Kathmandu by Thomas BellKathmandu by Thomas Bell


byThomas Bell

Paperback | December 15, 2017

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One of the greatest cities of the Himalaya, Kathmandu, Nepal, is a unique blend of thousand-year-old cultural practices and accelerated urban development. In this book, Thomas Bell recounts his experiences from his many years in the city—exploring in the process the rich history of Kathmandu and its many instances of self-reinvention.    
Closed to the outside world until 1951 and trapped in a medieval time warp, Kathmandu is, as Bell argues, a jewel of the art world, a carnival of sexual license, a hotbed of communist revolution, a paradigm of failed democracy, a case study in bungled western intervention, and an environmental catastrophe. In important ways, Kathmandu’s rapid modernization can be seen as an extreme version of what is happening in other traditional societies.  Bell also discusses the ramifications of the recent Nepal earthquake.
A comprehensive look at a top global destination, Kathmandu is an entertaining and accessible chronicle for anyone eager to learn more about this fascinating city.
Thomas Bell studied at Oxford and the Courtauld Institute of Art before moving to Kathmandu to cover the civil war in Nepal for the Daily Telegraph and the Economist. He left Kathmandu in 2016 and now lives in the United States.  
Title:KathmanduFormat:PaperbackDimensions:352 pages, 8.75 × 5.5 × 1.6 inPublished:December 15, 2017Publisher:Haus PublishingLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:1910376779

ISBN - 13:9781910376775

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Table of Contents

Photos and Illustrations

Part I-The Beginning

1. The rooftops of Patan— The allies and squares— The traffic system— The caste system— The chariot festival of Bungadya— The arrival of the monsoon

2. A teddy bear bomb—The beginning of the ‘people’s war’ – The royal massacre—The state of emergency—It leads to the dissolution of parliament—A journey to meet the Maoists in the countryside—Elections would not be possible

3. Ancient stones—The discoveries of Cecil Bendall M.A. – Daniel Wright’s Ancient Chronicle—The monastery of Sunayasri Mishra—The city’s foundation and development –A visit to the chronicler family

4. Is Kathmandu a process or a system? – The declining community of ghosts—The electricity, telephone, water, and god networks— Gayahbajye of Pimbaha— His daughter-in-law, their house—Consecrating a new building—The city as a mandala—Interview with the gubhaju—The ideology of the mandala—Dhana Laksmi’s story of the Konti hangings

5. Another year of festival— A man needs a maid—The king dismisses the prime minister—A dinner at the British embassy— An assassination, and the ceasefire— The Maoist contact office—Another trip to the hills—Maria

6. Sylvain Lévi peels back a layer— King Manadeva— The order and chaos of the Hindu past—Linguistic archaeology—Tracing the ancient trade routes—Yangala and Yambhu—Remains of the Licchavis today

7. The end of the ceasefire— Pressure-cooker bombs— Protests in Kathmandu—The king is a tyrannical thinker—The police club— Kathmandu parties—Back where they first began

8. Fake shit from China—The spirit of enterprise—The first Transitional Period—Uku Baha—Artistic influences from north and south— A god-maker’s foundry— The Gopalarajavamshavali 

9. The possession of a God-Mother—Shakti and the rise of Tantra— Bungadya becomes Karunamaya—Invisible monasteries, hidden monks— Left-handed practices— No holier place than woman— Himalayan sex drug— Awful beauty puts on its arms— Gayahbajye and the witches— Dhana Laksmi sees a human sacrifice— Chinnamasta— Another meeting with the gubhaju— The terror of masked dancers

10. Three Kathmandu winters—Jayasthiti and the golden age of the Mallas— The coinage— Pratap Malla invites the Kashmiri Muslims— The communal riot of 2004— The Theater State— Karunamaya becomes Matsyendranath— Gods appear among the people— Malla warfare— The siege tactics of Mao Tse-Tung and Prithvi Narayan Shah— Indra Jatra— Prithvi Narayan arrives

Part II—The Revolutions 

11. Army day—Gorkhali nationalism—The Battle of Beni—A Maoist video, and encounters with the Royal Nepal Army in Pokhara—The mission to Kathmandu of Captain William Kirkpatrick

