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Album with 195 Original Gelatin Photographs of Nepal, Showing the British Legation, Hindu and Buddhist Sites and Temples in Kathmandu and Environs (Patan Durbar Square, Pashupatinath Temple, Swayambhunath Buddhist Complex, Boudhanath Temple, Taleju Temple, Rani Pokhari Pond, Durbar Hall, Changu Narayan Temple), Public Celebrations of Indra Jatra and Dashain Hindu Festivals in Kathmandu (Street Processions, Parade of Troops, Buffalo Sacrifice, Blessing of the Colours), Portraits of Several Nepalese High Ranking Military Officers, Kakani Village and Views of the Himalayas Taken there, Portraits of Nepalese People, R.S. Underhill, a British engineer who Constructed Nepal’s First Cargo Ropeway, &c. Ca. 1922.


Ca. 1922

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Oblong Folio album ca. 31x41 cm (12 ¼ x 16 in). 29 card stock leaves. With 194 mounted gelatin silver photos, including ca. 140 larger images ca. 8,5x14 cm (3 ¼ x 5 ½ in). The rest of the photos are ca. 6,5x11 cm (2 ½ x 4 ¼ in). All but about a dozen photos with period black ink manuscript captions on the mounts (related to a group of images or individual photos); some captions are extensive notes of four to over twenty lines. With a loosely inserted gelatin silver photo ca. 19x28 cm (7 ½ x 10 ¾ in); two period manuscript pencil notes on verso. Period brown half sheep album with cloth boards, neatly recased; decorative endpapers; paper label of “W. Johnson & Sons, London” on the rear pastedown endpaper. The boards slightly soiled, corners slightly bumped, a few photos mildly faded or with mild silvering, but overall a very good album of interesting strong photos.

Historically significant extensive collection of original vernacular photos of Nepal, taken in 1922, most likely by a member of the British Legation in Kathmandu. The album opens with three photos of the Legation, or the Second Residency, built in 1884 in the modern-day Lainchaur neighbourhood of Kathmandu. The building of the Second Residency was seriously damaged during the 1934 earthquake and demolished in 1940. The album also contains a portrait of R.S. Underhill, a British engineer who was in charge of the construction of Nepal’s first cargo ropeway from Bhimphedi to Kathmandu (operated from 1923-1964), and his wife.

The majority of photos in the album were taken in the Kathmandu Valley and include views of local Hindu and Buddhist temples and sites, unique photos documenting the public celebration of Indra Jatra and Dashain Hindu festivals in Kathmandu, and portraits of Nepalese high-ranking military officers. Several series, numbering from a dozen to over twenty photos, show Patan Durbar Square in Lalitpur (Krishna Mandir, temple of Mahadeo, temple of Devi); Pashupatinath temple in Kathmandu (Ramchandra, the temple of Mahadeo, “steps leading from Pashpatti to Gorakhmath,” Bhaswa-Neswar, burning ghat, Badslal Devi, portraits of Mahants (high priests) of Gorakhnath temple, &c.); Swayambhunath Buddhist complex, “built by Thibetans” (“thunderbolt of Indra wrested from him by Buddha,” “golden spire,” “Shambu,” “shrine of the Celestial Buddha Vairochana,” “Devi temple,” “the approach to the temple”), Boudhanath temple, “built by Thibetans” (“the base <…> showing some of the thirty-three million gods are under the orders of Buddha,” gateway, “building containing a 6 ft prayer wheel,” “house of the Lama of Buddhinath,” “Thibetan graveyard,” “wall encircling temple,” village scene), &c.

Other series of Kathmandu views show the city streets, Taleju temple, Rani Pokri [Rani Pokhari pond], the Durbar Hall, “Tappatalli, the Palace of the late Maharaja Sir Jung Bahadur;” “Temple and rest house on the road to Changu Narain;” “View from Changu Narain [Changu Narayan Temple] showing the Manohara River;” the floating statue in the Budhanilkantha Temple; “the image of Kalbhairab [Kaal Bhairav] which stands in front of the Courts of Justice in the Hanuman Dhoka Square. The judges and other officials are made to take their oaths here and they then swear to administer justice by touching the feet of this terrible figure.”

