Gaddi Baithak: Continued Glory of the Legacy Built By Chandra Shamsher

Construction of such a grand edifice in a very strategic location of the Hanumandhokha Palace complex indicates the influence of the ruling Rana regime and their desire to illustrate the power through an identity different from preceding rulers. The inscription on the western façade of the Gaddi Baithak where the long title of Chandra Shamsher has been engraved shows the power of the Rana regime during the ruling of the Shah Kings.

Till the mid 19th century, Nepal had very limited interaction with foreign nations; it was during the reign of Jang Bahadur that the diplomatic relations with European countries was developed. With increasing foreign diplomatic relations at the end of the 19th century, the need to receive foreign delegates by the head of state became important. The construction of the state function hall must have been a priority leading to the initial construction of Lal Baithak. However, recorded history of the state hall came only with the construction of Gaddi Baithak in early 20th century.

The main purpose of Gaddi Baithak was to provide a place for formal meetings where foreign delegates and diplomats were received by the King. The Royal throne was kept in this Hall giving this historic hall its name: Gaddi Baithak. Along with its political significance, Gaddi Baithak played a major role in showcasing the living heritage of the valley to the foreign delegates. It is very interesting that with the relocation of the Royal Palace to Narayan Hiti, the use of Gaddi Baithak for the formal meeting discontinued but the use of Gaddi Baithak to greet the Kumari by the Head of state before the Chariot festival has continued till date. And this has become the new identity of the Gaddi Baithak.

THE LEGACY OF NEW ARCHITECTURAL STYLE

Architecture has always been the classical means for authoritarian regimes to engrave their identity into history. With the construction of Gaddi Baithak in neo-classical style, the Rana regime contributed their own architectural identity within the building ensemble of Hanumandhokha Palace. The colonnaded balcony towards the southern side and the large stairway leading to the main hall from the west façade as found in the original design, exemplified a new architectural style, scale and construction system in Nepal. The introduction of Neo-classic architecture also initiated the use of lime and metal as new building materials in Nepal which was limited to decoration and finishing. However, the major structural elements were still composed of the traditional materials including brick, mud mortar and timber.

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