12. Another visit to Maoist territory—I move to a ruling-class district of the city—The mad king Rana Bahadur Shah—The mission of Captain Knox—Francis Buchanan (Hamilton)—The Anglo-Nepal War 1814-16

13. The Royal Coup of 2005— A special ritual at the Gorkha durbar— Brian Hodgson at the British residency—His scholarly and diplomatic concerns—Bhimsen’s tower, and his house— The vexed situation at the Gorkhali court— Hodgson equivocates— The awful downfall of Bhimsen Thapa—The Kathmandu Mutiny— The ‘British ministry’ and the departure of Brian Hodgson 

14. The high rate of attrition among mid-nineteenth-century politicians—The massacre of Kot—The Indian ‘mutiny’ and Jang’s warm relations with the British—The Thapathali palace—The concept of pollution—The Muluki Ain, or Law of the Land—The rediscovery of Kathmandu’s sacred past—The purity and the pollution of the rivers—Dr Oldfield, and the character of Jang Bahadur— The squalor of Kathmandu in the nineteenth century 

15. Baikuntha Rana, he slaughters a sheep— The death of Jang Bahadur and the Shamsher coup—The last darkroom—Photographs of the Ranas—Their extravagant palaces, and their decline—The Ranas, the Gurkhas, and the British

16. Some beguiling diamonds—A small shoot-up, and a bribe— The Rana method of extracting resources— Chandra Shamsher emancipates  the slaves—Dhana Laksmi and Himalaya Shamsher survive the earthquake—A new political consciousness appears— “Now we will have to bear the shit falling on our heads”— King Tribhuwan escapes and makes common cause with the People’s Liberation Army of Nepali Congress party— The modern age puts down its landing gear

17. The rules that govern everyday life— The society of the Window of the House Opposite—‘They woke up one morning from the sleep of the Middle Ages and found themselves exposed to the neon lights of an electronic age’— King Mahendra creates national unity— The rise of a cash economy, and a middle class— A first glimpse of the donors—Bhupi Sherchan 

18. Les Chemins de Katmandou— A psychedelic theorist telephones the palace— ‘on average, one girl a month would flip out on acid and insist on walking through the centre of the city completely naked’—the Chief Censor— ‘Kathmandu’s youth eat a crazy salad’

19. The Physical Development Plan of 1969, and the Inventory for Protection— Professor Riccadi recalls the experts and the researchers— The gods leave the Valley— Art historians, diplomats, gangsters, and princes— The Value Crisis 

20. The Revolutions—The 1990 People’s Movement—Democracy—The population boom—The corruption boom—The people’s war gets started— A visit to Rukum, meeting the raja there— A country is greater than democracy and human rights—The second People’s Movement—A taxi for Mr Shah!

Part III –Without End

21. Interval in Bangkok—The first high-rises—The Comprehensive Peace Agreement—The evil eye—The rage of the poor and the rich—The Madhes Movement transforms the agenda—Communists against Democrats—The Maoist encircle Kathmandu

22. Aid is too good for the poor—The development cycle—‘ what do aid programmes do besides fail to help poor people?’ Remittances, cartels, and the ‘rentier state’ –If our money’s not making this work, are we paying for it not to?—Don’t rock the boat—Flying kites at Dashain—Walnut theory

23. Operation Mustang—The High-Altitude Research Centre—The death of Sadhuram Devota—Kathmanda is a nest of spies—saam daam danda bhed—MISG and the NSC—Mustang working well—Nobody asks, ‘who were the victims?’—Glass and mirrors—The political strings—‘The Brits are the worst, they’ve got an answer for everything’

24. Sabitrididi—‘In everything the old overlaps the new’—The drummers’ identity politics—Inclusion is Communist—Rage—The kids by the rivers are the worst—Kathmandu’s lovely—The road-widening programme—The constitutional process—Dhana Laksmi’s parting thoughts


Editorial Reviews

"A wonderful literary journey through the streets and history of Kathmandu."