Baber Mahal Revisited—Again

Jackie Taylor

Jackie Taylor

Baber Mahal Revisited—Again

When was the last time you really paid attention to the beautiful architecture as you rushed towards your favourite shop or restaurant?

Unfortunately, despite its amazing history,  glorious good looks and interesting shops, it does seem as though Baber Mahal Revisited (BMR) needs a bit of refreshing. Even as recently as 10 years ago, it saw many more visitors. So what has gone wrong? It doesn’t appear to be the complex itself. Could it be a change in shopping habits with the opening of new, glass-fronted malls? Or the dreadful traffic that makes customers think twice about heading to somewhere that is, let’s face it, in the middle of nowhere? Whatever it is I hope this review will inspire you to visit!


Situated between Singha Durbar and Maitighar Mandala, I’m sure you have been there. But when was the last time you really paid attention to the beautiful architecture as you rushed towards your favourite shop or restaurant?


You may know that BMR was created around 1996/97. But are you also aware that BMR pays homage to the Rana palaces that were built throughout Kathmandu during the 1800s to the mid-1900s? This being the period when the Rana dynasty rose and fell; the founder being the infamous Jung Bahadur Rana (1817-1877).


What you might not know, however, is that Baber Mahal Revisited takes its name from the original Baber Mahal (later becoming the Department of Roads), built by Field-Marshal Maharaja Chandra Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana in 1910 for his son. As these Rana palaces with their European Neoclassical and Baroque architecture were built on vast expanses of landscaped grounds, it’s not hard to visualise why the original palace stables and guard house is now part of Baber Mahal Revisited.


If you really know your Rana palaces, you will know that BMR is not just simply an old cow shed and guard room with some new building constructed around about. No, it’s a complex copying and recreating some of the great Rana palaces; sculptured with a great deal of planning, research, and love.


The entrance to the complex is a small replica of the entrance to Singha Durbar. The first courtyard’s façade is a copy of the Thapathali Durbar, with its Mughal touches and pati. One side of the biggest courtyard, the Mul Chowk, is a replica of Babar Mahal Durbar. Those former cowsheds now house boutique shops in what is known as the galli. Another small courtyard is in the style of less grand townhouses of the period. The windows taken from actual shop fronts in Patan, representing both Asian and European architectural styles. The original guard house stands over by Chez Caroline restaurant, housing more shops. Still want to rush past?


One side of the biggest courtyard, the Mul Chowk, is a replica of Baber Mahal Durbar


Yes, you’ve probably eaten at the great French restaurant, running since BMR opened. I’m sure you have attended an art event at Siddhartha Gallery. But have you seen the Elephant House at the other end of the gullie that sells everything elephant? Elephant statues, elephant necklaces, elephant cuff links, elephant napkin rings, elephant mugs, elephant bottle openers, and did I mention elephants? Next door the Japanese Whisky House might have escaped your attention too. And you might wish it had stayed that way when you see the price tags! 


Yamazaki single malt from the distillery near Kyoto is indeed for the (rich) connoisseur, with prices that range in the laks of rupees. Take a moment to discover the hidden terrace hidden within Bawarchi restaurant, where you can partake of a less expensive spirit. Or go upstairs (above Chez Caroline) to Pipalbot where the welcoming owner may offer a cup of Tibetan or Nepali tea while you discuss an up-coming catered gathering, surrounded by Tenzing Norbu prints, silver trinkets, rugs, and wall hangings. There is even heritage-inspired accommodation in the form of Baber Mahal Vilas, run by BMR’s owners, and the discrete, boutique, 3 Rooms by Pauline, run by a French entrepreneur. 

With so much on offer, how can we not Revisit?