Fourteen photos depict the participants and spectators of the Indra Jatra festival, held in Kathmandu in 1922 and “also the anniversary of the capture of Nepal by the Goorkhas, 1768.” The images show the street procession with statues of Hindu deities, the “parade of troops,” “sons of the Maharajah,” “the Commander-in-Chief,” “the King and the Maharajah,” “General Padma Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana” (1882-1961, Prime Minister of Nepal in 1945-1948). Thirty-six images document the celebrations of the “Dassera” [Dussehra or Dashain] Hindu religious festival in Kathmandu on September 27-29, 1922. Among the images are the scenes of the “parade of troops” and a series of photos of buffalo sacrifice and “blessing of the colours” on the grounds of the Kot (the Royal Palace armoury), with a detailed description of the ceremony. The compiler identifies two Nepalese military officers who took part in the ceremony (“General Kesar Shumsher Jang, Bahadur Rana” and “General Sir Judha Shumsher Jang, Bahadur Rana”) and notes: “after blessing the colours, all officers take a sword in their hand and stand to attention when the Nepali National Anthem is played.” He also describes the massacre which took place in the Kot on September 14, 1846. Ten smaller photos document the “Regimental Dassera” – a similar ceremony of buffalo sacrifice, performed by other Nepalese military men. The other photos related to the “Dassera” celebration show “a Nepalese girl wearing her best jewelry during the Dassera,” a “woman wearing a Tikka,” a scene with people enjoying a “village swing,” a scene of “drying goats’ flesh in the sun after the Dassera in order that it can be kept in an eatable condition until the next Dassera,” &c.

The album also contains identified portraits of “General Sir Tej Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana,” “General Shunkar Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana”, “General Singha Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana” and “children from the Singha Durbar.” Four photos show the monuments to Nepalese Prime Ministers: General Bir Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana (1852-1901), General Jung Bahadur (1816-1877), General Ranidut Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, and General Sir Chandra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana (the plinth of the statue only).

Over twenty photos document the compiler’s trip to the Kakani village and viewpoint in September 1922, showing local villages and their inhabitants, “Legation bungalow, Kakani,” and a series of Himalayan views. There are also photos of “Newar brasswork, Nepal” and three portraits of Nepalese men (likely, the servants of the compiler) with a hunted deer. Overall an important extensive collection of original photos, providing a unique look into the public and religious life in Kathmandu and its environs in the early 1920s.

Excerpts from the description of the “blessing of the colours” after the buffalo sacrifice during the “Dassera festivities” on September 29, 1922: “The principal figure in this ceremony is the Commander-in-Chief who accompanied by attendants bearing a great brass basin of fresh blood blesses the colours. Marching up to each stand of colours he solemnly dips both hands in the basin of gore and claps them together with the fabric of the flag between, thus stamping an impression of a bloody hand on each side of the standard. Each colour is treated in this way and the ceremony at his stage is dramatic in the extreme. Hot glaring sunlight illuminates the scene, flashing on the brass implements, censor’s lamps &c., which strewn with offerings of flowers and fruit, lie tossed and tumbled about in reckless profusion. The banners themselves of all hues are a brilliant note of colour, while added to this are the uniforms and costumes of the performers <…>. The wild music of the band, the spasmodic firing of guns, the revolting mounds of decapitated bullocks, the ground almost awash with blood, the strong smell of which hangs heavy in the air. Stepping over the heap of blossom poor simple flowers with their petals dabbed with gore the Commander-in-Chief blesses the colours one by one according to the time-honoured tradition of the Durga-Paja.”

Item #PC26
Price: $6500.00