Kathmandu: December 1, 1979



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to Tibet Through Kathmandu Valley, 1830-31

In Mohar Rs

1. Pearls, corals, ambe, etc. Rs 183,500.

2. Cotton, silk, and other goods Rs 113,700.

3. Sugar, spices and tobacco Rs 15,700.

4. Indigo Rs 12,000.

5. Otter and other skins Rs 3,100.

6. English glasswere, cutlery,

looking-glasses, etc. Rs 2,700.

7. Opium Rs 2,000.

8. Other goods Rs 24,000.

Rs 356,900.
Goods imported into Kathmandu Valley from Tibet and reeexported to India were as follows:

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Particulars of Goods Imported from India and Reexported



to Tibet Through Kathmandu Valley, 1830-31

In Mohar Rs

Gold Rs 175,000.

Musk Rs 70,000.

Silk, woolen and other goods Rs 27,400.

Borax Rs 13,000.

Harital Rs 12,000.

Tea Rs 2,500.

Other goods Rs 6,200.

Rs 306,100.
Commodities of Nepal origin which were exported to Tibet included iron and rice, coarse cotton cloth, copper,35 and, before the Gorkhali conquest, minted coinage.36
In 1860 nirkhi duty on goods exported from Kathmandu Valley to Tibet yielded Rs 4,456, while kirana duty yielded Rs 6,028.37 It
may be correct to assume that these amounts represent the proceeds of nirkhi and kirana duties on goods of Nepali origin that were exported to Tibet. Taking the general rate of nirkhi duty at 1½ percent ad valorem,38 and of kirana at 2 percent,39 the total value of Nepali goods exported to Tibet may be estimated at approrimately Rs 300,000 in that year.
Entrepot Trade as a Sorce of Revenue

The Kathmandu Valley entrepot trade has traditionally been an important source of revenue for the rulers. Indeed, the absence of any reference to other sources of tax revenue in the three kingdoms of this region before the Gorkhali conquests possibly indicates that it constituted by far the most important source of revenue.40 The situation, of course, changed after political unification, but Nepal-Tibet trade remained an important source of revenue throughout the nineteenth century.


As noted previously, Newar traders in Tibet were under the jurisdiction of the government of Nepal, rather than of the Tibetan government. The latter had no authority to collect any taxes from them. On the other hand, the government

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of Nepal collected customary fees and payments from ''traders, merchants, and retail shopkeepesrs belonging to all the 32 commercial house'' in tibet through the chief of the Newari trading community there. That functionary kept one-sixth of the proceeds for himself and transmitted the balance to Kathmandu.41 The government of Nepal, in addition, appointed a judge to adjudicate in disputes among the Newari trading community in Lhasa; the fines and penalties collected by that official while dispensing justice constituted yet another source of revenue.42


A special tax was collected from Newar traders on their return home from Tibet,43 at paisa Rs 3 each.44 Kirkpatrick45 has recorded that ''all merchants, natives of Nepaul, on returning thither after a residence for any time at Lahassa, Diggerbah, or other parts of Tibet'' paid a tax of seven tolas of gold each. However, the information lacks creditability. Kirkpatrick has himself noted at another place that the official procurement price of gold was Rs 8 a tola.46 A tax of seven tolas of gold thus meant a payment of at least Rs 56. It is difficult to believe that a Newar trader was obliged to pay scuh a bigh amount as tax each time he visited his home.
Finally, metal utensils manufactured in Kathmandu Valley were officially stamped before they were approved for export to Tibet, and fees were collected from the exporters in consideration of such approval. Similar stampimg fess were collected from importers before the cloth or merchandise imported by them Tibet were released for sale.47 However, no information is available about the rates of these fees.
Customs duties were levied on goods imported into Kathmandu Valley from Tibet, but no information is available about their rates. In 1861, such duties yielded a revenue of Rs 5,489.48 There were also transit duties on such various points on the routes between Kathmandu and the Tibetan border, including Sankhu and Listi on the Kathmandu-Kuti route, and Syafru and Timure on the Kathmandu-Kerung route.49
Taxation was not the sole means through which the government traditionally sought to absorb the economic surplus generated by traders. Monopoly trade in specified goods imported from Tibet constituted a supplementary source of revenue. These monopolies included at least three items imported from Tibet, silver, gold, and borax. With regard to silver, Kirpatrick writes:50
All the silver brought into Nepaul from Tibet, in the way of commerce must be carried to the mint at Khatmando, no silver bullion being allowed to pass into Hindustan. In exchange for his bullion, the merchant receives Nepaul rupees, the government deriving profit of twelve percent, from the transaction four percent being charged an account of coinage, and eight arising from the alloy of the rupee.
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In subsequent years, an attempt was made to relax the monopoly and enventually abolish it. In 1822, for instance, traders were allowed to retain the entire quantity of silver they imported from Tibet payment of duty of 4 percent to the mint.51 However, the experiment was short-lived and the monopoly was restored. In 1831, according to Hodgson, ''Silver is all necessarily sold t the Taksar and it received at the Sicca weight, paid for at the Nepalese or Mohari weights, difference these annas. 52 The trade in gold imported from Tibet was under a smiliar monopoly. Kirkpatrick has reported that the government ''oblige the traders from Tibet to sell it at the Mint, at the rate of eight rupees per tolah, whence the Ticksali retais it at the advanced price of tourteen rupees the tolah.''53 By 1831, however, the monopoly had been practically abolished, and traders were allowed to import any quality from Tibet on payment of a duty of 1 anna per tola to the Mint.54 Borax, which was imported from Tibet mainly for reexport to India55 had been brought under a government monopoly at least since 1785.56
(To be continued).
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Books by Mahesh C. Regmi

1. Land Tenure and Taxation in Nepal, 4 vols. Berkeley: Universitty of California Press, 1963-68. Reprinted in one volume by Ratna Bahadur, Kathmandu, in 1978, with consildated bibliography, a revised glossary, and an index.


2. A Study of Nepali Economic History, 1768-1840. New Delhi: Manjusri Publishing House, 1971, Reprinted in 1978.
3. Landownership in Nepal. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976.
4. Thatched Huts and Stucco Palaces: Peasants and Landlords in 19th Century Nepal. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House (Pvt) Ltd, 1978.
5. Reading in Nepali Economic History. Varanasi: Kishor Vidya Niketan, 1979.

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