In 1969, I went with my husband Lionel Caplan to carry out research in the Far Western Hills of Nepal. He had already carried out fieldwork in East Nepal (L. Caplan 1970) but my previous work had been in Tanzania and this was my first trip to South Asia. Lionel Caplan was studying the workings of a small district capital and bazaar town, Dailekh (see L. Caplan 1975) while I worked on land holdings and caste relations in a village called Bhurti which lay some two miles from the bazaar (see P. Caplan 1969, 2007). We lived together in the upper floor of a house in the Bazaar, but I also rented the upper floor of a house in Bhurti village.
In the summer of 2008, Lionel Caplan digitised our entire West Nepal collection of photos, some 20 black and white film rolls, and almost 400 colour slides. Some of these are destined for the Digital Himalaya Archive (www.digitalhimalaya.com) while negatives and prints will join our existing Nepal archives in the collection at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.
After a gap of almost 40 years, it has not been easy to recollect all the details of this fieldwork, but with the aid of letters and my diary, plus a recent trip to Nepal which, although not to the hills, did revive many memories, we have succeeded in making some sense of the collection.
We have decided to make it available now as a record of a particular place at a particular time, when Nepal was still ruled by a Hindu king, there was a panchayat method of government, and the high-caste Hindu culture of the hills was the dominant one. Since that time there have been dramatic changes, not least in the political system as a result of the decade-long Maoist insurgency. Nepal is now a republic, and its Prime Minister is a former Maoist leader. Dailekh and Bhurti village must now in many ways be different than before. We hope that some of the people of that area, or their children or grandchildren, will discover these pictures.
The photos are divided into two main categories:
Bhurti village, where I carried out my research, and the nearby Dailekh Bazaar, which residents of Bhurti visited regularly for health care, shops and government offices, and where I lived for a year. I took most of the photos of Bhurti but most of those in Dailekh were taken by Lionel Caplan, and I am grateful not only for his permission to use them, but also for his very time-consuming work of digitising the collection.
Bhurti village gallery
Dailekh Bazaar gallery