06 Mar 2018
2 min read
One cold winter morning last month, I woke up, full of enthusiasm: for we’d be visiting Rani Mahal, the famed palace of Palpa. Around 6 am, my friends and I were on jeep heading for the mahal.
After an almost two-hour drive along the Siddhartha Highway—past scattered settlements enveloped in a thick fog—we stopped for breakfast at an eatery in a place called Bhalu Pahad. After a quick meal, we were back on the long, winding road to Palpa, driving past numerous little villages, multiple waterfalls and hills, while the song ‘Chhekyo Chhekyo Deurali Danda’ played on the radio. Throughout our six-hour drive, I was held spellbound by the view my window seat offered, and I took in the scenery
and the clean and crisp weather as much as I could.
We had planned to hike all the way to Rani Mahal from Batasedanda, in Tansen, Palpa. But once we reached Batasedanda, locals advised that we hire an off-road jeep to the palace instead. They said that the hike (down to the Barandikhola Valley) would take us more than two hours, but a jeep drive would take only 30 minutes. And it would cost only Rs 300 per person. We decided to heed their advice, and got on the first jeep we could find. As we made our way downhill, we had great views of Tamang and Magar settlements, Shrinagar Hill, and deep forests of saal, sisau and fir.
Toward the end of our 30-minute drive, Rani Mahal came into view. The palace lies on the banks of the Kali Gandaki River, between Syangja and Palpa. “The palace was built with raw materials hauled from Syangja,” explained Krishna Gurung, our driver for the day. “The road from Tansen to this place was constructed only a few years ago. And it was only after the roadway from Batasedanda was constructed that tourists started coming here. Today, Tansen Municipality has started maintenance and restoration work of the place, and the palace has become a popular tourist destination.”
The 19th century palace was built in 1893 by General Khadga Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, in the memory of his beloved wife, Tej Kumari Devi. The general constructed the palace five years after her death, and even named the neighbouring jungle ‘Rani Ban’ in her memory. Built on a massive rock, the palace has around a dozen rooms, two ponds, a temple, a garden and guest rooms for travellers. After Khadga Shumsher left Nepal for India, the palace was deserted and ransacked of all its valuable items. Because of the historical importance of the palace, the Department of Archeology and Tansen Municipality has plans to restore the palace as much as they can. They have a rather difficult task on their hands, because right now, the interiors look very dismal.
We took a stroll around the palace, and after clicking some pictures, went to the river bank to play in the water and walk barefeet on the sands. We crossed a suspension bridge—the one that connects Palpa with Syangja—to get to the other side of the river. Besides having historical importance, the river bank also holds some religious importance. Aptly named Uttarbahini (since the river flows northwards), the river portion here attracts many religious people, as locals believe that even touching its water will grant salvation. Far away from the cacophony of the cities, and spellbound by Palpa’s natural beauty, we spent more than two hours on the banks of the river, and left the place unwillingly.
Before leaving Palpa, we walked through Tansen Bazaar (which was once an ancient kingdom of the Sen kings) and explored its labyrinth of alleys, wherein we shopped for some Palpali dhaka and antique karuwa. After having lunch at Tansen, we left for Lumbini—our next destination.