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The image of Bhairub, uncovered only during the Indra Jatra festival, [Kathmandu]

The image of Bhairub, uncovered only during the Indra Jatra festival, [Kathmandu]

Photographer: Taylor, Clarence Comyn

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1863

Shelfmark: Photo 855/(3)

Item number: 8553

Length: 32.8

Width: 33.6

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

Photograph of a scene in Kathmandu; part of a collection of albumen prints taken by Clarence Comyn Taylor between 1863-65, which constitute the earliest photographs of Nepal. Taylor, a soldier in the East India Company's army, was badly wounded in the Indian Uprising of 1857 and turned to Political Service, arriving in Kathmandu in 1863 as Assistant Resident. At this time the British had started a project to document the people and monuments of the Indian sub-continent using photography. Taylor fortuitously was a capable photographer and took images of Nepal for the Government of India. Taylor described this image in his List of pictures as, 'No III. View of another part of the King's Palace. To the right of the tall centre building is the image of Bhairub, an incarnation of Shiva which is uncovered only during the Indra Jatra festival'.

Kathmandu, on the Bagmati river, is the capital of Nepal, and came to prominence from the Licchavi period (300-800AD), though much of its fine architecture dates from the later Malla period (1200-1769). Situated at the heart of the Trans-Himalayan trade route between India, China and Tibet, it flourished by levying taxes. Bhairab or Bhairava is the god Shiva in his terrifying form. In this photograph, the gilt copper ten feet tall head of the Sveta (white) Bhairab is seen in the background, just beside the tiered temple dedicated to the goddess Taleju, the tutelary deity of the Malla kings. The image was installed by Rana Bahadur Shah in 1795, and is usually obscured by a wooden screen which is lowered during the eight days of the Indra Jatra festival, held in August-September, when the advent of the monsoons is celebrated in the name of the rain god. In the left foreground of the photograph is image of the Kala (black) Bhairab, dancing on a demon. Carved from a single block of stone, it is 12 feet high and was discovered in a field near Kathmandu and installed in the reign of King Pratapa Malla (ruled 1641-74). The king's gilt bronze pillar image is in the middle of the photo, and looks towards the Taleju temple.

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