepal and I have not been able to re-examine in full detail the dramatic events of 1845-47, though I hope to return to the task later on.

I have left unaltered, apart from the correction of one or two typos, the lengthy introduction by the late Rishikesh Shah a, much of which was originally written for his Modern Nepal, a two-volume history published in 1990.

Although Rishikesh Shaha, whose friendship and help I continued to enjoy after our joint efforts were published in 1983, is no longer with us, I am glad to be able to thank again several other friends who have helped with the second edition as they did with the first. Michael Hutt first suggested re-issuing the book, Abhi Subedi and his family continue to provide me with a home from home in Kathmandu and Kamalmani Dixit supplied copies of more recent discussions of the Beiait Yatra's authorship, whilst David Gellner and Nirmal Tuladhar also kept me informed of new developments.

I am also very grateful for assistance from Mark Watson, Michael Fisher, John Falconer, Johannes Bornmann, Shekhar Kharel, Deepak Thapa, Peter Blohm, Greta Rana, Niranjan Sharma and, of course, from Madhab Maharjan and the staff at Mandala Book Point and Dongol Printers.

Finally, my thanks to my wife and daughter who have tolerated my spending even more time than usual glued to the computer while struggling to meet the publisher's deadline.


Rishikesh Shaha It is commendable that Mr. John Whelpton has found time to translate into English with copious footnotes the contemporary Nepali account of Jang Bahadur's journey to Europe called fang Bahadurko Belait- Yatra. He has also attached a comprehensive introduction to it, setting forth the general historical background to the event and also covering other important aspects of the subject matter contained in the Nepali text.

The Nepali Text

Despite the uncertainty about the authorship and the exact date of composition of the Nepali account of Jang Bahadur's journey and despite the availability of several versions of it with minor textual variations, there seems to be a consensus on the fact that the text in question was written at the time of Jang Bahadur's visit to Europe by one of the members of his official entourage.

According to a noted Nepali historian, the late Baburam Acharya, the likely author of the aforementioned account of Jang Bahadur's journey to Europe is Subba Shivan'arsingh. Another guess is that either Subba Siddhi Man Rajbhandari or Lieutenant Lal Singh Khatri might have written the account. Mr. Whelptons own choice falls on Kharidar Prithvidhar Padhyaya as the author of the Belait- Yatra because he happened to be Jang's travelling secretary on the occasion.

The first version of the Belait-Yatra to appear in print was the one included in Shri Tin Maharaj fang Bahadur Ranajiko Jivan Charitra (Biography of Shri Three Maharaj Jang Bahadur Ranaji) by Pratiman Thapa.This book was published by a Nepali Doctor, Babu Hari Singh Thapa, in Calcutta, in 1908.

Another version of the text, with differences of phraseology throughout and in actual content in some places, was discovered in the handwritten vamshavali or chronicle compiled over a long period of time by Buddhi Man Singh of Manjeshvari Tol, Kathmandu, and finally completed on the first of Bhadra 1935 Vikram Sambat (August 1878 A.D.). According to Baburam Acharya, Buddhi Man Singh was a kharidar during Mathabar Singh's prime ministership (1843-1845) and died after he was promoted to the rank of naib subba at the time of Maharaj-cum-Prime Minister Bir Shamsher Jang Bahadur Rana (1885-1901). Apart from the one in the Acharya collection, copies of Buddhi Man Singh's chronicle are known to be in the possession of at least three other persons or institutions. A fourth version of the Belail- Yatra has been found amongst the papers of another member of the Rana family, and a fifth in a vamshavali presenting an account of Nepali history up to 1890 and formerly in the collection of Hemraj Pan de, who himself belonged to the family of royal preceptors.

