At a time when the government and owners of many old Rana palaces are dismantling the neo-classic buildings, the owners of Agni Bhawan, a portion of greater Lazimpat Palace, have shown the courage to preserve the past.
Following the earthquake of 2015, Nepal’s Central Bank dismantled two historical palaces, Singh Mahal and Lalita Niwas, Nepal Army dismantled Laxmi Niwas, Ministry of General Administration dismantled Hariharbhawan, President's office is destroying Shital Niwas, but the owners of Hotel Shanker or Agni Bhawan have taken a step forward to renovate it. The lonely battle of Chanda Rana, a conservationist, saved the Shita Bhawan.
With a strong commitment to preservation and personal attachment to the old neo classic Rana palaces, the owners of Shanker Hotel restored the Agni Bhawan or Lazimpat Palace in the old shape. The hotel is planning to open it completely in November.
“I am happy to share with you that we are able to renovate the front face of this hotel in its older shape,” said Prabhu Shanker Shrestha, Executive Manager of Hotel Shanker. “We have a personal attachment towards the building, which inspires us to preserve it. Due to our regular maintenance, damage occurred only in the front face. We were able to operate the hotel in less than a month of the quake,” said Shrestha.
After the grand opening of the front portion of the Hotel, Agni Bhawan will be revived again. However, a portion of Lazimpat Palace, next to the Bhawan which is owned by Department of Internal Revenue, is fast degrading.
“It was the royal residence of the rulers of Nepal from 1894 until 1964 when it was converted into a luxury hotel. The facade was kept intact but the interiors were redesigned to give travelers the kind of comfort they'd expect of a world-class hotel. The hotel is characterized by exquisite and authentic objects d'art. For example, the carved windows displayed in the lobby bar are over 200 years old,” claims the hotel online site.
According to Wikipedia, Ram Shanker Shrestha converted it into the country’s premier heritage hotel—Hotel Shanker—by keeping its unique identity intact even while ensuring most modern amenities to its guests.
As other palaces, the ownership of Lazimpat Palace also changed time to time. At the turn of the 19th century, Gen. Jit Shumsher Rana, brother of Tin Maharaja Bhim Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana, hired architect Kumar Narsingh Rana to build the most elegant palace in Kathmandu. Gilt mirrors, velvet, marble and sunburst chandeliers were imported from Europe; the exteriors were fashioned in neo-classical style. The construction was completed in 1894 A.D.
Gen. Jit Shumsher died in 1913, and this palace eventually came into the possession of Agni Shumsher Jung Bahadur Rana - the son of Maharaja Juddha Shumsher Rana.
However, the palace was badly damaged by the great earthquake of 1934 and it was rebuilt again. After the great earthquake of 1934, chief engineer Colonel late Dilli Jung Thapa was given the assignment to reconstruct the destroyed palaces in Kathmandu.
In 1964 A.D., Late Ram Shanker Shrestha bought this palace and converted it into the hotel, commencing operations with 23 rooms. His ingenious concept of maintaining the old age beauty and merging it with modern comfort is the secret behind the continued existence of Hotel Shanker, Kathmandu.
The history of the palace is closely linked with the history of Nepal and its rulers. As Thapathali was the residence of the Thapas, Lazimpat was the abode of the Pandeys. At the time of the Kot massacre on 14 September 1846, Lazimpat Durbar was occupied by Kaji Bir Keshar Pande and was massacred there. After which, Lazimpat Durbar was occupied by Kaji Mama Col.Tribikram Singh Thapa for 28 years until he left for Varanasi in 1875.
In 1886 old Lazimpat Durbar was demolished and a new palace was erected by the then Prime Minister Bir Shumsher JBR for his brother General Jit Shumsher. As General Jit Shumsher had no one to inherit his property, after his death in 1913 his palace was captured by Juddha Shumsher JBR and he gave it to his son Agni Shumsher JBR.
Furnished with the finest accessories imported from Europe, Agni Bhawan was one of the most elegant of all durbars in Kathmandu. In due time, it became the property of General Agni Shumsher Rana, son of Juddha Shumsher JB Rana, and grandfather of the late Queen Aishwarya, former Queen Komal, and the late Princess Prekshya, who were all born here.
With the hand of heritage lover family of Ram Shanker Shrestha, Agni Bhawan has been renovated and it has survived even after the earthquakes of 2015.