Historical maps

The first map of the Valley was drawn by Charles Crawford, who was appointed commander of the escort to the embassy to Nepaul. Crawford (1760-1836) was appointed cadet of the Bengal infantry in 1779, and served as an engineer at the siege of Bizergurh in 1781. He was promoted to Captain in 1796, to major in 1803 and finally to Colonel in 1813, when he was appointed Surveyor-General. Due to ill health he retired in 1818. Apart from “Maps of Nepaul Territories and other Parts of the Himalaya Mountains”, the map of “Nepaul” to the scale one furlong to an inch represents an outstanding achievement in the field of cartography.

In terms of proportions and details the map is of an amazing topographical correctness. It defines the watershed, the rivers, the towns and villages, sanctuaries as “Hindoo Temples”, “Buildings or Temples dedicated to Bude, generally called Chaits”, “Water Mills”. In the eastern part of the Valley and beyond the map becomes incorrect. Bhaktapur (Bhatgong) is located west of Kasankhusi River instead of east and Panauti (Pinoutee) is not located at the confluence of Rosi Khola (Rajbee N.) and Punyamata Khola (Punematty R.).

The second “Map of the Valley”, ordered by Perceval Landon (1868-1927), was published posthumously in 1928. Landon was an English writer and journalist. He started his career as War Correspondent in South Africa in 1900, travelled throughout the world, and visited Nepal first in 1908 and again in 1924. The map is included in a two-volume account on “Nepal”, commissioned by Prime Minister Candra Shamsher Rana, which includes a number of cultural aspects but mainly intended to present the glory of Rana rule.

The map introduces contour lines at an interval of roughly 150 feet. It is not the watershed that marks the boundary of the map, but administrative units, though they do not extend to the valley of Lele and the south-western areas beyond Pharping. Villages are marked by symbols, while the larger settlements (Kathmandu, Patan, Bhadgaon, Thimi, Kirtipur) are represented by the suggestion of an urban fabric that does not square with reality. In terms of topographical accuracy, however, the map is on a par with Crawford’s.
Topographical maps

The first topographical maps of Nepal, done at a scale of 1:63,360 (1 inch to a mile), were produced by the Survey of India in Dehra Dun. They are based on aerial photographs at a scale of ca. 1:40,000, taken between 1956 and 1958 plus ground surveys. The entire country is covered by 274 sheets, of which the first covering the Valley (six sheets altogether) was issued in 1957.

A new era of map-making started at the end of the 1960s, when Carl Pruscha, the UN advisor to the Town Planning Office, prepared the Physical Development Plan for the Kathmandu Valley published in June 1969. Restricted to the administrative boundaries, a series of thematic maps of the Valley (such as “Land Use – Existing” and “Population Density”) did not extend to the Lele Valley and the Pharping area.

The Kathmandu Valley Maps
scale 1:10,000 and 1:50,000, published 1977

Erwin Schneider first embarked on aerial flights over the Valley for cartographic purposes in 1971. Although the first of these took place on 13 and 18 December 1966, it was the flight on 13 December 1971 that yielded 436 photographs (negatives measuring 23 x 23cm) in twelve strips. The flight height of 3,000 metres produced a mean scale of 1:20,000. Four additional strips at a height of 1,000 metres produced a median scale of 1:7,000 for the area of Patan, Kathmandu and Kirtipur. Due to a technical defect in the automatic self-release mechanism of the camera, Schneider was forced to trigger each photograph separately by hand. Angle views taken in March 1972 enhanced the extensive aerial documentation of the Valley. Schneider operated a RC 10 serial phogrammetric camera newly developed by Wild Heerbrugg, Switzerland, while H. Fuerer piloted the Pilatus Turbo Porter plane. In winter 1970 a net of triangulation measurements was completed on the basis of the coordinates used by the Survey of India, using a high-precision theodolite and stereoscopic photographs taken from the Jamacok, Campadewi, Pulcoki and Mahadevpokhari mountains. Field work started in October 1971 with the help of the Swiss Association for Technical Assistance (SATA) and was completed in March 1972. The roof of the former Nepal Research Centre (earlier called Thyssen House) in Chauni (the American Sanskritist Ted Riccardi, who lives there, received electricity bills in the name of “Thyssen House” all the way up to 2009).