Mr. Whelpton has examined the possibility of Jang Bahadurko Belait- Yatra being based wholly on Jang Bahadur's own 'lost' diary, which Padma Jang Bahadur Rana cites as his source in the sixth chapter of his biography of his father. However, as this source, which deals solely with Jang's visit to Europe, omits some of the most important material found in the Nepali versions of the Belait- Yatra, Mr. Whelpton has concluded that the latter are based on an account prepared by someone who merely 'combined parts of Jang's diary with material of his own:

Mr. Whelpton's translation of Jang Bahadurko Belait- Yatra readily brings to mind the English translation of Shri Panch Bada Maharaj Prithvinarayan Shahko Divya Upadesh (Divine Message of His Majesty Great King Prithvinarayan Shah) brought out in print for the first time by the Prithvi Jayanti Samaroha Samiti under the editorship of Yogi Narahari Nath and Baburam Acharya in 2008 V. S. (195112 A.D.) The English translation of Divine Message appeared for the first time as the third chapter of the book entitled Prithvinarayan Shah in the Light of Divya Upadesh by Father Ludwig Stiller, which was published by the Catholic Press at Ranchi in Bihar, India in 1968. This printed version of Father Stiller's dissertation for the Master's degree of Tribhuvan University contains Prithvinarayan's Divine Message as its centrepiece, preceded by two chapters on the general historical background and the life and career of Prithvinarayan Shah and followed by two concluding chapters on his foreign and internal policy. Thus has Father Stiller admirably succeeded in setting King Prithvinarayan's Divine Message in historical perspective. Mr. Whelpton has also sought to place Jang Bahadur's journey to Europe in the context of the history of Nepal, though not as elaborately as Father Stiller, yet in a manner which has proved to be quite effective in its own way.

There is of course a remarkable difference in the spirit in which the two uthors approach their subject matter. Although Father Stiller has since cquired Nepali nationality and begun to identify himself very closely with he Nepali nationalist spirit in an obvious and open manner, yet at the time when he first wrote and published his book on Prithvinarayan Shah he found it difficult to get over the feeling that he was after all a foreigner writing on a great historical figure of Nepal. The very first sentence in the pireface to his book on Prithvinarayan Shall reads as follows: "Writing a book of this sort on the Father of Nepal is indeed a bold move for a foreigner in Nepal:' Mr. Whelpton does not seem to suffer from inhibition of any kind, and has shown remarkable restraint and objectivity in dealing even with such a highly controversial figure in the history of Nepal as Jang Bahadur


  Preface to the 2nd Edition v
  Preface to the First (1983) Edition vii
  Introduction (by Rishikesh Shaha) 1
  The Nepali Text 1
  Historical Importance of Tang's Visit -3
  Tang's Life and Career 5
  Tang Bahadur Already a Legend 7
  Habits and Temperament 7
  Bhirnsens Fall and its Aftermath 8
  Rise of Rana Tang Pande 10
  Developments in Afghanistan 11
  British Involvement in the 'Opium War' 12
  Effect of Developments in Afghanistan and China on Nepal's Policy 14
  Armed Incursion into Ramnagar 14
  Furor Over a Newspaper Report 25
  The Kasinath Incident 25
  Petition of Rights of7 December 1842 30
  Return of Mathbar Singh Thapa and Departure of Brian Hodgson 32
  Assumption of Office by Mathbar 35
  Political Conditions on the Eve of the Emergence of Jan Bahadur 39
  Tang's Entry into Court Politics 41
  Assassination of Prime Minister Mathbar Singh 41
  Who Killed Mathbar? 43
  Coalition Government 45
  Assassination of Gagan Singh 48
1 The Background to the 1850 Mission and to the Belait- Yatra 51
  The Kingdom of Nepal 52
  Jang Bahadur 59
  Nepal and the British 68
  Jangs Mission 77
  The Perspective of the Belait- Yatra 83
  Jang Bahadur- A Closer View 89
  Jang's Companions 100
  The Original Belait- Yatra and its Authorship 111
  The Language of the Belait- Yatra 120
2 The Belait- Yatra: Translation and Commentary 131
  The Purpose of the Journey 131
  Patna and Calcutta 133
  On Board Ship 136
  Ceylon and Aden 138
  Egypt and Malta 141
  The Arrival in Britain 142
  Richmond Terrace and the City of London 144
  A Life of Ease 145
  Jang Bahadur's Welcome 149
  British Institutions 152
  Parliament 156
  Meeting Queen Victoria 160
  A Warm Welcome Everywhere 163
  Outside London 167
  Entertainment 169
  Vocational Education 171
  Farewell to Britain 172
  Reception in France 173
  Versailles 180
  Paris to Bombay 182
  Pilgrimage to Ramnath 183
  Wedding in Benares 185
3 The Visit as Reported in the European Press 195
  Extracts from the British Press 195
  Extracts from the French Press 256
  Appendix 275
  Bibliography 283
  Index- 293

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