As Visit Nepal Year 2011 winds down, the tourism promoters must have realized that it is essential to present diversified products to foreign travelers who are coming to Nepal in progressively greater numbers. One such product could be the forts and palaces that are found all over Nepal. Some of them date back to pre-unification years, whereas others are relatively more recent from the Rana period. Some are in the itinerary of tourists whereas others are well known but are visited by few. The royal palaces of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur in Kathmandu valley are included in UNESCO’s world heritage list and are visited by all tourists in Nepal. But this product could also be used to lure domestic tourists who are interested in Nepal’s history.
Kaskikot situated in north of Pokhara valley (near Sarangkot) was a fort of Rajas of Kaski, one of chaubisi rajyas (24 principalities) which was conquered by Queen Rajendralaxmi when she was regent in late eighteenth century. The ruins of the fort are visible while trekking from Sarangkot to Pokhara. However, there is little publicity of this site either in Nepal Tourist Board brochures or in the tourist guidebooks.
Rani Mahal or Mansion of the Queen was constructed by Khadga Shamsher Rana, elder brother of Chandra Shamsher who was deposed by his elder brother and exiled to Tansen, Palpa, where he was made governor. It was during his time in Palpa that he constructed a palace along the banks of Kali Gandaki in memory of his wife. Some have called it “Taj Mahal” of Nepal, a claim which could have been exaggerated.
Gorkha Palace of King Prithvi Narayan Shah and his ancestors is already well developed and is visited by many foreigners and Nepalis alike. This is perhaps because of its importance as unique heritage, and the attention it received in the last days of Shah dynasty, as well as its accessibility.
The fort and palace complex of Rajas of Mustang in the trans-Himalayas area of Nepal are also visited by select few tourists; many more could afford to visit the legendary principality.There are many other forts scattered all over Nepal whose potential as tourist sites has not yet been recognized. These include the headquarters of former Baisi and chaubisi kingdoms, almost all of which are situated on the top of hillocks. They are accessible either through roads or are placed in well-known trekking trails. There are other forts constructed during Nepal-Tibet war and Nepal’s war with East India company.
Some of the forts also served as district headquarters till the 1960’s, after which they were moved to lowlands. Many of the forts provide excellent views of the Himalayan peaks and surroundings. Nepalese Forts and the Royal Nepalese Army written by Prem Singh Basnyat and published by Sajha Prakashan provides useful information on some of these forts. This information could be useful in developing the potential sites as tourist destinations.
Rasuwa Gadhi situated on the border with Tibet was constructed in mid-nineteenth century, by replacing many older structures. As the road connecting Kathmandu with Rasuwa and Keyrung in China nears completion, the accessibility of the site will increase. It also helps that the site is located near the well-known Langtang trek.
Nuwakot Fort constructed by King Prithvi Narayan Shah before attacking Kathmandu valley is situated near Trisuli and is easily accessible. However, it does not seem to have attracted many tourists.
Yet another monument that has descended into obscurity is the Chisapani Gadhi in Makwanpur district, which used to be in the itinerary of travelers walking Kathmandu -Hetauda route on their way to the Indian border before the construction of Tribhuwan Highway. It was constructed in the beginning of nineteenth century and played an important role during the war between Nepal and the British in 1814-16.
All these forts and ancient monuments are our real treasures. They could also be a big source of income if due attention is paid to them.