The ruins of ancient capital of the Sen Dynasty at Tanahunsur, located at an altitude of 4000 feet above the sea level, have their own attractions. The Sen Dynasty had ruled the Gandaki Region for more than five to seven centuries, before the unification of modern-day Nepal by the Shah kings of Gorkha. While the people of its vicinity call it Tanahunsur Hatia, it is also known as the home of martyrs who laid down their lives during the 1951 Revolution along with others in Bandipur. The ruins of empty temples and castle are the attractions for the visitors who try to ponder over the shrouded pages of the history of Tanahunsur.
Civilised State In his book 'The Rise of The House of Gorkha', father Ludwig Stiller had mentioned of a note of a European Christian traveller to this region during the sixteenth or seventeenth century that describes Tanahun as 'a civilised state' in comparison to the other Chaubisi principalities of the Gandak region. The Sen Dynasty had a popular king named Mani Mukunda Sen of Palpa who had an extensive territory stretched from the west of Gulmi-Arghakhanchi to Tista in the east; and in the north, were the Himalayas as far as Muktinath; and to the south, the plains of Ganga (the Ganges) River up to Hazipur-Sonpur, north of Patna (now in India). The seat of Tanahun later went to his third son. The first Sen king of Tanahun was Bhringisen or Bihangasen. Tanahunsur had attained its glory and prosperity during the rule of Sen kings. To expand the trade and commerce, they had invited a substantial number of the Newar community from Bhaktapur of Kathmandu Valley and settled them at the nearest vicinity of their palace. The name "Tanahunsur +hatiya" itself gives the meaning of the kind. Another bulk of the Newar community was settled at Bandipur who they too claim their lineage or ancestral land as Bhaktapur. The Sen kings had good relations with the Mughal Emperors in Delhi; and Aurangzeb had recognised only the Rajah of Tanahun. In those days, Gorkha was not considered even one among the Chaubisis while other principalities would look Tanahun as the well-established state among them. The relations with Delhi Durbar allowed Tanahun to link the trade with the tradesmen of the Mughal Empire. The trade route with Tibet was through the Marsyangdi River banks to a very suitable Himalayan trade point of Bimtang valley of Nar-Fu of the present-day Manang at the border. In the winter season, there would be very lucrative trade with the traders of Muglan (now India). Tanahun enjoyed its unique social and cultural identity. It was the center in Sanskrit education that had direct links with Kashi or Banaras in Munglan. Tanahun king Kamaridutta Sen, married to his daughter Subhadrawati with the king Nara Bhupal Shah to improve relations with Gorkha.
BP's Caravan After the dawn of democracy in 1951, people started flocking the areas in hordes. In 1956 March (Chaitra 2,2012), when BP Koirala , the founding leader of Nepali Congress party, had his tour to the western region via Pokhara by air and remaining ways on foot or horse, he had visited Tanahun after entering through Lamjung. After a mass meeting at Tanahun Tuhurepasal (Chundi) he stopped at Simpani, the home and village of Sri Bhadra Sharma. The next morning, he started his journey from Simpani to Dharampani- Archalchaur, where he had to take his lunch at the house of Govardhan Sharma, and had to address the mass meeting at Dharampani school ground. With several local friends, his entourage had also included Dr Tulsi Giri and Bishwabandhu Thapa. The weather was clear when he climbed up to the historical sites of Tanahunsur. I remember his charming face while gazing , through a binocular lens to the panoramic view of Ganesh Himal ,Manaslu, Annapurna and Dhaulagiri, and in the east Chundi –Ramgha, the birth place of Bhanu Bhakta, and also Chhimkeshwari and Bandipur to the south-east where he had to reach the same day via the Bhanu's birthplace. From the peak, the caravan got down to Gaddi Chautara, a stone-paved historic platform with 'a stone seat of the king' under a huge old Pipal tree. It is said Sri Bhadra was the first leader who ascended on the stone seat immediately after the dawn of democracy in 1951. However, BP became the first-ever elected prime minister who had reached to the historical place of Tanahunsur. Likewise, Dr Giri too later nominated as the chairman of the council of ministers and also prime minister thus becoming a national level personality to reach the same place. As I remember,a group of Japanese mountaineers reached Tanahunsur and had donated equipment and apparatus of a windmill to generate electricity. On request of Ravindra Khanal, the then pradhan pancha of Tanahunsur panchayat, the whole mechanism was installed at the palace site.
Foreign Visitors After many years, another small Japanese group of tourists visited Tanahunsur that had stopped at a nearby homestay of Bhorthok. Dr Prem Sharma ,one of the dedicated promoters of village tourism and the founders of VITOF, was behind the group's adventure. So far, it may be one of the first organised tourist groups to visit Tanahunsur. After the restoration of multi-party democracy in 2046 BS, an American Rotarian set his foot on the peak of Tanahunsur in around the winter of 1994. His name was Ralph M. Hammond and was from Boston. He had visited Tanahun intending to support the literacy campaign launched by DDC of Tanahun through introducing CLE , a new and easy methodology to learn a language. At that time, he was inspired to visit Tanahunsur by the teachers including the chief of Adikavi Bhanu Bhakta Campus (Baikuntha Neupane who is now the elected mayor of Vyas Municipality). Ralph later became so familiar with the place that whenever he would visit any Asian country or countries, he, without fail, would slip away at the end of his formal programme to visit Nepal – ultimately to Tanahunsur! Though he is fighting against cancer he is still thinking to visit Tanahunsur, once again! As I have the record, another foreigner to visit the place was Phill Michael, the leader of Seven Summits Expeditions around the Sagarmatha ( the Everest ) region. During the visit of the first president of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal Dr Ram Baran Yadav to the birthplace of the late great poet Bhanu Bhakta, he had also visited the place on that occasion. The next day Phill also reached Tanahunsur and attended a meeting of the Bhanu Peace Park Committee as the guest, that was held at Tanahunsur.
Tourism Initiatives As recommended by the meeting, the concept of a sub-trail of The Great Himalayan Trail (TGHT), to Lumbini from Manang via Tanahunsur was formulated. At the meeting ,Gelu Sherpa, a guide of TGHT, and an official of Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) Lila Baniy were present. After the meeting, the whole team had a lunch of local dishes prepared by the mother's group at Gangalithok, the ancient dwelling of the Magar community. During the sending off by the mother's group, Michael had promised to visit the village once again. But upon his return home in California, he was admitted to a hospital for medical checkup after getting a problem. But he never returned! Let his soul rest in peace! Since those days, things have progressed steadily. Still, there is a long way to go when it comes to promoting Tanahusur as a vibrant tourism and cultural site.
(Pokhrel is former member of parliament representing Nepali Congress)