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Before Rani Mahal, these 7 Rana-era palaces of Kathmandu were privatised

Photos: Chandra Bahadur Ale

The proposal to turn Rani Mahal of Palpa into a ‘heritage hotel’ is a continuity to many of the Rana-era buildings that have been turned into hotels. In the past also, many Rana buildings have been turned into government buildings as well as luxurious hotels.

Ranas were a big fan of luxurious things. They built palaces, manors, and bungalows for themselves to reside, most of which are now considered works of exemplary art and require preservation. Among the many buildings, here are a few of the Rana-era buildings in Kathmandu that have or had been privatised:

1. Lazimpat Durbar

Lazimpat Durbat as Hotel Shanker. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Hotel Shanker is a famous royal heritage hotel located at Lazimpat Durbar that was initially built and resided by Kaji Bir Kesher Pande. It got destroyed in the army revolution and was later rebuilt by Bir Shumsher JB Rana in 1885. It is located at Lazimpat and was, hence, called Lazimpat Durbar until Jit Shumsher Rana died in 1913. 

The palace was then passed to Agni Shamsher JBR and was later called Agni Bhawan. After Agni Shamsher died, it was distributed among his children. Among them, Kendra Shamsher sold his part to Ram Shanker Shrestha. He then converted the palace into Hotel Shanker. It is one of the five-star hotels of Kathmandu which presents historical beauty and is operating to this date.

2. Babermahal

Babermahal Revisited. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Babermahal (or, Babarmahal) is maybe one of the oldest palaces in Nepal and is rich in history. It was first built by Nain Singh Thapa. This palace was originally called Thapathali (which translates to the abode of Thapas) Durbar. After Bhandarkhal Parva in 1846 and Aula Parva in 1847, Jung Bahadur took complete control of the property, moved there and rebuilt a lavish palace in it.

But, in 1910, Chandra Shamsher Rana destroyed the old palace and rebuilt the palace, named it Babermahal after his son Baber Jung Shamsher JBR, who took possession of the palace.

In 1997, the palace was turned into Babermahal Revisited with six courtyards with options of fine dining and shopping. The seventh courtyard was added in 2016 and turned into Baber Mahal Villas.

3. Lal Durbar

Lal Durbar as Hotel Yak & Yeti. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Hotel Yak and Yeti is one of the most elegant palace hotels in Nepal. Its history is long and complicated, which adds to its beauty. Bir Shamsher built Lal Durbar built for his queen Top Kumari Devi, in 1885.

Yak & Yeti was originally a restaurant that belonged to the famous Royal Hotel. Boris Lissanevitch, a Russian national, was one who opened the hotel. He opened another royal hotel in Lal Durbar along with the current chairman of Hotel Yak & Yeti, Radhe Shyam Saraf, in September 1977.

It has a total of 270 rooms and five halls opened to the public for all kinds of events.

4. Shanta Bhawan

Shanta Bhawan. Photo: Nasana Bajracharya

This premium event venue today is a highly sought-after destination in Sanepa of Lalitpur for hosting various occasions like weddings, family events, conferences etc. It was previously the palace that belonged to Shanta Shamsher JBR and was called Shanta Bhawan. It was also called the Palace of Peace.

After the end of the Rana Regime in 1951, it was then converted into Shanta Bhawan Hospital in 1956. After a few years, in 1975, this building was converted into Gyanodaya Bal Batika School, in memory of the late Gaya Bahadur Yakhthumba. But unfortunately, the building was demolished after the 2015 earthquake and later converted into the Heritage Garden in 2017.

5. Kaiser Mahal

The compound wall of Kaiser Mahal. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Kaiser Mahal is another Rana era palace that is located west of the Narayanhiti Palace. The building was first owned by Chandra Shamsher Rana in 1895, who destroyed the palace and built a new palace for his son Kaiser Shamsher JBR.

Now, a section of this palace has been made into a library, a garden, and a cafe. The Kaiser Library is owned by the government of Nepal whereas the Kaiser Café Restaurant and Bar is operated by the Dwarika’s Group.

6. Seto Durbar

Seto Durbar as Hotel Annapurna. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Seto Durbar stood south of Narayanhiti Palace, also known as Thulo Baithak (big hall or grand state hall). This palace was built by Bir Shamsher Rana JBR in 1885. But, in 1934, a massive fire broke out in Seto Durbar. The rebuilt building is partly owned by the NIDC Development Bank since 1959 as its head office while another part was Hotel Annapurna.

Up until the lockdown last year, for more than 50 years, this five-star hotel was one of the best hotels in the country. Hotel Annapurna (also known as Hotel del’ Annapurna) was established in 1965. It was forced to close its door in 2021 due to financial loss.

7. Charburja Durbar

Charburja Durbar houses the Election Commission of Nepal today, but there was a hotel in the past. Photo: Chanda Bahadur Ale

Charburja Durbar was first built by Bir Sumsher Rana in 1855 for his son Rudra Sumsher JBR. It was destroyed in the fire of 1905 and later rebuilt. The palace was later given to Bahadur Shamsher and, after him, it was called Bahadur Palace or Bahadur Bhawan.

It was used as Hotel Royal, the first luxurious hotel of Nepal by the Russian national Boris Lissanevitch, who after having an intense discussion with king Mahendra, leased out the palace in 1950. It hence marked that Nepal was now open to tourists. Because it was the only hotel at the time, it had no competitors and was so flourishing with tourists, dignitaries, diplomats, and everyone during its prime. It growing competition, it finally closed in 1969. 

Currently, it houses the Election Commission of Nepal.

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Bajracharya is a sub-editor at Onlinekhabar. She mostly writes on culture and nature.

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