Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Fantasy in Kathmandu: the Garden of Dreams (Nepal article 2017-06)

From brochure provided at Garden of Dreams ticket office.
Kathmandu has some unique historical sites. Just off the noisy and polluted Tridevi Sadak, you pass through a nondescript gate in a dusty brick wall, buy a ticket, and step into an oasis of quiet, green, and splashing water. Even more odd, the pavilions are neo classical, with Greek columns, Sphinx statues, and plaques showing stanzas from Omar Khayyam. The garden was built next to the Kaiser Mahal (palace) in the early 1920s. Sir Kaiser Shumsher Jang Bahadur Rana (1892 – 1964) was one of the Shamsher Ranas, the dictators/strongmen who ruled Nepal with iron fists for over a century until 1951. Within the walls, Kaiser Shumsher created an ensemble of pavilions, fountains, and European elements like verandas, pergolas, balustrades, urns, and birdhouses.

Kaiser Rana was an odd one. He admired Adolph Hitler, and the Fuhrer sent him an automobile (carried over the mountains by porters). He so admired Jawaharial Nehru, when Nehru died in 1964, Kaiser wilted away and died a few weeks later. He loved books, and I will cover his famous library in another post.
A number of these fantasy gardens were built in the early part of the 20th century, but I do not know if others have survived or are open to the public. After Kaiser's death, the Garden was handed over to the Government of Nepal, but thereafter, it was neglected and vandalized for decades. The Austrian government donated funds for the restoration and replanting of rare trees and plants. The Garden of Dreams is popular with young Nepalis, partly because they are free from parental oversight for a few unchaperoned hours.
These cheerful youngsters cheerfully acquiesced to my taking their portraits (film photographs from a Leica IIIC camera).
Some observations:
  • Coffee aroma from Himalayan Java next door.
  • Everyone takes selfies
  • Everyone has a phone
  • Young Nepalis sitting on the grass with their Macs
  • Young couple in a corner kissing
  • Young lady on a bench with her head on her gentleman's lap while he popped pimples on her cheek
After a couple of hours in the Garden, my friends and I walked next door to have some Himalayan Java and chocolate torte.

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