The sixteen sheets of the 1:10,000 scale map series were published without any revision of the topographical data. They are based only on the plotting and interpretation of the aerial photographs. The paths and woods could not be recognized sufficiently well by the plotter.
The photographs were stereoplotted by Fernando Grifoni of the Aermap Company in Florence. The same company also provided the fair drafting. The number of place names had to be limited to the 860 required by the 1:25.000 scale originally planned. The verification of place names with regard to etymology and transliteration were undertaken by András Höfer and Bishnu Prasad Shrestha in 1975. The map was published in 1977 by the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für vergleichende Hochgebirgsforschung, Munich, in collaboration with the Department of Housing and Physical Planning, HMG of Nepal. It was sponsored by the Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Cologne and printed by Freytag-Berndt and Artaria KG, Vienna.

In a second step, a field survey was carried out by Rüdiger Finsterwalder from the Technical University of Munich in 1975. This check was limited to supplementing and classifying the road network (the ring road was mapped on the basis of the 1974 flight by Aermap Firenze) and indicating buildings. Monuments covered by Heinrich Seemann were inspected and located, while the city maps of Bhaktapur, Patan and Kathmandu prepared by Wolfgang Korn in 1971 (published by Seemann, Nepal 2019. Gestern noch verbotenes Land, Stuttgart 1973) were also used. The resulting 1:50,000 scale map was produced at the Lehrstuhl für Kartographie und Reproduktionstechnik of the Technical University Munich and printed by the Bayerisches Landesvermessungsamt in 1977.

A new era was established by aerial coverage of the entire country in 1992 by the Survey Department in cooperation with the Finnish International Development Agency (FINNIDA). The Valley is covered by 9 sheets (2685-02 C,D, 03C, 06A, B, 07A, 06C, D, 07C) at a scale of 1:25,000, with contour lines at an interval of 20 metres, published in 1994 after field verification earlier that year.

City maps

Sketch-maps of the three cities were produced by David Llewelyn Snellgrove on his first visits to Nepal in 1960, illustrating his later articles on “Shrines and Temples in Nepal” (Arts Asiatiques, 1961, pp. 2-10, 93-119). The first maps of Kathmandu, Patan and Bhaktapur were produced by Wolfgang Korn in 1968 in the context of the Physical Development Plan for the Kathmandu Valley (1969, pp. 75, 76, 153) based on aerial photographs taken by Erwin Schneider and Hansa Luftbild (Germany) in 1966. Korn elaborated these maps in 1971 to a scale of ca. 1:3,000, published by Heinrich Seemann in 1973 (Nepal 2019. Gestern noch verbotenes Land). Every map provides a list of shrines and temples, Kathmandu 132, Patan 177, Bhaktapur 63.

A map of Bhaktapur was also prepared by Niels Gutschow in 1973 on the basis of a ground survey by the Electricity Corporation in 1970. One more survey was undertaken by Pradyumna P. Karan and James E. Queen in 1970 and published in the Himalayan Review in 1973. Karan teaches Geography at Kentucky University and had published A Cultural and Physical Geography in 1960. The map presents contour lines and has the advantage of highlighting large building complexes such as the Rana palaces.

Using aerial photographs by Erwin Schneider (13 December 1971) and Fernando Grifoni (1972), improved maps were published in 1975 in the Protective Inventory of the Kathmandu Valley. The Preservation of Physical Environment and Cultural Heritage (Vol. 2, pp. 9 – Kathmandu, 129 – Patan, 213 – Bhaktapur) edited by Carl Pruscha.

In 1972 Aermap Firenze produced 48 sheets covering the urban continuum of Kathmandu-Patan-Kirtipur, Thimi and Bhaktapur (sheet 47, 48) to a scale of 1:2,000 for a consultancy in London, Binnie & Partners, which was to present a comprehensive water supply scheme in 1974.

For the following years, Harka Gurung mentions a couple of maps in his Inventory and Evaluation of Maps of Nepal in 1983. The Nepal Geographical Society published a map of Kathmandu in 1975 which was revised in 1977 for the Tourist Department, with prominent buildings shown in profile. A similar map was published by the Hotel Association of Nepal in 1977.

In the subsequent years, maps covering Patan (1980) and Kathmandu (1979) were published by the Association of Comparative Alpine Research, Munich (with explanatory notes by Rüdiger Finsterwalder, András Höfer and Niels Gutschow, Universitätsverlag Wagner, Innsbruck) to a scale of 1:7,500 and 1:10,000. These maps are based on the Valley map to the scale of 1:10.000 published by the Association of Comparative Alpine Research. Aerial photographs taken in 1975 by Aermap Firenze and 1:2,000 scale plots by the same company were referred to in order to produce a more up-to-date map. The verification of place names (1978) was again done by András Höfer and Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, assisted by Ulla Hoyer.